B2B Growth Hacking vs Growth Marketing – What’s the Difference?

B2B Growth Hacking
Rob Cullum

With new buzzwords appearing all the time, it can seem impossible to keep track of them all. What do they mean? Do they apply to me? Are they all just fancy new words for things I’m already doing? In this blog we’ll outline the differences, and similarities, between B2B growth hacking and growth marketing.

What is growth marketing?

Doesn’t all marketing aim to achieve growth? Well, yes and no. While most marketing strategies have some kind of growth as one of their aims, growth marketing tackles this very specifically and directly compared to a typical brand awareness strategy, for example.

B2B growth marketing is a focused, revenue-driven approach with a key focus on connecting your target audience with your brand at all stages of the buyer journey. It involves intensive experimentation, tailoring and optimisation, with a laser focus on customer needs, adapting messaging and tactics quickly to any changes in customer motives and preferences.

As well as attracting new customers, growth marketing has a longer-term focus and involves customer retention and activation to drive ongoing revenue. It looks closely at all stages of the marketing funnel and uses targeted marketing activity to minimise the loss of potential customers as they move further down the funnel, thereby maximising potential business growth.

Creativity is key to this approach, and fast failure is crucial to being able to quickly identify what is and isn’t working. Growth marketing is all about experimentation, so failures are just as important as wins.

What is growth hacking?

The term “growth-hacking” was first coined by leading business growth expert Sean Ellis to describe the agile process used by high growth companies.

Typically used by start-ups to enable rapid growth in a busy marketplace, growth hacking is all about ensuring the product is a good fit with the market. As well as marketing, it involves technical product development. While B2B growth hacking certainly involves marketing the product to appeal to the market, it’s just as much about adapting the product to fit the market’s needs.

With a target of rapid growth, sometimes seemingly at the expense of all else, growth hacking often takes an outside-the-box approach to maximising growth. It involves being highly responsive to the results of experimentation, and changing tactics and product features rapidly to suit the mood of the market. This approach is generally unsustainable long term, but is used to gain initial high growth when entering the marketplace.

What’s the difference between B2B growth hacking and growth marketing?

This is the million pound question. While you’ll often find the two terms used interchangeably due to their similarities, there are some key differences between them.

Rapid vs long-term growth

Growth hacking can be seen as the phase which often comes before growth marketing. It focuses on rapid growth and immediate results, before transitioning to a longer-term, sustainable growth marketing plan.

While this two-stage approach is typically seen in start-up environments, more established businesses looking to drive significant growth would typically bypass the growth hacking and go straight to the marketing stage, as significantly altering well-established products at a rapid pace is less likely to be a viable option. This is especially true in the B2B technology, manufacturing and engineering sectors, where products and services are typically complex and high value. A focus on agile, experimental marketing approaches is therefore more achievable.

While B2B growth hacking and marketing both involve an agile, responsive approach, the speed of activity is typically faster in growth hacking. With its focus on rapid growth, B2B growth hacking involves short term testing followed by rapid action in response, in order to take advantage of this insight to gain quick wins. On the other hand, growth marketing is still agile but plays a slightly longer game, with focus on additional research and planning to support the testing metrics and drive a more sustainable strategy.

Branding vs no branding

Growth marketing is all about the brand, whereas growth hacking actively avoids dealing with the brand. These completely opposing outlooks are key to understanding the difference between B2B growth hacking and marketing.

The rapid nature of B2B growth hacking means you need to use tactics and channels which provide quick, perfect attribution. Branding is notoriously tricky to attribute sales to and requires more time and effort to measure. It is seen as a hindrance to the quick-win mentality of growth hacking and is therefore avoided as a B2B growth hacking strategy.

However, the slightly calmer and more long term approach associated with growth marketing means that branding is much more important, especially in the B2B sector where customers are often more emotionally engaged with brands than B2C consumers. There’s no point in building high growth for your business if you have no brand with which to sustain it. Growth marketers accept that while the impact of branding may be hard to measure in the short term, investing in it will absolutely reap results.

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If you’re considering a growth marketing strategy for your business, get in touch with our team for a chat about how Motion could help you, and look out for our next blog which contains an overview of the types of activity a growth marketing strategy might involve.

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