How to Make a Growth Plan for a B2B Company

How do you make a growth plan for a B2B company? How do you keep your marketing team focused and on track with a clear plan of action.

Sadly, most people don’t know how to make a growth plan. Worse, they end up going to google and typing “growth plan” or “marketing plan” and it takes them to a black hole of outdated templates and tactics.  

To help, I’m going to go deep on how to make a growth plan for one lucky company, ConvertKit. I am a fan of this company and it’s founder, Nathan Barry. Hopefully he sees this as a compliment to his tool. The growth plan will go into detail on everything from value proposition and analytics to how to setup a landing page and what growth experiments to run.

Here is how we’re going to categorize the growth plan.

1) Identify Customers
2) Competitor Research
3) Proposition Mapping
4) SEO & Content Strategy
5) Analytics Infrastructure
6) CRO & List Building
7) Paid Campaigns
8) Growth Experiments
9) Growth Projections

Let’s get started . . .


GROWTH PLAN

Company: ConvertKit
Tagline: Email marketing for creators

1. Identify Customers

Who are your ideal customers?  What are their personas?  The user persona allows you to put more color around the people you want to target. It helps you understand how your ideal users act and think. You need this information so you know how to message a user the right way. Here is one user persona for ConvertKit:

 

Persona: Online Tech Teacher
Details about Persona:
Has a personal Wordpress blog
Sells online products through Gumroad, Udemy, Teachable, etc.
Uses Slack, Google Drive, Trello, Evernote & Quickbooks to run business
Reads Techcrunch, Producthunt, Geekwire & Hacker News
Runs a Meetup group in hometown
Married with Kids
College Educated
Lives Outside of Major City
Age: 30-40

 

Now that you have created a user persona, figure out where these users live online. It’s time to build out a model to quantify exactly where each group of users lives online.

We’ll do the exercise of creating a bottom-up model showing your target customers in this persona.

Yes, create a spreadsheet and list the exact forum, Meetup group, Facebook page, Quora category, Reddit, influencer, organization or website these people frequent. Then put the exact number based on how many people are in that group, how many people follow an influencer or blogger, etc. Then you know exactly where your customers live online.

Here are some ideas for how to find these people:

  • Facebook groups related to your industry
  • Reddit communities related to your product
  • LinkedIn groups in your industry
  • Quora discussions around the problem you’re solving with your product or service
  • Use Buzzsumo to find the most shared content on the web related to your subject
  • Use Followerwonk to find the top influencers on Twitter
  • Leverage the user data from your competitive analysis (top backlinks and traffic sources)
  • Google searches around keywords in your category
  • Bloggers and editors in your space
  • List of blogs or websites they also follow
  • List of organizations and groups they’re involved with

Here is an example of potential groups for this user personal.

  1. Udemy Instructor Club: 6,540 members
  2. General Assembly Instructor Slack Channel: 1741 members
  3. Reddit Instructor Forum: 69,444 members
  4. Gumroad Courses Facebook Group: 456 members
  5. Quora Online Teaching Group: 16,100 members

I was able to find almost 90,000 potential personas in under 5 minutes. Not bad.

Why is it important to understand your persona and why is it important to find these people? It’s to show you where to go and it helps you understand the customer. But more importantly, it’s to show you that these people exist and you know exactly where they are online. 

 

2. Competitor Research

What is working for your top competitors? A great starting point for your growth plan is to look at what your competitors are doing. You want to know the backlinks that drove traffic to their site, the keywords they used, the social networks they’re on and the language that attracts them. Use that information to uncover your growth opportunities.

We’ll use MailChimp as the competitor for ConvertKit in this example.  Below is what we discovered about MailChimp’s customers after doing an audit on Similarweb.com and after auditing MailChimp’s website.

Technical Takeaways: Direct drives almost 61% of traffic which tells me they already have strong brand recognition. 18% of Mailchimps traffic comes from search and those top phrases include branded search terms.  Also, I see that MailChimp gets lots of traffic from complimentary tools like Canva, Adwords, Mandrill (owner by MailChimp) and Zapier. Might be worth understanding the top potential partners for ConvertKit.

Value Proposition Analysis: To understand how a brand positions itself, visit it’s page in an incognito window or from a branded ad.  This will show you how a brand positions itself to a new customer they need to educate.  Below is the language used by MailChimp.

Headline: Build your brand. Sell more stuff.

Copy: MailChimp is the world’s largest marketing automation platform. It’s like a second brain that helps millions of customers—from small e-commerce shops to big online retailers—find their audience, engage their customers, and build their brand.

Value Proposition Takeaways: While MailChimp has some impressive stats and social proof, you can tell that they actually try and position themselves as a tool for everyone. Example: “small ecommerce shops to big online retailers.”  This can be an opportunity when outlining ConvertKit’s value proposition.

 

3. Proposition Mapping

Now, it’s time to understand exactly why ConvertKit is special and uniquely positioned to own a niche of the market.  In other words: Why do people love your product or service over other options?

One way to fine-tune your value proposition is with the “mom test.” Pitch the company to someone who is removed from the product development process. Yes, you can use your mom but ideally it’s a potential customer.  Now, have them pitch the company back to you. How did they do? What keywords did they use? What feature do they focus on? The startups that get real traction are the ones that succeed in this startup version of telephone.

Struggling with your value proposition? Use the following elevator pitch formula to break down why your product or service is special and different. This structure is great for helping you take a step back and understand how to position your company. 

For (target customer)
Who (statement of need or opportunity)
(Product name) is a (product category)
That (statement of key benefit)
Unlike (competing alternative)
(Product name) (statement of primary differentiation).

Here’s an example of the elevator pitch for ConvertKit.

For self-employed creators
Who are looking for reliable email software
ConvertKit is a creator-friendly email service provider 
That was built to help individuals and small companies easily build and monetize an email list
Unlike other email tools, ConvertKit was built by creators for creators.

Tip: As you get feedback from press, actual customers, or prospects, stockpile all the blurbs that capture the essence of your product in their words. What problem does your product solve? How does it make them feel? What is their #1 favorite feature? How does it benefit them? Take all of their feedback and put it into one sheet. That copy can also be leveraged to create your own value proposition.

 

4. SEO & Content Strategy

From an SEO perspective, I want to know how about ConvertKit’s on-page optimization, the SEO landscape with the industry and the companies backlink profile.

I ran a report on SEMRush and discovered that ConvertKit has over 4,000 backlinks.  They’re ranking very well for their own brand name.  I noticed that they didn’t come up with any paid search phrases which means they’re not spending any money on Google ads. This could be an opportunity for for finding new customers that search for keyword phrases related to ConvertKit’s value proposition.

One interesting highlight:  the “Powered by ConvertKit” backlink that comes embedded on it’s tool has generated a significant amount of backlinks.

I ran the convertKit domain through the Google speed test (details below) and discovered a 65/100 on desktop and a 77/100 on mobile.  These are decent but could stand to improve on desktop.  I ran the same test on MailChimp and it’s numbers were even lower at around 58/100. 

Here are the other items I would hit on with SEO:

  • A breakdown of ConvertKit.com pass, fail or needs improvement scores according to SEMrush.
  • An itemized and prioritized action plan to fix, improve, and optimize all SEO related items.
  • A page structure strategy to optimize the website for high quality search traffic.
  • A detailed backlink audit for the company.
  • A detailed backlink audit for up to 4 competitors.
  • List of competitors best content in terms of links and authority.
  • A backlink plan based on competitor efforts (low hanging fruit).
  • A roadmap outlining a high level backlink plan (Can leverage our team to build backlinks).


5. Analytics Infrastructure

How do I set up my analytics?

Let’s assume that ConvertKit is just starting out and you only have Google Analytics. Hey, it’s free and it’s used by almost everyone in the early days. The setup is straightforward: Step 1: Create a free account with Google analytics and create an ID for your web domain. Step 2: Place the Google ID on your site in the header. Step 3: Check Google analytics to make sure data is coming in.

What metrics should ConvertKit be tracking?

Here’s a snapshot of key metrics or KPIs (key performance indicators) ConvertKit should use to evaluate the performance of your business:

  • Churn rate
  • Monthly recurring revenue
  • Trial activation rate
  • Time to close
  • Sign-up rate

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you look at your data and try to understand what’s happening on your site:

  • How is this data trending compared to last week or last month?
  • Which traffic source (social, email, cost per click (CPC), referral, direct, organic) results in the most conversion or longest session duration?
  • How do mobile users compare to desktop users?
  • How do new users compare to returning users?
  • What pages have the highest bounce rate? How can you improve that page so people don’t leave?

Now that Google Analytics is setup and you’re looking at the right metric, the next step is URL tracking. This is extremely important because it allows you to understand where every user is coming from and which campaigns are working and which ones are not. Customizing every URL with the right structure allows you to attribute marketing resources to online sales and conversions.

Google’s campaign URL builder lets you create custom URLs very easily. I prefer using my own rather than Google’s builder because I can create multiple URLs at once. Below are the categories to fill out.

  • Campaign Source: Example, Facebook
  • Campaign Medium: Example, social
  • Campaign Name: Example, product_launch
  • Campaign Term: Example, Promocode
  • Campaign Content: Example, Cat_image

Once the URLs have been created and distributed, you can go to Google Analytics to filter your acquisition traffic by campaigns and see your custom URL campaigns.

 

6. CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)

Now it’s time to focus on turning your site visitors into leads or customers.  Specially, we’re going to get into CRO (conversion rate optimization) with your landing page.

How to Design a Landing Page That Converts Users

The main goal of a landing page is to educate people and then get them to do the next step listed in your call to action. Here are five conversion tips to factor in when creating the main landing page for your website. Basically, how to create a website that converts.

Hero Image / Video: With the main visual, use a hero image or video above the fold (this means the upper half of the front page of a website) that showcases your product or service. Tell the story of your offering’s benefit with a visual. If you have a high-quality product, use the hero image to showcase the details of that product. Feel free to use images or videos to show the emotion a user will feel when using your product.

Website Headline: Clearly state the one key benefit of your product/service in the main headline. This is not to be confused with the main feature. This should be the benefit to your customer. Use the language of your customer and speak in second person.

Copy / Subhead: Below your website headline you want to have one to two sentences about your one main feature. This is where you can actually talk about your product or service. Here you can clearly explain what your product does. Try to avoid technical talk unless your customers use that language. Tip: Use testimonials from customers to decide what language to use when explaining your product.

Call to Action: Add a compelling “Call to Action” button below the headline and the copy/subhead. The text on top of the button needs to be unique. Instead of just saying “sign up” or “join now” give the user a real reason to convert like “Start Your Free Trial.”

Social Proof: Create a section above the fold that highlights how this product or service has benefitted your users. People might not know about your brand and they might not trust you because you’re new. Instead of you trying to tell them why they should trust you, let other credible sources tell them how great it is. Use logos of publications that have written about you, logos of partners, or testimonials from happy customers.

Below is a graphic of the ConvertKit landing page and how it’s designed for conversion with the 5 key components mentioned above. 

  1. The Image and video gives a clear demo on how ConvertKit works
  2. The headline is customer-centric and plays up the benefit of the tool - “Connect with your audience.”  Bonus points for using the word “you”.
  3. The subhead is short and to the point so a user clearly knows that they make email software.
  4. ConvertKit has a strong call to action with a “free trial” and they even offer a softer sell with the “watch the demo” button.
  5. There isn’t any social proof on the homepage.  ConvertKit could benefit from a customer testimonial about how much better their business is after switching from a platform like MailChimp or Aweber to ConvertKit.

Next, you want to funnel the potential lead to a customized experience that address that customers business problem.  Options include the following:

  • Demo sign up
  • Webinar registration
  • Contact Us Page
  • Content Upgrade
  • A Chat Experience

I prefer a one to one conversation with the prospect in a frictionless way that I call customer service as marketing.  My recommendation is to implement live chat / help desk to manage that communication with the prospect. Here ConvertKit can easily qualify (and disqualify leads) and understand their exact pain-point and get them to a demo, trial or a sales person.

 

7. Paid Campaigns

For ConvertKit’s paid ad strategy, I would be very interested in testing the follow ad channels.

  • Facebook & Instagram
  • Google Ads
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Podcast
  • Sponsored Content on Industry blogs

For this exercise, we’re going to actually build out a three tiered Facebook ad campaign.  Each ad will have a different goal.  Here is a breakdown of that strategy for ConvertKit:

Top of Funnel Ad

Audience

  • Lookalike: Customer List High AOV LAL - 1% (exclude purchases in 180 days)
  • Lookalike: Pixel-Based Purchase LAL - 1% (exclude website visitors)
  • Lookalike: Top 2,000 Customers  - 1% (exclude website visitors)
  • Custom Audiences: People that also like MailChimp, Gumroad, Aweber, Campaign Monitor, Sumo.

Campaign

  • Social Proof with Testimonials
  • Problem Solution type of ad
  • Content Guide on Email Marketing

Metrics

  • CPC
  • CTR
  • Time on Site
  • Email Sign Up

Here is an example of a Top of the Funnel ad:

Middle of Funnel Ad

Audience

  • Visitors that engaged ad / post
  • Visitors that engaged page
  • Website Visitors
  • Email List Subscribers (No customers)

Campaign

  • Educate on FREE Trial
  • Video on How the Product Works
  • Case Studies of Convert Kit

Metrics

  • Time on Site
  • Email Sign Up
  • Account Created
  • Trails Started
  • Purchases
  • Cost Per Email
  • Cost Per Purchase

Bottom of Funnel Ad

Audience

  • Visitors that abandoned the Pricing Page
  • Email list that started trial 
  • Website Visitors
  • Email List Subscribers (No customers)

Campaign

  • Educate on FREE Trial
  • Video on How the Product Works
  • Case Studies of Convert Kit

Metrics

  • Purchases
  • Cost Per Purchase
  • ROAS

8. Growth Experiments

Now it’s time to develop a pipeline of all the growth experiments that ConvertKit can run to acquire more customers. To manage this ideas, I would suggest using a Trello board, Asana or spreadsheet.  Then score those items with the ICE framework based on the impact they will have on the business and how easy or hard they will be to implement.  Below is a list of 10 growth experiments I would add to the pipeline:

  1. Monthly Webinars with other B2B Influencers
  2. Host Offline Events for Creators through Meetup & Eventbrite
  3. Cold Email Outreach to teachers on Udemy and users of Gumroad
  4. Test ads on Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter & Linkedin
  5. Launch a YouTube Series about How to Get Started with ConvertKit
  6. Teach a FREE Online Udemy Class about Selling Products Online
  7. Build a SEO-Driven Content Strategy for High-Intent Keywords
  8. ConvertKit Founder to be Podcast Guest
  9. Get Featured as a Speaker at Creator Conferences
  10. Create a Referral Mechanism within the Tool that Offers Incentives to refer people to ConvertKit

Tip: We use a Google sheet and Trello with the following structure to prioritize our growth actions.

9. Growth Projections 

Now, how can ConvertKit actually hit it’s goals? How can they get to $1M in new sales? Below is a breakdown of the sales projections and funnel projections for convertKit if they want to hit over $100,000 per month. I‘ve made some assumptions around source of traffic, conversion ratios and average order value. But, this is a starting point for ConvertKit to understand how much traffic they need to get to the site in order to hit seven figures in sales for the year.

Summary

Hopefully this exercise gives you inspiration on how to make a growth plan for your own B2B company.  First, set the foundation by understanding your competitors and how you’re uniquely positioned against them with your value proposition.  Next, build your growth infrastructure through SEO, CRO and a basic analytics tech stack. Finally, you can focus on scaling growth through paid ads and growth experiments.  To learn more about growth plans and growing your business check out everything I’ve learned about growing companies in my new book, The Growth Marketer’s Playbook

LiveAgent
Help Desk Software & Live Chat