Building a Growth Engine, Part 1: Awareness

As a business owner or startup founder, you know firsthand how important it is to grow a loyal and active customer base. The pressure to go from zero to self-sustaining is enormous, especially if you’re a small enterprise starting with a modest marketing budget. Fast growth is the buoy that will keep your business afloat, and amassing that critical customer base is what growth hacking (or growth marketing) is all about.

In this six-part series, we’ll break down the individual components of the growth hacking framework: awareness, acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and revenue. This is often referred to as the Pirate Funnel, because the first letters spell out AAARRR.
The first part of the customer journey will not be a surprise to anyone with marketing experience: awareness. Simply put, in order to obtain customers, they have to know you exist, and the more people in your target demographic who know about your existence, the better. In the digital world, this almost always happens via page visits, where potential visitors stop by your website or social media accounts and have a look at your products and services.
This is probably the easiest part of the funnel to understand, not only because it’s part of the traditional marketing process, but also because it makes intuitive sense. To draw a brick-and-mortar analogy, it follows logically that in order for people to make a purchase in your shop, first they have to come inside and see what you have to offer.
Promoting your business, therefore, is the key to this first step. It’s all about getting your name out there and building curiosity so that people want to visit you. For most marketers, paid advertising is probably the first pathway that comes to mind, and although that can certainly be an effective strategy, it’s not the only one. This is good news if you’re on a tight budget – you can try any number of these things in parallel to help develop awareness:
  • Being active on your own social media accounts;
  • Engaging on social media with others in complementary niches;
  • Creating valuable blog content (on your own blog or through guest blogging) that people will want to share;
  • Hosting giveaways or running contests to entice participants;
  • Sending your product or offering your service to influencers who can post reviews online;
  • Starting a podcast or running a webinar series;
  • Writing downloadable whitepapers or ebooks to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.
You can also come up with your own ideas for free or low-cost promotion – getting creative with this step can lead to great things.
A good strategist will not put all the marketing eggs in one basket – the key is to diversify your approach, try a few things, and measure responses to see what is working and what isn’t. Then you can adjust your strategy, drop some things that aren’t working and add some new ones, and try again. The aim is to balance assertive persistence with engaging appeal – you want to make sure people know about you, but not pester them to the point of annoyance. It’s all about finding that sweet spot in the middle.
Next time, in part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss the second section of the AAARRR funnel: acquisition.
Cogo Interactive is an award-winning digital marketing agency specializing in online marketing strategy, web design, SEO and social media marketing. We work with clients in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC and across the nation.