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SEO and inbound marketing strategy are two common aspects of digital marketing. But did you know each marketing method is closely connected?

Let’s break down the intimate relationship between search engine optimization (SEO) and inbound marketing, what they can do for your brand, and what steps you can take to get the most out of these powerful marketing concepts.

What Is an Inbound Marketing Strategy?

Inbound marketing is a popular term in the modern marketing world. Unlike traditional marketing, the concept focuses on creating value for customers through your marketing activities. You can do this in a variety of ways by writing inbound marketing content such as a blog post, infographic, video, news article, and social media posts. 

In contrast, outbound marketing emphasizes things like television ads, billboards, and cold calls. These marketing efforts are interruptive in nature and don’t provide value.

Inbound marketing focuses on fostering engagement through targeted content. When done well, inbound marketing seamlessly presents itself to a potential customer. Quality content will make itself heard, seen, or otherwise consumed as a part of a positive experience consumers opt into.

Inbound marketing is a long-term strategy, which makes it an interesting (and important) part of growth marketing in particular. With growth marketing, the emphasis isn’t on building a company quickly. Avoid tactics such as email marketing or influencer marketing. That’s called growth hacking, and it can lead to fast results that don’t last.

Growth marketing focuses on creating customer-focused growth that steadily builds over time. In that sense, inbound marketing is a major part of the “long game” that growth marketers have in mind as they set up frameworks and build out strategies.

What Is SEO and Why Is It Important for Inbound Marketing?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” This is the process by which marketers use tools like keywords, hyperlinks, and technical configurations to optimize your online content. When done well, SEO helps your relevant content organically show up higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This means more people see it, click on it, and visit your website.

SEO is an integral part of any inbound marketing strategy. It draws the ideal customer to your content when looking for answers to related search queries. When that content is well-designed, it answers their initial questions. It also encourages the reader to remember the brand that provided helpful, thoughtful content.

Good SEO attracts the attention of a prospect and establishes that you are a useful resource and can offer them value. At that point, it passes the torch to inbound marketing. This uses tools like gated content, samples, demos, and newsletters to encourage visitors to take the next step. From there, they enter your sales funnel, moving from awareness to consideration and eventually decision-making.

To put it another way, inbound marketing and SEO serve two separate but essential and complementary functions. SEO brings traffic to your content. Inbound marketing encourages those visitors to enter your sales funnel.

How to Work SEO Into an Inbound Marketing Strategy

The complementary nature of SEO and inbound marketing makes it easy to see how they flow together. But what can you do to make sure that happens with your own brand? Here are a few tips to help you ensure your inbound SEO is synergistically worked into your inbound marketing campaign:

Stay Focused on the Customer

It doesn’t matter if you’re working on SEO, inbound strategy, or both. You should always have the customer in mind. From choosing keywords to answering questions, make your target audience lie at the heart of every action and decision that you take. It's important to target existing customers and a new lead. 

Write for the Reader First and Search Engines Second

SEO is important, but it isn’t everything. In fact, it shouldn’t even be your top priority. As you invest in customer-centric content creation, make sure you’re writing for the reader first and search engines second. Don’t overuse keywords or optimize at the expense of readability or experience. Engage readers first. Then optimize content so search engines can find it.

Consider What Part of the Marketing Funnel You’re Targeting

Both SEO and inbound marketing target the entire marketing funnel — or they should. Often marketers get focused on the top of the marketing funnel. But remember, valuable content is helpful to your customers at any part of the customer journey. From brand awareness to how-tos and whitepapers, make sure everything is optimized and targeted for a specific part of your funnel.

Create E-E-A-T content: 

Remember that content marketing is central to any SEO strategy. As such, in order to have genuine value, it must clearly communicate that value to the reader. E-E-A-T content stands for “experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.” These are four filters you should have in mind with every piece of content you create. Not only will it create more value. As consumers engage more, it will boost your SEO and attract more visitors, as well.

Creating Synergy With SEO and Inbound Marketing

When you can tap into the power of both SEO and inbound marketing, they can work together to create incredible results. The challenge is creating a growth marketing framework that unlocks the power of both at the same time.

 If you’re struggling to create an effective inbound marketing strategy, reach out. Our team at Relevance can help you make the most of these two potent aspects of growth marketing for your brand.

As a marketer, you are always looking for ways to grow your business and achieve your growth marketing goals — or at least you should be. You’re likely already familiar with the content conversion funnel, but if not, there are multiple steps along the process you may be focusing on strengthening. In its most basic form the funnel has three main components.

At the top of the marketing funnel, you should prioritize attracting high-quality traffic. This is really where you build awareness. Within the middle of the funnel is where you want to build trust. Your audience will evaluate you and your product or service. The bottom of the funnel is where mutual value is created and your audience will make a purchase or follow through with another call to action. Some approaches add additional steps prioritizing retention or referral, which we agree is extremely important.

It’s important to consider whether you’d like to focus on top of the funnel organic traffic or bottom of the funnel converting traffic to drive growth. You need to decide which approach would work best based on your organization. Occasionally, this varies depending on industry. It will also vary based on your established growth marketing goals.

Should You Prioritize the Top or Bottom of the Funnel?

To help you make this decision, it's important to understand the differences between top of funnel and bottom of funnel traffic and how each can impact your growth marketing goals.

Top of funnel traffic refers to the early stage in the customer journey. This stage is where potential customers are starting to become aware of your brand and are considering engaging with you. This traffic is typically generated through awareness campaigns, such as content marketing and social media.

Bottom of funnel traffic refers to the later stage in the customer journey. Here, potential customers are actively considering making a purchase or taking some other desired action. This traffic is typically generated through conversion campaigns, such as email marketing, retargeting, and paid search ads.

For both, SEO and content can play a role in helping you show up for important terms in either top or bottom of the funnel. You just need to decide which to focus on first.

So, How Do You Decide? 

In all honesty, this decision about what to prioritize varies across industries, and your overall marking approach is a big factor as well. Here are a few factors to consider:

Your business goals and objectives:

When making any strategy decisions, you need to ask yourself what you're trying to achieve with your marketing efforts. If your goal is to drive brand awareness and reach a larger audience, focusing on TOF traffic may be the way to go. This is a common top priority for new businesses that need to get their name out there. 

Keep in mind TOF traffic is typically gained by targeting search terms that are broad with high search volumes. When you start ranking well for those terms you’ll see your site’s traffic go up, which means more potential for leads. If you don’t have strong conversion paths set up, this may not do you much good, though.

Say your goal is to drive sales or conversions, then BOF traffic may be more appropriate. If you’re in the fourth sales quarter and numbers are down, prioritizing conversions would probably be the best use of your time. Focusing on customers who already know and trust your company can be an easy way to boost sales, but it’s important to retain a personalized connection with your customer base to successfully utilize this approach. 

And opposite of TOF, BOF traffic is typically lower search volumes, but more quality searchers. You may not see that satisfying spike in traffic, but will ideally see an increase in conversions if you have strong paths and CTAs.

Your target audience: 

Second, ask yourself who you are trying to reach with your marketing efforts. Understanding your target audience’s needs, wants, and behaviors can help you determine the most effective way to engage with them. 

If your target audience is primarily made up of first-time buyers or those who are unfamiliar with your brand, focusing on TOF traffic may be the best approach. A witty social media campaign or partnering with a fun influencer can get your business in front of new eyes. 

If your target audience is made up of repeat customers or those who are already familiar with your brand, BOF traffic could be more effective. This could look like sending out a personalized email marketing campaign to previous customers. You might even send them a promo code or coupon to thank them for their previous purchases and encourage a repeat sale.

Your marketing budget: 

How much money do you have to allocate toward your marketing efforts? TOF traffic tends to be more expensive than BOF traffic, as it requires a longer-term investment in content creation and SEO strategy. 

BOF traffic, on the other hand, can be less expensive because you know your audience and how to reach them. It also allows for a more immediate approach, like email marking discussed early. An additional benefit that comes with this approach is that email is an owned media, so you’ll be using resources like time and energy rather than chipping away at your budget.

Your marketing resources:

Before making too many plans, it’s important to take inventory. Do you have the time, talent, and resources needed in order to execute a TOF or BOF marketing strategy? If you have a small team or limited resources, it may be more feasible to focus on only one side of the marketing funnel. This may mean creating quality content that doesn’t need much follow through. Or instead, you really prioritize making past customers feel special.

On the other hand, if you have a larger team and more resources at your disposal, then you’ll probably be able to focus on both TOF and BOF traffic. And to be honest, combining both strategies at the same time yields additional benefits. However, you have to determine if it’s worth the cost for your business. Not all organizations can prioritize both, and in some cases stretching yourself too thin can cause more harm than good. Marketing requires balance.

In the End, It’s Up to You

Using both approaches can be particularly effective to help grow your business. However, not all budgets or team configurations allow for that approach. Focusing on TOF traffic helps build your brand and reach a wider audience, while BOF tactics convert those potential customers into paying customers. 

These strategies can help you drive both awareness and conversions, leading to sustainable growth for your business. However, the ultimate decision of whether to focus on TOF or BOF is up to you. If you're really unsure, it may be time to consider a growth marketing agency. By considering these factors, you can determine the best approach for achieving your growth marketing goals.

Traditional marketing approaches have long been effective in building brand awareness and promoting various initiatives. For decades, it's provided a tried-and-true process that has generated sales and interest. Many retailers take an understandable posture toward marketing (and everything else) that goes something like, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

However, in today's hyper-connected marketplace, brands need to learn more about their customers to continue along a growth trajectory. They need to understand customer behaviors exhibited in the past and anticipate future needs. As attention spans shrink, retailers need to be empowered to respond quickly and forecast accurately.

In short, brands need more dynamic, ongoing opportunities to understand, engage, and connect with their existing customers. Enter growth marketing.

Defining Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a burgeoning strategy focusing on long-term relationships with your existing and potential customers. It's a full-funnel approach that uses quantitative and qualitative data to gain deeper insights and make course corrections in marketing at every stage.

Growth marketing is a comprehensive approach designed to meet your marketing goals. It does not focus on one component, such as lead generation. Instead, it uses objective information to build customer loyalty and trust by providing content that delivers value.

Think of it this way; growth marketing enables brands to grow more than just the bottom line. In addition to more significant revenue, it also facilitates the growth of customer loyalty, overall satisfaction, responsiveness, and trustworthiness.

How is traditional marketing different from growth marketing?

Traditional marketing often focuses on acquiring a customer (revenue) but less on retention (brand loyalty). There is typically little marketing emphasis on what happens to a prospect once online marketing efforts convert them to paying customers.

Another critical component of mastering the growth marketing puzzle is experimentation.

Experimentation is all about testing, refining, and retesting messages until a brand fully understands what works in its niche. This embrace of experimentation takes an upfront commitment of time and resources if you hope to do it correctly.

Why growth marketing?

It's data-driven.

Sometimes marketing is all about what's funny, what looks good, or what people currently think is hot. That's all fine and well. However, growth marketing focuses less on buzz and more on empirical data. What is working? What isn't? Where can our efforts be improved?

Effective growth marketing includes utilizing A/B testing and conversion rate optimization (CRO) data. Growth marketing uses these tools to influence online efforts, focusing on a better overall user experience. In short, growth marketing frees experimentation by using data as its starting point instead of "best guesses" as to what might work.

Growth marketing is a full-funnel strategy focused on trust and loyalty.

Instead of generating leads solely at the top of the funnel, growth marketing focuses on helping customers at every stage.

Growth marketing provides value throughout the journey. Audiences work through content relevant to search intent. These messages provide value, education, and information at each stage of their buyer's journey. Content helps users determine what they need to solve real-world problems rather than leave them to guesswork.

One way to think of it is that you are providing relevant information that helps move a potential customer from uncertainty to confidence as they make their way toward the "Finalize Purchase" button. When that confidence is reinforced through accurate fulfillment, your brand has simultaneously grown its bottom line and customer loyalty.

It's hyper-strategic.

Growth marketing takes a deep dive into what's working and what isn't and aligns that with marketing goals.

By hyper-targeting what needs to change to achieve marketing goals, growth marketing can focus on conversions or top-of-the-funnel traffic, whatever you need most at the moment.

Growth marketing is "people-first."

Growth marketing focuses on people, a.k.a. the customer. Whether that's in SEO, where you are writing for the reader and targeting the keywords they find valuable, or in onsite content written to help answer questions and be a resource, solve your growth marketing puzzle by being helpful.

Strong brands can be confident that an educated audience is far more likely to purchase than those with unresolved questions or other misgivings.

Instilling a Growth Marketing Mindset

To establish a growth marketing mindset in your marketing department, you first need to embrace data as a driver for decision-making.

This process can be more challenging than you think, primarily if past business successes resulted from inspired hunches. There is still a place in the marketing realm for hunches, but with growth marketing, your inspiration springs from empirical sales data and website analytics rather than waiting for a muse to pay a visit.

That does not mean that creativity is not a factor. In fact, creativity is a critical component of effective growth marketing. Art and science are involved in building a growth marketing mindset as you seek to perfect a harmonious blend of SEO, onsite content, and traditional marketing practices. If anything, growth marketing done right requires more creativity, not less.

By focusing on your brand's products and services, being willing to experiment, using objective data as your agreed-upon starting point, and using past results to guide future strategies, you'll be solving your growth marketing puzzle before you know it. In fact, you may start wondering how you ever got along without utilizing a growth marketing strategy.

At Relevance, we help brands build credibility and authority in their industry. Using content strategic planning, custom SEO, and digital PR, we drive more customers and revenue for our clients. To learn more, contact us today about how we can help as your growth marketing agency.

Determining which digital marketing channel or tactic will actually reach a potential customer and help spark exponential growth can be confusing and stressful. In the face of this challenge, many startup businesses looking to score some quick growth struggle to appreciate the difference between the phrases "growth marketing" and "growth hacking" as they launch.

So how do we properly distinguish between emphasizing growth marketing vs. growth hacking?

Working Definitions

Growth Marketing

The practice of growth marketing takes the traditional marketing model and adds new layers, such as a data-driven technical analysis of all aspects of the customer experience. Marketers move quickly to implement the insights gained from this user experience strategy to achieve sustainable growth.

But your growth marketing effort scarcely ends there. Unlike traditional marketing, growth marketing goes beyond the top of the marketing funnel.

The Driving Forces Behind Growth Marketing

The primary role of growth marketing is to create value rather than extract value from your existing customers. Growth marketing uses a systemic process that builds on adaptable development principles and prioritizes tactics based on their perceived long-term impact.

Growth marketing is a long-term strategy focused on fostering business growth. Its emphasis is on building relationships and loyalty to reinforce brand awareness and also acquire new customers. This growth strategy adds consistent value by attracting users and engaging with them, often while they are out on a product hunt.

Once implemented, you can then focus on retaining customers. Growth marketing, done right, can even turn customers into advocates for your brand. In short, they become cheerleaders, part of your growth tribe. This particular marketing tactic is tough to beat!

Anyone serving on your company's growth team probably knows that it's become increasingly important to have a creative, results-driven, and compelling marketing strategy targeted to the new customer.

Your growth marketing strategy can serve as a new, robust approach to building a loyal customer base. It will prove invaluable as you engineer the desired customer journey and create or edit various aspects of your growth hacking funnel.

Growth Hacking

While we often use the terms growth marketing and growth hacking interchangeably, these techniques have subtle differences.

Growth hacking focuses on creative, often low-cost strategies to help companies quickly acquire new customers. This concept utilizes a cross-functional approach that integrates marketing and technical product development skills.

Marketers use growth hacking to facilitate rapid growth through the use of qualitative and quantitative data, as well as experimentation. They use qualitative and quantitative data to gain insights into user behavior and preferences. This strategy also utilizes an accelerated testing process and specific standards to evaluate and act on the results.

The most fundamental difference between growth hacking and growth marketing lies in their opposing views on brands.

The other critical difference is the specific type of growth. Both rapid and sustainable growth would be ideal, but companies often feel pressured to pick one or the other for their focus.

How the Right Combination Will Work in Tandem

An effective growth marketing process turns the best attributes of growth hacking into a sustainable practice based on solid principles.

Growth marketing emphasizes the importance of understanding people, competition, and the business as it exists in the real world. Growth marketers know that the best marketing tactics result from knowing the ideal customers for each company.

Although there are stark differences, there are also some obvious similarities between growth marketing and growth hacking. Both approaches rely on an adaptable growth model, encouraging experimentation, data-informed decision-making, and constant improvement. Growth hacking and growth marketing rely on access to qualitative and quantitative data to drive revenue growth and customer acquisition.

How Do I Decide?

Deciding which growth strategy will be the most beneficial for your business may seem complicated, but it all boils down to your goals.

If you need more sustainable growth, growth marketing is the better option because it can keep giving for years and years if done well.

Even though they share the same goal, both techniques pursue different growth methods and complement each other. Businesses are buzzing about these concepts because everyone is seeking rapid yet sustained growth that strives to improve revenues. When you analyze and define the specific roles of growth marketing vs. growth hacking, it's clear that they both have value.

As more and more people join the ranks of those currently using their smartphones to complete secure business transactions, it's become increasingly vital to get with the content marketing trend. So yes, it's critical that you create high-quality, reliable content specific to your niche. However, if you don't know how to optimize content for SEO, all the great content in the world is unlikely to boost your online visibility.

There is both an art and a science to creating helpful content while balancing that against remembering how to optimize content for SEO even as it is being produced. Today there are plenty of diagnostic tools to help you grasp the basics, such as Yoast SEO. But there's much more to it than just the effective use of tools.

For example, you might use Google Docs and Grammarly to put a spit shine on your writing, but you're going to need more than that. Being talented in one area of SEO is great, but to get a boost in search engine results pages (SERPs), you will need to be highly skilled in other areas. Someone highly adept in only one area is roughly analogous to someone who only knows how to change a flat tire thinking they are a certified car mechanic.

Great Content Fuels SEO-Powered Sales

Well-planned and executed content contributes powerfully to your overall SEO strategy. Learning how to optimize content for SEO makes your website content more readable and enjoyable to consume overall. It also helps readers and search engines understand what you've posted.

There are many simple ways to optimize content for SEO. Below are eight industry practices you can use to help you get started. Think of them as checkboxes that must be ticked, such as including onsite and offsite links, using the right keywords to help you optimize your onsite content, and ensuring you are addressing issues about which people care.

Before you start learning how to how to optimize content for SEO, it will help immensely to put together what experts refer to as a client creative brief. A client creative brief is nothing more than a rough outline of what you hope to achieve. Think of it as a blueprint containing project details, both short-term and long-term objectives, and what you need to get from here to there.

If you are not planning to outsource your SEO project to an agency, you should nonetheless put your ​​client creative brief together. Feel free to modify your brief as your project progresses, but don’t dive in without a roadmap. Getting lost and muddled in strengthening your domain authority and showing up prominently in search engines is too easy.

How to Optimize Content for SEO

1. Use heading tags.

If you are coding your written content by hand, you already know that H1, H2, H3, and H4 tags provide readers with a taxonomy of information. H1 is the coding equivalent that signals Header 1, H2 signals Header 2, and so on. These tags help provide a helpful taxonomy of data for the human eye and for the search engine "spiders" that repeatedly crawl your website, digesting your information.

Nowadays, though, no one needs to learn to code HTML to generate these codes.

WordPress, for example, does this automatically, behind the scenes. Writers leverage a user-friendly interface to raise and lower the status of their headings, subheads, bulleted lists, and more. Once the content has been published or updated, search engines use these automatically inserted tags to answer one straightforward question: "What is this piece about?"

If you publish content without providing these distinctions, it quickly becomes monotonous. Human readers and search engines alike see what you've written as one big, long, perhaps sleep-inducing blob of text. Human beings will quickly bounce as they can't scan your content. A huge part of learning how to optimize content for SEO is making effective use of hierarchical elements, especially heading tags.

2. Include internal links.

An internal link is a hyperlink inserted into your text that links to additional content on the same site. This link should be germane to the topic as you’ve rendered it in the text and images. An internal link communicates an expectation in the mind of a human reader, something along the lines of "there’s more to learn about that subject if I want it."

When you interlink the content on your site, it signals to search engines that you are an expert on specific topics. It creates a web of authority that strengthens the value of your domain. Links should tell readers you know a great deal about a particular niche. If you have great information about a certain topic, this fact will become immediately apparent to readers and search engines. Therefore, pick your links and keywords with the utmost care.

3. Add value with external links.

Avoid trying to be an expert in everything. No one can do this. Better by far to recognize where your expertise ends, and the expertise of another begins. When you hit that boundary in your online content, insert external links to high-authority, helpful content on external websites.

Keep in mind that your site's authority is at stake as you choose the external sites to which you plan to link. Let’s face it; you can probably find something on the internet to back up just about anything you write, no matter how ridiculous (or worse, untruthful). Consequently, it’s critical that you use domain authority tools such as Moz to make sure you are only linking out to high-quality, reliable information. Your reputation is on the line here!

One of the best uses of external linking is to help your readers access information to back up your statements with statistics, charts, and data. When you use external linking to educate and inform your readers, you send a signal to search engines that you are a reliable source. This helpfulness, too, will contribute to helping your site rise in popularity and SERPs.

4. Do your keyword research.

Perhaps the most labor-intensive task in constructing an effective content marketing campaign is not (as many might guess) producing the content itself. That’s a crucial piece of the puzzle, obviously. However, before generating the content, you want to be locked in on your target keywords. Making sure you’ve selected the right keywords will pay off handsomely when you begin the content development phase.

Experts recommend choosing longer-tail keywords that bypass the more obvious choices if you don’t quite have the authority you need for those more difficult keywords. If your onsite content is solid and optimized to a longer-tail keyword, you’re more likely to rise in SERPs specific to your service area and area of expertise. You will want to optimize as much of your content around those longer-tail keywords as possible. You will want to steer clear of what’s known as "keyword stuffing" and opt instead for related keywords only as necessary.

5. Work to match the search intent of your intended audience.

Have you ever experienced an internet "Gotcha!" moment? Did you click on a link expecting one type of content…only to land on a site that has nothing to do with your intended purpose? Chances are better than even that this misdirection was intentional, the result of manipulating keywords and SERPs to nefarious ends. No one likes misleading links. In all likelihood, you bounced from the site immediately. You should expect the same treatment if your chosen keyword in any way defeats user expectations.

Treat your internet audience with respect. Ensure the content you create matches the search intent for your selected keyword.

For example, an educational blog might be best for a keyword if the purpose is primarily informational. A well-built product or service page may be best if the user's intent is commercial. When you work to consistently meet (or exceed) the expectations of search intent, your users are far more likely to reward you with repeat visits.

6. Be sure to include an intuitive URL and meta description.

Believe it or not, many users still scan the entire URL displayed in the dialog box of their web browser of choice. Set up your site's hierarchy and posts to provide a logical "trail" for your users. This practice reinforces the web of authority around the topic or theme and (let’s face it) is much easier on the eye. Which of the two URLs makes the most sense to you? Perhaps more significantly, which URL are you more likely to copy and text to a friend or family member?

When you begin building links, remember that brevity is the soul of wit. Keep the slug for every page and post as short as possible yet meaningful to human readers. Four to five words are optimal. This will not always be possible for every site. However, it’s a good rule of thumb to implement it whenever and wherever possible.

Similarly, every piece of content you post should include a META description. These descriptions offer search engine spiders a concise overview of the subject matter of your content. Your online content will begin to show up in its niche when your URL, META, and keyword work in unison.

7. Use titles and descriptive ALT text for images.

Making your content available and accessible to the broadest possible audience makes good business sense…and it’s the right thing to do. In the U.S., for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990. Yet, even today, many websites implement ALT tags and descriptive language as an afterthought. Sadly, many still ignore these online content attributes altogether.

Search engines, however, have brought commerce to bear on this issue. Many sites to this day consistently lack ALT tags for images. Other portions of the site are inaccessible to adaptive computing equipment. Consequently, those sites are likely to get dinged for it. Today, search engines more or less serve to police the ADA by lowering site rankings and domain authority.

When including ALT tags, use your selected keyword where it makes sense. Again, don’t try to "stuff" keywords into your ALT tags and other hidden fields. Search engines long ago figured that one out. As stated above, attempts at deception will get you dinged. Plenty of online testing tools are available if you’re wondering how your site scores for adaptability. "Listening" to your website content through a screen reader can also prove an enlightening experience.

8. Write for the reader.

At this point, you might well be wondering if you should be writing content for Google or your intended audience. Well…can it be both? If you are doing your job well, your ranking on SERPs will go up if you keep an eye on your customers and search engines. However, if you must fall off the fence one way or the other, fall in favor of your readers.

Over time, as more users begin taking in and backlinking to your site, the usefulness of your content will become apparent, even if you don’t tailor absolutely everything to please the almighty algorithms.

As you write, produce photos, and develop your content, keep the reader foremost in your thinking. Imagine yourself in the position of someone trying to learn more, solve a problem, or find information. As your audience validates your usefulness through repeated clicks and more extended amounts of time spent on the site, your commitment to reader service can only contribute to greater domain authority and positioning on SERPs.

"Cabbie, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?" Practice, practice, practice!

That corny old joke has become a cliche and stuck around in the collective unconscious for a reason. It points to an enduring truth. You're unlikely to achieve perfection whenever you take your first shot at anything. Whether playing the violin or optimizing content around a longer-tail keyword, you will need to keep at it until it becomes second nature.

Don’t despair if your initial efforts at optimizing content to your niche are less than stellar. That’s completely normal. You need to keep spinning so many plates that it can initially feel overwhelming. Use the guidelines above, refer back to them often as you develop your content, and keep at it!

Even if you plan to staff up in-house, you may need to engage the services of a professional SEO agency on the front end. If you find that you do need help, consider reaching out to one of our sales associates for a no-cost consultation. At Relevance, we eat and sleep SEO, but then we are quick to admit that we’re a bit odd that way.

Whether we like it or not, search engine optimization is a constantly evolving technical skill. What worked yesterday may fall completely flat next week. Constant research and updates are the meat and potatoes of every SEO agency.

Search engine companies, for their part, continue to update their algorithms to provide a better user experience. Frequently, they will release an algorithm update into the wild without much in the way of advance notice.

To better understand how successful SEO tactics really work, it might help to check out the 2014 film "The Lego Movie." In that cinematic masterpiece, the protagonists Emmet and Wyldstyle elude their murderous pursuers by constructing a high-powered getaway vehicle out of random bits of Lego as they run at full speed down an alleyway. At the last possible second, the engines snap into place, and our heroes launch themselves to safety.

Putting together a successful SEO campaign and keeping it afloat is only slightly less harrowing. Any number of factors can influence the results showing up on search engine results pages (SERPs). Given the ever-shifting terrain of SEO and your need to focus attention elsewhere, hiring an agency can be a somewhat daunting, albeit necessary, task.

Ideally, you will partner with an agency that will grow organic traffic to your website. They'll work to improve your search rankings and help you generate more leads. Should you elect to go this route, there are several questions you can ask that will help you determine if potential agencies really know their stuff and can help you move ahead in your market niche. Listed below are nine to consider.

1. Can you guarantee specific results?

Be wary of anyone who answers "Yes." Why? Because it is almost impossible to promise a specific ranking status. If the company you are considering "guarantees" a certain number of visitors to your website, a percentage of increase in sales, or a specific ranking position, you might be hearing more hype and hustle than anything else.

Most agencies will tell you they're confident of the results they can produce based on past clients. However, anyone who promises a specific ranking or traffic level is not being entirely truthful. (Let's just say it that way.) Instead of being drawn in by extravagant promises, focus on doing business with companies that commit to following search engine protocols established to provide benchmarks for quality of work. Go with verifiable "best practices" rather than pie in the sky.

2. How long will it take to see results?

Committing to effective SEO practices represents just the first step on a journey. Again, if anyone you are considering promises overnight results, they are showing you that they haven't been working in the SEO niche very long.

First, your digital footprint must have a solid foundation and strategy. That foundation often takes the form of reliable, high-quality content on a well-maintained and mobile-optimized website. After that, you'll need that onsite content to support your link acquisition goals. Once you have a stable platform, you can begin securing link acquisitions.

Anyone who promises instant results isn't using sustainable techniques. Simply stated, they aren't being honest about the realistic possibilities or working with SEO.

However, that reality shouldn't prevent an experienced agency from giving you an estimated time frame for results. You should generally expect results from reliable providers within six to twelve months, depending on how demanding your goals are. Any number of factors can rise up to skew your hoped-for results. It all depends on the competition, your site's domain authority (DA), and how difficult it is to rank for your specific keyword.

Some niche businesses may see results within a few months. Others could take significant time to see any return. Keep in mind that many third-party factors lie outside anyone's ability to control. This is all part of the SEO process. Consequently, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

3. Have you ever worked with a similar company before?

One of the best ways to know if any SEO agency can handle your project is if they've already achieved similar results in the same niche as your company. If they have, they'll already know some of the strategies it takes to get results. They should be able to explain clearly how taking you on as a client wouldn't result in a conflict of interest.

However, if they haven't previously worked in your niche, that shouldn't immediately disqualify them, either. Many of the tools and tricks that work for one niche are transferable to another.

What you're trying to learn through this question is whether or not your company is a fit with their agency and vice-versa. One positive sign is the courageous sales rep who is transparent about never having worked in your niche.

4. How has SEO changed within the last few years?

Be careful if an SEO agency you're considering explains that SEO is more or less the same today as it was a few years ago. While it is true that the core fundamentals haven't changed much, many specific tactics have been updated to keep up with changes.

Recall that search engine companies frequently announce significant changes to how they index websites. As the online marketplace shifts attention from one highlighting metric to the next, these algorithm changes can't help but affect site rankings and SERPs.

If you want to walk in better prepared, spend at least a few minutes charting the various updates to the Google search algorithm over time. Take notice if the people you're talking to can't walk you through specific updates and demonstrate how they'll impact your business. You need an SEO agency that can speak both technical and business in understandable terms. If, on the other hand, you feel your head start to spin in technical jargon, that's not a good sign. Say something about it and gauge the response this request receives.

5. What metrics do you think are most important to measure?

Rankings, traffic, and backlink numbers are all essential to monitor constantly. However, leveraging effective SEO tactics means doing more than simply increasing rankings, decreasing bounce rates, or improving traffic levels. People spending more time on your website means very little if that loitering traffic never actually purchases anything. Rankings matter most when they're helping your business generate qualified leads.

What you've defined as your business needs should drive which yardsticks you use for measuring success. It's essential to look at various metrics based on specific goals you might have. For example, some metrics could include the ranking position for a keyword or how much traffic a site is getting for that keyword. Tracking these metrics will help you understand the progress being made and if an agency fully grasps what you mean by success.

Ultimately, you want an agency that can tie its SEO efforts back to your bottom line. You need an agency that can visualize the big picture and articulate that vision to you. An SEO agency's success metrics should be based on your personal business goals. Individualization of statistical reporting will be critical for your review sessions.

6. How do you choose the keywords to target?

Effective keyword research requires considerably more effort than most realize as they begin their initial foray into the world of SEO. The overall relevance of any selected keyword is crucial, of course. However, trying to understand the default headspace — a.k.a. "search intent" — of the person conducting an internet search is equally as important.

What's typically going on in the thinking of someone who might have at least some interest in your products or services? What terms are these people likely to type into search engines? That might sound like an impossible question to answer, but it isn't. Meaningful statistics can be harvested and brought to bear, providing a solid starting point.

Make sure any potential agency you're considering refers to search intent as their basis for crafting your SEO campaign. They should also be taking into consideration keyword difficulty, as well as search volume. Not all keyword targets are created equal, so a good agency knows the balance between what is achievable and worthwhile and what isn't.

Ask them to speak at some length about the specific tools and techniques they use to determine keyword intent. If the entire conversation revolves around the number of searches for a keyword they've targeted for your needs, they're more than likely operating on outdated SEO practices.

7. What's your link-building process?

Some SEO agencies will promise to build thousands of links on your behalf within a short period of time. However, the unpleasant reality is that those links may not be valuable if they originate from a bunch of low-quality, low-DA sites.

Your conversations should focus on building quality links over a large quantity of links. You want to ensure that the links you receive come from sites with some authority in their niche and that the content your links are in is relevant to the site where they are placed. If you're a health company and an agency secures you a link in a home renovation site in content that has no connection, it may not be relevant. While you can't stop anyone from linking to you as they wish, you'll get more positive backlinks when you publish consistently excellent online resources.

Online users are quick to click away when a link doesn't yield anticipated results. Modern link-building practices favor those who provide high-quality content relevant to the site on which it will be published. You probably won't move the needle if you're not getting that.

8. How should SEO be incorporated into our overall marketing strategy?

The most successful SEO initiatives are integrated into an overall marketing plan. SEO goes hand in hand with content marketing, public relations, and social media activities to create effective links. Your potential SEO agency should be open to collaborating with marketing, web development, and sales teams and your existing marketing initiatives.

The alarm bells should start to go off if the SEO agency you're talking to ignores or downplays what's worked well for your company in the past. The number of successful companies that need to "chuck it all and start over from scratch" are infinitesimally few. Instead, an SEO company that knows its stuff will take the base you've established and elevate it to new heights.

Properly understood, successful SEO is a blend of onsite content, link acquisitions, and even some aspects of digital PR. Strategic link acquisitions from external publications are also a vital piece of the SEO puzzle. Typically, well-regarded publications agree to link to your content using a specific keyword. Keep in mind that high-DA sites are only interested in linking to high-quality content as they realize that their linking practices affect their credibility.

External digital PR that mentions your brand helps signal search engines that you are recognized as an authority on a specific subject. Incorporating digital PR and boosting your domain authority will provide another shot in the arm to help you rank well.

9. What do you need from clients to be effective?

Reliable SEO agencies should have a long list of questions and needs. To conduct their work effectively, they'll need detailed information about your audience, industry, and goals. Pay attention to their eagerness to interview you just as much as you want to interview them. You can take that as a bad sign if you sense they're going through the motions.

SEO agencies need flexible and cooperative clients to make SEO-focused site changes. The clients who tend to see the most success are willing to let an agency guide onsite strategy and link acquisition strategies. Clients should be able to keep the high-level goal of ranking for a specific keyword as the focus of the relationship.

In a more traditional commercial transaction, you pay money to acquire a product or service. The extent of your commitment is cutting a check. Working with an SEO agency will require making payments, of course, but it's also better to think of the process as a relationship rather than a transaction. Both you and the agency have a vested interest in making sure you see results from the relationship.


Your goal is to make an informed decision when choosing an SEO agency. Hopefully, the questions above have laid the groundwork for that. It might initially feel intimidating to ask a lot of questions about different SEO options. However, asking the right questions at the outset will only set you up for success.

Agencies that know what they're doing will be open and honest about their processes. With a bit of homework on your part — and a willingness to walk away if you have misgivings — you're more likely to find an agency that delivers what you need by asking them these questions. Factor in some after-action time to evaluate their answers to determine the best fit for your niche. Knowing the techniques and policies an SEO agency employs before you dive in will serve you well as you seek to own the industry you operate in.

Growth marketing may be a trendy topic, but what does it really mean? The obvious element here is the emphasis on growth. (It’s in the name, after all.)

What does growth-focused marketing look like, though? Just to clear one thing up, it isn’t a glamorous way to refer to normal promotional marketing. Growth marketing is a thoughtful, sustainable, long-term approach to marketing that, when done well, can build momentum over time and turn any brand into a customer-focused industry powerhouse. 

What Is Growth Marketing?

Growth marketing is a customer-centric approach to marketing. Traditional marketing tends to focus on a business and how it can promote its products and services. In contrast, a growth marketer starts with the consumer and keeps them in focus at all times.

This may sound like a minor difference (both approaches to marketing are trying to promote a brand to close sales, after all). However, the simple act of approaching your marketing by putting all of your attention onto your customer can be a game-changer.

Tactics like crazy sales and referral programs tend to be flashy and exciting. Known as growth hacking, each tactic could result in rapid growth, but it won't last long. Focus more on creating a better customer experience to increase organic growth opportunities and overall customer retention. 

With the customer always in mind, growth marketing takes on a new sense of purpose and mission. Growth marketers use Google Analytics and other data analysis tools to observe the customer journey, their interests, and their reception (or lack thereof) of a brand’s offerings. They use this information to adapt and make agile and evidence-based decision-making over time.

Growth marketing doesn’t stop with customer acquisition, either. While that’s an important first step, the art of growth marketing focuses on the entire customer lifecycle. From demand generation through to conversion and on to client retention, growth marketing considers the entire sales funnel from top to bottom to create sustainable growth.

The Three Pillars of Growth Marketing

At Relevance, we find that you can generally split your growth marketing activities up into three primary areas:

Together, these three focal points allow you to use digital marketing to own your industry.

The Synergy of Cross-Channel Marketing

Growth marketing uses a variety of different marketing channels — especially  digital marketing channels. Growth marketers incorporate onsite content, social media, emails, influencers, guest posts, technical SEO, and more to execute their growth strategy. These aren’t utilized individually but woven together into a single, cohesive strategy designed to optimize the effect of one other. 

For instance, consider a scenario where you create a piece of content for your blog. As you write, you make sure to focus on certain keywords, links, and other back-end technical SEO techniques. Once complete, you link to that in a guest post that you write for a popular industry publication. By taking a holistic approach, you have simultaneously tapped into all three growth marketing pillars by:

For a growth marketing strategy to work, you must invest in a sustainable, long-term plan. This is called a growth marketing strategy framework, and it is the growth-oriented blueprint, philosophy, and methodology that you return to every time you go to create a new growth marketing campaign or strategy.

What Is the Most Important Aspect of Growth Marketing?

There are many elements that go into a healthy growth marketing strategy. However, there is one aspect that stands head and shoulders above everything else: data.

Data is a growth marketer’s North Star. It provides them with a path to follow and then helps them stay on course throughout their journey.

By properly tracking and analyzing data, you can make sure your growth marketing decisions are working. As you go along, you’ll find that some things are a hit. Others will be less inspiring or even a downright failure. That’s perfectly normal, but when it happens, you want to know as quickly as possible so that you can tweak your strategy.

A Pair of Examples of Growth Marketing

Rather than use hypotheticals, let’s consider a couple of real-world growth marketing examples.

Nurx Enhances Authority and Visibility

When Nurx came to the Relevance team, they asked our growth marketing agency to help them expand their influence in the telehealth industry. Using a holistic growth marketing approach, we created a search engine optimization strategy that helped Nurx rank for popular search terms related to their target market. 

At the same time, we used the effort to enhance their content strategy. The result turned Nurx into an industry-leading brand that was both more visible and exuded greater authority through its content creation.

Gabb Wireless Builds Brand Credibility and Authority

When Gabb Wireless asked Relevance to help with Digital PR, we immediately knew there was more we could do to help. The kids cellphone brand was as impressive as it was relatively unknown. 

Through a multi-faceted strategy, our growth marketing team got a wide variety of brand mentions across several different online publications. This was coupled with a concerted push to expand the brand’s content. In the end, Gabb’s online authority and credibility were both boosted, leading to a 279% increase in MRR (monthly recurring revenue).

Using Growth Marketing to Own Your Industry

When you see the growth marketing vs marketing debate, remember that you’re talking about two very different things. Marketing is an umbrella term that vaguely applies to companies selling a good, service, or skill to the public.


Unlike traditional marketers or growth hackers, growth marketers take a customer-centric, data-driven approach to promotion. It considers the entire marketing funnel and uses data to watch results, make adjustments, and make sure you reach (and often exceed) your marketing goals over time.


Small- to medium-sized business (SMB) owners and entrepreneurs are definitely allowed to daydream about taking company success to the next level and beyond. If you aren't doing at least some "Magic Wand Thinking" occasionally, you might want to check yourself for a pulse. If you are serious, a marketing growth plan can help you get there.

There are few things more intrinsic to the mind and heartbeat of an entrepreneur or SMB owner than to speculate on how to boost productivity, enhance visibility, and beef up the bottom line. Motivations will vary, of course, but it's common knowledge that daydreams must be translated into plans at some point.

"Failing to plan is planning to fail" has become a well-known guardrail for running a successful business, and for good reason. To ensure that your marketplace success is more enduring than a flash in the pan, you must set aside time regularly to develop, implement, and fine-tune a marketing growth plan.

Perseverance in the Face of Ongoing Change

Some SMB owners and entrepreneurs are tempted to give up on maintaining a marketing growth plan. The pace and frequency of marketplace changes have become dizzying. Planning and adjusting a marketing growth plan can seem secondary to the everyday demands of keeping all the pie plates spinning simultaneously.

There's no getting around it. All seven of the elements listed below will require the investment of your time and attention. How you find time in any given week to review, update, and inform others will vary depending on the main thrust of your enterprise.

1. Overall Vision and Supporting Objectives

It’s easy for visionaries to keep their “35,000-foot view” of any business undertaking tucked away securely in the recesses of their minds. While acknowledging that entrepreneurs must keep at least some of their cards close to the chest, the primary problem with too much secrecy tends to crop up when employees and other strategic partners come alongside to help implement the vision. If you’re an inventive, free-thinking leader, you can unintentionally believe that other people know everything you do. In all likelihood, they don’t.

Don’t expect your people to become mind-readers. Break out whatever works best for you to get those objectives and plans out of your head. For some, this will mean recording voice messages on a smartphone. Others think best while using a computer and keyboard. Still others prefer to use pencil and paper.

Use whatever helps you crank out your ideas as quickly as possible. As you brainstorm, hold off on judging what pours forth. You can do that later. During this step, your job is simply to see how well you can translate your big ideas into words that others can understand.

Objectives and vision statements don’t need to occupy multiple three-ring binders. In fact, the very best vision statements often take the form of a single sentence. If you can think of your vision statement as a platform, the objectives you come up with to achieve your vision are the undergirding support structure.

2. Niche-Specific Research

Don’t skimp here. This part of the process will likely consume most of the time you invest in your marketing growth plan. In addition to an initial research period, you will want to set aside a chunk of time every so often — weekly, biweekly, monthly, whatever — to review, update, and add to what you’ve learned.

Research doesn’t need to be a drag, either. Yes, some hours might be spent feeling chained to a book or web browser, but there are other ways to discover what the “latest and greatest” in your industry looks like. Who knows? You might even find that you enjoy the process of adding to your personal knowledge base.

Extroverts typically prefer to get out of their routine, meet others, attend conferences and events, and volunteer their time serving the community. (You might be surprised to find out how much you can learn about the local business landscape just by serving alongside others.) All of these represent opportunities to gain knowledge, improve visibility, and perhaps even garner candid feedback about your company that you would be unlikely to attain any other way.

Introverted types can spend long hours with a laptop, trade journals, magazines, books, and other “solo” data sources. What’s more, they tend to thrive in that setting. Another suitable self-driven means of research might be watching or listening to industry-specific podcasts, training sessions, DIY videos, etc. Truly effective ongoing research will draw on both learning styles, but the key will be to find what works best for you and augment it with other forms of learning. The main takeaway here is that to keep up, you need to keep at it.

3. Data-Driven "Best Guesses"

By now, most SMB owners and entrepreneurs have already had it drilled into their heads. The era of following hunches is more than likely in the rearview mirror.

True, there will always be a place for novel insights and unique approaches to problems the rest of us assumed had already been solved. However, the catchphrase for the 21st-century marketplace is data-driven.

Data sifting software solutions are evolving at a rapid pace. Many SMB owners might assume that advanced data analytics are the exclusive province of Big Tech and out of reach for the average entrepreneur. While that may once have been the case, this is no longer true. Witness the rise of an ever-expanding array of business solutions offered under the umbrella of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

Today, even the smallest businesses capture and generate an enormous amount of digital data daily. Since the onset of the digital revolution, one primary problem has been sifting and sorting through terabytes of information, looking for the tiniest fractions of data that SMB owners can use to hone their products and services to meet genuine needs.

Business owners owe themselves a renewed look at the SaaS services available for every budget. Collecting and analyzing data is in many ways easier today than ever. Armed with previously-hidden insights, you can construct a marketing growth plan that leverages hard facts. And if you want to throw in one of your (data-informed) hunches from time to time, go ahead.

4. Plans A, B, C, and D

How many successful entrepreneurs or SMB owners do you know are still operating profitably with the plan they came up with decades ago? Chances are good that number is zero.

However, this does not mean that it’s not on you to come up with your single best shot at a workable Plan A. What is the default strategy you will use to prosper and grow? Nail it down.

Many business people like to use (read: overuse) buzzwords such as agility and pivot. OK, feel free to use those terms if you must. Still, the underlying idea is to look carefully at your completed Plan A schematic and purposefully, intentionally look for every weak spot. At every potential breaking point, sketch out a backup plan for adjusting your marketing growth plan.

More than a few businesses still go into total gridlock if the internet goes down. If all it takes to wreck your productivity is for a load balancer to blow at the local power company, start over. Come up with an alternative that includes regular service interruptions and even makes allowances for disaster recovery.

You don’t want to send everyone home and shut down your company’s website if, for example, a pandemic forces you to disperse to remote locations. (Perhaps a far more common disaster would be your competitor getting to market six months earlier than you had projected.) Whatever the calamity, don’t allow your overall guiding vision to be obscured by the unpredictable.

5. Inventory of Strengths, Opportunities, Limitations, and Needs

No one knows your business better than you, right? Who better to compile the authoritative list of your strengths, known opportunities, limitations, and needs? Well, not so fast. An effective marketing growth plan often needs to bring more than just your insights to bear.

There really is no substitute for clear-eyed, impartial assessment than someone with no vested interest in whether your company succeeds or fails. While hiring an outside contractor or agency may not be in your operating budget year after year, you should at least consider bringing in a consultant with a proven track record. Once the confidentiality issue is settled to your satisfaction, give your expert permission to ask all sorts of annoying questions, some of which you may never have considered. Here’s a partial list of what you’ll want them to cover.


Your company might dominate the widget-building industry, but that’s an obvious strength. Non-obvious strengths might include geographic location, unique skill sets of employees, online reputation, employee perks, etc.


Are there markets for your product or service that you may not have previously considered? Have you recently acquired staff with highly specialized skills? Are other municipalities offering incentives that would significantly reduce your operating costs? All of these (and more) should show up here.


Less fun, but listing these out is necessary. If your planned expansion stalled out for lack of capital, that will need to be documented. Are you locked into an unfavorable multi-year contract? Most of us are only too painfully aware of our limitations. However, an objective perspective can help flesh this out, too.


Needs are not the same thing as limitations. This section of your marketing growth plan can be considered more of a “shopping list” than anything else. They are not obstacles in the same way as a limitation but rather assets you don’t have yet. Which line items will you need to add to your budget this quarter? This year? Five years from now?

6. Risk Assessment: Upsides and Downsides

Most of us prefer to live on the sunny side of the street, but you did not become a successful SMB owner by ignoring the potential pitfalls. Your marketing growth plan must consider both sides of the success ledger. Without allowing yourself to get carried off by unrealistic expectations or becoming overly moribund, strive to find the middle way.

Of course, any enterprise's primary threat these days is the growing risk of hacking, ransomware, and data theft. Digital security is paramount for any business to succeed long-term. Your plan must make allowances for added expenditures to protect both your business and the privacy of those with whom you do business.

Of course, risk management is hardly limited to the digital realm. In early 2019, no one was predicting that a worldwide pandemic would close stores, overwhelm the healthcare field, and send the value of video conferencing software stock over the moon. When conducting your risk assessment, you might find it helpful to open up a casual conversation with your insurance agent and the law firm that represents your firm. One or both of these professionals will likely offer insights you might have missed otherwise.

7. Ongoing Assessment and Revision

In the halls of academia, it’s common knowledge that every Ph.D. student who successfully publishes a thesis is “the world’s leading expert” on that specific topic. However, this claim to fame lasts for approximately one or two days. As soon as someone else publishes another thesis on the subject, that person’s previous work is obviously still relevant but not current.

Keep this concept of obsolescence in mind as you plan and launch your marketing growth plan. You will protect yourself against frustration by beginning the process if you understand at the outset that you will need to update and improve your marketing growth plan.

Preparation and Flexibility Are Everything

The actual launch of a space shuttle takes less than 10 minutes. However, no one in their right mind wheels a hunk of metal onto the pad and straps a few engines to it. Arriving at lift-off presupposes thousands and thousands of hours of intense labor.

Likewise, your marketing growth plan will require a diligent effort, but make sure to have some fun along the way. If you can assume that not everything will go to plan, that’s more than half the battle. Are you prepared to solicit advice and feedback earnestly? If so, you strengthen your marketing strategy by adding the wisdom of others to your company’s portfolio. Dream big, and allow others to do the same on your behalf.

Developing a growth marketing plan is a critical element of any digital strategy. However, all too often, marketers make common mistakes about the data and insights they have available and the planning and execution of a plan.

Here's a closer look at things to avoid when developing your growth marketing plan.

What Is Growth Marketing?

Growth marketing is a long-term, strategic approach to marketing that relies heavily on data. The approach helps brands achieve consistent, sustainable, and measurable growth.

An effective growth marketing plan uses an end-to-end approach that looks at every stage of the marketing funnel to attract and entice customers. However, too many traditional marketing approaches focus exclusively on the wide end of the funnel.

The successful growth marketing plan is different. It features a balanced approach that approaches every stage — awareness, acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referral — equally.

Additionally, with a balanced focus on each stage of the customer journey, your marketing plan will deliver deep insights and data. As a result, this information can help determine how successful a campaign was. Consequently, it can also help inform future campaigns.

Mistake 1: Marketing Without a Plan

You need a well-defined plan in order to start developing a marketing strategy. Additionally, your marketing plan needs to clearly identify your customer personas and each phase of the funnel.

Developing these strategies requires collaboration and perspective from multiple team members. It requires setting priorities, goals, measures, and outcomes.

In addition, it also requires being willing to experiment and testing out ideas, concepts, and new messaging. However, to test out ideas, you still need a plan to measure the outcomes against.

Mistake 2: Failing to Remain Consistent with the Brand

No matter what marketing strategy you deploy, you need to remain consistent with your organizational brand. Brand matters deeply. Consequently, you do not want a marketing strategy in place that does not align with the brand.

In a competitive market, disruption and damage to your brand can have disastrous consequences. Therefore, remain true to the brand and brand guidelines within a growth marketing plan. In addition, if the results of that work dictate taking a closer look at your brand, then do that work separately.

Mistake 3: Failing to Develop a Content Strategy

Content is king. It drives search engine optimization. Content leads customers to your website. Consequently, it reinforces other messages.

Developing a content strategy is a core component of growth marketing. Your content can take many forms — blog posts, videos, e-books, white papers, and websites. This content has several benefits.

First, it answers questions that customers and prospects are asking. A smart content strategy plan knows the concerns, questions, and needs of its customers and provides answers.

Second, a good content marketing strategy positions your brand as a leader, with the knowledge, insights, and expertise within your industry.

Finally, content marketing is versatile. As a result, it can be used again and again to use in multiple formats.

Mistake 4: Ignoring Social Media

Marketing strategies need to be comprehensive. Additionally, they should use as many arrows in your quiver as possible. Social media is a critical component of an effective strategy.

You’ll need to do some research to determine which platforms are best for your brand. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and YouTube are among the most popular.

One of the most powerful benefits of having a content strategy plan is the ability to use digital PR to distribute the content in the right places.

Mistake 5: Using 'Black Hat' Strategies

Black hat hacking uses various strategies to trick search engines — and users — to monetize activity. In marketing, that might mean link building to boost SEO results or creating link farms that drive traffic.

These approaches are not worth the time and can lead to unforeseen problems. As a result, you could end up being blacklisted by search engines.

To avoid the perils of SEO, be sure to avoid adding irrelevant keywords to your content just to boost website hits. Irrelevant content can also turn off audiences and lead to increased bounce rates.

Don’t “keyword stuff” by adding too many keyword links to your website in the hopes of boosting your Google search ranking. Google algorithms can detect this misleading practice.

On the flip side, keyword research is essential. Identifying the most relevant keywords and keyword phrases can better inform your messaging, content strategy, and growth marketing.

Mistake 6: Forgetting It’s About the Product

If you want to be successful as you experiment and implement a marketing strategy, be careful to remember one thing. It’s about the quality of your product or service.

In the end, it has to be about providing high-value, highly needed products, and services. Consequently, finding a way for these marketing initiatives to inform new iterations of your products and services is critical.

How? Consider that conversion rates and bounce rates can give you good data about what’s valuable. Understanding what customers are looking for and where they spend time on your website are valuable insights. As a result, this information can help you refine product lines and marketing focus for increased profits.

Mistake 7: Not Knowing Your Competitors

Growth marketing can seem like an insular, internal process. However, it needs to be well informed by what’s happening with your competition.

Consequently, reviewing and analyzing what others in your space are doing can inform how you develop messaging and distinguish your brand.

Mistake 8: Ignoring Mobile

Most people who search for something, browse a website or engage online are using a mobile device.

Mobile-first is no longer an anomaly. It’s a must. As you’re optimizing your messaging and marketing, you have to think about the mobile experience.

Customers are most likely to be using a smartphone or tablet when they are engaging with your brand.

Mistake 9: Setting Unreasonable Goals

Your strategy needs to include goals that are measurable, realistic, attainable, and transparent. As a result, set your goals based on past performance and data-informed projections.

Mistake 10: Not Reviewing the Plan

Your marketing plan should be an organic, ever-evolving tool. Reviewing your plan regularly will help you determine if you are reaching your goals.

Course corrections are perfectly acceptable and will allow you to build a growth marketing strategy that aligns with where you are.

Growth marketing is an excellent way to scale a business by focusing on customers at every phase of their journey with your brand. Learning how to build an effective growth marketing strategy gives you the tools to market effectively for long-term gain.

You can get started speaking to a growth marketing agency specialist today. Book a call whenever you're ready to dive in.

The tools and practices associated with marketing seem to evolve every day. The growth marketing plan template you put together two or three years ago is almost certainly in need of an upgrade. That’s OK, even though many find the ever-shifting terrain frustrating. While the digital landscape constantly changes, the objectives remain more or less the same.

Few businesses invest in a marketing campaign merely to maintain the status quo. Retaining your existing customer base is essential, yes, but most of us develop marketing campaigns to foster growth.

That being the case, your business will be well served by developing a business growth marketing plan that can flex and stretch to accommodate newer technologies as they emerge. While allowing for all of your channels to adapt, you can’t wait around either. As you put together your marketing plan or work with a PR professional, keep the checklist below handy.

1. Executive Business Summary

Of course, you’re an expert in your niche. Undoubtedly, you’ve been at it long enough that you and your team are highly skilled and have acquired your own language and terminology along the way. You will need an overview of what you do, why you do it, and what you hope to accomplish that is 100% free of jargon.

In short, anyone — expert or newbie — should be able to read this brief overview and walk away with a high level of comprehension. They will know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your plan to engage in growth marketing. If you find that even a few people don’t quite grasp critical concepts with this brief overview, it’s a sign that your summary still needs work. Think of it as your written “elevator pitch.”

2. Goals and Vision

Again, endeavor to keep this section of your growth marketing plan mercifully brief. In this section, you will be sharing the sum total of your brainstorming sessions to date. Go ahead and paint the most positive picture of your desired results.

Think of this as your growth marketing plan template's “I’ve got a magic wand” section. Yes, you’ll want to temper your objectives with realism, but if you aim at nothing, you’re likely to hit it every time. Go ahead and indulge in the best possible outcome, but ensure you provide goals and strategies with numbers attached to them. “Increase sales” is too vague. “Increase website traffic by 15% in three months” is far better.

3. Niche-Specific Business Initiatives

A local shoe store will likely use different ends and means to achieve measurable results than an office planning consultant. What works for one business might fall flat in another sector. The key lies in discerning where your people congregate both in-person and online. For example, most business people know that various social media channels cater to differing demographics. Additionally, demographics play a huge role in the overall tone of messaging.

What are the initiatives that line up best with your model of doing business? Are there opportunities to raise awareness of your products and services in previously neglected or ignored venues? Your growth may have hitherto been hindered simply because your messages are tremendous but inaccurately and/or inadequately targeted.

4. Evaluation of Existing Customer Base

Before you move on to going after new customers, be sure to examine the people you’re doing business with today carefully. This analysis will need to be both qualitative and quantitative. Of course, you will want numbers in a spreadsheet, but you will also want customer comments in a database. This presupposes that you have been inviting feedback and making it easy for your customers to share their good and bad experiences.

Someone needs to read every written remark provided by your customers. This is not only common courtesy; it’s also smart business. By tagging various comments, your team will be enabled to scan quickly through the accumulated data, ignoring feedback marked “Meritless Rant” while pausing to take in everything tagged “Actionable Suggestion.”

5. Evaluation of Competitors

Just as you want to gain a clearer picture of who you are selling to, you’ll also need to update your profiles of who else is selling to them. You may have done a thorough analysis of the competition a few years ago, but if you completed that analysis before the pandemic years of 2020-2022, it’s time to take another look. As consumer buying tactics have changed, so have competitor operations and selling tactics.

One key watchword for engaging customers in this era is personalization. Businesses that previously relied primarily on in-person transactions were forced to pivot to court an increasingly-remote clientele. The road behind us is littered with the wreckage of thousands of small businesses that were slow to adopt automation, customer service platforms, and other newer technologies. You want to find out what’s available and what seems to be working well.

6. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis

As the old saying goes, you can only begin to travel by being sure of where you currently stand. In the current hybrid landscape of in-person/remote workers — and customers — even a cursory SWOT analysis can help you make informed decisions as you engage in growth marketing.

What does your company do exceptionally well? Where do you wish things were going better? Are new market opportunities opening up? Which issues cause concern for the future? These four SWOT categories are open to all sorts of input.

For example, you might initially identify competitors in the “threat” category. Still, this can (and should) also include health concerns, a struggling economy, a new product or service that might supplant yours, etc. As you work on your SWOT analysis, jot down every thought that comes to mind. Save the editing for later.

7. Establishing a Growth Marketing Budget

Every other standard practice seems to have changed since 2020, and budgeting for your growth marketing template is no different. These days, it can seem like the costs associated with marketing do nothing but go up, but the truth is that there are still some media outlets and strategies that remain inexpensive or even free. The trick is to stay open as you prepare a budget.

Whatever decisions you and your team land on, ensure that every dollar is accounted for and that you collect data on ROI after the fact. Go into the budgeting process with the certainty that one or more expenditures will prove disappointing at some level. That’s OK, as long as after the campaign, you can put empirical data to both your expectations and what actually happened. This will help you make sure you only make a bad call once.

8. Overview of Strategy

Everyone on your growth marketing team should be able to accurately articulate what your company is trying to accomplish. Your growth marketing template's strategy section provides a comprehensive listing of all the elements brought together in one place.

Don’t cram a lot of detail into this section. Keep it simple. For example, you might include a statement such as “use social media” without providing any further explanation. A strategy section should be simple enough to commit to memory. Whether you require your employees to memorize it is entirely up to you!

9. Preferred Channels (and Alternates)

Broaden the meaning of the word “channels” to include as many things as you can brainstorm. Are you getting your company logo and web address imprinted on giveaway pencils? That counts as a channel. Ordering and installing new signage for your store locations? That counts, too. Social media accounts are another obvious inclusion here.

As you give the green light to any channel, ensure you build in accountability and have a backup channel waiting in the wings should your first choice fall flat. In the example above, you could set up a unique URL on your website to track how many people bother to type out the link you imprint on promotional giveaways. Your ability to track ROI on your marketing growth investments is truly only limited by your imagination. When a specific channel performs beyond expectations, accurate tracking helps you make that success repeatable.

10. Anticipated Customer Journey

Every growth marketing plan template should include a requirement to chart out how you expect prospective customers to first learn about your business. From there, you’ll want to take an educated guess as to how the customer will leave a “trail of breadcrumbs” as they convert from prospect to customer.

The customer journey will vary widely from one market niche to another. If your team has never constructed a map such as this, now’s the time. There are plenty of online resources to help you get started. The point is not to systematize what your company’s map should look like but rather to evaluate both your fulfilled expectations and take special note of the surprises. Pinpointing where expectations went sideways or succeeded will prove valuable next time you budget.

11. Risk Assessment

Before committing dollars or personnel to any growth marketing plan, conduct the most thorough assessment of possible outcomes. You already broke out the magic wand in Step 2, where you dreamed about desired outcomes. While not nearly as much fun, you now need to seriously consider the question, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

For this section of your growth marketing plan template, it will help enormously to read up, yes, but also talk to people uninvested in your efforts. Insurance agents, lawyers, industry leaders, agencies, and other people unafraid to be direct with you will prove invaluable.

Few people were asking the right questions in the months leading up to widespread restrictions on walk-in traffic in 2020. As you conduct your risk analysis, give at least some consideration to the “unlikely…but still possible.”

12. Timeframe

When will the campaigns associated with your growth marketing plan commence? Is there a specific time they will end? The time frame section of your plan should contain those two obvious milestones, but really any activity that has a date or deadline associated with it should show up here. As you plan, factor in the unpredictable, such as widespread supply chain issues.

Your timeframe should include the four subsections listed below. These can consist of little more than a bulleted list sorted by date or the equivalent of a printed production schedule you might post in the conference room.

13. Strategic Partnerships

As you put together your growth marketing plan template, evaluate the partnerships to date that have proved mutually beneficial. Are there other opportunities you may have missed? Any person or company essential to your ongoing success should show up here. From there, look outward to see if this list can be expanded or needs to be tightened up a bit.

The key here is to view anyone or anything that helps your company do what it does best as a “partner.” Angel investors are great, sure, but your employees can also meaningfully be considered partners, as can your trusted suppliers. Many business people are surprised to find that when they consider how to help any partner thrive, they tend to uncover ways that they can prosper as well.

14.  Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Measurement Criteria

As mentioned above, numbers and hard data rule. The need for empirical facts doesn’t eliminate the need to have inspired, entrepreneurial types acting on hunches from time to time. However, meaningfully working toward continuous improvement and growth means that someone somewhere has to be collecting, capturing, and analyzing hard data.

What are the measurement criteria you will use to evaluate the success (or lack thereof) as part of your growth marketing plan template? If you’re not sure, you’ll struggle to draw meaning and direction from your marketing efforts.

Just like customer journey maps, there are plenty of resources available online to help you evaluate the usefulness of your current KPIs and make any additions or adjustments you may not have previously considered.

15. Formal After-Action Evaluation

Obviously, your marketing team will be required to adjust and track as your marketing growth plan is unleashed on an unsuspecting world. There will be plenty of ad hoc meetings and hallway conversations that take place as spur-of-the-moment decisions are required.

That’s all fine and well and 100% necessary. However, you will also want to schedule at least one formal after-action review session open to a much wider audience, perhaps even including anyone in your company who has an interest.

The feedback you get from sales figures, spreadsheets, online reviews, and peers should all be considered. Oftentimes, however, nothing beats anecdotal evidence from a real, live human being. Your tactics, messaging, channels, and everything else about your growth marketing plan template may need tweaks you might never have considered otherwise.

One Size Does Not Fit All: Adopt, Adapt, and Improve

As you work to put together your first growth marketing plan template or tweak the one you’ve been using for more than a decade, not everything listed above will necessarily apply. That’s OK; just maintain an awareness of the tried-and-true categories well worth your consideration.

Don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed, either. Tackle one category at a time. Should you hit a stumbling block, you can choose to work the one of the best growth marketing companies to help guide you.

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