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Growth hacking in B2B context – three business cases

The Data Handbook

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Ville Loppinen

Business development


While growth hacking in the consumer business starts to be old news, many companies in the B2B field are only now formulating their processes and teams for experiment-based sales and marketing. Sales and marketing in B2B is complex by nature, and many companies have recognised that there aren’t easy answers to how and in which business cases to use the growth hacking method.

When comparing B2B growth hacking with more traditional sales and marketing teams that have structures and defined roles, the biggest difference is the team setup. A growth hacking team is a multidisciplinary team with a shared goal and backlog. The team most often consists of digital marketers, UX and UI designers, developers, customer data analysts, CRM experts and salespeople who work together with strong ownership of the business and a mandate to take action.

Let’s take a look at three business cases:

  • Optimised marketing and sales alignment in lead generation, nurturing and closing
  • Account Based Marketing processes to create and optimise content and convince stakeholders and influencers
  • Activating customers to use digital services and buy more

blog-growth-hacking-in-b2b-heroOptimised marketing and sales alignment in lead generation, nurturing and closing

In B2B lead generation, quality content plays a critical role in clarifying the company’s value proposition for potential buyers. Whether the content is white papers, e-books, Slideshare decks, sales scripts, blog posts, case studies or webinars, it is important to make sure to create the best possible content that answers the target audiences’ most pressing questions and pain points. Spend some time on finding the most valuable leads and the perfect channels to reach them to make the most of optimised content.

Continuous optimisation and SEO for content and landing pages are the most effective ways to do regular growth experimenting. If your content strikes the right chord with your potential clients, it will automatically increase the chance of a conversion.

In traditional content marketing, the marketing channels are typically pre-defined in the planning phase. However, it's impossible to know beforehand in which channels the content gets preferred attention. Growth hacking is based on data and experiments: Content is first published with small measurable experiments in different channels – successful experiments are scaled and others killed.

In many cases, we have experienced that generating referral traffic through social media marketing has proved the business case in B2B as well — but of course, this is not the case in all B2B contexts, the only way to find out is through continuous experimentation.

A great way to collect a broad range of data is by using different marketing and advertising channels. In the B2B context, social media plays an important role in generating referral traffic to content marketing assets, so it is important to stay up to date with changes of algorithms on the various social media platforms use. There are lots of other channels that drive high-quality B2B traffic and leads, such as native advertising, search advertising and more. The more diverse channels, the more opportunities there are to capture disparate audiences and to maximise the growth hacking results.

Get your sales team excited about lead generation

It’s important to get sales experts to understand the growth hacking based lead generation process as soon as possible. Knowing how leads are collected helps sales in the business critical inbound sales process. Warm enough leads are the best way to get salespeople excited to join a lead generation growth team. When the roles are clear, both marketing and sales need to have the best possible marketing automation tools to operate actual nurturing activities and share learnings and results using clear reports and dashboards.

Usually, these tools have CRM data and integrations in place so that all the members of the team have full visibility of the potential sales that can be achieved. Lead nurturing and profiling algorithms should be optimised all the time. One growth team member should take the role of a Sales Development Representative (SDR) whose job is to qualify leads and nurture them through the initial stages of the buyer's journey.

From a growth hacking point-of-view the elements of B2B lead generation success are:

  • The lead generation growth team needs to contain both marketing and sales experts. So bring a salesperson to sit, for example, one day per week with the marketing expert. Work together to make the best possible inbound sales script. The same story can be reused in your content.
  • Define and share levels and structures of leads (MQLs and SQLs) to every member of the growth team. This is a continuous process.
  • Don’t stick with one tool’s limitations. Use landing page tools and lighter options to get leads. Integrations from lead forms are mostly needed when you know well enough how to get leads. Then let the marketing automation tools do lead nurturing and sales integrations.
  • Share sales successes and failures ASAP using communications tools. Be ready to scale successful activities or kill failures.
  • Try to scale lead generation as soon as possible to be part of the CRM sales process.

Account Based Marketing (ABM) processes to create and optimise content and convince stakeholders and influencers

ABM, or Account-Based Marketing, is effective in providing a genuine, tailored approach to educating and converting customers. ABM utilises the best practices in personalising outbound messages and website content that is crafted for a customer’s industry for relevance and closing deals. ABM simply means identifying a handful of potential companies that will likely have a huge impact on revenue and then applying marketing actions uniquely tailored to each individual account.

In the ABM context, a B2B growth hacker can plan to make personalised content (white papers, e-books, Slideshare decks, sales scripts, blog posts, case studies or webinars) for really specific companies or influencers. And use a strategic account-based approach to engage with companies who have a huge impact on revenue. It’s about making the stakeholders feel like a trusted partner is speaking with them, not at them.

In lead generation, the specific goal is to close a lot of warm-enough leads or to direct them into digital sales channels, whereas in ABM the growth hacking team might have just one goal: to close one opportunity or deal with a closely targeted customer and then systematically grow the lifetime value of that customer. In the latter case, the growth team should own the whole opportunity pipeline and its activities. When the goal is to win one or just a few sales opportunities the growth team needs to choose the KPI (for example, the number of active influencers contacted related to the opportunity) for the process really carefully. The North Star Metric will change when the opportunity moves forward in the sales pipeline. One clear starting point is to find and map influencers of the opportunity and then start to do experiments for them.

Focus on the influencers within a company: everyone within an account has a different role and ways they interact with the company. It may not be the best strategy to only humour the decision-makers when the end users are fed up. Eventually, their frustration will bubble up and the account could be lost forever. To learn who the influencers are and to find the best personalised ways to communicate with them is a team effort that requires different roles and tools which collect data to build a structured and usable model.

From a growth hacking point-of-view the elements of ABM success are:

  • Map the influencers and try to collect and associate all the data for the contacts. When opportunities are big, the clients’ organisational hierarchies are complex. So make sure your CRM tools can manage complex accounts and site hierarchies — and make important connections between influencers visible. A CRM should have the possibility to handle multi-level organisational hierarchies and for growth hackers, those should be easily modifiable.
  • Be open-minded with the channels and ways to contact influencers. LinkedIn campaigns, Google Ads, IP based advertising — you name it! When a growth hacker deep dives to a specific persona all the potential channels need to be identified and experimented with.
  • Bring in a designer to really continually highlight the value proposition of your services in a clear understandable format for a specific influencer.

Activating customers to use digital services and buy more

For B2B businesses to grow Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) through customer retention and loyalty, it is really valuable to build digital services and B2B ecommerce sites where customers can manage their accounts and buy more through well-designed and personalised services. In many cases, these digital self-service channels and customer communities are underutilised. Too often companies forget the importance of good onboarding and do not sell the value of the digital services to the customer and their users.

Many companies have made huge investments in digital self-service channels and communities when they digitalised their business operations. Now, these services need to been seen like ecommerce in consumer business: Focus on selling more and continuously optimise the customer experience through business metrics.

The three most crucial phases when building B2B digital services into a sales machine:

  • Sell sign-ups to digital services like you’d sell SaaS services
  • Have a great onboarding process in place for the service’s users
  • Activate and optimise digital services like consumer ecommerce

Sell sign-ups to digital services like you’d sell SaaS services

First, companies need to get their customers’ users to use digital services. This means that the company needs to promote and sell its services again and again to current customers to help them see the added value. CRM data is a crucial source for finding the best possible channels and value proposition to communicate and sell. The make-or-break for B2B ecommerce is getting the company’s own sales team behind the project. Or as Unilever’s Marta Dalton puts it: “When rolling out B2B ecommerce your own sales team is your best asset”. The sales team typically has ownership of the customer interface and are the ones who push the new service into customers’ daily routines.

Have a great onboarding process in place for the service’s users

The maximum churn in digital services happens in the first 90 days after sign-ups, making the first 90 days the most crucial period for convincing the service’s impact on the business. It is well proven that when a user is onboarded the right way and achieves early milestones in the first 90 days, they are likely to stay with the service much longer. All onboarding playbooks should be seen as sequences of notifications, emails, feedback surveys and direct contacts to make sure you create value to your users. User behaviour data and CRM contact profiles are great sources for prioritising growth experiments to activate users.

Activate and optimise digital services like consumer ecommerce

Every successful consumer ecommerce site has AB tests running and value propositions well defined in order to sell more and to create a unique customer experience. Usually, consumer ecommerce sites also have a sales team, aka growth team, to optimise the purchase funnel and prioritise growth experiments. Too often digital services in B2B are developed with only a better customer or user experience in mind without additional sales KPIs. Growth hacking adds a new level — revenue — for prioritisation, optimisation and development. When digital services are well-integrated into CRMs, the levels of personalisation and growth possibilities are huge.

From a growth hacking point-of-view the elements of successful customer activation are:

  • A B2B digital service or ecommerce growth team should consist of people with cross-functional skills in marketing technology, data, web development, content creation and UX design. The team should be driven by sales KPIs only.
  • Listen to sales teams but try to also find new ways to contact current customers to really understand what works in different contact profiles.
  • Try to align the customer behaviour in your digital service with your customers’ CRM profile data. This makes understanding the different needs of customer profiles visible to the growth team.
  • IT and platforms are just sideshows. Instead, to succeed in ecommerce requires getting the business processes right and, most importantly, treating ecommerce as a sales unit.

In every one of these B2B business cases, the main learning from growth hacking is the mindset of experimenting without being afraid of unsuccessful results and the willingness to bring together a multidisciplinary team around a shared goal with a strong business ownership, mandate to take action, and shared business targets to guide the work together.

This blog post is part of The Growth Hacker’s Handbook Salesforce edition. Download the whole handbook to learn more about growth hacking and Salesforce.


Download The Growth Hacker's Handbook - the Salesforce edition


The Data Handbook

How to use data to improve your customer journey and get better business outcomes in digital sales. Interviews, use cases, and deep-dives.

Get the book