Skip to content

Step 2: Brainstorm & prioritize

Now that you’ve articulated your growth goals, it’s time to map out a strategy to achieve them.

For this step, you’ll need have a solid understanding of two key metrics: customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer lifetime value (LTV).

Ready to start? In this step, you’ll brainstorm marketing channels and tactics to reach your customers and then evaluate which of these are most viable.

Involve your team in the brainstorming to get different ideas and perspectives. Watch out for any bias toward certain tactics and channels—it’s too soon to decide what will work or not work.

Keep your customer discovery data handy so you can stay focused on your target market.

Watch the video and then complete the activities in the spreadsheet (see below).

BACK CONTINUE TO STEP 3

Video transcript | Step 2: Brainstorm & prioritize

Now that you have your growth goals articulated, it’s time to figure out how to achieve them.

In this step, you need to brainstorm ways to reach your customers.

Gather your team together so you can get a variety of ideas and perspectives. No idea is a silly idea. Whiteboard everything. Watch out for biases toward certain tactics and channels. Keep your customer discovery data handy so you can keep the discussion focused. And check all biases at the door. (We’ll talk more about that later).

Keep in mind that a channel is the distribution method through which your marketing tactic will reach, acquire and potentially grow your number of customers. A marketing tactic is the “what” you are going to do in the channel to reach your customer.

Marketing channels can be paid, meaning you pay to acquire customers. An example would be paying for an ad on Facebook. Channels can also be earned, meaning they are free. An example of an earned channel would be getting rave reviews and referrals from customers—that’s free.

Paid channels
Earned (“free”) channels
Social (e.g., paid Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) Social (e.g., free Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
Direct sales PR (e.g., free media publicity, promotion from internal employees)
Out of home (e.g., paid billboards, subway ads) Virality (e.g., referrals from existing customers)
Affiliate (paid programs for partners to promote) SEO (e.g., inbound & outbound keyword tactics, backlinks, content)
Trade shows (paid space at events) Community building (e.g., local meet-ups, speaking engagements, thought leadership content)

Now, it’s time to prioritize and pare your channels down to just three.

There are five key questions to consider when reviewing the channel tactics you’ve brainstormed:

  1. What is the customer acquisition cost in that channel? (It shouldn’t be more than ⅓ of your customer lifetime value.)
  2. How many customers could the channel realistically yield and would this number get you to your growth goal?
  3. Is your target customer on this channel?
  4. What is the time needed to execute the tactic? (It’s important to “time stamp” everything for measurability.)
  5. Which team member will be in charge of this growth tactic?

Let’s take a look at this example of a consumer medical device company whose customer segments are hospitals, clinics and physiotherapy centres. A growth marketer for this type of venture might consider these marketing tactics.

Channel
Tactic
Social (paid Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn)

  • Test “awareness” campaign on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn
  • Start with customer acquisition cost (CAC) of $3.00
  • Redirect customers to downloadable guide
  • Test for 1 week with target of X customers
  • Assign tactic to specific team member
Direct sales

  • Develop customer segmentation
  • Identify beachhead customer segment
  • Contact 10 customers weekly in each segment with key sales message
  • Test for 2 weeks
  • Assign tactic to specific team member

Trade shows (paid space at events)

  • Attend RESI on MaRS conference
  • Set CAC at $10.00
  • Acquire 50 new prospects & close 5
  • Test for 1 day
  • Assign tactic to specific team member

Search engine marketing (Google)

  • Develop keyword list
  • Assign cost per click of $0.25/click
  • Use “awareness” key message
  • Reach 100 potential customers & close 5
  • Test for 1 week
  • Assign to specific team member

Review all your channel tactics against the five key questions and drop the channel tactics that won’t give you this information. You will need data to compare your tactics against each other. Then narrow the remaining field down to the top three channels you think are most likely to help you achieve your current growth goal.

Avoid the temptation of simply picking a channel because your competition is using it. Don’t assume that because everyone else is active on one channel, you need to get there too. In reality, that channel may be oversaturated. Ideally, you will find your own underutilized channel strategy to get your message out. Use the steps of this framework and these five criteria to help you decide which channels to test.

It’s a good idea to keep all the channel ideas that you generated, even if you’re not proceeding with them at this point. Take a photo of the list, write the list down, whatever works. Having it may be useful to you in future rounds of this framework.

You’re now ready to move on to the next step and start testing.

To recap:

  1. Without bias, list all the marketing channels you can think of. Do not pre-judge the utility of any.
  2. Identify 1 marketing tactic for each of these channels.
  3. Use the 5 key questions to identify which channel tactics are viable & offer the data you’ll need. Drop the other channels.
  4. Narrow the remaining field down to the 3 channels most likely to get you to your growth goal.


WHAT TO DO NEXT
  1.     Refresh your memory on the content provided below.
  2.     In the spreadsheet you downloaded in Step 1, open the tab for Step 2 and complete the activity.
  3.     Proceed to Step 3 of this playbook. 
The five key questions to consider when reviewing the channel tactics you’ve brainstormed:
  1.     What is the CAC in that channel? (Should be no more than ⅓ of your customer LTV)
  2.     How many customers could the channel realistically yield and would this number get you to your growth goal?
  3.     Is your target customer on this channel?
  4.     What is the time needed to execute the tactic? (It’s important to “time stamp” for measurability.)
  5.     Which team member will be in charge of this growth tactic?
Paid vs. earned channels
Paid channels
Earned (“free”) channels
Social (e.g., paid Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) Social (e.g., free Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
Direct sales PR (e.g., free media publicity, promotion from internal employees)
Out of home (e.g., paid billboards, subway ads) Virality (e.g., referrals from existing customers)
Affiliate (paid programs for partners to promote) SEO (e.g., inbound & outbound keyword tactics, backlinks, content)
Trade shows (paid space at events) Community building (e.g., local meet-ups, speaking engagements, thought leadership content)

How do I know which channels would reach my target customer?

While there are no easy answers to this, remember that you’re the expert in understanding your target market. Think about what you already know your customers and how/where you are most likely to reach them. What are their likes and dislikes, problems and challenges? Are they tech-savvy? What is their demographic?

As you work through Step 2, these strategies can help you prioritize your top channels:

  • Keep your customer discovery data close at hand for easy reference.
  • Build a buyer or user persona so you can visualize who it is you are trying to reach.
  • Conduct secondary market research to learn even more about your customer.

Get insights on key marketing channels.

CUSTOMER DEVELOPMENT

Get key insights on customer development from growth marketing expert, Alison Gibbins.

FURTHER RESOURCES
HubSpot blog: The 6 Marketing Metrics & KPIs Your CEO Actually Cares About [Cheat Sheet] Learn more about key marketing metrics, including cost of customer acquisition (CAC) and the ratio of customer lifetime value to CAC (LTV:CAC).
Smile.io blog: How To Calculate Your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) This in-depth look at CAC is presented in an easy-to-understand way. Well worth the read.
Smile.io blog: The Easy Way to Calculate Customer Lifetime Value This in-depth look at customer lifetime value (LTV) is also presented in an easy-to-understand way.
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

Help us fit this playbook to your needs as we add new material. Tell us what you loved (and what you didn’t) and what you’d like to see.

Startup = Growth
– Paul Graham, Y Combinator


MARKETING CHANNELS GROWTH INSIGHTS