The Product is the Marketing

I’ve been working with an online retailer recently who operates in the NZ and Australian markets. They have built up a reputation for quality products at affordable prices. Halfway through the discovery day in Auckland we had identified a number of areas they could improve their marketing and overall performance. One of the directors said “With all these things we have to improve, it’s amazing we got this far”.

The reason they have built up a multi-million dollar online business with thousands of customers is they have a very good product. From design to manufacturing to customer service they are good across the board. Sure, none of their marketing is ‘perfect’ and the changes we will make will add over $500k in sales in the next 12 months but they have such a strong base that working with me is just accelerating their growth.

Businesses are being presented with such a vast number of options these days to market and reach customers that the focus on the product is sometimes lost.

In a hyper connected consumer world the old cliche that ‘you can’t polish a turd’ has never been more true.

Using frameworks like the Value Proposition Canvas not only steer you towards the right way to market your product, they highlight areas that your product could be falling down.

Rather than thinking about the next marketing tactic stop and think about how you can improve your product. The marketing will be vastly more successful.

Two Frameworks for Growth

Warren Buffet has built a $66 billion dollar fortune and become one of the most famous investors of our time. Buffet has a slightly less well known confident and partner called Charlie Munger.

Buffett credits him with much of the success of his investing approach:

“Charlie shoved me in the direction of not just buying bargains, as Ben Graham had taught me. This was the real impact Charlie had on me. It took a powerful force to move me on from Graham’s limiting views. It was the power of Charlie’s mind. He expanded my horizons.”

Munger does this through models.

He has come to the conclusion that in order to make better decisions in business and in life, you must find and understand the core principles and organise them in a method you can act on.

Charlie and I are the same (apart from a few billion dollars) we both believe the robust models are the most efficient and effective way to apply learning and make changes.

When I spend time with a business and help them with marketing and growth strategy we use frameworks and models to collate information, get clarity and make definitive actions.

There are many depending on the stage the business is at; startup or established; and the industry they are in.

Here’s a couple of frameworks that can help you get clarity and move forward.

The Tactical Triangle

tactical triangle

The triangle was popularised by Perry Marshall:

“The Triangle says: In order to sell something, you have to get Traffic; then you have to Convert the traffic; and Economics means you have to make some money on what you sell – which is why you went into business in the first place.”

Businesses inherently know that they want to improve all those factors. So they try multiple ways of improving everything at once without measuring which one is the most effective use of scarce resources; time and money.

I use the triangle to give a business priorities based on what is going to give us the biggest return. Focusing on a single metric then gives you a shorter list of how you can achieve it.

An example for an online retailer:

  • Traffic – improve email to generate more click throughs to site’
  • Conversions – add a new payment option
  • Economics – bundling products to increase transaction value

The power of the triangle is that every metric compounds on the next:

A retailer had 100,000 visitors monthly , a 4% conversion rate and average order value of $80 their sales would be $320,000

If they improved to 110,000, 5% conversion and $90 (10%, 25% and 12.5% improvements)  sales would reach $495,000, 54% increase. So no single metric improved more than 25% but sales increased 54%. Yay maths.

In a world where the choices of which digital tactic and channel to use is vast the simplicity of the triangle is powerful.

The Value Proposition Canvas

value proposition canvas

As humans we are selfish beasts who only care about ourselves. Defining what value your product or service brings the a customer is not valuable, it’s essential. Many good products fail because they fail to communicate correctly.

The Value Proposition Canvas (download link) helps a business map, discuss and test ideas in relation to their customers needs. The canvas comes from the Lean Startup movement and zooms in on the customers segments when trying to achieve product market fit.

I’ve found extremely valuable for businesses to get clarity on products, technical development roadmap, marketing spend and even hiring.

Customer Jobs are the functional, emotional and social things the customer is trying to get done. eg perform a task, look good, security

Pains are the negative emotions and risks the customer faces before, during and after getting the job done. eg lost time, lack of features, learning curve

Gains are the benefits your customer expects or would be surprised by eg save money, look better, increased social status.

Mapping these and listing how your product matches and misses them gives clarity over how you can communicate the pains and gains and what gaps there are in meeting and exceeding your customers expectations.

Frameworks are simple yet powerful models to achieve growth, reduce waste and settle the overwhelm businesses feel on a regular basis.

If in doubt stop. model. act.





Vanity Metrics

vanity metrics

Vanity is my favourite sin.Al Pacino

What you focus on grows

In a digital world we collect a lot of data and have huge amounts of information readily available to us.

Unfortunately sometimes we get false hope by focusing on the wrong ones.

Good metrics guide our decisions.

What works. What doesn’t.

Here’s some that can be dangerous.


Unless you are selling advertising views then the total amount of pageviews your website generates is irrelevant in isolation. I have had many people proudly tell me how many ‘hits’ their website generates but when asked how many prospects/leads/sales it generates they don’t have an answer. Having a high number of pageviews is an opportunity you need to be leveraging. They are all people. On it’s own, having a website with lots of traffic is not enough.

Email Open Rates

The likelihood of opening an email has more relation to who it’s from rather than what it’s about. Think about it. What is the open rate of emails from your Mum? I would estimate 100%…

Unless you’re looking at your interaction rate and the behaviour of people who have opened your email then your looking at the wrong thing.

Facebook Likes

Facebook have been reducing the organic reach of page posts for a while. They wan’t to sell more advertising and deliver a better experience to their audience. Who can blame them.

This means having a big audience of Facebook does not equal you being able to communicate with the audience.

Take 5 minutes today to check what metrics you’re focusing on.

Do they help you make better decisions and contribute to the bottom line or do they just make you feel better?

Why Your Business Shouldn’t Be on Social Media

Like, tweet, share, snap.

All words that have rapidly become part of our lives.

Businesses have flocked to Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and to a lesser extent in NZ; Twitter and Snapchat. They are attractive as it is free to establish a presence on them and there are huge amounts of people on them.

Facebook alone has 1.4 billion monthly active users.

So it must be good for business right?


What You Focus on Grows

I’ve spent millions of dollars of mine and other peoples money on marketing.

I get asked what works best A LOT.

Social media is very rarely on that list.

Why? Because other things work better and most people aren’t doing them right let alone tackling multiple social channels.

There are two elements that are always scarce inside a business – time and money. It doesn’t matter the size of the business, it’s impossible to do everything well. Unless your a Silicon Valley unicorn with a few hundred million in the bank then you need to focus on the things that work to grow.

Here’s a nice graph from McKinsey showing ROI per $1 spent on different marketing channels.


roi graph

Boring old email comes out on top by a mile.

If you’re not building a customer database and sending them something regularly you’re crazy.

Yep, flat out bonkers.

It’s the cheapest, simplest, highest leverage marketing channel there is and I’m yet to find an industry that can’t use it.

Does it make sense that spending time and effort on improving (or starting) email marketing, SEO and driving targeted traffic from paid ads could give you a better ROI?

If you’ve squeezed every ounce of performance from these channels then fill your boots on whatever social channel you like.

Social Media, What is it Good For

All that said social media can play a part in your business without a massive effort.

I frame it as a good customer service and engagement channel – any sales achieved from it are a bonus.

If you’re going to tackle social media then start with focusing on the right channel first. For consumer businesses this is likely Facebook or Instagram for B2B probably LinkedIn. Go where your customer persona is most likely to be.

These are the rules:

  • Post regularly – a half-dead social presence makes your business look half dead.
  • Don’t ‘sell’ too often – people like to buy but hate to be sold to
  • Be useful – if you’re helpful and knowledgeable about your industry then people will engage
  • Reply – it’s a public channel so anyone can engage with you. Make sure you reciprocate

Seems logical but I don’t actually see many businesses following best practices.

There are of course, a lot of good reasons why you should use social media in your business. With the right content, and a modest advertising budget, some businesses can do very well.

However, those are generally the businesses that have made a plan and know what their goals are with social media.

If you haven’t done the other stuff first then don’t bother.

growth hq

Welcome to Growth HQ

growth hq

Welcome to the new home of Growth HQ.

If you’ve ever wondered:

  • How do I get more customers?
  • How do I use the Internet to grow my business and free up more time?
  • Where is the best place for me to spend my marketing dollars?
  • How did ‘insert famous kiwi’ get to where they are now?
  • How do I get more ATTENTION for my business?
  • How/where/what do I start?

You’re in the right place.

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