Marketing · Growth hacking

Growth hacking - for B2B sales?

Stephen Johnston Building innovation ecosystems

January 29th, 2015

I found this article in Entrepreneur a useful discussion about "growth hacking" - one of the most overused buzzphrases here in Silicon Valley.

It seems to me this is primarily an online B2C story, and comes down to two main things: 
  • greater integration of sales and advertising into the product itself, e.g. the embedded ads in Hotmail to encourage sign ups, incentives (free storage by Dropbox) or game mechanics (engaging a crowd through surveys, votes and like buttons etc) 
  • rapid testing and prototyping - A/b testing etc to see what works and doubling down on the things that do. 
So, my question to this group - does growth hacking work for companies making B2B sales with slow, manual sales processes, rather than consumers clicking on links? I'm working with startups making most of their sales to senior living facilities and in-home care agencies, who are often off-line, and need to rely on traditional sales channels. 

Have there been successful models for 'growth hacking' these kinds of slow-moving B2B sales?    
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Jeremy Grodberg Web CTO & Software Architect - Available

January 29th, 2015

As far as I'm concerned, Growth Hacking is data-driven product design (expanding the definition of "product" to cover everything in the sales cycle) that emphasizes aligning the product and the promotion of the product with the human nature of the customers and making customers part of your sales force. It differs from "marketing" in that it is primarily focused on the product and interactions with customers and would not cover advertising or PR and would usually only be a small part of developing a brand identity. I agree that everything that Vanessa suggests doing would be valuable to building your business, but I would not call any of it "growth hacking".

Dropbox and Slack have approached B2B growth hacking by doing B2C growth hacking and positioning their product such that the consumer users bring the product to work and convince their employers to buy it. That's one way to go.

Similarly, you have to remember that behind every enterprise there are people and if you think of the decision makers at your target company as your customers you can do more directly targeted growth hacking aimed at convincing those decision makers to buy your product. 

David Gold

January 30th, 2015

A lot of great answers here. Mine will be brief.

B2B sales "growth hacking" is not a silver bullet. Your sales strat will work best when it compliments your organization, team, and product. First take a deep dive into your sales funnel and analyze how leads are being generated, how they are being lead to close or nurtured through the process and what your conversion rate is.

Next, find a system that works best for your team. Have a great programmer? Enhance your solution w/ upsell strategies. Have a suave guy who can make butter out of cream? Get him on the phones and start creating relationships.

My suggestion would be to Identify potential partners who have close relationships with a large # of leads, make a mutually beneficial proposition and tap into their leads. I have a friend who started working for a large real estate company. His role is to buy property and have it converted into assisted living homes. Not sure if it would help, but I'm happy to make an intro. Just PM me.

Vanessa Ting Consumer Goods & Retail Consultant. Tech Startup Co-Founder/CEO. Women's Venture Development Leader.

January 29th, 2015

Awesome topic and thanks for starting it! Our B2B web startup is also trying to crack the nut on how we can growth hack better. Definitely a "freemium" version like Dropbox has worked for us to incent trial.

While our biz is online, here are some things we have tried/investigated that may apply to your offline business:

  • Strategic partnerships with orgs that already tap a sizable chunk of your target market. (this has worked well for us)
  • Guest blog posting and e-books (as a freebie) to raise awareness and build credibility
  • Podcasts for the same reasons above
  • Speaking at conferences or trade shows (this has worked incredibly well for me)
That's all I've got for now....must get back to my own growth hacking duties! Good luck!

Looking forward to seeing the ideas of other folks here. 

Gil Allouche Founder @ Metadata

January 29th, 2015

Stephen, Thanks for your question. If you're referring specifically to b2b sales - then my answer might be limited because enterprise-sales models are very much based on qualification, poc, onboarding process, land-and-expand and other techniques to grow the account. However, if you're referring to b2b/enterprise products -- then there are certainly ways to 'grow hack' (agree on the misuse of the term) and expand the usage (and therefore the revenue) of the account: - Collaboration -- Hubspot for example lets you invite as many people as you'd like to collaborate on marketing campaigns, activities and reports. That way they get more visibility into the company, as well as ensure the users are active and using the SaaS in a more involved way. This creates a tight connection. - Creating an account for the company before 1st engagement - some companies create a company account before ever reaching out to the contact, to demonstrate right from the start how useful the product would be for that company. So instead of sending a 'cold email' with the product description and request for a call, they actually send a snapshot of the account profile within the product (or an example of some time of relevant work that company would likely perform using the product) in that introductory email, and that creates a very enticing email. Certainly to open and sometimes to engage back (e.g. SEOMoz) - Tight Support/Onboarding process - another good tactic is to install a service like intercom.io and have your sales engineer, rather than your sales rep, to automatically (auto email) 'welcome' new users into the system. This takes out the 'commercial' / 'salesy' approach enterprise companies usually take with new accounts and focuses the attention on the customer, and on getting him/her active/successful on the software within the first week. The benefit is to get insight into the account, the pains and needs before trying to approach from a sales POV There are many other technical tactics that can be applied, depending on the type of the product. Highlighting new features, using software like walk.me or irridize to create point-and-click tutorials -- would be happy to elaborate further.

Andrew Crump CEO of Mitoo, Advisor to some Startups

January 29th, 2015

Growth hacking is the mentality of systematically testing, iterating upon and measuring the success of ideas to improve acquisition, activation and retention of customers. The result is not the point, the process is. In this respect, it applies to all sectors. 

Valentin Radu CEO Marketizator - The 3 in 1 conversion suite

January 29th, 2015

Stephen, I have the chance to see hundreds of websites in the B2C and B2B area iterating very fastly with our CRO platform. Most of them are just adjusting the current UVP, the layout and changing colours in order to persuade the visitors. But there are B2B companies which are actually doing really cool things thorugh AB testing and real time personalization: - Testing dozens of Landing pages - Having a structured process to address the visitor's objections in real-time (something like an IVR, but online) - Microconverting Based on this, I dare to say that any business can hack it's growth. (Suggestion for the startups you're mentioning - what if they can have a dream client's list and invent an online event that addresses the biggest pain of those businesses - "The biggest threats of senior living facilities in 2015") Best,

Rob G

January 29th, 2015

Stephen, what are these companies selling (high tech? low tech? Depends?), how big are the prospects they sell to and what is the typical contract size/LTV?  If we use Andrew's definition and restrict the discussion to online only (such as A/B testing landing pages, tweaking messaging, colors, SEO/M, conversion, etc.) then i wouldn't waste my time and money looking for growth hacking experts - you are not going to acquire medium and large customers online if the $$ commitment is 5-6 figures+ (all assumptions on my part).  You can certainly 'growth hack' lead generation and discovery.  Your clients can certainly market and generate inbound leads and educate online and after off-line acquisition they can on-board and support their new customers, but don't expect to acquire enterprise customers via "traditional" growth hacking techniques.  They cam implement sales automation and CRM.  They can do some remote selling and remote demos (assuming they are selling some sort of SaaS). I don't know the 'senior living' space, but i'm guessing these prospects fall into the medium to large  ("enterprise") category.  At that size the acquisition (sales) aspects of your online efforts are  almost entirely discovery, education, validation and support, but not acquisition.  Prospects expect that your clients  are who they say they are and they expect to see a professional website they can use to validate these assumptions plus some basic filtering criteria - do you provide a solution that appears to fit their needs, do you have other customers, do you understand their needs, are any of their competitors your customers,  etc.   They will obviously do research into financial stability, any legal problems, licensing issues, etc.  But their purchasing decisions will be by committee and require person to person selling.  i would suspect that senior living facilities are not known for being technical leaders, but the larger ones may be looking for technology differentiators so you might be able to implement some remote selling tools to reduce cost of sales.  5-6 figure+ B2B enterprise sales are by default 'sales hacking' anyway - your clients will have a basic sales process, but each sales cycle is unique and thus impractical to try to automate to the point of self-service.  Sales models such as "Strategic Selling" (Miller and Hyman) don't call it growth hacking, but certainly incorporate the concept in an off-line manner. Look into Strategic Selling.