I’ve spent the past year helping creators, artists and entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. In some cases, these ventures were their sole source of income and livelihood. In others, it was a side business.
Over that time, I have helped my clients to take charge of their marketing and to keep their business growth efforts rolling. I am calling my approach Momentum Marketing.
One of the most critical factors to a business is velocity: how often you sell a product or service. In marketing, I believe an equally critical factor — and one of the least recognized—is momentum: how often you are launching and learning from your marketing efforts.
To achieve and maintain momentum, I chose to build my program around sprints. Each sprint is a two-week period focused on a single idea or initiative. We launch a new activity, then regroup to see what the results tell us about our audience.
Of course, there is a lot to learn. We need to educate everyone on the team about the strategies, platforms and technologies involved. Traditionally, we would turn to books and courses to teach what is needed. But this is time spent with no real marketing getting done—no momentum.
Instead, we can use the context of each sprint to educate the team on the technologies and approaches we are looking to leverage. This allows everyone to grow and learn together, because contrary to what many consultants and books espouse, every business is different, and the best lessons are learned hands-on by the teams doing the work.
The end result is Momentum Marketing.
I don’t believe in rules, but I have settled on four philosophies that guide Momentum Marketing.
- Almost Good Enough is Good Enough
One of my dear friends planned her way out of a successful business. There is a point at which you just have to leap and learn by doing. There is no such thing as clarity with a new venture or business. (I’ll speak more on this below.) If it is almost good enough, you should be testing it in the marketplace.
- Always Be Doing
Once you have momentum, it is a beautiful thing. It is motivating and it feeds on itself, making marketing a joyful activity. But once lost, it can feel like trying to turn a battleship in a bathtub. This is why short sprints are so essential: they force us to focus on launching or delivering marketing efforts as frequently as possible.
- Measure and Learn
Momentum is only helpful if we can measure what is working. In a world where so much is measurable, it’s important to stop and ask yourself what measurement will reveal whether a tactic is working or not.
If you are doing a giveaway to gain newsletter subscribers, then you might want to know how many people sign up, broken down by source. If it turns out, for example, that your signup rate for people coming from a Facebook ad is especially low, you can begin to ask questions such as: do these visitors need more context to understand the giveaway, or what they’re signing up for?
I’m going to spend a lot more time covering each of these, but for now, be sure you measure your prospects’ key behaviours.
- Build and Refine Your Customer Journey
Every business or venture requires relationships. These are not created overnight. There is no single promotion that will bring someone from “never heard of you” straight to “word-of-mouth advocate who buys everything you create”. Relationships take time and effort to build. And the steps that a prospect goes through are called the customer journey. Rather than spend many weeks trying to design this flow ahead of time (see points 1 and 2), we are going to build and refine our customer journey as we go, using what we learn.
The first challenge in Momentum Marketing is simply: where to start? We can pick something at random as our first sprint, but this will most likely not result in great insights or motivation for the team.
In time, the customer journey will become the living, breathing marketing strategy and philosophy that guides us. But in the early days, while it’s still taking shape, we start by focusing on the most common business growth activities.
Select a Business Growth Starting Point
As a starting point, I turn to some of the most common things we do to grow our business:
This is about increasing our reach. This typically includes efforts to grow our newsletter, increase the number of followers in social, improve our visibility within a community or group, and so on. It’s quite common to focus on this area initially if this is a new business that hasn’t yet managed to build a following or subscribers.
Too often, we move to selling our product or service too quickly. We become that annoying guy at the party that only wants to try and sell everyone life insurance. Quite simply, feeding our audience is about providing value. It can be a newsletter of awesome tips, funny social media videos, how-to guides, PDFs on solving common problems, or anything else your audience will find useful, inspiring, or just plain fun. This is a great place to start if you have a newsletter or social media presence but aren’t sure how to make this work for your business.
You have your product or service fully defined. The website is built. Your newsletter is active. But everything is stuck. Short of offering massive discounts, you’re unsure how to convert the reach you have into sales. This is when we start to look at incenting behaviour. But here’s the key thing to keep in mind: this is rarely about driving sales. Chances are, you’ve already tried that. This is about beginning to understand the key steps a customer goes through before they make a sale — what a customer or prospect does that tells you they’re more engaged with you than the rest. That’s the behaviour we want to reward and encourage.
If your side business is already up and running, and you just want to figure out how to grow it, then this area of the wheel may be worth considering. There are almost always things we can do to improve our service or product delivery. Sometimes this is really low-hanging fruit. Past customers are generally far more likely to buy from us again, but they may not be thinking about what we offer. Little touches, like adding a small personal note to a shipment or into an invoice, can reap massive benefits.
These four business growth activities are not the be-all and end-all of marketing. They are simply a starting point to identify the activity for the first sprint. They allow us to select one of these quadrants—and then attack it hard.
Beware of the Desire for Clarity
I want to end with the single greatest challenge I see new startups or side businesses face: the yearning for clarity. It’s understandable, because the early days of any venture are a time of confusion.
But it’s a trap.
Everyone wants to sell you clarity through planning, because they realize how tantalizing it is for so many people starting out. But they are simply selling smoke and mirrors. Launching a new business or growing a small startup is always murky.
You can spend months, even years, fretting over strategic plans and market research—or you can start doing, testing what is possible now with your offering and your audience.
I’m not opposed to research, but I have seen more artists and entrepreneurs needlessly diverted from their dreams, convinced they must define things such as their Ideal Customer Avatar, while they miss real opportunities to test their ideas in the market.
The key to marketing is to learn by doing. Momentum Marketing is one way to start learning what works for your business. It provides a framework that can help your team, whether that is one person or three, to become masterful at reaching, serving and growing your audience.
There is too much to cover in one post. I will be sharing more of this framework and the successes achieved in the weeks to come.
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