When you’re writing your marketing plan for a year, quarter, or even month, you’ll need to get started with an analysis of your current marketing strategy. That begins with a full executive summary that covers your business, from messaging to branding, team to mission, and beyond.
As part of Ladder’s 2017 Marketing Plan series, we’re releasing our own marketing strategy executive summary — the single document that lies at the center of Ladder’s past and future marketing efforts.
If you ever work with an agency and task them with building you a marketing plan, chances are they’ll start with this document. So if you want to build your own, you can do so by following along below and treating ours as a template.
Let’s get started!
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Tagline: How does Ladder describe themselves, in a few short words?
“Growth without the guesswork”
“Grow your business without the guesswork”
Takeaway: What should people understand about Ladder at first glance?
“Ladder runs marketing experiments to help new businesses grow.”
Jonathan Brody, Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Serial entrepreneur and former professional poker player. Worked with Adrian at Velocity Chess & taught at Startup Institute with Michael.
Michael Taylor, Chief Product Officer (CPO)
Spent $25m on marketing and experienced an adtech exit to Adobe. Worked with Alex at Popsugar & taught with Jonathan at Startup Institute.
Adrian Slipko, Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
5+ years full-stack node.js developer. Worked with Jonathan at Velocity Chess to scale tech to 250k members and 10m+ games played globally.
Alex Emberey, Chief Strategy Officer (CSO)
Marketing leader (Popsugar, Thomas Cook) and digital strategist (Bartle Bogle Hegarty, BSkyB). Worked with Michael at Popsugar.
Disclaimer: Alex Emberey is no longer with the company. He left under mutual agreement to pursue other opportunities.
In August 2014, Michael Taylor and Alex Emberey started a ‘growth hacking’ agency together, with Michael based in New York and Alex in London. They were incubated by BBH Zag, the venture arm of Bartle Bogle Hegarty (a Publicis Groupe agency), in order to help service a number of startups they’d invested in.
From the very beginning, the goal was to design an agency from the ground up that could work successfully with startups, a notoriously difficult client base to service. To that end, they developed a test-driven, tactic-agnostic methodology that still powers the agency to this day.
Unlike traditional agencies that rely on silos of interconnected specialists, Ladder is a team of generalists, who switch seamlessly from across channels, funnel stages, and tactics depending on expected performance. Being able to make data-driven decisions, refocus resource with no downtime and apply learnings with no communication overhead has been key to their success.
In February 2015, Jonathan Brody joined the team as Managing Director of the US business. Following success in the US market, Jonathan was elevated to Co-Founder status in May 2016, and nominated to be CEO in October 2016. Michael became Chief Product Officer in November 2015 when Ladder hired its first full time developer, Adrian Slipko, to develop tools to make test-driven marketing a more streamlined process.
In January 2016, the first of these tools, the Ladder Planner, was released in beta for agency clients and in March 2016 for self-serve customers. As part of a small angel funding round in June 2016, Adrian became Ladder’s CTO and started building out an engineering team. Ladder continues to grow its agency and technology businesses in tandem, with customers often switching between full-service and self-service plans depending on their needs.
Disclaimer: Alex Emberey is no longer with the company. He left under mutual agreement to pursue other opportunities.
Ladder is a growth marketing agency using proprietary software and a data-driven process to launch and grow new businesses, testing every marketing channel and funnel stage. Since being incubated by BBH, a Publicis Groupe agency 2 years ago, we’ve grown to a team of 18 strategists, analysts, designers, copywriters and developers. In New York and London we’ve worked with over 100 companies, from startups backed by YCombinator, 500 Startups and TechStars, to larger enterprises in the Fortune 500.
Unlike traditional agencies, who charge an hourly rate or percentage of ad spend, we charge a retainer fee for fully managed execution of a fixed number of marketing experiments every month. Through our data-driven testing process, we build a clear picture of what tactics, channels, audiences, creative, landing pages and emails perform best. Everything we learn is captured in our marketing recommendation engine (JACK); so we’re constantly learning what works (or doesn’t) for different types of businesses across our database of 1,000+ tactics.
Build the world’s largest data set of what works (or doesn’t) to grow every type of business.
You can read more about Ladder’s brand philosophies HERE
Find Ladder’s Brand Style Guide here:
A brand style guide is an important part of the identity of a business — it’s what differentiates the brand from others. Colors, design principles, and copywriting styles make a business stand out from the pack, and having the style guide well-defined is critical to keeping the integrity of the brand.
Ladder’s style guide is based around principles of clean and premium design, punchy copy, and bright color accents that catch the eye. All branding is done with an eye for impressing with premium features and optimizing for conversion.
Need high-powered performance branding for your business?
Global advertising spend is on track to grow 5.5% this year and reach $537b. A seemingly boring but stable industry; it has been a flat 1.29% of US GDP on average since the 1920s (yes, even through the “Mad Men” era). The US market, at 35% of the Global total, is more than three times larger than China; the next biggest market.
However like seemingly every other industry nowadays, it is undergoing enormous structural shifts with the emergence of the internet. Online advertising, which currently represents a quarter of the total, is growing fast at 16% per year. Newspaper and Magazine advertising continue to shrink by 1-2% per year.
To support this shift to digital ad spend, the marketing technology industry is also growing rapidly. As a $25b industry in 2014, it’s expected to grow 12.4% per year and reach $32b by 2018. Almost 4,000 tools are cataloged as part of the marketing technology landscape, up from 150 in 2011.
For the typical large enterprise averaging $500m in revenue, 11% of their annual earnings are invested as marketing budget, with roughly a third each devoted to technology, labour and external services (including both ad spend and third party agencies / consultants). In many cases, for example inbound marketing, marketers are circumventing ‘ad spend’ entirely; spending on ‘brand activation’ campaigns constitute another $560b industry, growing 5.5%.
With more advanced technology, comes greater transparency. In part the shift to digital comes from the increased ability to measure and optimize campaign performance. As programmatic technology improves, fraudulent behavior regarding viewability of ads is being cleaned up. The popularity of Internet of Things, Mobile Beacons and Machine Learning promise to usher in a new era of technological advancements in measurement, performance and automation.
Marketing technology vendors to date have largely been execution focused; offering the infrastructure to build, support and optimize marketing campaigns. Strategy is still largely done manually; senior marketers feeding educated guesses into spreadsheet models. Surprisingly, Microsoft Excel has a 76% share in media planning tech. Learning how to do strategy is also still a manual exercise; a combination of experience, on the job training, books, blogs and courses.
Vendors are typically either vertically integrated specialists (Optimizely, Bounce Exchange, Moz) or cross-channel platforms (Adobe, Hubspot, Salesforce). Both focus on selling technology to handle execution and rely on services, content or third-party vendors to cover strategy. Over 40% of Hubspot’s technology customers came via agency partners and professional services account for over 10% of revenue.
Rather than focusing on execution or specialising in a single channel or vertical, Ladder aims to tackle the higher-order task of automating the strategy layer across channels. The Ladder Planner is the first building block of an ecosystem that will eventually be able to automate your marketing plan, passing instructions to trusted 3rd-party platforms to execute. Although over 90% of Ladder’s revenue currently comes from professional services, it will continue to invest in growing the relative share of technology and partner revenue.
SOCO – (Single Overriding Communication Objective). i.e. the idea we want people to hear.
“You should test every aspect of your marketing to really learn what helps you grow.”
SOCA – (Single Overriding Communication Avoidance). i.e. the idea we want people to avoid.
“A big creative idea is what builds brands, not data-driven optimizations.”
Ladder’s SOCO / SOCA is what we want people to know about us. The point here is: is our copy, advertising, branding, design, and marketing telling the right story? Or are we betraying our own brand and making critical mistakes along the way.
We want potential clients to know that we are there to pull all growth levers until we find the right combination of channel, creative, and audience to help them reach their business goals.
We don’t want them to think that we’ll go for one big idea — marketing just doesn’t work that way, and neither does our test-driven, ROI-focused methodology.
You can find Ladder’s SWOT analysis, and a template to create your own, here:
For more information on SWOT analyses, go HERE.
You can find Ladder’s Lean Canvas, and a template to create your own, here:
For more information on the Lean Canvas, read this article by Ash Maurya.
Below is a definition of Ladder’s primary customer persona:
Our customer persona is all about who we want to target as our primary audience. In this persona, we talk about the goals and values of our ideal client — startup founder, wants to get to another funding round, wants to define their business and grow efficienly.
We talk about the pain points that we want to solve for them — testing channels, using a small budget effectively, finding traction before their business becomes unsustainable.
We talk about what defines our ideal client — the places they find their information — that shows that they are tech-savvy, intelligent, and eager to grow their business.
And we talk about what their objections might be so that we can be ready to face those objections.
Defining this profile is an important part to creating a smart marketing and sales flow, equally necessary in terms of cold outreach, advertising, content, and sales calls.
You can create your own customer persona with this template.
These are Ladder’s primary competitors across multiple different spaces. We split the chart into 4 different regions, focusing on platforms for general execution, platforms for strategic execution, specialist platforms for execution, and ones for strategy.
We fall in the marketing platforms for strategy — our tech-powered services and the Ladder Planner fall perfectly into this square. Our most direct competitors are Excel, an inefficient way to manage marketing tests, and Growth Hackers Projects, a marketing collaboration tool that focuses less on fully-managed execution and more on marketing teamwork.
Those are our most pressing challenging competitors, but every company on this chart is important to keep an eye on as a critical part of our industry. We work with some regularly (Unbounce, Optimizely, MailChimp, HubSpot) so they’re not as direct in terms of competition and instead offer partnership opportunities.
And finally, our elevator pitch. This is how we should be describing ourselves to strangers and our ideal target audience if we only have 30 seconds to make an impression. Every business needs to have a strong pitch, and this is a great start for us:
Ladder is a growth marketing agency using proprietary software and a data-driven process to launch and grow new businesses, testing every marketing channel and funnel stage. Unlike traditional agencies, who charge an hourly rate or percentage of ad spend, we charge a retainer fee for fully managed execution of a fixed number of marketing experiments every month.
And that’s Ladder’s full marketing strategy executive summary. This document is the backbone of our 2017 marketing plan — the focal point of Ladder’s past and future marketing efforts. As we continue publishing pieces of the plan, we’ll be referring back to this document regularly.
Hopefully, you’ve been able to properly follow along and create your own executive summary and are well on your way to developing your marketing strategy for the year.
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