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Does growth marketing finally give us a unified theory of B2B?

By David Van Schaick, CMO and Chief Digital Officer

The Marketing Practice


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March 16, 2022 | 5 min read

The Marketing Practice recently launched the Ten Principles of Growth Marketing, recognizing growth marketing as a number one trend in the world of B2B - a sentiment reflected by everyone from McKinsey to Forrester. David van Schaick, CMO at The Marketing Practice, looks past the hype to look at the discipline's tangible advantages.

The Marketing Practice on the usefulness of growth marketing.

The Marketing Practice on the usefulness of growth marketing.

B2B marketing is coming of age, stepping out of its adolescence and flourishing into maturity thanks to a number of developments.

At first glance, many trends may seem in opposition to each other but that needn't be the case. In most cases, these are false dichotomies.

Account-based marketing v brand building

The rise of account-based marketing (ABM) is seen in opposition to the power of brand building and reach - which is rightly also getting more emphasis in B2B. But both are important and work as strategies. Combining a highly-targeted, orchestrated joint sales and marketing focus on your top accounts (which typically represent 70%+ of your revenue) makes sense. So does a broad-reaching brand strategy that creates distinctiveness and mental availability with a wider pool of future buyers.

It’s also true that the principles of brand building apply at the scale of ABM, and the insights from ABM help maintain a fresh, relevant brand. They not only co-exist, but complement each other.

Agile v strategy marketing

Agile marketing is seen as antithetical to ‘classical’ marketing skills of segmentation, targeting and positioning and long-term strategy. But strategy is best achieved by setting a clear direction and guidelines, and allowing for experimentation, collaboration and fast learning in small groups. We rarely (if ever) achieve strategic goals in the way we imagined them at the outset; the systems we are dealing with are too complex for that.

The growing sophistication in measurement and data use is cast in opposition to flourishing creativity. Experimentation is set against long-term programs. Brand against demand. Rational against emotional.

Synthesis: growth marketing

Growth Marketing provides opportunity to synthesize these trends into a coherent philosophy. It's a modern B2B marketing approach that we can all adopt; a way to embrace new and old together.

Growth is now marketing’s remit and the pressure is on for B2B marketers to gain measurable results today. It is from this motive that growth marketing can take its purpose. We want to create organic growth in both the short and long-term, and define a set of principles and approaches that are effective in achieving this.

Growth is a mindset; growth hacking an established discipline. We don’t need to be dogmatic and insist on experimentation over planning in every case – often in B2B we simply don’t have the volume of data to support this.

Agile practices help us get where we want, faster. Tools like objectives and key results (OKRs) and Kanban make the process of achieving growth objectives more do-able. They allow us to work in a way that mirrors how things really work. We achieve our strategy not in some procession of pre-planned orderliness but through a combination of a shared direction including the messy process of try-fail-try-again. It doesn’t negate strategy; it’s how it's achieved.

Deeper collaboration

Growth marketing also provides a framework for collaboration between marketing, sales and service. For scale-ups and smaller companies, innovations like a unified commercial function or growth tribe are delivering stand-out results. But even in big companies, creating smaller cross-discipline teams with a common set of outcomes, and giving them ways to communicate and collaborate effectively, can lead to the same results. ABM at its best does this, but a lot of the tools and mindset at play borrow from agile.

To really embrace growth marketing, marketers need to be comfortable holding two different concepts of scale and pace. There is the long-term, slow-burn mentality of marketing strategy and brand building, and the simultaneously fast-moving, iterative, open-minded process of working towards our goals.

Growth marketing creates a unified theory of how B2B works; an opportunity to heal the divisiveness and grenade-throwing of brand vs demand, creative vs data, and all the rest. We might finally have a recognizable set of principles that help us achieve what our stakeholders want the most: organic growth.

Our research piece captures the principles of growth marketing. It’s a start and something to build on.

Abm B2B Marketing Marketing

Content by The Drum Network member:

The Marketing Practice

Bringing together the best in B2B

The Marketing Practice is a leading, global B2B agency that delivers growth right across the funnel.

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