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Overcoming Growth Objection
Jason BarbatoDec 10, 2019 10:43:43 AM4 min read

Overcoming Growth Objection

Get the Growth Hacking Buy-In Your Business Needs

Growth and growth hacking, by nature, are disruptive to any business. They are the exception and not the rule, turning the fundamental into experimental across marketing and product channels and experiences.

Because of this, they aren’t always warmly received by the marketers, product owners, developers and engineers, or anyone else with skin in the game that are primarily focused on maintaining one of those experiences or managing their performance.

In this way, making growth strategic for your brand or business becomes even harder.

At IBM, I was tasked with introducing, evangelizing, proving, and scaling growth hacking and a culture of experimentation within a highly complex, matrixed, and relatively complacent and conservative enterprise organization. And, not surprising, it was far from easy.

For the first half of my three-year IBM journey, it was about finding a proof of concept – was there a technology stack and an approach that product teams could take to become more data-driven, highly agile, and run experiments that would directly impact users, usage, and revenue? And, more important, who would be those early adopters with the right growth mindset and motivation to embrace and explore this concept alongside me?

An entrepreneur at heart, proving and scaling growth hacking within IBM became not only my mission, but also my internal business. It was my own personal startup, with so many milestones, and challenges synonymous with the typical startup, along the way.

Pitching the growth hacking concept to product teams felt much like outbound sales. Through exploration and prospecting I would find my “leads,” seek out the perceived decision makers, send a blind calendar invite, drop the same people a message on Slack, and cross my fingers they would take my call.

When I got lucky and didn’t end up sitting solo for that initial conversation, I learned quickly that most around IBM didn’t know or understand growth hacking or its differences from basic marketing or A/B testing tactics. Teams claimed they were already doing it or didn’t have time, or, even more often, didn’t even understand the point. Others felt threatened; that I was there to expose flaws in their work, implicate underperforming channels, or flat out take their jobs.

It was these early rejections and objections that forced me to rethink my sales pitch. In a sense, I was growth hacking my own business. Through trial and error, three common patterns emerged in subsequent exploratory discussions; leading to a matching series of ways any growth practitioner can warm stakeholders, marketers, product owners, coders, and anyone else to becoming adopters.

Three Ways to Overcome Growth Objection


1. Come Prepared With Data

The easiest way to impress an unsuspecting growth prospect? Do your homework. Take the unsolicited initiative to research the corresponding product or marketing journey – both quantitatively and qualitatively. Put on your consumer hat and objectively explore that experience yourself, visualizing the key moments, good and bad, in a journey map. Then compare that journey map to key data points and bring all this insight to the table for that very first call. Inevitably you’ll surface something your audience hasn’t ever seen, analyzed, or thought of. The odds are good that you will win them over.

2. What’s In It For Them?

Another approach? Go immediately into the context of the audience or individual. Make your first question about their mandates, accountabilities, KPIs, or whatever else it is that their individual success is based on or measured against. Use a statement that has become widely popular in my growth travels inside and outside of IBM and articulate that you are there to “enhance and advance” what that team or individuals are already doing. Think about it – who wouldn’t want voluntary, expert help in reaching their business goals?

3. The Missing Resource

Finally, it’s important to note there were many marketing and product teams around IBM that were already warm to the growth concept and equipped with great ideas. The problem is they were already at capacity or out of bandwidth and didn’t have the time or resources to test any of them out. That’s where I would step in. It was my job to turn all those lightbulb moments into tangible experiments at no expense to the partnering team, yet they received all of the benefit. Simply taking the position that you are there to help turn all those ambitious or innovative ideas into meaningful action can take you pretty far.

No matter your organization’s acceptance for the disruptive and transformative concept that is growth hacking, you can establish a compelling position. The ones I’ve shared that worked for myself and my team at IBM took us from a scrappy and determined internal startup to a highly profitable, scalable and, most important, strategic pillar of digital business at one of the largest and oldest technology companies in the world.

Want more growth inspiration? Curious about how your current growth hacking efforts stack up or interested in introducing the concept for your product, marketing, or business in general? Visit our Growth Hacking Services page, email me at, or sign up for a free 30-minute growth assessment.


Jason Barbato

Partner and VP of Growth at Orange Pegs. Former Best-In-Class Enterprise Growth Hacker at IBM.