—Spotlight on Greg Ott, VP Marketing for QuickBooks Online, (Intuit Inc.)
Until recently, there was nothing positive to be said about hacking. In the marketing world today, and particularly, in the disruptive innovation world, ‘growth hacking’ is the trending topic. It’s a new, positive spin on the traditional concept of ‘hacking’. I have been in more than a few meetings and discussions lately where senior marketing managers and sales people are admitting their fear of this unknown concept. Executives who have all along felt confident in their creative abilities and strategy skills are now astounded as to why a particular CMO wants everyone to go back to the drawing board and focus on the product. Why is it suddenly so important to have a stellar product when all this time, stellar marketing and stellar sales is all that you needed to drive growth?
Well, here’s the thing—the customers now know exactly what they want, they know what your competitors offer, they also know what your company lacks. The only thing they don’t know is that your product can be better than it is right now—unless you share with them what you are doing towards that end, unless you ask them specifically what more they want to see in your product, unless you show them that you care enough to find out all this and then make it happen. That’s what growth hacking is all about.
Key points in Wikipedia’s definition of Growth Hacking are:
- Growth hacking is a marketing technique which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.
- It can be seen as part of the online marketing ecosystem, as in many cases growth hackers are simply good at using techniques such as search engine optimization, website analytics, content marketing and A/B testing which are already mainstream.
- Growth hackers focus on low-cost and innovative alternatives to traditional marketing, i.e., utilizing social media and viral marketing instead of buying advertising through more traditional media such as radio, newspaper, and television.
- Growth hacking is particularly important for start ups, as it allows for a “lean” launch that focuses on “growth first, budgets second.”
Continuing the CMO Spotlight series on my blog, let’s examine this concept with an insightful perspective from Greg Ott (in an interview on BrightTalk™). He is the VP of Marketing for Intuit’s QuickBooks Online. Much of what Greg shares is not new, but it is a refreshing take on proven concepts and marketing wisdom that has stood the test of time.
- It’s all about the customer’s experience with your product. Going beyond the Wikipedia definition, Ott says growth hacking actually applies to companies of all ages and sizes. Its benefits are not limited to start ups. The time-tested lesson of traditional marketing is that a good product allows for good marketing. It does not matter if you have a brand new product being introduced by a young, new company or a product from a large company that has been on the market for many years. If your product delivers a consistently good customer experience, your company will see growth. That’s pretty simple to understand, and yet, organizations will invest endless hours of marketing discussions and lead generation strategy meetings to burn up big dollars on innovative marketing. Get the product right first! If your product has flaws or falls short of the competition, your customers are going to miss the experience they want and expect. As Ott says, “A great product is your best marketing tool and happy customers are your best marketers.” (Remember the 3 magic words of customer experience.) For start ups, this concept of growth hacking is a necessity, not a choice. They need to activate their customer base and embed growth in their product with lean resources and less time. However, he reiterates that these foundational concepts of product quality driving marketing and profitability are applicable to companies of any size.
- Word-of-mouth marketing still works. It’s the oldest form of marketing but it is still the most powerful. This old method has found new strength and vitality now in our Internet-enabled, social media world. Just like in the old days when housewives shared stories about their favorite laundry detergent, today people share stories online, particularly on social channels. Peer reviews and recommendations are key to adding the trust, confidence and comfort factors into your prospective buyers’ mind. The only way to stimulate that user-generated content in social media and other online forums is by ensuring that your existing customers have good things to say about your product and your brand. Make sure your product matters to your customers.
- Walk in your customer’s shoes. It’s probably going to hurt. It might make you feel sore. You’ll see the pinch marks. The good news is, you want that to happen. How else will you know what your customers are really feeling about your product? What your product is lacking? Why it falls short of your leading competitor’s product? Why your sales people are not closing more sales? Why marketing is becoming the ‘bad boy’ who squanders money that brings no returns? Get answers to all these questions, and more. Ott says, it’s critical now to adopt the “outside in approach” because like it or not, the customer is in charge. Organizations need to step outside their comfort zone, shed their fear and start thinking out-of-the-box and inside the customer’s mind. As Seth Godin says in his book, Poke the Box, “Do something important, frightening and new. Take risk, be innovative, strive to heighten customer engagement through increased value.
- Become engineers of growth. Ott invites everyone to think like an engineer and work like one too—focus on building a great product, continuously test it for performance and upgrade it regularly to meet your customer’s evolving needs. It’s typical, he says, for most organizations to find that staff slot themselves into specific roles and responsibilities—“I’m a marketer; I look after marketing”; “I’m a sales executive; I sell”; “I’m a product designer; I work on design development”; “I’m an accountant; I look at the financials”. Yes, people are hired for all these skill sets and function to perform their assigned tasks. However, the leaders in an organization must encourage and help every employee to be curious, be creative and become a change agent. The ‘change’ you want to focus on is to make your product better so it delivers an enhanced customer experience.
- Take collective ownership of your customers. Unlike in the B2C world where larger volumes and shorter sales cycles allow for a large customer base, things are different in the B2B world, as we know. Due to the fact that customer relationship management is handled by assigning different customers to different people and teams within the organization, it’s common to see a distorted, closed view of customer ownership. Sales people talk about “my client” and “your customer”. No! It has to be “our client” and “our customer”. A shared understanding of the customer can only come from making real sense of all the data and metrics gathered by your organization. That’s the only way to build a truly customer-centric organization.
- Understand and define the predictors of growth. It’s not easy. CMOs and their marketing teams get dumped with the responsibility to strategize, implement and report on the success and failure of lead generation campaigns. They can’t do this alone. Sales and marketing roles now overlap and the lines are blurred…this is a natural progression driven by the customer expecting a vendor organization to show interest collectively and work towards winning the business. Ott says it’s not enough to assume you know your customers’ pain points, you really have to find out; and you must also be excited by their wins and successes. Big Data CAN be a big deal for B2B marketers, but you have to share data across the organization. Data must flow from every touch point. Everyone needs to be close to the indicating metrics. You need to look at social media around your brand in order to apply predictive analytics and monitor perceptions. Use the data collectively to improve engagement and the increased engagement will start to become predictive of a close, a.k.a. conversion. Ott reminds that you need to “pattern your lead generation programs and organize your touch points to follow the customer’s buying cycle.”
Is lead generation and marketing becoming a constant challenge as customers become more demanding? Is your CMO a growth hacker? Does your company have the right measures in place to promote growth hacking?
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HELP! My CMO is Big on Hacking!