The Art of B2B Market Research: Understand Your Audience Better–and Fast

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What is growth marketing?

Read Time: 7 Mins
New growth

Growth marketing, demand gen, performance marketing, oh my! Marketing strategies sure do seem to trend as if they were fashion styles. Lately, the big marketing initiative among B2B organizations is growth marketing—a strategy that we at Iron Horse firmly believe in. 

Let’s look at what makes B2B growth marketing so special and how to make it work for you and your organization. 

What is growth marketing?

B2B growth marketing seeks to effectively attract, engage, convert and retain customers, which means growth marketers pay close attention to customer intent and engagement over the entire sales customer journey. We do this by experimenting aggressively and pivoting rapidly.

“Being able to quickly spin up something that’s new and different, test it out, and look at your metrics. Is it working? No? Let’s kill it and think of something else. Yes? Let’s optimize it and move on from there.” – Ellen Smoley

The basic steps of a growth marketing campaign. 

  1. Collect information about your customer or prospect and analyze existing data
  2. Develop initial A/B tests of your campaign to try different messaging, imagery, segmentation, etc.
  3. Create and run your campaign
  4. Track engagement data and evaluate the variables you’re testing to determine success
  5. Add the most successful components to best practices and communicate them with other teams
  6. Draft derivative content based on successful campaigns
  7. Collaborate with other teams on new data and feedback before starting the cycle again


B2B Growth marketing sounds great on paper. But what does it actually help organizations achieve? 

A full picture of the customer journey. Where many marketing styles focus just on the top of the funnel, your growth marketing team will have a good sense of the journey from beginning to end—and how to optimize each part in between. 

All teams will be on the same page. If executing growth marketing the way it’s meant to be, all departments will communicate, inform each other, look at results, and work together towards success. You’ll get a tighter focus on company-wide growth and revenue, as opposed to each department creating individual goals that sometimes get in the way of the big picture. Your customers will get a more cohesive and personalized experience.

Better decisions based on better data. All the intent data and metrics required to run growth marketing effectively results in knowing your audience much better. You’ll know what success looks like at each stage of the funnel. You’ll know what’s worked and what hasn’t. All this will help you make progressively better decisions.

Better customer retention and higher loyalty. Ideally, your growth marketing team will be paying as much attention to retaining customers as they are attracting new ones. By paying attention to both current and historical customer data, you’ll be able to take proactive steps to retain and delight customers.

6 core principles of growth marketing.

As with any marketing style, growth marketing is flexible. The exact profiles on your team—as you’ll see below—or which campaigns you decide to implement will depend on your industry, product and audience. 

These principles, however, are not negotiable. You cannot have growth marketing without the following six requirements. 

1. You need to be agile. 

Your growth marketing team needs to be able to move quickly because the market changes quickly. The experimentation inherent to B2B growth marketing doesn’t work if your team can’t make decisions quickly and problem-solve on the fly.  

This is why growth marketing teams for smaller companies tend to do better—they usually face less administrative bureaucracy when implementing new campaigns. This is also why B2B companies often hire digital marketing agencies with teams that go broad (experience), and deep (expertise). When growth marketing teams have both, they become a lot more agile and effective.

“Spend 70% of your time on today, 30% of your time on next year. Be disciplined about laying groundwork for next year and it will pay off. What will the next channels be? Test and learn now before you need it. Then you can be ready to turn it on.” – Dave Gerhardt

2. You need whole team alignment. 

If you’ve consumed any of our other content, you’ll know how crucial marketing and sales alignment is. B2B growth marketing requires that and then some. The product marketing team that’s talking about the product, the sales team that’s selling the product, the customer success team that’s nurturing the customers, the marketing operations teams that are setting up your campaigns behind the scenes—they all have to be on the same page on both strategy and objectives to be able to analyze and optimize campaigns.

3. You need visibility into the full customer journey. 

As mentioned above, conversion is not the sole objective of growth marketing. You need to understand your customers’ priorities and mindset at each stage of their journey so you can proactively address their needs and nurture them throughout the journey and beyond once they’re a customer. Note that this doesn’t mean pushing your prospects through their journey faster than they wish—it means providing the right communication and content with no dead-ends so they can progress at their own speed and not feel the need to look elsewhere. 

4. You need to be obsessed with customer delight. 

Marketing shouldn’t end when you sign a contract. Customer retention is just as important, and not just because it’s less expensive to retain customers than to acquire new ones. If we see that a client isn’t fully adopting the product or intent data shows they might be preparing to jump ship, we need to figure out what’s getting in the way and address that. On the other side, by working actively to satisfy customers, you’ll create opportunities to upsell, cross-sell, and turn your customers into loyal advocates. 

5. You need to understand and use data. 

Experimentation is central to growth marketing, but only when informed by data. Engagement data from A/B testing, industry benchmarks, and 1st and 3rd party intent data are behind most of our decisions. While most marketing plans incorporate data in some way, growth marketing teams study and use data throughout the entire buyer’s journey. 

6. You need an omnichannel strategy. 

B2B growth marketing works best when you create a consistent experience everywhere your audience interacts with your organization—which we now know is on an average of 10 or more different channels. Part of your omnichannel strategy needs to address the fact that these days buyers are doing a lot more research prior to making contact with you. And if they’re everywhere, then you need to be too. 

Strategies and tools used by growth marketing teams.

Growth marketers use a variety of strategies and tools to achieve the organization’s goals. There’s a reason why many call us “growth hackers,” as we’ll use and borrow whatever strategies and tools work best for our objectives. 

Content marketing. As you probably know, content is integral to every aspect of marketing. Intent data analysis and SEO will help you reach the right audiences with the right intent. And you’ll need even more pieces of quality content than before in order to accurately personalize throughout the buyer’s journey. Your content marketing strategy will need to step up to support this kind of B2B growth marketing.

Account based marketing (ABM). With its focus on providing high-touch, personalized experiences to high-value accounts, ABM is an essential piece of most B2B growth strategies. 

Martech. While possible to reap many of the benefits of growth marketing without marketing technology, martech does an incredible job enabling and accelerating our efforts. In fact, many B2B marketers are only using a fraction of the capabilities these powerful platforms offer—42%, according to Gartner

With so many martech options out there, here are a few to make sure you know and use really well: 

  • Customer relationship management (CRM). A robust CRM like Salesforce or Hubspot CRM helps you keep on top of contact management, sales activities, pipeline and customer service interactions. 
  • Marketing automation. Automation platforms like Eloqua, Hubspot, or Marketo helps us evaluate campaign performance and automates email marketing, ad campaigns, and social media posting for a more efficient and agile marketing team. 
  • Intent data platforms. Platforms like Demandbase, TechTarget and 6sense can provide insights into your audiences and target accounts to help you target and personalize campaigns and messaging for the right accounts 
  • Web traffic analytics. Tools like Google analytics allow you to track and understand your web traffic to see how campaigns and content are fairing, from engagement to conversions to SEO.

What roles will you find in a typical growth marketing team?

There’s no 100% correct growth marketing team recipe. There are just too many factors, from company size to specific products. Larger companies and growth marketing agencies will have teams managing each main role, while smaller companies may have one individual working on each. 

Regardless of your team size, you’ll need:

  • Someone who thinks about strategy, drives the pipeline and keeps the big picture in mind.
  • Someone who handles marketing operations, owns the technology and makes sure everything is accurately integrated. 
  • Someone who pays attention to analytics and ensures you’re optimizing accordingly.
  • A supporting creative team to provide quality copy and graphics

Let’s bring it all together with some B2B growth marketing examples in action.

Here are some growth marketing examples that we’d create and wrap into an integrated campaign. 

An email marketing example. An email campaign informed by third and first party intent data and personalized to target accounts. Most aspects of the campaign are optimized based on previous A/B tests. 

A paid media example. Hyper-personalized top-of-funnel to bottom-of-funnel ads created using intent data to determine who to target and how to allocate media spend.

A content example. Content is created for the customer journey and designed to not have any dead ends, no matter where customers are consuming it. Marketing is in alignment with the sales team to know what to do next once a prospect takes action. 

The Iron Horse insight. 

Growth marketing is “trending” because it works. However, you won’t find a miracle cure for ensuring growth marketing success—not here or anywhere—because success looks different for each company. Multiple products and target audiences? Success will look different between those too. But whatever success looks like for your case, growth marketing is an excellent strategy to achieve it. At Iron Horse, we’ve been taking an agile, data-driven, integrated approach for our clients and have seen firsthand how even large enterprises can benefit from these principles.


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