How to Identify Smoke, Mirrors and BS in a Growth Driven Digital Marketing Stack

Jen Saunders
Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you are like most mid-size businesses stuck in a stagnant growth pattern, or you may find yourself growing at a craw’s pace without hitting your revenue targets, then you might have already heard the buzz around digital marketing growth stacks offered by top agencies that focus on providing custom solutions for organizations.

A business growth stack is a set of tools and strategies that work together to achieve specific goals. Many businesses find themselves using SEO or paid services to acquire clients, and while these services may work they rarely lead to hitting high-revenue targets without additional strategies and technology pieces. This is why being able to smell the BS in a growth stack is vital for your bottom line. Just because a digital marketing agency slaps a bunch of services together and calls it s growth stack does not mean it is designed to generate business growth. Here are some considerations when vetting business growth stacks to help you see past the smoke and mirrors that obscure red flags.

business growth stack

How Well do You Feel they REALLY Understand Your Business?

According to HubSpot’s 2018 report on marketing agency growth, 60% of marketing agencies struggle to acquire new clients while 23% fail to meet client goals and expectations. The latter is more than double for non-HubSpot partner agencies.

In order to engineer the perfect business growth stack, agencies MUST dig deep into an organization’s sales and current marketing to understand where the true pain points are, what indeed a healthy ROI looks like, and the tools and strategies needed to create the perfect solution. If the agency you are vetting shoves their portfolio in your face and talks about things like organic ranking and PPC campaigns as catalyst for growth, the are peddling BS and are trying to distract you with smoke and mirrors.

If an agency starts asking specific questions about your marketing goals, sales goals, and deeper questions to understand your current marketing and sales process, then they are truly backing their process with an understanding of your business. Questions like these dictate the mechanism and making of a solid growth stack:

  • Do you have a service level agreement between your marketing and sales?
  • What is the average sale revenue?
  • What is your customer acquisition cost?
  • What is your current conversion rate?
  • What is a customer’s lifetime value?
  • How many monthly / annual sales do you need to make to justify a ROI on marketing, and who set these numbers?
  • What is the ratio of customer lifetime value to acquisition cost?
  • How many deals are generated by marketing?
  • What marketing metrics do you currently track?
  • What kinds of marketing tools / technology do you use?
  • How long is an average sales cycle?
  • What does your sales process look like?
  • What are the most useful pieces of content in your sales / marketing?

These questions only make up a fraction of those required for a marketing agency to really see the framework for an organization’s current sales and marketing. When marketing agencies get down into the weeds they can understand the pain points, goals and numbers that a growth stack must generate.

marketing stack

How does the Digital Marketing Agency Understand Your Buyers?

Most agencies create marketing strategies build on assumptions, suppositions and habits. Few really take the time to understand their client’s buyer personas and how people digest industry specific content. Here is a classic example:

Marlboro Cigarettes used to market specifically to women. Past ads saw stunning women dangling product between their fingers while kissing photographs of military officers with copy reading “Ivory tips protect the lips”. Then in 1953 the company’s profits plummeted after new information on smoking’s relationship to lung cancer came out. Smoking went from being a thing synonymous with glamorous women, to something that “good wives and mothers” simply don’t do. Philip Morris got a new marketing agency who, after carefully researching the industry, how various demographics consume medical warnings related to cigarettes, and the company’s buyer personas decided on a shift from targeting women to men using images of “cowboys” with the famous ad copy, “You get a lot to like”. The company’s revenue exploded and Marlboro quickly became the top seller in its space.

Understanding buyers means you never make assumptions. It also means that if something in the industry shifts, all pieces need to be analyzed and carefully considered as opposed to jumping to embracing quick-win solutions. Avoid a set of strategies and tools slapped together by some marketing team that failed to dive deep into your buyer personas. Understanding how buyers process information, engage with brands, and what their pain points are will not only lead to a growth stack free from BS; it will allow marketers to do market forecasting and other advanced services that help maintain campaign health.

custom marketing stacks

Does the Digital Marketing Stack Have the Right Technology, Scaled?

According to a marketing technology strategy survey conducted by Ascend, only 9 percent of marketers have all the marketing technology they need to provide services that truly capitalize on all the opportunities for client growth. The survey also says that 59 percent of marketing agencies don’t fully utilize the marketing technology they do have.

Then there are agencies that go out and invest in solutions for each required task or service. These groups often focus on tactical buying with the goal to cover gaps. But what happens is they are left with improper capabilities and no strategy. While a good growth stack will maximize functionality, it should keep platforms at a minimal. This means finding a single CMS with multiple tools included (such as automation and social listening, for example) is more efficient than finding multiple tools that do one thing. Not only is a scaled toolset that covers all your needs more cost efficient, it also offers a better user experience and requires less time in managing, execution, and analyzing. Eliminating a large number of tools also reduces the chance for time-consuming technology integration problems.

The phrase “whoever has the most toys wins” does not apply here; this is a smoke and mirrors tactic shading the stark reality that marketers who embrace this philosophy when piecing together a growth stack are lacking in strategy, let alone common sense. Here, less is more so long as ALL needs are met through robust solutions.

Marketing technologies

How do the Growth Stack Components Work Together?

One sure way to sniff the BS in a growth stack is when the agency doesn’t do any research, discovery and planning to engineer a synergistic backbone so that ALL components of the growth stack work together to achieve the same goal. When business growth agencies fail to offer stacks that have moving parts working in unison, they are simply offering various services and NOT a true growth stack–a massive smoke and mirror show hiding the fact they are simply shoveling multiple services into a heap of BS. Demand to know how each part works with another to hit revenue-goals and any other desired outcome.

Was this Article on Growth Driven Marketing Stacks Helpful?

If so, we invite you to download our FREE guide on the WEBITMD Growth Stack. We believe you deserve a level of service no other agency is providing, and we would love to show you why we are so confident in our ability to make your business the focal point of your industry. Learn how our Growth Stack can be your secret weapon to hitting high-revenue goals by targeting THE RIGHT BUYERS, at the right time. Got questions? Give us a call and, together, let’s see if you are a fit for a custom business growth stack!
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