what's b2b growth?
Most people associate marketing to advertising. Billboards, commercials, SEA and such.
The ones who went to business school know there is more to marketing than that. Branding, packaging, pricing, positioning the list goes on forever.
Then the internet happened, first as a channel to distribute products and now increasingly a media platform to connect with audiences.
The early days of the internet helped create and shape today’s definition of growth.
What began as search engine optimisation (SEO) rapidly evolved in performance marketing (SEM) and ultimately blossomed into mobile web based applications.
A new category of professionals had to be developed
Some were early practitioners and pioneers of a new product led approach to growth. Literally building the plane as the flew it. Andrew Chen, Sean Ellis, Brian Balfour are emeritus examples of the biggest growth success stories.
The padrinos of the growth mafia 🐴
But a much longer tail of professionals, yours truly here included, developed their careers instead by leveraging analytics and distribution platforms that rapidly evolved from the early e-commerce days.
There are ever so many Don Corleone’s in the world. Not all of us will ever get a chance to be at the right time/place.
Think of the time it took Facebook to fully realise their inventory potential. It wasn’t until Sheryl came on-board after taking AdWords to the masses that that rocket ship really took off. We came along way from the days Germans were killing it in SEO (they are still great, no really).
Thus growth as a business discipline formed
Not in a lab or a campus. But as a community response to a new business environment enabled by the internet and the growing digital native audiences fuelling its adoption.
The early years were predominantly direct response based
Click, buy, profit. Repeat.
But nowadays we’ve reached a whole new level of mainstream with strategies going deep in digital content marketing and thought leadership as well as CRM optimisation and lead scoring.
It was only a matter of time before digital and data started to creep in traditional sales driven B2B distribution
And that’s amazing news. Today’s buyers can be engaged in ways that create more value efficiently. Basically more and happier customers.
This is possible because the young and digital generation that made the internet a successful commerce platform is now well.. not so young anymore.
Millennials have graduated to command budgets greater than their household income, no matter the company, size or vertical business buyers are increasingly more digital.
This is something we’ve been preaching since the early days of my growth consulting business. We’ve first started using the chart below to prove our point some three/four years ago.
Growth has gone mainstream
B2B SaaS is the original hipster of the bunch, deploying growth teams before it was cool.
Cloud software companies -everywhere- are shaping a whole new way of distributing and engaging with business audiences. Using a hybrid approach between the current B2B marketing model and the contemporary B2C growth approach.
This happened because, B2C practitioners outlast B2B supply at a rate of ten to one. Scarcity of talent across both sides of the aisle has allowed for a fluid job market across verticals. With fluidity comes cross-pollination and before you know it new stars are born.
The only really Senior Leader factory being SalesForce who literally invented the SaaS category out of thin-air ☁️🥁- leave a comment if you got the reference, I’ll show myself out in the meantime 😅
As usual when a market graduates to the next level often new opportunities open up. Including the opportunity to name the shift, because let’s face it right now it’s confusing a/f
Growth is a business discipline
Just like product or sales or marketing. It’s not a replacement to any of these functions in the long-run but it can be both complementary and supplementary at the start of the business.
Growth can be B2C or B2B
Being rooted in data analysis and experimentation, sales cycles length matters.
Growth is funnel led
pre-purchase / awareness
purchase / conversion
post-purchase / re-engagement
Growth initiatives span across channels and funnel
You can use traditional advertising platforms (including performance marketing) as well as product focused (UX, pricing, packaging, etc.) or sales focused (CRM, e-mail, lead scoring, sales enablement).
But the real magic happens when you use them all in sync.
Some teams are very focused on the acquisition aspect and take a very product centric approach, see Netflix, and others are brilliant at top of funnel awareness and consideration think of the a16z or the drift team.
It really depends on the stage of the business and the maturity of your audience connection.
How much do they know you?
How much do they love you?
Where to start with B2B Growth?
Before jumping into any given initiative the first goal of any B2B Growth team is to establish the field of play and do some proper research on the market.
Foundations of B2B Growth / AKA Product Marketing 101
1. Define the landscape
2. Develop the Messaging
3. Engage the Audience
This is basic infrastructure but essential to scale the team’s output. Reads: boring work but needs to be done
During this process you will un-hearth fundamental pieces of information that will be key to define your key initiatives. But above all
Talk to the customers
Use data to mine insights at large and always develop your hypothesis along with your customers. That means in the same room.
If a customer doesn’t feel comfortable to engage with your business or even worse (and more common) doesn’t even know the business exist, changing a CTA won’t help you much.
B2B rhymes with large LTV. Yet large LTV don’t rhyme with mass audience. Unless you are Apple. These are hard to find niche of customers and not often you’ll have the volumes necessary to run a purely data driven strategy.
Always work your funnel top to bottom
Basic questions that help define time, place and state of mind of the buyer (I call it: ‘point of need’) will give you a big head start on the correct levers to pull.
Growth happens when modern marketing is is mixed with longer sales cycles, higher LTVs and a complex decision making journey with a ton of stakeholders involved.
It’s complex, it’s custom and it’s much more personal.
If done right it can augment traditional channels getting you more bang for your buck. Reads, better ROI.
Good B2B Growth talent pays for itself and can tell you how
Yet, without the proper support they won’t go far.
Given that Mark has figured out a way to know if you are out of perfume you would also assume he knows when the insurance plan for your 250 employee company requires an upgrade. No, we are not here yet. Thankfully.
To win in B2B you still need a lot of expensive and non scalable NI. Natural Intelligence. Brains. Human brains.
Some people think you can always automate a checkout process. But in B2B I yet have to see models that have reached any meaningful scale without a human touchpoint at some point along the funnel.
Sales is effectively the checkout page of your business
Getting your sales process right is as essential as driving quality traffic to your website.
Everyone says that sales and marketing should get along and work in partnership. This is true and very much applicable to 80% of businesses out there. The early and late majority of the business world.
For the innovators and pioneers our there there is a new way of doing things that has delivered incredible shareholder value, especially across platform based models.
The secret? Sandwich product in-between marketing and sales.
Conclusion: what’s B2B growth?
The discipline of distributing products to business by combining: packaging, distribution channels and product together under one strategy.
Remember. Young audiences, are not so young no-more.
Got something to add? Why not leave a comment below 😀
👋🏼fabri here, former founder and consultant
working with startups, helping them grow