November 29, 2019

Video: What do companies get wrong about growth?

When it comes to growth, companies often shoot themselves in the foot. Some fail to adapt, others don't align their growth initiatives, and some just don't understand why they're growing in the first place. On top of that, they may only focus on acquiring new customers—neglecting the importance of retention and advocacy. And let's not forget the importance of involving everyone in the company in the pursuit of growth.

To avoid these pitfalls, companies need to: ask the tough questions, align their growth strategies, understand their why, focus on engagement and retention, make growth a company-wide effort, and dig deep into their data to find the most promising ideas.

Don't make the same mistakes as others—be smart about your growth! We've rounded up the experts to weigh in on how to avoid common growth mistakes and pitfalls.

We've got the full transcript for your reading pleasure below:

Kelly Watkins:

The most important thing about growth that companies get wrong is not thinking about the fact that what works today has to evolve. We're never in a scenario where the thing that we're doing in this moment in time is going to be true for all of time. The world changes, the market changes, our product changes, our audience changes, and I think we have to be continuously asking hard questions about whether what we're doing is working. And if not, how do we evolve? How do we grow? How do we improve?

I think there are lots of companies who are running very specific playbooks for growth, and those definitely don't translate in a unilateral cut and paste sort of way. And that's because products are different, audience are different, markets are different. What I think matters less is tactically what is a company doing and what are the first principles that really inform why they made those choices in the first place?

Those first principles have to be grounded in what's our business strategy, what's our growth strategy? Marketing is an amplification of those things. It has to be rooted in a strong articulation of what the business is trying to achieve. So when I'm working with companies who are trying to grow, I'm always trying to get them to start with asking and looking at the business and the company strategy. And then what does marketing need to do as a result? I think that's a more interesting and more helpful place to start because the answers are contextual, the answers are really deeply rooted in that company and it's aspirations, and I think that's when you have playbooks that aren't just copying and pasting other people's work, they're purposely built from the ground up.

Jonathan Kim:
I think the most important thing about growth that companies get wrong is not aligning it in the right places. I think that many companies, especially not product-led companies, growth is traditionally a purely marketing or purely sales initiative. And if you're a product company or if you have a product, you're missing a really key lever to have all of these different departments, including customer success and support, really be thinking about what they do or how what they do drives growth for the overall business is incredibly important. Every single touch point is an opportunity, and customers nowadays are interacting more with your product than they are with your people. So I think a misalignment there is a huge mistake.

David Apple:
The most important thing about growth that companies get wrong is that they don't understand why they're growing. So we always tend to obsess about the things that are not working or the things that we're not doing well. And I've found that companies often don't invest as much time in understanding what is working and therefore what levers they can pull to make it work even better. At some point, your organic growth will slow down either because you've kind of saturated the market or because you're about to cross the chasm and that'll be a stage of growth that's going to slow down. I think every company goes through that. I certainly went through that at Typeform. And if you don't truly understand why you've been growing, you don't know where to pour fuel on the fire to grow even faster.

Tanya Littlefield:
The most important thing about product-led growth that companies get wrong is that product-led growth's all about acquisition. That it's about how to drive value to get somebody to convert and sign up, and then you wash your hands and that person's on their way. Product-led growth's not just about top of funnel, it's engaging, it's moving somebody from one price point to another or getting somebody to retain and advocate for your platform.

I think when a lot of people think about growth, they think about growth hacking, and so they think of this idea that we are going to hack our way to virality, and in virality we're going to move from a thousand customers to a million. And that's not necessarily what you're doing with product-led growth. You're trying to identify the right person, the right company, deliver the right value to them and grow. And maybe you're not going to go from a hundred to a million, but you're going to keep growing both top of funnel in terms of engagement and then moving that price point up. So there's different levers within that growth.

Joel Stevenson:
The most important thing that companies get wrong about growth is expecting one group or person to do it. It's an entire company initiative. Even if you have a growth team, I think you have to expect that everyone in the company at some level is responsible for growth. Making sure that people understand what drives growth, and making sure that the information is freely available to people and people understand the particular types of growth that we're trying to drive is important. I mean, most SaaS companies are blessed with lots of intelligent, motivated people. And so I think if you give them the information and the right direction, people can figure it out. But if they don't understand what their priorities are, they don't understand where the goalposts are, it tends to be difficult to make that happen.

Darius Contractor:
Not going deep enough in the data. I think oftentimes teams won't go deep into the data because they feel like it takes too long and they might not have the data resources or simply the tracking in place to get that information and they feel like, "Hey, we have to do something and so let's come up with a few ideas and do the best idea we have." Unfortunately, that best idea might not actually be the most likely to succeed idea. The most likely to succeed idea might be the result of making a long list and then opportunity sizing everything in the list until you find a really great idea that you validated.

Wes Bush:
So the most important thing people get wrong about growth is not getting close enough to the user because as a business grows, it's so easy for you to really just get disconnected from the user. What are their problems? What are they struggling with? And so what I recommend is really just trying to eliminate a lot of those barriers and get closer to your user, whether that's doing user interviews, watching full story recordings of users actually using your product and seeing where their problems are. That to me is where the power is for you to grow your business.

Margaret is a marketing advisor for B2B SaaS companies. Prior to founding her consulting practice, Margaret led marketing at OpenView and content at Appcues. Before that, she spent almost 4 years building and scaling content programs for InVision’s design community. She appreciates out-of-the-box creative ideas, practical executions, and Oxford commas.

Learn more