I want to talk about a solution that is increasingly common in our market and wrap it in a methodology called the Growth Team. This is the approach we have implemented in digital agency Portland.
As a co-author of the hopox service and an Agile & Lean Marketing evangelist in Russia, I was lucky to communicate with many web studios and digital agencies, to automate the work process in them. There is something in common in how processes are changing now and we can already talk about a trend, but first, let's write down the main problems that are relevant for most agencies in the Internet marketing market:
- Low-margin model of selling employee time, covertly or directly. Large payroll costs, since the daily work of the agency is a set of proven, best and uniform practices that are hidden in employees, for example, setting up a direct, creating a landing page, or maintaining groups on social networks. The “human factor” creates scaling problems and there is a non-linear relationship between the founder's turnover and profit.
- High-margin orders are unique in their implementation, require a reallocation of resources, increased or absent team competencies, contain high risks, and cannot be fulfilled using a set of proven and best practices. For example, this is working with large clients, when all the traditional practices have already been applied, growth has slowed down, and the customer requires more. In these examples, line / back office employees may not be helpful.
- The customer's business is not ready to grow through internet marketing. The reasons are sometimes banal: the business does not pick up the phone or does not call back, there are no sales scripts, processes, CRM systems, but there are also deeper ones: the customer does not know his unit economy and cannot answer the question of how expensive it is to attract a client, he does not know a portrait of your client or even gets angry in response to such questions. Training a customer can be expensive, and trying to get into the business can be a thankless undertaking.
- No development for employees and founders. The use of standard practices makes the work routine. Often, over time, the "Squirrel in the wheel" effect melancholy covers the entire business.
How to jump out of the wheel? How to deal with high-margin interesting projects? How to communicate with the customer in order to be able to tweak his business to the created processes? How to reduce the share of salaries in the company's turnover and create a scalable process for generating non-standard strategies?
Conversations that the future of digital agencies belongs to consulting has been going on for a long time. Especially after the cancellation of the commission for advertising in Direct, how else to make money on Direct besides consulting?
I will tell you about a solution that is partially already used in our market and is fully applied in the western one. The methodology initially changed the marketing departments of large Internet companies like Twitter, Dropbox or SkyScanner, separating activities related to the growth of product metrics and the company as a whole into a separate division and team. This is how the concept of Growth Team and the position of VP of Growth, Head of Growth, etc. appeared for the first time.
The focus of the methodology is the formation and work of the Growth Team to test growth hypotheses in short iterations. For our ear, it would be more accustomed to explain it by combining Performance Marketing plus Agile. In world practice, this is a combination of three areas at once: Agile Marketing, Lean Startup and Data-Driven Marketing.
By projecting the Growth Team onto Internet agencies, it may seem that we are creating an anti-crisis team to manage the customer's Internet marketing. Perhaps it is. So, closer to the methodology.
Principle of operation and stages of implementation:
1. We form a Growth Team around each complex project from active employees of various departments of the agency, recruiting into one team all the expertise necessary for the project. Competencies that are missing in the agency can be easily filled by calling an expert to work hourly or in a friendly manner. If possible, the Growth Team should have an analyst (responsible for project data and metrics) and a technical specialist. The Growth Team should have a representative of the customer, the customer, or better - the founder of the business.
2. Set the time and period of meetings for the Growth Team, once a week or two. Maybe even once a month depends on the project and the resources of the team, but it's important to remember that sprint length greatly affects growth rate. In fact, with periodic meetings we launch Agile Marketing, which states in the manifest:
- Responsive and iterative campaigns instead of bulky and complex
- Flexible planning instead of rigid
- Reacting to change instead of following a plan
- Many small experiments instead of one big one
3. Meeting of the Growth Team to plan actions for the next sprint. If you haven't found anything special in the methodology up to this point, now is the time to thin out.
Team Growth Schedule
- Focus on the goals of a complex project. What needs to be achieved in the medium and long term in numbers: turnover, number of applications, increase in the average check, increase in the group in social. networks. Also, focus on dependent metrics that influence key metrics and goal. You just need to write them out and keep in mind in the next paragraph. It is important to understand that in order for meetings to be productive, it is necessary to discuss and operate with specific metrics and goals in numbers. This is where Performance Marketing or Data-Driven Marketing begins.
- Generation of growth hypotheses. The entire Growth Team is discussing what actions, promotions, changes or additions in channels, in a product, in scripts, in an interface, in advertising slogans, in marketing tools, in a client portrait, etc., are worth doing to change the selected metrics. We write ideas in the form of hypotheses, they are also smart tasks, that is, we indicate not only the task, but also the expected effect for the selected metrics.
- This part is perhaps the most important in the methodology and is its seed, the secret sauce, the lever of the effectiveness of the entire methodology. Here each team member shows himself as an expert. The expertise of the Team of Growth is the multiplied expertise of all its members. Leading and generating hypotheses is an art, a skill that can be learned quickly. It is especially easy if you have a background in consulting or a coach. By the way, it so happens that meetings turn into coaching sessions for the client, if the growth problems are on his side.
- So, it is necessary to generate many different hypotheses, since the most interesting ones begin when all the obvious ones end - usually in the second ten. How to generate effective hypotheses can be found in the Lean Startup book. By the way, most of the methodology is from this book.
- We choose the most effective hypotheses. What the most effective hypotheses are is a subjective concept, so you can choose hypotheses by voting, by eye. It is important that all hypotheses must be implemented and tested before the next sprint, so you should not take too many hypotheses into the sprint.
In subsequent sprints, the first meeting point should be conclusions on the hypotheses of the previous sprint.