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How to Perform a Growth Marketing Audit

Marketers often become obsessed with one area of their funnels, and as a result, end up leaving other essential segments of their funnel neglected or downright ignored. Typically, that obsession is centered around lead generation, which, while necessary, is only one section of an entire lifecycle that can be leveraged for growth. Typically, the need […]

Marketers often become obsessed with one area of their funnels, and as a result, end up leaving other essential segments of their funnel neglected or downright ignored. Typically, that obsession is centered around lead generation, which, while necessary, is only one section of an entire lifecycle that can be leveraged for growth. Typically, the need for an audit arises because a desired outcome isn’t being achieved. Perhaps you’re doing a great job bringing in leads, but they just aren’t converting. Maybe your leads are converting, but your churn rate is unreasonably high and unsustainable compared to the number of new customers coming in. While there are plenty of reasons for needing an audit, it’s worth noting that even if you don’t see an issue currently, that doesn’t mean one isn’t slowly creeping up, ready to surface and become a problem. A growth marketing audit is essential to every business and should be performed at least quarterly (though an annual audit should suffice also). Focus your audit on the entire lifetime value of your customers so that you’re able to deploy tactics and strategies that will improve not just the value of your initial sales, but also the frequency and number of purchases in the future.

How to Perform a Growth Marketing Audit

Building and performing an internal growth marketing audit is all about creating a better understanding of your business and ensuring your growth strategy actually works. To do that successfully, you’ve got identify not only strengths, but weaknesses and bottlenecks in each stage of your funnel:

Awareness

Are you using the right channels? While you might start with a shotgun approach to building awareness, over time you should be able to determine your top three channels. Typically, this boils down to reading and understanding your analytics and figuring out what’s driving traffic to your landing pages. If you’re using social media marketing, it should be easy to see which sites have the largest audience, are getting the most engagement, and ultimately, are driving the most traffic. From there, you can determine which blog posts are getting the most shares, ranking higher, and driving traffic. Once you have a clear picture of what’s working and what isn’t, you can then confidently pull all your resources from lackluster channels and put everything into your top three. Tools like BuzzSumo can be especially helpful in determining what works for your company and what’s working for the competition. Are your public relations in order? Consumers are smart and resourceful these days. Not only are they reading all about your product and what it can do, they’re also reading case studies, reviews, and rants all over social media and review sites to find the dirt on your company’s shortcomings. Bad press and bad reviews should be addressed and fixed (if possible) routinely and in a timely manner. Some great tools for this are The Brand Grader or the more robust Mention, both of which help you keep tabs on your company’s online reputation.

Interest 

Is your lead nurturing and relationship building approach working? A whopping 65% of marketers don’t have an established process for lead nurturing. Without proper nurturing, leads will either grow stale or straight up opt-out, which can lead to huge bottlenecks and wasted marketing resources. Nobody wants that. The best and most cost-effective, way to nurture leads is with marketing automation. In fact, companies using marketing automation to nurture leads  see a 451% increase in qualified leads on average, along with a 53% higher conversion rate. Tools like Mailshake allow you to send automated follow-up emails, see who’s opening and interacting with your email content, and schedule meetings with the right integrations. All on autopilot. What cache of content do you provide to lure prospects closer to conversion? A harsh reality is that consumers no longer need salespeople to make educated decisions about buying. Sure, there are intricate details only a seasoned salesperson can provide, but the majority of people do in-depth research and read about your product before they ever talk to you. What kind of content is out there related to your product or service? High-quality content is a sensational tool for lead nurturing and building trust. While it’s important to put out your own content, you shouldn’t neglect the added credibility that comes from a third-party. Nobody likes to hear someone talk about themselves or their product, which is why teaming up with industry groups, professional associations, content review sites, and macro and micro-influencers is so important.

Conversion

Is it easy to say yes? If you aren’t making it easy to say yes, then you may be repelling potential customers. Offering freemium products, free-trials, cancel at any time offers, and money-back guarantees can boost conversions because transparency is captivating, genuine, and charming. On the other hand, lengthy, constrictive contracts or  jargon-rich terms of agreement can give people anxiety and doubts about purchasing. During your audit, make an effort to make signing-up or purchasing as easy as possible. Eliminate doubts, tweak the user experience (UX), and get feedback from actual customers for best results. Are your conversions increasing month-over-month? “You’re either growing or you’re dying” is a harsh, but true statement. Conversion numbers should always be improving, even incrementally – otherwise, you’re doing something wrong. Not only should you be comparing conversions to last month, but historically from the prior year as well so you can track trends and seasonality. Finding a way to grow, even by a small percentage, every month has the potential to compound exponentially over time. For example, Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, wrote that a 10% growth per week will result in 142x growth in 12 months. That type of incremental growth for a company with 1,000 users would mean 142,000 users in a year.

Loyalty 

Are customers responding to the onboarding experience that you provide? Successful onboarding means your client is ready to use your product, feels supported, and has a plan in place to achieve the goals they set out to accomplish by purchasing your product. Some ways to tighten up the onboarding experience are sending out Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys at the end of onboarding, tracking initial usage metrics, and scheduling “check-in” calls or emails at key moments post onboarding. Depending on the size of your operation it can also be useful to assign them a dedicated Product Success Manager to act as their single point of contact through initial usage stages. An assigned role like that can help get over the initial hurdle of learning to use your product and provides a more turnkey experience. Where are you upselling and providing further value? There’s inherent stickiness is providing your customers with multiple products and services – especially if they integrate well and come with a bundled discount. Doing so makes it difficult to switch brands or cancel their service with you because doing so would require they find a new supplier for all their different needs. If you struggle with this question, brainstorm possible ways you can create further value to your customers. What other adjacent lines of business could you offer? What features could be stacked on top of your current offering?  What mechanisms are in place for consumer feedback? It’s crucial to find a way for customers to provide feedback during onboarding and after. When using your product, customers are more like to stay loyal if they know where they can get advice, repairs, support, etc. in a timely manner. One way to do this is to strategically offer an NPS survey at key intervals. Post-onboarding is an excellent place to start. Another is after interactions with your customer success team to make sure issues and questions were promptly and adequately resolved. Finally, offer these surveys throughout the year at regular intervals to determine customer satisfaction and track at risk-clients who may be in need of further touches and nurturing.

Advocacy

Does your product live up to expectations? If your customer success department is slammed, your churn rate is higher than the industry standard, or the review boards are riddled with negative reviews, it could be time for your executive team and product engineers to take a step back and revisit key areas of your product or business. Perhaps you’re targeting the wrong type of consumer. For example, some companies roll into key account and enterprise solutions too early and can receive backlash from customers for not living up to expectations. Alternatively, perhaps your company has grown and is now better suited for larger accounts which leaves small businesses feeling like your product is too complex or too pricey. Is your customer service up to par? Poor customer service is arguably the number one reason you’re going to receive bad reviews and resistance when it comes to creating promoters. It’s common sense. If your customers don’t feel adequately supported it will be difficult for them to recommend your product. Potential remedies can include offering other ways to contact customer support like live chat or rolling out an enhanced onboarding and training program. Finding a balance between being cost-effective and offering a world-class support department is tricky, but well worth the effort.

Running a Growth Marketing Audit

A periodic growth marketing audit is essential if you want to know whether your growth strategy is working or not. Break it down by funnel stage and try to keep a neutral perspective on the results. Make decisions based on hard evidence, clear data, and customer feedback rather than “going with your gut” and make sure the changes you implement have elements of quick wins and plans for long-term sustainable growth. A growth marketing audit can be an eye-opening experience. What changes have you implemented that had the biggest impact on growth for your company? Tell us your answer or share your story in the comments below:

The Best Growth Hack That Works For Every Company? Experimentation

“We should have a higher overall cancel rate.” – Reed Hastings, Co-Founder & CEO Netflix June 2017. While his company is enjoying unparalleled subscriber success, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is worried that his widely loved streaming service is having too many hit shows. “It’s a sign we’re not trying enough crazy things. We should take […]

“We should have a higher overall cancel rate.” – Reed Hastings, Co-Founder & CEO Netflix

June 2017. While his company is enjoying unparalleled subscriber success, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is worried that his widely loved streaming service is having too many hit shows. “It’s a sign we’re not trying enough crazy things. We should take more risks.” Was Hastings trying to hedge his company’s position towards investors in the sight of more cancellations? That’s a way of looking at it. The other way is that he’s willing to sacrifice a fraction of today’s profits to ensure Netflix’s growth tomorrow. Or should we call it survival? After all, Netflix’ rise coincided with the fall of Blockbuster as the latter neglected the future to make more money in the present. “Why would we care about you mailing DVDs if we’re making billions of dollars a year with our physical stores,” is what I imagine Blockbuster CEO John Antioco replied to Hastings when he proposed to join forces in 2000. Blockbuster declared for bankruptcy in 2010. Hastings could’ve also gotten his inspiration from Netflix’ current rival, Amazon and its charismatic founder Jeff Bezos. Bezos, soon-to-be wealthiest man in the world, doesn’t make a secret of what his secret sauce is. “Our success at Amazon is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day.” Bezos likes to compare business to baseball. If you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a lot, but you’ll also hit a couple of home runs. The difference between business and baseball however, is that in baseball the outcome is at most four runs – no matter how well you hit the ball. In business, you can get up to 1,000 runs and more. Image Credit: Nassim Nicholas Taleb So even if you miss nine times out of ten, the massive potential return justifies being bold. If you want to win, you need to experiment. No need to look further than Amazon Web Services (AWS) to understand that Bezos is right on the money. Starting off as an experiment totally unrelated to Amazon’s core e-commerce business, AWS became the fastest growing B2B company in history and has given Amazon the kind of digital infrastructure no other e-commerce business can ever catch up with. The same can be said about Amazon Prime, Echo and Kindle – all multi-billion dollar experiments that paid off. Are you learning as fast as the world is changing? Startups often pride themselves on out-hustling their competition. I too wake up every morning with the mindset that nothing is off-limits if you put in the work, but just putting your muscles to work isn’t going to cut it. More than ever, the one question leadership should be able to answer is: how do we learn as fast as the world is changing? Rather than ‘what’ you think, the crucial skill today is ‘how’ you think. Netflix doesn’t care as much as having hit shows today as it does about having hit shows tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. They want to able to out-think the competition, to develop a privileged point of view of what the future will look like and get there before anyone else does. Their vehicle to get there? Experimentation. The same vehicle Amazon, Facebook, Google, Uber and many others are riding. There’s a reason experiment-fuelled companies have been emerging as the best of the class in short span of time: they’ve developed better mechanisms to grasp reality and internalize the learnings into their strategies. The closer to reality you stand, the better decisions you make. Experimentation used to be considered something a company could do on the side, while the other 99% could focus on the ‘core business’. Today it’s a prerequisite to play the game and the players compete on the quality, volume and pace of experimentation.

Experiment-driven marketing

Growth hacking is nothing but figuring out the fastest ways for growth through rapid experimentation across marketing channels. Netflix making crazy shows to see how their subscribers react to it and gauge their changing consumer preferences is no different from me throwing up a landing page for a crazy new product feature. As a growth marketer, I too am looking to learn more about reality by throwing something at it and see how it reacts. Is the marketing message I’m sending viable, does it resonate with target audience and does it have ROI potential for the business? Once I know, I can use that learning – whatever it might be – to revisit my ideas or generate new ones to then design new experiments to test those ideas. Slowly but surely I’ll iterate my way to the formula that determines growth for my business.

“What’s the number one growth hack for my company?”

The most frequently asked question prospects ask me in sales meetings is also the one I love most. As soon as it pops, a trace of a smile plays across my lips. It’s the perfect opportunity for me take control of the conversation and enlighten the prospect on what makes our agency different from others. “Science.” They look at me with big eyes. They expected a magic formula, a silver bullet, a stroke of genius. I give them a methodology, a process. And explain why they’ve been reading too many ‘how to increase your traffic with 350% in two weeks’ – blog posts.

“I am the wisest man alive. For I know one thing and that is that I know nothing.”

This quote is by the famous Greek philosopher Socrates and I live it religiously as a growth marketer. When I get into a sales meeting with a prospect, I know nothing. I don’t know their product, I don’t know their audience and I don’t know their business model. That may sound like a disadvantage, but it isn’t. It means I’m 100% free of assumptions: things I think I know but don’t actually have proof for. Every such an assumption is essentially a risk to your business because you don’t know if it aligns with reality or not. And boy do entrepreneurs have a knack for thinking they have their companies figured out. Their business models are swamped with risks disguised as assumptions. The worst kind of risks: risks of which you don’t know that they’re risks. As an outsider, I am in a better position to assess the assumptions that lay at the grounds of the business and turn them into experiments to find out whether they’re true or not. If an experiment proves an assumption to be truthful, I now have data to back it up and have stripped the business model of a risk. If an assumption proves to be wrong, I’ll have learned something new – putting me in the position to turn a risk into an asset. Whichever one of the two it is – right or wrong – strategic decisions for growth today can be made from evidence and not gut feeling. Marketing used to be about big bombastic campaigns that would take months and millions of dollars to set up without a valid way to track actual ROI. Those days are over. With the tools and tracking possibilities we have at our disposal today, there’s no more excuse to make decisions purely based on gut feeling. Let alone complain about the outcomes after. You can know the exact return of each marketing dollar you spend.

A quest for truth

Marketing is about understanding and influencing customers behaviours. We aim to make people react to stimuli in predictable ways. For every action, there is a reaction and we want to be able to anticipate those reactions as much as possible. That makes marketing a never-ending quest for truth. Never-ending because the idea of truth itself is an illusion. As human beings, there’s only so much we can grasp from reality. It is too vast and complex for our brains to fully make sense of, and changes at unprecedented speeds. Experiments are our gateway to reality. One experiment will tell you which subject line gets more opens, which image converts better and which copy gets clicked more. A series of experiments will gradually make you understand what your customers need, what moves them, where they hang out, how they like to be talked about. And how all of that can come together in a brand and marketing strategy. The pitch I make to prospects pretty much comes down to this. When it doesn’t do the trick, I give them the link to Ladder.io’s Playbook with 849 growth tactics and propose they guess which ones might work for them instead of actively finding out what will work. What we call a ‘growth hack’ is the result of a thorough understanding of your target audience and its relation to your business. You find one by slowly making sense of the complex reality that is a business.

Dropbox’s growth hack wasn’t the referral program

From September 2008 to January 2010, Dropbox grew from 100,000 to 4,000,000 users. I’m guessing you heard this story over and over again. What I’m not sure about is whether they’ve told it to you the right way. Sean Ellis drove virality by inventing the modern referral program: users who got their friends to sign up for Dropbox received 500MB of extra storage, an enormity at the time. Businesses from industries all over the world were quick to ‘steal’ the referral program, only to find out it wasn’t performing for them as it was for Dropbox. They copied the wrong strategy. Dropbox’s success isn’t built on the referral program, it’s built on the process that gave rise to their referral program: experimentation. Before doubling-down on the referral program, Dropbox conducted small experiments to find out how far users were willing to go for free storage space. Experiments like these taught Dropbox users were willing to perform certain actions to gain extra storage. They went from connecting social media accounts to inviting friends and eventually mass-inviting friends through a clever integration with Gmail. They didn’t discover the referral program as a growth hack overnight. It was the logical consequence of an ongoing loop of small-scale experiments. Experiments that gradually revealed the referral program as a major growth lever for Dropbox. First they discovered they were getting a lot of referral signups for enthusiastic early adopter users by looking at the data, then they ran experiments to find out whether people would perform certain actions to get free storage – the logical consequence was the referral program The simple reason this referral program doesn’t work for you the same way it works for Dropbox is that your customers aren’t the same as Dropbox’s. It sounds obvious and yet every day again people ask me if I can give them plug-and-play growth hacks for their businesses. This obsession with tactics over process is the number one thing people get wrong about growth hacking. Your growth hack isn’t someone else’s. To quote growth hacking godfather Sean Ellis:

“Sustainable growth comes from understanding best customers and figuring out how to find and acquire more of them.” – Sean Ellis, Growth Hacking Godfather

Similarly to how Dropbox learned its users would be willing to refer friends to get more storage, Twitter found out all of its active users followed at least thirty people and Airbnb found out its target audience was looking for vacation rentals on Craigslist. Both then turned those learnings into effective tactics. Twitter started showing users interesting people to follow in the signup process to boost activation. Airbnb built an integration to cross-post listings on Craigslist to drive awareness. The rest, as they say, is history. These examples come to show that growth comes from relentlessly pursuing the truth about your customers through an iterative process of experimentation: test, measure results, internalize learnings, rinse and repeat.

Embrace failure as a tool to make better decisions

I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs I meet that hold the flag of creativity and innovation up high, yet fail to act on it because of fear of mistake and disappointment. They’re afraid to be wrong. Which in turn is why they lack both innovation and creativity and get outmanoeuvred by competitors who are willing to experiment and fail. Rather than being afraid of being wrong, you should strive to be less wrong. Experiments and failure are inherently connected with one another. No matter how well-designed, 9 out of 10 experiments will fail, for the simple reason that as human beings we’re way worse at understanding reality than we think we are. Which is exactly why we need failure: it teaches us reality.

“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

Failure as a teacher is a liberating idea, because it implies you can’t lose. Losing would be not knowing, staying stuck in the dark guessing why your traffic isn’t converting. What most companies don’t get is that failure is a feature of learning, not a bug. If you’re not prepared to fail, you’re not prepared to learn. In fact, most breakthrough ideas are hidden within ‘failed’ experiments. There is no such thing as failed experiments – only unexpected outcomes. If the demographic you expected to click isn’t clicking that means you need to adjust your message. Or adjust your focus to target the demographic that is clicking, often with substantial implications for your initial value proposition altogether. Consider the case of ‘Circle Of Friends’, a sort of Facebook Groups before there were Facebook Groups: people could organise themselves in self-managing communities. KPIs for activation and retention weren’t met, except with one target audience: moms. Moms were using it intensively to connect with one another and share best practices on parenting. The then startup realigned its value proposition, rebranded to ‘Circle Of Moms’ and was acquired by PopSugar four years later. Reality is too complex for us humans to predict. Experiments are what enables us to test our ideas in reality. Failure is reality’s way of getting back to us and show us what’s real and what’s not. Whatever happens, there’s always a learning you can take with you.

The Minimum Viable Experiment

If you’re going to double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your inventiveness. – Jeff Bezos

The best part about this Jeff Bezos quote is that it’s actually inaccurate. If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to more than double your inventiveness. Think about it. Every experiment widen and deepens you knowledge. New knowledge allows for better experiments, better experiments allow for richer insights and richer insights again allow for better experiments. Rather than double, your inventiveness will grow exponentially. This is the idea of the compound effect. Speed of execution is key here. The goal of experimentation is to learn and stack up knowledge quickly, not to be perfect and look pretty. If you have a new idea to acquire customers, you should test it in the real world as quickly as possible before designing a whole strategy around it. This also has to do with resources: why spend huge amounts of time and money on Instagram ads or a new product feature if you have no clue if it will appeal to your target audience? As soon as an idea hits you, you find a way to put it out in the real world as a fast as possible and see what happens. You test with a small target audience to avoid a big budget gamble. It doesn’t have to be good, it has to be good enough to validate or dismiss your assumption underlying the idea: a Minimum Viable Experiment. I can hear you thinking already: “yeah yeah, build an MVP before going all-in.” But do you stick to that idea through thick and thin? My experience is that aggressive growth KPIs often drive teams to forget about the minimum part of their MVE. Apart from the learning, they also strive to drive KPIs and, without realising it, end up with blown-up failed experiments, expensive in terms of budget and time. Take the example of a startup that believed introducing a subscription model would be huge growth opportunity. Instead of testing that assumption in an MVE, they went on to change their payment system and onboarded existing users in the subscription model. To then, after about two months come to the conclusion a subscription model didn’t appeal to their target audience at all. They could have easily tested this without risk by putting up a landing page for a subscription signup, driving traffic to it and compare conversion on it against the current pricing model. Fake it if you have to. One hour, a computer and an internet connection are sufficient to put together a mockup of two, a landing page and a Facebook Ad to drive traffic and see how your idea, be it marketing or product, stands the test of reality. If you can’t think of a way to fake a product experience in order to get your hands to validating data, you’re not trying hard enough.

Growth Hacking, demystified

To its core, growth hacking is an amazingly simple concept. First, you pick a metric that you would like to see go up or down. This can be number of signups, number of returning users, CTR on Facebook Ads, email opens or the number of coffees you drink per day. Then, you look for other factors you believe influence that particular metric. You may believe signups go up if you remove a step from the signup process, think gamification will spike retention, assume emojis in copy will make people click more, be convinced emails sent in the morning will get opened more and trust you’ll drink less coffee if you sleep one hour a night more. Ideally, you base this influencing relationship on data – data you already have or data you have seen elsewhere. Something that tells you there is a correlation between the two factors. If you don’t have any data, because your idea is particularly new and/or you’re just starting out, you go by gut feeling. You may have found research that sleeping more reduces coffee consumption or you just believe it to be true. Once you’ve identified the two factors that are correlated – the one you want to change and the one you think will change along with it – you’re going to figure out a way – an experiment – to test if that correlational relationship is also a causal one: does the one factor’s change determines the other factor’s change? Translated: if I send my emails in the morning and the open rate goes up, is it because I sent them in the morning? To know this for sure, you can for example send the exact same email with the exact same subject line to half of your email list in the morning and the other one in the evening. That way you exclude the possibility of other factors being the causal drivers of the metric change. When you’ve found causality between two factors, backed up by nice and unambiguous data with every other possibility excluded – you can optimize the causal factor to drive the metric you picked in the very begin up to the point where you want it to be.

Your Most Powerful Growth Hack: The Scientific Process

Time to get our hands dirty and practice some science. You don’t need to be Einstein to do this. Science is about pursuing curiosity, embracing ignorance and relentlessly bridging the gap between the two. The scientific process will remove the guesswork from your marketing and turn your company’s growth into something scalable, predictable and repeatable. It goes something like this:
  1. Set goals
  2. Ideate on how to reach goals
  3. Design experiments to test ideas
  4. Execute experiments to see how reality reacts
  5. Study data & document relentlessly
  6. Rinse and repeat

Step 1: Set Goals

Always start with the end in mind. Are you looking to drive more traffic to your website, reactivate idle users or increase revenue from upselling? Simply ‘drive more traffic’ isn’t going to cut it. To design effective experiments, you want to break down your objective in more manageable parts   following the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related. Let’s assume you run an e-commerce business with 14,000 monthly unique website visitors and an average spend of $7.3, resulting in $1,226,400 annual revenue. To get to $2,000,000 by the end of next year, you’ll need to either grow your website traffic to 22,832 monthly unique visitors or increase average spend per visitor to $11.7. Your goal could look like this: We want to increase website traffic to 23,000 monthly unique visitors within 90 days — weekly growth rate of 13%. Here’s how that aligns with the S.M.A.R.T. dimensions.
  • Specific: increase website to 23,000 monthly unique website visitors
  • Measurable: 13% per week
  • Assignable: the marketing team
  • Realistic: Up to you to decide what is ‘realistic’.
  • Time-related: Good goals are set between 30 and 90 days.
Base your objectives on the pirate funnel to align your experiments to stages in the customer journey. Driving website traffic is just one example of how you could trigger growth. Every stage of the pirate funnel offers opportunities in this respect. Be smart about which stage of the funnel you’re going to grow first: it doesn’t make a lot of sense to double traffic to your webshop if 95% of your visitors leave without spending.

Step 2: Ideate on how to reach goals

After the ‘what’ comes the ‘how’. This is where you come up with ideas to reach your objectives. In this case: to increase traffic with 13% in a week. Try to find to find a balance between ideas you base off data from past experiments and totally new experiments. That way you’ll be able to improve existing tactics as well as maximise your odds to discover new ones. Let’s say past experiments have proven Instagram ads to be an effective traffic driver. You can try to improve those past experiments in terms of media, copy or targeting to gain a bigger increase in traffic. Another idea is to start following influencers on Pinterest because you’ve seen competitors doing it and want to find out if it would work for you too. More ideas:
  • team up with other e-commerce businesses for a big giveaway and share email lists and Facebook Audiences to cross-promote it
  • create a chatbot that helps people choosing the best gifts for their mother, father, sibling, friend etc. — write a blog post about it, share on social/in relevant communities and post on Product Hunt
  • start shipping stickers with orders to increase offline exposure
Come up with as many ideas as possible, then select the ones you want to focus on in the upcoming weeks and put the rest in your backlog to revisit later.

Step 3: Design experiments to test ideas

Turn ideas into experiments by identifying:
  • the hypothesis to validate
  • the variable to test
  • the metric to measure
  • the criteria to base success off
For the Pinterest-idea, that would look something like this: As soon as I’ve confirmed that following influencers on Pinterest works, I can run further tests to determine the characteristics of the influencers most likely to follow me back and pin my products. The more experiments I run, the more I’ll get to know Pinterest as a social platform and the more I’ll be able to eventually turn it into a traffic machine. Stay true to the idea of the Minimum Viable Experiment.
  • Don’t waste time on perfecting copy or design. Implement whatever is need to validate/dismiss your hypothesis.
  • Don’t burn your monthly budget on one ad campaign. Start with a fraction and scale up as it gains traction.
  • Don’t make ten changes at once: test one element at a time to learn its relative weight in relation to the other elements.
  • Don’t argue about which ad looks the best: A/B test all of them in the market and the best one will automatically emerge.

Step 4: Execute experiments to see how reality reacts

Time to unleash your experiments into the world. Work hard, but smart. Use tools to facilitate and automate non-creative work. You can draw inspiration from Google’s design sprints to schedule experiments, manage time and assign tasks.

Step 5: Study data & document relentlessly

The most important stage of the process is also the most overlooked one. About every marketing agency these days claims to be ‘data-driven’ but few of them really are. The whole point of the scientific process is to discover new knowledge and internalise it to gain power over your reality. There’s no sense in running experiments if that new knowledge is then ignored, overlooked and not captured. Take the time to look at the results of experiments and try to understand the surrounding ‘why’ by combining quantitative with qualitative data. Here are some guiding questions:
  • What were the results of the experiment?
  • How valid was the initial hypothesis?
  • Why are the results what they are? Try to understand the whole story, not just the occurrence.
  • Are there ways to segment or combine data to reveal new insights?
Remember: breakthrough insights are hidden within ‘failed’ experiments. Document your experiments relentlessly. As experiments are all about learning and the most powerful learnings are often hidden within the failed ones, it is crucial that you keep track of what you have been doing and internalize learnings to avoid spending time on finding out things you already know.

Step 6: Rinse and repeat

Congratulations, you’re smarter now. Now use that to become even smarter. Align goals, scale successful experiments, adjust failed experiments, come up with new ideas, design better experiments and harvest new learnings. To then do it all over again. There’s always more things to test, more experiments to run, more knowledge to gain. You can never win the game but the more you play, the better you’ll get.

Looking to fuel your experiment machine?

On June 7th of this year, my agency The Growth Revolution will be setting new standards for conferences on growth in Europe with The Growth Conference in Antwerp, Belgium. Trailblazing keynotes, hands-on workshop and turbocharged networking sessions to get you in powerful growth strategies used by thought leaders to move the needle with experiment design, content marketing, social media, personal branding, future technologies, data science, automation, behavioral psychology and more. The line-up of international marketing rockstars we have for you is unlike any event in Europe has ever seen. Early bird tickets are on sale until April 20th. Find out more here.

8 Hacks To Accelerate Your Growth in 2019

There are only two ways to go in business: up or down. You might think there’s a third option in doing neither, but that will eventually lead downward as your competition takes advantage of your complacency. Up or down. That’s it. A brand that isn’t actively pursuing growth is a slowly dying business. According to […]

There are only two ways to go in business: up or down. You might think there’s a third option in doing neither, but that will eventually lead downward as your competition takes advantage of your complacency. Up or down. That’s it. A brand that isn’t actively pursuing growth is a slowly dying business. According to TD Bank’s annual survey, 46% of American SMBs planned to grow in 2017, and 9% planned to add staff. Those figures rose to 53% and 22%, respectively, in 2018. Grow or shrink. Flourish or perish. Succeed or fail. And while the old adage that ‘slow and steady wins the race’ is generally true, the trend amongst start-ups and small businesses is to kick growth into overdrive. We’re in the growth marketing age, and if you’re not playing the game, you’re going to quickly be left behind.

What is Growth Marketing?

At its simplest, growth marketing is a focus on the entire sales funnel, whereas traditional marketing limits itself primarily to just the top of it (the acquisition stage). It recognizes that retaining existing customers while acquiring new ones not only accelerates true growth, but also saves you money. Image Source Gain five new users while losing three existing ones, and you’ve only grown by two. Gain those same five while losing none? You’ve grown by five. That might sound like an oversimplification, but if retention doesn’t factor into your marketing, you’re cutting your acquisition efforts off at the knees. Growth marketers aren’t afraid to experiment and get creative. They use concrete data and frequent A/B or split testing to optimize everything at every level and touch point. They track, monitor, and improve. They provide for and exceed consumer expectations to build rabid fans and advocates, not ‘just’ customers. They are 100% about customer acquisition, customer retention, and increasing profit. Sounds good, right? And best of all, growth marketing is perfect for companies of any size, but it’s especially well-suited to new businesses with limited budgets and resources. “For meaningful growth, startups must completely change the rules of traditional channels or innovate outside of those growth channels. They are too desperate and disadvantaged to adapt to the old rules of marketing. They have to dig deep creatively, and relentlessly test new ideas. If they don’t figure out quickly, they will go out of business.” ~Sean Ellis, Founder and CEO, GrowthHackers.com

Be More Pirate

To achieve this, growth marketers focus on five key metrics to measure their success:
  1. Acquisition
  2. Activation
  3. Retention
  4. Revenue
  5. Referral
These guiding pillars of growth have been dubbed the ‘pirate metrics’ because they create the acronym AARRR. Image Source You may also see AAARRR from the addition of awareness as the first step. Either way, the sentiment remains the same: acquire, retain, earn more. Ask yourself the questions. Hypothesize and test ways to improve each stage. If you identify issues, fix them. Grow, grow, grow. Looking to accelerate your growth in 2019? Try these 8 growth hacks.

1. Be ACTIVE on Social Media

This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are still people and businesses out there not taking advantage of social media beyond just having a Facebook page or Instagram profile. That’s not enough. An active presence on the platforms that matter to your audience is a surefire way to jumpstart growth, and there is perhaps no faster or more affordable way to spread awareness of your brand and products. To grow you need people, and social media has them by the billions. Facebook? 2.23 billion. Instagram? One billion. YouTube? 1.9 billion. No matter who your ideal buyers are, they’re on social, guaranteed. Every demographic is represented, from Gen Z to Baby Boomers and beyond. Image Source The worldwide number of social users is expected to grow from about 2.62 billion in 2018 to 3.02 billion by 2021. So get active. Follow the major personalities and brands in your industry. Engage with them and their followers. Share your best content. Comment on relevant posts from others. Thank people for a follow back. An often-overlooked hack is to answer relevant questions on Quora. It’s a thriving community of roughly 300 million monthly users looking for information from experts and peers like you. Build your brand, enhance your reputation, and generate traffic to your blog or website with a link in your answers. You can’t just ‘be’ on social media. You’ve got to be active. Use appropriate hashtags to be found more easily. Connect, engage, and grow.

2. The Eyes Have It

As a species, we’re hardwired for visuals. Our brains process visual information up to 60,000x faster than text. Charts, graphs, illustrations, photos, pre-recorded videos, gifs, live streaming, and infographics resonate with us more than words alone. Your marketing – content or otherwise – should lean heavily on high-quality visual components. The general consensus is that we remember 10% of what we hear and 20% of what we read, but 80% of what we see. Social media posts with visual elements get more engagement, likes, shares, and comments. In one study, Facebook posts with photos garnered 87% of all interactions, and tweets with an image generate 150% more retweets than those without one. Live videos on Facebook have a 4.3% engagement rate (but only 2.2% for recorded ones). Instagram – the photo and video sharing app – is the fastest-growing social media platform. Subject lines that include the word ‘video’ increase open rates by 19% and click-through rates by 200-300%. Video in the main message is also a proven winner. For a bit of variety, try using gifs or cinemagraphs in both email and social media. There’s a science-backed reason we say a picture is worth a thousand words: because it is.

3. Focus on the CX

This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: focus on customer experience (CX). CX is poised to become the main differentiator by 2020 if it’s not already. It’ll be more important than the price and the product. Are you ready? Consumers want personalization, ease, and speed. They want options. Actively work to improve their experience at every stage and touchpoint. Improve response times. Diversify your channels. Ask for feedback, and use what feedback you receive.

4. One Word: Contests

Everyone loves something for free. Use that to gain exposure, generate leads, and create positive sentiment via contests. Setting up a contest on social media is a breeze with services like WooBox, Shortstack, and Heyo. People are more than happy to provide you with their name and email address, as well as share your contest announcement with their network, if it means they may win something. A $50 gift card might generate thousands in new sales from the leads you collect. Contest, sweepstakes, or giveaway – it doesn’t matter what you call it. The results are the same: more names, bigger list.

5. Exit Intent Popup

Ever start moving your cursor towards the back or close button, only to have a pop-up stop you? You’ve just witnessed exit intent in action. Create an exit intent popup with a valuable, high-quality lead magnet for your website. It’s a last-ditch attempt to collect contact details before a prospect disappears forever, and they’re very effective. Wisepop customers, for example, report an average 300% increase in their email list efforts. Offer a downloadable resource (ebook, pdf, template, case study, white paper, report, or how-to guide), coupon, or special discount in exchange for their name and email address. As with contests, most consumers are willing – even excited – to trade those details if it means they get something useful back. Image Source Get the details. Build and harness your email list. Growth starts there.

6. Remember the Six Weapons of Influence

Human beings are complex creatures, but we’re also remarkably similar in a lot of ways. The more you know about how people think, feel, and make decisions, the better you’ll be able to gently nudge them towards a decision you want them to make. Enter Robert Cialdini and his weapons of influence:
  1. Social proof
  2. Scarcity
  3. Liking
  4. Reciprocity
  5. Authority
  6. Consistency
Want to convert more (i.e. grow)? Use a mix of those six principles of persuasion in your marketing. Use them in sales. Use them in email. Just use them.

7. Promote MORE Than You Create

It’s 10x easier to get more eyes on something you’ve already created than it is to create something new. Stick to an 80/20 promotion-to-creation ratio, and you’ll be amazed at the traffic and leads you generate.

8. Get Trendy

Monitor and participate in relevant trending topics and hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other platforms you use, to be seen and heard. Look to a service like Hastagify to find the hashtags that have people talking on Twitter and Instagram. Jump into those conversations that are relevant to you, your brand, and your products. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. There will always be someone else innovating, entering the marketplace, and expanding – or, in other words, growing – so you can’t be complacent about your position in your niche. Ever. These growth hacks should be stage one of your growth marketing strategy heading into the new year. Then try some other ones. And then try different hacks after that. Make growth a priority, and you’ll grow. It doesn’t get any easier than that. What’s your best growth hack? Leave your comments below:

5 Most Common Growth Marketing Challenges and How to Solve Them

It’s never been easier to acquire new customers, but it’s also never been easier for your competition to take them away, either. That means that as a growth marketer, you have to stay consistently on top of your game, despite the many challenges you face day to day. When it comes to growth marketing, the […]

It’s never been easier to acquire new customers, but it’s also never been easier for your competition to take them away, either. That means that as a growth marketer, you have to stay consistently on top of your game, despite the many challenges you face day to day. When it comes to growth marketing, the pressure never lets up, so it’s up to you to figure out how to turn your obstacles into opportunities. Most marketers face many of the same challenges. By learning to identify and overcome them, you can avoid the pitfalls and keep on doing what you do best: finding and keeping customers. Here are the 5 most common growth marketing challenges marketers encounter – and how to solve them.  

Challenge #1: Discovering and Acquiring Top Talent

When it comes to recruitment in the marketing sector, the competition can be cutthroat – especially when the challenge of acquiring top talent is so widespread. In a study conducted by Bullhorn, 64% of recruiters reported a shortage of skilled candidates for available marketing roles. Good help is hard to find, and good marketers are in high demand.

Solution:

Sourcing the right people for your team is crucial. But before you start, you first must assess your needs, analyze your current talent, and find bottlenecks. Once you have a firm grasp on what your company is lacking and where your choke points are, you’ll have a much better understanding of what it will take to fix it, and what sort of talent you’ll need to achieve your goals. Here are a few tips for finding and acquiring top talent:

Tap into your existing network

Employee referrals traditionally are faster to hire and onboard, and tend to stick around longer (a 46% retention rate versus 33%) than a traditional hire.

Be upfront about all the aspects of the role, good or bad

Downplaying or withholding information can make employees feel misled, and they’ll either underperform or quit as a result. Being upfront from the start will help you weed out those who wouldn’t be a good fit, and attract those who would.

Focus on the perks of the role

Offering good opportunities for internal advancement, flexible hours, on-site snacks, and a solid company culture are all things top talent considers in addition to compensation and benefits. Find ways to stand apart from your competitors in those areas, and you’ll have no shortage of qualified candidates knocking at your door.  

Utilize online hiring platforms

Platforms such as TopCoder and Upwork give you a unique opportunity to work with contractors before committing to a lengthy and costly hiring process, and working with several contractors allows you to acquire more specialized skill sets.  

Challenge #2: Not Adhering to the Full Funnel

Every company should be looking at their funnel in its entirety instead of cherry-picking certain sections of it. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. Marketers have a laser-like focus in one or two key areas instead of focusing on the full funnel. As a result, they can leave conversions on the table.

Solution:

Go through each phase of the full funnel and make sure you’ve implemented growth strategies to capitalize on them accordingly:

Exposure

The chief goal here is getting your brand in front of potential customers, since brand recognition is crucial to providing potential leads with a direct path into the funnel. One way to do this is through guest blogging. Leo Widrich wrote over 150 guest posts in nine months, which resulted in BufferApp acquiring around 100,000 users in that same time frame.

Awareness

This stage of the funnel is all about guiding interested prospects to your website so they can begin to engage with your product or content (consumers aren’t ready to buy yet in this phase). Writing regularly scheduled blog posts that are 10x better than anything else out there on a given topic or keyword is a fast way to drive more traffic to your website.

Trust / Credibility

If you aren’t continually collecting customer feedback and reviews to share with leads, then you’re missing out on critical information and a potentially sizeable percentage of conversions. According to a survey by BrightLocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Leverage customer testimonials to earn your prospective clients’ trust.

Consideration

You have their trust – now what? Some of the best consideration techniques are free trials so they can test the product before committing, retargeting ads to keep your product top-of-mind, and detailed webinars that explain the product’s benefits. 

Advocacy

Now that you have customers, you want them to refer their friends, family, and colleagues to you as well. Growth marketers should create a  “WOW” experience for potential customers, which can generate lots of word of mouth and growth.

Relationship

Last but not least, you should be vigilant about forging and maintaining genuine relationships with your best customers. Think personal visits throughout the year or offering personal account management.  

Challenge #3: Automating Growth

It’s easy for growth marketers to get caught up in the day-to-day grind. From the outside, it might look like hustling; but in reality, if you aren’t utilizing a tried-and-true system for automating growth, you’re likely leaving conversions on the table and not using your time wisely enough.

Solution

Instead of focusing on a specific channel, stage, or tactic, marketers should be more concerned with building a system that produces growth – a system where they learn as much as they can, as quickly as possible, about who exactly wants their product and where that audience can be found. Automation begins with measuring as much as you can and focusing on the metrics that truly matter. Standard metrics to pay attention to are those that are actionable or show engagement, such as leads generated, unique site traffic, social shares, converts to trial, and email or newsletter opt-ins. Once you have a baseline of data to compare to, you can begin utilizing AB testing and experiment-driven marketing. Netflix does this by creating wacky and outlandish shows and seeing how their subscriber base reacts to them. Your company can learn a lot by following a similar model. Add new products on landing pages, then drive traffic there to gauge customer interest. AB test existing product pages or variations of your company’s homepage or checkout page to see which one converts better. The secret to automating your growth is to find patterns in the data you collect from your experiments that can easily be replicated, scaled, and even outsourced to generate automated growth and free up your time.  

Challenge #4: Having A Clear Go-To-Market Strategy

Prior to launch, you have to define a go-to-market strategy that is sustainable and best suited to your specific product and available resources. Ultimately, that will determine how you’ll sell your product, how you’ll onboard customers, and how fast you’ll grow. A lot of companies don’t have a clear go-to-market strategy, and if they do, it’s at the bottom of a drawer that nobody looks in.

Solution

For SaaS companies, a great place to start is finding your space on the complexity and price spectrum. The spectrum is a visual tool used to determine where your software company fits into the market concerning how you onboard clients and your product’s price.
GTM by Avoiding the SaaS Graveyard – Growth Marketing Conference
Nearly all SaaS companies fit into one of the four price/complexity quadrants:
  • Self-Service – With low complexity and a low price point, the self-service option is sustainable because the product is simple enough for users to figure out themselves.
  • Hybrid – Low complexity but with a higher price point, these companies thrive because their profit margins are larger, without the need for large service and training teams.
  • Enterprise – High price and high complexity. These products typically require complex solutions, long-term contracts, and multi-month implementation cycles to become profitable.
  • SaaS Graveyard – This is where products with high complexity and low price points go to die. The product is hard to use but doesn’t allow for a decent budget to implement the necessary support teams and systems.
The story of Autopilot is an excellent example of a company crushing it with a clear go-to-market strategy. They went from 0 to 2,000 customers in just 18 months by putting all of their efforts into creating an intuitive product that was easy to use, try, and buy without ever having to speak with a salesperson. They proved that having a clear product vision and marketing direction from the beginning is a rock solid go-to-market strategy.  

Challenge #5: Keeping Up with Marketing and Industry Trends

The marketing game has changed, and with it has arisen the need for agile teams. That’s because the digital transformation is in full effect and affects all industries. Take Amazon, for example; they’re the largest retailer in the world, but they don’t own any stores. Uber, the transportation network company, doesn’t own any cars. What new trend or disruptive tool will shake up your industry next? Solution Refine your strategies on a monthly basis vs annually It’s immensely difficult to keep up with marketing and industry trends. Things change so rapidly that you must refine and reshape your strategy constantly if you want to keep ahead of the game.

Start prioritizing relationships

This will help you discover more sales opportunities, establish partnerships you can lean on, and have go-to people for different needs and channel expertise. Having a trusted network of specialists, freelancers, and advisors in key areas is invaluable when you need additional support.

Identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses

Conduct a skills gap analysis. An analysis helps identify skills each job requires, compared to an employee’s actual skill level. Then, determine if an employee has the expertise they need to do the job, or if you’ll need to provide more training or hire externally.

Cultivate a constant state of learning

The skills gap analysis will help you identify areas where your company needs to improve. Once you have a baseline for your team’s knowledge and skill level, then you can start implementing employee training programs aimed at developing the skills you need. Growth marketing is ever-evolving, and new challenges are always emerging that must be overcome. Now more than ever, it’s critical for you to stay on top of industry trends, maintain your reputation as an expert, and attract and retain top talent – not only to survive in the market, but to thrive. What other challenges are you experiencing as a growth marketer? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below:

Meeting Agenda Ideas That Work

It’s midway through the week, you finally find yourself experiencing flow and you are convinced you might actually finish that project that you’ve been working on for weeks when the dreaded message pops up across your screen. “Meeting in 10 minutes in the boardroom” You look closer at the meeting reminder and start to feel […]

It’s midway through the week, you finally find yourself experiencing flow and you are convinced you might actually finish that project that you’ve been working on for weeks when the dreaded message pops up across your screen. “Meeting in 10 minutes in the boardroom” You look closer at the meeting reminder and start to feel the rage boil inside of you. It’s one hour long, and there’s no meeting agenda ideas. You try to get back to your project and get the most out of the last 8 minutes before the meeting, but realize you’re completely distracted and now starting to brainstorm ways to bail, or at the very least… Fake your own death. When you realize there’s nothing left to do, you make your way over to the meeting room, coffee in hand, and only slightly aware of the other somber coworkers following you like a scene out of the walking dead. Sound familiar? Well, I’m here to tell that you can stop the madness starting today, and make every growth meeting more effective by following 6 important lessons:
  1. Demand a Meeting Agenda
  2. Assign Roles
  3. Brainstorm Before the meeting
  4. Ignore the Loudest Person in the Room
  5. Understand Who Benefits / Who Has the Most to Lose
  6. End with Next Steps (And don’t meet until they’re done!)
Without further ado.. let’s get started.  

LESSON 1: DEMAND A Meeting AGENDA

Let me make this clear: You should never walk into a team meeting without an agenda, ever. This seems obvious, yes, and in the perfect world no rational human being would ask a group of people into a room without stating the reason why, but well, we don’t live in a perfect world. So I’m not asking here, I’m telling you, for the love of all that is productive, it’s time to dig deep, connect with your inner Targaryen and demand to know the reason you are going to give up 15 minutes, 30 minutes or worse an hour of your day. If your email ask is getting ignored, the meeting organizer won’t meet your eye in the hallway or there seems to be secrecy around this meeting worthy of a sweeps week cliffhanger; you may need to put matters in your own hands and create a meeting framework for your own team. One that consists of a 1) Problem 2) Consistent Agenda 3) A Goal for the meeting.  

What’s Your Problem?

A meeting with a group of people shouldn’t be about uncovering a problem, debating whether something is a problem, or unpacking a problem — It should be about solving an existing problem. If you’re in a growth marketing team this problem falls within one of the 6 buckets:
  1. THINK: No new ideas in the funnel
  2. ACQUIRE: Figuring out how to bring in more leads and potential customers into the funnel by targeting different audiences and showcasing different features of your product.
  3. CONVERT: Optimizing the customer journey to help move people from prospect to customer by getting them to take action.
  4. RETAIN: Keeping customers coming back for more and look for new ways to extend your customer’s lifecycle.
  5. ADVOCATE: Find new ways to connect your current customers to potential customers, and lower costs through referrals.
  6. CASH IN: Make more money.
 

What’s Your Meeting Agenda?

Finalizing meeting agenda ideas creates structure and sets expectations. Are we going to spend the meeting talking about Molly’s birthday and signing a card? No. The agenda keeps us from wasting time like this. (Sorry Molly… I’m sure you’re lovely.) There are three kinds of meetings a growth team should be having consistently:
  1. Brainstorming New Ideas
  2. Problem Solving
  3. Weekly Growth Update
 

Meeting #1: Brainstorming Meeting Agenda Ideas

This meeting is all about coming up with new ideas for a certain problem. This is a “blue sky” meeting and requires that people solve for x. What would the agenda look like for a Brainstorming idea?
Meeting Agenda ideas

Brainstorming Meeting Agenda

Meeting #2: Problem Solving

Now that you’ve come up with your idea, you need to figure out what tests you need to set up, and what your hypothesis/expectations are. You also need to understand what are the best/worst case scenarios if these tests run according to plan.
Problem Solving Meeting Agenda

Problem Solving Meeting Agenda

Now I know what you’re saying… What about our weekly growth meeting?  

Meeting #3: Weekly Growth Update

Now, this has been spoken of ALLLL over the internet specifically from Sean Ellis. The weekly growth update meeting agenda ideas are this:
Weekly Growth Update

Weekly Growth Update

This article is going to be less about your weekly growth updates, and more for the first two kinds of meeting agenda ideas which are more free-flowing and tend to stray the most in terms of effectiveness and productivity. So how do you keep your meetings goal-oriented and structured?  

Here are some Pro Tips:

  1. With every meeting invite received without an agenda, write back immediately and ask for one.
  2. If you are the one creating the meeting, don’t create surprise around it. Include the problem you’re trying to solve, a meeting structure that should be used regularly, and the objective (final outcome) of the meeting.
  3. If you’re not the one creating the meeting and see that it’s probably going to go off the rails, provide them an example of the structure you’d like to see for the meeting including the problem to solve, meeting agenda ideas, and goal.
  Now before you go into any meeting, you need to understand the role of everyone in the room. This brings me to my next lesson…  

LESSON 2: ASSIGNING ROLES

Sitting through a meeting without assigned roles tends to feel a bit like a hippy circle: no one is in charge, there’s a whole lot of talking and supporting but very little decisions made, and while it was fun while it lasted… everyone ends up walking away a little hazy and disoriented. It’s probably best to employ a few roles within your meeting. This helps you maintain that level of support and happiness… with a touch more purpose.

The four most important roles in a meeting are as follows:

  1. Leader / Facilitator
  2. Note Taker
  3. Timekeeper
  4. Participant
I will try to personify these roles with reference to the characters in Community. If you haven’t watched the show, I’m sorry but this will be no use to you whatsoever. (But, seriously you should REALLY watch the show!)
Meeting Personas

Meeting Personas

The Leader / Facilitator

The leader or facilitator of the meeting’s prime purpose is to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly, the meeting agenda ideas are followed, and ensures that everyone has a chance to participate. They help to answer any questions that come up, facilitate any voting that needs to take place, and help in summarizing any main points that come up during the meeting. Lastly, and possibly the most important, they are the decision maker. They confirm which path the team will go on, whose responsibility it is, what’s next and when you will meet again. So what doesn’t the leader do?
  • Take over discussions by talking over people, interrupting or just never letting other speak in general. (This isn’t a monologue, you could have sent an email for that.)
  • Make decisions without hearing all sides or ignoring any major concerns.
  • Try to do too much. A good facilitator can’t also take notes, or keep time. Assign roles to others to ensure that we create a space where everyone has to be SDAS, even you!
 

Notetaker

A notetaker’s goal is to ensure that there is a written record of the meeting and that these notes are sent to the group immediately after the meeting is complete. A note taker must ensure that they keep a record of the following:
  • The main problem, objective and metrics affected
  • Decisions made within the meeting,
  • Any ideas/concerns that were addressed (and those that may have been left unresolved for next discussion)
  • Roles & Responsibilities
  • Next Steps
Things to keep in mind about the note taker:
  • You should give this to someone who is organized and detail oriented – man or woman. (This isn’t just a woman’s job – so ensure that the buck is passed around)
  • Give your notetaker permission to speak up and alert the team when they don’t understand something or action items/responsibilities don’t seem clear enough.
  • They have a voice too. Just because they are writing stuff down, doesn’t mean they don’t have an opinion. Remember to engage them.
 

Timekeeper

Just so we are on the same page here, meetings are a GIGANTIC waste of money, so before we look at the role of the timekeeper, let me just take a moment to explain why it is so essential that you have one. The Harvard Business Review reported that executives spend more than two days every week entirely on meetings involving three or more coworkers. If you had a meeting agenda where you brought together 1 executive, 2 senior managers, 3 specialists, and a coordinator you might be spending anywhere from $3-5 a minute. (tool: http://www.expensivemeeting.com/) And if the meeting is productive then maybe $180-300/hour is worth it, but think about all the meetings that have been derailed because of things like late starts, small talk, an awful presentation that goes on about nothing, or worse, a topic that isn’t even relevant to some of the people in the room. This is why you need a timekeeper: a person who has been appointed to ensure that the meeting starts and ends on time, and doesn’t get sidetracked in between. It sounds simple enough, right? Err.. not quite. Your timekeeper is like a member of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones. They need to be strong-willed, believe to the core that their job is valuable, and not be someone who can get distracted easily themselves. If the Timekeepers had an oath, it would probably be something like: “Meeting gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end even a second after the time allotted. I shall allow no side conversations, no idle chit-chat, and no digressions. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory.”

The Timekeeper

Things to Keep in Mind:
  • The Timekeeper should be appointed to someone who could handle it. If Artie, the SEO, crumbles at the thought of having to interrupt people to keep the meeting going, this is not a “Man-up Artie” situation, just find a new timekeeper.
  • Don’t Disrespect the Timekeeper. The Timekeeper is there for a purpose, so even if you’re the facilitator, don’t ignore the them when they tell you to wrap it up. (It defeats the point, and diminishes this very important role.)
 

Participant

How quickly we forget the actual people who have to BE at the meetings in question. To be a good participant is to actually participate, but not all comments are created equal. There are ultimately a few rules that each participant must accept when they walk into their next meeting. Be on time, ask questions, keep an open mind, and stay curious are some of them. Beyond this though, are a few rules that need to be implemented immediately to ensure that the discussion runs smoothly and all people in the meeting are being respected.  

Here are the 5 commandments of being a good participant:

  1. Thou shall not be late.
  2. Thou shall not stare at laptops & cell phones (Look alive people!)
  3. Thou shall not dominate the conversation
  4. Thou shall not interrupt or regurgitate information already said in a meeting (for those that have never heard of mansplaining… Start here)
  5. Thou shall not come unprepared
So now that you have the goal, meeting agenda ideas, objective, and roles assigned it’s time to get ready for your meeting. One of the best ways is to ensure that your meeting goers are prepared before the meeting begins.  

LESSON 3: BRAINSTORM BEFORE THE MEETING

One of the biggest time wasters of any meeting are asking people to come into a room and then brainstorm ideas while in it. Creativity can come to you in many ways. Your team should be given space and time to brainstorm new meeting agenda ideas ahead of time. Be clear you want them to take some time during that week whether in or out of the office to come up with interesting new ways to solve a problem. Another great tool to help your brainstorming sessions run smoothly is Flowjo’s Growth Hacking Box.  The “THINK” cards in this box gives you 20 ways to brainstorm new ideas with your team.  

Beyond this, here are some Pro Tips to help you:

  1. Brainstorm. Ask people to brainstorm at least 3 new agenda ideas a week or so before the meeting.
  2. Reminders. Don’t forget to send reminders to ensure that this is a priority.
  3. Be Anonymous. Ask them to anonymously enter these ideas in a Trello board, google doc or even a jar with ideas.
  4. Present Ideas to all. Write all ideas on the board, or somewhere easy to read so that people can look at them at the beginning of the meeting or a half an hour before.
  5. Vote. During the meeting, the leader should list all the brainstorming ideas and ask the group to vote on a few. (This can be anonymous or show of hands).
  6. Create an Idea Vault. The top few ideas can be discussed, and others are put aside for later. Only then should the creator of the idea be named.
 

LESSON 4: IGNORE THE LOUDEST PERSON IN THE ROOM

Okay, okay, okay NO ONE should be ignored, but it’s time to take notice of the people in your meeting room who are speaking, listening, being interrupted or being shut down. As a member of a meeting (or the person running it), you should make sure that everyone is being included because if you’re not hearing their perspective, why are they even there!? (see lesson #2 to reiterate what a huge waste of money that is.) Research shows that groups often have a hard time deciphering between the most confident person in the room (aka: the loudest) vs. the smartest (Littlepage & Mueller, 1997). As a manager, one of the biggest let downs I ever experienced was to have a meeting and watch my thoughtful more introverted team members stay quiet during a meeting only to have them come up to me afterwards with a great idea. No matter how many times I told them to speak up during the meeting, it wasn’t until one of them answered back with “why? You only listen to X anyway” when I realized what was really going on in the meeting. This is why the previous brainstorming example works so well. Since the ideas are provided before it allows everyone to contribute and be seen as equals in the meeting. (This also stops someone who walks into the meeting thinking they can improvise to be shut down easily.) While this is a great tactic, there are also ways that you can ensure the loudest, most confident person in the room doesn’t get too much air-time.  

Here are some Pro Tips:

  1. The Facilitator’s job is to ensure that everyone has a voice in the room, especially the person who would benefit / lose the most from a project (see next lesson)
  2. Every participant should be on guard to ensure that no one gets interrupted, or an idea doesn’t get re-explained and posed as their own. (If you see this happening, you can quickly say “Person 2 that sounds a lot like what Person 1 said, is that what you meant Person 1?”
  3. Don’t wait until the last few minutes to ask the quiet person in the room their thoughts. They may point out something major that you won’t have time to unpack. Ensure that they are included throughout the process. (Note: Don’t pick them first either, they might not have had enough time to process at that point, and you won’t get the best out of them.)
 

LESSON 5: KNOW WHO BENEFITS & WHO HAS THE MOST TO LOSE

One of the biggest ways a meeting can go off the rails is if a new action plan isn’t properly vetted by those who will benefit the most from a project’s success and the person who has the most to lose if the project doesn’t go well. This activity is very important to ensure that people are being true to the team about their intentions. Sometimes the person coming up with the project is being led by ego, rather than results. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but must be uncovered as a team in order to ensure that everyone is on the same page moving forward. Here is an example of how being transparent about a project’s intentions and using this time to show vulnerability can actually bring the team closer together.  
Julie, a Product Marketing Manager has decided that she wants the whole marketing team to stop what they are doing and create white papers, case studies and a dedicated section of the website to a new product feature. This would wipe out most of the resources of the marketing team for the next month. Frank, the team’s PPC lead is nervous. Whitepapers and case studies are great, but he isn’t sure that this product feature will speak to the needs of those visiting the site through paid channels. For the other team members ( a content writer, designer, web developer, and social media community manager), this project doesn’t affect anything they currently have going on so while they have opinions about what they would rather do, their opinions don’t affect the main goal of the meeting agenda: To create an acquisition campaign that increases highly qualified leads into the system at least 25% that will lead to an extra $200,000 in revenue at the end of the next quarter (six months from now). Feeling the tension, Sandy, the leader of the team, asks the Product Manager and PPC Team to each divulge how they would benefit from this plan, and what they would have to lose if it fails. Julie goes first. She explains that this product feature is what the development team has been working on for the past year. It’s a major differentiator from the competition and based on customer surveys, is exactly the reason why many of our customers have left us in the past. She thinks by being upfront that we have added this product feature, we would not only gain new leads but she believes that the customers will stay longer. Frank steps in. He says that he had plans to create landing pages that would be speaking to the top of funnel needs of his customers. He makes it clear that no one feature is going to get visitors to sign up for a free trial, it’s all about creating landing pages around topics/intent and being able to a/b test those pages to optimize them to a better conversion rate. Normally these answers would be enough, but Sandy looks over at her notetaker who quickly shakes his head. She goes back to Julie and quickly asks “but WHO benefits?” Julie, a bit embarrassed looks down and says, “I really need this. I was the one who pushed this feature to begin with and if it gets buried I don’t think I’ll ever be given a big project like this again.” She looks over at Frank and says, “but you have to understand. I DID get this from real data. This feature, for those comparing our product to others, will be the differentiator.” Sandy looks at Frank and asks him, “How much do you have to lose if this goes wrong?” Frank thinks about it for a moment and says, “Well, technically I still have other pages I can optimize right now, and if this feature is everything Julie says it is, then I might be able to create a landing page for top of funnel users around this topic with an offer for the whitepaper Julie wants to make. I can also update the middle/bottom of funnel landing pages we currently have with new information about the feature. So worst case scenario, people aren’t looking for that topic and the number of conversions & cost/conversion won’t change at all.” Julie looks relieved, but Frank quickly adds to Sandy, “If this happens though, and my numbers don’t change I need to know that resources will be allocated to top of funnel keywords once the project is over and the team will be able to create a set of 10-12 landing pages for me.” Sandy agrees and they move on to the action plan. While Julie will be ultimately responsible for the outcome of this project, Frank will be a member of the approval process along with Sandy to ensure that his concerns are met throughout the process.

So what tips can we take from this lesson?

  1. It is the facilitator’s job to ensure that those who benefit/lose from a project are identified. The meeting cannot end without this since it could mean tension, and unnecessary drama in the future.
  2. Recognize, support and promote vulnerability during this time. It was hard for Julie in the scenario to admit that she had so much riding on it. The facilitator should be actively promoting this transparency. It will bring the team closer.
  3. Don’t get caught up in what others in the meeting might be saying. If they aren’t directly affected by the outcome, this is not the time for their opinions. However, they do need to hear how it plays out since the outcome may affect their future work.
 

LESSON 6: END WITH NEXT STEPS & DON’T MEET UNTIL THEY’RE DONE.

If a meeting is an hour long, the final ten minutes should be spent planning what the next step is and who is responsible for it. (Thanks, timekeeper!) Every meeting should end with the following information:
  1. Did we meet the meeting’s objective?
  2. What was the next step?
  3. Who is responsible for it?
  4. By When?
Once the meeting is complete, these next steps should be added to the meeting notes which will be sent immediately after the meeting via the notetaker. The facilitator will also send a meeting agenda for the next meeting based on the deadlines provided. But here’s the catch… and I don’t think it is going to be reeeeally difficult.  

Don’t meet again until next steps are complete.

Here’s why… While we love to keep people updated, and love to get together as a group, getting together for a meeting when the project hasn’t been completed is insanely unproductive. When this happens, people tend to get together and try to fill the time up with other things (or worse, you work together to do the work of the person who dropped the ball). This is nonsense behavior. This is nonsense behavior. The person responsible for getting things done shouldn’t come to the meeting until they are prepared to answer the following:
  1. What was completed?
  2. What were the results?
  3. Challenges & learnings
  4. What’s next? (resources needed)
If they haven’t completed their work, they should write an email to all involved and explained why this hasn’t been accomplished. This ensures that they are responsible for their own actions and that the team’s time won’t be wasted. If you, or the manager, receives a few of these in a row, then it’s time to have a conversation about your coworker’s priorities and how they are managing their time.  

To Summarize…

If you’re sitting through boring growth meetings it’s as much your fault as is the people running the show. Whether you’re a facilitator, timekeeper, note taker or participant you should feel empowered to ensure that the meeting agenda stays on point, has an objective, and you walk away feeling like this was a good use of $180-300 of your company’s money. If not, speak up because more likely than not, most people in the meeting feel the same way. And since you, my little grasshopper, are the results-focused growth hacker I know you are, I can expect that you, armed with this article, will never let another boring growth meeting go by without a way to turn it around. Good luck! Good luck!

Should I hire a marketing agency or build a growth team?

“Should I hire a marketing agency or build a growth team?” If you’re a founder, CEO, or marketing executive, you’ve probably asked yourself this question several times. Growth agencies often get a bad rap due to a general lack of transparency in the industry. Meanwhile, putting together a growth team is a difficult, arduous, hiring-intensive […]

agency-vs-in-house “Should I hire a marketing agency or build a growth team?” If you’re a founder, CEO, or marketing executive, you’ve probably asked yourself this question several times. Growth agencies often get a bad rap due to a general lack of transparency in the industry. Meanwhile, putting together a growth team is a difficult, arduous, hiring-intensive process. So how do you answer this question? After all, growth doesn’t wait for you to make slow decisions. You need marketing to impact your bottom line, but you need to figure out how to go about it. You can (and should) stand on the shoulders of giants and take advice where you can get it on how to grow a business. But sometimes you need to focus elsewhere, and marketing can’t be your primary priority in-house. So the agency vs. growth team question gets even more muddied. Luckily, there’s a set of questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you need a growth agency or whether you should start building your growth team. These are those questions:
  • Are you struggling to hire the right people?
  • Do you know much about marketing yourself?
  • Can you afford a senior person + staff?
  • Is marketing the biggest risk in your model?
  • Have you found a channel that works yet?
  • Does your marketing require a wide range of skills?
Below we’ll go through each question and how your answers can lead you down either the path of hiring an agency or building your growth team. Let’s get started, first with…  

Question #1: Hiring the Right People

If you’re a founder, you’re probably thinking about who your first marketing hire should be. Someone senior who’s worked on building startups from the ground up in the past and has both the strategic and execution chops you need. Chances are, you won’t be able to hire more than one or two people in this case, so you need someone who’s eager to both drive strategy and get in the weeds to create and execute campaigns. As a marketing executive, you’re thinking more about going all-in on strategy and staffing up talented people who can execute that strategy. You’ve done all you can by yourself, and now you need to delegate tasks so you can get more creative about strategy. Hiring and Agency VS In-House | Growth Marketing Conf But actually finding and hiring the right people for these roles is the major obstacle you’re facing. Usually, for these situations, it’s best to go with someone you trust or know can perform. Going for junior level marketers leaves you without the expertise and years of prior marketing performance that can help your new hire understand your business and start running campaigns immediately. If your answer is that you can’t find the right people, then the question becomes whether agencies are any different. Hiring is still hard, right? Yeah, except agencies are built on their ability to hire the right people — talented marketers who can understand different businesses and industries, identify the right strategies, and create campaigns that drive ROI based on the needs of their clients. An agency that can’t hire those kinds of marketers fails, so if an agency has been around, has measurable success, and has a good vision for your growth, then they’ve most likely gotten the hiring part of the equation right. They’ve created a repeatable, scalable hiring system that lets them service multiple clients across industries and verticals. So if your answer here is that you’re not able to hire the right people, an agency is a strong alternative. Especially because a hiring mistake can cost tens of thousands of dollars, while an agency contract might have a trial period that lets you back out at any time before a ramp-up. But if you have someone you know can perform in mind, get them on your team immediately. Either way, don’t waste time kickstarting your hiring or agency review process.  

Question #2: Marketing Knowledge

If you know how to do marketing yourself and you don’t need manpower — i.e. it’s the early stages of your marketing and all you need to do is set up analytics, event tracking, AdWords, Facebook Ads, etc… — then you can and should be doing your marketing yourself. At least to start off. But if you have no clue how to do marketing, then you should absolutely hire someone or hire an agency, right? Sure. Except there’s a huge caveat, and it’s one that guides how we do hiring at Ladder. We don’t hire for the things we’re bad at unless we make a conscious effort to learn the basics. UX/UI? We’re not experts, but we know the most important tenets of good design. Development? We’re not coders, but we know basic HTML/CSS and understand how websites and apps are built. But if we don’t have the basics down, we don’t hire individuals for things we’re not yet familiar with, and we don’t hire agencies for things that we have no idea how to judge. Think of it this way: If you know nothing about marketing, you know nothing about how to measure the value, worth, and prior accomplishments of a marketer you want to hire. Along the same vein, you also know nothing about how to judge and hire an agency. So if you have the marketing knowledge and don’t yet need the manpower, do it yourself. If you have the knowledge but need to ramp up, go back to question #1 and start thinking about the hiring process, whether it’s for an individual marketer or an agency. But if you don’t have ANY marketing knowledge whatsoever, diving into making a hire without either getting an adviser who has marketing knowledge to suggest an agency or marketer, OR without sitting down and teaching yourself some marketing, will only result in poor hires, misaligned incentives, and damage to your bottom line.  

Question #3: Affording Seniority

Hiring and Agency VS In-House Let’s face it — if you’re a founding team with very few other hires, you’ll need to hire a senior marketer. This is especially true if you don’t have any marketing background in your founding team. That’ll cost you a pretty penny. But let’s say for the sake of example that you can find a Director of Marketing for $100,000 a year without having to give away any equity. That base salary immediately costs you over $8,300 a month. And that doesn’t account for cost of healthcare and other benefits, which could run you another $500-$1,000 at a minimum. And with that, you’re already paying almost $10,000 a month for a senior marketer. Oh, but that’s not where it ends… Let’s not forget that you’re not factoring in ad spend, cost of SaaS tools, and other costs into your marketer’s salary. And if you’re not budgeting at least $3,500 a month media spend, you shouldn’t be hiring a senior marketer OR an agency in the first place, because you’re not playing with enough money to have marketing make a real difference. So your MINIMUM cost of doing business with a senior marketer is $13,500 a month. And that’s the ideal situation. Usually, you’ll want to attract a highly talented marketing director and you’ll be driven to pay more to poach them or convince them to come on board. Usually, you’ll want to attract a highly talented marketing director and you’ll be driven to pay more to poach them or convince them to come on board. If you can afford that, power to you. If you have the right combination of the right person, the appropriate marketing budget, and the right salary, then you should make that hire, as it can be transformative for your business. But if you can’t budget that much, an agency can be ideal. Mind that you should still spend at least $3,500 on a media budget, but you’ll be a lot more flexible about choosing between agencies bidding for your business, enabling you to drive costs down to or below $10,000 a month.  

Question #4: Marketing Risk

typing Every startup has growth risks. If your biggest risk in your business model is marketing, you HAVE to get it right. That means you need to spend the money now to get your growth marketing team set up and have them build a repeatable, scalable growth machine. But if it isn’t and you need to focus on business development, partnerships, sales, or product, then you can afford to and probably should outsource it. Giving your marketing over to the hands of an agency frees up time and focus for you to dedicate to your most important business objectives. Obviously, with an agency, you’ll still want to set goals, review performance, and make sure that you’re getting the proper return on your investment. But not having to focus on hiring marketers, making the hard strategic decisions, and executing tests frees up a ton of time for you to get your product, sales, etc… on track.  

Question #5: Channel Discovery

Part of the problem for startups when they attempt in-house marketing is figuring out which channels to tackle. If you haven’t yet, then using agency experts who know how to move the dial with test-driven methodology can be the fastest way to find out exactly which channels work best for your business. Face it — if you don’t know which channels to target, chances are, you’ll overinvest in areas where you think you’re seeing performance. Agencies that are given the task of channel discovery will instead spend small amounts of money to run tests and figure out where to double down and invest, using tactics like A/B testing to optimize your marketing approach for conversion.  

Question #6: Marketing Skills

Full Stack marketers are rare Full-stack marketers are still rare these days. And if your marketing needs require you to go beyond just advertising, email marketing, CRM marketing, or any single channel, then you’ll likely need to hire someone who is good at one of those and hope they can learn quickly, OR you’ll need to hire multiple marketers to cover all the bases. That can add up to big-time overhead on salary and benefits, not to mention the time required to staff up a team and onboard them properly. But the one place where you’ll tend to find a plethora full-stack marketers or full-stack growth teams is at agencies. They’ve already built the hiring model to bring on people who can handle all channels or created teams that work well on a multi-channel marketing approach. So if your marketing is complex enough that you need to work across multiple channels and you can’t afford to build out a growth team, an agency can be a quick, cost-effective way to get around those requirements and immediately drive performance.  
  As you’re evaluating whether to build your own in-house growth team or hire an agency to do the work for you, keep the above questions in mind. Answering the question is never a simple yes or no statement. Instead, it takes a full analysis of your budget, hiring capacity, business objectives, and growth goals to figure out which of the two is best for your current situation. As your company and product offering evolves, your needs will change and you might need to switch from an agency to an in-house growth team, or to augment your growth team with specialized agency help. In either case, the questions listed above can help you make that decision quickly so you can get back to what matters most – growing your business.