Building a 12 Month Growth Plan as CMO of a Fast-Growing Company with Paul Cowan of Freshbooks

Jan 20, 2021 5:01:58 AM
Author: Kieran Flanagan

In this episode of the GrowthTLDR, we talk to Paul Cowan, the CMO of Freshbooks about how you build a 12 month plan for growth.

By listening to this show, you'll learn:

- How to think about building a 12 to 18-month plan as a new CMO of a fast-growth company.
- Understand how to test brand messaging by focusing on specific cities
- What channels to prioritize for growth
- With the cost to acquire a customer increasing across all marketing channels, what it means for the future of marketing.

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Happy Growing!

What you'll learn on this show?

Freshbooks are an accounting platform for small businesses. They're based in Toronto and have 500 employees.

1. What did Paul Cowan do during his first 12 months as CMO at Freshbooks?

Paul talks about why he spent a bunch of time in the first 12 months doing a rebrand for Freshbooks and a re-org of the marketing team. Most of the time, a CMO is hired by a company because that company wants to go in a new direction. To do that, Paul needed to spend time redesigning the marketing team, so it was structured towards the companies new goals.

Paul also talks about Freshbooks onboarding for new employees. They go through a four-week process that includes two weeks working on customer support. Going through this process helps all employees understand the brand.

2. How do you test brand messaging and brand advertising?

Paul talks his goals to grow the brand of Freshbooks alongside investing in performance marketing initiatives. It's not one or the other.

To test brand messaging and advertising, Paul selects specific cities to run different messaging; for example, one of the cities they picked was Texas.

They then look to see if there is any correlation to improvement in metrics like - traffic, brand lift (as measured by Facebook, Google), and improvement in free trials' close rates. They'll also do brand studies in the city.

3. How does Paul prioritize what marketing channels to invest in for growth?

When Paul started in Freshbooks, they had strong performance across organic and SEM.

Paul talks about the process of forming hypotheses around potential growth levers and rolling out tests against them.

For example, Paul believed they could be doing better with social advertising. By changing agencies and moving team members about, they reduced their trial costs by hundreds of percent. 

Part of knowing where to invest for growth is having prior experience. Data can't give you all the information.

We talk about how important it is to have a copywriter who can help your paid creative stand out from the crowd. All paid creative that comes from SaaS brands tends to sound the same. It's critical to invest both in creative and copy that helps you sound different. Make sure your paid marketing team has proper access to creative resources.

Paul and I both agree that you'll never be able to predict what ad creative will work best, which is why you need to invest in an excellent test program.

4. The CAC to Acquire Customers is Increasing. What does it mean for marketing?

Paul hasn't seen a massive increase in ad prices. In particular, in 2020, he saw ad prices go down.

Paul talks about the importance of making your marketing differentiated from competitors and gives a great example of how Freshbooks used internal data to build out media assets for their audience.

We talk about an example from HubSpot on how they used internal data to create a benchmark tool for customers 

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Topics: GrowthTLDR, Podcast, Brand

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