How to identify the best channels for your next growth marketing campaign

This is the third in a series of articles on growth hacking, which I’m going deep into with a minidegree in Growth Marketing from the CXL Institute. Read more: What is growth hacking? | How to run a successful growth marketing experiment in six steps


Growth marketing requires a nuanced understanding of which channels are ideally suited for each campaign. Just picking the channels you used last time — or the ones that your competitors use — won’t cut it. You’re basically setting yourself up for failure if you don’t adequately align your channel strategy with the overall objective of the campaign.

To put yourself in a position to succeed, follow these four steps when identifying the best channels when planning your next growth marketing campaign.

Step 1: Specify a segment

If you set up your growth marketing campaign correctly, you have a clearly defined objective. Everything you do should be filtered through this objective; most especially, it should frame your approach regarding your target audience.

Let’s say your objective is to increase signups for the freemium version of your SaaS product. Your hypothesis is that your ideal users spend a lot of time on Twitter and you want to test if that’s the case.

This is where user research comes in handy. You need to know who you’re speaking with so that you can build your campaigns around a specific segment — and target the channels that this segment uses the most.

When specifying a segment, you can build it according to a few key criteria. Whether you select only one or build a blend that reflects your current marketing priorities is up to you.

Demographics: Who they are

  • Age
  • Income
  • Marital status
  • Family size
  • Job role
  • Ethnicity
  • Education

Geographic: Where they are

  • City
  • Country
  • ZIP Code/Postal Code
  • Geo-fenced

Psychographic: Why they buy and what shapes their personality and unique worldview

  • Personal beliefs, principles and opinions
  • Intrinsic motivations
  • Individual personality and temperament
  • Personal priorities
  • Activities and interests
  • Attitudes
  • Social class

Behavioral: How they buy and how they engage with your brand/the world around them

  • How often they browse
  • Where they buy
  • How much they spend
  • How often they purchase
  • How often they return to your website/store
  • Which aspects of your product/service they value most
  • Any other data on individual patterns and behaviors

You don’t just have to pick one of these as you segment your audiences. In fact, it’s often a blend that creates the types of precise segments that lead to the most valuable growth marketing wins. The better you are at segmenting down to your most “perfect” users, the stronger your focus will be when finding the channels those people frequent most.

Step 2: Choose one channel

The broader your campaign, the less valuable the insights can be. It’s much more insightful to segment your audience and pick a single channel to test.

You don’t want to test multiple channels at once because you are really trying to find the top 1 to 2 channels to focus on. There’s only so much time in a day. Its the growth marketer’s job is to find the channels that return the most results with the least amount of investment. That includes time — unless you have a large team, you don’t have enough of that resource to focus on many channels at once!

To identify these channels, take everything you know about your best users and find where those people hang out online (and offline too, if that’s part of your brand marketing plan).

As you research, don’t just observe. Dive in, create an account, Invest some time engaging on those channels where you can find your ideal users. It will be much easier to build credibility and competitive insights when you engage up close rather than observe from a distance.

Remember that the goal is to test whether or not your target segment a sense a lot of time on this channel and be as responsive to your brand!

Step 3: Test it out

Before you commit major resources to a growth marketing campaign on a certain channel, do a few small tests. Don’t invest a ton of time or money. Only invest as much as you need to deepen your understanding and see if your target audience is present and engaged on this channel.

A few questions to explore:

  • Is there a specific way that your audience speaks on this channel?
  • How does your target segment behave on this channel? What do they use it for?
  • How often do they use it? Are there peak times of engagement?
  • Are there any pockets of engagement that may be under targeted by other brands (potential low-cost growth hacking opportunities)?

Step 4: Measure results

There are two outcomes to each test: iterate and optimize when a channel shows promise or retest and move on when a channel underdelivers.

If the channel underdelivers on expectations then you need to determine if it’s just with that specific audience. As in: the channel is still a good one for your business but it’s not the right one for your chosen segment. To determine a channel’s overall viability, run another test. Circle back to the first step, select a new segment and run the test again. You may have simply had a channel/audience mismatch.

When a channel shows promise — as in, initial tests were positive — you double down on that channel by iterating your experiments and optimizing how you use that channel.

Successful channel tests also help you catalyze your learnings into muscle memory. As you start to understand how your target audience is you specific channels, you simply get better at using those channels. So this is an additive and always improving process.

And that’s growth marketing: making many small tests and rapidly iterating based on what you learned from each test. Your knowledge builds with time and improvements compound to make growth marketing an exponential engine for your company’s growth.

What is growth hacking? Hint: It’s not brand marketing

Growth vs brand marketing

This is the first in a series of articles on the theme of growth hacking, which is top-of-mind as I’m doing a mini-degree program in Growth Hacking from the CXL Institute. To kick off the series, here are a few key points about what growth marketing is and what it isn’t.

#1: Growth isn’t brand marketing

For me, as a brand marketer, it’s helpful to contrast growth marketing with brand marketing. The comparison offers clarity around how growth marketing fits into the bigger picture of building a valuable, venerable brand.

I’ve always been a brand guy. In my decade-plus career as an entrepreneur and employee working in both startups and Fortune 500 companies, brand has always been top-of-mind. A great brand tells a story; it suggests a narrative and sets the parameters for how a customer feels about — and engages with — a company. A good brand stands for something, be it a heritage, a promise for the future, an aspiration or some other trait. A great brand stands the test of time by attracting passionate devotees.

Brand is also what makes marketing either easy or hard. It’s a brand marketer’s dream to have a good brand that translates seamlessly into creative marketing that attracts your target audiences effortlessly.

That’s the objective of brand marketing: building awareness about a brand by doing traditional marketing campaigns. These campaigns are usually run over longer periods, have larger budgets and are “one to many.” You build the campaign and invest time and money upfront. You put all of your chips on the table and then only see if the campaign worked after you’ve invested all those resources. It’s risky and there are few guarantees.

That’s because growth marketing, on the other hand, is a series of “educated guess” experiments in which you test a specific hypothesis. You take what you know about your customers and your channel-specific knowledge, and then run experiments. Growth also prioritizes personalization. The better you know your customers, the more accurately you can segment them and run specific experiments. See next point.

#2: Growth is experimentation

The key to growth is experimentation. The best growth marketers know that they know nothing. They work carefully to not let preconceived notions or other unproven assumptions affect how they run experiments. Instead, let the data speak for itself.

Each experiment starts with a hypothesis, which is backed by a central observation or datapoint that gives some indication that this hypothesis may be true. For instance, the hypothesis could be that offering a discount to unengaged email subscribers will re-engage them because our customers are motivated by discounts. You could test the hypothesis by sending emails to two segments of your list to see which message performs better: engagement via discount or engagement via an exclusive “value add” package/bundle offer. Then, see what works and use that knowledge to get better after every experiment. Improvements build on each other over time, with compound growth driven by experimentation.

#3:Growth is failure

Within a growth mindset, failures are to be celebrated. Not because there’s some inherent value in failing; no, it’s because failures teach us a lot about our customers and their preferences. About what works and what doesn’t work. Every single experiment is thus valuable in growth marketing; the successful ones can be amplified and the failures can be mined for insights that can inform the next round of experiments.

Failure is simply another data point to use. And this data can also be shared with other teams within a company, improving knowledge and contributing momentum elsewhere in the company.

#4: Growth is cross-functional

In fact, the cross-functional element is another defining feature of growth. Owing to the fact that growth marketing experiments often reach across teams, growth is a cross-functional pursuit. Since experiments may touch different areas of the company, growth marketing often requires collaboration across engineering, design, product (and yes, even brand marketing!).

#5: Growth and Brand work together

My conclusion from the first part of this course on the foundations of growth hacking is that there’s a place for both growth marketing and brand marketing. It’s not like one replaces the other or that there’s some sort of battle royale over who “owns” the brand.

The way I see it: brand marketing exists to establish/further entrench the brand in the minds and lives of both new and existing customers. There’s also the public relations aspect of communicating what the brand stands for not just to prospects but also to the media, investors and others in the general public. Brand marketing is thus mostly a top of the funnel thing. It’s also somewhat of a cudgel, less precise but can be a powerful tool for long-term business building.

Growth marketing combines data-driven experimentation with a customer-centric mindset to improve the user’s experience one experiment at a time. Whether through personalizing a landing page, tweaking the homepage so it’s easier to use, or getting the right message to the right customer at the right time, growth marketing improves business outcomes via a “test and learn” approach.

Growth marketing looks to leverage opportunities at every part of the funnel, driving growth in any way you can across the business. These “small wins” build on each other, compounding over time and thus dramatically influence how fast a business grows. It can be a very powerful tool that can be precisely wielded.


I’ll be posting articles on the topic of growth marketing each week for the next few months. Keep an eye out for more!