Customer Acquisition and Growth At Scale with Brittany Bingham @RaiseMe

Posted on December 18, 2018

What we cover in Episode 22

What’s it like to work in a company that has a genuinely viral product, or to do growth for a marketplace?

In this episode with talk to Brittany Bingham who is the VP of Marketing/Growth for RaiseMe.

Brittany talks to us about structuring marketing and growth teams, how to scale customer acquisition, and how to track your success via a north star metric.

      

Enjoy the show, and happy growing.

 

1. Democratizing growth gets you better scale

 

The structure of all growth teams change and evolve as the company grows in size.

SurveyMonkey restructured their growth product organization to be more decentralized. Instead of having a single team own all testing and growth experiments for the company, they built an internal tool that gives all teams the ability to conduct tests.

They maintained a centralized team to develop best practices for the rest of the company to follow.

“We recently restructured the growth product organization to no longer be centralized. Historically all of the AB tasks and all of the testing, growth experiments, would run through this organization. We built out an internal testing tool that gives all of the teams the ability to conduct tests and prioritize traffic against it.”

“We kept a centralized team to make the decisions around best practices as well as the prioritization of tests.

But we gave all product and engineering teams the ability to conduct experiments on their own pretty quickly.”

Democratizing growth can give you better scalability of experiments; it’s exactly what Jeff Chang told us on episode 21 when we asked how did they scale ideation at Pinterest.

2. Organize people around metrics

 

Often companies delay time to impact because they’re trying to figure out what functional team owns what metric, and how those functional teams work together.

One of the things we talked a lot about in our episode about setting up growth teams for success is this very topic. You should organize people around metrics and not get too hung up on what function owns what metric.

Brittany spoke to having this approach to metrics, and it is key learning she brings with her as she starts to structure her marketing and growth teams for success:

“A lot of the best practices that I planned to carry over are those we established at SurveyMonkey on how we worked closely with our product team to orient around metrics that they’re trying to move in our customer or user bases.”

“So we have marketing folks and product folks that are paring up currently, on those metrics, and as we continue to build out that organization, we’ll make sure that we’re making that even more robust.”

 

3. Split acquisition channels by low intent and high intent

 

All acquisition channels will bring in users with varying levels of intent.

In a go-to-market where you have the option for users to signup for free or to subscribe to your paid product, it’s important to, on average, understand what level of intent is being generated by each channel.

At SurveyMonkey, Brittany segmented her channels into both high and low intent.

“We typically group our acquisition channels into low intent and high intent channels. The reason we segmented them out is that we can then make assumptions about the upgrade rate of those cohorts based on their channel of acquisition that is behaviorally very, very different.”

What would be an example of a low intent channel for SurveyMonkey? Well, it was their casual contact viral loop, people who had completed a survey and saw an option to signup and create their own.

“So if you take those low intent channels the end page, which you guys are familiar with, that thank you page that shows up after you take a survey, is this phenomenal asset for us to have a couple of key activities occur.”

Although that viral loop was a low intent channel, it served some purposes for SurveyMonkey:

– It created signups
– It helped to create demand for the other side of SurveyMonkey’s marketplace, finding people to complete more surveys
– It helped with branding
– And on occasion, it helped with gathering internal data SurveyMonkey could use in things like PR releases

And their high intent channels? Like many successful brands, these were SEO and paid.

“SEO and paid were two of our best high intent channels. We spent a lot of time scaling these. They provided us with the most control to ramp up and down demand.”

“We used a huge variety of paid marketing channels. Everything from your traditional paid media channels to a lot of video advertising through Youtube, and tons of display advertising.”

“For SEO we had a broad strategy where we created a lot of long tail pages targeting different topics that could be addressed by surveys. We created a huge amount of visibility around the brand, not just from all of the pages we created, but also from all of the backlinks that were created by having all of these different surveys available and people linking back to them.”

So, how did they know what a high intent channel was, and what a low intent channel was?

Well, like any great product-lead company, the first thing they looked at was activation.

“Did the user deploy a survey and did they collect enough responses actually to start looking at the result of that survey.”

And the second was looking at their upgrade rate of those users.

“How many users went from a free user into a paying subscriber. What is the overall blended LTV of those users based on early patterns.”

Thinking of your channels in this way is an excellent way of prioritizing your acquisition efforts.

4. The job of acquisition doesn’t stop at sign up

 

One of the critical jobs of a significant acquisition team is to build scalable and repeatable channels that generate net new demand for business.

However, another critical piece is ensuring the net new demand turns into something of value for the business.

“At SurveyMonkey that looked like getting folks to engage and get value from the product and as a by-product upgrade to paying customers.”

“At RaiseMe it’s increasing the K factor of the referral rate of every one of our students. Get them more deeply involved and driving self-sustaining virality out of our marketplace without educators and our students, which had been a huge driver for us.”

5. Measure user activation as a north star metric and put leading indicators of success around that metric.

 

We’ve talked about Brian Balfour’s article “Don’t Let Your North Star Metric Deceive You” many times on the podcast.

A north star metric is an excellent metric of success, but it’s also a lagging indicator of success, one that can make you oblivious to real-time issues in your funnel.

At SurveyMonkey, the Northstar metric was the upgrade rate of free to paid users. But there were also leading indicators for that metric:

“And then there were smaller metrics that fell out of it, of course, looking at retention rates of those, and thinking a lot about just continued engagement of those users, but I would say that’s the one that was most indicative of how successful we are and rolled up most effectively.”

At RaiseMe understanding these metrics is a lot more complicated, Brittany has to deal with a dual-sided marketplace, plus for students, you can have a four-year activation rate … wow

“One of the exciting things is we get students access to scholarships from 9th grade on. And in those cases you have a four-year activation cycle because you’re aha moment is that they’ve applied, been admitted, and decide to go to college.”

Given four-years is a pretty long wait to see if your activation rate is improving or not 🙂 Brittany and her team again look to predictive indicators of success.

“and a lot of what we’ve done is we’ve created predictive indications, better explicit, of making sure that someone’s on track for continuing to make it like that Mecca moment of applying and going to school.”

Another metric they look at to establish is if the student side of the marketplace is growing at a healthy pace is the matching rate.

“Have we inspired the student to have an interested follow. That means they followed a university that is something that is highly relevant for them. And then a matching core meaning, that the marketplace is actually very healthy and where we’ve brought that student on and based on their behavioral patterns, they marry up very well to the university that we have in the marketplace as well.”

Of course, Brittany and her team also need to think about the university side of the marketplace.

“How many of our students are engaging with universities, and how frequently are they connecting with the users that are following them? So that’s much more … It’s like the value prop that we offer to universities and so they lean in a lot to that so most of my team’s time is focused on activation of the students over that long life cycle. “

The podcast provides a more in-depth look at these topics, so if you enjoyed reading the above, please do give it a listen.

And until next time,

Happy Growing!

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