There are many reasons to consider building an in-house digital marketing team. The “3C” startup marketing framework simplifies building a digital marketing team.

Why build an in-house digital marketing team?

Digital marketing is a term that strikes fear into the heart of many intrepid business owners. At the root of that fear is a belief that digital marketing is far too complicated for mere mortals to understand. Therefore, many business owners decide to outsource to a digital agency. However, does outsourcing your digital marketing solve this marketing pain point?

Are you flying blind

A recent study by PWC commissioned by the Association of National Advertisers suggests that 70% of programmatic media spending goes unseen. As a result, many business owners have no idea whether or not their digital marketing efforts are generating results. If you are a business owner, it is essential to gain visibility into your digital marketing and get it under control.

Deactivate your marketing autopilot

Another recent article by McKinsey, Deactivate your digital-marketing autopilot recommends that organizations consider insourcing their digital marketing capability. Here are the key findings:

  • A more hands-on approach can drive double-digit revenue growth—without increasing budget.
  • Digital marketing today provides an unprecedented level of insight into customers.
  • Business owners opt out of digital marketing for convince.

That first recommendation, driving double-digit revenue growth without increasing the marketing budget, gets to the heart of the matter. If a more hands-on approach to digital marketing can drive double-digit revenue growth without increasing budget, why not build your team.

Startup Strategy – Begin with the end in mind

Startup Strategy Levels and Metrics

Figure 1 – Startup Strategy Levels and Metrics

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up someplace else” – Yogi Berra

Let’s get started. When building a digital marketing team, the best place to start is to get clear on your strategic goals and objectives. There are three layers of business operations; Strategy, Alignment, and Execution. Strategy is your 40,000-foot view of the business. Execution is on the ground level where the work gets done, and Alignment is that middle layer that connects strategy to execution. Each of these three layers has its own goals linked and aligned to the higher-level goals.

Strategy – North Star Goals

The North Star acts as a navigational aid to sailors in the northern hemisphere. In addition, North Star goals provide a way for business owners to orient themselves when making decisions. These goals are long-term, aspirational, and based on purpose & principles along with vision & values.

Alignment – Business Goals

Business goals connect and align purpose & principles, vision & values to the execution layer. These goals are usually relatively long-term, say two to five years into the future. The purpose of business goals is to align high-level strategy with tasks and actions completed on the ground level. For example, marketing goals would be a sub-set of business goals.

Ground Level – Digital Marketing Metrics

The execution layer or ground level converts goals into projects, tasks, and actions. The daily activities of your team are the currency of the ground level. Real progress happens here. Business owners need to have metrics that roll up to the higher level to align daily actions with a long-term vision.

My experience tells me that those two metrics are; CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) and CLV (Customer Lifetime Value). CAC and CLV are two metrics that provide business owners with all the data to make strategic decisions.

The “3C” Startup Digital Marketing Framework

“A content experiment is a question posed to customers, and measurement is the recording of the customers’ answer” – Unknown

The 3C in the digital marketing framework are;3C Startup Digital Marketing Framework

  • Content: First, content is an outbound workflow that creates and delivers quality information to attract customers.
  • Customer: Secondly, the customer workflow is inbound workflow starting when customers interact with your brand.
  • Cashflow: Finally, cash flow is a strategic loop that connects customer insights to revenue growth.

Therefore, the “3C” of the startup digital marketing framework provides a framework for measuring results.


CONTENT is a commitment not a campaign

“Content is the reason search began in the first place.” – Lee Odden

Content is the first “C” in the digital marketing framework. Content is a creative process, a commitment, and a long-term strategy. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the content strategy and design practical experiments to engage customers. Creating and delivering great content to your target audience will drive brand awareness and engagement.

Content Strategy

Figure 3 – Creating Content-Experiments

Content strategy is a plan used to launch a digital marketing campaign. The three stages of content strategy are; ideation, planning, and creation. Therefore, the content strategy stages are pre-launch activities.

  • Ideation is the most creative stage of the content process.
  • Planning involves developing themes, posts, and content scheduling.
  • Strategic creation involves high-level planning for the digital marketing campaign.

Conducting Content Experiments

Figure 4 – Building a Customer Insight Engine

The purpose of content experiments is to drive engagement and generate leads. Conducting experiments allows you to improve your content and measure results. Good content will resonate with your target audience. Increased website activity is an early indicator of a successful digital marketing campaign.

The stages of content experimentation are:

  • Creation putting the finishing touches on all your content layout and format.
  • Publish is where you start to post your content online.
  • Engagement is the measure of the success of your content experiments.

Get closer to your CUSTOMER than ever before

“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that they tell you what they need well before they realize it themselves.” Steve Jobs

Developing customer engagement and intimacy in a digital world is becoming increasingly essential. The Customer workflow is the inbound sales portion of the 3C startup marketing framework. However, it is crucial to consider both getting and keeping aspects of the customer workflow. The customer workflow involves lead management, onboarding, and facilitating long-term customer success.

Building a customer insight engine

A customer insight engine uses digital technology to understand the online buying cycle. The online buying cycle typically happens before a customer engages with your brand. There is a sequence of digital events that a customer will take to help inform them before making a buying decision. The figure shows how you can implement a customer insight engine with Google technology. The purpose of the customer insight engine is to characterize those early digital buying signals.

Digital Marketing Framework - Customer Pipeline

Figure 4b – Customer Pipeline

Customer Acquisition

Customer acquisition is about getting new customers and onboarding them into your business workflows. The Customer Funnel takes a more holistic approach than the traditional sales funnel. The critical difference is that the customer funnel provides a smooth transition from getting to keeping. In addition, a customer funnel is an integrated approach to creating inbound sales. The Customer Relationship Management system is at the heart of a well-managed customer workflow.

Customer Success

Customer Success is the keeping part of the customer relationship. The purpose is to provide a great customer experience and facilitate a mutually beneficial long-term relationship. In addition, this stage aims to maximize customer growth and minimize customer churn. An excellent all-around metric for customer success is CLV and renewal rate.

CASH FLOW – Measuring Success

“Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, but cash is king.”—Unknown

3C Startup Marketing Framework - Strategic Metrics

Figure 5 – 3C Strategic Metrics

I have had the opportunity to sit at many round tables with business owners. The majority of the time, their number one concern is Cashflow. Of course, Cashflow is a concern for business owners of all sizes. However, it can be a matter of life and death for startups and growing businesses. Therefore the overarching goal of the 3C Startup Marketing Framework is to focus on delivering positive Cashflow. In addition, the intent is to simplify the marketing metrics to a few critical strategic metrics.

Customer Engagement

Engagement measures will vary depending on the traditional sales channels and social media platforms used to communicate with potential customers. However, there are three general engagement measures; awareness, engagement, and inquiry. Awareness and engagement are at the top of the customer funnel and are pre-contact measures. Examples of top of funnel engagement metrics are website visits and views of social media posts.

The next level of engagement would be the customer interacting with your outbound content, such as liking a post or making a comment. Finally, the inquiry level is where you want to get to and means that the customer contacted your organization to request information.

Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC)

CAC is a true marketing metric and indicates that you have an excellent handle on your digital marketing efforts. This metric is key to being able to scale a startup PROFITABLY. However, CAC is very challenging to calculate and depends a great deal on the discipline & process for entering data in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

If you say, “Hey, CLV isn’t a marketing metric. It is more of a Customer Success metric” I would agree with you. However, if you are going to grow a business sustainably, CLV is the most critical metric. CLV is a good indicator of; renewal rates, churn, absorption, and revenue growth (loss). Furthermore, CLV is a relatively simple metric to track in your accounting system.
Churnzero has an excellent article comparing different metrics (about halfway down):

One metric to rule them all (CLV:CAC)

If there were “one metric to rule them all,” it would be the CLV:CAC ratio. CLV:CAC provides a good indication of; overall business health, margins, profitability, revenue growth, and customer retention. The CLV:CAC ratio needs to be greater than one (CLC:CAC > 1). I am a huge fan of the strategic importance of CLV:CAC because it is so many KPIs rolled into one.

The 3C Startup Marketing Framework

The 3C startup marketing framework is helpful for business owners looking to add digital marketing to their organization. The three workflows, content, customer, and cash flow, provide an integrated way to organize your digital marketing. The strategic metrics CAC, CLV, and CLV:CAC ratio allows business owners to quickly gauge the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns and overall profitability.

Ian Paul Graham
“I help business owners ”build digital demand teams.”