What’s Your Marketing Secret Sauce?

The term ‘secret sauce’ was originally coined by Jack in the Box in the early 1980’s as a way to distinguish their flappy fast food burgers from their competition.  While their mix of mayonnaise, mustard, and chili sauce (oops, I think I just gave it away!) may have increased sales, fast forward 30 years and the term ‘secret sauce’ is more often used to describe what makes a company unique.

So what’s Nettra Media’s marketing secret sauce? 

Simply put: as a marketing agency, we don’t rely on paid advertising to create explosive growth for our clients.  This is a big statement for us since we’re the most established Google Partner & Facebook Partner in Central California.  But more importantly, this is a huge paradigm shift since 98% of all marketing agencies scale in two ways: paid ads and billable design hours.

The issue with a typical marketing agency approach is twofold:

  1. Advertising never comprises more than 30% of a business’ new customers.
  2. The majority of a company’s new customers come from referrals, business development strategies, and other non-advertising sources.

The current advertising agency (or marketing agency) business model can really help businesses that already have a marketing strategy in place since they’re asking the agency to carry out specific client acquisition tactics like SEO (search engine optimization), Google Ads, Facebook Ads, social media posting, or web design.

Yet many companies spending thousands of dollars on Google Ads have not spent a dime on creating a dynamic referral process.  This blows our minds since this kind of referral system can easily outproduce the best marketing campaign on Google!

Every business knows it’s usually 20% of their customers that comprise 80% of their business, and yet they have very few business development strategies aimed at creating more relationships like these. 

So to create scalable growth, we started developing non-advertising-related strategies that not only worked but outproduced a typical advertising campaign by up to 3X, creating millions of dollars of new business for our clients, above and beyond the performance of any advertising campaign.

This realization led us to develop one of most growth-centered approaches of any marketing agency within California.

We’re a marketing agency to some of our clients

As the most established Google & Facebook Partner in Central California, creating new customers with digital media comes pretty easy to us. So some of our clients that already have marketing and client acquisition strategies in place, hire us as a traditional marketing agency to fulfill specific tactics like SEO, Google & Facebook Ads, and email marketing, to name a few.  We love these relationships and are experts at scaling companies through these tactics.

We’re also an Outsourced CMO if you need big growth

To help companies create big growth, it requires us to wear the hat of an outsourced CMO (chief marketing officer). The CMO approach gives us greater visibility into a company’s customer acquisition channels, their business development outreach, and similar strategies with the goal of developing/refining new methods of outreach, their implementation, execution, and optimization.  In other words, as an outsourced CMO we become our clients’ growth partner, focused on increasing the lifetime value of their customers and also decreasing the cost of acquiring customers.

Marketing summit

The success of our outsourced CMO service is reliant upon gathering as much relevant data as possible, understanding the client’s organization, services, goals, and competition.  Then we outline all of the potential customer acquisition channels and with the client in the room, we hold a series of meetings we refer to as the Marketing Summit. 

In our Marketing Summit, we come up with a viable idea for all 20 client acquisition channels, and then we rate each idea based on its impact, confidence of its success, and its ease of implementation.  The top scoring ideas then become the basis of a phased marketing plan.

For more insight, here’s an outline of our Marketing Summit:


Getting to Know You (and your Competition):

  • Perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis
  • Nettra will access your digital presence before this first meeting and we’ll review the findings
  • Nettra will perform a competitor analysis before this first meeting and we’ll review the findings


Focus on Acquisition Channels:

  • Cover 10 to 15 of the customer acquisition channels, create an idea for each


Finish Acquisition Channels, then Rate Ideas:

  • Complete the remaining acquisition channels
  • Rate each idea (from 1-10) based on it’s impact, our confidence in its success, and it’s ease of implementation
  • Sort the top ideas into Phases 1 & 2  of the marketing plan


Present Details and next steps for Phase 1 of the Marketing Strategy:

  • Nettra will take the findings from Week 3 and do the research before this last meeting to determine what roles Nettra and client will play, and the costs associated for each client acquisition channel we’ll initially target
  • For each channel, we’ll determine performance goals to gauge success

Our clients love the Marketing Summit because it helps them strategically allocate their marketing budgets instead of copying the marketing of their competitors or hopping on the newest trends.

In our experience, simply spending a lot of money on digital media will never produce substantial growth.  The key in successfully scaling a business is uncovering the levers of growth that are often hidden within the product or service itself, then optimizing the product offering so that your customers will rip it out of your hands.

So by gathering the above data over a series of meetings, coming up with customer acquisition ideas and rating each idea with the clients in the room, we create a concrete foundation to scale future growth. 

20 client acquisition channels

There are many ways to create clients, but we’ve invested thousands of hours to identify 

every client acquisition channel and we’ve listed them below:

  1. Business development
  2. Referral programs
  3. Public relations
  4. Unconventional public relations
  5. Content marketing: social media ads, display & video ads
  6. Search engine marketing ads (Google, Bing, Yahoo)
  7. Offline / traditional advertising (TV, radio, billboards, newspaper, direct mail, etc.)
  8. Search engine optimization (SEO)
  9. Email marketing / marketing automation 
  10. Viral marketing
  11. Engineering as marketing (creating lead capturing platforms)
  12. Hiring a sales force
  13. Blog targeting
  14. Trade shows
  15. Offline events (like organizing a meetup) 
  16. Swag products (branded promotional material)
  17. Webinars
  18. Influencer marketing (hiring a brand spokesperson)
  19. Networking
  20. Guerilla tactics

The truth

Your potential customers are out there! You can target them, reach them, and even engage them, but that doesn’t mean they become your clients.  

Companies that take the time to develop, implement, and optimize their marketing strategy will keep winning new customers.

The businesses that continue to market like their competition, spending thousands of dollars on advertising without investing any resources in other client acquisition channels, will continue to lose customers and market share. 


The Most Powerful Marketing Concept You Keep Ignoring

What’s the most misunderstood, underutilized and even ignored concept in online marketing?

Data-driven analysis

We marketers tend to want to spend all their brain power of generating killer strategies and  ideas, designing brilliant marketing automation, and writing hooky ads. But if you don’t analyze before you create, you’re wasting your money. 

In some ways it’s the oldest problem in marketing. Claude Hopkins, the father of modern advertising, railed against “creative” ads with no analysis behind them a century ago.  

And yet the problem persists in the modern, online age. Even though analysis tools are more powerful than anything Uncle Claude ever dreamed of!

So what does data-driven analysis look like for a business?  Well, it varies a bit based on each situation but here’s how we typically attack it:

  • Analyze user data, Google Analytics, and advertising data to uncover the service or product’s actual aha moment (instead of its assumed aha moment) 
  • Uncover opportunities by analyzing competitor data
  • Utilize surveys to gain deeper insights since data often creates more questions than it answers

Data-Driven Analysis in the Real World

For example, an ag tech company that builds cloud-based drip irrigation software hired us to increase their user base to gain user data and to ultimately increase their retention. 

So, instead of leading with a popular growth hack that’s helped similar startups, we first committed to analyzing their data and making relationships between KPI-based data points they never analyzed.

We followed this following sequence: 

  1. We reviewed their Google Analytics data and current/past user data to establish their baseline KPI metrics, and compared them to the metrics they were using.
  1. We lined up the KPIs for each segment of their product suite, then analyzed the lifetime value of each segment against its specific cost per acquisition.  
  1. We loaded all the data into Microsoft’s PowerBI platform to visualize the trends between these previously separate data sets.

Results That Changed Their Business 

From this we noticed a correlation between their highest valued organic traffic visiting their most underperforming product segment. This opened their eyes because this product was primarily viewed as a value-add to the main product offering.  The data also suggested they were spending the majority of their time promoting the segment that appeared to make the most revenue but to their surprise had the highest cost per acquisition when factoring in the year-long sales cycle; it also had the highest churn rate!  This data confirmed the fears of the founders that something was wrong but they couldn’t put their finger on it.

Spotting this trend enabled them to pivot their business by focusing on the value add product to build initial interest, build loyalty, then focus on upselling their customers into higher tiers of their service.  

The results have been staggering over the past year:

  • 5x client base
  • 68% of clients upgrade to higher tier
  • Churn is down 58% YOY (year-over-year)
  • Retention rate has also improved by 73% YOY 

All of this before one creative ad was ever written.

Growth Hacking For the Win

By the way, it turns out had we started our relationship with this company with that popular marketing tactic that works with many of our clients, they might have gone out of business!  That specific hack focuses on acquiring real time user data from Facebook mixed with grabbing competitor data. Then modeling the competition’s ads and beat them to the punch with a more compelling product, pitch, placement, and price.  It works almost all of the time. Yet had we begun our service with this hack, our client might have gone out of business by now because their burn rate was outpacing their sales cycle and they were unaware of it.

This is where businesses waste a ton of time and money: instead of doing the work themselves, they implement tactics and growth hacks that worked for similar companies and get limited results, at best. 

Key Takeaways: 

  1. Aggregate their data (user data, Analytics, marketing, surveys, create new data utilizing Facebook)
  2. Create and prioritize numerous tests that can be continuously run
  3. Focus this effort on your entire customer funnel: activation, acquisition, referrals, monetization 


Cutting Through the Marketing Noise

I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion… If everyone thinks one thing, then I say, bet the other way…  -Al Pacino as salesman Tony Roma from Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) 

Your greatest enemy as a marketer is not your competition. It’s not the economy. It’s not even the IRS.  

It’s noise.

If your marketing message doesn’t cut through the noise, it will be lost. Notice I didn’t say ignored. Nor did I say considered and dismissed. But lost. It will evaporate into the ether without ever being heard or seen.  It will be drowned out by the incessant din of all the other marketing noise being blared at your potential prospects. All day. Every minute.  

So, your job as a marketer is to figure out the best way to cut through the noise.

And the worst thing you can do is to blow your trumpet in the same band as 97 other trumpets and expect to be heard.

Here’s what I mean.

If you decide to advertise on Facebook just because “a similar startup did it and got 100 shares,” you’re probably wasting your time and money.

Be Everywhere Your Competition Isn’t

What’s the alternative? Be where your competition is not blaring their horn, and make your best prospects believe you are EVERYWHERE.

Let’s talk about that first one. Be where your competition is not blaring their horn.

I attended a big marketing seminar a few weeks ago. And one very successful marketer explained how he had spent a fortune on…

  • Facebook…and got thousands of clicks but no conversions
  • Google Ads…and broke even on his CPA (cost per acquisition) 
  • Email lists…and made a few sales but not enough to create any lift

Then he hit the jackpot. And raked in a ton of quality leads that converted at high profitability.

What was the traffic source?

Full-page newspaper advertisements!

That’s so old school that it’s downright embarrassing, right?

Revenue > Channel

Just like owning an iPhone 10 instead of a Samsung Note, many marketers have their preferences of marketing channels.  When the conversions on Facebook and Google decrease by 25% YOY, the majority of marketers won’t even question the validity of those two channels.  Instead they’ll focus on their CRO (conversion rate optimization) tactics. Almost like there’s some t-shirt they’re gunning for that says “I created a 40% Lift in Sales on Facebook, and All I Got Was This Lousy Shirt.”  

The problem is that t-shirt doesn’t exist (yet) and the market doesn’t care what channel you used to find product market fit and create a substantial lift.  The only thing that matters is that you figured out how to do it, regardless of the channel (yes, even a newspaper ad)!

Now, newspaper readers may not be your target demographic. But what other advertising media are you overlooking because it’s not trendy? Or because “nobody else is doing it.”

Are you thinking like everyone else? Or are you looking for advertising media your competition has overlooked?

How do you start ‘Cutting Through the Noise’?

You first must stop wasting your money and time marketing and start looking at your data:

  • Customer data in your CRM
  • Google Analytics
  • Competition data
  • User surveys

Then based on your data, create a series of hypothesis-based tests about your customers. Center these tests around:

  1. How you acquire clients
  2. Various methods to get from a ‘Freemium’ client into a paying one
  3. Creating referral incentives
  4. Ways to get your existing clients to purchase more services   

Once you’ve determined the kinds of tests you’d like to run, now you’ve got to figure out what channels can reach your prospects where your competition is not blowing their horn. Below are some channels we’ve used in the past to help our clients gain traction:

  • YouTube
  • Webinars
  • Pinterest
  • Seminars
  • Twitter
  • User groups
  • Phone
  • Skype
  • Podcasts
  • Email / marketing automation
  • Newspaper
  • Catalogs
  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • Books
  • Direct mail
  • Games
  • Radio

By experimenting on various channels, you’ll gain market share on your competition that’s busy duking it out on Google & Facebook, and more importantly, you’ll uncover new customers at a lower CPA!

What are some ways you’ve cut through the noise in your industry and gained significant traction?

Hairdressers styling a man dressed up as an Hippopotamus

How Well Do You Know Your Clients?

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.

-John Wanamaker, advertising and marketing pioneer

This quote gets dropped around marketing circles all the time. Wanamaker lived back in the nineteenth century when determining which HALF of your marketing was wasted was a difficult proposition.

So how has Wanamaker’s quote remained relevant 100 years later? Because advertising has always lacked one essential thing: feedback systems

The feedback systems available to marketers at that time were slow and inaccurate. And the ones that did exist were often ignored by marketers. Why because they thought “Getting your name out there” was more important than testing and tracking.

And the situation hasn’t improved much since Wanamaker’s day because many marketers still refuse to build one of the most powerful feedback mechanisms into their sales funnels: Surveys.

Surveys Help Build Marketing into Your Product

Dropbox owes much of its early growth to surveys.  They asked “How disappointed would you be if Dropbox went away today?”  40% of the respondents said they would be EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED which indicated they had a very loyal user base.  This lead them to create one of the most successful SAAS referral systems to date.  

At the time, Dropbox was using AWS (Amazon Web Services) for their cloud storage service and they had a ton of excess space.  So by creating a referral program that rewarded their users by increasing their storage space, both Dropbox and their customers got what they wanted: 

  • Their customer’s eyes bugged out when they referred Dropbox to their friends to get up to 32gbs of storage.
  • Dropbox won because this excess storage space within AWS didn’t cost them anything extra. 

As a result of the program, their customer’s LTV (lifetime value) substantially increased and their CPA (cost per acquisition) went down.  This opened up many new advertising channels for Dropbox which put them on the fasttrack for world domination.

And it all started with a survey.

It’s All About Creating Feedback Loops

Surveys are one of the simplest but most profound feedback mechanisms available to you as a marketer. Savvy marketers SHOULD always be gauging their clients’ satisfactions and dissatisfactions with their product or service.

Do they love it? If not, what don’t they love? How would they like it changed so they will love it? And once we get them to love it, how do we get them to refer others?

Yes, many of these questions are basic but I find the majority of marketers commit the sin of thinking they know their audiences inside and out.  You may know your audiences better than anyone else in your company but your audiences likes and dislikes are a fickle thing that changes more than we’d like to admit.  So surveys are a great way of aggregating real-time data to optimize your customer’s experience as well as minimizing the steps your potential customers take to discover your product’s aha moment.

Have you had a lot of success utilizing surveys?  I’d love to hear a few questions you use to illicit some great responses!

As we’ve helped businesses gain product market fit and scale growth hacking protocols, we’ve used four to five different surveying tools.  All of them have pro’s and con’s but for my money (partly because it’s awesome and free), Typeform is hard to beat.  Btw, we’re not compensated by them in any way, this is a true recommendation! 🙂