What is a Growth Lever?
Look up “lever” and you will find that it’s a bar used with a fulcrum to dislodge or move an otherwise difficult-to-move object. In this case, the apparently immovable object is B2B SaaS growth. A growth lever helps to reduce the amount of human force needed, but not all of it.
What a growth lever is not:
- An “easy button”.
- A switch that you can turn on to quickly make a change, like a light switch.
- A shortcut to growth. It’s an accelerant or a force multiplier that requires effort.
- A tactic that may apply some temporary force, but it’s not enough to move the object.
Growth Levers vs Growth Tactics
Aren’t we already using growth levers in our go-to-market approach?
B2B Marketing, as practiced by most SaaS companies, focuses on growth tactics or methodologies commonly used by competitors or agencies such as:
- Brand building, demand gen, and ABM
- Tweaking paid media ads, SEO keywords, or content topics
- Content marketing, blogs, emails, and social media posting
- Adding podcasts and communities to the mix
- Leveraging the latest MarTech to ignite the above tactics
Each of these tactics yields a set of metrics that may not have any direct impact on revenue, for example, website traffic and leads. When one tactic appears to work, marketers pour in more resources, that is, until KPIs start to tail off and decline. Then they pivot to the next tactic and see the same growth followed by decline. This leads to an apparently random strategy of trying one tactic after another with no real focus and disappointing results.
Many companies do grow this way for a time, but it's just not compounding or scaling. When one tactic becomes ineffective, they switch to a different tactic. Many companies stay stuck in a single tactic, like creating content for SEO, instead of understanding how content grows the actual product and market and applying that insight to compounding growth.
This is the difference between growth and tactical marketing - everyone starts with growth tactics, and they may even work for a while, but the problem is, you can't effectively scale growth tactics.
Growth levers are serious, committed actions that allow you to go deeper than your competition to find, close, retain, and grow buyer accounts. Growth levers may include tactics, but tactics are chosen and applied via a set of planned experiments with growth goals and strategic foundations, and they are measured by growth metrics.
A growth lever will compound over time, and to do this, you need a data-driven process and metrics that enable you to understand if what you're doing is actually growing your product.
Some of our favorite growth levers include:
The objective is to understand who your buyers are, to develop a brand narrative that speaks to their undiscovered needs and desires, and to create a category that positions your brand in a relatively small niche. Your brand narrative disrupts your market by pointing out an unseen problem to a buyer. A category you create separates you from a crowded marketplace and allows you to dominate your own market.
Re-imaging the market could result in you focusing on an unseen problem or attaching yourself to a totally new narrative avoiding comparison with what came before.
Utilize your brand narrative to develop a market-message fit that, in turn, guides your content strategy and brand storytelling. In effect, every marketing effort you make is directly tied to your buyers’ and customers’ undiscovered needs and desires and seeks to help them achieve their goals. Getting market-message fit right enables you to attract higher quality, ready-to-buy leads, reduce friction, reduce sales cycles, and improve win rates.
Your message is what you amplify with your marketing to your market—most B2B SaaS brands continually message their solutions / products—when you have market and message fit your message is about their problems and opportunities. Customers care about themselves not your brand.
How do you reach and engage with buyers and customers with appropriate messages? This is done with growth experiments conducted with the channels they use and with a mix of content, events, and other offers that appeal to them at the right stage of their journey. Performance evaluation is based on actions they take that produce engagement, sales, retention, and product growth.
Your channel(s) is where you can reach your market with your message—we look at several potential levers that can make up your channel mix including: performance marketing, content, viral, and sales. This mix will decide how and which channels you'll leverage.
Your product can also help you grow by making it easier for buyers to understand the value you provide and appreciate the experience of using it. By building a frictionless buyer/user experience, you can reduce the time it takes to fully evaluate what you offer, reduce the sales cycle, and increase retention rates and customer lifetime value. It's also about understanding how your product actually grows and how it can be used as a competitive advantage in your market (hence why so many brands discuss product market fit.
A product-led growth strategy can be a growth lever in a market full of sales-led companies, offering a freemium version, and a product growth loop. Developing and promoting new products and features, new pricing models, attracting new segments, and offering new services that are in demand can also help you drive growth through your product.
This is how you scale B2B SaaS growth, but no two companies have exactly the same needs. That’s why it’s so important to find the right growth levers to scale your SaaS business growth.
Authentic Growth Aligns All 4 Growth Levers
Most B2B companies have one or two pillars and then are stuck in growth tactics. Most of their marketing will create one of many bumps in a growth curve instead of up and to the right—this is because growth often requires a large amount of resources that continually chase a new growth "tactic".
Consider SaaS companies that get product market fit—often times they adjust to growth tactics because they assume that product market fit is all it takes to achieve meaningful growth. If the market is full of well funded companies or established products you'll need more than product market fit—you'll need alignment on all four growth levers.
The alignment across all four levers will be truly unique to your B2B company. You can spend the time stuck in growth tactics chasing new ads, new landing pages, more content, more ad spend and get one of many bumps—or your marketing team can spend their time building alignment on the four main pillars to achieve authentic and sustainable growth.
How can you find the right growth levers for your SaaS business?
Here are some of the questions we ask our clients when assessing their best-fit growth levers:
What are the guiding principles that you believe in and the process that aligns with them?
We want to know the beliefs that guide you in understanding your market and in creating messaging that flows from your brand narrative. Who are your customers? What are their beliefs, and how can you change them to recognize that there is a better path to success through your products and solutions? Your principles also serve to align your go-to-market process with what your customers want through buyer-led growth.
Our recommended growth levers would include developing or revisiting your principles, process, team, and tactics. Build an effective brand narrative focused on your customers’ desired state instead of the status quo. Then create positioning, messaging, and content that aligns with your brand narrative, and run smart experiments to test how well you attract, retain, and expand revenue in light of your goals.
How well are you achieving your growth goals?
Which revenue metrics are you paying attention to, and what are your short-term, near-term, and long-term objectives for those KPIs? Are you measuring the right KPIs, and are you reaching the right conclusions based on those metrics?
Our growth lever here would be to revisit your process for growth and to focus on revenue-centric KPIs.
What’s standing in your way?
What forces, both internal and external, are preventing you from reaching your growth goals? Do you have the right foundations in place, like principles, process, and market-message fit? Are you marketing and selling to the right buyers? Have you removed the friction from your buyer journey? Our growth lever would be to set in motion a commitment to remove friction from your buyer journey as well as evaluate and update your process and market-message fit. Do you have the right team in place to achieve your growth goals?
Our growth lever would be to make sure that you have alignment in your Principles > Process > Team > Tactics priorities that will set you up for sustained, authentic growth.
How well do you stack up against your competitors?
Who is winning in your category? What advantages do they have, both in product/pricing and in attracting and closing buyers? What can you do to close the gap and overtake them as category leaders?
Depending on what we find here, our growth lever might be to develop and promote new products and features, try new pricing models, attract new segments, and/or offer new services that are in demand but are exclusive to your brand.
What are you doing now?
What plans do you have, or are contemplating, to identify and implement growth levers to scale growth and become the dominant player in your category?
Our growth lever would be to work with you to develop a plan for scaling your growth through the right growth levers for your SaaS business.
Focusing on growth instead of marketing.
By finding the right growth levers for your SaaS business, you can reduce, and even eliminate, the barriers to growth you might not even be aware of. Our process helps you understand who your customers are, what they need to reach their goals and identify and implement the growth drivers you need to help your customers succeed. That, in turn, helps you grow in an authentic, sustainable way.
To learn more about our principles and process, start here.
To schedule a conversation with us, contact us.