Growth is not a one way street. There are multiple avenues you can take to get to your desired outcome.
But with so many options, where do you start?
In this article we’ll explore what a growth channel is, go over some examples of how companies have successfully leveraged these channels, and provide you with questions you can use to discover which channel(s) would be best for your business.
Let’s get right into it! First things first:
What is a growth channel?
When I think of a channel my initial thought is a flowing stream of water that leads to a bigger body of water. But this isn’t geography class.
In marketing a growth channel is the medium through which you acquire new customers into your business and retain them.
There are a number of different growth channels you can build into your business’s growth strategy. The most common channels include:
Email funnels are a series of emails that are created with the intention to convert leads into repeating customers.
Email marketing is known to be one of the most important channels, and for good reason.
Every dollar spent on email generates an average of $38-$44 return, which is over a 3800% ROI[*].
Plus, your email list acts as a customer relationship management tool and therefore is your most important means of communication to nurture and retain customers.
You can use this channel to personalize the customer experience. The ability to use your customer’s name and segment them based on their actions is extremely beneficial for nurturing your customers to convert, developing a relationship with them and turning them into raving fans.
Article is a great example of a company that successfully uses email funnels as a growth channel. The leading direct-to-consumer furniture company sends a series of emails based on the customer journey stage of each subscriber.
For example, this welcome email uses social proof in the form of customer reviews as a trust signal, and outlines the value propositions of the company for new subscribers.
Customers who have abandoned their carts receive a different communication to remind them what they were shopping for, and drive them back to the site to complete their order.
Email marketing is a versatile and powerful growth channel.
We’ve compiled everything you need to know to level up your email marketing in our free Ultimate Email List Growth Guide.
Search engine optimization
Search Engine Optimization, commonly referred to as “SEO”, involves optimizing a website to improve your ranking on search engines and increase organic traffic. This is just a simple way of explaining it. SEO strategy is more complex than it sounds but it’s great for helping customers find your business online.
Growclass alumni company Threads uses SEO to optimize their product pages to rank for keywords that are relevant to their products.
This means that Google sends them free traffic when users are searching for specific search terms like “tan stockings”.
Implementing an SEO strategy can span beyond transactional pages like the product and category pages, too. For example, the founder of LOA Skin, another Growclass alumni student, uses SEO as a growth strategy in his blog content, too.
They’ve created a content hub where they publish helpful resources in the form of articles, gift guides, and ingredient guides to help educate their customers at the top of the funnel.
By publishing content that targets keywords specific to skincare LOA is able to attract more customers and share knowledge that can help them engage and convert.
Content marketing is used to generate interest in your business through the creation of videos, blogs, social media posts, infographics, and podcasts. This content is not all promotional based but rather tries to add value, entertain, or help solve a problem.
Growclass alumni company, McCann Dogs, is a dog training company that has utilized content marketing to create a variety of Youtube videos on multiple dog topics. This strategy has enabled them to grow their Youtube following to over 660,000 subscribers.
In addition to Youtube videos, they provide free training resources and workshops in exchange for their website visitors’ email addresses.
McCann Dogs’ vast variety of content allows them to establish themselves as a reputable source for dog training and keeps them top of mind even when someone needs dog training services.
Search engine marketing
Search Engine Marketing or SEM involves using paid advertising to increase your visibility on search engine results pages. This is not to be confused with SEO marketing. The key difference is that SEM requires the use of paid ads whereas SEO helps you rank better organically.
One of Growclass' mentors is the CEO of the company Willful. They utilize SEM to ensure that Willful appears in the top ad spots when users search for “online wills” or “online estate planning” on Google.
This approach helps them get more exposure to potential customers and fight off competition companies. By dominating the top results on search engines, Willful increases the likelihood of a user clicking on their products.
Social media advertising
Also known as Paid Social, Social Media Advertising involves using paid advertising to increase your business’ visibility on social media platforms. Paying for ads on social media can help you break through algorithms and reach a wider audience.
Growclass alumni company Three Ships Beauty has utilized social media advertising to grow it’s customer base by running Facebook ads. They’ve leveraged Facebook ads to highlight real people using Three Ships’ products as part of their daily skin care routine.
The ability to appear on the newsfeed makes these videos feel more organic to Facebook and exposes the brand to people who did not previously know about Three Ships. It has proved to be a very useful channel for the company’s growth.
Organic social media
Organic Social Media is anything that you post on social that is not a paid promotion. This includes posting content, replying to comments, engaging with followers, using hashtags - basically any social media activity that can be done for free.
GoPro has leveraged user-generated content in their organic social media strategy. GoPro realized early on that users liked tagging the brand in content that they created using GoPro’s camera.
GoPro wanted to encourage more of this behaviour so they started reposting user content directly onto the brand’s official social media accounts. This strategy has enabled GoPro to grow it’s Youtube channel followers to 10 million subscribers and their Instagram account to over 17 million followers.
An affiliate marketing program is a business relationship between your company and an affiliate partner who promotes your products or services. Affiliate partners can receive a commission for generating sales, leads, free-trial users, clicks to a website, or app downloads.
Members of Amazon’s affiliate program can earn money by using customized links for products to generate qualified purchases and free trial signups. Members must have a successful website or an app in order to become an affiliate. The program is so successful that it has become one of the biggest affiliate programs in the world.
Influencer marketing involves a person of high social status promoting your brand to their followers in exchange for financial compensation. The goal is to influence their audience to take a desired action.
Turkish Airlines leveraged influencer marketing for their fundraising campaign. They partnered with popular Youtubers like Jerome Jarre and Casey Neistat to raise money to send humanitarian aid to Somalia.
They were able to raise over 2 million dollars in five days to help Somalia. The campaign was a huge humanitarian success and helped boost Turkish Airlines’ brand reputation exponentially.
Customer referral programs
A referral strategy is an organized way to encourage recommendations from your existing customers. Word of mouth can lead to exponential growth when customers share their experience with their network.
Uber has done a great job of building this referral channel straight into their product. When users download the app, they get a personalized referral code that they can share with their friends. Both the referrer and the referee get a free ride once the personalized code is used.
They found that when both parties are rewarded for using the referral code, it is more likely to be a successful channel for growth. This personalized incentive approach helped Uber grow to become the most popular ridesharing service.
A retention strategy is a plan you put in place to keep customers returning to your business. Retention is a fundamental part of growth, it costs more money to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. You can’t fill a bucket with water if there are holes at the bottom of it. That’s why it's important to keep your existing customers coming back.
One company that does a wonderful job at retention is Spotify. Spotify curates daily playlists that are specific to the music taste of each user, they send notifications to inform users when their favourite artists are performing in nearby cities, and they created the infamous Spotify Wrapped campaign that gives users a yearly review of the music they listened to that year.
All these things encourage Spotify users to return to the app on a regular basis. This killer retention strategy is one of the reasons why Spotify is one of the top destinations for streaming music and podcasts.
How to uncover your next growth channel to prioritize
Now that you know a bit more about growth channels and have seen some examples of how companies are using them, you can start to think of ways to apply them to your own business. But it’s important to ask the right questions before you jump into the deep end and get overwhelmed.
Here are some questions you can use to help you make a list of new growth channels to explore:
1. What doesn’t yet exist?
One of the first things you should be thinking about when building your growth strategy is what could be performing that doesn’t exist in your business yet?
Building something new is usually one of the most impactful things you can do for your business. Maybe you need to introduce a new email funnel to nurture your customers to purchase.
Do you have a content and SEO strategy in place? This is something that is important to compounding your growth over time.
Word of mouth should never be overlooked. It’s very common for people to find out about your business from their friends - it could be time to introduce a new referral program to harness that energy and incentivize your growth.
2. What’s not working?
Sometimes you need to pivot from strategies that already exist but are not working as intended. Take some time to investigate what is fundamentally broken about your funnel?
Are customers not making it through your onboarding process? Do you have a high bounce rate on your pricing page? Are your users churning after their free trial ends?
Identifying what you know isn’t working in your business can help you bridge the gaps in your funnel.
3. Where Are you Seeing Untapped Potential?
Look for places where you are seeing signals for potential growth. Do you have really high engagement rates on your content? Maybe you’ve gotten a bunch of customers from a referral channel, can you build it out to make it stronger?
Pay attention to these growth signals and double down on them. With some time, resources, and attention you can nurture these channels into growth opportunities.
Remember that growth is not a one way street. What may work for some businesses may not work for others.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different channels and fail. Some of your most useful learnings will come from failure. Enjoy your journey to growth.