There’s no doubt the world has changed. During 2020/2021, social distancing, remote working and stay-at-home measures transformed how we communicate with each other.
As customers, we’ve adapted our online behaviours and shopping habits. We demand higher levels of speed, personalization and transparency from the websites we visit. And we’re more likely to switch brands after just one bad online experience.
Although the world is slowly returning to pre-covid normality, customers continue to demand more from the websites they visit. There’s no going back. Your business has to evolve. Your online assets need to flow together, building provisions for a customer journey that combines web pages, ecommerce and inbound marketing methods.
But it’s a changing landscape. And that means your website needs to be agile and flexible too. That’s why you need to start thinking about Growth-Driven Design. It will help you launch a website in a fraction of the time of a traditionally-managed website project, and at a fraction of the cost.
It sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Well, there’s more good news. With Growth-Driven Design, aka GDD, you’ll also accelerate revenues and continually improve the user experience. Which, in turn, means even more revenues come your way. It’s a virtuous circle.
Whether your aim is to increase traffic, boost engagement, build trust or increase your sales, Growth-Driven Design is the strategy that gives your business a head start with your inbound marketing efforts. Read on to discover all the tools you’ll need to succeed with GDD.
Table Of Contents
Watch our guys, Paul and Jason talk about GDD in this ‘Over a Pint‘ podcast;
Traditional website design: process before profit
Plan. Design. Release. This linear, three-stage approach to website design used to be the trusted way to achieve the best possible impact. It emphasises long lead times, with a rigidity that allows everything to be accounted for and checked off. It focuses on the end product – delivering a website. And it celebrates the final release.
Here’s how it works.
Phase one: the plan.
This is where all the requirements are gathered. A full list of the desired functionalities, features and pages is drawn up. Site architecture is considered, and stakeholders are brought together to discuss and agree what the end result should achieve. It’s a time-intensive process, likely to take hundreds of hours and many weeks before signoff.
Phase two: the design.
Now everything in the plan is carefully and painstakingly created, developed and transformed into a website. Through wireframing, creative layouts and example pages, your website begins to come to life.
The designs receive their functionality and the developers shape your comprehensive list of requirements into a fully operational online tool. Every single request for functionality that was discussed in the planning stage is incorporated at this point in the process. It’s all put together into one complete product.
Phase three: the release.
The set and forget. The launch and leave. All the grunt work is done.
Visitor tracking, store inventory management and site edits may continue to be carried out. Blog posts, new landing pages and some small updates are likely to take place, to build your brand and improve your organic reach. But the core foundations are left alone. The vast majority of the site remains untouched after the final launch.
From start to finish, this linear process can take anything from three to nine months, usually with a website refresh planned in for two to three years’ time.
That means, in the absolute best-case scenario, your website could be nearly half a year out of date by the time you launch. And it will continue to age for the next three years, with no fresh injection of innovation. That means you’re always playing catch up. You’re never ahead of the competition.
What’s worse, is that it’s built with a focus on technology, rather than tangible customer needs. That’s because there’s been no real-world testing of what performs well and what doesn’t.
You have no idea whether your slick new site has entirely missed the point. Until it’s too late.
Yet many businesses still work this way. And in a world that offers multivariate testing, continuous improvement and deep dive data insights, the website is often the bluntest instrument in a marketer’s toolkit. Which is a bad situation. Particularly when it’s probably the most influential asset that your business owns.
The principles of Growth-Driven Design
It doesn’t have to be that way. When you break away from traditional web design frameworks and follow the principles of Growth-Driven Design you can:
- Accelerate your time to market (50-70% faster than traditional web design)
- Take actions based on the specific needs of your customers (with the power to change anything on your website that doesn’t perform)
- Reduce upfront costs and spread investment over time
- Keep ahead of your competitors (you never have an outdated website)
Like traditional website design, Growth-Driven Design follows a three-stage process. Unlike traditional website design, it has marketing at its heart. GDD starts with the customer’s needs and then works backwards to identify how these needs can be met. What’s more, it also allows you to prioritise and iterate.
Phase one: the plan.
Instead of starting with a wish list of functions and site features, GDD focuses on customer analysis and the wider business goals. Expect to dig out the buyer personas and begin clarifying customer-based objectives from the outset. You’ll be answering questions like:
- What do my customers need most from a website?
- What am I trying to achieve with this website?
- Where and how could the previous website have performed better?
- How can the website have the biggest impact on business goals?
Sure, you’re likely to get a similar group of people together. The difference is they’ll be looking at your products through the eyes of your customers.
Phase two: the build.
And this time it’s a lean one. You’re not going to incorporate every possible site function and feature all at once.
We’re aiming for a quick build. One that represents an improvement on your existing website without consuming huge bundles of time. And that’s achievable because you’ve already assessed what your customers want and how it all fits in with your business goals. That’s where you’ll focus the build effort.
Phase two focuses the implementation on areas of your site that will deliver the greatest positive impact. The aim is to improve the user experience and increase customer satisfaction levels.
Phase three: launch, measure and improve.
Whereas the traditional route defines launch day as the end of the project, for GDD this is just the beginning. The first iteration, your launchpad website, marks the start of a continuous improvement programme.
From initial launch, which happens quickly, you begin to gather real customer data, track leads and measure conversions. The more you understand your customers’ behaviours, the more incremental improvements you can make.
Growth-Driven Design versus traditional website design
Now we’ve looked at the process, you’ll be forming a picture of GDD and its advantages over traditional methods.
GDD can minimise the risks associated with traditional web design. It shortens the time to launch. It maintains a strong focus on how you can deliver on your business goals, based on customer wants and needs.
It also uses a feedback loop, so you can continuously learn and make improvements, accelerating your profit potential even further.
This feedback loop can be used to strengthen the relationship between your marketing and sales departments. What GDD will teach you about your customers’ behaviours can be integrated into sales strategies, subtly used in pitch documents and explored to develop more meaningful KPIs.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s step back, recap and make some comparisons.
It’s a stark contrast. And it’s as much about changing your company’s mindset and approach as it is about following a linear process.
The benefits of Growth-Driven Design in detail
As a marketer, you’re already attuned to the principles of customer-centricity. With GDD, you’re building a positive customer experience at every stage of the customer journey. And you’re applying continuous improvement principles to the most prominent asset in your portfolio of owned media.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits.
The route to a rapid launch
GDD begins with your customers. It looks at your website through their eyes. GDD isn’t concerned with adding technology for the sake of it. It allows you to pick and choose the right techniques and technologies, based on customer needs.
By designing around your customers, you focus on the areas that are more likely to draw in new leads for your business. And by focusing on the pathways that draw in new leads, you’ll be able to disregard the elements that are less likely to make a positive impact.
GDD begins with a list of all the functions that you know your customer will require from your site. You can identify these from your buyer persona analysis.
The exhaustive list is then prioritized, to determine which functions could be added first. Then it’s distilled even further. Until you’re left with the items that you know will deliver the most impact and value for your website’s users. Implement that list, and only that list, on your launchpad website.
Approaching a website build with the GDD mindset means that you could be reducing your time to launch by 50-70%.
In the time it takes a traditional website build to go live, it’s likely you’ll have released your launchpad website, gathered actionable data and already made improvements that far exceed anything you could achieve with traditional methods.
Keeping budgets under control
By reducing the number of functions that you’re adding to your launchpad site, you have more control over your budgets. Instead of using a team of developers to pull together many disparate elements at once, you’re focusing in on what matters.
There are less variables to concentrate on. So there’s more focus given to each individual element. That means there’s less chance of project drift. And because there are less distractions, your budget stays firmly under control.
Not only is your initial project layout less, but each additional round of modifications and new features will be comparatively low too. This means your overall long-term budget will be comparable with, or even below, what you would have spent if you’d taken the traditional route.
Continually improving website performance
Growth-Driven Design allows you to start collecting customer data quickly. It also lets you act on it. And because your budget has been built around the iteration process, you have the resources available to make these data-led decisions. Every future modification and additional piece of functionality is based on customer behaviour. And that means improvements, not just alterations.
Creating that feedback loop means you can set the creative process in motion again, refining your offering, making additions and building on the strong foundations of your launchpad website.
You’re looking at the world from the customer’s perspective. And because GDD gets you to launch day in around 60 days, instead of four months or more, you’re ahead of the game already.
Accelerating conversion rates
We already know that Growth-Driven Design is a device for understanding what drives, what deters and what persuades your audiences. By giving visitors the best possible user experience, and leading them down through the sales funnel, you are improving your conversion rates.
Whether your goal is to trigger a newsletter registration, a link click, a form fill or a purchase, GDD allows you to increase the number of visitors who perform the desired actions. And that’s because it doesn’t just focus on the end result. It reveals the journey. It shows you everything that happens up to the point of action.
You’re provided with data on the specific drivers that bring people to your website and propel them through your pages. You’re presented with the barriers that deter them and make them leave. And you’re shown the quality of your Calls-To-Action (CTAs) that persuade them to convert.
And because all this measurement and analysis is already baked into the GDD process, conversion rate optimisation (CRO) remains at the forefront of your strategy. You don’t have to base your principles on something that worked for somebody else in the past. You don’t have to blindly apply best practices, just because that’s what everyone else does.
Sure, there are some core CRO principles that work across a wide range of industries. But just because something is the industry norm, doesn’t mean you should do it without testing and tracking it.
As customers’ online behaviours and shopping habits continue to evolve, you’ll be glad that your feedback loop is guiding you in the right direction. And the effects will be seen in your bottom line, while other companies may be blindly applying existing best practices that could no longer be relevant to audiences.
Improving user experience (UX)
It’s hardly surprising that GDD improves the user experience. The entire growth-driven mentality is focused on satisfying the buyer personas that you identified as central to your business success. At each stage of the design and build, every continuous improvement builds on a particular customer need. Everything you do aligns your products and services to the needs of your audiences.
That’s the essence of GDD. And if at any point it becomes unclear how a website improvement relates to a customer need, then take a step back and re-evaluate what you’re working on.
Never forget that it’s not all about your products reaching out to your audiences. It’s as much about creating a user experience that guides your audiences towards your products.
Data collection for better decision making
Date collection not only informs how you modify your website. It also steers your long-term marketing strategy. When you’re planning your next steps with your website, you’ll probably begin to spot areas that will allow you to improve your wider business planning processes.
The role of inbound marketing
We’ve covered the GDD process and made comparisons with traditional website design methods. By now, you’re probably thinking about the ways that you can integrate Growth-Driven Design into your own web strategies.
Yet GDD can’t work in isolation. Yes, GDD links your buyer personas to your online strategy. It allows you to make positive changes and regular updates to your website. It’s also contributing to a customer journey that leads people towards your products.
But that’s not the whole story. Your growth-driven website needs to sit within a wider inbound marketing framework if it’s going to achieve its full potential.
The inbound marketing process explained
Inbound marketing nurtures your target audiences by guiding them through four main stages:
These four stages form the backbone of your inbound marketing strategy. They help you to build traffic, generate leads and maximise revenues.
Before anything else can happen, you need to get the attention of your chosen audience. That means using the right content, in the right format, through the right channels, and at the right time.
Like GDD, this means using your buyer personas to shape your strategy. Once you know what appeals to your audience, you can attract them with compelling content. Depending on their needs, this could be through paid social campaigns, explainer videos, emails, remarketing, landing pages, calculators, opinion pieces or quick how-to guides or longform articles.
You’ll also need to have a strong SEO specialist on your team, to ensure you’re using the right keywords in your online assets and that your site is optimized for search. Everything in the attract stage is geared towards using inbound marketing to turn strangers into visitors, and nudge browsers towards advocacy.
Once you’ve attracted your audience and started to build trust by providing freely-accessible information, you need to convert them into leads using CTAs. You’re aiming to get them to give personal data away in exchange for what they see as valuable information.
Here’s where whitepapers, webinars and comprehensive guides play their part. The best conversion tools are those that are perceived to be difficult to get elsewhere. You need to position your gated content as highly informative. If the offer isn’t attractive enough and your audience isn’t convinced it will solve their problems, then you won’t convert many leads.
But don’t over-promise either. If your assets don’t live up to the hype then you’ll end up with a big hole in the side of your sales funnel. And that won’t help anyone except your competitors.
Closing is all about carefully nudging a converted lead in the direction of the sale. It’s often a long, delicate process that can take upwards of seven or eight different touchpoints.
That means you’ll need to rank your leads using a lead scoring system. This will allow you to categorise and prioritise your leads, guiding them through the sales process and applying the necessary amount of pressure without losing them at the last hurdle.
Congratulations! You’ve closed that sale. But that’s not the end of the process. Now it’s all about nurturing the customer, reinforcing the belief that they’ve made the right decision and building pathways for them to buy again.
Continue to engage with customers, offer content that aligns with their interests and build on the relationship. Delight them. It’s the best way to upsell and keep them coming back for more. And you’ll begin to transform them into advocates, who will proactively promote your company and encourage their contacts to join your customer base.
Fuelling your inbound marketing with Growth-Driven Design
There are definite parallels between inbound marketing techniques and Growth Driven Design. Both place the customer at the centre of your thinking and emphasise continuous monitoring, data collection and regular improvements.
Like GDD, inbound marketing is all about valuing the needs of your audience and giving them the tools to reach their goals as they progress through their journey with you. It uses buyer personas to make sure you’re communicating with your audiences how, when and where they prefer.
Unlike GDD, inbound marketing makes itself felt before your audiences reach your website. It creates a set of conditions that attract users towards your website. And once they arrive, you use it alongside GDD to drive the data, measure the metrics and shape your visitors into loyal returning customers.
And that’s why GDD and inbound marketing complement each other so well. They both allow you to add revenue to your business when your actions directly add value to your audience. They also encourage you to stop focusing on anything that doesn’t bring the customer to your products and services.
The tools you’ll need for GDD
Now you understand the GDD framework. Great. You can see how it aligns with inbound marketing to create a powerful lead nurturing machine. It’s time to explore the implementation, and a powerful marketing strategy begins with the right tools. Here’s what you’ll need.
Up-to-date buyer personas
Understand your audiences. They are at the heart of GDD. Make sure you use your buyer personas so that you know who you’re targeting and what motivates them. This is the starting point and it is critical to your success. If you’re not confident that your buyer personas are up to date, test them, revisit them and get them right.
For GDD to work effectively, you’re going to need reliable user data. And that means you’re going to need a lot of visitors coming through your website.
As you know, GDD focuses on making regular improvements based on visitor behaviours. If your monthly visitor numbers are below 1,000 you’re going to have problems analysing user behaviour. There just won’t be enough data to make accurate predictions. If your visitor numbers are hitting the 2,000, 3,000, 5,000 mark or more, then that gives you a large enough universe to act effectively.
Without the training, nothing worth doing can be done well. Although it can be very tempting to just dive in and go for it, this isn’t a hobby. It’s your business. And that means you need to know exactly what you’re doing.
The good news is there are courses you can take and certifications that you can earn. Becoming GDD certified puts you in the best possible position to begin your journey.
The even better news is that there are digital marketing agencies out there who are GDD experts and they can help you manage your GDD voyage for maximum impact. Choose the right GDD agency and your life will be a lot easier.
A GDD dashboard
You’re going to need to keep track of your progress. Your GDD dashboard is the place for your plan. It’ll show you every aspect of the project at a glance. You’ll know what’s been released, what’s been tested and what’s been iterated. You’ll also use your GDD dashboard to manage priorities, allocate tasks to team members and track your KPIs.
Without your GDD dashboard you could begin to lose track of your progress. And then you’ll start missing opportunities.
Hubspot marketing software
Hubspot provides a mix of free and subscription-based tools that provide an all-in-one approach to marketing, sales and service software. It provides everything your company needs to manage your blogging, SEO, social media, email, landing pages, marketing automation and web analytics.
With Hubspot, all your marketing tools and data are on one easy-to-use, powerful platform. You’ll save valuable time and get all the context you need to provide a personalized experience that attracts and converts the right customers at scale. You can choose to either integrate the software into your current website, or build your company’s entire website on HubSpot, because it acts as a Content Management System (CMS), as well.
Project implementation tools
Don’t get bogged down by the tools. You need to build an effective tool stack without going overboard. Sometimes, too many systems and too much monitoring can slow you down. That’s why Hubspot is such a great choice. It prevents disjointed data and allows your workflow to, well, flow.
But there are standalone specialist project tools that you’re going to need. And you may already be using some of them. Types of tools you should consider implementing include:
- Team Collaboration Tools
- Like Slack or Google Docs
- A Project Management System
- Like Asana or Basecamp
- A Content Management System
- Hubspot is an ideal CMS for Growth-Driven Design
- User research tools
- Like Hotjar or Google Analytics
- Experimentation and split testing tools
- Like Hubspot (there it is again) or Google Analytics
When it comes to project implementation tools, it’s worth consulting with a digital marketing agency. You’re building a system that will you help drive business growth over the long term, so it’s far better if you get it right from the outset.
Invest in tools that provide the best solution, keeping you agile while providing you with the implementation, testing and reporting infrastructure that you need.
Finding the right GDD and Inbound agency
With GDD and inbound marketing you can be sure that your business won’t be stuck in the past with the same website failures hitting you over and over again. And if your website is already performing well, just imagine what you can achieve when you use a combination of GDD and inbound marketing.
Feels good doesn’t it?
If you’ve just launched a new website, that doesn’t matter either. You can begin applying GDD principles and ensure it’s delivering the best possible revenues for you. And GDD means you won’t miss a trick when market conditions change.
But you’re probably going to need some help along the way. And that’s where a good inbound agency will be able to guide you to success. So, go ahead, cast your net. Find out who can help you.
The best agencies for you will be the ones that are using GDD and inbound marketing themselves. To make sure you’re engaging the right people, ask your potential partner questions like:
- Are you GDD certified? (it’s an obvious one, but could easily be missed)
- Are you using GDD and inbound marketing to overcome your own challenges?
- What project management and marketing tools do you specialise in?
- How do you measure success?
- How has digital marketing evolved over the last five years?
- How do you keep up with changes in your industry?
- What’s your process for building marketing personas?
- How do you incorporate feedback into your own design processes?
These questions will give you a window into the world of your potential partner. And they’ll trigger some great conversations too.
So, if you like the sound of GDD and inbound marketing, and you need a bit of outside help, we’d love to learn a bit more about you. Let’s have a chat and see where it takes us.
Working as a Digital Marketing Consultant since 2004, Lee helps SMEs win more business through developing effective digital marketing strategies. He is a dedicated Liverpool FC fan, dog lover and loves long country walks (and a cheeky pint) with his dog, Banjo. Do you publish content yourself, or need content for your own website? If you’d like to collaborate on anything at all, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.