Growing a startup is a hot topic right now as recession fears gather steam on the heels of one of the most expensive summers on record. 

Founders are asking, “How do we create growth during a potential downturn?”

Anne Ahola Ward—dubbed “The Mother of Startups”—has answers. She’s helped carry to term many Silicon Valley startups by looking under the hood—and in the office. Her company, CircleClick, has “helped 100+ startups improve growth and then tell their acquisition story to investors over the past decade.”

Anne has a reputation for helping startups grow “by any means necessary.” She does it by focusing on growth marketing through SEO and analytics. Her current focus is on emerging tech startups, with Web3 on her radar. She loves companies that come to interrupt as “challenger brands” on the “fringe of the fringe” of tech.

She talks with Leadtail TV host Bryan Kramer about the challenges—and opportunities—that come from ushering in growth for startups in the tech space. 

It’s an interesting time to nurture online disruptors. Anne is up for the challenge. 

“I got very used to fighting for what I am and what I do because there is a faction of people that just don’t understand that people like me exist, and that’s okay,” Anne says. “I’m here to educate them. But I love the underdogs. And I love working with companies that really skate on the edge of tech.”

Companies that want to take something from nothing, unseat large competitors with fair pricing, and aren’t quite ready for a Series-A funding round are in Anne’s sweet spot. But working in this space isn’t without its challenges. 

The Human Element of Success in a B2B Startup

“There’s a reason I earned myself the nickname, ‘The Mother of Startups,’ because I go into an organization and I will tell a founder what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.” 

She begins taking stock as soon as she walks into a startup. The first place she looks to judge scalability inside a brick-and-mortar office is at what’s hiding in the office itself. Are there too many gamer chairs that indicate the company is spending investor money poorly? She also looks at how leaders are behaving. 

“If a CEO is treating other C-level or staff badly, they’re going to treat me badly,” Anne says. “I’m not at the point in my career where I’m going to want to put up with that. But it’s also symptomatic of, ‘Are we making decisions based on this person’s ego? Is this an organization open to learning?’”

The Manual For B2B Startup Growth: Your Data

Anne digs for clues in the data. What she finds and what she recommends will vary by company, but she says it’s key to begin by looking at the data as it compares to goals. Anne begins by analyzing the data from a company’s website, looking at traffic, dissecting what converts, and acting as an auditor. She says testing is where you win. 

“I have found many bugs, I’ve found many glitches, I have found many anomalies in the fulfillment process that no one actually thought to try. And it’s funny how just by being a customer, you grow empathy,” she says. 

Anne also takes a deep dive into technical SEO. At heart, she is technical, having started her career as a developer and even serving as a beta tester for Google Analytics.

Anne says, “My favorite thing to do is to help figure out how we’re going to scale because it’s a combination of art and science, which is online growth. That’s really been my passion for a very long time. And working with startups. They need nothing but help in this arena.”

Anne’s Takeaways: Killer KPIs For B2B Startup Growth
  • Impressions vs. clicks. How is your content performing on the search engine results page? If you’re showing up in search, but no one is clicking through to your content, it may be time to reevaluate. Is your content appearing in the right searches? Are your descriptions up-to-date?
  • Bounce rate. “A good general metric for site help is to monitor your bounce rate,” Anne says. If your ad spend is going up, if your click rate is through the roof, but your time on site is extremely low, that tells you a lot about your traffic. And that information is very powerful.
  • Time on site. Take a look at the time visitors spend on your website and how many pages they view during their session. Are they bouncing from page to page? What content is most interesting for your audience?

To learn more about how Anne evaluates B2B startups and helps them scale, check out this episode of Leadtail TV.

Follow Anne on Twitter @Annebot.

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