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Episode two recap: Marketing Rebels – Why growth hacking is BS

During the Marketing Rebels series, we'll be interviewing B2B leaders who are tearing up traditional marketing playbooks. Best of all, they'll be discussing actionable, real-world insights you can steal for yourself.

Growth hacking. Overused buzzword or actionable marketing strategy? Well, you’re about to find out.

Head of Growth at Userpilot, Aazar Ali Shad and Chief Marketing Officer at Cognism Group, Alice de Courcy, take a deep dive into growth hacking’s origins and development. They answer whether it’s still an effective tactic in today’s B2B marketing landscape, while discussing the emergence of growth marketing, pain point SEO & more. 

Without further ado, let’s jump in! 👇🏼

Key takeaways

  • Growth hacking is BS because there’s no set definition for it. As a result, the term has been appropriated by acquisition departments, who use its tactics to spam and annoy prospects across several channels.
  • Instead, growth marketing is what B2B marketers should be focusing on. That means taking a real interest in the audiences you’re targeting and creating refined customer journeys.
  • Pain point SEO is a great way to serve customers at the bottom of the funnel. By focusing on the specific hurdles your audience is trying to overcome, they’ll trust you more.
  • Brand-led marketing is more effective than lead generation.That’s because it allows marketers to serve their audiences better and deliver transformational content. 
  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) & Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) are three of the most important metrics for B2B marketers.

Keep scrolling for the selected transcript... 👇🏼

Growth hacking

Aazar explains his issues with growth hacking and provides an alternative:

“The reason why I think growth hacking is BS is because a lot of people define it differently. They take completely different perspectives on it, whether it be Ryan Holiday or Sean Ellis who coined the term. The term was meant to find a specific tactic for online marketing that you can build scalably, learn from your customers and fix the leaky bucket in pirate metrics.

“Whereas people on the acquisition channel have exploited growth hacking. For example, when someone reaches out over cold email there’s a lot of follow-up processes. So you reach out to someone on LinkedIn, then you try to call them and basically try to annoy them as much as possible, which I don’t believe in. 

“What growth hacking should be is when you don’t have enough budget and you’ve figured out a hack to reach out to more customers. It did work with AirBnB. Basically, Dropbox had a referral programme and AirBnB had a Craigslist where they tried to connect API and make more people reach out to them. 

“Now I think it’s really difficult to exploit someone’s API or contact someone on LinkedIn and ask them to buy from us immediately without having a conversation. It annoys me when people connect with me [on LinkedIn] and they immediately send pitches like 'Hey, are you free to chat for 15 minutes?' I don’t believe in that. 

“I believe that you genuinely have to be interested in the person you’re talking to and that you can’t put automation or tools in place to make someone talk to you. When someone reaches out to me by cold email and they don’t even say hi or your name, that makes me raise my eyebrows and say ‘why didn’t this person do their research?’ That’s part of what I really don’t like about growth hacking.

“Instead of growth hacking we should focus on growth marketing where we really think about a journey and a flywheel. We should focus on what our customers are trying to improve, not what we are.”

Pain point SEO

Aazar speaks about how pain point SEO helps him make a deeper connection with his audience:

“Right now, [Userpilot has] reached a certain revenue milestone. Let’s call that X and we need to reach Y milestone. I was doing my marketing plan for next year and I was trying to figure out the strategies we need to do, the most common things you need to do to go from X to 10 million. So I wrote this thing about growing from X to 10 million. There’s no search volume to it and you can’t go to Ahrefs or an equivalent and find it. 

“But as a Head of Marketing I need to find out how to go from X to 10 million revenue. I need to find out what other people have already been doing and what I can also do to scale that up. I also need to know what I need to stop doing to keep growing my company. So I made the search on Google and the first result that came up was a piece by Jason Lemkin.

“He’s a SaaS guru and he’s been talking about these things and I already trust him. But now I trust him more because he’s helping me with one of the questions I have in my business right now. Maybe there’s no search volume. But I know that because of this article, I’ll go back to him next time and ask him for more information. 

“He actually booked me for Saastr because I answered that specific question. I think you need to answer those pain point questions correctly in your business. These questions people are already asking you in support, in chat, in demo calls, in objections, on Reddit, on Quora, on Slack.

“I’m subscribed to these channels and I subscribe to notifications so when someone asks a question, I can think about answering it. Recently, I was redoing my content marketing plan and I figured out ten questions I can answer right now that nobody else is. I can still deliver to my brand, to my business, to my middle/bottom of the funnel content that I can keep serving.

“This is the thing about pain point SEO. People are asking questions and they’re not on search terms, but as soon as you answer them, they’re going to trust you.”


Aazar tell us about the trio of metrics B2B marketers should focus on:

“I care about marketing qualified leads (MQLs). So leads we provided to the sales team. And also sales qualified leads (SQLs). I do care about the revenue numbers too, so MRR each month [is something I look at]. I have a revenue target to hit with the sales team so their targets are my targets. That’s what I base my entire strategy around.”

Brand marketing vs lead gen

Aazar explains how focusing on brand marketing can help create a loyal customer base.

“Brand-led marketing is better than lead gen marketing. Because with branded marketing, you give the value first and you get value in return. When I measure brand marketing, it’s not about branded keywords. It’s about how many people talk about us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Slack channels & elsewhere our audience is hanging out.

“Because I’m a podcaster, I want to use my brand marketing to serve my audience better, to give them transformational content and to do better work in their lives. You need to change the angle of your content and think about [your audience]. Then run your content for them and they’ll love you in return.”

Like what you see? Then don’t miss out on the rest of the series

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