The X-led growth fallacy

How many B2B companies can you name that aren’t sales-led or product-led? 

Meaning, the company’s primary way of driving business growth is through something like, let’s say, community. 

You know, community-led growth. 

Those “thought leaders” in B2B marketingland will have you believe this is a real thing. As if there are tons of companies growing primarily through building community. 

Or through events. Yep, event-led growth. 

Actually, let’s look at the full list of newly invented X-led growth we’ve seen so far: 

  • Community-led growth
  • Content-led growth
  • Creator-led growth
  • Customer-led growth
  • Event-led growth
  • Member-led growth
  • Partner-led growth

In addition to product-led, sales-led and founder-led growth. 


So there are companies out there driving the majority of their pipeline and revenue from creators and members and stuff?

Aside from the handful of B2B brands that have strong communities around them, can someone please name some companies that are growing this way? 

Here’s what really set us off though: 

There’s a company that has raised around $50M to date with around 300 employees that is out there trying to evangelize event-led growth. 

Like so many other companies, they recently had to lay some people off, which of course is understandable. 

But when one of the people let go was a recently hired senior director on the marketing team (who even had event-led growth in their title), we have to be allowed to ask: 

Have their events not been leading to enough growth? 

Can’t you just drive the growth you need through events? 

Shouldn’t all companies embrace event-led growth and win? 

Chink in the armor? 

For the record, this isn’t about that one particular company. 

It’s about all the “marketing experts” at all the companies talking about anything other than the dominant sales-led growth or the proven product-led growth. 

Their defense might be: 

“Well, we’re not saying that creator-led growth means the company is only growing from creators – it’s just one of the ways they drive growth.”

Yeah, you can have more than one X-led growth for your business. 

But we set the bar high around here. 

If you’re saying X-led growth, we expect that you’re talking about a strategy that delivers at least a significant portion of your growth if not the biggest chunk of it. 

Not some experimental thing that the cool kids like and that might get you a bit of bonus growth. 

If so, you’re misleading your fellow B2B marketers. 

Which is honestly what’s happening with the majority of content around B2B marketing. 

Folks will start to believe that, let’s say, member-led growth is a viable solution to their growth challenges and will burn cycles trying to get it going. 

But when the company that is trying to evangelize X-led growth can’t even drive enough growth to prevent layoffs of key people to the X-led growth movement, how in the world is a regular marketing team at a regular company going to have success with it?!

If it isn’t clear already, here’s the lesson… 

As the old Public Enemy song goes: Don’t believe the hype!

And just like we said about folks talking about being in a new eradon’t get distracted

Sure, study X-led growth – just like you study anything else marketing-related that might be useful for your next gig. Because things might change. 

But please remember that this is completely irrelevant for 9 out of 10 companies in B2B. 

Your company is mainly sales-led, right? Or perhaps product-led? Maaaybe content-led?

But we’re willing to bet it’s not customer-led or partner-led. Or event-led or any of that.

So what should you do? 

Here’s our bias: 

Figure out what it takes to get really good at acquiring new customers

Not create demand. Not generate pipeline. Not drive revenue. 

And let’s not get romantic about the overall strategy. 

Let’s just figure out how to repeatedly get our message in front of buyers in a way that optimizes for them getting to the kind of aha moments we want them to get to. 

Then let’s give them a proper taste of the actual value our offering would give them – before they even buy. We gotta give them a taste!

And you don’t need to shift to creator-led growth or something else crazy to do that. 

- Your partners in growth at Elevate Demand

PS: We’re serious about helping marketers get to the core of their growth challenges. We will get on a call with any newsletter subscriber this summer to talk through it. Curious? Here's the link to schedule time.