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Are there certain challenges with growth hacking in B2B that aren't a factor in consumer businesses? For example, are some tactics more acceptable to consumers but should be avoided with B2B prospects?

  • RS

    Rob Sobers

    over 6 years ago #

    My sweet spot is enterprise, having grown a B2B software company with an *average* selling price of $60,000 to IPO.

    Apart from the obvious things (like higher LTV, longer sales cycle), here are some key differences:

    1.) Much more optimization can be done at the bottom of the funnel--in the long journey from trial to paid--both with sales teams and automation. We've had some major wins here.

    2.) Analysis is harder. With e-commerce and B2C it's often a single customer you're tracking. With B2B, there could be 15+ leads from a single company hitting your site, attending tradeshows, etc. When a sale happens, weaving all of the interactions together to attribute the sale is super complex and imprecise.

    3.) Geography is a factor in lead generation. In B2C or low-touch B2B (SaaS), you'll take leads from wherever you can get them, as long as they're high quality. In enterprise, you have mouths to feed. Salespeople can only work leads in their "patch", so one of your goals as a marketer is to grow territories, which can be tough to do digitally.

    4.) Analyst relations is a distribution channel to consider. Leveraging firms like Gartner and Forrester can unlock growth.

    5.) Channel sales and marketing can propel growth. We're 100% channel sales, for better or worse. This model takes a while to learn.

    6.) Word of mouth, virality, and network effects are much harder because products tend to be less sexy or cool, even if they're immensely useful. Can be done, just harder.

    There are more, doubtlessly, but these were the ones that leapt to mind.

    • DF

      David Fallarme

      over 6 years ago #

      #4 was huge strategy when I was with App Annie. But not just analysts - press was a huge driver of leads & sales as well. We made a point of getting techmeme-level press every month or so, and the numbers lifted pretty much every time it happened. Very important channel if you can figure it out, but it's difficult to nail.

    • BP

      Brandon Pindulic

      over 6 years ago #

      Can you elaborate on #4 about analyst relations? Do you mean building relationships with these analysts for credibility or connections? Or is it more along the lines of their access to data and intent focus on industry trends?

      5. Channel sales are great. Mind sharing a couple interesting examples?

      • RS

        Rob Sobers

        over 6 years ago #

        With analyst relations there are really two aspects to it:

        1.) Credibility and connections--if you're featured as a leader in a magic quadrant that can mean big exposure. Analyst recommendations also factor into enterprise buying decisions, so you have to make sure they stay briefed on your products.

        2.) Paid sponsorship of whitepapers and webinars for lead gen and exposure.

        I reserve some of the negative opinions I have about AR, but if you choose to participate, the above should be the goal.

        Channel sales is a massive topic, but you can view it as sort of an extension of your existing sales force--you have to recruit channel partners, educate them, and incentivize them to sell your products. There are various tactics for doing all 3 of these things which I can post separately about.

        • BH

          Bertrand Hazard

          over 6 years ago #

          Key to deciding how much time/resources you want to invest in Analyst relations is understanding how important the MQ or Wave will be to your prospective buyers. I have worked at companies where 95% of the prospects would based their initial short list based on who was in the top right quadrant [whether I agree or not is another story], and in that case more than 30% time/budget was spent on AR. For others, especially if you are targeting SMBs and Mid-Size customers, AR might matter less and you might not need to spend time/effort.

          Bottom line: understand what drive your buyers decisions and prioritize your investments based on how important each item might be [peers influence, AR, demos etc]

          My 2 cents

        • SC

          Shana Carp

          over 6 years ago #


          It is one of the reasons that bigco SaaStype companies (or even mediumCo Saas) it becomes inevitable to raise money.

          1 takes time and getting over the money hurdle is step uno

        • SF

          Steven Fitzsimmons

          over 6 years ago #

          Great list Rob, this is really helpful. How would one go about forging relationships with analysts (starting totally cold I mean)? Could you provide any anecdotal evidence of what's worked and what hasn't worked for you in the past?

          • RS

            Rob Sobers

            over 6 years ago #

            Well, for one, it's basically a necessity to spend money with the big analyst firms. An annual subscription usually gives you unlimited access to analysts (via phone) and their research.

            From there, it's super important to stay on their calendars. I do approximately 15 analyst calls per month and always make sure to brief the people who cover my space whenever we have anything worth announcing.

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 6 years ago #

      Thanks @rsobers ! Very helpful answer.

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 6 years ago #

      Thanks @rsobers . A lot of people make the argument that marketing and growth hacking are the same thing. Generally I tell them that growth hacking is about experimenting with all available growth levers - even those not normally available to marketers such as deep product levers.

      As you describe growth hacking in the enterprise, I must admit that it sounds a lot like what enterprise marketers have been doing for a long time. Do you agree with this? Does growth hacking have a place in enterprise marketing? Does it/should it inspire them to do things differently than they did five years ago?

      • RS

        Rob Sobers

        over 6 years ago #

        I actually have an unpublished essay drafted about this. I don't believe growth hacking really has anything to do with particular tactics or channels or levers.

        To me growth hacking is about process. As you said: running experiments, analyzing results, and iterating quickly. This is certainly not what most enterprise marketers have been doing. The levers they use might match mine, but they've been pulling them blindly.

        It's also about people. Traditional enterprise marketing teams are comprise of non-technical people that rely on developers, designers, and analysts to implement their ideas. We, on the other hand, are autonomous hackers that execute from start to finish.

        What are your thoughts on my first 3 bullets, which are non-lever based differences?

    • WS

      Wouter Smet

      over 5 years ago #

      > 1.) Much more optimization can be done at the bottom of the funnel--in the long journey from trial to paid--both with sales teams and automation. We've had some major wins here.

      To elaborate a bit on this point: the most powerful conversion in B2B tends to be managing to start a CONVERSATION with the lead, rather than just a form submit - and those often already happen after the 'typical' conversions like trial start or ebook signup etc etc. So any hack that increases the amount or efficiency of conversations tends to be a big win.

  • PL

    Pierre Lechelle

    over 6 years ago #

    I've experience that some channels can work better depending on the target (B2B / B2C). For instance, Viral Marketing is easier to implement in B2C.

    In B2B the audience is often smaller than B2C, which can sometimes limit the possibilities of A/B testing (with a real impact on the bottom line).

    Depending on the product, the sales cycle (& length) may be different. In B2C people easily signup, while in B2B they may be more "down to earth", look at reviews, use free tools, read documentation...

    The onboarding is also different, in B2B, you're more likely to train a whole team. It often happens that the one who signup is not the one who is going to experience the first "aha-moment".

    Talking about the metrics (vary between products); only for general considerations:
    • B2C: high Churn / low CLV
    • B2B: lower Churn / higher CLV -> businesses are less likely to change software when they started using it

    There are plenty of other differences, it could probably require a whole book ;)

  • AD

    April Dunford

    over 6 years ago #

    Late to the party on this but I love this discussion so much!
    Here are some random enterprise thoughts:
    1/ I totally agree with the previous comments about SMB versus enterprise. In previous companies I've worked at where the selling price was 20K on average the experiments we were running didn't look all that different from what I was seeing my B2C peers running. My startup now does half million dollar deals and our channels are completely different.
    2/ Because we are selling such big deals it matters a lot how fast you can move those deals along a buying process. The experiments we are running are aimed at taking friction out of that process. For example we are running tests on entry points into accounts (i.e. this is a complex sale, it matters who your sponsor is inside the account - can we move a deal along faster if we start with a business buyer or a technical buyer), sales process (i.e. does a deal close faster when we charge for a POC or if the POC is free), pricing (can we close faster if we break the price into modules or if we sell it as a bundle).
    3/ Because the sales cycles are long, often our data gathering consists of responses we get from talking to a small number of customers at different stages of our pipeline. Sometimes what you hear isn't conclusive and you have to simply move forward based on a documented set of assumptions and keep trying to test those and gather data as you go along. The key is to be conscious of what is and isn't a verified fact.
    4/ Lead/deal attribution is really, really hard because almost every deal is going to be attributed to multiple sources. It doesn't mean you can't/shouldn't do it, it just means that your data isn't as clean/clear.
    5/ Segmentation and customer discovery is ridiculously important. We are trying to close a handful of deals, not thousands so we need to laser focus our resources on a prospect segment that is the most likely to result in a deal quickly. This is a game of lead quality more than lead quantity. In Enterprise we are hyper-skeptical of any metrics that we can't at least make an educated guess as to how they track through to revenue. SQL's (sales qualified leads) count a lot - click-throughs and form fills, less so.
    6/ I agree with the earlier comment about Analyst Relations but it really depends not just on the size of deal but also on the industry you are in. I worked at a CRM startup where we got significant lead flow from Gartner because we sold to banks who used Gartner to build their vendor short list. When I was targeting Telco, Gartner was irrelevant (but there were other consultants who did matter). Today I'm focused on Retail and some big retailers are Gartner clients, others are not, so making the 40K+ effort investment in building that isn't a high priority for us.
    7/ I totally believe there are product levers you can pull but they are not about viral growth, they are related to speeding up a purchase decision. For example we have done significant iteration on our demo environment and demo data that has helped us reduce the number of interactions with a prospect it takes to move to the next stage of a deal. We have also experimented with building customized product mockups and demos for large prospects and at what point in the sales cycle to introduce those to get us to a deal quicker.

    I'm doing a talk about this stuff in a couple weeks at Startup Empire in Halifax so maybe I will post my slides over here after.

  • PK

    Prasanna Krishnamoorthy

    over 6 years ago #

    B2SMB and B2E are very different buckets of fish.

    B2SMB is more like B2C, user=customer, referral growth more likely, one person to convince, etc.

    B2E will have a f2f, voice/video component before closing. Needs much more social proof, need proof of concept, multiple contacts within an org, approval process itself is convoluted. Webinars work well, meetings on the sidelines of conferences/tradeshows work well. LinkedIn, rolodexes, high touch conversion pre-conversation (whitepapers, checklists, deep-dives).

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 6 years ago #

      Really good point on B2SMB vs B2E!

    • JA

      Jeroen Arts

      over 6 years ago #

      Great point on B2SMB and B2E.

      What I find particularly difficult is that within B2E there is likely a difference between the person who has to make the final call on the purchase versus the person who will actually use the product or service. Hence, you will need to convince different departments and levels within the Enterprise which complicates the sales process.

      Would love to hear what's your take on that, and what would be your single best advice?

      • DD

        David Dorman

        over 6 years ago #

        Terrific point - it should not be understated how important / unique B2E is in the various personas who need to buy-in in order to close a deal. Chain-of-command plays a big role and the org structure in many of these orgs is convoluted with a lot of people along the way that can say no.

        There was a comment earlier on ebooks/whitepapers and so on. We see a lot of success with these from a form conversion standpoint. However, it took us some time (due to longer sales cycles) to figure out the right TOPIC that brought in the best SQLs. We discovered a few things that made a significant impact on our strategy:

        -Focus on specific use-cases opposed to broad topics: We went from topics like "Managing distributed applications in the cloud" to "Rightsizing applications after cloud migrations". While we saw lower form conversion rates due to the limited scope of the topic, we saw the amount of legitimate sales conversions significantly increase. Why? Because people downloading the latter content were the right audience with this pain, that was active, and allowed our sales team to quickly to dig into it.

        -Focus on the top third end of the learning curve, not intros: We have a very technical/savvy audience. We moved away from topics like "Best Practices for Cloud Migrations " to topics like "steal-time and 3 other metrics to baseline". Building on the first point, if you found the specific pain point, you need to make sure you're speaking at a 301 level vs 101 class.

        These points may sound remedial but they were/are critical to our lead gen success.

        Very excited to see a discussion about B2E - it's quite a different beast from lower touch B2B that more closely resembles B2C imho..

        • AY

          Annabel Youens

          over 6 years ago #

          Thanks @ddorman - I just had a bit of a light bulb moment with our B2E strategy. I was already starting to think we need to focus more on user-cases rather than "our solution can do anything" ;)


        • FG

          Florian Goerres

          over 6 years ago #

          thanks, @ddorman, excellent thoughts on the 301 levels. I see to many b2e businesses using and re-using pre-packaged "101" stuff... Guess that's due to a) the hope for "synergy effects" (why not re-use the 101 stuff we've created for business press PR?") or b) the good old know-how issue: The guys in the marketing and sales team (including me^^) don't have enough tech-know how to bring their own content creation game up to the 301 level... If you are in that spot: Find someone from presales to help you with your content strategy. These guys usually know their stuff!

    • JH

      Joshua Ho

      over 5 years ago #

      You talked about B2SMB being more like user/consumer in regards to one person to convince...

      What other traits do you see? Is B2SMB large enough to warrant's it's own space?

      In by B2SMB experience I've had a lot of success with demos, but they have mostly been with decision makers.

      BTW I started a separate "Ask GH" to discuss B2SMB if anyone else wants to join here: https://growthhackers.com/questions/ask-gh-what-types-of-growth-hacking-works-well-for-b2smb-customer-growth-what-doesnt

  • JS

    Jordan Skole

    over 6 years ago #

    I think a lot of the same differences you would encounter doing B2C marketing you encounter growth hacking:

    1) Less frequent conversions = less data. The solution is to add more data points. More than would likely be manageable (is there such a thing) in B2C.
    2) Higher ARPU = Higher CPA. You potentially have more money to spend acquiring leads than you would in the B2C space. The mindset is more "1 big fish."
    3) There are a lot of false positives. I am assuming in B2C they buy, or dont buy. You may have to worry about CRO, but poor CRO wastes marketing budget, not sales/customer service time. As a result you spend a lot of time trying to not only improve quantity, but quality.
    4) Your mom not only doesn't understand what you do, she also doesn't understand what your company does.

  • SC

    Shana Carp

    over 6 years ago #

    1) Medium sized companies should be separated out. Something I've found is that Medium sized companies are radically underservered: they want a similar set of things that enterprise companies want, slightly scaled down, they use similar research techniques, albeit on a smaller budget (aka they will hunt down free versions of gartner reports or ask friendly consultants or something), and they have some similar blocks in that often you also need to talk to multiple people before a sale happens. (things I've seen happen to BW)

    There are no easy hacks, because of the awkwardness. Too small for easy scale answers, too big to not work through. it is why many startups in SAAS are actually a slog.

    The other group that should be separated out: anything for developers/core tech based. The sale process to developers closely fits into how developers make technical decisions. Some of the growth hack questions involve larger consultive or licensing approaches on top of a radical free community. (some example: red hat linux versus red hat the company, or patent issues involving android because of the java compiler )

    • AN

      Alexandra Nicola

      over 5 years ago #

      I agree with the medium size companies, it's a bit hard there. I mean besides the fact that you need to track and correlate multiple leads from the same company you have the issue that most times they need something that gives them a lot of the things bigger companies need but not everything.

      So there, you need to really be able to discuss and understand and it might make the sale process a lot longer than you'd like.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 6 years ago #

    I'm doing a couple presentations on B2B growth hacking and would really appreciate some thoughts from the community on the subject.

  • MT

    Mike Templeman

    over 6 years ago #

    Being a firm that works almost exclusively with B2B firms, we find that you have to be more open with your content.

    B2C will bite on the mystery and secrecy stuff that are gold mines for emails. However most C-Suite don't have time for that stuff. They needed a solution. Yesterday and want to digest as much content that is pertinent to their pain point as quickly as possible.

    We see huge gains in eBook, whitepaper, and other content campaigns. Download rates are crazy high compared to B2C metrics. We're talking 30 and 40% download rates on certain campaigns.

    • RL

      Rob Lennon

      over 6 years ago #

      Mike, are you suggesting that in B2B, we should avoid email capture on ebooks and whitepapers?

      • MT

        Mike Templeman

        over 6 years ago #

        On the contrary, I'm suggesting that you capture their email or other form of contact at every single opportunity. I'm just stating that the usual methods of email capture for B2C don't often work. You'll almost always have to give something in return. The "coming soon" or "be part of the launch" stuff doesn't really work for mid-market and enterprise companies.

        • AG

          Adrijus Guscia

          over 6 years ago #

          Mike, do these apply for more enterprise level bigger companies or smaller B2B firms too (like boutique agencies, teams of less than 5, consultants)?

    • DF

      David Fallarme

      over 6 years ago #

      What's the main way you get people to download ebooks / whitepapers / etc? Mostly through SEM?

      • MT

        Mike Templeman

        over 6 years ago #

        There's many different methods we use. You can use email, native advertising (WORKS AWESOME!), and of course SEM and social.

  • AB

    Adam Breckler

    over 6 years ago #

    In my experience, the biggest difference between B2B and B2C growth hacking is that the leverage in using the product itself as a driver of growth can be more challenging.

    Unless your product is a communication tool or some other product that is built of of network effects and invite flows to fuel growth, you are likely going to have to adapt different kinds of growth hacks that are more focused on sales/marketing channels. This can also be highly dependent on if your product needs to grow across/within an organization to work (much easier), or requires cross-company distribution and adoption in order to work.

    I wrote an answer here with some examples of B2B growth tactics that i've found effective over the years employed by different companies.

  • LR

    Liam Reynolds

    over 6 years ago #

    Having both B2B and B2C clients, we’ve found that the differences aren’t actually all that great. Increasingly users business behaviour mirrors their consumer behaviour and so a lot of the same Growth Hacking principles, tricks and techniques work across both spaces. Its not uncommon to find myself haunted on Facebook by Optimizely or on business related sites by my Amazon.

    However I would echo some of the other comments in that we find the biggest difference / challenge being the decision making process tends to be much more complex with B2B. It often involves multiple stakeholders (e.g. finance, tech, marketing, management, product etc) all requiring different messaging in their. There’s also the annoying fact that people move jobs and so its ever changing :)

    What we’ve found works best is being more human & consumer focussed in the B2B space and bringing those two worlds together.

    One trick we’ve successfully used recognises that with smaller SME businesses (e.g. < 50 employees), the personality of the owners tends to be reflected in the business as they make all the key decisions and set the tone. Above this size, it get watered down due to increasingly complex management structures. So personal data readily available on owners through Due Dill, social media, Angel list etc can be really effective, even if that individual is not directly involved in the conversation.

  • KS

    Kevin Strasser

    over 6 years ago #

    The biggest difference I see and first thing that comes to mind is that the most effective socia marketing channel is very different between the two.

    In B2B marketing Twitter rules, with LinkedIn in a distant 2nd place. I don't even bother with the others as they are not worth the trouble.

    With B2C marketing Twitter can certainly still be effective, but Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest also can be highly effective or even more effective depending on the niche/product.

    I am sure someone is going to ask my why I can say this so distinctly.

    Without just saying that my data and experience have proven it over and over again, I will supply a link that sums it up very nicely:


  • JN

    Jonathan Nimrodi

    over 6 years ago #

    Facebook & Linkedin promoted posts worked great for me (promoting eBooks & Whitepapers to tech savvy enterprise professionals).

    I also ran a few CPL campaigns with techtarget and the sort and saw pretty decent ROI.

  • CN

    Carl Nightingale

    over 6 years ago #

    Great thread... Does anyone have any good B2E user onboarding studies or materials they could share? I currently have the problem of having a great product that has a bit of a complex adoption process and am trying to analyze/understand how our user onboarding can be ramped up to bridge the gap between the product capabilities and what the market knows at trial onset.

  • RK

    Ryan Kulp

    over 6 years ago #

    I wrote 2 quick posts outlining the pros/cons of each.

    B2B > B2C:

    B2C > B2B:

    Hope this is helpful!

  • KR

    Kamil Rextin

    over 6 years ago #

    Late but here are my two cents:

    The 'invite' feature for enterprise needs to be treaded with carefully. Alot of consumer apps have 'invite a friend', 'Tweet it' etc. But that does not always work in B2B scenario.

    We have an 'invite feature' but find that alot of businesses don't actually want to use it and in some cases it goes against policy issues.

    Yes Yammer did it so it does work, just needs to be thought through in terms the business scenario.

  • CM

    Chandan Mishra

    almost 4 years ago #

    I agree with some of the points discussed above but I think growth hacking in B2B space will be completely avoiding the sales cycle for onboarding a customer.

    The only challenge you face in a B2B organisation is how do you can avoid getting into a trap of sales cycles, presentations and price negotiations and make a super smooth customer onboarding. I see some of the great examples here are slack and Basecamp and may be Hubspot. Freemium model for a B2B, try free and then upgrade.

    The similar principles can be applied to any product, however, complex it may be, there will be a way out to hack growth.