Defining growth marketing with Scott Vaughan, Integrate’s chief growth officer
With growth marketing being the #1 trend on this year’s 2021 Trend Tracker, this week’s episode features Scott Vaughan, chief growth officer at Integrate. Editor for B2B Marketing David Rowlands sat down with Scott to talk about what growth marketing is, what a chief growth officer does and how marketers can make growth central to what they do.
DR: You may or may not have seen our 2021 Trend Tracker. Essentially, this was a survey we conducted with hundreds of B2B marketers to see what core topics they’re focused on this year. Growth marketing, which was a completely new entry in this year’s Trend Tracker, was the number one focus area amongst both agency-side and client-side B2B marketers. However, there seems to be a huge amount of debate around what growth marketing even is! As chief growth officer at Integrate, what is growth marketing to you, and why do you think it’s such a core focus area for marketers this year?
SV: I don’t think there is a business-to-business focused organisation on the planet who is not focused on growth in one fashion or another. Growth is a company-wide mission, requirement and responsibility. Ideally, all employees have this mindset. Marketing has taken more of a central role because of a change in the buying and selling process. In B2B, Gartner states that sales are only involved 7-9% of the initial purchase process. Buyers have also taken control of their purchase process and have gone digital first not engaging with companies until late in the process. This is where marketing has the opportunity to step in and step up.
The move to apply 'growth' in marketing is a clear mission to up level the thinking from marketing-driven demand – which can often equal generating leads or sales pipeline – to a more holistic view of driving revenue growth and company growth. For example, a growth executive thinks about: Which markets are the best to compete in? What are the right solutions required to compete? What is the optimal go to market strategy? Not just leads and pipeline.
In my role at Integrate, the opportunity for a growth executive was recognition by the CEO that we are driving a new category in a dynamic technology market. We needed to think about driving growth in new ways and faster to capitalise on market opportunity. For us, thinking beyond traditional 'demand generation' capabilities in marketing and sales are essential. Growth executives work across functions – marketing, sales, finance, product, customer success and alliances - to identify the right growth market segments, align products and solutions with markets you serve, to properly position your company and solutions to the right audiences and accounts, and to exploit market shifts and differentiation. With this in place, your organisation has a greater likelihood of sustained growth success and marketing can more effectively and efficiently create demand for the company’s solutions.
DR: So, with that in mind, do you think ‘growth marketing’ has always been there in B2B marketing, and that it’s just now receiving attention in its own right, or do you think it’s very much a new phenomenon?
SV: Let me start with that it’s pretty cool we are using growth and marketing in the same sentence. Over the last decade in many B2B companies, Marketing organisations have elevated from the t-shirt, logo, events and data sheet department supporting sales to a business driver. Frankly, it really doesn’t matter if growth marketing has varied meanings or even what you label it. There are also varied definitions of 'growth', and these may change regularly depending on the current business cycle and market environment. And that’s a very good thing! Most importantly, it is critical everybody in your organisation understand the mission and roles, and that success can be defined, managed and measured. For those that apply growth specifically to a marketing function, growth can mean net new business or new logo generation. Or growth can mean expansion of existing customers – growth from their customer base. Or both.
DR: So, as chief growth officer at Integrate, how would you describe your role? To be blunt, what do you do?!
SV: Integrate is a high-growth software company. As chief growth officer, I focus on the critical growth levers that enables the company to unlock and deliver our growth potential. This is a lofty goal and idea. My areas of focus can change each year or more frequently, depending on the OKRs (objective, key results) that are set by the board and strategic leadership team. This requires agility and tenacity.
Let me break it down into what a CGO does and then how the role impacts the business by aligning them to focus areas in 2021:
- Drive and action our go-to-market strategy. Working across the organisation and closely with marketing and sales, this role holds a seat at the table for go-to-market strategy definition, is a catalyst for executing growth programs and initiatives, and is a force for actioning the plan in market working across the organisation, with our customers and prospects, and with our partners.
- Lead partnership and alliances effort. A key part of our growth is identifying and developing tech and services partnerships that, together, makes our software and solutions more valuable to our customers. The higher quality of alliances, partnerships and integrations the more we can grow with our customers. These partnerships also allow us to accelerate into new regions and into new vertical industries faster.
- Evangelism and Thought Leadership. Not just for the sake of thought leadership and brand lift; rather to generate conversations with the right audiences, influencers, and key customer profiles at our target accounts. Working with colleagues, the role needs to get tactical. For example, down to the topics and the themes should we base our go to market strategy around, and what are the best channels and formats to deliver in the market.
DR: Chief growth officer is arguably a bit niche… Do you think it’s something more organisations need to look at having? Or perhaps even implementing an entire growth marketing team?
SV: It depends on the company’s goals and market opportunity. The key factors to put a formal growth function in place are based on the type of business, maturity of the markets they serve and what the company requires to drive growth. Ideally, everybody on the team has a role in growth and the growth executive or team is an organising and accelerating function to make growth happen more effectively and efficiently across the organisation.
If the company restricts growth roles to a specific marketing function – as you asked earlier “Is this just a re-labelling of ‘demand marketing’?” - then it will be hard to have the same kind of impact without applying more holistic thinking and strategy. For example, it’s hard to make growth marketing successful if your solutions aren’t aligned with the market, your ideal customers and accounts, or you have a weak product or your positioning and competitive differentiators are weak.
DR: So, now that we’ve established what growth marketing is exactly and what a chief growth officer does, how do you think our listeners can actually go about making growth central to what they do?
SV: I have learned you must have the right people and skills to deliver growth. Based all the requirements we discussed above/earlier, here are the critical skills:
- You must be collaborative as you are working across the organisation.
- You must know your markets and customers and be able to detect trends and shifts quickly.
- You must understand the competitive playing field and your differentiated value.
- You must be agile and disciplined at the same time.
- You must have skills on the team that are both data-driven and have vision.
- You must be a master communicator.
And something learned over time that is hard to gauge, you must be curious and you must have passion around your solution and the markets you compete in.
DR: In a roundtable last year, we actually asked attendees what they think about growth marketing – did they think it’s something that adds genuine value, or did they think it’s just hype, and it’s always been there and that it’s just been rebadged. What’s your argument for growth marketing? What do you say to the cynics out there?
SV: While I love a smart debate, it comes down to defining roles and aligning with company needs and market opportunity. Two key thoughts:
- Growth executives and teams should be focused beyond just Marketing to deliver growth.
- And, let me be very clear, we don’t need another label to an existing role. If that is what we’re talking about, it is not worth the energy.
Now, from a growth marketing lens specifically as you asked the question, it seems to me that now is an ideal time to make a statement and shake things up. Why?
Marketing is being asked to do more and play a bigger role in the buying and selling process. With sales interaction and engagement limited and B2B buyers doing the bulk of their research and decision committee work online, there’s an urgent need to increase marketing’s role in identifying, engaging, educating and advancing the buying and the selling process, including which markets to go after and what accounts are the best opportunity companies to do business with. Successful B2B teams are architecting their demand and revenue marketing around the process that matters most – the buyer’s process. Today, it’s a wake-up call to realise that sales are not our customer, our buyers are our customer.
To drive growth, whatever the title may be, B2B teams should focus on being more precise by developing their revenue and customer generation strategy around the right mix of ideal customers, target accounts and interested buyers. This does not mean everybody is a lead and we fall back to marketing being a lead factory (the definition of 'demand' in many organisations). It simply means B2B organisations need to be always-on, using data and activating around buyer and account activity that is their best growth opportunity. This is the level of precision required today to make the right connections at the right time with the right value information.
If a company wants to grow and/or the company needs to/is forced to find ways to unlock growth, then a growth executive and function can make a big contribution and difference. Period.
DR: Do you have any final words on growth marketing? Anything our audience needs to be aware of when thinking about taking a serious look at growth marketing?
SV: There are many ways to being involved or leading a company’s growth, including roles you can be playing now to build your knowledge and experience. Now is the time to play as many roles as you can across marketing, sales, customer success and operations.
The best advice somebody gave me is work from the outside in. Translated, start and be in market, listen to customers, prospects and influencers to understand what’s driving the market and formulate your growth strategy, your organisation, and your game plan. This forces you to focus on the growth opportunity, not working from existing internal constructs and trying to make them work.
If you want to learn more, feel free to tweet Scott @ScottAVaughan
Also, to learn more about what’s trending in B2B marketing, check out our 2021 Trend Tracker!