We took part in Growth Marketing Conference this December in San Francisco – a great event for marketers, especially those doing B2B

In this Growth Marketing Conference recap, I share my opinions and key takeaways, so you can feel the grasp of the conference even if you missed it, and have some directions to look for materials on your own. We know that they are many marketers among our readers – so here it comes!

Last month, you saw us at Social Media Week in London, this month, we’ve gone to the U.S. to continue learning about growth marketing. We decided to go to the San Francisco Bay Area, AKA the mecca of technology and marketing. We wanted to learn and gather the latest insights and updates on the state-of-the-art of marketing. Three members of the Sotrender Team – the Head of Revenue, a Product Manager and myself, Founder & CEO – took part. Each of us had unique goals and interests, so we followed our individual paths of speeches and workshops. I’ve prepared a Growth Marketing Conference recap to share some observations and impressions from the event.

So what were the highlights for me?

Is Account-Based Marketing the new B2B?

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) was one of the main topics of the conference. As authors of the book claim, ABM is actually what business-to-business marketing should be. There is much to be said about this approach and its implications for marketers. An example of this would be the tier approach and prioritizing quality over quantity of leads. The increasing costs of Google and Facebook marketing result in increasing Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), while Lifetime Value typically does not change. Consequently, marketers, especially in B2B, are more motivated to look for ways to increase efficiency of their activities. Oftentimes, it means segmenting and slicing leads in order to identify the most promising ones, differentiating activities, and personalizing contact with them (which also often means increased costs).

Personally, I especially enjoyed presentations by Guillaume Cabane (“Why Intent Data is Your New Demand Gen Secret Weapon” and another one which he held during his workshop) and chat by John Miller & Katie Martell (“What’s Next for B2B Over the Coming 10 Years & How You Can Be Successful Through Them All”). Guillaume is particularly known for his key best practices for scale marketing, which I recommend you read about here.

On the verge of product & marketing 

Many talks covered issues on the frontier of product development and marketing – not surprising for the area of growth marketing. Testing and experimentation frameworks, as well as building data expertise within the team, were discussed a number of times. This convinced us that we adopted the right approach in Sotrender.

I also liked the clear and concise presentation by Darius Contractor on leveraging user psychology and his EVELYN framework. Using convincing examples, he showed us how to consider factors that influence users’ excitement and micro-decisions taken by users. You can read more about how to use psychology to increase funnel conversions here.

Greg Revutsky’s “ROAARRR: The Hyper-Growth Framework Used to Grow Postmates, Wag, Soothe, & Headspace” was another great talk, referring to his extensive experience. He made two particularly interesting points. The first point was the emphasis on the research and preparation phase before experimenting. The second was the advice to mix changes in experiments, unlike in the classical approach (with a single difference between experimental conditions), in order to move faster. A video of a similar speech by him is available here

Growth & hacks

Nathan Latka, whose talks, books and works look like one big growth hack. I enjoyed his vigorous talk on the challenges of scaling in different phases of growing a company. It was illustrated through examples from his podcast interviews with entrepreneurs and data gathered during these interviews. 

You can find an older version of this presentation about the State of SaaS here:

During the conference, there was an option to get a signed copy of Nathan Latka’s book and magazine entitled Latka – that was a bit too much self-love for my taste.

Ben Kaplan did a great job too with his “Accelerating Your Sales Cycle: 8 Marketing Tactics That Scale Sales Today”. You might have heard some of them as I did, still, they’re worth listening to. They are smart and use a repertoire of classical PR mixed with growth hacking. My only concern with this type of tactical advice for marketing is that hacks are usually revealed only when they don’t work anymore for the advisor. Don’t take them for granted, nor copy-paste it into your business without making adjustments. Still, they might be very inspirational.

Other topics worth mentioning:

  • Hypergrowth: Despite having read the book, I truly enjoyed the lively fireside chat between Chris Yeh (co-author of Blitzscaling and Ben Kaplan “The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies – Key Lessons From Airbnb, Amazon & Alibaba”. It was one of the best conference discussions I’ve ever heard. A lot was said about network effects, prioritizing growth over efficiency and when companies can disregard customer service. However, this approach works best for companies with more than 100 employees and growing at least 300% YoY, with massive funding of dozens of millions USD. I’m just thinking that in such circumstances, some other approaches might work, too… Still, the book is worth reading!
  • Hiring for growth; Sujan Patel gave a fantastic presentation on building a marketing dream team. Not only had he sketched the anatomy of a perfect marketer, but also gave operational tips on scouting candidates and interviewing them, including tasks and questions. You can find out more about hiring the perfect marketer here.  And once you hired, you should remember that even best marketers need some time to show results, as Melinda Byerley stressed in her talk.

  • Search Engine Optimisation: – All-time classics. There couldn’t be a marketing conference without SEO-related talks. We particularly liked Eli Schwartz’s ”Everything You Know About B2B SEO Is Wrong”. He focused on humans vs. bots and on conversions and deals closed vs just traffic. (in line with the ABM approach). Speakers also emphasised analysing competitors and understanding what have they been doing. As Sam Woods explicitly said during his workshop presentation, it’s crucial to understand why people above rank higher and do it better. One should benchmark competitors and try to do the same, but stronger and better – which is hard and time-consuming, of course. That’s just how it is, though…
  • Artificial Intelligence – and there couldn’t be a conference without AI-related talks in 2019. My pick was “B2B Advertising Secrets: Practical Tips for Leveraging AI Right Now” by Lance Loveday. BTW, his quotes by Inspirobot were astonishing and hilarious!

Inspirational caption by Inspirobot

  • Social media – This was mostly in the context of performance marketing and lead gen. What surprised me was the often declared trust in FB algorithms. “Just set up few ad sets and leave it to Facebook’s AI to make it efficient”, was said a couple of times. Sounds optimistic, though some of my fellow marketers would not agree.
  • There was also a valuable and entertaining presentation on influencer marketing Don’t Let Your Influencer Bubble Burst: Long-Term, Sustainable Influencer Strategies You Can Rely On” by Oliver Yonchev from Social Chain. I’ve heard an earlier version of this talk on Social Media Week London and I’m glad you’re improving!

Talking growth & marketing under chandeliers

The venue was one of its kind – the Fairmont Hotel, a luxurious hotel boasting a long history and previously accommodating people like Anthony Bourdain or Tony Bennett. Gigantic Christmas decorations in the hall, gold, stucco, and chandeliers in the rooms. To top it off, lunch in a tropical-like Tonga room with pool with the occasional rain. That was spectacular and memorable, however not necessarily the best place for such an event.

There were a few minor issues with the location. Firstly, talks and workshops were spread among the hotel which was confusing at the beginning. It was a challenge to be on time, especially if changing tracks. What’s more, in a few situations, the rooms weren’t the appropriate size for a given audience. The last criticism is that it was just really cold. Many participants and panelists wore their jackets and during sessions they resembled the cast of “The Terror” TV series.

Aside from the minor location issues, the event was definitely worth it! Overall, our Growth Marketing Conference review would be that it was a good experience and that there were many insights from talented speakers!

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