Getting companies to buy your product starts with getting individuals to hear about it. Every significant sale starts with one person within the company who likes what you’re doing, likes it enough to push it within the organization. While traditional B2B marketing focus was on getting to the ‘right’ people by reaching them directly, growth hacking lets you reach a much wider audience and dramatically increase your chances to get a champion.
— Iris Shoor (@IrisShoor) April 15, 2015
The main difference, as I see it, between standard to B2B growth hacking is that on B2B you usually need to get to a more targeted audience.
Here are 29 ways to it. 22 out of them don’t require any budget. 17 of them will take you less than 1 day.
Do more with your content – B2B content marketing on steroids
Content marketing is usually strongly aligned to blog posts. But, the more content types you’ll came up with you’re more likely to reach the right audience. It can vary from fun games to salary surveys.
1. Create great indexes for your community
Lists and indexes are resources which are relatively easy to produce and generate high and static traffic. Some examples from my experience :
Calendar – after I looked for all the Java related conferences and couldn’t find a good list we decided to create an interactive calendar with information about Java events by date, location and price. We launched java2014.org based on a simple Google calendar. Other than getting great, on going traffic we also built good relationships with conference and meetup organizers.
Influencers – one my favorite projects launched by Takipi is javais.cool. Inspired by uptodate.frontendrescue.org, we created a list of all the Java influencers’ twitter accounts, Java blogs, podcasts and newsletters.
Resources – “42 newsletters for developers” is a nice list of the most popular newsletters for developers. A great way to track potential users who look for knowledge.
2. Create games and puzzles
Being fun is always a good way to get more users on board. “Game of hacks” (link) is an example by Checkmarx which helped them attract over 65,000 security experts(!). This is a trivia game of security questions for developers. To keep the content fresh – users can contribute questions themselves. We published a puzzle for Java developers – asking them to change one word in order to solve a bug. This puzzle resulted 7,500 visits to the post and 200 answers.
3. Use Google alerts to get secondary traffic peaks
I haven’t met a startup company which wasn’t short on resources. One ‘must’ skill your company should own is reusing content. Most topics B2B companies cover can be relevant after a few months as well and sometimes by slightly modifying the existing content you can publish the same content again and get a new traffic peak. We set Google alerts on topics we wrote about before, here are a few examples on how to use it :
- News? It’s time to adjust your old content – let’s say you’ve covered a certain tool or technology. When there’s a release of a new version you can make a few edits to the existing post, adjust it to the new features and release it again, highlighting it refers to the news about the new release.
- Use Google alerts to track new articles on topics you covered before – while adding comments or links to old posts doesn’t do much for your traffic (other than some SEO improvements), adding comments/links to new posts or live discussions can lead to a nice traffic peak.
4. Transform posts to presentations and upload to SlideShare
Another way to reuse your content is to create Slideshare presentations based on posts. The presentations can include just some bullets from the full post. By creating a matching presentation you earn twice :
- You’ll start getting some leads from Slideshare
- By embedding the presentation on the original post you’ll rank higher on Google (more embedded content increases the SEO) and create a more diverse and easy to consume content for your readers.
5. Use retargeting by page/ post
If content marketing is your main blogging strategy it means most of the visitors to your blog will probably leave without even knowing what your product do. One of the main ways to bring them back is using retargeting, it can be done by Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads and other services. Knowing on which blog post the user you’re retargeting visited allows you to create custom ads which are more likely to convert better. For example, someone read about a certain technology? create an ad which explains how your tool works with it. When we want to target a very specific audience for a campaign one of the tactics is creating a great post about this topic and then retarget it’s visitors. For example, in order to reach out to Slack users you can write a good tutorial on how to use Slack, and by using retargeting create the initial group of a few thousands visitors for the campaign.
6. SEO based content marketing
One of the main roles of content marketing as I see it is leveraging search based marketing. You can adjust your website only to a limited set of keywords and the SEO adjustments can sometimes affect your home page messaging. By using SEO based content marketing we were able to rand on top results of terms like “Log management tool”, “Java 8 features” and other highly competitive terms. The idea behind SEO based content marketing is picking keywords you’d like to rank high on and writing posts around them. Since it’s much easier to dedicate a post to one topic and to get links to it, it’s usually easier than the traditional SEO strategies.
7. Compare different products and add your product to the workflow
One of the best performing content types is a comparison between different tools – tool A Vs. tool B. These posts attract lots of readers and rank high on Google. The thing I like best about these post is that you get readers on the right state of mind – they’re already looking for tools and usually are the right people within the organization. Adding a paragraph about how your product integrates/ supports the product is a direct way to new great leads. Here’s an example to one of our most converting posts : AppDynamics VS New Relic – Which Tool is Right For You?
8. Create list of tools, including yours
One type of content marketing which works very well for us and for other blogs is lists of tools. For example : 15 Tools Java Developers Should Use After a Major Release (link), 23 tools to create images for social media (link). These posts gives you an opportunity to create content marketing but to also mention your product directly. By approaching the other companies you mention and asking them to tweet and share the post you’ll be able to extend your reach.
9. Create long and detailed guides
Probably one of the best performing content marketing types. Moz managed to rank #2 for the search “SEO” on Google, right after Wikipedia, by using a super detailed guide – “The beginner guide to SEO’ (link). Neil Patel got ranked #2 for “Growth hacker” by using -’The definitive guide for growth hacking’ (link). Writing a guide might take you as long as writing 5-10 posts but it’ll probably be more powerful and lead to a static traffic. Similar to eBooks, you can ask visitors to fill out their email in order to download the guide as PDF or access advanced chapters.
Newsletters and email funnel –
I personally think newsletters are a bit overlooked, I’m referring especially to existing newsletters and not to your own email list. I started becoming more interested in using newsletters after I saw a great traction coming from existing newsletters who published links to our content. The standard metrics of uncommercial newsletters are : open rate of 30-50% and click rate of about 10-15%. What I like best about newsletters is that people usually open the newsletter when they have time to read it and usually are at the right state of mind to read content and explore new tools.
10. Ask Newsletter editors to publish your content
Sounds pretty simple, I know. We have a list of about 15 relevant newsletters. When we publish a new post or launch a new major version we email the editors of 2-3 newsletters which are the best fit for that topic. We use a short email about the post/ release asking them if it might be a good fit for the newsletters. Sometimes they include it, sometimes they don’t. Quick tip : If your product/ post was published on a certain newsletter always write a quick thank you email to the editor. Other than truly saying thank you, when you’ll want to ask them to include your content again it’s easier to ask using the same email thread.
11. Switch content with other companies
Here, unlike the first section, I’m referring to newsletters of other companies. One great way to get to a targeted audience is to use the existing user base of a company which sells to the same audience but is not a competitor. One way is to have some kind of a joint promotion and send a newsletters to all companies’ lists. You can also write content which includes each other’s tool or to create a list of few tools. I’d recommend working with companies around your size.
12. Try Wavelength by mailchimp
This is a great tool by Mailchimp to help you discover other newsletters with a similar audience to yours. After discovering these lists you can exchange content or have sponsored posts there.
New tool, new audience, minimal work
13. Launch the same (or almost the same) product as a new one
This is one of my favorite tactics. Everybody loves something built especially for them. It can be around a certain technology, product or market (X for marketers, X for advertisers). At Takipi, we target Java developers and support other similar programming languages. One of the tactics which worked amazing for us is launching “Takipi for Scala” which was almost identical to the original product but gave us the opportunity to launch it as a new product and leverage the Scala community.
14. Launch a sub product as a new one
Pulling a feature out from your main product and launching it as a free tool can generate great traffic and leads. The idea behind this tactic is not to create a free competitor to your hero product but rather using existing code for marketing without creating any competition. Most B2B products are built from dozens of features, some of them can stand by themselves. A good experience I had was creating a small tool based on Takipi’s interface – The Stackifier. On it’s first week this tool had over 20,000 visits, over 5% of them continued to explore Takipi. Since “mini tools” are usually free and catchy it should be easy to market them. One place I’d start at is this list of dozens of web directories for new tools. Some other examples of free “mini tools” :
Follower Wonk by Moz
Optimize your Funnel
15. A/B test your email funnel
While most companies A/B test their website and application like crazy, many neglect the A/B testing their email funnel. I’m referring to the funnel itself but mainly to the subject line and body of each email. We run at least 5 A/B tests on each email we sent out to users. Each week test two versions, the winner competes against a new version and so on until we complete 5 rounds. This method helped us improve our welcome email open rate from 40% to 80% and increase the reply rate of a different email from 3% to 25%. To run the A/B tests on the emails and gather the stats we use intercom.io.
16. Use giveaways of other (cool) products
There’s a long way before your company becomes trendy and known enough people will want swag with your brand. It’s true users always want T-shirts, bags and other swag even if your brand is not the coolest one yet. But, if you’ll manage to create swag, landing pages or ads which appeal to your audience with a different product/ brand/ messaging you’ll be able to double and triple the demand and leads. One of the most successful campaigns we had was around Java 8. We used “Duke” the mascot of Java and gave away T-Shirts with this image. We had great traction from a very targeted audience. Instead of using swag to promote the company we used it purely to get to the right people. New Relic based their well known T-Shirt campaign on T-shirts with a simple “Data Nerd” label, without mentioning their brand.
17. Use live chat, even if you’re at early stages
We postponed adding live chat to our app and website for a long time. My assumption was that in order to benefit from live chat we need to have a 24/7 support group. I was wrong. We started turning on the live chat only for a couple of hours at first. It was enough to talk with some relevant users and schedule some demos.
18. Increase the number of sign ups from the same company
While it’s considered more B2C tactic I’ve found ‘add a friend’ much stronger for B2B products. It can work on two levels – the first one is creating a group within the same company. When working in low touch approach for B2B products, the more users you’ll have from the same company the more likely you are to succeed. We had users that even before installing the product invited over 30 members from their company. It means 3000% more chances to find our champion 🙂 The second level is part of the workflow itself – add an opportunity to tag people, share task, etc in a fluid way from the app to get a stronger grip within the organization.
19. Segment your newsletters
Good newsletters can help you close deals, increase the engagement and bring back ‘dead’ users. It works only if the content you send out interest the users. We found out that segmenting our newsletters to different groups can lead to doubling and even tripling the conversation rate and reduce the users who unsubscribe. Different segmentations you should consider :
- Segment by usage : Paying users, engaged users, users who signed up to the product but never used it.
- Segment by technology/ integrations – server type, company type, users who signed up via different integrations.
- Segment by location – grouping your users by location can help you send the newsletters on different times according to the location and get higher open rate. Another great use of segmenting your users by location is translating the newsletters to different languages. For some audiences is can make a difference of 10X in the conversation rate. When we started sending emails in Japanese to users from Japan we saw an increase in the open rate from 5% to 60%.
20. Use Optimizely to create a dynamic connection between your SEM/ Ads and your landing page.
A contextual landing page with high correlation to its source leads to high conversion rate. While Optimizely was built in order to perform A/B tests without code changes, it’s also a great tool to change landing pages dynamically. You can adjust the headline, texts and images according to search terms, ads type and source.
21. Suggest a discount for more details about the product
Asking users to fill out more details during the sign up process helps you to qualify leads and segment your users. On the other hand, each field you add decreases the sign up rate. Here’s a cool trick I learned from Slack – Instead of having some mandatory and some optional fields, Slack offers $100 discount for users who fill out an additional section with sales related questions.
Discover new traffic sources
22. See which blogs cover other tools
One of the challenges of B2B companies is that their product is usually far less interesting than B2C companies. Don’t take it personally, I’m managing a ‘boring’ company and love it. But, convincing blogs to cover a B2B product is not an easy task. While it’s almost impossible to convince some technical blogs to cover a B2B product, other love it. I’ve found that the easiest way to predict if a certain blog will cover a ‘boring’ product is checking if they wrote about similar products in the past. I often do it the other way around, means – I search for similar products, see which blogs and websites wrote about them and based on it create a list of writers to contact. press.customerdevlabs.com is a great service which will save you some time by showing you mentions of other tools, sorting the results by the site size. Means, the first results will point out on important websites which wrote about tools similar to yours.
23. Create your own community
When building a content marketing strategy, one of the first steps is becoming involved on the main communities of your audience. Instead of contributing to one, how about creating it? Qualaroo done an amazing work when they created Growth Hackers, Moz created a very active community and Hubspot team are behind Inbound.org. Most of the communities are non commercial but allow the companies behind them to define and communicate with a community of their potential audience, by creating it. Here’s a great interview with Rand Fishkin from Moz about building a passionate online community.
24. Build plug-ins for other tools
More plug-ins and integrations = more leads. By creating a wide set of plug-ins you’re able to create new marketing channels. Creating a basic API to your product can enable you to outsource building all the plug ins and reaching dozens of new integrations. Promoting the plug ins you build can include a guest post on the company’s blog (the one behind the product you’ve build the plug in for), a joint webinar or promoting it on the product’s communities.
25. Learn where other companies get their traffic from
I’m a big believer in learning from other companies and basing your strategy on what works for them.
- Identify where other products which have the same target audience get their traffic from – Find out from which referral sites, blog, social media channels and paid channels other product get their visitors from. This is a great way to start mapping all the sites you want your product to appear on. I’d start with the free version of SimilarWeb. You can find more tools and tactics for reverse engineering marketing here.
- Discover which ads and banners work well for similar products. Moat is a super valuable service which lets you search for companies and see all the banners they’ve used before (mainly for medium-large companies). It’s fascinating to see which banner types are used frequently with small tweaks and which banners were tested only once and probably due to low metrics were removed.
- Discover which email templates work for users in your industry – www.emailinsights.com collects emails and newsletters of thousands of services. For example – if you want to see all the emails someone who registered to eBay received over a year that’s the place to go to.
26. Add sign up via Google, Twitter, Facebook and Github
It might not be the main channel most users will pick and more related to B2C users but many companies report on an increase of the sign up rate by 5-10% after adding these options.
27. Know which content type works best for your competitors
I believe that picking topics for your company blog should base on numbers and data. Some types of content are much more likely to go viral and get higher traction. Researching blogs which write content similar to yours can give you the keys to writing high performing content. Quicksprout (go to “Social Media analysis” tab) enables you to type a URL of a selected blog and see all the posts sorted by the number of social shares. You can easily see which content performs well and which content tends to be less popular. BuzzSumo lets you search terms and see which relevant content around the web got the most social shares.
28. Cross promotion
The basics behind cross promotion is to partner with companies which aim to your target audience but are not a competitors. I advise to look for companies around your size, it makes the cooperation much easier and more attractive. A few cross promotion ideas –
- Exchanging blog posts
- Replace banners on each other’s blogs
- Create joined webinars bringing new traffic be addressing the other company’s user base.
- Creating a newsletter with a few companies, suggesting discounts or other benefits and sending it to the all the companies’ email lists.
29. Retargeting list swapping with a partner
One of the main problems of B2B companies when using retargeting is the retargeting audience is too small. In order for retargeting to bring a significant number of leads you’d usually need to have an audience of at least 100,000 users. One thing you can do is swapping retargeting pixels with other companies/ blogs which address the same user base. In most services you’re able to keep cookies for different campaigns, so you’re able to embed a pixel for a different company and they’ll get the traffic and handle it. While you can do it manually, CookieJar is a cool tool to help you grow your retargeting list, whether through swapping or purchasing a list from another company. One thing you need to bear in mind is that unlike your ordinary retargeting where you need to ‘remind’ users about your brand, when you’re advertising to visitors of other sites you should use a different ad set.