Earlywork #29: Growth Marketing Uncovered ft. Dan Siepen (Head of Growth & Marketing, Wellshare)
Read on to learn more about Dan's approach to growth marketing and his tips on how to break into the space
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A few newsletters ago, we wrote about one of the hottest topics floating around these days: growth marketing. Ya’ll wanted to know more and to get into the nitty-gritty of things. Well, ask and you shall receive, Earlyworkers!
I sat down with Dan Siepen, Head of Growth and Marketing at Wellshare, to dig deeper into the topic. We chatted about the growth marketing mindset, frameworks for success and of course, debunking some myths that we hear all too often about growth marketing.
You mentioned in the newsletter that it's a mindset, like the speed of experimentation, execution. What is the growth marketing mindset?
It’s a challenge to sum up a growth marketer’s mindset in one sentence or one meaning but I think the mindset in relation to growth marketing comes down to five main components:
Hunger - A hunger for all things business growth & love of problem-solving
Understanding Fundamentals - Fundamental understanding of product & business strategy
Open-minded and having a Good Attitude - An open mind to problems & solutions across the business
Speed/Pace - An ability to move fast where speed > perfectionism is important and;
Data-driven - The ability to track experimentation with an ROI focus using data & various techniques.
1. Elaborating on hunger
With “a hunger for all things business growth & love of problem-solving”, I believe the difference between an average marketer and a great marketer comes down to this burning desire to achieve growth and a love of solving problems.
It’s about having a continuing state of curiosity that sparks new ideas and eagerness to love taking on new problems.
You never really stop thinking about growth.
In many ways, it’s having the mind just like the founder of a startup.
2. Elaborating on understanding fundamentals
Having an understanding of product strategy & business strategy is key.
Business strategy - how will the business be successful?
Product strategy - how will the product be successful in growing the business?
You don’t need to be a strong business or product strategist per se, but it’s crucial to be across these strategies within the business as ultimately it dictates what you need to focus on as a marketer to achieve certain goals across both the business and product (s).
One thing to Remember: Marketing Tactics/ideas does not equal strategy.
3. Elaborating on having an open mind and good attitude
Average marketers = close-minded & set in their ways
Great marketers = open-minded and always open to ideas & opinions of all people across the business.
You can’t be a great marketer without being open-minded. The world of startups and tech moves so quickly you can’t afford to be set in ways.
You also need to remember you don’t have all the ideas. You need to ensure people are part of the growth process and encouraged to share ideas.
Elaborating on speed/pace
The ability to move fast and embrace failure is part of the process.
The reality is, 3 out of 10 times you will get experiments right which leads to awesome results. A few more lead to mediocre results and the rest end up being failures. That's the reality of being a marketer in a startup.
The primary result however is learning from your experiments and creating new ones based on data.
More experiments → more better ideas → more ideal results faster.
“Perfectionism” is only applicable if you work for a large corporation where there is more procurement, due diligence and brand equity to consider. You can afford to be slower paced working for a corporation.
If you work as a corporate marketer and want to transition to startups, you will need to adapt to speed and not be afraid of failure.
Elaborating on being data-driven & tracking experiments
Your decisions should be primarily based on good data. I stress on good data as it depends on how things are set up in the first place.
Data should be a primary driver to your decision-making.
To help with your decision-making over time, tracking experiments is key to becoming a great growth marketer when using data & various techniques.
For example, I use a concept called ICE. This is a good article on the concept.
It’s important to note it’s simply a framework to help come up with tactics and ideas that align with an overarching growth strategy.
My personal ‘ICE’ is built out a lot more than the original ICE you will read, but it’s a great starting point if you’re learning. You will formulate your own version which you can apply to the business you work for overtime.
In addition, when it comes to being ROI focused, it doesn't necessarily always mean we need to turn $1 into $5 for every dollar we invest for every single experiment or tactic we try.
As we know, not all experiments or strategies we engage in lead to a positive ROI result.
It comes down to the nature of the experiment and what a realistic & good outcome looks like.
Do you have an example of a time where a campaign has failed? What did you learn and has it ever turned into a success?
Yes, most certainly. I’ve had a lot of campaigns that have failed or didn’t meet the expectations I had originally set. It’s just the nature of marketing as a whole.
A personal mantra I follow: Test → Measure → Learn → Iterate
As an example, many times I’ve run Google Ads/Facebook Ad campaigns thinking certain campaigns would go really well and unfortunately just doesn’t yield the results I was expecting within a given time period.
That doesn’t mean the idea or campaign as a whole is a failure.
As a marketer, it’s about learning and understanding what the data is saying and having the ability to make optimisations quickly.
Many of these campaigns which didn’t go well at the start I’ve managed to turn around to end up doing pretty well.
Then for any campaigns that didn’t go according to plan, there’s always really good learnings you can have as takeaways for next time or the next campaign.
A lot of the Earlywork audience love marketing and many of them are studying it at University. But then the question I get is, how is growth marketing different to traditional marketing? Do you have a view on that?
In its simplest form, the difference comes down to how the audience/consumers encounter a message.
Growth / Digital Marketing = Message received through digital mediums (i.e. websites, social media, etc).
Traditional Marketing = Channels such as billboards & printed media - more “traditional” mediums
In many ways, it’s online vs offline.
I think a misconception that many people think is that traditional marketing is “old school”.
I definitely don’t think that’s the case. It’s incredibly powerful when incorporated into an omnichannel approach.
I just think it has a negative connotation over time as traditional marketing has typically been harder to measure with data. Now in 2021, there are some awesome technologies that provide data on traditional forms of media.
It just comes to making sure whatever marketing initiatives you undertake, online or offline, is that it’s measurable through data as much as possible.
Great growth marketers understand the power of an omnichannel approach using both digital and non-digital channels.
Another topic I want to chat about is growth hacking. We hear a lot about the viral campaign that achieved 100x growth etc. Do you have a view on growth marketing and growth hacking? Or do you see them as similar things?
“Growth Hacking is about acquisition”. Simply wrong.
I actually shared a similar answer on Quora. Here’s an image to that answer:
I think there’s a lot of misunderstandings and misalignment around expectations when it comes to startups and companies looking for “growth marketers”.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been reached out to about quite a few opportunities to join startups as their growth marketer, yet really it’s only been a handful of companies that have piqued my interest.
The other companies that didn’t pique my interest could have been an awesome product/business, but the reason why some companies did turn me off was due to their understanding of what they’re looking for in a marketer.
If they’re unsure, then it’s a bit of a red flag for me.
Too often I’ve seen job roles that list the “golden” generalist marketer who is awesome at every single channel you can think of.
These people are unicorns. Great marketers like this probably have their own business to be honest haha.
A marketer can’t have deep knowledge in every channel. It’s just not possible.
So for me as a marketer myself, I’m confident and have strong skills in many areas of marketing and know what’s possible in order to perform.
My piece of advice to everyone reading this would be to become strong with 2-3 channels/areas in marketing, whilst gaining more knowledge around foundations and key principles across other areas of marketing.
Check out what a T-Shaped marketer is to help you. :)
For the audience who's still in university, or just graduated what's the best way to approach this learning journey. Should we start broad or specialise?
It’s a good question and a bit of a hard one to truly answer as everyone reading this would have different skillsets they’re stronger in.
My recommendation would be to stick to your strengths.
If your goal is to break into the startup world or to get your first marketing job, try and stick to what you’re good at and make sure you excel in it.
The other skills you can learn on the job or in your spare time.
Here are two key foundations to learning that may help you (and what I would do if I was back in your position):
Growth Marketing Foundations & Fundamentals
Growth Marketing Foundations & Fundamentals
Before you can really specialise in growth marketing, it’s important to really understand key fundamentals & frameworks when it comes to growth.
I really recommend reading:
Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis & Morgan Brown (amazing marketers)
Traction by Justin Mares & Gabriel Weinberg
Then, I highly recommend reading posts & essays below:
After that, for more tactical & amazing case studies to read, I’d check out:
Remember: It typically takes years before you really know what you want to do. :)
If you’re unsure of what you want to do or channel you want to specialise in, here’s a very high-level process that you could potentially follow:
List down all the topic areas in marketing - you can use the “T-shaped” model to help you
Watch some YouTube videos - see how different channels work, what it looks like, etc.
Read some articles on these channels in terms of opinions
Select one you find interesting
Look at some online courses related to that one key area
Engage in a course - try and do a free course at first before purchasing a course.
Evaluate if you liked it or not as a subject.
If you liked it, great! Then it’s worth purchasing a course that goes deeper in the skill.
Then repeat steps 1-8 again for new subject matters you want to get better in.
Of course, I want to stress this is high-level. How you learn or consume content is different for everyone. Hopefully, it will provide some inspiration.
Once you get into a marketing role, you do learn a lot on the job. So if you focus on getting a job based on your stronger skillset, there’s a good chance you will get exposure to other areas of marketing.
Remember: It typically takes years before you really know what you want to do. :)
On the topic of learning, 10 years we didn't have TikTok, we didn't have Snapchat, Google changes its algorithm all the time. How do you stay on top?
I consume a lot of content. Newsletters, podcasts, blog posts.
I’ve subscribed to lots of content publications around marketing and ensure I’m subscribed to newsletters across all channels of marketing.
It’s the best way I can keep on top of all the changes.
If you really want to be a great marketer, you need to love learning. Constantly.
So let's end on a cheesy one. What are you most excited about the future of growth marketing?
That's an interesting one. From a hiring point of view, I think it's exciting right now because there are a lot of companies and startups now looking to hire for this role; there's definitely a demand for it.
I’m also really excited about new tools and technologies. There’s some pretty awesome stuff being developed and being adopted to improve consumer experiences. Not only customer-facing technologies but also internal tools for data and measurement. You will never get bored as a growth marketer. :)
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