Focus on customer lifetime value

Forget flashy ads and vanity metrics. 2024 is all about strategic growth marketing focused on building real customer loyalty.

Leading brands know the most valuable customers aren’t one-time buyers, but passionate fans who provide recurring revenue. 

Here’s how to structure marketing experiments that move users through the AARRR funnel, from acquisition to revenue and beyond.

What is growth marketing?

Growth marketing is a type of marketing aimed at growing and scaling a business through customer loyalty and advocacy.

Unlike traditional marketing, it is less focused on gaining new customers in the short term and more on getting the right customers and ensuring their allegiance to your brand in the long term. 

Successful growth marketers deeply understand their buyers and how they move through their entire customer lifecycle from brand awareness to purchase, repurchase, and referral.

These marketers then combine customer data and market insights to create an ideal consumer profile and experiment with creative concepts on the favorite channels of their most passionate fans.

Growth marketing vs. traditional marketing: AARRR framework

Venture capitalist Dave McClure’s AARRR framework (a.k.a., Pirate Metrics) is the most popular growth marketing framework. 

McClure saw many of the startups he worked with placing too much emphasis on vanity metrics without recognizing which metrics were actually indicative of business growth. 

His philosophy? Your most loyal customers (and the users they refer) provide better ROI than any other marketing channel. 

His AARRR framework extends the traditional marketing funnel past a user’s relationship with a product they buy and into their lifetime relationship with the brand they buy it from.

The steps in the AARRR growth marketing funnel are as follows:

  • Acquisition: User becomes aware of brand.
  • Activation: User experiences product or service.
  • Retention: User loves experience; returns for more.
  • Referral: User recommends brand to friends/family.
  • Revenue: User becomes a reliable source of recurring revenue.

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Growth marketing in 2024: Getting started

Because growth marketing is about keeping your most reliable customers engaged and excited to recommend your brand to their friends, you’ll first want to define who those customers are (or who they’re most likely to be) and what specific brand value or product quality keeps them coming back. 

Use last year’s data to define your ideal customer

Review your 2023 performance. Look for trends and similarities among repeat users, and use this data to define or redefine your buyer personas. Some places to look:

Demographic data from ad campaigns

  • User journeys and interests are constantly evolving. In some industries, the journeys evolve more rapidly than in others. 
  • Your super fans of today may be the same fans you had 20 years ago, but those fans may be 20 years older now.
  • If you take a closer look at your demographic data and the results come as a surprise, you’ll need to ask yourself two questions:
    • How do I shift my marketing strategy to continue resonating with my current audience for years to come?
    • If my marketing is no longer resonating with people in this demographic, then how can I modernize my message to reach this new younger audience? 

Purchase trends, for good and for bad

  • Do your most loyal users have similar shopping experiences? Do they buy similar products in a similar order along a similar timeline? 
  • If you can spot a chronological relationship between user purchases, you can use sequential remarketing to increase brand loyalty among users most likely to engage in that purchasing behavior. 
  • On the other hand, if you identify a decrease in brand loyalty after your repeat customers purchase a specific product or service, you should ask for their feedback and be willing to address their concerns directly in both private and public forums. 
  • Social media and email can be great marketing channels for making customers feel heard while poking a little bit of fun at your brand (if humor is part of your brand voice).

NPS survey results

  • Do any products or services stand out as obvious fan favorites? If so, ask yourself how you can best leverage those products in your growth marketing efforts. 
  • Are several customers raising the same complaint? Use this feedback to reexamine your user experience, customer service, and product roadmap to identify opportunities for improvement. 
  • Make responding to user feedback and pain points part of your content marketing strategy.

Dig deeper: How to create and execute a buyer journey-based content strategy

Define your North Star metric

Your North Star metric is a single metric that best captures the core value your product delivers to customers. It should be:

  • Measurable.
  • A long-term goal that won’t change within a year.
  • Within your control and not dependent on outside variables.
  • A direct contributor to your company’s overall vision, mission or strategy.
  • Aligned with your product or brand’s core value proposition.

Some examples from successful companies:

Any KPIs you use to test the hypothesis of a growth marketing experiment should ladder up to your NSM. 

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Growth marketing experiments to try in 2024

Acquisition: Cross-platform lead generation content marketing

Question: How do I attract the most ideal customers?

Find out where your ideal customers hang out and what types of content are most likely to bring them to your brand with a cross-platform lead generation content marketing experiment.

Some suggested variables to test:

  • Format: How-to guides, ebooks, webinars, videos, industry reports, whitepapers, case studies, surveys and quizzes, and problem-solving templates.
  • Tactic: Lead magnets, promos, contests, giveaways, challenges, influencer partnerships.
  • CTA: Sign up, subscribe, join the club, try free, create your free account.

The key is to start testing a single variable across all available platforms and refine your strategy based on which formats/tactics/CTAs perform best on each platform.

Potential KPIs: Conversions by source/medium, conversions by landing page, MQL to SQL conversion rate

Activation: Conversion rate optimization

Question: How can I improve the customer experience?

Before improving your customer experience, you must identify where customers drop off.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of making intentional changes to your customer experience to determine if those changes improve conversion rates. 

Here are a few ways to declutter and enhance the customer journey:

  • Adding clear product benefits to your hero section copy.
  • Reducing steps to purchase.
  • Reducing or reformatting form fields.
  • Removing unnecessary buttons, links, or popups.

You’ll also want to reassess your onboarding workflow. If users are creating accounts or signing up for trials but aren’t turning into paying customers, look for opportunities to share instructional content that will encourage them to use your product. 

Potential KPIs: customer acquisition cost (CAC), abandonment rate by page

Retention: Reengagement campaigns

Question: How do I entice my customers to keep coming back?

How do you break through the massive sea of marketing noise flooding the average user’s inbox, reading list, social media feed, and search results?

Unsurprisingly, retention is one of the most challenging parts of any business development strategy. At this stage of the growth marketing funnel, you should test different customer re-engagement methods to see which tactics are most likely to remind users why they love your brand.

Some suggestions to try: 

  • Personalized offers based on purchase history.
  • Time-sensitive promos.
  • Emails with new product or feature updates since the user’s last engagement.
  • Remarketing ads.

While the “hate to see you go” email has become a popular re-engagement marketing tactic, you can stand out and glean valuable customer insight by adding a short customer feedback survey to yours.

If someone had a poor experience with your brand, you may not win them back, but you may be able to use their feedback to improve your customer experience for future users.

Potential KPIs: click-through rate (CTR), customer retention rate (CRR), re-engagement rate

Referral: Turn your superfans into influencers

Question: How can I incentivize my loyal customers to refer their friends?

Referral programs take time to pick up steam. While working with influencers is one way to build awareness and highlight your referral incentives, your current fan base might be more than happy to get the ball rolling. 

Ask your customers to share their experience with family and friends in exchange for perks like:

  • Discount codes for new and referring users.
  • Commission-based incentives from affiliate links.
  • Upgraded service or gifts in exchange for testimonials or reviews.

Potential KPIs: customer referrals, social listening metrics (how many users mention your brand or share your content on social media?)

Revenue: Build a customer loyalty program

Question: How can I increase customer lifetime value?

Loyalty programs tell your fans you see them, hear them, and appreciate their relationship with your brand. The key to a successful loyalty program is getting your customers excited about the incentives.

How you structure your loyalty program will vary based on your industry and the purchasing behavior of your ideal customers. 

Some popular loyalty program frameworks: 

  • Punch card loyalty programs: Punch card loyalty programs used to be associated with physical stores, but that’s no longer true. Ecommerce stores can get creative with virtual options.
  • Points-based loyalty programs: Points-based loyalty programs assign points to dollars spent. Points can then be exchanged for discounts, cash back, or other perks.
  • Tiered loyalty programs: Tiered loyalty programs can be either subscription-based or based on dollars spent. Tiered programs offer extra perks for as long as a user remains in a given tier.

Potential KPIs: customer lifetime value (CLV), monthly/annual recurring revenue (MRR/ARR)

Is your marketing strategy ready for 2024?

If 2023 was any indication of the future, 2024 will be a year of widespread experimentation for marketers.

Plan ahead, and your experiments might uncover new opportunities for you and your team!

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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