Growth Hacker’s Guide to Marketing Channels

Years back I read a book “Traction”. That book changed the way I think about marketing. Two of the key takeaways for me was:

  • Laws of Shitty Click Through Rate:

This law is simple. As marketing channel becomes popular, the traction you get from the marketing channel decreases exponentially. When the shitty “banner ads” started on the web, their CTR was around 70%. Now, these ads have CTR of 0.01%.

  • Similarly, when the AppStore was launched, it was extremely easy to get your app downloaded. Evernote was one of the successful productivity apps, as it was one of the first productivity app launched on the AppStore. Now, just launching the app is not enough to develop traction.

That’s why it’s extremely important to be early in using a channel.

  • Bullseye Framework

While there are multiple channels and it’s important to know all of them, as they have worked for some or other startup, a startup with a limited resource should focus on just particular channel and aim to crack it. Once that channel saturates, then only the startup should focus on next channel.

Here is what early Facebook investor Peter Thiel says about this:

“It’s very likely that one channel is optimal. If you can get even a single distribution channel to work, you have a great business. If you try for a several but don’t nail one, you are finished. So it’s worth thinking very hard about finding the single best distribution channel”

Marketing Channels

For example, in the initial days, Tinder used to conduct lots of college parties. The idea was to get all the hot girls in the parties and ask people to download the app in order to enter the party. This worked really well for some time. However, then the channel stopped making sense both cost and impact wise, so tinder moved to other channels.  Therefore, for Tinder, conducting parties was their bullseye channel in the initial days.

In order to avoid the “The Law of Shitty Click Through Rate” and get your “Bullseye channel” you the knowledge of marketing channels is crucial.

Let’s discuss some key marketing channels:

  • Content Marketing 

One startup that did an amazing job here was Kissmetrics. They figured that people are responding positively to blogs, so doubled down their effort on this channel. Then created lots and lots of marketing guides and infographics, which worked really well for them. They drive engagement and signups for Kissmetrics.

  • Search Engine Marketing 

This is basically the science of ranking better on Google. Wikipedia is an amazing case study for this channel.  They have built so much long-form content that they rank for almost any term out there.

One of the best tools to figure the SEO potential and status of a website is Ahref. Using this tool, you can check the traffic, backlinks, top keywords, and top ranking pages.

  • Paid Aquisition 

Adword and Facebook Advert are some of the top paid acquisition channels. It’s one of the key channels for Flipkart and Amazon.

  • Viral Marketing 

There are several ways to achieve viral marketing including word of mouth, inherent in the product, incentivized (Uber), embedded (Youtube), and social.

Here is what Andrew Chen, Former Uber’s Head of Growth has to say:

“Even expert teams will take 1-2 engineers working 2-3 months, minimum, to implement and optimise a new viral channel to the point where it’s growing quickly without any ad spend”

  • Public Relation

A good strategy for PR is to start small and reach out to the budding bloggers. Probably reach out to the blogs that your target PR websites such as Yourstory’s writers reads. For example, it’s better to get featured in Product Hunt or Beta List to get into the tracking zone of Yourstory writers.

One important hack is to build a good following on Twitter and reach out to influencers on Twitter. In my case, there has been substantially higher response rate when I have used Twitter.

  • Email Marketing

Email marketing is still one of the major marketing channels. For companies e-commerce companies it accounts for driving a significant portion of the revenue.

One of the most powerful ways to drive revenue through email is doing lifecycle campaigns to sell the product. One of the best examples of this is e-gmat. They first invite you to their free webinar, which is quite effective, through email. After the webinar, they email you some free material and free 7-day access to their website. In those 7 days, they send you tips and offers to upgrade. I believe after 10-15 days, they send you a bumper offer for a program, which has a high likelihood of conversion. Then, they send you targeted emails to upgrade the course your purchase, offering you discounts. This tactic was quite effective on me.

  • Engineer’s Marketing

This is one of the key foundation stone of growth marketing. Taking a more geeky approach, a growth marketer uses tools, APIs, low-effort apps, and technology hacks to grow at rapid pace.

One of the brilliant examples of this approach was the use of Craigslist by Airbnb. Airbnb guys build an API to directly post from Airbnb to Craigslist. In the initial days, this smooth integration helped in driving sales and traffic.

  • Affiliate Program

Paying people or companies for performing your marketing work is one of the key channels of marketing. Amazon has done a fabulous job here. Bloggers recommend a product and take a cut when sales on Amazon are through the sales channel.

One of the key advantages of the affiliate channel is that you get to define the conversion. Thus, you are in more control to ensure the ROI.

One last tip for all the budding growth marketers

When developing the knowledge of marketing channels, follow the advice of Brian Balfour on becoming T-shape marketer:

“Go broad by knowing the basics including pros/cons of most channels.  Then choose to go really deep on a couple channels.  Generalists are useless in most work environments.  As an expert in certain areas, you will be able to build a brand around yourself and stand out from the crowd. “

Become a T-shape marketer, by following two strategies:

  •  Developing Basic Skills in Marketing: Build a good understanding of analytics, modelling, quantitative data, understanding channels, copywriting, and psychology. All these make an important part of marketing foundation.

Creating new marketing campaigns, take feedback and iterating is one of the key jobs of growth marketer. This requires a good grasp of the skills mentioned above.

  •  Develop expertise in 1-2 channels: Try to build expertise in one core channel that will major important channel for many years such as Adwords, Facebook Advertisement, and content marketing and one emerging channel that is gaining traction such as Snapchat marketing, Youtube, and API integration.

Specialising in one core channel will be your immediate contribution to any team or startup. Further, specialisation in emerging channel will make your more effective as you will attach the channel earlier (and hence avoid the Law of Shitty Click Through Rate).


About the author

Product Manager at Google | Kellogg MBA '20 | IIT Delhi Graduate

I am passionate about product management, startup, and fitness not in any particular order.


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