2 July 2020

What is a growth agency and why isn't a marketing agency enough anymore?

7-Minute Read

In a nutshell: A growth agency is there to be your partner in delivering on your commercial objectives, rather than just delivering you leads. What this means in practice is that a growth agency recognises the totally interrelated nature of marketing, sales and service activity in driving growth and takes a holistic approach that puts customer data and technology at the centre of its activities.

Where did growth agencies come from? 

Before we get too much into explaining what growth agencies are and how they work, it makes sense to discuss the ‘inbound’ agency. This in itself is a relatively new term that stems from the practice of inbound marketing, which was popularised by the technology brand HubSpot.

Inbound marketing is really all about helping the customer find what they are already looking for using a combination of good SEO and a really strong understanding of the prospects you are hoping to attract. This insight enables the generation of helpful, interesting content which drives  customers to your site without having to pay for ads (the inbound bit).

Ultimately, inbound theory accepts that in most cases customers are looking for solutions to problems and not products in themselves.. It also assumes that they will take a broad view of the market to educate themselves about you and your competitors. Finally, it is comfortable that customers finding this information and learning more about the market on your site is preferable to them not visiting it at all. 

To bring this to life we would say that customers broadly ask 5 common questions when deciding to buy something:

  • What does X cost?
  • What are the problems with X?
  • How does X compare with Y?
  • Has X been reviewed?
  • What is the best type of X?

We know that, in the main, today’s customer asks these questions to Google and therefore the job in hand is to answer them with content and get that content onto the first page of Google so that they visit our site.

But site traffic doesn’t make you money, I hear you cry! Which is of course correct, so the real trick of inbound comes from the application of technology, principally HubSpot marketing automation and CRM tools. These tools enable the brand to capture prospect data and tailor ongoing communications to continue helping the customer make decisions as they go through their purchasing journey. The customer journey and customer mindset can broadly be described as below:

Awareness: I have a problem and I am looking for a solution, e.g. my hair is too long/I need a haircut.

Consideration: I am appraising different solutions: a) barber shop, b) buy some clippers and do it at home or c) get a hairdresser to visit my house.

Decision: I have decided on a solution and I am choosing a supplier of that solution - I have decided to buy clippers and am choosing between Remington and Wahl.

By using technology to recognise the journey or lifecycle stage we can tailor our communications to move them to the next stage, not by cajoling, but by helping them make decisions and in so doing build trust in us as a partner they want to do business with.

So where does the growth agency bit come in?

What is described above is a linear process that takes a prospect from the top to the bottom where they become a lead or a sale.

In reality, customer journeys (good ones at least) are not linear; they are cyclical. They go from awareness through consideration to decision of course, but then in most businesses on to ownership, repurchase and hopefully advocacy.

The mindset shift is to stop thinking about marketing, sales and service as three separate activities with three separate strategies and remember that in business there are only two real universal constants: customers and money. We are in it to make money (irrespective of whether it is for charitable endeavours or shareholders) and the people that give us the money are customers.

A growth agency is all about the customer and holds within its remit every touchpoint with the customer that impacts on making the brand money - which is all of them! It does this using the inbound philosophy, which remember is all about helping the customer every step of the way through their journey to do what is best for them.

The by-product of this approach and this philosophy is GROWTH. 

What does a growth agency actually deliver?

The delivery model can broadly be split into four distinct sections:

  1. Understanding: Namely an understanding of how to best connect you to your ideal customer.

    This would typically encompass:

    a) Brand positioning 

    b) Product positioning

    c) Persona definition 

    d) Crafting your proposition 

    The means by which these elements are delivered is through a combination of research and workshops with the brand’s teams and network.

  2. Foundations: On top of the understanding piece a growth agency would look to create, replace or augment the technology infrastructure through which all customer touchpoints are delivered, tracked and understood. Typically this would involve deploying the HubSpot Growth Suite of tools. This is a CRM system around which orbits a full set of tools to manage marketing (demand generation), sales (customer acquisition) and service (customer happiness). By creating this ecosystem of tools the actions in one area can trigger related actions in another and in so doing accelerate growth.
  3. Delivery: A growth agency will take the customer understanding and brand/product positioning and use it to create marketing and sales campaigns as well as service delivery strategies and communications. These are then deployed through the new technology infrastructure to drive the desired results and deliver against the agreed KPIs (i.e. make money)
  4. Optimisation: In marketing as in life there is no such thing as ‘one and done’, the key to success is constant evolution, which is born out of a robust and sophisticated test and learn strategy. A growth agency will use the technology infrastructure to create multivariant tests of all key communications and track these all the way back to leads and sales. This ensures the agency and business accelerate together towards the growth goals at the fastest possible speed.

Why should you not use a traditional marketing agency?

Ultimately, because a marketing agency by definition exists in a silo. In 2020, If you are a B2B organisation and you really boil it down, the raison d'être of a traditional marketing agency is to deliver more traffic to your website. If the agency didn’t build that website then that’s all it is really responsible for. One thing I can tell you for sure is that website traffic can’t be spent and it doesn’t pay the bills. If you have an agency right now and all they tell you about is the number of clicks they generated at what click-through-rate and cost per click then you have a marketing agency on your hands. If they are telling you how many leads they generated, deals they influenced and the value of the deals closed from those leads then this is a growth agency. The game has moved on and I know which I would rather spend my money on.

Who should use a growth agency?

The simple answer is anyone that wants to grow. The slightly more nuanced answer is that certain types of business are more suited to this approach than others. The ideal candidate for employing a growth agency like EnquiryLab would have these characteristics:

  1. They would be an established business, most likely turning over more than £5m per year.
  2. They would want to grow more than 10% year-on-year and have committed a budget to fuel the growth.
  3. They would have a product that has a relatively long consideration cycle. I.e. people would do some research before purchasing, the product would most likely cost in excess of £500 and they would research for a couple of weeks or more before buying.
  4. More often than not they would be selling business to business, but not exclusively so.
  5. They would have a sales team or function in the business.
  6. They would have the time to work with an agency partner collaboratively.
  7. They would be open to change the systems their marketing, sales and service activity runs on.

If this sounds like your business and you want to drive growth in the next 12 months, then get in touch for a free assessment of your current marketing activity and website, or just to request more information. 

 

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