Forbes Growth Forum: What’s the best strategy to achieve growth?


The inaugural Forbes Growth Forum wrapped up today with lessons on how to grow a unicorn, product-led marketing, exit strategy and more.

Speakers at the forum included Linktree’s Anthony Zaccaria, WINK Models’s Taryn Williams, and The Iconic’s Adam Jacobs.

The event concluded with a cocktails and networking hour, where guests had the chance to talk with some of the speakers. 

There are a lot of different schools of thought when it comes to growing your business. Will you go hard and heavy on attention grabbing marketing, or will your strategy be entirely product driven? 

Today’s market conditions are increasingly challenging for business owners with pressure ranging from high tech costs to finding talent and macro-economic factors. The question is how do market leaders navigate all of these challenges and deliver growth?

Here are our key takeaways from some of the speakers at the Forbes Growth Forum.

Lucinda Barlow, Head of International Marketing, Uber

As a marketing veteran and self-described “brandaholic”, Uber’s Lucinda Barlow stressed the importance of a brand-focused strategy.

She laid out her five golden rules of marketing.

  1. Thou shalt be a believer

“There’ll be all sorts of short-term trade-offs,” Barlow told the forum, “but you are going to need to champion this opportunity with razor sharp strategies… You won’t be able to predict the future, but you can shape it and build it to generate demand.”

Create a multi-year brand vision and commit.

2. Thou shalt invest early

While most tech companies don’t invest in marketing until they’re ready to scale, there can be real benefits in leading with a strong brand strategy in the early stages of a business.

Barlow pointed out the success of Uber Eats in Australia and its early commitment to a strong marketing strategy.

3. Thou shalt be ruthlessly consistent

Building brand memory takes time. Consistency is the key to ensuring you stick in consumers mind and become their default choice in the market.

4. Thou shalt win attention

“Attention cannot be taken for granted. It is so important”, Barlow says.

Advertising campaigns that are emotional, high-impact, or that break category codes are the ones that usually steal consumer attention.

5. Thou shalt keep evolving

Although Barlow calls herself an “evangelist”, she is is also a firm believer in being able to evolve, especially in the tech space.

Brands need to be willing to constantly run experiments and employ a learning agenda that allows them to respond to consumer trends and changes with the product offering.

Simon Beard, co-founder, Culture Kings

Culture Kings co-founder Simon Beard was a firecracker to finish off day one with.

While he was dropping plenty of f-bombs he was also sharing lots of wisdom about the power of creating a quality customer experience and following a vision.

Streetwear retailers Culture Kings are known for their careful curation of brands, exclusivity, and daily in-store DJs.

“I’ve never worked a job in my life, I’m a carnie at my core. I had a goal to never work a job in my life and I actually achieved it”, Beard told the forum.

He has had a clear vision and purpose for his brand since day one, when he started out with a stall at the Carrara markets.

Beard and cofounder Tahnee reinvested everything they made back into the business, following their vision to create a magical retail experience – the “Disneyland” of stores.

“As a parent it is like this goal to take your kid to Disneyland because of the magical experience it creates,” Beard told the forum, “I wanted our stores to have that.”

This unique brand experience fostered a strong community around Culture Kings and was so successful that the company was valued at $600 million in 2021.

Tané Hunter & Dr. Shasta Henry, Future Crunch

Hunter and Henry talked about how good leadership is essential for fostering growth.

Quality leadership and a quality team are fundamental in determining how a business runs. Hunter and Henry reminded the forum that “collaboration always trumps genius”, and good leaders work closely with their team.

Hunter and Henry believe that when you are hiring new members, EQ (emotional intelligence) and IQ are nowhere near as important as AQ (adaptability quotient).

Adaptability is essential in a team looking to grow, as the changes in a growth period can be significant and require businesses to think on their feet.

Anthony Zaccaria, co-founder, Linktree

As the co-founder of a tech unicorn, and now a father of young kids, Zaccaria is always playing catch up. As he puts it: when you’re “building the plane while flying”, it’s almost impossible to not be.

Still, he shared his experiences with the forum to try to give business owners some of the advice he wished he had.

Our key takeaway from Zaccaria’s fire side chat was the absolute importance of hiring for senior roles before you think you’ll need them. It is important to have people on board who know what they’re doing when crisis hits.

But the Linktree founder was also open about the fact that hiring people more senior and experienced than you can be daunting as a young business owner. Getting some coaching on how to manage people in senior roles can help, and Zaccaria said that ultimately, “you have to get over that imposter syndrome”.

Adam Jacobs, founder of The Iconic & Hatch

The Iconic is the largest online fashion retailer in Australia, with around 2.5 million products on its website.

“Brands are built not by what you say, but what you do,” Jacobs said.

The Iconic has had consistent growth through the results and customer experience it delivers (literally delivers – their speedy shipping times are a huge draw for consumers).

While The Iconic didn’t invent e-commerce, nor where they exceptionally early to it, they identified areas where they felt they could refine the experience for customers.

“Innovation is about winning in the detail. Some people think innovation is the shiny thing, the new thing… I don’t think that’s true. I think innovation is about addressing a human need.”

Tom Humphrey, partner at Blackbird

Humphrey is a big believer in product-led growth and stressed to the forum that creating the right GTM (go-to-market) strategy is an essential step for businesses.

Your product should shape your GTM strategy and provide a framework for you to continue to improve it, he said.

Humphrey notes that there is a shift towards self-serve models in the market – think free trials or ‘freemium’ subscriptions.

If it suits products, moving with this shift and implementing a self-serve model could be a great draw card for consumers, he said.

Humphrey warned that copying and pasting what your competitors are doing isn’t necessarily a recipe for success. Just because it’s the done thing, doesn’t mean it’s the best thing, he said.

Taryn Williams, founder and CEO of #Gifted & WINK Models

The growth forum finished up, very fittingly, with a discussion on how to say goodbye.

Taryn Williams has been the CEO and founder of four different businesses and has recently sold two.

She left forum guests with some tips on how to survive the “emotional turmoil” that comes with exiting a business.

One of the key takeaways from Williams was that the personal toll of trying to sell a company is immense – and it can be a process that drags on for years.

She recommended that not only do businesses have to ensure their usual work roles are covered while they’re in negotiations, but they need to ensure that family and friends know they can’t expect much from them on a personal level during this time too. In Williams case, she explicitly told her loved ones not to call or text her for six months while she was trying to push the deal through.

Support wherever you can find it helps too.

“Have people around you that can call you on your bullshit. I’m definitely a workaholic.”

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