The first rule of Growth Hacking? Don’t talk about growth hacking.
That was my paraphrased tweet quoting one of the speakers at the Growth Hacking Conference in London recently. It seems I’m not the only one who isn’t a fan of the name but feels the principles behind it are sound, if a little misunderstood.
Many people (maybe just us Brits?) roll their eyes when they hear the phrase ‘growth hacking’, thinking it’s a cheesy term applied to the processes of inflating numbers exceptionally quickly with a goal of reaching a ridiculous valuation figure that gets Mark Zuckerberg jingling his pocket change.
So it was refreshing to hear so many of the speakers at the conference talking about sustainable growth – yes, build a product that scales, but also one that provides value to its audience, not just for 3 days, 3 weeks weeks or 3 months, but on an ongoing basis. A product that would be missed if it were no longer there.
I scribbled a lot of notes throughout that day, so let me share a few of them here, along with the speaker slidedecks. If you want more, head over to the collaborative Google doc that was edited live throughout the event.
Find Product / Market Fit
The Father of Growthhacking (or at least the phrase coiner), Sean Ellis (@SeanEllis) hosted the event and shared his thoughts on the drivers of growth:
- Right product in the right market and
- Successful execution of ideas
Product / Market fit was a theme throughout the day. Ellis posits that without it, sustainable growth just isn’t possible. In fact, it’s critical for strong organic growth (Growthhackers are particularly keen on organic growth. Most argue the paid stuff should come once you have traction. That’s not to say you can’t scale a paid channel to achieve growth. You just need deeper pockets).
Ellis has a useful way of determining if a business has a strong product / market fit. He surveys the customer base and asks how many would be ‘very disappointed’ if they couldn’t use the product anymore. If you can hit 40%, then you have a strong product / market fit. Then you need to stack the odds in your favour by understanding what those people are getting from your product so you can reproduce it / scale it with others.
Hustle to find scaleable growth
Zack Onisko (@zack415), from Creative Market, talked of trying out creative, out-of-the-box ideas to get to your goal in the shortest possible time. He referred to it as the Hustle stage – trying out a variety of channels, potentially non-scaleable, to try and find one that could be unlocked and scale.
He gave 20 ways to hustle, of which my favourites were:
- Speaking with customers to find out how to improve the product
- Go above and beyond with customers – sending them surprise gifts, thank-you messages, building brand loyalty
- Give something away for signing up – asking for info is high friction, so do an exchange. They give you their email address, you give them something of value to them (i.e. a book, free service, money)
- Forge partnerships with other likeminded businesses – help each other
- ‘Eat your own dog food’ – make sure you use the product yourself. Understand it, know its weaknesses and improve them
Build a positive Net Promoter Score
Net Promoter Score (NPS), was discussed several times, particularly by Nilan Peiris (@nilanp) of TransferWise, as an effective tool for measuring how your audience views your brand or product. NPS asks a single question:
How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?
Customers answer on a 0-10 scale and labelled Detractors (0-6), Passives (7-8) or Promoters (9-10). To calculate your company’s NPS, take the percentage of customers who are Promoters and subtract the percentage who are Detractors.
Clearly you want as many Promoters and as few Detractors as possible. How do you do that? Build a ‘must-have’ product, provide great service and exceed expectations.
Be aware though that a large number of Passives isn’t ideal either as those people are indifferent to your product, meaning they’d have less resistance switching if an attractive alternative product was available.
Study your successes
It’s very easy to get caught up trying to figure out how you can persuade the disinterested to buy your product. An alternative approach was suggested by Dr Karl Blanks from Conversion Rate Experts. He suggests it’s more productive to focus on those that did buy. He recommends asking customers immediately after they have purchased this question:
What was the one thing that nearly made you not buy from us today?
Whatever their one thing was, it wasn’t enough to dissuade them, but it could be putting off many others who are dithering over their purchases also. If you can identify those issues and fix them, you’ll win those ‘almost-in-reach’ customers. That has got to be easier than trying to convert someone not interested in buying.
A bonus tip from Blanks: reverse engineer success by creating a custom segment in Google Analytics for those that bought from you. Then look at their behaviour and the content they looked at and try and figure out why those were successful.
Find your customer’s voice
Moz‘s Rand Fishkin (@randfishkin) and his legendary coiffed hair adorned the stage to speak about organic SEO growth. His slides were full of great nuggets but if I’m only to pick one, I found his thoughts on using the customer’s language thought provoking. He discussed ‘intent keywords’ and how to build a list of them to target with content. Keyword suggestion tools have their limits, so he recommended these three activities to generate them:
- Look at your competitors activity – see what they rank for
- Talk to customers directly (and your sales people) – what words are used in the conversations
- Look for conversations online in forums and places like Reddit – what is the language used?
It’s surprising how often businesses make assumptions about the words to target for SEO and content. The gap between assumption and reality is often a chasm. Locate the words used by the customer, not you.
Other Awesome Speaker Decks
There were so many great speakers at the Growth Hacking Conference, it would take quite a lengthy post just to summarise the main takeaways. So instead I’ve rounded up the remaining slidedecks I could find and included them here.
A Growth Checklist
As the day closed, I tried to summarise the main takeaways in a list to take back to the office. So in my newly educated opinion, If you want to build sustainable growth for your business I would suggest:
- Build an awesome product (find Product/Market match)
- Develop a strong Customer Value Proposition (i.e. why you’re relevent, what you offer, why you’re better)
- Provide great customer service
- Build in feedback loops to your product (and act on it)
- Find likeminded partners to promote
- Ensure data / measurement are baked in to your product and processes
- Optimise the journeys (using conversion rate optimisation testing, i.e A/B or MVT)
- Delight your customers (and measure with NPS)
- Find smart people to advise you (and to ground you when you fall in love with your product and can’t see when you’re wrong).
So, all in all a great conference, one of the best I’ve attended. There aren’t too many events you can attend where you can discuss product, data, conversion rate optimisation, customer service, partnerships, entrepreneurship, with smart people who are equally happy to talk about their mistakes as well as their successes. If its on again next year, I’d recommend you attend. I’ll see you there.