The Pillars of a Successful Growth Strategy: A Q&A with UpCity’s Andy Keehn
UpCity Director of Demand Generation Andy Keehn discusses the tactics that drive consistent growth for start-ups, firmly established organizations, and everything in between.
According to Mailshake, lead generation marketing can be defined as “the process of attracting prospects and converting them into someone who has an interest in your company’s products and services.” While lead generation strategies should differ across industries, modern brands should be utilizing tactics such as blogging, email marketing, website landing pages, and more.
We spoke with our own director of demand generation, Andy Keehn, to get his take on what the pillars of a successful lead generation growth strategy are and how to bring marketing and sales together to drive meaningful results in your lead generation campaign.
What do you think are the core components of a solid growth strategy? And could you talk a little more about each of them?
Andy Keehn: Everything starts with understanding your customer well. Understanding your buyers is the most important because it’s hard to create content that resonates with them if you don’t understand their day-to-day. You need a clear understanding of who you’re marketing to if you’re going to drive meaningful, sustainable growth over time.
To understand your buyers, you need to answer the following questions:
- What are the main challenges they face in different parts of their job?
- What does a typical day look like for them at work?
- Who all is involved in the decision-making process?
- What are they evaluated and measured on?
- Where do they go to learn more and develop?
- Are they part of specific communities or groups that you want to build trust in?
Once you have clarity into a lot of the questions above, you need to create content that helps educate your audience on how their current processes can be improved in some way, whether that’s through simplification or enhancements that drive greater efficiency. It should be less about your product and service, and more about how they can reach their goals through your advice.
Understanding your buyers is the most important because it’s hard to create content that resonates with them if you don’t understand their day-to-day.
Create multiple types of content, such as how-to videos, long-form blog content, product demos, customer interviews, podcasts, case studies, and more. Not all content is easily measurable, and that’s OK. People listening to your podcast or spending a few minutes reading a blog post can slowly move them towards your brand. If you offer a free trial, work on getting your potential new customer into the product as seamlessly as possible and let them see the value themselves as they talk to your team.
Segmentation is another core component. You should have a clear understanding of where there is a good product fit and where you should avoid spending money and time. To do that, look through your historical data, whether it’s a CRM or other back-end system, and see if there are specific industries, revenue ranges, job titles, and any other relevant information that can be used to help you target good companies and people.
From there, prioritize these accounts or industries appropriately based on the data you’ve uncovered. As a marketplace, we have specific categories where there is an opportunity to acquire more customers than others, and our team prioritizes marketing to them accordingly. You can also use a Marketing Automation Platform, Google Analytics, and other tools to understand.
However, you want to make sure that you remove friction in the buying process. It’s a good idea to put together a process and overall experience with your brand that will enable interested buyers to learn as much about your product or service as possible wherever they’re consuming content. Provide pricing and product videos or a product demo so that inbound leads are at a stage where they know what they’re getting into when they talk to your team. This will reduce the sales cycle, increase the close rate, and build trust between your brand and buyers as they self-educate on their own time.
You should provide a way for buyers to book time with your team on their own time as well, without requiring phone calls to set up a discovery call. Planting a calendar embed on a confirmation page after they submit a demo form is an easy way to accomplish this, which we do with Hubspot.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach, what works for SMB may not work at the enterprise level, and vice versa.
Another important component is understanding the financials around your customers. If you’re in hyper-growth mode, you might not care about spending more to acquire a customer than their value will be on average, but most companies use these metrics to assess the channels, cost, and goals of their campaigns to justify the spend.
So ask yourself these questions:
- What is your customer acquisition cost?
- What does your customer lifetime value look like?
- What does churn look like on an industry- and company-type basis?
- What is the average deal size?
Last but not least, execute! That’s the fun part, so go experiment in different channels, with different creative and different messaging to see what resonates with your audience. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, what works for SMB may not work at the enterprise level, and vice versa.
As you carry out your strategy, have clear goals for what you want to achieve in each channel. Is it content consumption? Is it someone directly booking a demo? Continuously monitor results, and make incremental improvements to get to the level you want to be at. Keep in mind, it won’t happen overnight, but 1-2% gains in conversion will add up.
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Why is lead routing necessary? And how do you recommend setting up that process?
AK: Because it’s important to have marketing and sales aligned on the buyer journey. Ever filled out a demo request for more information and heard back two or three business days later? Or never received a response at all? Buyer friction and a seamless experience with your sales team are incredibly important to nail down because people searching for your product or service are most likely checking out competitors as well.
After conducting an analysis of over 4,000 inbound demo requests that we had in the last 12 months, we found that 73% of those leads that turned into demos were converted to an opportunity within two business days of submitting the request. 60% of all leads we converted into demos/opportunities were converted within the first 24 hours. After three business days, our odds of getting that person to take a demo dropped to 10%. Response time is critical, and we measure the number of leads our team responds to within five, 30, and 60 minutes.
Unsurprisingly, leads that we contacted within five minutes converted at the highest level, but we did not see a major drop-off on leads that we contacted within 30 and 60 minutes. It was when we had leads coming in outside of business hours—or when our team wasn’t able to reach out within that first hour—that we saw problems. To help from a coverage and responsiveness perspective, we added a confirmation email with the rep’s calendar, along with a calendar embed on the confirmation page after they submitted their demo request. This helped tremendously since 48% of our leads come outside of working hours Monday through Friday. What was once a challenge for our team to connect with those people, we are now getting about 50% of them to book our sales team directly.
What are the best ways to measure the success of a growth campaign?
AK: That depends on the overarching goal of the campaign, but at a high level, generally it will include:
- Lead/account engagement. Were you able to effectively and consistently engage your target audience or target accounts with content? Did you drive engagement with accounts that had not previously engaged with you? How much time did they spend consuming your content? How many pages did they end up visiting on your website? These are all good indicators that your targeting was effective and your content was relevant and informative.
- The number of inbound demo requests/leads. How effective was your campaign in bringing people to request more information from your sales team? Everyone’s version of a marketing qualified lead will differ, but for UpCity this means a request to learn more.
- The number of opportunities created. This is generally tied pretty closely to number two, but how much pipeline do your efforts help generate for the sales team? Are the inbound leads that request a demo converting to opportunities?
- Closed/won revenue: Marketing has a job to make sales easier, and that will result in sales closing more deals at a higher rate and in a shorter amount of time.
What are some ways UpCity is unique in how we approach lead generation and growth?
AK: UpCity is unique in a few ways. We have an incredibly strong SEO presence, as it has been the backbone of our company for more than a decade. As a result, our team is fortunate to have a lot of inbound traffic. This puts more emphasis on our team to test copy, design, chat, and anything else that can help us squeeze more out of the inbound traffic.
Keep in mind, it won’t happen overnight, but 1-2% gains in conversion will add up.
Remember that incremental improvement remark I made? It rings very true for our team. As an SMB, we are a high-velocity, more transactional sale. What works for us will not necessarily work for mid-market and enterprise, and vice-versa. Our CAC, ACV, and LTV make it more difficult to justify the huge investment in channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and SEM. We rely heavily on pushing word-of-mouth business, such as our referral program, organic content creation (think sharing content on LinkedIn and working to uncover more upsell opportunities with our base of customers.).
About the author
Rebecca helps keep all things content running at UpCity. Prior to joining, she was a magazine editor at an agency for several award-winning publications based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and a content specialist for several brands within the SMB/B2B landscape. She also has significant experience in digital content creation, most notably targeting hunters and anglers (despite being a vegetarian) during her time at Gander Outdoors. Rebecca has also worked in PR, covering a diverse terrain of products and events, including the promotion of local musicians and music festivals and the latest craft beer offerings from local breweries.