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Well, the most obvious change is the new name! NorthStar reflects a shift to help companies bring a company-wide focus to sustainable growth. Sean Ellis, our CEO, talks about the direction of the product in his post.

The software now supports teams in monitoring a single North Star Metric representing customer value, creating and tracking objectives to focus execution, and managing a process for sustained experimentation and learning.

This post is gives an exhaustive list of things that have changed with the release of NorthStar. Here we go!

North Star Metric (NSM)
The North Star Metric is the single metric that best captures the core value that your product delivers to customers. Optimizing your efforts to grow this metric is key to driving sustainable growth across your full customer base.
~Sean Ellis
Track and share your product’s North Star Metric growth.

We now visualize progress for this critical metric for your entire team to see within the software. Objectives and experiments related to your NSM are mapped below the metric so you can see correlations in your team’s efforts and movement in your NSM.

The new spreadsheet view allows users to easily edit and enter in new measurements of the NSM. Bulk import historical NSM measurements with a CSV, by linking a Google Sheet, or our preferred method…

Behavioral Analytics Integrations

Cutting and pasting data stinks, and your analyst has better things to do. We are releasing an integration with Amplitude, Mixpanel, and Kissmetrics. You can tie your NSM or any Objective to a custom event count or metric.

Our Amplitude integration has an additional benefit of being able to bring in Weekly Active Users and Daily Active Users as a NorthStar metric.

We have more behavioral analytics integrations coming so let us know in the comments what you’d like to see!

Objective UpdatesSimplified creation of Objectives

Creating Objectives for your team should be simple. We streamlined this process, removing some steps and adding recommended metrics for your goals. Add up to 3 metric goals for Objectives, and use our new spreadsheet view to enter and edit metrics.

Confidence ratings for Objectives

Similar to ICE scores for experiments, we added Confidence scores for Objectives to help teams set ambitious but achievable goals. We recommending tuning your Objectives so that you have a confidence of five or a “50-50" shot of achieving them.

Productivity UpdatesSub-tasks for Cards and ExperimentsSubtasks within an idea card & experiments.

You asked for it! Cards can now have assignable sub-tasks with due dates. We’ll send out reminders emails the day before its due and on the due date.

Dropbox and Google Drive Attachments

Cards can link to original documents from Google Sheets and Google Doc documents. Assets, collateral, and videos in Dropbox can be linked, too!

Google Optimize and Optimizely X integrations

Link A/B and multi-variant test experiments from Google Optimize and Optimizely X to cards in NorthStar to share the results with your team. Optimizely Classic is still supported, as well.

Other integrations you may have missed:
  • Asana integration: Push a NorthStar card to an Asana task
  • Trello integration: Push a NorthStar card to a Trello card
  • Zapier integration: Dream up your own integration into NorthStar or use one of our zap templates to integrate with Github, Airtable, and your team’s other tools.
Important changes for “Projects” customers

For our customers that have been with us, we strove to make the changes intuitive for you, but here are some important things to note.

  • Not a change, but a reminder we no longer have “per-seat” billing, so invite everyone in your company that has a role in your product’s growth.
  • ‘Projects’ are now called ‘products’ to reflect that each of your company’s products can have their own NSM, objectives, metrics, team, experiments, and learnings.
  • ‘Tests’ are now called ‘Workflow’. You’ll see some exciting new features that will reflect this name change in the coming weeks.
  • ‘Knowledge Base’ has been renamed to ‘Learnings’ to reflect that all learnings are good and experiments that didn’t work teach your team something new.

Other minor changes:

  • Attach a link (URL) to a card any time. No need to edit the card or objective.
  • New currency types for metrics: Swiss Franc (CHF) — Fr, Canadian Dollar (CAD) — $, Australian Dollar (AUD) — $, New Zealand Dollar (NZD) — $, Chinese Yuan (CNY) — ¥
  • You can change a card’s creator.
  • Optimizely X and Google Optimize integrations can now handle hundreds of experiments and web properties.
  • Objectives can be created without a metric goal.
Next up

We have a lot of exciting things on our roadmap including deeper metric integrations and features, helping you manage your growth meetings and team metrics, and a rewrite of our popular Slack integration. We’ll release more details on our blog soon.

Thanks for reading this far! If you have questions or think there’s a way we can better help you grow, dm @johnphamvan or email john@(you know our domain).

What’s New in NorthStar — April & May 2018 was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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I recently shared my growth journey at Skyscanner from 32 to 1000+ employees. Now I’d like share more about validating product market fit, unifying teams with a North Star Metric, engaging broader teams for company-wide growth, and — if you’re curious to know — what’s next for me in my journey.

Validating Product Market Fit at Skyscanner

International companies operate in a global competitive environment and each market, feature, and channel may be specific to the locale. If you want to achieve product market fit, faster, you need to enable market-level configuration and work on a democratisation of product experimentation.

Product market fit in my view is, simply put, enabling your product to meet, empathetically, local users’ needs.

How do I know if I achieved product market fit in a given market?

Certainly retention rates speak louder than other metrics, but given the complexity of the variables included in the product market concept, you may want to take into account both internal and external metrics.

  • Internal metrics can be a chosen set amongst AARRR metrics. For example, you could pick organic and/or paid acquisition YOY growth, activation rate and retention rate, NPS or referral rate and revenue growth and score them against a predefined set of points.
  • External metrics that define your PMF are around the market nature and idiosyncrasy, market size and growth, level of competition, overall revenue generated in your sector, etc. For example, if you provide a price comparison service but the market is not fragmented enough as there is a monopoly of one or 2 providers, there is not much ground for a meta-search or comparison service product, let alone product market fit.

At Skyscanner we developed an in-house Product Market Fit tool that allowed us to automatically score product market fit and track progress against it, enabling easy comparison between markets and regional trends.

One key take-away is that, from a growth organisation perspective, you have to tackle two problems when addressing product market fit:

  1. The theoretical framework: understanding how you define and measure product market fit.
  2. The practice: enabling your regional teams to do user research and experimentation easily and faster through building product feature configurability.
Defining a North Star Metric at Skyscanner

As part of our journey to become a first-in-class growth organisation, we implemented AARRR metrics and spent time defining and enabling more reliable access to this data.

However, every team and market had different, important metrics and there was a need for what would become a North Star Metric, a directional reference to unify all efforts. This perfectly aligned with the notion of the multi-sided marketplace that Skyscanner became.

As I shared during the GrowthHackers Conference, Skyscanner’s North Star metric was identified as TTV (i.e. total transaction value — how much travel we facilitated, both for travelers and partners).

It’s not an easy task to find a North Star Metric that works for an entire business, let alone define it clearly and operationalise it.

A large effort our Growth Strategy team did was to create a tool that made it very easy to simulate scenarios and understand the impact each potential growth activity (or commercial or product…) could have on growing the North Star Metric.

Defining a North Star Metric and using the “North Star Metric modeling tool” was important to Skyscanner because it:

  1. Encouraged people to spot and come up with new growth ideas in relation to this metric.
  2. Enabled them to prioritise these ideas based on impact on the North Star Metric.
  3. Educated people to better justify and communicate changes in strategy and tactics more clearly, with a shared reference to a common objective: increasing our North Star Metric.
Incorporating Broader Team Engagement for Growth

In my view, growth needs to be a mindset before it can be implemented as structure. Having a solid change management and educational programme is essential to bring people with you in a transformation.

I was working with great leaders and other brilliant growth managers that helped with change management and building an in-house Growth Hacking programme. This applied growth course helped team members become growth hackers and included marketing, analytics, engineering, product and commercial fundamentals.

Theory helped, but enabling the practice was key. Optimisation, learning from failures and upskilling people to use our experimentation platform, and implementing a “growth factory” that was “packaging” the right experiments, were methods we used to incorporate the broader team into growth.

Last but not least, our unified and coherent leadership shared clear growth principles and positively reinforced progress, essential for achieving broader team participation.

Building a Growth Culture

Culture is a deep and complex topic, but to summarise a few aspects, I recommend working on the following to build a growth culture:

  • Re-define a competencies framework to define personal growth and progress against changed expectations (from marketing or product to growth).
  • Change the interview process to consider the type and quality of interviews and tasks given to candidates. Implement a customised version of the “bar raiser” practice for all growth hires.
  • Create an ad hoc Growth Hacking programme to include rewards/badges for people who complete the course (yellow/black belt for example).
  • Create an internal and external comms strategy to create a platform to share about growth to an internal and external audience; confronting yourself with peers and encourage your team to do the same via conferences, online courses and events.
  • Social events like dedicated evening meetups to share your growth practice and organised to gather a mixed audience work well for recruitment and to reinforce the good job done by teams.
What’s Next in My Growth Journey

I’ve had the privilege of working with great people and achieving good results for different startups. I’ve experienced a startup’s entire journey from very early days to post-acquisition, going through several 10x moments, various promotions and steep learning curves.

It has been a tough but rewarding journey in which I crafted my own personal growth and, hopefully, enabled that of many others. I also had great luck to learn from supportive and inspiring leaders and am conscious that this type of journey isn’t very common in the internet economy biz.

Many people jump from one company to another, they stop for a year or two and then move horizontally to a similar industry that pays better or a similar growth phase of a different industry, that also pays better, but lacking exposure to the full learning cycle.

After a phenomenal journey at Skyscanner, I’ve decided to take a little time out and focus on a few different projects before taking up other permanent roles. I want to apply and grow the learnings from the start-up to post-acquisition journey and from previous successes and failures to other ventures.

Now, I’m working on a few things:

  • Helping a startup building an app called “Around Sound”, originally set up by a dear friend and ex-colleague, Rachel Evatt, whose idea is simple but powerful. Around Sound is an app where sound clips and audio memories can be easily captured, revisited and shared. We’re building our prototype on Android as a private beta within the Playstore. To validate and test the idea we’re targeting parents of young children to start with, more to come!
  • Helping a couple of start-up projects in Singapore who proactively reached out to me, one working on a blockchain technology-based idea and the other on growth leadership for very busy CFOs.
  • Exploring the thrill of house-hunting and flat-for-rent investments in a growing and marvellous city like Barcelona!

I’m also assessing longer term full-time positions, but without rush, as I’ll enjoy a bit of sabbatical time to recharge first.

Outside of Work

Music is my real passion. I used to play in an all-female rock band and still enjoy the sound of a good electric or fingerstyle acoustic guitar. ☺
Full disclosure: I love Tommy Emmanuel, Franco Morone, Tool, Led Zeppelin.

I also love traveling, meeting new people, and discovering new places, food, and cultures.

From 32 to 1000+ Employees: Validating Product Market Fit, Defining a North Star Metric & more was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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I was employee number 32 when I joined Skyscanner in 2010.

It was the earliest days of the travel startup, a small company with the right ambition and a good problem to solve — make searching for cheap flights easier for travelers.

This startup would end up being acquired for £1.4 billions 6 years later, having gone through 10X growth several times, expanding to 10 offices all over the world and growing to over 1,000 employees.

My journey started as a Market Development Manager for the Italian market, responsible for:
  1. validating product and channel market fit
  2. localizing a commercial offering and marketing strategy
  3. customizing a local product that spoke “Italian”

From a standing start and over the course of a year, Italy became Skyscanner’s second largest market and Skyscanner became the number one metasearch brand in Italy, achieving 5X growth.

How? Mainly via a combination of solid SEO and organic strategy, testing of different unpaid and paid sources of acquisition, and word of mouth. Paid media marketing, my budget being pretty limited at the time, had to be ROI positive to live.

Creativity, market and marketing knowledge, and business acumen were the initial keys to unlock such growth.

Next, I became the Global Head of Social Marketing (#32, out of 150).

After the first million users with positive ROI for Skyscanner was achieved, I decided it was time for a new challenge. Travel is highly social, so building an integrated social media strategy and team that could help reinforce the business across the world seemed like a logical next step.

It seems hard to believe now, but, at the time, social was very new, and very much untrusted by everyone, both as a channel for performance marketing and also for PR and SEO support.

Social media was a sort of new land to be discovered, and that is what intrigued me the most.

Facebook, Twitter, VK, Weibo, Wechat would soon become experimental grounds to “amplify” growth for the business, via the use of clever, funny travel posts and useful data-driven content that could find the right engagement amongst social travellers. Social ads would also rapidly become an important part of the marketing mix.

From a one-woman band, our social media team soon became the biggest marketing team at Skyscanner, having transformed the way we did PR, the way we interacted with travellers, and the way we transitioned the business to become mobile-first. All while we experimented widely with app users acquisition and re-engagement.

The most successful app acquisition campaign in Skyscanner history is one we ran in 2013, taking advantage of early adoption of new alpha and beta platforms and app download ads that Facebook was still testing. To give you an idea: if the average cost per download was — let’s say — 1, we managed to pay for a quality download for 1/10th of that average. We received huge coverage because of that growth hack at the time and were featured at F8 twice.

Then, I became the Head of Growth (#32 out of 400).

I didn’t take on a specific growth position as there was no growth organisation at Skyscanner at that time. Growth hadn’t yet arrived as a concrete concept as it’s now understood.

However, I adopted a “growth mindset” and learnt from the pioneering growth hacking of people I admire like Sean Ellis and Brian Balfour and led the transformation from traditional marketing to a growth org, supported by our far-sighted, then-COO, and other great colleagues.

Slide from “GHConf18 — Moving from a Traditional to a Growth Oriented Organization”

We had a fairly traditional marketing structure with SEO, PR, paid media and social specialists for each major market. Despite years of growth, we reached what Andy Grove would call a critical ‘inflection point’. If we wanted to continue growing at the same rate, or scale to greater heights, we needed to make some transformative changes as an organisation.

Essentially, there was a good amount of dysfunction, inefficiencies and waste derived from old school marketing made of lots of repetitive or manual tasks to run campaigns, big batch gambles, subjective decisions, functional silos, little ownership or autonomy and non-controlled experimentation.

We therefore projected where we needed to be in order for us to reach greater heights as a business and implemented an experimental growth organisation comprising central and regional growth tribes and squads. Here, we’re talking about 150 people dedicated to growth across EMEA, Americas and APAC.

The difference from the previous way of doing traditional marketing?

If we wanted to build solid growth at scale, we needed to move the focus from marketing and comms execution to building a sustainable, customisable growth framework and channel enablement at scale.

Marketing automation, growth as a product, proprietary distribution and re-engagement channels, the definition of growth models that embeds product market fit, the development of growth tools, and AARRR-metrics growth data stores that could enable growth for everyone in the regions in which we operate had to become my core job as a growth leader.

The old-fashioned “marketeers” team no longer existed after this change of focus. Engineers, product managers, designers, data scientist and “t-shaped” (i.e. wide general skills with one or two deep specialisms) marketers working together to build growth as a product became the new growth hackers of the company.

We changed our product mindset, as part of this transformation, to embrace that fact that 50% of our product essentially existed inside our channels, as far as users perceived it. We adapted accordingly.

My growth position then became leading and reiterating on this transformation to growth, making sure we developed the right:

  1. Structure
  2. Culture, talent and mindset
  3. Tools and platforms

I spoke more in detail about these aspects at the Growth Hackers conference in San Diego, should anyone want to learn more.

Slide from “GHConf18 — Moving from a Traditional to a Growth Oriented Organization”

A year and a half after implementing our growth org (Dec. 2016) we got acquired by Ctrip, the number 1 travel agent in China. A new phase is now starting for employee number 32, as well as the rest of the company.

In the second part of this series, I’ll share more about validating product market fit, unifying teams with a North Star Metric, engaging broader teams for company-wide growth, and what’s next for me in my journey. Stay tuned!

From 32 to 1,000+ Employees: My Growth Journey with Skyscanner was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Build your personal brand in a way that can act as a springboard for greater success.

As someone who’s job it is to watch over the GrowthHackers community, I’ve had an unprecedented view into how our members try to use it.

One thing that’s obvious to me is that some people think of this community as nothing more than a way to syndicate content. While the community can get a lot of eyeballs on your content, this is a super limited view of the benefits it can offer.

In this two part series, I’ll break down how you can leverage the community to:

  1. Build your personal brand, and
  2. Position your submission for greatest distribution

I’ll also include things you should not do.

Disclaimer: None of this guarantees anything. These are simply practices that will raise the odds of good things happening.

Part 1: Building Your Personal BrandA. The Community’s Reason

To paraphrase Simon Sinek, before getting into the how, you need to understand the why.

First, consider the reason GrowthHackers even exists. In response to an early question on GrowthHackers on how to start and grow communities, Sean Ellis responded, in part, with this:

“I’ve always craved a place where I could engage with other people that share my passion for growing companies. A place where I could share and learn.”

Since this question was asked, the community has grown and it’s clear that, like Sean, people want a place where they can meet others who are doing exceptional growth work.

If you read between the lines of what Sean was saying, he was talking about a desire to get to know other kick@$$ marketers & growth practitioners. He wanted GrowthHackers to shine a light on those toiling away in obscurity doing great things.

In other words, the community can become a launch pad for you to show off how great you are to the very people that want to to appreciate you.

So how do you go about raising your profile within the community?

B. You Get What You Give1. Be You

Before you do anything: have a profile picture!

It’s amazing how many people don’t do this. You’re already ahead of the game if you do this because you’ve given people the easiest way to recognize you. Don’t use company logos. Nobody wants to interact with a faceless business. On a related note, use your real name, not your company name for the exact same reason.

2. Provide Value

Consider the most trafficked community pages*:

* Signup/login pages excluded

I’ll walk through how all of these pages are personal branding opportunities waiting to be mined (other than the Jobs page — that one should be obvious).

It all starts with great content

The Trending page (/posts) is the most popular page on the site. The second page is pretty popular too. No surprise there. You would think that building your reputation by submitting great content would be obvious but that’s not the case. This is because some people try to game the system.

So let’s just get it out there.

Submitting and up-voting crappy content to the trending page does two things:

  • it puts you on the GrowthHacker team’s radar (more on the impact of this in Part II), and
  • it telegraphs to the community that you’re a spammer.

Quick important side note: the site doesn’t surface who’s upvoted content publicly, but we know. So a quick PSA for everyone involved in voting rings that help crappy content get to the trending page: don’t. You’ll end up on our naughty list.

It should go without saying that spammy behavior is the last thing you want to engage in on a site who’s main mission is to espouse responsible and sustainable growth strategies.

I’ll address content again in Part II of this series, but a general guideline on how high the bar is for content, see what show up under our Must Reads.

As someone who submits great content, you’ll see a level of trust established as someone who cares about putting great growth inspiration in front of the community.

Heck, people will start to upvote your content just because you submitted it. And they’ll know its you because they’ll see your familiar profile picture next to your submission. All this will have a positive impact on your reputation on the community, leading to more followers.

If there’s one direction the internet is moving in, its towards more curated, personalized experiences. If you get recognized on a high profile community as someone who understands what quality looks like, that potentially opens up doors with people looking for such expertise.

3. Share your perspectives

High-quality content is great for inspiration but being able to directly hear from those with experience is always going to be more helpful when you’re trying to execute. So of course it’s not surprising that the Questions page is the third most popular page on the site. I’m willing to bet that this page becomes the most popular one over time.

If you go back to the reason Sean started GrowthHackers, his primary motivation was to have a place for we could all share and learn. There is no better way to show your expertise on a topic than to answer questions.

As you answer more questions, you’ll even find yourself being tagged in responses as the person that could best respond. In other words — automatic social proof of expertise.

I think its fair to say that finding people with the right expertise on a topic is one of the biggest challenges in growth currently. I’d wager this problem is going to get even worse moving forward. This is why I also like to think of answering questions as quasi-interview preparation. Contributing to and enhancing ongoing discussions is a window into how you think. This can instill a lot of confidence in those looking to hire people who fit their culture (and know what they’re talking about).

I’ve also had members tell me that answering questions is great way to generate leads from the community. This is also obvious in hindsight. A great answer is likely to lead to others checking out your profile, which leads them to your company URL. Boom!

But what if you’re not an expert in anything?

I was in this boat before I joined GrowthHackers. My workaround was to link to great content already on the site that answered that question. I’d preface this with something like “I think this post helps answer your question fully/in part”.

A by-product of this approach was that I created a mini-library of “go-to” content for the day I got the opportunity to put that material into practice.

4. Add to what already exists

The Discussions section of the community encompasses every comment ever left on GrowthHackers. There’s a reason it has its own dedicated space: the true gold on the community is in the comments that add to and further our understanding of growth.

This means that every submission to the site is an opportunity to add value to other members.

The community dynamic on GrowthHackers mirrors that of many communities. In other words, its the minority that’s responsible for most of what you see on the site. This is a golden opportunity because those that choose to consistently leave helpful commentary will automatically stand out.

Also, a quick pro tip: A comment on a submission on the trending page or any question without a response is the easiest place to start.

If you don’t have practical experience, leave a comment with your big takeaway or aha from the post. Or like with answering questions, point to a related link that adds to or complements the points made in that post. This tells the community that you’ve processed the information and that there’s something of value there for everyone.

If you see an interesting comment and don’t fully understand it, ask that person to clarify it. Or if you disagree with someone, debate it respectfully. In the end, these interactions will increase everyone’s understanding of the topic.

You know that we’re really serious about highlighting commentary because of the discussion feed that shows up on the trending page. This gives you a glimpse into the last 10 comments on the site.

This gives your face a shot at being on the trending page alongside those whose submissions have made it there. And if you’re someone that submits great content, that’s 2x the recognition right there!

Another pro tip for you: Leaving a comment on your (great) submission is a great way to double your odds of being on the trending page, maybe even at the same time.

It should go without saying that the more you stand out, the chances of the benefits on GrowthHackers and externally already mentioned accruing to you also go up.

5. AMA = Associate Me with Awesomeness

While AMAs are a great opportunity to get your burning growth questions answered, there’s another benefit that many don’t take advantage of. It’s probably the easiest way to create a warm introduction for yourself with someone influential.

Think about it. You ask someone a great question, that’s bound to stand out to them. You can then use the link to that interaction to connect with that person on the platform of your choice vs. some random outreach. Its no secret that folks like this will need knowledgeable people to help them out at one point or another. Also not a secret that you can learn a lot by being around them. Shouldn’t you be building authentic relationships with such people? By the way, the same tactic works with non-AMA interactions too.

The bottom line is that consistency matters. Just as you post regularly on social media to stay top of mind, the same dynamic applies here. Half-baked engagement gets you half-baked results. It doesn’t take more than 15–20 minutes a day to find opportunities that can help up your personal brand. The only question is whether its you or someone else that positions themselves to take advantage of what’s in front of them?

In Part II, you’ll learn how you GrowthHackers can turbocharge content distribution.

How To Make The GrowthHackers Community Work For You— Part 1: Building Your Personal Brand was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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A couple of weeks ago we launched a private beta for our new growth acceleration software, NorthStar. The GrowthHackers team has been working on building NorthStar, in some fashion, over the past 3 years. It hasn’t been easy, and we’re not done.

What is NorthStar?

NorthStar is a growth acceleration software that allows your entire team to understand and contribute to sustainable growth efforts.

You might be thinking “holy buzzwords Batman” and I understand that this might not be intuitive to all, so I’d like to offer my perspective of how this software came to be and how you can start using it to achieve breakout growth at your company.

How it all started, Projects. Now…NorthStar!

While helping companies like DropBox, LogMeIn, Eventbrite and others grow from start ups to scale ups, Sean Ellis began experimenting across the full customer journey (marketing channels & in product) to identify the most efficient ways to grow the businesses he was working on at the moment.

The original Growth Pyramid by Sean Ellis

While doing this, Sean emphasized the importance of validating product market fit prior to transitioning to growth.

If the product isn’t a must-have for a sizable market, it’s more important to focus on demonstrating core value to customers before attempting to scale growth.

After an unsuccessful search to find a software that could help him facilitate the growth process he had been initiating at companies, Sean decided this was his calling and set off to figure out “how can we make more teams successful with sustainable growth?”

GrowthHackers Projects was born.

During this launch phase of the software, the main focus was on the process that fuels growth — ideating, prioritizing, testing, and analyzing new ideas for growing a business.

There was initial buzz and some early traction, but most teams fell flat on their face with the process over time for a few primary reasons…

  1. They were trying to grow before they had product market fit.
  2. They had silo’d approaches with no common goal to bring the entire team together to focus on demonstrating value to customers.
  3. They didn’t get an impactful winning test out of the gate and gave up.

While our team was learning from these problems that teams were facing, we knew there was a lot of work ahead of us with a lot of variables that could be addressed before our software would really work for teams. And not only did we need to address the problems with our own product, but we identified a big education gap that needed to be filled as well.

What does growth look like in the age of big data and strong customer buying power with an evolving mar-tech landscape?

Addressing the modern day growth education gap

Since our company was built off of the GrowthHackers Community, we have been more or less at the center of this movement and get to learn first-hand from our Ask Me Anything (AMA) hosts, as well as growth content being submitted from all over the world. Anyone can join.

Sean Ellis & Morgan Brown teamed up to study the fastest growing companies and then wrote Hacking Growth, which goes into more detail around the methodology embedded in modern fast-growing companies and how other teams can adopt it. If you haven’t read it and you want to understand how growth in today’s competitive landscape works on a deeper level, I highly recommend it.

We have an annual GrowthHackers Conference to highlight the early pioneers in growth to help people learn from their experience and build a support network. We now offer these conferences in a virtual pass so people can continue to learn from early success stories.

We launched online training programs to teach people how to facilitate the growth process and build company-wide growth culture.

Sean started doing hands-on one-day Growth Jumpstart programs with companies to help break down silos, develop an understanding of how sustainable growth works, and kickstart their growth acceleration.

We started an original content blog to share learnings from our team and other growth pioneers.

All while working with companies like Mozilla and Spotify to make our software a must-have for growth teams.

As we worked on education through the lens of “how can we make more teams successful in sustainable growth?” we looked deeply at the aspects of growth that our software could and should incorporate.

Why NorthStar?

The North Star Metric is what drives team alignment on the one essential thing that contributes to sustainable growth — customer value — and that there are multiple “variables” that go into improving that metric for any business, what we now call sub-metrics.

Without aligning the team on customer value through a common success metric, individuals operate towards their own department’s incentives without understanding how their effort contributes to the overall mission of the company. Like a ship at sea without a steering wheel.

And over time, short-sighted department incentives corrode the ability for individual contributors to innovate. Without understanding how their work impacts the long-term sustainability of the business, individuals can’t properly prioritize and execute on their own and any kind of growth process will not have the desired impact on growth.

Rec. reading to better understand aligning teams on long-term mission:
The Employee Shareholder Dilemma (Article)
Extreme Ownership (Book)

We believe this is the missing piece of the growth puzzle for so many companies. So much that we renamed the product after it. NorthStar is now the only software to track progress on your North Star Metric and tie all growth activity to improving it.

Defining and tracking a North Star Metric is the first step in getting started with NorthStar, and it’s foundational to the next steps in breakout growth.

The original & revised growth pyramid by Sean Ellis that helps teams gauge where they should be focusing their efforts in growth.
“With the launch of NorthStar, we added the glue that aligns teams and individual contributors around what drives sustainable growth — the North Star Metric.
When teams have a common success metric to guide them, their company can reach level 5 — a company-wide growth mindset and culture — using the software.”
— Sean Ellis, CEO & Founder, GrowthHackers

Users that have been following along understand the importance and are typically already tracking their metric in Amplitude, Google Sheets, or another external source. For those users, we have integrations to automatically show progress on the North Star Metric, front and center of the software.

As for others that are new to the North Star Metric concept, we still need to do the education of why it’s important, what it looks like in action, and how to choose one.

Some teams don’t currently have the ability to track their North Star Metric. Our recommendation is generally to first spend time getting your customer journey events tracked using something like Segment and Amplitude (which both have free options to get started).

Remember, if you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it.

Setting Objectives to grow your North Star Metric

Once the North Star Metric is identified and tracked, teams can set short-term objectives in the software around improving the sub-metrics that impact the overall North Star Metric.

This is where a growth model or equation helps you identify the biggest opportunity for where you should set your objective.

Often times, we hear from companies that they need more top of funnel traffic or leads. But 9 out of 10 times, there’s lower hanging fruit in the new user onboarding (activation) stage that will help demonstrate value to users quicker and grow the North Star Metric much more efficiently.

Mobile app example:
You have 10,000 new visitors to your website & 1000 download your app.
Out of the 1000 downloads, 100 create an account.
Out of the 100 accounts, 30 people return on a weekly basis.
Example Growth Equation
[New Visitors] x [Download Rate] x [Account Created Rate] x [Return User Rate] = Weekly Active Users
Baseline: 10,000 x 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.3 = 30
Now, if you were to set an objective around new visitors to website, you will likely have to spend money to acquire these users, and your in-funnel metrics (downloads, accounts, return user) will go untouched. More money, less impact.
Top of funnel objective: 20,000 x 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.3 = 60
Or, you can set an objective to increase the account created rate. This will require internal resources to understand why users are not creating accounts and new ideas will need to be tested with the goal to increase the number of accounts created. In this case, you will be more effective at converting users and then when you do focus on acquisition, leads will be cheaper to acquire.
New account objective: 10,000 x 0.1 x 0.2 x 0.3 = 60

Whatever objectives you set for your team, they should map up to your North Star Metric, be measurable, and prove to have a high impact. If you want a more practical example of what an impactful objective looks like in practice, here’s one that I experienced.

All growth objectives should map up to your North Star Metric.

Once an objective is set, it’s time to apply the growth process with help from your team. And no, you don’t need to start with a full growth team, but you should get others to help with the ideation.

Once you set an objective in NorthStar, there’s an option to share it with others on your team. We give users the option to write more context about why the objective is important and personalize the request for new ideas. Then we provide a framework for sorting, prioritizing, and executing your teams ideas.

As ideas are submitted, someone playing the Growth Master role manages the growth process around the current objective (ensuring new ideas are added, prioritized, tested and analyzed) and help the team build a habit around continuously improving the user experience and demonstrating more value to customers. This habit is typically built through a routine growth meeting.

Are you ready to rethink your approach to growth?

Spoiler alert! It’s not easy. In fact, I often draw parallels between growth and marathon running. If you think you can run a marathon without hard work, training, the right fuel, and the right incentives, you’re mistaken. The same is true in growth. It’s a lot of hard work and some days it can be completely overwhelming.

But know that other days it’s extremely rewarding. And that there’s no better feeling than when you get an email from a customer explaining how you’ve impacted their life, or a tweet about how your product addressed someone’s needs. And for me, that’s what fuels my motivation to keep moving forward, even when things aren’t going right.

So if you’re ready to make an impact on your customers’ lives, it’s time to start growing with NorthStar.

The Story Behind GrowthHackers New Software, NorthStar & How to Get Started was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Several years ago a VC friend said to me that he wished I could productize my approach to growing companies. I initially dismissed his comment as unrealistic. But over time I began to get a picture of the type of system that companies would need to drive breakout growth.

While I had received lots of praise for my results as a growth hacker, my more important talent was helping companies create a culture of growth. That is the key to truly breakout growth. No individual growth hacker or even a growth team can outperform a company where everyone is mobilized to accelerate growth.

Kady Srinivasan, Dropbox’s current head of worldwide digital marketing, captured this sentiment perfectly when I interviewed her last month at the GrowthHackers Conference. She explained that what’s unique about Dropbox is that “the entire company takes ownership of growth.” Below is a short video snippit of our conversation.

In fact, Dropbox was largely my prototype for the system I wanted to build. During my six month Interim VP Marketing role that started in 2008, we went from zero growth experiments to a company where the entire team was obsessed with accelerating growth via rapid experimentation.

The path that Dropbox followed has been baked into NorthStar. Keeping a full team in sync around growth is not an easy task. Building the habit in the first place is even harder. NorthStar helps teams achieve both.

During the last year, we worked with teams such as Spotify and Mozilla to optimize functionality that would empower a growth team to increase their learning velocity. But our vision has always been to take it broader than just the growth team.

With NorthStar we move from our previous product, GrowthHackers Projects, which was focused exclusively on the growth team, to NorthStar, which harnesses insights from across the company to accelerate sustainable growth. All existing GrowthHackers Projects customers will be upgraded to the new system at no additional cost.

Implementing NorthStar starts with communicating a shared overall success metric, often referred to as a North Star Metric. A shared success metric with clear high impact objectives helps mobilize the broader team to participate in growth. As team members see winning experiments coming from their peer’s ideas, they become motivated to contribute their own ideas for accelerating growth.

The growth team is still at the heart of the system, but now they are able to harness insights from the broader team and automatically keep key executives informed about progress and overall results.

During our pilots of NorthStar with larger companies, it’s become clear that this system is the glue for driving cross-functional growth acceleration.

For smaller companies, using NorthStar allows them to build the right growth framework as they scale and so we’ve created an affordable option for companies at this stage.

Free for companies less than 20 people

We want to make it possible for early stage startups to take an optimal approach to growth from the beginning so we’re offering NorthStar free for companies with less than 20 total employees.

A company-wide approach to growth is no longer a choice, it’s a requirement for survival in today’s hyper competitive world. We plan to have a short private Beta for NorthStar, and will grant access on a first come, first serve basis. So request access for your company today.

Introducing NorthStar — New Growth Acceleration Software by GrowthHackers was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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A lot of people are asking how Dropbox became the fastest growing SaaS business ever, reaching a $1B revenue run rate in record time.

I saw signs of this explosive growth when I joined Dropbox in an Interim VP Marketing role one week after the public launch in 2008. Of course, Dropbox is a fantastic product, which really helped, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Kady Srinivasan, Dropbox’s current head of worldwide digital marketing, captured the key to their growth when I interviewed her last month at the GrowthHackers Conference. She explained that what’s unique about Dropbox is that the “entire company takes ownership of growth.”

Compare this to slower growing companies where team members are often isolated in their functional silos and believe they must rely on the marketing department to pour an ever-increasing amount of resources into advertising to accelerate growth.

This growth culture at Dropbox might seem like a fortunate accident, but it wasn’t. One of the key goals that Drew Houston and I discussed when I joined the team was to create a culture of growth and experimentation across the full company. I’ll get to how we did that in a bit, but since that time I’ve realized that a culture of growth has also been key to the success of other breakout growth companies like Facebook and Airbnb.

Not long after I left Dropbox, I published a blog post outlining what I called “The Startup Pyramid.” It was based on the patterns I had seen taking five companies to market, two of which had already listed on NASDAQ. Below is the original pyramid and a new version that goes into more details about how to actually accelerate sustainable growth. As you can see, it ends with company-wide growth habits and culture.

The Growth PyramidThe Milestones to Growth

There are several milestones that must be cleared before you can create a company-wide culture of growth.

1. Product Market Fit

The first is a product that people actually consider a “must have.” In the startup world, this is generally referred to as “product/market fit.”

2. Instrument for Growth & Define North Star Metric

Once you’ve validated product/market fit, it then becomes important to define an overall success metric. This success metric should be a “North Star Metric” for the entire team to gauge the success of the business. The right North Star Metric tracks cumulative value delivered across a growing customer base. This is a much more sustainable growth indicator than something like registrations, downloads or even revenue (many subscription businesses have inactive users that are still on a paid subscription but will likely churn).

It is important to instrument for growth so that you can truly understand what is happening. For example, at Dropbox, I wanted to be careful not to break what looked like to be a potentially powerful growth engine. I worked with the team to instrument tracking and reporting that would tell us exactly how new customers got started with Dropbox, which features they used first and ultimately how they used it on an ongoing basis. Just as importantly, I worked to understand why people did those things. During my first couple of months we sent out surveys almost daily.

Another important part of instrumenting for growth is testing tools such as Google Optimize, that allow you to implement a/b tests across your website and product. Finally, you’ll need a system to bring all of this information together so that your team can learn how to improve growth.

3. Growth Team, Process & Organized Learnings

Now you’re finally ready to start accelerating growth, which is level three of the pyramid. In this stage you should focus on building a growth team that can effectively execute a growth process.

The purpose of this growth process is to uncover better ways to accelerate growth in the business. Your goal here is just to build a rhythm and habit of testing. Every test you run will lead to additional learning — even if it doesn’t directly drive immediate improvement in growth. It’s important during this stage to catalogue this learning so that the team keeps getting smarter about how to accelerate growth.

4. Align Team & Testing Around High Impact Opportunities

Once you’ve built a testing habit within the growth team (ideally 2–3 tests per week), it’s time to start trying to maximize impact.

To drive full impact, you’ll need to be able to test across the entire customer journey (acquisition channels, new customer onboarding, referral hooks in product, etc.). This is where things start getting hard. The highest impact part of the customer journey is usually testing across the first customer experience.

At Dropbox, I needed to work via the CEO to drive initial testing here. It would have been surprising if the engineers would have agreed to run growth experiments at the expense of the long-term product roadmap if a marketer had asked them.

In a bigger company there are even more organizational barriers to testing across the full customer journey. One benchmark to consider is that the fastest growing consumer apps generally invest 50% of the product development resources in the first customer experience. It makes sense, because there is no second customer experience if you don’t nail the first one.

Getting permission to run this high impact testing often requires setting up an offsite meeting with the growth team, functional leaders and the CEO. My team can provide resources if you need help facilitating this meeting.

Once you’ve been given permission to test, it’s important to set up specific improvement objectives and track progress against them. This will help your team generate relevant ideas and keep everyone informed about progress.

5. Company-wide Growth Culture & Mindset

As you run higher impact testing, you should start to see some big wins. These big wins will be critical for driving broader team participation. At Dropbox, the engineering team quickly got on board the testing bandwagon when the saw the impact of the tests that they implemented.

Keeping a full team in sync around growth is not an easy task. Building the habit in the first place is even harder. But the effort is well worth it. No individual growth hacker or even a growth team can outperform a company where everyone is mobilized to accelerate growth. Get started on your path to breakout growth here.

The Growth Pyramid Revisited was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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After helping hundreds of companies understand how growth hacking fits into their business, our team compiled our learnings and offer 5 questions for early stage startups to consider when getting started or improving an approach to sustainable growth.

The Questions:

For each question, we’ve recommended resources from the GrowthHackers Community as well as our own team’s experience to help guide you. If you have any questions (or suggestions for improvement), feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Have you validated Product Market Fit?

Product Market Fit is the degree to which a product satisfies a strong market demand and is foundational for growth.

Many people have the misconception that they can “growth hack” their way to product/market fit. Trying to do this is generally very frustrating, expensive and unsustainable. Read more →

Have you identified a North Star Metric?

A North Star Metric is the single company-wide success metric that best captures the core value that your product delivers to customers. Identifying this metric and optimizing your company’s efforts to grow this metric is key to driving sustainable growth across your full customer base. Read more →

Have you instrumented for growth?

You need event tracking on both an aggregate and individual user level to identify customer patterns, problems, and opportunities for new experiments.

Improvement in your product starts with understanding what your customers are doing (and not doing). You don’t need a lot of tools to get started, but you do need visibility into the customer journey from acquisition through the entire funnel. Read more →

Is your team aligned with a weekly growth meeting?

A growth meeting is very important for keeping the team accountable for the inputs that accelerate your growth rate (outputs). Meeting regularly will also help your team share learnings and get into the habit running a growth process. Read more →

Are you experimenting around high impact objectives?

As a small team, it will be important to align the team around the biggest area of opportunity and focus your testing efforts there. Read more →

Once you validate product market fit and progress through these questions, GrowthHackers Projects can help you manage the testing process more effectively to accelerate your growth. Reach out today to see if you qualify for our startup program.

Special thanks to Sean Ellis & Anuj Adhiya for contributing to this self assessment.

Early Stage Startup Self Growth Assessment was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Advice for breaking into startups, building high-functioning growth teams, and the only customer acquisition playbook you’ll ever need.

I wrote the following “rough transcript” from my Guest Lecture at The Northwestern Kellogg Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative.

The customer count in the title is a conservative estimate based on my last 6-years working as a growth employee across three software businesses. 94% of the 1.6 million customers are not just “product users,” but actual paying customers. Big thanks to Professor Sean Johnson for inviting me in!

How did you start working in growth for startups?

I started out as a management consultant. I loved the challenging work and smart people, but I didn’t like the politics and hierarchies. I also didn’t like how consultants don’t control whether their work is put into the world. Often, you make recommendations that never get executed. But putting ideas into the world is how you learn, and I craved that.

I had a hypothesis that tech startups had what I liked about management consulting, but also satisfied its shortcomings.

In terms of how I landed a gig, I sent one thoughtful email to a founder, early employee, or investor every day for three months. I only reached out to people who genuinely excited me — that’s key. I also didn’t ask them for a job. I just asked for an opportunity to learn. In hindsight, that was a breath of fresh air for many since they’re always being asked for jobs, money, favors, etc. Dozens were happy to meet.

Along the way, the network I was building recommended following experts in the space. I started reading blogs like Andrew Chen’s, and I was blown away at the possibilities. The space was starting to evolve, and I was all-in on becoming a part of it.

What are the skills or competencies that you think are most important in someone working on growth?

1) Commitment to lifelong learning. A lot of the best test ideas come from customers. The next best ones usually come from observations and inspiration not at work. People on a quest to read, explore, and acquire knowledge outside of the office always benefit the team’s execution inside the office.

2) Humility. Right when we think we’ve got the world figured out, a test surprises us, and users do the complete opposite of what we think. You need to always balance the pride and confidence in all the progress that you’ve made with the reality that you’ve got so far to go.

3) An appreciation for process. On the outside, our team looks boring. We meet at the same time weekly. Our agenda never changes. We prioritize, test, measure and reflect on experiments. And repeat. The predictability isn’t for everyone.

4) Grit and perseverance. We’re like “weather-men” and “weather-women”–we’re paid to be wrong a lot. Even as we continue to practice our craft and commit to process. If you don’t have the stomach to appreciate the struggles and the journey, it’s not for you.

5) Someone who values an “idea meritocracy.” Ray Dalio coined this term at Bridgewater, and it’s applicable to any team hell-bent on performing, not just growth teams. Best idea wins, period. We don’t care about whose experiment it was. We just care about putting the best one forward. The ship sinks or sails, and we’re all on it.

What’s the ideal growth team constellation?

Early on, the teams were just me (an analytical person with some DB skills to find product bugs) and a full-stack developer. Overtime, they got more sophisticated. Below is a strong team make-up and close to what I have today:

1) Growth team lead: ensures morale is strong, the team stays disciplined, and we stick to process.

2) Technical marketer: doubles as a growth product manager, measures experiments, and communicates outcomes and learnings to the team (to help us get smarter).

3) Full-stack developer: can generally set up 60–70% of tests without help.

4) Full-stack designer: can polish experiments or take the lead if more front-end focused.

5) QA engineer: we don’t have one, but I’ve seen what it can do. Many of the best wins are just fixing broken stuff, and people obsessed with QA can be a game changer.

This all said, our team is still resource-constrained. Even having raised tens of millions. We’re constantly having to give up developer time to other projects. But operating with constraints is way easier than operating without them.

From a process perspective, how should growth teams organize?

The first startup I worked at was small enough where we got away with sloppy organization. Early on, the process was just “hit the database, find something broken, show and convince a developer,” and hopefully it was enough to have them resolve the issue. Bringing a solution to the table also goes a long way in getting things done faster.

I also did more “product growth” vs. “marketing growth” because we were capital-constrained. We only raised a couple million. So that meant focusing on “product.” I later learned this product-first mentality was hugely important regardless of how much capital you had. At the time though, the constraint just forced our hand in a positive way.

Brian Balfour’s Growth Machine article is 80% of our current process. If you follow it rigorously, you’ll be ahead of 95% of growth teams.

What are some top growth team lessons?

1) If you can’t communicate and convince an engineer a task is worth their time, you’re not on a path to creating an ideal growth team culture. While you might get a few tests built and deployed quickly, you’ll move much slower long-term. Most developers are told what to do too often by people who aren’t as smart as they are. You’ve got to respect their criticalness to your craft and ensure they know they’re an equal partner vs. just a means to just ship the team’s idea.

2) It’s not just about finding people who have the skills. They have to appreciate the uniqueness of the work. Much of the best growth work revolves around a) setting up process to always be close to and communicate with the customer and b) fixing the biggest things that are broken. As a team, we rarely build features that are shiny and new–we just iterate on what already exists. Because our core product already exists. This iterative mindset vs. the “making something new” mindset isn’t for every developer, designer, marketer, etc. The work usually isn’t sexy. But some love it and get excited about moving key metrics. You’ve got to find those with a world view that aligns with the team mentality you’re striving to build.

3) Growth teams need buy-in from the top. If it’s not there, don’t bother. Much of your work won’t help grow the business. CEOs, founders, etc. need to be on board that a) it takes time to learn and b) while success rates will improve if you’re following process, you’ll still be wrong more than right. Outside of patience from the top, you also need committed resources because without it, you can’t succeed at the next lesson below.

4) Starting and finishing tests on a regular basis is almost everything, especially early on. The formula for growth equals “number of tests run” * “average test impact” * “test success rate.” In the early days, “number of tests run” is the only input in your control. If you start and finish tests on a regular basis, learnings compound, you get smarter about prioritization, and the other inputs improve.

Any big wins you’re proud of?

To the point of, “Some of the best wins are just fixing broken stuff,” 4-weeks into my first “growth job” I realized we weren’t telling users during sign-up that they had to activate and confirm their account via email. We found it out by getting outside the office and testing half-a-dozen coffee shop patrons with the flow. We fixed it and activation rates skyrocketed. It was a “million-dollar annual revenue” win that took less than a morning between spotting the problem and deploying a fix.

A more complex win my team’s (along with our Data Analytics team) making progress on today is “how we use churn scores and several other variables” to dictate “how we issue customer discounts and coupons.” We’ve already saved the business hundreds of thousands in annual coupon costs with no statistically significant negative impact on sales and revenue. We’re thinking the savings will climb to $1M+ as we continue to hone the model this year.

How have things evolved from your early growth days and today from a growth perspective?

I’ve come to have much more appreciation for well-rooted process. A lot of my time is now spent thinking and executing on how we master the process vs. hit the end goal. Because the best way to hit the goal is to double-down on the process (assuming it’s a good one).

I’ve become much more focused on the inputs (i.e. executing the process) because I know that’s the best way to move the outputs. Every growth team is trying to move an organization’s KPIs, but many are too focused on the end-KPI itself, instead of the inputs that’ll get you there.

What’s a typical day like for you and your team? Typical week?

I wrote this article on why newly-founded, smaller startups shouldn’t have growth teams. It gives a thorough description of a “day in the life.”

How do you figure out if you have a product issue or a growth issue?

Great question. While everyone is pursuing Product Market Fit, when you ask most what that means, they’re not sure. That’s because too many founders and investors toss around the phrase loosely but can’t translate it into an actual equation. Social Capital’s Diligence Series solved this problem, and their “growth accounting” and “Quick Ratio” measurements will tell you if the product’s ready for growth.

If you were starting from scratch with a new company, didn’t have the benefit of a growth team, etc., how would you organize to get to your first 1,000 users?

Before I went after even 1K users, I’d measure if a startup was ready for user acquisition with any kind of scale. Again, the Social Capital Diligence Series is my favorite method for measuring Product Market Fit. If it looks healthy, I’d then use the Bullseye Framework (Pro Tip: go read the full book Traction) for starting and finishing tests across user acquisition channels to find the ones that lead to good scale and unit economics.

If P/M Fit doesn’t look promising, I’d start talking to users to figure out how to improve. Too many companies think “they just need a great growth marketer” when in reality their product isn’t ready for one.

As the growth team, how do you influence making product improvements?

Outside of the tests we run to hopefully improve the product, one of the best benefits to a growth team is “the world view it can instill” in the greater organization. That’s actually where much of the magic happens. If all of the sudden support teams or sales teams or non-growth product teams start making decisions based on quantifying things like impact, confidence, and level of effort (i.e. ICE), the whole organization improves its productivity.

What part of the funnel do you think is the most important?

This just depends on if the product is pre- or post-P/M fit as well as what resources are available. Speaking generally though, I’d say many companies are too focused on marketing levers (i.e. acquisition) and not enough focused on product levers (i.e. activation, retention, and referral). Acquisition is usually the easiest of all levers, so I’d say it’s natural to gravitate towards it and spend a disproportionate level of time there.

How do you prioritize acquisition work?

The two frameworks mentioned above: 1) The Bullseye Framework for finding channels with good scale and unit economics and 3) ICE for figuring out which experiments to prioritize in what channels.

How do you balance qualitative vs. quantitative user feedback?

One great way is to “quantify qualitative feedback.” Sometimes what gets fixed first in a product is based on who received the worst support call from a customer. Or the bug the CEO finds. This is usually not a great method for prioritization.

Instead, I like Pareto Charts to quantify what customers are saying. Asking customers, “How can we make the product better for you,” theming responses, and segmenting the data by light/medium/heavy users is a great way to build confidence in the impact of fixing a specific bug or adding features. The goal of the chart is to understand “what small subset of themes comprise the majority of problems and opportunity?” We don’t focus on the things that extend beyond the horizontal 80% line.

Another great tactic to ensure a constant flow of data around “support requests and bugs” is to have members of growth team subscribe to support inboxes and regularly add data and themes to their Pareto.

There’s also new products like Buglife to help make capturing valuable feedback easier. While I haven’t used and can’t vouch for the product I’m definitely going to give it a shot. They’re hitting on a key problem.

When do you think it makes sense to transition to a full-fledged growth team?

Post-P/M fit. 20+ employees. My answer isn’t too scientific, but basically once the organization gets large enough where everyone’s job is no longer just to grow the company. In the early days, Alex Schultz says it best, everyone should be the growth team.

How do you decide what to focus on?

ICE.

How do you estimate impact?

I haven’t found a bullet-proof answer yet. The important thing is a) that you try and b) apply a similar method to all potential tests. We tend to look in three places:

1) Primary Data: do we have any customer data in support of the idea?

2) Secondary “Close Proximity” Data: even if we don’t have customer data to support the trend, is there strong evidence specific to our space that we can have confidence in?

3) All Other Secondary Data: have we read something, that while not specific to our space, we have strong conviction is applicable?

Getting impact right improves in time (as you capture more primary data). Still, I’ve found that even if you have little-to-no customer data to start, going through the three tiers above is a great way to eliminate bad ideas. So, while you might not find the best idea at first, you’ll eliminate the worst ones. And if you eliminate the worst ones, your probability of success improves because your denominator in the “number of tests we could run” gets smaller.

How do you track performance of your initiatives?

Two ways:

1) The Input Metrics: are we starting and finishing tests on a regular basis (for us, weekly), are we having our weekly meeting every week (creating great habits and continued momentum is key), are we prioritizing using ICE and embracing an “idea meritocracy,” and are we capturing, socializing, and reflecting on every test’s learnings as we decide what to test next?

2) The Output Metrics: for us, we just make sure to only have a handful of metrics we care about to improve focus (i.e. 2–3), and we also ensure those metrics are tight with our company’s greater goals and strategic plan. i.e. Are we striving for profitability or topline growth? Are we doubling down on finding more new customers or better retaining our current ones? Of course, we’d like to move all these metrics, but we know that’s naïve. In order for a growth team to be successful, they need to get a firm answer from the top of the company in terms of priorities. Everything can’t be equally important.

How do you keep the team enthusiastic in the face of adversity — failed tests, etc.?

For starters, again, I’d find people that are okay with being wrong a lot. And people who value “process mastery” and appreciate the journey vs. the finish line. Some people are demoralized when they’re wrong and others are stimulated by it. Because it moves them closer to the truth.

Outside of personality fit, we set the expectation upfront that it’s going to be a struggle. But that’s okay because most great achievements are the result of struggle and perseverance. We take a lot of pride in just staying determined and steady against hard problems.

At the end of the day, we remember we’re all in this together, and we’re all here for each other to lean on and get better.

Literally Everything I’ve Learned Acquiring 1,617,418 Customers was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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