What is Adaptive Growth? 3 key elements to help you thrive
Business Planning
Marketing Experiments

What is Adaptive Growth? 3 key elements to help you thrive

Tomek DudaTomek Duda

July 15, 2021

In this piece, you will learn what falls into the Adaptive Growth approach.

  • The audit to give you an understanding of where you are now.
  • The data-driven mentality to ensure you gain more and more understanding of your users’ behavior and winning test variations.
  • Funnel mapping and analysis to be able to map out different channels and assess where to focus your efforts.
one does not simply grow without an audit

The Audit

The Adaptive Growth approach starts with a marketing audit phase. In order to know which direction to follow, you must assess either the previous data, if there were any, or industry benchmarks along with competitor analysis.

The audit won’t make much sense unless you know what is the growth objective of your company. These are very likely to vary depending on the company stage and industry you are in. For B2B this would be calls booked with sales, for eCommerce number of purchases, for SaaS the number of trials started, for a mobile app the number of users registered. 

It is key to know where we are heading before embarking on the journey called growth, first find out what to invest in because it carries the highest opportunity for growth compared to the cost and time necessary to carry it out. In other words, Adaptive Growth requires of you to be able to tell where to focus – whether it comes to funnel stages, channels or team expertise. This knowledge will come from the audit.

The audit should aim to encompass these 4 areas:

  • Is the data that you have been gathering is true, has been tracked properly and if there are any micro or macro conversions you need to start measuring, if the data is rubbish then there is no point in spending time analyzing it because the conclusions are unlikely to be true,
  • What has been done before, what worked and what didn’t, what should we maintain, optimize, grow and what should we stop,
  • What are we doing now, are there some ongoing projects, what results are they supposed to bring, how impactful are they on the KPI we are working on,
  • What is the plan for the future, the actual audit outcome, where should we focus, double down, which channels should we focus 80% of the resources on to maintain growth from them and where should we devote 20% to test new ideas?
Growth/Marketing Funnel Blueprint

Audit findings can be divided into 3 buckets:

  • Low hanging fruit, things that we should prioritize because they are very likely to bring growth very soon. Things like quick fixes in campaigns, brand defense campaigns on Google Ads, Lookalike audiences on Facebook ads, implementing CRO good practices on the website, fixing title tags on the blog, or many other things, which you can find in our playbook. 
  • Long term strategy, which are the most promising channels that should be the key focus and what are the potential new areas we should experiment around. I would even go as far as the Pareto principle – 80% on what works to optimize and scale it, while 20% on new ideas and experimentation. At Ladder the biggest potential is in content (hence me writing this), PPC, and Email campaigns, but we are exploring tools that will help us generate more leads. 
  • Lessons learned, what was the reason behind the growth or failures that we see in the data. What did we learn about our users, what sort of targeting, messaging, creative, landing pages, email sequences have worked well or badly. What does it tell us about the areas in which we should dig deeper around? This helps build up personas. 
be data driven instead of following opinions

Be data-driven

Ever since the inception of Ladder, we have been preaching data-driven marketing. Adaptive Growth is no different, if there is no data behind your opinion, then it is just your belief. That’s why we always support our hypotheses with numbers and make sure that our tests are measurable. 

This mentality should be present in your team from day one. It will save you a lot of time and effort in doing things that you can’t measure. Forcing your team to brainstorm ways in which they can measure their ideas will over time teach them to automatically discard ideas that can’t be tracked and focus on what is. 

This leads me to the next point – testing. Being data-driven is key here. Testing is the best way to improve your marketing. It can be done at every single stage of the funnel, across almost every channel (even on sales calls – like testing new scripts). You have no way of knowing what will work with 100% confidence. You may have a strong opinion but without data, you won’t be able to tell if it was version A or B. The tests will fuel your funnel performance and give you new ideas on where to divert your focus. Then you should adapt your growth to these conditions in order to thrive.

The data-driven culture is a prerequisite to building a testing culture. There is a saying, a website is never ready, there is always a better version possible which can increase the conversion rate. That’s why you should keep testing. From our experience testing is the best way to keep your marketing getting better all the time. The more tests you run, the higher the chance of finding the ones that will bring exponential growth. These tests may vary across websites, landing pages, campaign optimization goals, targeting, ad copy, ad creative, ad types, email subjects, email body, and many others. 

Full-funnel approach

How to do full-funnel testing? This exercise requires some prerequisites from you. You need to map out your funnel and what conversions take place between one stage and the other. There needs to be proper tracking to check what is the conversion rate from the stage to the other. On top of that, it would be best if you can segment traffic per original source in order to see how deep does traffic form each source goes into the funnel. 

multi channel funnel

Having that mapped out, it should become apparent to you where the biggest opportunity for you to invest in is. Which funnel stage is sticking out compared to others? The Adaptive Growth approach really shines here. The next step here is to brainstorm tactics that will improve these numbers, prioritizing them, and executing them. Based on which stage of the funnel you should focus on, you should assess which channels and what team capabilities are essential to executing on them.

What if there is no apparent worst stage of the funnel? Then its good to check out industry benchmarks and rate your numbers against those. Wordstream has published its research around conversion rates across different channels and industries. Based on that, check which of your funnel conversion rates are the furthest from the benchmark and then prioritize it.

There are some good practices that should be kept when experimenting across the funnel. The biggest and most important one is running tests that do not collide with one another. Having too many tests around the same elements would cause the data to be impaired and useless. For example, testing a header of a website and an element in the middle section, these are 2 variables and should be tested separately. Otherwise, you end up with 4 variations instead of 4 and the test will need much more data to conclude. You can calculate how long such tests should take with an experiment calculator.

Another good practice is to have tests run parallel to one another across different funnel stages. This way when I am testing different audiences. I can also test different ad creatives and landing pages and even email workflows. They are not going to interfere with one another and by running multiple separate tests, you are able to move faster.

This is part 2 of 4 in a series entirely dedicated to Adaptive Growth, a system that facilitates the approach to growth. The first part was focusing on the Adaptive Growth Foundations.

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