Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising

Though I found the Ryan Holiday’s Growth Hacker thought provoking and had several good ideas in it, I also found it frustrating.

My point of frustration may not really be Mr. Holiday fault, but just the same it was my main point of contention with the book. I have spent my career with multiple Business-to-Business (B2B) product companies. In most of these companies the product was complicated and had many parts and aspects to it (including software and hardware components).

Though clearly there ar

Though I found the Ryan Holiday’s Growth Hacker thought provoking and had several good ideas in it, I also found it frustrating.

My point of frustration may not really be Mr. Holiday fault, but just the same it was my main point of contention with the book. I have spent my career with multiple Business-to-Business (B2B) product companies. In most of these companies the product was complicated and had many parts and aspects to it (including software and hardware components).

Though clearly there are several points made in this book that directly apply to this type of B2B industry, it talks about the world of marketing and business like B2B does not exist. No examples in the book relate to a B2B case. The book never even acknowledges the existence of such a market, but instead implies that the “secrets” disclosed in the book should apply to all. I appreciate that the author may have no experience with B2B. Also, even if the author did have B2B experience writing about the topic might be nauseating for 99% of his readers. Talking about how to market a sewer pump station is not as interesting to the masse as the story of how Hotmail go started.

My pet peeve is when people read a book like this often act like they have had a god like transformation as it relates how to market every product in the world (including the B2B case). You ask them what they learned and they talk about the power of Internet marketing and how Dropbox exploded after giving away storage space to people who encouraged their friends to try Dropbox. You then ask how can we apply that to our B2B business and have no idea (I will acknowledge that the exercise of trying to apply these examples to the B2B case can be a positive one, but there are clear differences in the consumers as well). You ask them how what they learned can be applied to B2B business, and you are met with chirping sounds).

Maybe the best way to explain what I personally got out of the book (form my admittedly myopic B2B perspective) is for me to explain how I perceive the differences between B2B vs consumer marketing as it relates to the topics of this book.

B2B DIFFERENCES

1. Typically the customer not spending their own money.
2. Buyers often influenced by direct contact with sellers company staff, who may spend months (or years) developing a relationship with the buyer and assisting them in their search for the best product solution for their organization.
3. Very little (or no) cool factor when making purchase decision.
4. Cost of ownership may be more important than initial upfront price.
5. “Keeping my job” is a significant factor in purchase. Avoiding buying wrong product is a very big deal, because a mistake could lead to loss of employment. This risk avoidance may lead to buying the most established brand or product (as the old saying goes “no one was ever fired for buying IBM”).
6. Price points may be very high.
7. Possible that the product is a system and thus cannot be bought online.
8. Complicated products can be tricky to compare.
9. Normally a very small target audience. You do not have to find the right company or organization to sell to, but the correct department and maybe even the right person in that department. Thus the big challenge is not identifying the correct customer company’s, but find the consumer inside though companies. To proactively find the “right” person often takes old fashion detective work by a sales person. Using the Internet for this small group to find you can be very tricky (unless you can find a common place all these “right” people hang out online).
10. The narrowness of the target group can make finding the correct and common Ad words difficult (however if you can find the right common word, then they are likely to be relatively in-expensive on a per click basis by the very nature that they are rare).
11. For the more complicated products, the consumer may be willing to spend a great deal of time researching the best product to purchase (possible months or more). The consumer can justify this investment in research because they are being paid to do this research by their employer. This can lead to a situation where the buyer or consumer will become aware of your company or brand from their own research, but not that likely that it will result in your closing the sale.
12. Normally the buyers associate buying process as “work” vs “play”, so less likely interesting in reading or bumping into information about your products on a lazy Saturday morning Internet surfing session.

SIMILARTIES

1. The Growth Hacker suggestion to not rely on old and tired marketing approaches certainly applies to B2B (however this is really just a generality).
2. Buyers are influenced by like buyers. Thus leveraging industry groups using techniques from this book do directly apply.
3. Positioning your company as the “expert” on the product area can be advantageous. Using the some of the Growth Hacker “thinking” on this point does apply.
4. High quality blogging, webinars and information write ups can all help position your company as the expert on the topic. Of course using the Internet in this position endeavor is often the best approach.
5. The buyers are sophisticated and may hate being “pitched” (especially when they start reading your information thinking they are going to learn something, but instead find a sappy marketing story about how great the sellers company and product are. Thus a “hack” marketing write up can have the opposite to the intended impact.
6. Since many of the customers are experts in the field of your product, it makes creating informative pieces more difficult. Writing about the benefits of your new tennis racket is going to be much easier to explain why your new hydraulic valve will save you money over ten years as compared with the other vales on the market.
7. Often due to the complexity of the product and your desire to educate the educated you can fall into writing at a level that assumes your readers (or listeners) know more than they do. However, there are always new comers in the buyers organizations, so you have to always create some kind of lead or defining a basis for your write up (not to leave all newbies in the dark). When you ask high technical people in the seller company to write such pieces, they can often fall into a lot of jargon that loses most readers.
8. Do to conflicting nature of having to write about complex products but use simple clean English, it if often a significant challenge to find a single individual who has all the skills required accomplish these tasks. A pure “writer” or marketing person with little product background often simply do not have enough knowledge to and have them pull off a quality write-up, blog or webinar. You end up having to using your best people (likely engineers or product managers) who happen to also be solid writer to do this work. The problem with this approach is the opportunity cost of their time dedicated to such projects is likely very high expensive. Using the approach of a professional writer interviewing or working with one of these experts to create the piece sounds good in theory, but in reality the expert will tell you that 9 times out of 10, they spend more time helping the writer and re-writing the document then they would have if they just wrote it their self (so using the writer as an editor may make more sense, but still expensive).
9. As described in the book, using old expensive marketing methods can be very ineffective (and at the very least with no clear way to measure results it is hard to know if there is a good return on the investment or not).

Most B2B marketing of complex products includes a relationship between the two parties that may have taken years to build. Though this can apply to certain consumer purchases (maybe your local car dealer) it often does not. The important nuance along with the narrow and relatively small target audience for many B2B companies make books like the Growth Hacker miss the mark for people looking for help with the B2B business plans. As I started at the start of my comments (rant), my issues with this book are not so much general content, but about the sweeping generalizations that imply their words apply to all business (when they do not).

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Source: https://iseo1.com
Category: Marketing

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