Zipwhip’s CMO on the State of Growth Marketing

sarah-duffy by

As product led growth companies continue to take the tech world by storm, the demand for ‘growth experts’ increases by the day. Growth marketers, in particular, are receiving more and more attention and yet, as the intrigue rises, so does the murkiness around exactly what a growth marketers’ role in a business can and should be.

To unveil some of the mystery around growth marketing, I interviewed Zipwhip’s CMO, Scott Heimes, who shared his experience on the topic. Before joining Zipwhip, Scott was CMO at SendGrid where he built out and led the growth function as part of his broader marketing team. Today, Scott is in the process of establishing a growth marketing function at Zipwhip and shared how he defines growth marketing and the ways it can impact a scaling organization.

What is growth marketing?

The term growth marketing can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. “It’s one of those terms that’s been applied to so many different scenarios that it’s lost some of its meaning. But, I think the way that Silicon Valley typically thinks about growth marketing is the intersection between product and marketing, and how you drive increasingly engaged users to your solution and product through a variety of different tactics – many of them traditional marketing tactics.”

The responsibility of the role can differ – some growth marketers are responsible for driving newly acquired users, while others focus solely on increasing engagement and driving higher product usage post-acquisition. Email marketing and in-app communications are now starting to become integrated inside the product experience to drive a growing user base. Heimes says, “Growth marketing doesn’t typically include the more traditional elements of marketing like corporate communications or events, other than how they’re used to drive engaged users.”

Growth marketing within the broader marketing function (and beyond)

In today’s SaaS environment, it’s imperative that all business functions work together in a coordinated way to drive growth. “Product marketing needs to collaborate with the sales and growth marketing teams on customer insights and personas, messaging and traditional sales enablement,” states Heimes.

But, a growth marketing role goes beyond the broader marketing function. “Success needs to be synced with the growth marketing team’s digital engagement strategy to optimize onboarding and think about how to identify lapsed users and growers within your subscription cohort and persuade them to change behavior.”

Heimes also states, “Product needs to incorporate growth marketing strategies and tactics into the actual design of the product, to create a growth flywheel – an ever growing newly acquired user base that continually increases use of the product – that all great products enjoy.” All of these elements work in tandem to drive optimal growth for the business.

The role of a growth marketer

Heimes believes the function of “growth marketing” is inherently a marketing function. “It’s about understanding the customer and developing messaging and tools that drive behavior like learning how to use the product, continually reminding the user about best practices to increase adoption and educating about new features and functionality to drive upgrades and reduce churn.”

He also says, “Growth marketing requires a classic set of capabilities and skill sets that already exist within the marketing department – customer insights, messaging, skills with marketing automation tools, ability to persuade action, expertise in A/B testing, conversion funnels and analytics – but marries these with an understanding of UX, product and engineering design and usage analytics to achieve growth.”

Hiring for a growth marketer

What are the key skills and experience a growth marketer should have? “Having led and executed an increasingly responsible role inside a growth-marketing function is the clearest path to success. I believe experience with growth and optimization of the entire funnel experience is critical – acquiring top of funnel with ABM techniques on key accounts and driving conversions at the bottom of the funnel with enablement and growth through tools like email and in-app communication.”

Ultimately, many growth marketers have owned a number, whether it’s revenue, customer acquisition or engagement, the growth of a cohort after conversion, and so forth. “Having the experience of thinking and executing like a true business owner and having owned the funnel top-to-bottom is critical.”

Pros and cons of hiring a B2C growth marketer for a B2B organization

Hiring a B2C growth marketer for a B2B organization depends on which function or capability within the growth marketing concept you’re considering. “If acquiring and converting new customers is the priority, there are lots of cases where a B2C marketer can make the transition into a B2B organization pretty seamlessly. The skill set is the same when using acquisition media channels to optimize a conversion funnel, tracking and analyzing an A/B process to optimize conversion.”

The biggest challenge for a B2C marketer in a B2B environment comes when you consider the in-app experience and usage growth and upgrades. But, it’s certainly possible to make the switch. “I’ve seen situations where an email marketer focused on ecommerce shifts seamlessly into an email marketer focused on reengagement and free-trial conversion.”

Scott’s dynamic perspective and application of growth marketing is just one of the many different ways SaaS organizations leverage and define this “trending” function. One thing is for sure: as long as companies seek tools and talent to hack the ever-changing high-growth equation, the hunt for innovative growth marketers will persist.

Tools for a growth marketer

Today’s modern growth marketer needs a modern growth marketing stack, starting at the top of the funnel with the ability to acquire traffic to a web experience that will convert into buying customers. “You have to be willing to invest in SEM, SEO, content marketing, display retargeting, social advertising – all tactics that also grow business by acquiring users. The right investment in media and expertise is also important.”

There is a whole array of different tools to drive conversion once a visitor arrives on your site, such as web-based chat or video experiences. Heimes states, “Once you get visitors inside of your solution and convert them to buyers, you need a marketing automation platform that allows you to have a clear vision of the customer profile and experience, and one that enables you to drive personalized experiences for them.”

In-app product tools that allow you to communicate, train and onboard customers and track usage paths within the application are also important levers to optimize experience and design. “All of these need to surround a strong foundation of financial analysis so you have a clear path to driving revenue for the business.”

Talent Specialist, Go-to-Market