I've never imagined myself running a growth hacking agency.
When I was growing up, this wasn't really a thing.
Yet, in 2020, we're in talks of the CMO being a dying position and third-party agencies, like BAMF, are taking the center stage of the marketing efforts for startups, businesses and individuals alike.
But with so many terms, it's easy to get confused about the definition of each one. Some of the marketing terms today are pretty straight forward.
But "Growth hacking" is another thing. How do you "hack" your growth in the business to business space? Is this really a thing? How does it help your business?
So today, we are going to talk about the three key principles that make up B2B growth marketing.
We'll discuss whether B2B growth hacking is the right choice for your company, the results you might expect and what you need in order to hire a growth hacking agency (like BAMF).
Let's get started.
The first principle you have to understand is the growth mindset.
Forget about the charts, graphs, "owned vs. paid" media pyramids and anything of the sort.
While in growth marketing we often use these terms and even introduce new ones, such as the AARRR funnel, A/B testing and more, they are not at the CORE of what growth hacking is about.
Growth marketing is all about the mindset of using unconventional tactics in a strategic manner to derive the biggest possible growth for your business in the shortest amount of time possible.
The "mindset" is the forward-thinking analysis that happens in the shortest amount of time possible, considering the familiarity of the growth marketer with different tactics.
For a growth marketer, the decision phase takes far less time than it does for conventional businesses.
We take out, pick and choose and experiment with digital marketing ideas far quicker than what conventional marketers might do.
This allows the business to understand the impact of the potential tactic far more quickly and with far less risk.
Let's take a quick example of the growth mindset vs. conventional mindset and its business impact.
As you can see, in both cases the due diligence of discovery, research and analysis is done.
However, we don't get lost in the strategy process.
Instead, we strategize as quickly as possible, to be able to implement the marketing tactic faster.
The digital marketing world is changing too fast and is too fragile.
You can spend months planning a campaign only to realize that now, Gen-Z no longer likes Instagram. It's all about Tik-Tok.
While you might think that the B2B world is more secure, an email marketing tactic that worked in the beginning of the year might not work right now, because of familiarity and saturation.
The second reason?
Yes, there's a second reason why B2B growth hacking can be so powerful.
And it's this.
The digital world allows you to run a campaign with little to no money and customize your targeting as much as you'd like.
While others are trying to hire Kendall Jenner for their million-dollar Pepsi commercial (the joke is that this well-thought-out campaign flopped), growth marketers have already posted their campaign on Facebook, did a few test and optimized for their goals. (and they now have a new campaign)
Imagine if Pepsi tested the ad with a smaller audience and optimized it prior to its release?
Now, I know you'll say that they'd still have to reshoot and plan things out ... but that's the thing with the growth mindset ...
The growth mindset is that you think in terms of QUICK, EASY, MOST COST-EFFICIENT and RESOURCE-EFFICIENT methods to achieve your goal.
Now that you are familiar with principle number one, let's continue moving down the list.
I like to think of growth marketing as the invention of the loom machine in industrialization compared to the hand-looming of the time.
With a handloom, the loom tailor is able to create a more thorough picture in their mind of what they want to achieve and bring their vision to life.
However, there's also the loom machine.
Having a loom machine, allows the loom tailor to come up with a design, see how it looks and the moment they have something working for the tailor to start producing it on a bigger scale.
In conventional marketing, firms are spending time, money and resources to bring their vision to life.
However, this vision either works or it doesn't. And all the time, effort and resources? Gone in a whiff.
In growth marketing, a business can quickly test and experiment with a few different campaigns and implement the one that works.
It's as simple as that.
But that's also where the second principle comes in ... active experimentation.
Part of the planning and strategy stage, a growth marketer already knows WHAT they want to TEST, how they want to TEST it and what time it will take them to TEST that thing.
Startups can often spend months trying to come up with the perfect growth launch plan.
In the same period of time, a growth marketer will have already helped you soft launch the product and chances are you will already have active customers.
The benefits of this are numerous.
Some business owners worry that a soft launch will only result in a slower growth curve that won't "Wow" investors.
But guess what?
Investors are FAR MORE interested in your ability to drive and satisfy customers than they are in the "growth" curve.
Plus, as long as it's showing an up trend, it will be perfect for your investor's pitch.
Active experimentation helps you budget out for the right marketing tactics that work in your specific business case.
This results in better KPIs that often promise better growth of the business for a fraction of the cost.
And if this isn't something that would "wow" your investors, I don't know what is going to do it.
GROWTH marketing takes advantage of the prompt implementation of an array of tactics and make them work together in the promise of growth.
Here are a bunch of B2B growth tactics that a growth marketer can help you kickstart.
The best part?
Usually, a growth marketer will build out a coherent funnel where all of the tactics will be properly tracked.
This will help you be certain of the impact each one has for your business.
Last, but not least, a growth marketer thinks about continuous optimizations and iterations of the existing campaigns.
In conventional marketing, the campaign STOPS with the delivery of the report.
In growth marketing, the campaign (arguably) never stops. (That is true for the campaign, unless it's time-specific or part of a bigger effort, in which case it might be closer to a conventional campaign)
The tactics used in businesses that strive for growth are usually centered around longer-term goals.
This leads to the prominence of tactics that are iterative, rather than term-based.
Think of social media as an example. You post every few days to stay relevant.
Your results change, you try out something new, it attracts more views so you try it again.
On the backend, you are looking at your profile link clicks and your conversion numbers to derive the impact social media marketing has had on your own business.
This is what most growth tactics try to achieve.
Growth marketing is built on the BACKBONE of Iteration and A/B Testing practices.
A growth hacker usually tries to break down each tactic and effort in an easy to grasp way that allows for either iteration, A/B testing or both.
That's why when we talk to businesses, we usually prepare them for a ton of landing pages, funnel and A/B test talks, CRO KPIs and more.
Let's check out this simple iteration process.
Similar to how SCRUM development takes advantage of iterations, growth marketing does so for marketing.
Of course, as with the social media marketing example, things aren't necessarily tied down to a specific funnel or tactic.
In fact, the iterative push towards marketing is one of the most prominent ways you can distinguish between conventional b2b marketing and growth b2b marketing.
If the marketer talks CROs, it's growth.
Conversion Rate Optimizations (or CROs) are the key metric that ANY growth marketer is actively working on improving.
So even IF we often talk about "going viral" and "hacking PR" and "hacking LinkedIn" to get leads, we are still focused on the potential for long-term and stable growth of the business.
At its core Growth Hacking is about long-term stable growth of the business, achieved in the fastest and easiest way possible.
Before we close this chapter up, I want to talk about the prominence of growth marketing in B2B products, specifically in SaaS startups.
Throughout the past several years, I've noticed a trend where SaaS startup owners would know more about growth marketing than certain marketing experts I know.
It's the SaaS startup bubble.
SaaS businesses have their own thought bubble in the digital marketing space, unlike any other industry.
You wouldn't hear about "bottled water" or "soft drinks" tactics, but you hear about SaaS growth tactics each and every day.
These startups are often the quickest to implement new ways to drive their growth and the tactics themselves are far more easier to understand and grasp (alongside the benefits).
For me, the moment you tell me a "Water bottle funnel" my mind is actively working on designing and implementing a funnel that would work for a water bottle brand.
However, for most, it's a bizarre and difficult concept.
Would you implement an AIDA funnel? How would it work within the business?
Yet, AARRR is a hyper-common SaaS funnel and there are dozens of guides on how to use it within your SaaS business.
You simply don't have to think. You KNOW it works.
The best way to explain growth marketing in the B2B space is through an example, such as the AARRR SaaS funnel.
It is one of the most prominent funnels used in the growth marketing space.
We'll talk about it more in-depth soon, but for now, here's a quick introduction.
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Now, let's check out what the funnel is all about.
More than a decade ago, venture capitalist Dave McClure shared the AARRR five step framework for achieving startup growth.
Since then, growth marketers have been raving about it non-stop. (It's almost frustrating how much I hear this term on a day-to-day basis)
Now, personally, I would advise for startup owners to be certain in the framework of their marketing prior to choosing a funnel.
However, I also want to showcase how something as simple as a funnel can help you better understand B2B growth marketing
AARRR, also known as the pirate funnel, consists of the following five stages.
The simplicity in the AARRR funnel allows a business owner to properly framework all the marketing efforts that need to be completed for their business to be successful.
It further introduces and pinpoints the most important factors for the success of a SaaS business, including the retention and referral stages.
The way the framework is built allows for quick implementation, iteration and active testing of different campaigns and tactics to achieve a broader goal.
That's also the reason why it's a perfect example of b2b growth marketing in action and why people rave about AARRR so much.
However, b2b growth is not ALL about funnels.
And funnels are not the only reason why growth marketing is on the rise as a whole.
Let's go more in-depth.
An important factor that makes growth marketing so viable in the business to business space is the prominence of a digital-first approach.
To succeed in B2B marketing, you've always had to rely on personalization, connections and direct sales tactics.
All of them are made easier with the rise of new social media platforms for professionals, such as LinkedIn, email marketing and more.
And the data doesn't lie.
According to a 2017 study from the e-Strategy blog, as much as 88.6% of B2B businesses surveyed used email marketing, while only 12.5% used TV, Radio or print ads.
As it can be noted, PR, Video advertising, TV, radio and print ads have the lowest sentiment across the board.
The average positive impact on the revenue (from those age old tactics) as noted by the B2B experts is as low is 0.8 percent.
In comparison, the top digital marketing tactics have an average positive impact of 7.26 percent.
That's about 9 times the difference.
At the same time, the most common problem business owners face include the following.
And guess what ...
... growth marketing is a perfect solution for all of those challenges.
Considering the benefits that growth marketing has it's easy to see why most B2B business owners decide to search for growth marketers instead of conventional marketing experts.
Another topic that's closely related to B2B Growth Hacking is what is known as "product-led" marketing.
At its core the idea is relatively simple.
Product-led marketing is a strategy driven by product use and customer experience as the main driver for the acquisition of new customers and retention of existing ones.
However, a lot of startup owners find it difficult to juggle between the vision for product-led marketing and the promise of growth that other marketing tactics offer.
Growth marketing is where the cohesion of the two happens.
It allows owners to create a framework where the product and the customer experience is at the center, while the implementation of other marketing tactics serves to improve that experience.
This is extremely similar to how the AARRR funnel helps SaaS businesses achieve growth.
The tactics themselves might not be new, but the framework is novel.
The simple framework allows business owners and marketers alike to understand the value and be able to properly use and implement the different array of marketing tactics the digital space has to offer.
Ultimately, marketing terms are mostly defined as a means of communicating a broader creative idea, its purpose for implementation and the framework of which this idea is part of as a whole.
We've recently explored this more in our brand messaging guide.
As we explored there, frameworks and seemingly complicated terminology is nothing more than a means of communicating something simple.
It's similar with growth hacking.
Growth hacking is nothing new or different per-se.
However, it's a new way of combining conventional and unconventional tactics in a framework that allows for quick and efficient implementation, experimentation, iteration and growth.
Ok, by now you should already be familiar with the basic ideas behind b2b growth hacking.
But want me to share a quick hack?
Most B2B and SaaS businesses don't realize that some of the most powerful growth hacking tactics revolve around LinkedIn.
So, be sure to check some of them out. In the meantime ...
Riddle me this... WHY do you think Growth Marketing is so powerful and WHAT stops you from transitioning to growth marketing instead of conventional marketing? Be as BRUTALLY honest as possible. (Down in the comments)