Reverse engineer your marketing strategy

Start with the end goal in mind

Wes Kao
4 min readJun 3, 2020


Everywhere you turn, there are tactics for every channel: growth marketing, SEO, conversion optimization, etc.

The hard part is figuring out what’s right for you and your situation.

If you ask me, “I want to do a podcast. Is this a good idea?” I can’t answer that off the top of my head.


Because everything works but not everything will work for you.

This sounds simple, but this single concept encompasses why marketing is both an art and a science.

There’s no such thing as an objectively good or bad tactic.

Here are two things to keep in mind:

  1. All the tools and tactics you found online, your competitors can find too.
  2. A tactic that’s the main driver for your competitor might completely fail for you. And vice versa.

Your ability to stand out and beat the competition is not based on tools and tactics. Your advantage is in HOW you use those tools/tactics, WHEN you use them, and WHY you use them.

Start by reverse engineering

Start with the end in mind-before you spend a single dollar or hour working on the project.

Make sure you have a hypothesis and point of view for why your idea is a good use of resources.

For example, let’s continue with the scenario of whether you should start a podcast.

We ask, “What is the podcast for?”

Asking the question isn’t enough. You need to assert an answer and share your point of view.

Is the podcast mainly for:

(A) Generating leads

(B) Keeping in touch with existing customers

(C) Expanding network (an excuse to reach out to famous people)

(D) Establishing credibility

You can’t choose (E) all of the above. 😂

You have to pick a MAIN goal and optimize for that. (Don’t worry, you will still get some of the other halo benefits.)

With each path, you would take a different set of actions. You would measure your results differently.

Let’s continue with our podcast example.

Below are the strategies, tactics, and metrics depending on which path you choose:

I want to map out these scenario plans, so you can see what each path entails. Often, we read about 30,000 feet strategies or 5 feet above the ground tactics. I want to take this opportunity to walk through how to combine them, so you can see the big picture and the tactical execution.

(A) Generate leads

To achieve this, use these tactics:

  • Pick a topic that’s interesting for your actual buyers/customers (not the broader industry)
  • Discuss common challenges and advice
  • Pick something spiky enough that people will share with others in the industry
  • Make the topic niche to target your specific leads
  • Determine whether or not you need guests on the show

Use these metrics:

  • Number of leads per week or month
  • Number of conversations in the pipeline
  • Number of new top of funnel leads

(B) Keep in touch with existing customers

To achieve this, use these tactics:

  • Make sure existing customers know about your podcast
  • Use the podcast as a conversation starter to re-engage former clients
  • Don’t worry about hitting huge download numbers from strangers because that’s not the point

Use these metrics:

  • Conversion rate for whether existing/former customers listen to the podcast
  • How many customers reply to your text/email about the podcast
  • How many customers mention the podcast in conversations about other stuff

(C) Expand your network (a reason to reach out to interesting people)

To achieve this, use these tactics:

  • Start with the guests you most want, then pick a podcast topic you think they’d be eager to join for. This is the OPPOSITE of what most people do. Most people pick a topic, then find guests. If your goal is to get in touch with certain target people, the actual topic of your podcast is secondary.
  • Choose a topic and use heuristics/semiotics that make your podcast something that the interesting people you’re targeting would feel proud to be affiliated with. If they think being on your show will be embarrassing, they won’t come on the show.
  • If it’s for reaching out to interesting people, do a guest-driven show.

Use these metrics:

  • Whether your target people reply and agree to be on the podcast
  • Whether target people reply and are glad to hear from you (even if they decline joining the podcast)

(D) Establish credibility

To achieve this, use these tactics:

  • Make sure the design reminds people of a popular podcast
  • Write good episode titles and summaries (knowing people will skim but not actually listen)
  • Choose topics that show you have breadth and depth

Use these metrics:

  • Conversion rate for successfully getting picked to speak at conferences
  • Conversion rate for being accepted in publications
  • Increase in inbound referrals
  • Increase in people who mention the podcast when they introduce you to strangers (a sign that they believe the podcast is a credibility indicator worth mentioning)

There are lots of other tactics and metrics for each strategy, but this is a start. The takeaway is, depending on what you’re optimizing for, you’ll focus on a different set of tactics and metrics.

Start with the end in mind, then reverse engineer your strategy for how to get there. It’ll help you focus and make better decisions about what to do.

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Wes Kao

Marketing | Product | Strategy | Prev: altMBA, Seth Godin HQ, Flite (acq by Snapchat), Gap Inc. @wes_kao |