I was at a party and an early-stage entrepreneur inquisitively asked me how I would describe growth. In the midst of a bustling party, I knew I needed to keep it short. Despite being paleo, the immediate idea that came to mind was that growth is like a cake.
As the era of “open platforms” rides into the sunset, we are all looking for the next distribution channel to rise to the forefront. As major brands shift their budget online, the influx of money is hurting organic distribution for the sake of revenue for distribution platforms, like Facebook and Twitter.
The last few years has been difficult for those who believe in organic growth and distribution via social. The focus on monetization has nudged people to focus on paid over organic growth.
Despite the bearish attitude, large and untapped distribution channels are still alive and thriving but the state of each channel is changing quickly. There are three distribution channels I would bet on for growth in for 2015.
If you follow me on Twitter or know my background, you probably noticed that I like politics. Anyone who follows politics long enough sees that issues that captivate the news cycle are often more complicated than a single pass can comprehend. Some of the backlash or shallow promotion of growth hacking looks a lot like political discussions on cable TV, inane premises and shallow argumentation.
I am not very interested in continuing to rehash whether growth hacking exists or not. It does. Look at the original growth community. Their track record speaks for itself. To me, a more interesting subject of discussion is why some are denying the growth hacking movement despite its palpable benefit to the startup and business community.
Philosophizing about “growth” and “growth hacking” is amble, but there is a dearth of practical tips on building a growing company. Implementing growth into an organization is a long slog and free of glamour.
Based on my experience, I’ve worked both as an individual contributor and leading a growth team. Outside of my writing on common organizational and cultural behaviors that hampers growth, I collected a few tips from my successes and failures on growing a product.
“We have grown rapidly with zero marketing!” And the crowd goes wild!
The overarching goal of an employee should be to create lasting value for company that lives beyond their last day employment. This perspective and attitude of selflessness is forgotten among most startup folks, from founders to engineers. They work for themselves and it is understandable.
The pace of a typical startup working environment is beyond what most people can handle and the focus on speed above all else typically leaves a mess in its wake. Tomorrow is uncertain and not guaranteed; the goal is survival.
As a startup grows up, these once rational habits turn into bad habits. Product development processes at a very early stage company don’t past mustard as a startup scales beyond a handful people. To break these habits of working in a silo and for yourself, I developed saying for my growth team at StumbleUpon: “Think about Steve.”
Who is Steve? He isn’t someone you know or might ever know, but he will know the product you work on very intimately. He may join your team or come along way after you are gone. This is Steve.
The most common request for help I receive is where can a company find a growth hacker to hire. Leaving aside the rampant confusion on what is and is not a growth hacker, here are some tips on how you can find and hire a growth hacker.
First, we need a reality check. Since growth is a developing field, only a handful of people are credible and respected in the space. There are a lot of young (by experience) growth hackers looking to learn and put some wins under their belt. I am not commenting on their qualifications or skills but the obvious fact of inexperience. Most experienced growth experts are in higher demand than software engineers.
How much should you ask from visitors to convert?
In every product team, there is a debate on how much information and effort visitors should take in order to convert. A part of this debate is based on the question whether or not a visitor should be able to try a product before they register for it. The answer lies in a visitor’s refer.
There are two main types of experiences visitors encounter in a product, explore mode or a walled-garden. Explore mode allows visitors to use or view a product’s content. A walled-garden requires a visitor to signup or login before experiencing the product.
Visitors fall into two broad categories of traffic types, direct and indirect. Direct channels are branded based visitors. These visitors have some sense of the product and are interested in finding out more. Indirect visitors are arriving to the product via another user and are interested in utilizing the output of the core value proposition, such as a user generated photo or an article.
Email is one of the most underrated and underutilized distribution channels. Many have speculated whether or not email is dead. A new trend in paid growth channels are showing signs that email is making a comeback. Most paid channels are valued based on a click or an impression, but Google and Twitter are experimenting with email collection as an advertisement over the traditional click-based interaction model.
This past May Twitter introduced a new advertising option called the Lead Generation Card. The Twitter card contains a one-click action that passes your email to an advertiser. This is move for advertisers appears to be contradictory to the rest of Twitter’s platform. Twitter is infamously known for not giving access to a user’s email in their OAuth permission while other popular OAuth’s allow access.
Google is also testing a new search ad that allows advertisers to promote subscribing/lead generation over a click. If you are logged into your Google account, your gmail address is auto-filled in.
Both of these new advertising channels are powerful and create new opportunities to find arbitrage. The user effort compared traditional click-focused ads is the same, but receiving a prospects email is far more valuable than a visit. By eliminating one step in the lead gen funnel, the number of emails captured will increase; however, be careful.
Lead generation is not always about the quantity of leads. If there is too much noise in your leads, qualifying the leads may become uneconomical. This will lower lifetime value and increase costs for conversion. Always take the funnel from the top to the very, very bottom.
Keep an eye out on how these paid channels are being utilized in the coming. Receiving an email at the moment of interest over a click changes how you evaluate an advertising channel’s value.
For three years, I have been a loyal customer of Virgin America. Every time I need to book a flight, my search starts and ends at viriginamerica.com. The flight experience is amazing and the flight attendants are enjoyably attentive to their passengers, but there is one thing about Virgin America that is frustrating: the first step to book a flight on virginamerica.com.