Ski Racing and Growth Hacking

Data-driven growth hacking tactics that start-ups rely on will generally take a company to $20M ARR. After that, you need something beyond product market fit and a hacked together funnel. Non-pro ski racers know the feeling.

Dustin Robertson Mike Geraci
April 20, 2021

In Jackson, as with most ski towns, we have a local’s ski race series, called the Pica’s Margarita Cup. The Margarita Cup races are actually two races within one: There’s the race between former pro or semi-pro skiers who raced on the U.S. Ski Team and/or on a D1 college team, and then there's the race between the rest of us–expert skiers without formal ski race training but with enough time on skis and around ski racers to make us fast enough to be dangerous (to ourselves, each other, and any bystanders near the netting.)

For the pros, the strength, skills, and muscle memory gained from all those years of training and competition is hardwired into their reflexes, which means that they (still) take a straighter, smoother, and stronger line without losing control on the technical, icy course. For the rest of us, it’s more an act of survival than a race for the podium.   

What the spectrum of experience equates to from a pure performance perspective is a giant slalom course that takes me 45 seconds to complete (on a good day), takes the pros 35 seconds to finish, a full 25% faster. There’s no way I will ever close that gap. 

What does this have to do with SaaS Brand Strategy? 

Rand Fishkin, of Moz fame, Tweeted survey results that showed the majority of digital marketers are self-taught, and suggested that formal marketing training is a waste of time and money. The ensuing back-and-forth between the formally trained and the self taught exposed the evolving nature and related expanded spectrum of experience in B2B marketing. 

Data-driven growth hacking tactics that start-ups rely on will generally take a company to $20M ARR. After that, you need something beyond product market fit and a hacked together funnel. There are diminishing returns in the form of higher costs, reduced conversion rates, and increased churn. 

As B2B CMO’s increasingly gain responsibility and authority of hard sales numbers, they feel the diminishing returns acutely and explore marketing strategies grounded in more traditional best practices honed over a century of practice, study, and behavioral economics.

As advertising legend Bill Bernbach noted, “Principles endure, formulas don’t.” 

Marketing becomes less about flipping switches and turning knobs on a digital dashboard to hack your way to sales (an act of survival), and more about leveraging the larger problem they solve by understanding the underpinnings of building a long-term brand that resonates on deeper, more meaningful levels. 

Recent examples of the pivot to pro-level include Klaviyo's raid of Owlet Baby Care's marketing department for their new Head of Global Brand Marketing and their new V.P. of Brand and Marketing–who come with consumer brand experience from Dropbox, Doordash, Patagonia, and Arc'Teryx–and LinkedIn's deep dive into B2B brand building through renowned consumer brand strategy experts.

While channels, trends, fashions, and shiny new tactics will continually cycle through the industry, how and why people/consumers act, or don’t, is hardwired into our DNA. Human behavior is fluid, human nature is set.

Growth hacking drives sales, pipeline close win rates are still driven by the story you tell that you customers can repeat as to why they are buying you.

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