Growth Program Sample
Demand Curve: Program Overview
If you’re looking to scale your customer acquisition, you’re in the right place. Our Growth Program will help build a growth engine so you can continuously acquire new customers and grow revenue. That’s all we’ll focus on.
In the Growth Program, you’ll:
- Identify your optimal growth strategy within days (not the weeks it would take if you were trying to go it alone or work with an agency).
- Build your growth engine in as little as 6 weeks. Even if you don't have technical chops, design skills, or a marketing background.
- Find your scalable marketing channel, create irresistible product messaging, and build a high-converting funnel to profitably generate new customers at scale.
Thousands of startups have gone through the Growth Program. Here’s what they’re saying:
How is the Growth Program different from other courses?
- Everything that we cover in this program has been tested, documented, and validated by members of the Demand Curve team, our agency Bell Curve (works with companies like Microsoft and Tumblr), and/or our network of vetted growth experts.
- The top learnings feed into the Growth Program. We break down every aspect of acquisition and conversion into step-by-step playbooks that show you exactly how to execute the strategy you’ll build.
- You start by defining your growth strategy, so you can focus on what matters and avoid distractions.
The tactics and strategies you'll learn in this program are presented in such a way that beginners with no marketing experience will be able to execute. And those with more experience will learn the advanced tactics we use to optimize the growth of our high-scale clients.
Why Demand Curve?
We are practitioners. Not retired marketers or educators who’ve researched but never actually been on the battlefield.
Our team brings expertise from leading growth at top companies like Grammarly, Webflow, and Airbnb. At Demand Curve, we've worked with thousands of startups across every industry (Perfect Keto, Clearbit, Zendesk to name a few), so we know exactly what growth and marketing tactics are working now.
And we run Bell Curve, our world-class agency that works with top startups like Outschool and Segment.
With the Growth Program, you get the same playbooks, templates, and SOPs that top agencies use to grow their startups.
This program is exactly what we wished we had when we began our journey in growth marketing.
Below, you’ll find a sample of the Growth Program’s acquisition strategy module. We’ll use it to build your growth strategy.
And if you’re not already reading the Growth Newsletter, consider signing up. Twice a month, we interview marketers in our community to figure out what growth tactics are working for them. Then we send the most actionable, highest-leverage growth tactics right to your inbox. Get a sample issue and try it:
Build your acquisition strategy guide
This is a program sample. You’ll get a small glimpse of the Growth Program.
This sample will take you less than an hour.
- You’ll learn how growth actually works. We’ll show you the frameworks that the fastest-growing companies use to acquire new customers. You’ll apply them to your startup immediately.
- Then you’ll build a tangible acquisition strategy. We’ll help you figure out the growth channel you should test first—based on everything you know about your business. You should leave this sample knowing exactly what you need to do to grow.
As you read through the sample, you’ll actually create an acquisition strategy in a separate template so you have clear next steps to execute.
You'll build a prioritized backlog of the top acquisition channels you've identified for your company.
We’ll take you through the same process we’ve used to grow brands like these:
Before we dive in
Let’s clear the air of one of the most common startup mistakes: Startups often think that growth comes from trying a ton of tactics at once and seeing if any work.
We equate this to throwing tactics at the wall waiting to see what sticks.
Growth doesn’t work like that. At least, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll succeed if you tactic hop.
Here’s what many founders and marketers don’t realize. You only need one acquisition channel to scale.
- Dropbox grew through a well-executed, product-led referral program.
- Allbirds, the direct-to-consumer shoe company, took advantage of low customer acquisition costs through Instagram ads.
- Salesforce grew solely through sales before expanding to other channels.
A channel is simply a platform you’ll use to acquire customers. Examples include Google ads, content marketing, and sales.
Figuring out which channel to test first and focusing—almost exclusively—on that channel is how you’ll produce real, meaningful growth.
We created a breakdown of every major channel and the types of businesses they’re most likely to work for. You'll also learn the 7-part framework we use to evaluate and prioritize acquisition channels:
- Scale: how scalable is the channel?
- Targeting ability: can you reach your audience with accuracy?
- Amount of effort required: how much ongoing time is required to get the channel work?
- Time to results: how quickly will you see results?
- User intent level: are users likely to buy from you through this channel?
- Minimum achievable cost to acquire a customer: how much does it cost to acquire a customer?
- Business types it works for: which business models and product types are best suited for this channel?
By the end of this sample, you’ll know exactly how to pick your primary acquisition channel—and how to use it to get traction.
Click here to open the full channel breakdown in a new window.
Here’s an example:
We’ll skip the theory and jump right into the part where you build your strategy.
Understanding growth theory is important, yes. But we believe that the best way to learn it is by immediately applying it to your startup.
Here’s how we’ll do it:
- Pop open the acquisition strategy template. Make a copy of it.
- Read one short reading at a time and fill out the template when we tell you to.
- At the end, we’ll tie it together and you’ll walk away with a strategy you can execute today.
Part 1: Define your Five Fits
This framework will help you figure out how five core components of your company fit together to form a foundation for rapid growth.
Growth is holistic—it comes when the individual parts of your startup are working together, in harmony.
It won't matter how hard you work or how clever your tactics are. If your fits are broken, growth will be incredibly hard.
You've probably heard of the concept of "product-market fit": when your product aligns with the needs of a market. The team at Reforge took this concept a step further by explaining that there are four fits that determine the growth potential of a product. We've built on their framework and added a fifth component. Here are all five:
- Your market: whom you choose to serve
- Your product: what you sell
- Your business model: how you make money
- Your brand: how you present yourself to your market and the world
- Your acquisition channel: how you get new customers
Each component has a direct relationship with the others:
Here’s a quick breakdown of the most critical relationships between these fits:
- Product-market fit: Consider the market you’re selling to before building a product. If you build a product first, you might not find a market for it. And, if you already have a product, be ready to adjust it to fulfill the needs of the market.
- Market-model fit: Your market will dictate the success of your pricing and business model. The size, buying power, and willingness-to-pay of your market will dictate your revenue model. Getting this fit right can be the difference between building a $1B startup versus one that can barely get off the ground.
- Market-brand fit: Your brand is ultimately your market's perception of your startup. The language your brand uses and your design choices should be tailored to your specific market.
- Market-channel fit: Every market is different. Where your customers spend time off- and online directly informs channel strategy. Likewise, a channel's targeting capabilities and general effectiveness will vary widely from one market to another. A channel may perform well for one market while failing for another. The key is honing in on the right channel for your specific market.
- Product-channel fit: You have zero control over channels. They are constantly changing. And new ones are always emerging. So you should build or adapt your product to fit with your growth channel.
- Model-channel fit: Your business model will limit the acquisition channels that are worth testing. If you charge $10,000 upfront for your product, you likely won’t be able to make conversion-focused ads work. You’ll need high-touch channels that can overcome the inherent friction that comes with your pricing model.
This framework serves as a shortcut for figuring out which marketing channels you should pursue. When you're just starting to think about customer acquisition, there are seemingly endless channels and tactics to consider.
But once you start thinking about your strategy through the lens of the five fits, it becomes clear that there are actually very few ways to approach customer acquisition—and you'll be able to confidently ignore the rest.
Now go ahead and take a minute to fill out the corresponding section of the acquisition strategy template. Then come back over here and read the next section.
Part 2: Where to start based on stage of growth
Scalable vs. unscalable channels
There are far fewer ways to scale customer acquisition than most people think. But that’s not a problem—it’s better for focus.
There are many channels, but only a few of them are scalable—meaning that they have the potential to help you build a sizable business.
Scalable channels have two critical things in common:
- High volume: They allow you to reach a lot of people. You can acquire many customers and use the channel for a long time.
- Compounding/looping effects: They have a self-fueling mechanism that allows you to repeatedly reinvest the outputs of the channel (revenue or new users) right back into it to produce more growth. The concept of loops has been gaining popularity. We've also adopted this term internally as we feel it's a great metaphor for how scalable channels function.
Channels that have these two characteristics are called scalable channels. If they don't have both characteristics, we refer to them as unscalable channels.
Platforms like Facebook and Amazon have made it easy for startups to use paid advertising to reach millions of people. Search engine marketing allows you to tap into Google's billions of daily search queries. Previously, that kind of scale was possible only through TV, magazines, or national news coverage.
That said, there simply aren't that many high-volume platforms out there.
Scalable channels aren't the only channels you can use to acquire customers, but they're the only channels that will enable you to build a large, sustainable company.
There are tons of other channels that can help you grow yet don't match our criteria for scalability. We'll refer to these as unscalable channels.
Some common unscalable channels are:
While unscalable channels alone won't be enough to build a huge business, they can help you gain traction. The following diagram helps to visualize this:
The high-scale channels fall on the far right of the matrix. But if we look closely, we see that nearly all of them, with the exception of paid marketing, take a significant amount of time to generate a return on investment ("Time to ROI"). Unscalable channels can have lower initial investment costs and get you results faster.
Unscalable channels matter: Early-stage companies need customers as soon as possible. Not only do they need the revenue to pay their companies' costs, but startups also need people using the product so they can assess their product-market fit before scaling their growth.
So your strategy will likely include a combination of scalable and unscalable channels.
Deciding where to start based on your stage of growth
The stage of your startup will affect the growth channels you focus on.
Let's explore the four growth stages:
You're just starting out. Maybe you just launched a product.
This is simple. Your focus should be on getting customers to use your product to assess product-market fit. Unscalable channels work well here.
Your initial customers will help you adapt your product so you can pursue traction (and scalable channels).
You have some customers coming from unscalable channels. It's likely low-volume, inconsistent, and unpredictable, but you have some customers. Now it's time to find a scalable channel.
It's likely you're at this stage if you're considering the Growth program.
The main focus at the traction stage:
- Learn from your first users. Adapt product as necessary.
- Test scalable channels.
You're actively acquiring customers using a scalable channel.
At this stage, your startup is starting to show real growth. You have an effective team, and you’re consistently acquiring new customers.
Most, if not all, of these customers are coming through the one scalable channel.
As you continue to grow, you may need to abandon low-leverage unscalable channels to reallocate efforts toward higher-leverage channels that support your primary scalable channel.
The main focus at the growth stage:
- Double down on the single scalable channel that's working to acquire customers.
- Abandon unscalable channels to reallocate resources toward the scalable channel.
You're approaching the ceiling of your primary scalable channel.
Your startup has matured and is beginning to look like a real business. Various processes are in place that allow you to grow your scalable marketing channel consistently. You likely have a whole team dedicated to your primary scalable acquisition channel.
But you're beginning to notice a plateau in the number of customers you're able to acquire through that scalable channel. All the low-hanging fruit has been picked, and your team is focusing on smaller optimizations.
Those optimizations matter, but if you're going to continue to grow or accelerate your growth, you'll need to implement another scalable acquisition channel.
Focus at the scaling stage:
- Optimize existing scalable acquisition channel.
- Allocate resources toward finding a second scalable channel.
- Invest in multiple unscalable channels that complement your existing and new scalable channel.
Take 30 seconds to fill out Part 2 of the acquisition strategy template. Then come back over here and proceed.
Part 3: Choose your acquisition lane
While there are many different "channels," there are only a few acquisition "lanes." Lanes are simply broad umbrella categories that channels fall into.
For example, "paid acquisition" is a lane that consists of Facebook ads, Twitter ads, Instagram ads, Google Search ads, and all other paid advertising channels.
After helping over 1,000 startups grow, we've found that there are only four major acquisition lanes that drive scalable growth:
- Paid acquisition
We'll introduce each and highlight a few particularities that make them unique. After discussing the four acquisition lanes, we'll revisit unscalable channels to consider how they relate to acquisition.
Paid acquisition refers to any channel, tactic, or marketing activity in which you're paying for new customers, traffic, or exposure. Advertising channels are the most popular form of paid acquisition. Affiliates and most influencer campaigns also fall under paid.
Note that we mostly cover digital paid acquisition channels. However, traditional forms of paid acquisition, like billboards and TV ads, are also options.
Here's an example of what a basic paid acquisition loop might look like:
- Short feedback loop between experimentation and results
- Strong control over the channel's outputs like price, volume, and target audience
- You can get started with very low budgets
- Highly competitive
- Takes a lot of effort to maintain performance over time
- A "reverse economies of scale" effect: Things get more expensive/inefficient at scale
Company types that work best
- Products with moderate lifetime value (LTV) or annual revenue per user (ARPU). Low-value products likely won't be profitable, and expensive ones generally struggle to convert via ads alone
- Products with very short sales cycles
- Visual, aesthetically appealing products
- Products with simple value props
- Products serving large markets
Content refers to acquiring customers by showing them content that directly or indirectly relates to your product.
There are three broad categories of content:
Here's an example of what a basic content growth loop might look like:
- Doesn't always require direct cash investment—only costs time to get started
- Scales well
- Less intrusive than paid advertising
- Create once, distribute forever
- Traffic compounds over time
- Allows your users to become your biggest growth mechanism
- Expensive at scale
- It can take a long time to get results
- At the mercy of search engine algorithms
- Competition (especially SEO) can be insurmountable
Company types that work best
- Product's usage enables user content creation
- Products or problems that have existing search volume
- Complex products or spaces in which education is needed
- Spaces or industries in which thought leadership, trust, or validation is required
- Products with access to (or the ability to create) proprietary data
At its core, virality means that growth is driven by users of a product spreading the word and inviting others to use the product as well.
People often assume that virality is simply word of mouth. But there are actually several forms of virality. We'll examine the two major categories:
Here's an example of what a viral growth loop might look like:
- Super low cost
- Leverages the most trusted way people buy: recommendations from their friends
- Very difficult to get right
- Hard to control or influence
- Requires a critical mass of people to take effect
Company types that work best
- Products that gain utility with every new user (e.g., networks, social products)
- Products that are innately fun or social
- Products that are simple with a broad appeal
Sales tends to fall outside the growth marketing scope, but it's one of the top channel-led strategies. Why is it so powerful? Because it too, like every strategy mentioned above, is scalable. A salesperson works to find and close new customers. Revenue is captured from those customers. And that revenue can be directly invested into hiring more salespeople, which in turn leads to more revenue.
Sales consists of two parts:
- Lead generation: Lead generation is the act of searching for people or businesses that fall into your target audience. The goal of lead generation is to identify a prospective customer and find a channel to directly reach them through. Once a "lead" has been identified, it's then passed to the direct sales team to make first contact. Lead generation is typically done through content marketing, paid marketing, or cold outreach.
- Direct sales: Direct sales is the process of turning leads into customers. Direct sales can happen over the phone, in person, and sometimes over email. It often involves educating and negotiating with a prospect until a deal is finalized.
While we don't spend much time on direct sales in this program, we'll cover lead generation in depth.
Here's an example of what a sales growth loop might look like:
- Allows for very niche targeting at scale
- You can create systems that lead to a repeatable and predictable acquisition engine
- Unlike other channels, messaging can be tailored in real time, which can lead to a higher likelihood of closing a sale
- You're able to develop a personal relationship with your prospective customer
- Allows you to explain your product in great detail
- Very expensive
- Requires constant hiring, training, and up-skilling of your sales team
Company types that work best
- Products with long or complex sales cycles
- Expensive products
- Products that require training to use
- Products that require custom quotes or configurations
Unlike the acquisition lanes we just highlighted, unscalable acquisition channels won't compound in effectiveness over time. They can't make use of their outputs and are typically only effective for a short amount of time.
For example, public relations (PR) is only effective when publications are writing about your startup. A single mention in a highly regarded publication might lead to a few hundred signups, but it will only be visible on the main page for a few hours before getting replaced by another post. Each new PR write-up will require the same amount of effort to get published, and the results from one campaign can't be directly reinvested into future PR campaigns.
- Many are cheap
- Can supplement scalable channels
- Helps to kick-start scalable channels
- Less competitive
- Doesn't have scale potential
- Many are one-offs and not repeatable
Company types that work best
- Early-stage companies looking to get an initial flow of users and customers
- Companies looking to augment their primary scalable channel
Head back over to the acquisition strategy template and fill out Part 3: Major acquisition lanes. Provide a reason for your decision and then come back here to finish building your growth strategy.
Part 4: Define your goals and constraints
This is a quick section to help you clarify your goals so that you pick the right acquisition channels in part 5. Keep your acquisition strategy template open.
Every startup has a different goal. Maybe you want to build a product that's used by millions of people each day. Or maybe you want to create a lifestyle business that's modestly profitable. It's a choice that all startup founders must make.
Fill out the corresponding section in your template.
Startups also have different sets of constraints to work within. We'll help you identify the constraints that matter most for customer acquisition.
- What kind of budget do you have to spend on acquiring customers? Can it be increased? Will it be refilled once spent? Who's in charge of that budget?
- What results are required? Is there a time limit?
- Who's available to work on growth projects? Do they have dedicated time and resources?
- What resources are available? Can more resources be acquired over time?
- Are there legal or regulatory constraints you must work within?
Go ahead and fill out your constraints in your template.
Now that you've defined both your goals and constraints, most of the prioritization has already been done for you. That's because most channels have a very specific set of requirements in order to be effective.
For example, a small acquisition budget will rule out most paid channels with high customer acquisition costs.
We need to align you with a channel that will give your startup the greatest chance of predictably acquiring new customers—even with your constraints.
Part 5: Select your channels
At this point, you should have a solid feel for which “lane” makes sense to explore first.
Now, it’s time for you to actually decide which channel to start with.
Let’s revisit the channel overview guide, now that you know what you’re looking for.
Open the overview guide.
Then head back over to the acquisition strategy template to finish this step of the project.
You’ll end up with something that looks like this:
Learn how to execute your acquisition strategy
At this point, you should have a channel picked out. Maybe you’re ready to test it.
There are two ways forward from here:
- You can either attempt to execute your strategy by yourself
- Or you can get the Growth Program, and we can help you
We purposely kept this sample high level. It’s a small fraction of what we can help you with.
There's so much more to growth that you should be thinking about. And we cover everything you need in the Growth Program—without weighing you down with the things you don’t.
Here’s what you’ll get when you buy the program:
- Learn to identify your best-fit channels, and make sure all of your time and effort results in growth.
- Playbooks on all growth channels so you can build, launch, test, and scale. We provide playbooks for over 40 channels including paid social ads (Facebook/Instagram ads), paid search ads (Google ads), content marketing, product virality, sales, and many others.
- Fast-track growth through competitor research. Identify your ideal customer and develop product messaging that hooks them.
- Build a high-converting funnel. Create landing pages and design your onboarding experience.
- Create an experiment engine—run growth experiments to test new channels and increase your conversion rate.
- Track performance and set up a strong analytics foundation.
- Create an email marketing engine to move leads through your funnel.
Here’s a list of topics that you’ll get from the program:
- Growth Principles
- Growth Fundamentals
- Market and Customer Research
- Value Props
- Acquisition Strategy
- Onboarding Flow
- Landing Pages
- Conversion Tracking
- Landing Page Design & Development
- A/B Tests
- Ad Copy
- Ad Creatives
- Ad Optimization
- Google Search Ads
- Google Display Ads
- Google Shopping Ads
- YouTube Ads
- Amazon Ads
- Facebook and Instagram Ads
- Quora Ads
- Pinterest Ads
- Snapchat Ads
- LinkedIn Ads
- Apple Search Ads and App Store Optimization
- Bing Ads
- Twitter Ads
- Ad Networks
- Direct Sponsorship, Conferences, and Offline Meetups
- Influencer Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Cold Outreach
- Email Marketing & Marketing Automation
- Screen Recordings & Heatmaps
- Experimentation & Conversion Rate Optimization
And the best part about the Growth Program?
You’ll build your growth engine in as little as 6 weeks.
We’ll help you build a system that helps you scale customer acquisition and revenue.
- Hit your fundraising targets with ease
- Hire top employees
- Spend less time worrying about getting customers and more time leading your team
Regardless of your skills and background, by investing 1-2 hours per day into the program, you can build your scalable growth engine and take your startup to the next level.