Julian Shapiro is an active writer, creator, and angel investor. He’s also the
founder of Demand Curve, a YC startup that provides tactical growth training to clients like
Microsoft and Zendesk.
He’s also quite prolific across a range of social channels where he
deconstructs how things work - like storytelling and critical thinking - and
shares learnings along the way.
Julian’s tactical expertise is naturally in high demand, so we sat down
with him to jam on funnel construction, resource allocation, in-house
marketing, angel investing criteria, and more.
Phase I: Identifying Growth Channels
To determine a brand’s initial growth focus, Julian advises that teams lean
into competitive analysis, or researching how other companies in the same
vertical scaled. In practice, this can include tracking down founding
members of those teams to distill best practices, or combing through their
past interviews on podcasts or news outlets to uncover their growth
The outcome of this research phase is to zero in on where you should be
allocating your limited resources, regarding both time and capital
After determining which channels have been historically utilized by similar
brands, Julian recommends running tests on the channels you’re most
confident in, while secondary channels can be deprioritized for the time
“When you’re first designing a growth funnel, consider prioritizing the
channels you’re most confident will convert based on historical
Phase II: Deploying Channel Tests
After clearly distilling growth channels, Julian recommends quickly
shipping experimental tests within each unique vertical. When determining
whether to outsource or build an in-house growth team to execute across each
identified channel, he advises teams to first consider the level of
competency that’s necessary for the platform in question.
For instance, if your brand might benefit from creating and running video
ads on Facebook (a channel that’s harder to quickly master), bringing in an
agency that’s equipped for large-scale production of content and creative
assets would be the way to go.
Meanwhile, most major forms of content marketing — landing pages, product
copy, drip emails and email campaigns, original reports — that are embedded
in the fabric of your brand should rarely be outsourced. Rather, those
should be cultivated internally and led by someone that’s deeply embedded in
the core product and ecosystem in which your startup operates.
Julian points out that a seasoned copywriter embedded within the company
can quickly provide massive ROI, given that content touches nearly every
element of growth marketing.
Lastly, he adds that outsourcing or having an agency on retainer tends to
perform well in three cases:
If attaining internal competency will yield more sunk time and capital than
it’s worth. If it’s a key channel for scalable growth that must be executed
quickly and flawlessly. If the agency or studio has proven its ability to
drive cost-effective leads that convert.
“On a channel by channel basis, it boils down to how good you have to be to
do a great job at it, as well as how hard it is to get to that level. Some
channels are hard to self-teach, and you’ll benefit from a third party’s
vantage point and capabilities. In which case, you could stick with them
externally for a while.”
Phase III: Leveraging Content Flywheels
Once you’ve clearly identified growth channels and begun to experiment
within each, Julian recommends evaluating your company’s content landscape
across parallel tech verticals.
According to Julian, too many early-stage companies jump straight into SEO
without figuring out how it maps to their needs, though SEO can sometimes be
a winning strategy for particular brands in unique subsectors.
This advice also goes for channels like podcasts or Twitter that are in
vogue at the moment, though might not actually be compatible with your
Finally, Julian droves home the point that the perfect growth engine still
can’t outstrip your core business fundamentals: making products that people
“There's always going to be a new platform, new tech, or new copywriting
hack. The world's constantly changing and chasing it can be fruitful, but
it’s not what I recommend most companies focus on. Rather, recommit to the
High-Performance Growth Marketers
When asked what makes a killer growth marketer, Julian shares his three
With an inundated content market, a creatively generative marketer —
someone who spins up innovative ideas and rapidly ships new experiments —
can take your growth to the next level.
Metrics are a critical temp check when acquiring early users. A top-class
marketing hire can methodically run tests, properly implement tactics,
assess results with clarity, and iterate based on those results. Without a
foundational understanding of data, marketers are flying blind.
Copywriting touches on nearly every growth channel, and having strong
writing chops relays a genuine understanding of user behavior. Fortunately,
Julian also notes that copywriting is an age-old practice that almost anyone
can learn through proven methods and pattern matching.