Morgan Brown On How To Create A Growth Hacking Strategy

#BiteSize is a video series where leading experts answer some of the most pressing questions entrepreneurs have while building or marketing their startups.

In the latest episode of #BiteSize, Morgan Brown defines an effective growth hacking strategy and how can an entrepreneur create one for their startup.

Morgan Brown

Morgan is the COO of Inman News and the co-author of “Startup Growth Engines: How Today’s Most Successful Startups Unlock Extraordinary Growth” with Sean Ellis. A 15-year startup marketing veteran, Morgan most recently led growth for at Qualaroo and Y-Combinator backed TrueVault. Previously, Morgan held marketing and growth leadership roles at ScoreBig, Science, and SmartShoot (formerly TurnHere). He publishes a well-read daily newsletter on growth at Follow Morgan on Twitter at @morganb.

[Transcript of the video below]

Transcript of the Video

I believe that growth only succeeds on the back of a must-have product. Too many people worry about growth, putting the horse before the cart. They’re thinking about growth even before validating that they have a product that people love. And I believe that you don’t get sustainable growth without a must-have product.

So, the first step before you think about creating large scalable growth is to make sure that you’ve validated that people love your product. And the way you do that is you get just enough traffic, just enough growth going to see how real people respond to your product and whether they consider the product that you have something that they have to have, that they love.

You can define that in a bunch of different ways. Sean Ellis has his must-have score, you can use Net Promoter Score. But the main one is that you want a high level of retained users over time. So once you’ve validated that your product is a must-have with retained users over time, then its really time to think about scalable growth and so you want to make sure your conversion funnels are optimized, that you give yourself the best chance to grow. And then, that’s when you want to step on the gas.

I define growth hacking as experiment-driven marketing. The marketing focuses on levers deep within the product. And what I mean by that is as you’re building your product, from the very beginning think about the ways your users will use your product and how that will create growth.

An airplane doesn’t fly because someone took a car and bolted wings onto it, an airplane flies because it’s a machine designed from the ground up to fly. A lot of people take the approach to growth of bolting wings to a car and expecting it to fly. The people or companies that are great at growth are the ones that think about it from day one and even if they don’t turn on growth hacks or don’t really scale growth until they get the product right, they’re constantly thinking about how when someone interacts and uses the product, how those interactions are going to create loops.

Either bring them back, bring new people into the system and ultimately, grow the business. The growth hacking process that we use at GrowthHackers is first we put all the ideas on the table. So, there’s no bad idea when you’re thinking of new and innovative ways of growing your business. Growth hacking at its core is about finding innovative and creative new channels to reach people that love your product.

So you need as many good ideas as possible. And that’s why I say that growth is a team sport. You can’t leave growth in the hands of one person and expect it to be successful. You need your engineering team to think about growth, you need marketers to think about growth, your product people and leadership team thinking about growth.

People in HR and legal can help with growth. Everyone has ideas. Tapping into that ideation is core. And once you have all those ideas, obviously everyone lives in a world of extremely limited resources and time, so its really important that you just don’t run down some idea because it sounds good on paper, but you really want to prioritize those ideas, you want to come up with a hypothesis about why what you’re doing is going to create growth. And then you want to test it as much as you can to validate that.

And what we found is that people and startups in particular can get really bogged down in one big idea. So having one big idea about how they’re going to grow, one big feature, one big product launch – that kind of scale of thinking can really slow down a small team and they can go weeks and weeks without shipping an update or testing a new channel or trying a new feature or growth lever. And that all slows down growth.

So, we really think about how to maintain a high tempo of experimentation. So we want to test new ideas and be agile and nimble to try to learn things quickly. What we believe is that the faster you learn, the faster you can grow because you can figure out what works.

No one really knows what works until you get it out there into the wild and so the faster you can move through that process, the faster you can learn. One of the most famous growth hacks with AirBnB and Craigslist seems like a stroke of genius, but I believe that it only seems like a stroke of genius in retrospect and I believe AirBnB tested a bunch of things really quickly, did a lot of ideation, trial and error and it’s a fact that they can accelerate their learning to kind of get to the point where tapping into Craigslist made sense that made it seem like a stroke of genius.

And then as you go through that experimentation, you want to capture the learnings. One of the hardest parts of experimentation is remembering what worked and what didn’t work and why. And so making sure that you capture all the data back about all your experiments and being able to sit down, analyze that data and then revaluate where you are that you’ve gone through that process once and then going back through it.

And in that way, you’d be able to test ideas, growth hacks, marketing channels now that you’ve gone through that process once and then going back through it. And that rapid experimentation cycle helps you find the things that works for your business faster than guessing and moving slow and all the things that companies can sometimes get caught up doing.