You’ve launched a few paid acquisition channels and are now starting to see your first leads arriving. You might have even set up a drip campaign to convert those leads into paid subscriptions. Unbelievable!
But as you start to ramp up, having a growth marketing technology stack (which we’ll call a “growth stack” for the remainder of this column) becomes increasingly vital. Every startup with a successful growth program has taken this fundamental element into account as part of their overall strategy. They also had a good understanding and implementation of their growth stack.
So what is a growth stack? What are its components? How to put everything in place correctly without resources or heavy funds?
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Growth stack overview
A growth stack is the foundation of your growth marketing efforts – it basically ties everything together. While this is not an exhaustive list, the main components of a growth stack include:
- Customer Data Platform (CDP).
- Mobile Measurement Partner (MMP).
- Data storage.
- Business intelligence (BI) tool.
- Customer engagement tools.
- A / B testing / experimentation tools.
- Acquisition supports.
Think of these tools as the parts of a car, where the customer data platform acts like the engine and the other tools are the parts that connect to the engine. The Customer Data Platform (i.e. Segment) provides a foundation to aggregate data and federate it with other tools as needed.
A mobile measurement partner is only needed when running mobile app installation campaigns and is used as a tool to attribute paid acquisition efforts. Without going into the details of how they work, mobile measurement partners are needed to help mitigate ad partner fraud, establish last-click attribution windows, and give credit to winning channels.
Now that data is flowing between tools and channels, where is the data stored internally? This is usually the time when companies start looking for a data storage (Redshift, for example). However, I would like to debunk the myth that a data warehouse is necessary from the start, as business intelligence tools (like Amplitude) have become very robust and can easily replace the function of a data warehouse.
In short, a data warehouse is used to combine data from many sources, track historical changes in data, and provide a single source of truth. But for a lean startup, all of this can initially be accomplished with the use of a business intelligence tool.
Now here are the fun tools for your growth stack – or, to continue our analogy, modifications to your car. Customer engagement, A / B testing / experimentation tools, and all of your acquisition media are the things that help you drive top-of-the-funnel growth, optimize the funnel, and engage with customers to push them towards conversion.
Why the growth stacks?
If the answer isn’t yet clear on why a growth stack is crucial for your startup, we can summarize the top three reasons for implementing one:
- Source of truth.
- Clear attribution.
- Actionable data.
Suppose you are five months into your startup and have proven that there is a fit between the product and the market. You are now scaling various acquisition media, including paid, influencers, and lifecycle.
Meanwhile, there is also extensive testing and iterations on the running User Funnel. Seems very typical of a ladder mode startup, with various tests and optimizations going on. This can be done slowly and incorrectly or, using a growth stack, quickly and accurately.
Instead of relying on ad dashboard data, which often lacks precision, a growth stack helps provide a single source of truth for all sources of growth. This inherently increases the reliability of attribution and enables the use of more precise and actionable data. Nothing beats taking a few minutes to pull that data into a single dashboard, which leads to increased optimizations.
Test speed with and without growth stack. Image credits: Jonathan martinez
Implement a growth stack
There is no structured or one-size-fits-all method for implementing a growth stack; every startup has unique needs. The top three components to prioritize early on should include a customer data platform, a business intelligence tool, and a mobile measurement partner. These elements will help you build your growth base while allowing you to properly track and optimize incoming traffic.
In this simplified representation of a lean growth stack, there is a customer data platform, a business intelligence tool, and a mobile measurement partner. Paid channels and the lifecycle platform are acquisition media, which send data back to the centralized customer data platform. As the customer data platform receives data, it federates it to the business intelligence tool for visualization.
If your startup is still in its early stages and testing its suitability for the product market, you may not need a growth stack. In this case, launching acquisition media is sufficient. After identifying if there is potential, preparing to implement a Lean Growth Stack will become key.
Leveraging a growth stack
So you have your growth stack all set up. Now what?
The power of this implementation is now unlocked and you can start performing powerful analyzes that can help provide actionable insights for optimizations. Think cohort modeling (real vs. cohort), retention graphs, in-depth funnel analyzes, identifying user-level behaviors, cross-channel attribution and more.
With a business intelligence tool, setting up a dashboard with various visualizations is one of the most beautiful ways to leverage your data. Wake up to a centralized dashboard with daily traffic reports by channel, funnel conversion rates, conversions by state and countless other options.
The ability to act on data quickly becomes a cinch, rather than painfully slow, when extracting and analyzing from different sources. Having one source of truth for all sources of growth will also keep everything at parity, which becomes important when comparing performance between sources.
So it’s crucial to implement a growth stack early on to accelerate optimizations. Those who do will eventually reap the rewards.