Growth Memo

This page exists primarily as a running log of lessons I learn working in growth. It’s meant to be a high-level look at important traits, mindsets, and actions for people who want to deliver a material impact to an organization. Perhaps someday I will write a post on each point below.

1. Simplicity Wins

The old saying “keep it simple…stupid” applies to those working on growing companies. The more voodoo and complexity you present around your role and what you do on a daily basis, the more likely people will discard what you say…simply because they don’t understand it.

The truth of the matter is that you can’t drive a material impact unless you get other people inside the company on your team. This means you must be clear with your communication, only focusing on the most important pieces. If you confuse people with fancy numbers/charts, you will lose people, cause confusion, and spend most of your time explaining, instead of actually doing your job.

2. Understand Feedback Abstraction Layers

Metrics will never tell you why people do certain things with your product. They only serve as a pulse-check for if you’re on the right track or not. Analytics programs abstract you away from the end-user, boiling attitudes/thoughts/mindsets into emotionless data points. In the early days, you NEED the richest feedback you can get, so analytics isn’t as helpful compared to speaking directly to them (and asking questions).

When you have a more solid grasp of how (and why) people use your product, analytics can be helpful. But that doesn’t mean you ignore rich feedback channels. That’s why I suggest when working on new features/tests, start by removing all abstractions, and collect the richest feedback possible.

This rich feedback will help you iron out kinks/bugs, and then the data points will have meaning & context.

3. Core Product Value

If I could summarize the notion of core product value, it’s the main reason someone signed up for your product. It’s also known as your value proposition.

An easy way to tease this out is by asking customers why they signed up for your service. Use NPS surveys to understand what makes promotors actually promote your product.

When you’ve figured out that core value you provide, it’s important to still focus on making that shine bright, but there’s oftentimes opportunity for adjacent value (delivered through other features). There’s plenty of people who work in tech, who think a bunch of features is what makes the product. Oftentimes it’s one simple problem that you’re solving.

4. The One Sentence Test

Continuing the notion of “core value” – you should be able to explain the value your product provides in a single sentence. Practice with friends and family. If your product is complex (or even appears to be complex), there’s a conversion rate decrease attached to that.

5. The Customer is all that Matters

Every successful business requires customers who pay money for a product or service. Therefore the customer should be at the center of everything the organization does. “Growth hacks” to gain new customers may pump numbers at first, but will isolate the customer over time, and destroy any trust that may have been established. When this happens, it’s very tough to recover.

6. Human Nature hasn’t changed

People think humanity is progressing quite nicely. I disagree strongly with this notion.

Human nature is the same now as it was thousands of years ago. It just manifests itself in new ways. Therefore, by examining human nature (aka the hard-wired traits), we can understand how to be persuasive and drive growth. For example, people hate to miss out on a scarce resource (i.e. – a Black Friday deal). This is engrained in our DNA.

A solid understanding of these levers is better than any tactic. Unlike a tactic, these rules apply to any product or organization.

7. Selling vs. Marketing

This may be an overly simple explanation, but sales is almost identical to marketing, with one exception. Marketing is trying to get people to show up at your door and buy your goods/services, and sales is about going out and getting them.

It’s like the difference between hunting and trapping. A hunter will roam in search of prey, while the trapper will be prepared for when the animal comes to them.

There are certainly tactical differences, but the marketer must understand salesmanship. In fact, a marketer should spend a decent amount of his/her time selling.

8. What you (or I) think is worthless

There’s a role for intuition in company-building, but it’s small. People who work in growth get into trouble when they have “great ideas.” Instead of doing brain-dead obvious things (like talking to customers), they rely on gut. This typically comes out with the phrase “I think.”

This yields dumb experiment after dumb experiment, burning engineering cycles and thrashing morale. Meanwhile the customer’s feedback is buried under a mountain of internal ideas.

9. Motivated by Opportunity

If you work on growing stuff, there’s oftentimes opportunity in deep/dark places. It can be boring, it’s a grind, and it’s not fun. But that’s where opportunity exists, and that’s what should motivate you. You get excited by moving the needle, regardless of how sexy the problem is.

10. Time to Implementation

There’s never a shortage of internal ideas to improve and drive growth. What separates normal organizations from great ones is how long it takes an idea to be implemented into an experiment. How long does it take from an idea to become reality?

11. Time is your most precious resource

In any organization you’re constantly under pressure to perform within a certain amount of time. The response to this should be to ruthlessly prioritize what you work on. There’s plenty of frameworks to help you manage this – I look at this based on a couple factors:

  1. What did the experiment stem from? (Customer feedback, Trial Feedback, You?) Bonus points if it’s a customer.
  2. How many people will see the experiment?
  3. How big of a change is it?

to be continued…