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How growth marketing can lead to big B2B success

B2B Marketing’s latest trend tracker lists growth marketing as its second-hottest* trend for clients in 2020. If you’ve not yet come across growth marketing, you may consider the term a tautology – surely marketing is all about growth? This is quite common, and we have received lots of enquiries about growth marketing since the start of 2020, many starting with ‘but what is it?’

(*In case you were wondering, marketing automation grabs the top-spot.)

If you’ve tried googling ‘growth marketing’ you’ll probably find yourself getting more and more confused, and you’ll definitely come across the related term: ‘growth hacking’. With many sites (incorrectly) using the two terms interchangeably, or mixing up the crucial characteristics of each, it’s clear to see that even the industry is confused!

This article will break it down for you – here’s our B2B growth marketing 101.

The birth of growth hacking

It all started with growth hacking. Growth hacking “blends product development, analytics and online marketing to quickly generate, prioritize and test ideas for rapid business growth”. Growth hacking can be perceived negatively because of the word ‘hacking’, but it’s not (necessarily) about hacking into the back end of systems or underhand acquisition of information. This is ‘hacking’ in the sense of ‘life hacks’ – a quick and easy solution to a challenge. (Note: ‘quick and easy’ in the context of growth hacking is how it may seem from the outside, but don’t be fooled – growth hacking is hard work and takes a great deal of thinking outside the box.)

The ‘father of the growth hacking movement’, Sean Ellis (his words, not ours!) coined the term ‘growth hacking’. One of the most famous examples of growth hacking comes from his work at Dropbox. Hired in 2008, when the company was just a year old, Sean was employed as a Marketing Executive. He was initially tasked with undertaking some customer research, which indicated that there was huge potential for the business. This is a key point of growth hacking – first of all you have to know that the product has potential. Sean’s research also uncovered that referrals were a key factor in Dropbox getting new users. So, he came up with a way of increasing referrals, which was critical for the company’s growth. The resulting referral programme delivered 3,900% growth in 15 months. Sean’s perspective is that by thinking beyond marketing, he was able to initiate huge growth in a short space of time, for a relatively low budget.

Growth hacking is often associated with tech start-ups. This is because when a tech start-up goes live, it will be launched online, it will have a tech product rather than a physical product, the business needs to grow fast, probably with no marketing budget, and the team may have limited traditional marketing expertise. This combination of factors means that it is highly likely that the business will consider solutions to growth that are outside of the traditional marketing toolkit.

Because the principles of lean and agile development are usually second nature to these teams, these principles will likely run across any product marketing and marketing communication tactics that are employed. Direct contact with developers makes product development highly accessible so the product too can be optimised for rapid growth. And of course, for a tech start up, without rapid growth, there is only rapid failure.

So, what is growth marketing?

Growth hacking techniques have inspired growth marketing. From our perspective at Clear B2B, we feel that the concept of ‘growth marketing’ is about pulling together many strands of marketing and communications to get the best results. This could be through continuous website modifications, fine-tuning certain aspects of the customer experience, modifying communications headlines, calls to actions, or other tests and tweaks. The best way to think about growth marketing is a balance between old-skool brand marketing, and digital performance marketing.

The growth marketer mindset

If you are interested in introducing a growth marketing mindset to your business, below is our list of tips for being a successful growth marketer.

Never neglect the brand

Growth marketers know that brand is critical. Yes, it is notoriously hard to measure, but forgetting the value of your brand and focusing only on short-term, purely attributable activity is a risk. Brand isn’t entirely unmeasurable anyhow – tracking brand mentions and sentiment is important, and while it may not be possible to pinpoint any fluctuations to one individual activity, work on your brand is not wasted. After all, why do so many people choose Apple? It’s not because of their growth hacking activity. It’s because the brand is so strong and well understood that it acts as a shortcut in people’s minds to help form a purchasing decision.

Find the WOW

In growth marketing, creating a WOW experience is important. A positive customer experience is the bare minimum in all forms of marketing, but if you can really make an impact, this will drive word of mouth recommendations, as well as help translate leads into sales – and of course conversion to sales is crucial to growth.

Collaborate to optimise the entire funnel

We’ve been advocating breaking down silos FOREVER. Growth marketers are the sorts of people who have relationships across the whole of a business, making it possible for them to uncover ways to improve both the product and the customer experience at every touchpoint. This can be crucial for identifying existing weaknesses, as well as getting new ideas and perspectives on achieving unprecedented levels of sustainable growth.

Measure everything

One of the key principles of growth marketing (and growth hacking) is the collection and analysis of data. Marketing is all about measurement, but sometimes marketers are guilty of looking at data but not properly analysing it. In growth marketing, it is critical to draw insight from results and use the data gathered to adjust the parameters of a campaign, check the results, adjust again, and quickly see the consequence of those changes in your results, continually tinkering to achieve the optimum outcome.

Be prepared to fail

Despite constantly tweaking parameters of an activity, you won’t always discover the right answer. There may be times when the changes made actually have a negative impact – but this isn’t wasted effort. The information that is available from a failed experiment is as valuable as a successful experiment – it just may take a further step to optimise the parameters to reach the impact desired. And if your original hypothesis for achieving growth is wrong – that’s also useful information. Look at the data and develop a new hypothesis. Then use the iterative approach to find the right combination that leads to sustainable growth.

Be hungry for better

Growth marketers aren’t looking for perfection – they’re seeking continuous improvement. What has been done yesterday may be good, but today could be even better, and as for tomorrow… Adapt, learn and adapt again so you are always focused on optimising products, processes and your marketing activity.

Seek out sustainable growth

While growth hackers are oriented around achieving rapid growth, in growth marketing, the key is sustainable growth. Rapid growth tactics such as paid for Google Ads or social media post boosting can be effective in kickstarting business after a period of low activity, but for growth marketing these should form part of a wider programme of activity targeting steady growth over the longer-term.

Implementing a growth marketing strategy

Growth marketing can seem a many-headed beast that is out of reach to some B2B marketers, particularly given the level of data and analysis required, but it shouldn’t be. The key principles are to focus on sustained growth, measure activity, and adjust what you are doing accordingly. It’s not top-of-the-funnel acquisition or jumping ahead to immediate sales, it’s about engagement across the whole sales funnel, turning customers into advocates. Growth marketing uses many of the general principles of marketing that we are all familiar with, growth marketing is just about the mindset!

If you’re interested in implementing a growth marketing strategy, but not sure where to start, get in touch with Rachel Arquati to talk about your business growth.

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