The marketing framework Clickup used to scale to be a $4 billion company
Finding the right marketing channels can be overwhelming.
Should you launch a TikTok? Create a cold email campaign? Buy a billboard? Set up an influencer campaign? Go hard on SEO?
There are so many avenues you could explore to bring in new leads and new customers. But what works for one startup might not work for you. So how do you choose what to focus on?
Gaurav Agarwal, Chief Growth Officer at ClickUp (valued at $4b), spoke at our recent event Getting to $3m in ARR. That’s where he shared his framework on how startups should approach their marketing.
We’ll walk you through the model. And we’ll share what Gaurav would do if ClickUp was starting up today.
OK – so what are we looking at here?
On the X axis, we have audience size. On the Y axis, we have lifetime value. Regardless of your industry, you can use this model to explore what marketing channels you should prioritize.
Let’s imagine you’re a defense tech vendor. You have a contract offering that’s worth $500 million. There are only ~50 countries that can afford to spend that kind of money.
It’s an incredibly high LTV with a teeny tiny audience size. How do you sell this contract?
Clearly, no one’s clicking a Google ad and dropping hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead you have to run a tight business development motion. You have to work the network. You find contacts through advisory boards. You need an incredible pitch deck. This method is highly personalized and has a one-on-one sales process.
This isn’t a situation where you’re heavy on traditional marketing. It’s more about your ability to build a network and be masterful at sales.
On the flip side, imagine you have a product with an LTV of $10 but a huge audience size. Maybe you’re selling keychains or stickers or fidget spinners. Your LTV is too small to spend money on advertising, because your advertising costs would eat up your profits.
But it’s still possible to build a big business. If your startup is in this category, organic growth channels are gonna be key.
One method is to build community and have your customers spread the word for you. Join existing communities like Product Hunt, Reddit, and Hacker News to find your first users. Create your own content through a blog or social platforms like TikTok. If you’re really good, your content alone can consistently bring in thousands of views to your product.
You could also build in strong product growth levers like a referral program. Dropbox recruited more people by having users invite their friends to get more GBs of storage. Boomerang includes a “sent with Boomerang” sentence at the bottom of the emails its users send.
Organic growth channels will also work if you have a higher LTV. It just might take a little time to see results from these channels.
If your LTV is a bit higher, AND you’re selling to an audience of hundreds of thousands (or millions) of people, you may want to accelerate growth by throwing money at the problem. Seriously.
Paid media – like Facebook Ads or Google Ads – can be a great channel to explore. You could sponsor newsletters (like this one).
These channels work best if your startup can afford it. Most early-stage startups don’t have a massive marketing budget to play with. But if you can identify a channel and nail your messaging, you might find that a $1,000 investment yields $2,000 in profit, which is absolutely worth it.
But let’s say you’re only selling to 100,000 buyers just in the U.S.. It’s not a huge audience, but it’s significant enough that you need to do some marketing at scale.
This can look like setting up a booth at trade shows. Yeah, I’m talking about meeting people in-person! Ask investors for introductions. Throw a dinner party or exclusive event for potential clients.
You can also do similar things to what the defense tech company did: send 1:1 outbound emails, set up a customer advisory board, and work your network.
The bigger your audience is, the more channel options you have at your disposal.
If your LTV is super low and your audience size is tiny, that’s a bad business. Stay away from these ideas.
That’s the whole gamut! It boils down to:
- What’s your LTV?
- How big is your audience?
- How much $ can you spend on marketing today?
How would ClickUp go-to-market today?
ClickUp is a collaboration + work planning tool that's valued at $4b. They currently serve over 100,000 customers, reported $150m in revenue in 2022, and have raised $400m in funding.
We asked Gaurav what he’d do if he had to start building ClickUp today. Here’s what he said.
ClickUp: High LTV, big audience, little $ in the bank
First, Gaurav would make sure they had product market fit (PMF). He would talk to his users and figure out why they love the product so much. These reasons would probably be different for different audience segments.
Then he’d use that data to draft compelling messaging for their website and future marketing efforts.
Next he’d figure out where his users hang out by asking “How did you hear about us?”
What industries are they coming from? What Facebook groups or communities are they a part of? Gaurav wants to understand as much as he possibly can about his audience. Then he’ll start his own community and get the early users really excited.
Gaurav would share his product on Product Hunt, Reddit, and Hacker News to create momentum for what he’s building. He’d start investing in SEO, knowing that it’ll take at least six months to show results.
Once he has the flywheel going for building his audience, and the company has maximized a customers’ LTV, then it’s time to really scale. Gaurav would go to trade shows to meet CMOs and marketers. Then he’d start sending targeted outbound emails. And then he’d experiment with paid media and sponsorships.
This is critical: Gaurav would be sure to nail down product/message fit before going hard on marketing. Once you have that base, then it’s time to light the fire.