How to Fix a Failing Growth Strategy

Follow these steps to jumpstart growth

Happy Saturday to every unicorn in the galaxy.

I was recently reviewing a company’s growth strategy and realized:

“This strategy is broken.”

The truth is…

Many startup founders and marketers find themselves doing a lot of “stuff”, but struggling to achieve meaningful results.

So, how do you shift from doing to getting results?

Today’s growth strategy is: how to diagnose and fix a failed growth strategy

Growth stage: Any

Difficulty level: Medium


“You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”

If you’re not achieving the goals you’ve set out for yourself, there’s probably a flaw with your approach.

Matt Gray is a brilliant entrepreneur and master of business systems.

I read his content nearly every day and have learned how to balance my “head-in-the-clouds” tendencies with systems that position me for success.

I highly recommend Matt’s newsletter, Founder OS, for anyone that wants proven systems to increase your odds of success.

Is Your Growth Strategy Broken?

If you’ve properly defined your goals, it should be obvious if your growth strategy isn’t working.

Sadly though, some people don’t have a clear vision of what success looks like.

So they fill their marketing plans with everything but the kitchen sink.

There’s a lot of DOING and an impressive list of ACTIVITIES.

But a lack of accountability around the RESULTS.

Personally I want the most results for the least amount of effort. 

The alternative is burning energy but not making the impact you need.

Let’s walk through 9 questions to diagnose and fix your growth strategy:

How to Fix Your Startup Growth Strategy

1 - Is this something people want?

If you don’t have product-market fit, then trying to scale revenue may be premature.

You’ll be fighting an uphill battle and will likely need to burn through VC dollars to generate unprofitable growth while you figure out how to make something people want.

Get the product semi-right first.

Good enough to be useful.

2 - Is your tracking working properly?

This seems like a dumb question but companies often don’t have the right setup to know whether their campaigns are working or not.

Event tracking throughout the funnel is critical to understand where your weakest points are.

If there’s a hole in your attribution then you’ll be left speculating on what’s going wrong where.

3 - Do you have proper KPIs, and do they make sense?

If you’re trying to increase revenue, you should have revenue-based goals.

Upper funnel metrics are useful for diagnosing dropoffs but can be misleading.

No one cares if your CTR is 2x average if you’re not generating sales.

Worst of all is you don’t have a clear goal because you don’t know what actually generates sales.

If you don’t have a proper goal, using either revenue or active users is probably a great place to start.

Everything else is vanity.

For example, suppose you hire an SEO guy and he’s doubled your traffic. If that traffic isn’t generating more sales proportionally, then the traffic goal is misguiding your efforts.

4 - Are the right people working on this?

A lot of marketers are good bullshitters.

“Growth hacker” is a made-up title and you don’t need a degree or certifications to go far in this industry.

Some folks are good at talking about stuff but not good at making stuff happen.

It’s possible to look really busy doing things that don’t generate new customers or revenue.

If someone’s updates are activity-focused rather than outcome-focused, dig deeper. I’ve gotten fooled before by busy people getting little done.

5 - Do your pricing and positioning make sense?

Hopefully you’ve conducted some competitor research and have a good sense of what’s already working in your industry.

It can be easier to get something derivative working and iterate your way to awesome.

If you’re struggling to get conversions at a reasonable price, imitating competitors to establish a baseline can be helpful.

The alternative is to come up with unique positions that may be binary, success-wise.

One out of one-hundred might be home runs, but you’ll have to wade through dozens of losing experiments to find them.

I prefer to establish a baseline of conversions by using industry conventions and then improving on them.

6 - Are you using the right words?

Marketers should speak the customers’ language.

Using the words customers use to describe their problems and solutions is imperative.

It’s common to have a good product but describe it in the wrong way.

The easiest way to avoid this is to spend a lot of time listening to customers, or reading their comments online.

If you’re entering an existing market, the good news is there will be plenty of user feedback available for competing products and services that you can use to a) identify the key pain points and b) learn which phrases come up most often to describe them.

Search for “[product] reviews” or “[product] complaints.

ChatGPT is also great for surfacing common pain points.

7 - Are you advertising in the right places?

I once launched an offer back in the day on Google Display Network because it was cheaper than Google Search. If you know anything about GDN, it’s a morass of low quality sites with some decent ones mixed in here and there.

A wiser marketer suggested I use Google Search as a proper test of intent, because I could more easily target consumers with the highest intent to see if my offer resonated.

What I realized was, at that stage of the business, it didn’t matter whether my campaign was profitable.

I was trying to validate whether my offer appealed to in-market consumers.

It made sense to spend the money to get in front of them, rather than wonder if it was the offer or the traffic quality causing low performance.

8 - Do customers like your product or service?

If customers are converting but not sticking around or becoming repeat customers, you may have a product problem.

This isn’t a terrible thing, necessarily.

It means you’ve validated a need in an existing market…

You’re just not doing a good enough job of serving that need.

So you need to improve your product.

Start by analyzing customer feedback and identifying common complaints.

9 - What IS working?

This is the Pareto simplifier.

If anything is working, use it as your beacon.

If you get an ad with 2x CTR but your conversion rate drops in half, you’re making the same amount of money.

Figure out why that ad is getting more attention but fewer sales, and apply that tactic to a more intent-driven approach.

11 Quick Tips to Revive Your Growth Strategy

  1. Revisit your goals: Are your objectives still relevant and achievable?

  2. Analyze your metrics: Use data to understand what's working and what’s not.

  3. Talk to your customers: They're your best source of insights. Find out what they like, what they don't, and what they wish you'd do differently.

  4. Know your competition: Understand who your competitors are and what they're doing.

  5. Understand market trends: Keep up to date with industry trends and changes. Can you adapt your strategy to better align with these trends?

  6. Test more: Use A/B testing or other methods to try out different strategies and see what works best.

  7. Optimize your product: Is there something about your product or service that could be improved? Try it.

  8. Strengthen your value proposition: Make sure it’s clear why customers should choose you over your competitors.

  9. Evaluate Your Channels: Are you using the most effective marketing channels for your target audience?

  10. Leverage Networking: Connect with other entrepreneurs, mentors, or advisors who can provide fresh perspectives and advice.

  11. Be willing to pivot: Don’t be afraid to make a big change if it’s necessary. Sometimes a pivot can save a business.

✨ That’s it for today!

I hope this helps you in your growth journey.


PS - here’s a cool shortcut for getting better ChatGPT prompt results, faster.

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