8 Apr '22
The Grow > Sell > Grow Accordion
*(working name until I find something better. Why 'accordion'? Because to play it you need cycles of growing and compressing... it's tenuous but 🤷♂️ . Also there's an emoji for it 🪗) *
When you’re developing your business, art or project you might find it difficult to generate a constant stream of sales from your audience at first.
And, in reality, you probably can’t focus on both audience growth and sales at the same time.
Making both a priority, makes neither a priority.
Assuming that’s the case for you, we have a really simple framework that might help - imaginatively named the Grow > Sell > Grow (GSG) framework. It's the underlying logic that Feed uses to run conversion ads.
Even if you can generate a constant stream of sales from your audience, it might be useful to think in these terms so you know what to focus on in any given day, week or month.
So, here we go.
GSG = Gosh, So Great!... or Ginormously Stupid Guy?
So what problem does the GSG framework help to solve?
That lots of people shouldn’t focus on selling to their audience the whole time.
It either simply doesn’t work (you can’t get a constant stream of sales) or it distracts from longer-term growth and audience development.
As a secondary thing, when I ask small businesses or creators ‘what’s your main goal right now?’ they often reply with a list of every goal they can think of. That’s understandable… but at an earlier stage it probably doesn’t make sense for you to focus on all your goals, all the time. It might not even be possible.
I’m guilty of doing this myself with Feed - trying to do everything that later-stage startups are doing. But we’re at an earlier stage than they are, and so need to stay more focused.
The GSG framework is both simple and pretty general. Which hopefully makes it easy to understand, easy to follow and easy to apply to quite a few different situations.
Breaking it down: sell
By ‘selling’ to your audience, I mean asking them to take actions further along the audience journey - for example:
buying products, buying tickets, or signing up to a mailing list.
When people take one of these actions, they ‘convert’.
Realistically, the majority of your sales will be to people who already know about you. They are warmed up and you already have a relationship with them. These are what we call “Nurture” audiences in Feed, but are also referred to as warm audiences or retargeting audiences.
(To see why, imagine the opposite: how likely are you to buy a product the very first time you see a post about it online? Probably not all that likely. You might want to learn more first, see more posts/content, browse the brand’s online store or listen to some music if it’s a musician etc.)
When you’re in the earlier stages of building a business, your Nurture (warm) audiences will be quite small.
You might have a few thousand people who have engaged with you in the last year on Instagram and maybe a thousand visitors to your website.
That’s 4,000 people you can retarget assuming no overlap (which is unlikely). This might sound like a lot, but only a small fraction will actually convert:
a 1% conversion rate on a 4k audience = 40 people.
Breaking it down: grow
While Sell refers to people further along your audience journey, Grow refers to people earlier on the journey who probably don’t know about you yet.
There are many different ways to grow - advertising on Facebook and Instagram being only one of them - but basically it all amounts to the same thing:
growing the number of people who know about you, with a view to reaching them again (= ‘retarget’).
Promoting on Facebook & Instagram is the most reliable and controllable way of reaching new people on those platforms - through lookalike audiences or interest targeting. The most important thing at first is to get new people to engage with your posts so you can retarget them later.
You can also grow via (unpaid) organic content by using Instagram Reels, going viral on TikTok, getting shares on Facebook or being retweeted on Twitter. It’s great because you don’t have to pay; the downside is you rely on luck and opaque algorithms.
The GSG Framework
The basic rule of the framework: focus on alternating periods of (i) growing & nurturing your audience and (ii) selling.
You set rules that tell you when to switch between the two.
Why? Well, if your Nurture/warm audiences are small you can only sell to them for so long before they’re saturated...
...in other words, there aren’t any people left who will convert.
At this point, it doesn’t make sense to focus on selling any more. Everyone who might buy something already has!
So you need to switch into a period of growth - finding new people and building your audience - before you go back to selling.
At this point you can also do a bit of “Nurturing” - retargeting your existing audience, but with middle of journey stuff that doesn’t require them to take a high value conversion action. That could be simply showing them more Instagram posts, getting them on your website or streaming your music.
Switching between Grow and Sell depends on hitting some criteria. You might stop selling after 2 weeks of seeing no conversions (to be sure you’ve hit the saturation point), or once you’ve spent a certain amount on promotion related to selling/conversions.
So then you move to Grow.
After adding e.g. 2,000 people to your audience (assuming they are reachable again, or 'retargetable') you might decide it’s time to start selling again.
So you move to Sell.
And the cycle continues. Simple.
In fact you might be asking: is this too simple?
In my opinion, simple is good. It means the rules are easy to follow and easy to stick to. I only like adding complexity if it’s really clear there’s a significant benefit of doing so.
The beauty of this framework is that you set goals for both Grow and Sell before you can move on to the next phase. If you’re being honest with yourself, how often would you do that without a framework like this? It keeps you focused and has a definition for success or failure in each stage.
The GSG framework we’ve developed relies on a couple of assumptions:
- You find it hard to get a constant stream of conversions (sign-ups, purchases etc) every week from your existing audience. This implies your audience isn’t yet big enough or engaged enough to do this.
- You can reach your audience online, whether that’s posting on social media, using retargeting ads or a mailing list.
Worked example & how we built this into Feed
When you are using Feed to run conversion ads, it uses a version of the GSG framework to decide when Convert ads should run and when you should focus on Grow & Nurture.
Let’s go through a hypothetical worked example:
- We start in the Sell phase, selling a new product launched on our website.
- For weeks 1-2 sales are coming through every day or two and we’re running conversion ads to help generate some of these. Nice!
- Halfway through week 3 conversions are slowing down. Ok, don’t panic. We’ve set our cutoff as at least 1 week without conversions AND $150 spent on conversion ads - neither of which we’ve hit yet.
- Into week 4 we’ve hit those thresholds and decide to stop selling, and move to a Grow period. In Feed that means running Grow & Nurture ads, where we’re getting less salesy content in front of people (giving insight into the creative process, behind the scenes etc), which could also include getting people on your website to look around.
- For weeks 5-8 we focus on Grow (& Nurture), keeping track of the size of our Nurture audiences which could be engaged audiences on social media, website visitors, followers - you can see these on the Feed insights page.
- In week 9 we hit our Grow targets - for example, we’ve added more than 2,000 people who have engaged on Instagram or 1,000 website visitors. This means it’s time to switch back to Sell 💪 - and the cycle continues!
- Learn and iterate.
Extending the GSG framework
When you’re more familiar with the GSG process, you can modify and extend it. Here are some ideas:
- Iterate. Adjust the thresholds to suit you over time. For example, if you didn’t get enough sales after your last Grow period then perhaps you need more audience growth before pivoting back into Sell.
- More stages. Perhaps you could have 2 consecutive Sell periods: the first focuses on product sales and - after those have slowed down - mailing list sign-ups.
- When you’re getting constant sales. If you get to the point where you are able to get a constant stream of sales from your audience - well done! Now you can adapt the framework to focus on one phase but keep both going, rather than starting and stopping. So if it’s Grow time, maybe 80% of your time and budget is focused on audience growth and 20% on Sell. When you’ve hit the metrics you need, switch it to 80% on Sell and 20% on Grow.