Growing a business can be fun only if you know what is working and how to keep repeating it. That is because one-time tactics will not survive your business lifecycle, but repeatable processes will hold you in good stead.
For Stefan Repin, the CEO of LuckBoosters, growing your business is a marathon and not a sprint. Stefan has been following growth hacking techniques over the years during his time at Reinvently and Hackabu. So, we sat down with him to know what businesses need to achieve long-term growth.
Here is a quick video highlighting Stefan's thoughts.
Here're excerpts from our conversation.
Q. Hello Stefan, we're glad to have you here with us today. Tell us about yourself.
A. Stefan Repin: Sure, let's start with what I do. I add value first of all. Erm…so, my name is Stefan, and I live in Budapest. I am head of LuckBoosters, and we provide B2B consulting and execution for marketing and sales.
We are focusing on SaaS and B2B businesses. A typical client of ours could be B2B SaaS, for example, who is looking to board big companies or mid-sized companies.
Another… category of ours could be an IT company who is developing some software, let's say AI, and they are looking to…erm…they have a sustainable process and to get more leads sustainably.
Meaning, erm…they're not interested in…it's called they get leads the right way, but if they want to have a process where…whenever, at any moment, they could predict their revenues and have some growth over the years, we could enable that. In short, that is me.
Q. You've led growth in companies like Mealplanner and Reinvently. What, according to you, is the number #1 mantra for growth for B2B companies?
A. Stefan: Well, yeah, I'm going to repeat myself. It is the process over tactics, you know, always follow the process. Recently, I read a book called 'The Checklist Manifesto' by Atul Gawande and what he talks about…well, the processes which are complicated will tend to ****** (laughs).
So, always, let's say, for a product, they always had a checklist, they always had a form. A doctor, they always have a checklist they have to follow, check, check, check…you know, in the end, they know that they did a good work.
Same is here. When I set up the growth process which is essential to have the weekly meetings to put the right hypothesis in place. You always test channels, and as long as the process is in place, you won't have any needless tactics so that you won't lack ideas. So, yeah, it is simple, process over tactics.
Q. The marketing funnel concept has been around for so long. So, how can companies stand apart from the competition and still appeal to their customer base?
A. Stefan: Good question. Use Paperflite, for example (laughs). If you talk about lead nurturing, let us say, I am interested in lead nurturing, you have top-funnel, mid-funnel and bottom-funnel content, erm…you know I recently had a very good chat with a very good friend of mine, we were talking about different tools that they use for research, and they told me that they're not working and they're investing actively into their community.
And, now, I am thinking, 'Okay, but, guys, how do you…you know, now you have a community, you get a snowball, which is a community, where you know it constantly creates information, so people nurture each other in the community, but how do you get there? You still have to support that kind of growth.
Erm...I guess the best example is AHREFS, maybe do you know the company? When they started, they actually had this very classical pyramid, top of funnel, mid-funnel, and bottom-funnel, and they invested heavily in educating their audience, which is me, you…I guess we all use AHREFS, and SEMrush, which is a very similar example.
While educating them, they did different types of content, and then they created their group on Facebook and other different communities. But, then you know, one way to nurture people and to get people their way when they buy from you, it's like communities, but people have different interests.
So, I would ask those who say that 'The funnel is not working. So, what is working right now, you know?' if you come with a statement like that to me, well you know, you need to have an argument…tell me why it is not working. I still see people say that cold-calling is not working, and I know companies who all they do is just cold call. [Cold call...yeah].
So the same here I wouldn't agree [that] it's not working. It is working…I guess you were talking to a bad marketer who doesn't know how to use [the funnel concept] you know.
Q. Today, people are looking for growth-hacking tips for growing their business. But, do you think growth-hacking is overrated today?
A. Stefan: Yeah, well, I would say growth is hard. Very recently, I read a good article, in the article, it was described that growth hacking is for companies before product marketing, which you can take as a startup.
And, growth marketing is for companies after product marketing. That precisely sums up what I am thinking. Because…since Sean Ellis introduced the term 'growth hacking,' I have been following growth hacking and have been practicing it myself.
You know when it just started, it was like a buzzword, people were getting into that understanding what is it. You know it was cool because I think erm…what Sean Ellis… he meant the process more than the tactic you know.
But, now, I know the more it gets around, people are thinking about it, exploiting mediums such as Facebook, LinkedIn you know using different hacks that they could bring them up there…very fast…very fast revenue or very fast some kind of results.
You know, but we always know that life is growth-led, it is never like straight [line]. If you go to your website, this is what real growth looks like this, you know…and I think people are overusing the term growth-hack.
Erm…because I'm also like…to be honest…, I'm also maybe overusing it. But, I'm always putting in like a viewer's discretion advice, which is I always come up with process over tactics. So, I can come up with a nice tactic because people tend to do that because they want that, they find value in that.
But, you know if you don't have the right process in place, you know what, it's just going to stand out wondering what's next. So yeah.
Q. From your experience, how has content helped you grow the business for your clients or your business?
A. Stefan: Sure, of course, you know content growth is the bible. I can say that it is not the only trick in my book or anybody's book, but companies who do content marketing are pretty successful.
You know they say that content is king and software is queen. Erm…so, if you work with a SaaS software, then ideally, you're combining both. Erm…what was I thinking? Content has different forms – it can be an eBook, it can be a video, or it could be a word document.
Or, the reason why I say…there are other tactics let's say Account-Based Marketing, social selling, but I would say content is something you have to measure, you have to produce. It is the best way you can get your customers. It is very important to measure attribution.
Going back to the previous question regarding your funnel, you have the pyramid, and you have to know which pieces of content contributes to a decision, one or the other decision.
And, if you think about B2B, you know you have buying committees, and it can take months of something right. So, going back, you need to track actually which piece of content or at least the big majority of it actually triggers an action or triggers a thought or triggers an idea virus in the customer's mind. Since you have different people, you need to have different angles so the content must have different angles so that everyone could understand.
Let's say a CTO could understand the content in his language because [he is a] technical [person]. A CEO would understand if you talk about numbers, revenue, vision for a company. Erm…a CTO…wait, a CFO would understand revenue, would understand numbers again, yeah, so you should talk in the client's language.
Hmmm…another thing about that is that I recently read a very good article, where they say marketing for B2B has changed because we are not so much longer needed on the top of the funnel, but we are needed at the bottom-funnel…on the bottom part of the funnel.
Because top-funnel, you know…another thing is that in B2B marketing, at the top of the funnel, it is mostly only sales. So, you need to draw some kind of a theme…you know like a football factor. People from the sales and marketing teams can pass the ball to each other.
And, I am really curious about how other companies implement this status of MQL, SQL, HQ, leads because eventually, this is how they communicate with each other, you know. And, that's where you know the old…the old systems are not very …it's not very helpful; it's not the method that you should use for attribution.
So, I'm seeing that more and more that on the bottom-funnel, marketers need more – you need those case studies, you need those marketing collaterals, you need those interviews with clients. And sales, they are way too busy, you know. They are just in their own world in a way, and you need to get out there, get the information out of them.
The other day I had a 2-hour sales call with four sales reps, and it took me like…I was literally calling them, asking them, 'So, what did you do here? What did the client say?' You know, based on the transcription, I created those pieces of content which other people like. So, I would say marketing in B2B is a sales exercise. At least 30-40%, you'll be talking to your sales reps.
Q. In the past, you've spoken about how companies are often taking a short-term approach to growing their business. They are going for a short fix. Instead, you suggest that you need to look at the problem elaborately. Can you expand on that a bit?
A. Stefan: Yeah, of course. Short-term growth is like you buy some data from a data source, and you just employ 3-4 people, and you keep calling (if you're thinking about B2B). But, in general, you know, it is talking about hacks. Everyone wants to grow and get there. For example, the number of visitors from 1 to 15,000 in one month, it's not possible unless you have a B2B budget, you know.
In the short-term, you can have the spikes once in a while – they will never last for long. I would think about a situation where you have a headache right, while you go and get a pill. But, if you get it every day, you've got to go to a doctor, then the doctor tells you 'More exercise, less computer, go out, spend more time with your family, something like that…' Then you decide, okay, this is the change that you have to make in your life, and when you lose weight, you know, it is a lifestyle change.
The same here – you should …it's a change in your mind. You should focus from short-term growth, to long-term growth maybe.
I see a lot of cases, especially in startups, the young companies. They say, 'Okay, let's do 60 hours this week, 60 hours of productive work.' And, I'm like, 'Guys you will burn out, you will burn the hell out. Next week, you will do two hours.' And they're like 'Yeah, we weren't very productive this week. I asked them, 'Did you check how you worked last week? You worked too much you know. And then, you overworked yourself.' You need to have a better…it's not a sprint; it's a marathon.
That's what people need to understand. Another time, it is better to make 5 hours every day, but you do it every day even on Saturdays than doing 10 hours today and tomorrow 'I'm dying, I need to go to the doctor. Call the ambulance, come on where's the ambulance you know?'