How to scale your revenue engine: a roadmap
August 19, 2021
Many founders pour a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into their respective companies, but if they don’t know how to even approach the idea of revenue acceleration, all that effort can go to waste. As a business, there’s a lot you need to have lined up before stepping your foot on the gas and scaling your marketing and sales. And so, here’s a roadmap devised by our CEO and co-founder, Fabian Van Hoegee, which details what all scale-ups need to know before they can even think about scaling their revenue engine.
Have a clear market fit before scaling
We see this happening a lot: many businesses actually start scaling too early. And this is when they really start to burn money. The prerequisite to scale your revenue operations is that you have a product-market fit. Many scale-ups believe they already have one, when they don’t.
Having sold something many times before still doesn't prove that you have a clear product-market fit. You need to know that the market is there, that people are looking for the solution, and that your product is the right solution. This is super important before scaling.
It ensures there is a repetitive process where you have a proven track record in selling your product or service, at least at scale, and not mass scale.
Identify your ideal customer profile
Before deep-diving into the revenue engine, you first need to understand your ideal customer profile. Many startups shoot for almost everything in the universe, but bringing in focus and ensuring that everything you do is in line with your ideal customer profile is essential.
Also, as a scale-up, you need to keep an eye on your resources. You’re not like a corporate with bottomless pockets. Determining your ideal customer profile based upon the win rate and the customer lifetime value is a crucial first step in building a revenue engine.
Understand your target personas
Once you’ve come to grips with your ideal customer profile, the next step is understanding your target personas. Also, understanding the different pains and gains, and that these can be super different by target persona. For example, what does the decision-making unit look like? Who is the user who is actually the influencer, who's the champion, and who actually buys it? Be aware that all of those target personas have different needs for engagement and content.
To put this into perspective, let’s take a look at a SaaS company. Here, there are normally three personas involved:
The daily user
The decision-maker mostly cares about ROI and if money is being spent appropriately on the software, whereas the manager is more interested in ensuring the software can perform things like alerts, reports, and progress measurements.
As for the daily user, they want the software to be easy and efficient to use.
Define your brand positioning
Your positioning and branding should be crystal clear. As you start to scale and produce and distribute content, it's vital that your brand's character is properly defined, so you know how you differentiate versus your competition. Knowing who you are, how you communicate, and your tone of voice. After that, you can start to make a real, standardized content production engine.
Download content planning template
Live your value proposition
It’s a common problem in scale-ups and even large corporates: not communicating your value proposition in a compelling way. The solution?
As part of your onboarding program, ensure that your employees are able to give an elevator pitch. They’re the ones out there meeting potential future clients. So by living your value proposition and ensuring it’s a compelling story that can be articulated by any employee in the company is fundamental in the revenue engine.
Content strategy: what, where, and when
When it comes to content strategy, it’s crucial that it comes from your positioning and branding. Think about what kind of content you’re going to produce in order to create awareness, and where, but also how to convert that awareness and consideration into closing deals. For example, the content that can produced at every awareness stage, includes:
Totally unaware content: content that goes through the why, what, how, and what to do next regarding your product category, such as books, quizzes, symptom-focused articles, press articles, and category consumption.
Problem-aware content: checklists, webinars, guides, and templates.
Solution-aware content: calculators, buying guides, industry reports, product choice quizzes, and scorecards.
Product-aware content: case studies, comparison pages, use case pages, and ROI calculators.
Moreover, your content calendar is just as important. Understand that it isn’t just about the type of content you produce, but when you distribute it.
Produce content to communicate over time, not all at once so that there's something compelling at every stage of the pipeline. This will attract or convert prospects while nurturing existing customers.
Experiment with acquisition channels
With your content library in tow, it’s time to start experimenting with your acquisition channels. Socials, like Instagram, or Pinterest, or LinkedIn are important, but so are intent channels like search, both organic and paid, or display advertising.
The reason why you should focus on more than one channel at the beginning is to test which channels will get you the best results in terms of acquisition costs, quality of leads and customers. It’s a good practice to focus on the channel that works best (for the sake of simplicity) and broaden once you nail that channel.
Download channel strategy framework
Determine your routes-to-market
Once you bring customers into your pipeline, you need to start building your route-to-market, which is fundamental to this whole process. You could build:
A high-touch route-to-market using (in-person on-site sales), which is used often when selling to enterprises
A low-touch model (inside sales)
A notecards route-to-market, for example, e-commerce
An all-routes model (omnichannel) where you basically use the different target audiences and channels while making conscious decisions
The indirect route. You don't always need to sell directly to an end customer. You can use resellers in order to reach your target audience, too.
However, the most important thing when you start to scale is making the decision of where to focus.
Develop your backbone
Your website. In every stage of the journey, people will use your website as a hub to come back to. And it’s not only important for acquiring new customers, but also for retaining and developing existing customers.
Align your pricing
Scale-ups often don’t align their pricing model and average order value with their route-to-market. For example, if you have a high-value product, then you’ll probably need a high-touch route-to-market.
Your cost to serve is instrumental when you start to scale, so ensure they’re nicely aligned because if your cost to serve is too high, you'll scale, but you'll never enjoy a profitable business model.
Build the best squad
You can only achieve all of the above if you have the best squad with the right skills. Here are the roles we think you need in your business to successfully build a revenue engine:
At the top: a chief revenue officer. This role is instrumental to oversee that whole customer journey, as - from marketing, sales, and customer service - customer success is instrumental in building a great team.
Content marketing and visual motion design, both ensuring there’s compelling content at every stage of the pipeline.
A growth marketer - somebody who can outreach both outbound and inbound, and can convert the traffic into an engaged audience.
UI and UX design - to understand what resonates and how we can, through A-B testing, increase the conversion rate of the audience visiting either landing pages or websites.
Sales development reps (SDR) - who pick up accounts and convert them into opportunities and then hand them over to an account executive.
Customer Success reps - to manage the customer once a deal is closed, and ensure they continue to use the product without problems.
And, finally, in order to make sure that this whole team is properly working together and in the right way, you need somebody to oversee the revenue operations (RevOps). When you start scaling your revenue engine, you might not need one person for each of these roles, but you will need the capabilities. So it could be possible to combine the capabilities, using one employee for different roles if they have the correct skills, or outsourcing some of the jobs on an ad hoc-basis.
Always improve the customer journey
Every stage a customer goes through, needs to be documented and continuously improved. This determines what kind of content and touchpoints you have with a customer or a prospect. Building your customer journey is instrumental in scaling your revenue engine.
Invest in your tech stack
It’s vital you invest in your technology stack because it’s basically where all your people will be working with. It ensures all of your employees understand what they need to do and in which system they need to do it.
"If it's not in the technology stack - it doesn't exist. Your biggest investment will probably be your people, so not investing in your technology stack will mean they can't be as productive as you want them to be."
Understand data is everything
The next phase is that you nourish and nurture the data within your systems. Always look at the quantity and quality of the data, and make targets around it. You can have a lot of data in your systems but if it's not about your ICPs, target personas, or you don't have the first names of all your contact persons in your CRM, it may impact any outbound campaigns the following year. Investing and focusing on your data quantity and quality is key in order to scale your revenue operation.
Know your metrics
Next, set objectives. For example, use the OKR methodology. This will help steer the business while helping you better understand your detailed metrics such as your customer acquisition costs. Those will be the metrics that you need in order to continuously iterate and improve your marketing and sales operations.
Take baseline metrics, for example. This is the average conversion rate of a lead to a customer or the average conversion rate from page view to lead. Either way, it's important to have an idea of what your average metrics are so you can see if you're making progress in your efforts to improve them. Also, understand the difference between leading vs lagging metrics.
Leading metrics or “indicators” refer to the actions which are necessary to achieve your goals with measurable outcomes. They “lead” to successfully meeting overall business objectives, hence the name. Lagging metrics, are indicators that most accurately measure the actual business impact you’re trying to achieve but over a longer period, meaning it takes more time to measure. Using one of these metrics without the other could prove problematic. The solution? Use a combination of both.
Look at leading indicators to measure progress on an ongoing basis, especially those that complement your lagging indicators so that you can measure progress more quickly. Last but not least, be conscious of what metrics you are tracking and why. It’s easy to fall into the trap of following metrics that make you look good to others (vanity metrics) but don’t actually help you understand your own performance. Especially in a way that informs future strategies. It’s therefore a good idea to instead track actionable metrics like ratios because these are relative and can be easily compared.
We always advise that you work like developers: agile. Don’t plan too far in advance and work in sprints. Have a backlog where you’re aware of your ideas and have bi-weekly sprints, where on every level of the pipeline, you perform certain activities and experiments. This way you have very clear deliverables and learnings every two weeks. Working in this way, you continuously learn what works for your company; you start to understand what kind of content and channels work and where you need to improve systems and data.
In order to work in sprints, you will need a sound meeting cadence, not only for marketing but in sales, too. We always advise you to start and end the day with a huddle, but this depends on your own company culture. Have a longer review at the beginning (or end) of the week, where you determine what you’re going to do that or the following week, and then have a monthly review cycle. Without a sound meeting cadence where you check in with your whole team, it can get very chaotic, very quickly.
When you start figuring out how to scale your revenue engine it's best to start with the smallest of experiments. Don't invest thousands in individual campaigns - invest small amounts across different channels, keep the growth hacking methodology and see what works. This is where you’ll start to learn. Once you find what works, double down on it. Otherwise, you will just burn a lot of money and have no return on investment.
Download experiment document template
Acquire, develop, retain
When it comes to the acquisition of new clients, make sure that you retain your existing clients, develop them, and do more business with them - cross and upsell - before you start focusing on acquiring new customers.
In your bi-weekly sprints, always have a clear perspective on those three things, especially retention. While most businesses might put all their efforts into acquiring as many customers as possible, it’s been found that an increase in retention can actually contribute to a major increase in revenue.
And finally, it’s very important that you celebrate success. Find the one metric which matters on a day-by-day level. And that's not only closing a deal. It might be one or two SQLs a day per person. Make sure you understand when salespeople are successful, not only in closing deals, but also earlier in the process.
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to scaling your revenue engine. Here’s, we’ve condensed the main points of the roadmap to help you:
Before you start scaling your revenue engine, have a clear product-market fit.
If you start to scale, make sure that your ICP so your ideal customer profile and the target personas are crystal clear.
Ensure the cornerstone around branding and content strategy is fixed as well.
Once you start to produce content, distribute it and keep a growth mindset.
This needs to convert into customers via the right route to market. Therefore, you need to have the right team, technology stack, and customer journey.
In that mix lies the success of a real revenue engine. Data will lead you to the right answers, so combine this with the right experiments in order to find your sweet spot.