Interview: Tomas Herzberger on agile B2B marketing - or growth hacking
Progress means looking at the actual state, analysing the possibilities for improvement, optimising them and thus permanently developing them further. And that is exactly what it is about when companies want to optimise their business processes: when they deal with agility and OKRs, objectives and key results, or lean management, with the streamlining of their structures. They want to fine-tune their processes, improve them and prepare for the future. Tomas Herzberger, co-founder of Schaffensgeist, is convinced that this agile approach does not stop at marketing, but should, on the contrary, also prevail there.
Mr Herzberger, why is it necessary for B2B companies in particular to focus on agile marketing?
Because it is simply consistent. When B2B companies deal with agile business processes, recognise the need for them and already deal with them, it is simply the logical consequence to transfer these processes to marketing – and growth hacking or growth marketing is exactly that.
What is growth hacking anyway? Or to put it another way, isn’t it simply a new buzzword for “guerrilla marketing”? In other words, doesn’t growth hacking also promise the best possible success with the smallest possible budget?
No, actually not at all. With guerrilla marketing, you simply want to generate the greatest possible attention with targeted actions. It can not be said that this is done cost-effectively. Most of the time, companies even buy the activities from service providers at a very, very high price. The only overlaps that may exist are organic activities such as flash mobs, which do not cost much but still generate a lot of attention.
Growth hacking, on the other hand, describes a process of how a company can grow with an agile approach. This means that in contrast to classic marketing, where campaigns are implemented over a longer period of time, growth hacking relies on small experiments. In this way, those responsible want to find out what is really effective, which activities have what effect, without having to book campaigns with a large budget over a long period of time. Growth marketing thus contradicts the waterfall methodology – a lot of time and a lot of money – by using small tests over 2 to 3 weeks to find out the most efficient means, the right channels, the appropriate methodology for business growth. This can be a flash mob, a change to a landing page, a mini campaign on LinkedIn or even a small change to a software product. Compared to traditional marketing, growth hacking examines every single touchpoint of the customer along the customer journey.
Every single touchpoint along the customer journey – how can I imagine this in concrete terms for a B2B company, for example a forklift manufacturer or chainsaw manufacturer? Where do you start?
Even with physical products such as forklifts or chainsaws, there are now more and more digital touchpoints such as apps, landing pages or similar that can be looked at. In addition, competitive analysis can also be helpful – if I find out what my competitor is doing, why they are doing it and why it is successful or not. In the meantime, there are tools for this, for example Semrush, with which you can take apart the competitor’s Google campaigns and learn from the mistakes of the others, so that you can then start more efficiently. At the beginning, those responsible should also look at where they actually link to, are there landing pages, do the landing pages match the ads that were placed, does the tone and the keywords used match the expectations of my customers. Once they have analysed all this, they can think about what they want to start doing to achieve their goals.
A little thought experiment: You sit down with your team of product developers, marketers, UX designers and sales people, define your goal and ask: What actions can be used to achieve this goal? Now different ideas will come up. Write these down on post-its and hang them on a wall. Then it is a matter of sorting and evaluating these ideas: what can be implemented with what effort – time, money, manpower, etc. – and what is the benefit of it all? These thoughts are transferred into an impact-effort matrix and we see which idea leads to the best possible result with the least amount of effort. Whether this is SEO, Programmatic, Social Media or something else entirely is not decisive. The important thing is to then test it and start to find out your own channels and activities that work.
But this whole process presupposes that I, as a company, am already very familiar with the topic, with digital marketing, and am well-versed in it, right?
That’s right, growth marketing only works if the target group is already defined and there are already personas to work with. That is, who is the persona, what is their problem and where can I meet the persona.
If I have these preconditions, what else do I need? Are there tools that make it easier to keep track?
Yes, there are, but usually you don’t need them. Canvas boards such as Trello, SCRUM or even simple Excel lists in which you enter what the goal is, what the action is, what the effort was and what the success was are usually sufficient. This alone helps to maintain an overview, draw conclusions and find the most successful tests for the defined goals.
But what is much more important besides the technology is the basic attitude of those involved: they must be open to new things, be willing to rethink their own ways of thinking and processes, and develop a curiosity to find out what else is out there. Only those who open up this way of thinking and are flexible, who set up their team, their employees and the entire company with this in mind and take it with them, will be able to establish themselves in the long term and no longer ask themselves the questions: Why are competitors overtaking us or why are start-ups so successful?
Is agile marketing your key to long-term success?
Absolutely. Because growth marketing is a process from which insights are gained again and again and optimally learnings are passed on from one department to another. Approaches are internalised by those responsible, a matrix is adapted, processes and ways of working are sustainably changed, and in this way, with all this knowledge, you gain a sovereignty that enables you to react to new circumstances, to realign yourself and to assert yourself in the market.
Here’s another example: many companies want to make greater use of social media in their marketing mix. There, too, we recommend a similar approach, to deal with the specifics of social networks as a first step. Instead of sending out marketing-driven advertising messages, we believe that social branding only makes sense if it is viewed holistically and integrated into the corporate culture. Digital sovereignty – no matter in which area – requires agility, trust and strategic thinking. Companies that have internalised this no longer need to be afraid of their competitors.
Mr Herzberger, thank you for these interesting insights into agile approaches in B2B marketing!
Co-Founder of Schaffensgeist
Tomas Herzberger studied media business in Wiesbaden and digital storytelling in the USA. After working as a media planner and digital marketing manager, he has been working as a consultant, coach and interim manager since 2015, helping innovative companies to grow through digital marketing. He also shares his knowledge as a speaker and co-author of the bestseller “Growth Hacking: More Growth, More Customers, More Success” and “Think Growth”. He is a mentor for start-ups (e.g. for the State Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia or the Media Lab Bavaria) and initiator of the Growth Hacking Meetups in Frankfurt, Munich and Vienna.