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Sean Ellis is the founder & CEO of Qualaroo & GrowthHackers.

He has led marketing at two companies from customer zero to IPO filings (LogMeIn and Uproar.com).  He was also the first marketer at Dropbox, Lookout, LogMeIn and Xobni and worked on Eventbrite growth in the early days.

He also coined the phrase "growth hacking."  

Sean has wide-ranging expertise in early stage startup growth, growing larger companies, the future of marketing and growth hacking, founding a startup, raising venture capital, angel investing, keys to startup success, living and starting companies in Eastern Europe and life in fast-growing startups.  

You can follow him: @SeanEllis

  • JS

    Javier Sardá

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean, thank you for doing this AMA.

    Let's suppose the following:
    Today you launch a bootstrapped SaaS start up.
    The product is validated. Potential customers are marketing professionals and small business owners.
    You cannot use any of your contacts or rely on your reputation.
    You have a brand new website and domain (as of today, zero visitors).
    You have a very small marketing budget....

    What would you focus on in the first 6 months?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Thanks Javier, I’m assuming despite zero traffic to the website, the product has some users on it. Otherwise it would be impossible to validate product market fit. I would have started customer development from day one and also would have started blogging when product development was first started. The benefit of customer development from day one is that you can recruit users one by one (you're in no rush to scale). Small businesses are relatively easy to target - marketers a bit harder.

      Once product market fit was validated, I would dig deeply to understand why early users consider it a “must have.” I’d ask things like “what is the main benefit you get from the product, why is that benefit important to you, what would you use if the product weren’t available?” I would then try to develop a relevant/appealing promise statement based on the must have benefit. From there I would start optimizing an onboarding flow. This may require me to spend some money on Google Adwords to generate enough user flow in the short term. I wouldn’t obsess on my ROI from that spend, as the goal is to generate enough traffic to quickly optimize conversions - not to scale marketing. Finally, once I had product/market fit and effective onboarding/sales process, I would start testing customer acquisition channels. I’d start with free organic channels first and then work my way to paid channels. For some guidance on the channels I would ask the early users where they generally discover solutions like mine.

      • OU

        OpenBooks.com Ula Zarosa

        over 1 year ago #

        You have mention Google AdWords. I have a very difficult and direct question: How much money should a small startup spent on it at the beginning of the road?
        And shall it be used strategically - for high quality content i.e. blog posts on important/ popular topic or just to attract users to the website itself?

        • SE

          Sean Ellis

          over 1 year ago #

          My recommendation was to use Google Adwords to generate enough traffic flow to optimize an onboarding process. The budget question is an interesting one. The temptation for many startups is to limit spend to a small dollar amount per week. But this ends up stretching out the onboarding optimization to several months instead of getting it right in maybe just a month. The biggest cost in a startup is time (burn rate is usually based on everyone's salaries). So if you can complete the process in 30 days on the same Adwords spend, there is no reason to stretch it to 4 months.

          When it comes to spending money on adwords to drive growth, I recommend you base that decision on ROI. If you can spend money with a positive ROI and a relatively fast pay back, then you should probably spend as much as you can. If you don't have enough funding to support that, proven scalable channels is usually something that makes funding much easier.

      • GG

        Gail Gardner

        over 1 year ago #

        Hi Sean,

        I'm curious why you said this: "Small businesses are relatively easy to target - marketers a bit harder." I've always found marketers far easier to target as they all use social media than small businesses. What size small business are you talking about and how specifically do you find them easy to target?

        • SE

          Sean Ellis

          over 1 year ago #

          Hi Gail, I was talking about for customer development - meaning 1:1 conversations about the need for your solution. Small businesses are everywhere. It's pretty easy to strike up a conversation with a local small business owner. Scaling acquisition of small businesses can be a bit tougher, but reaching them for 1:1 conversations is relatively easy.

          • GG

            Gail Gardner

            over 1 year ago #

            Ah, understood. I was trying to imagine where you could easily connect with them in large numbers. So many of them focus on their own businesses and aren't easily found online anywhere.

    • GS

      Greg Sampson

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Sean,
      Thanx as well for the AMA! I have product that was developed before 'customer development' was the norm. I've done lots of localized testing and gotten good one-off feedback but I'd like to get more - specifically quantifiable feedback.
      How do you suggest we go about doing customer development for a product that already exists - particularly when the budget to change features is limited?

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 1 year ago #

        I would start by trying to find the right market for your product as it exists today (even if you had a lot of budget for product development). I worked with one company that had only 7% of their users that considered the product a must have when we first surveyed them. But those users were all focused on a very specific use case. We changed our targeting, promise and onboarding to convert more of those types of users and the next cohort we surveyed was over 40% that considered the product a must have. And this was only two weeks later. Today that company is worth billions and it only took a couple weeks to find the right market and the right use case.

      • GG

        Gail Gardner

        over 1 year ago #

        At least in my niche, if you can find one person who really needs your product, they can typically introduce you to many more similar users. The key is listening to what users want, as Sean did. Often a solution we don't use is very close to something we really want on a daily basis that doesn't exist yet.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey everyone, I'm looking forward to your questions. Surprisingly this will be my first solo AMA on GrowthHackers...

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Wow, lots of questions here. I'll do my best to answer all of them!

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      That's it for the hour and a half scheduled. But I will try to come back today and answer the rest of the questions. Thanks everyone for your questions!

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 1 year ago #

        OK, I'm going to try to knock out the rest of the answer now. I originally budgeted 3 hours of time for the AMA, but surprisingly it wasn't enough. Sorry for the delay to anyone who had to wait for an answer.

        • SE

          Sean Ellis

          over 1 year ago #

          3 hours later I still have questions left. Apologies to those who are waiting... Time to go home!

    • HV

      Humberto valle

      over 1 year ago #

      Good morning Sean!

      Sean, what other startup ventures have you considered or are also currently working on?

      • CH

        carmen hughes

        over 1 year ago #

        Hi Sean and many thanks for sharing your insights with the community! I see a lot of consumer mobile app startups throw money at Facebook ads and seemingly concentrate their budget their to acquire new customers. Could you recommend another channel or two that they should consider, aside from the old standby Google Adwords? Thanks in advance.

        • SE

          Sean Ellis

          over 1 year ago #

          Hi Carmen, Facebook tends to be a pretty good one for mobile app distribution, but there are several other things starts should be thinking about. The most important is probably app store optimization. But apps should also have a website and ideally a video demo of the app (which can also be used on some app store pages). Finally press and content marketing are effective tactics for mobile app distribution.

          Also keep in mind that just getting app installs generally isn't enough (I use about 5% of the apps on my phone). So re-engagement through email and push notifications can be important for growth.

          6 Share
          • SN

            Sanket Nadhani

            over 1 year ago #

            I do agree that engagement is very important. In fact, with the kind of drop offs a typical mobile app sees in the first couple of days, I would say engagement is more important than acquisition. But I am not really sure about how email and push as the medium.

            Emails - a majority of apps don't need emails and for the ones who do, it makes sense to delay it as much as possible till the user sees value in the app to continue. In that case, what % of people will you really have the emails for?

            Push - Again for iOS, you would need permission to send push notifications to people. Isn't it better again to just ask for the permissions that are absolutely necessary at that time and delay the others?

            So for the channels above, if you do want to use the channel you mention for re-engagement, it might actually cause further drop off of users at the onboarding stage itself.

            What would you pick and prioritise?

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 1 year ago #

        Hi Humberto. At our company we have three products, so our hands are pretty full.
        1) We have Qualaroo, which is about understanding the visitors on your website. What are their desires, concerns, challenges, etc. It makes it easy to ask your live visitor questions and then you can use this to inform your A/B testing (for a better experience).
        2) GrowthHackers community - you're here, so you know about that already...
        3) Canvas - a collaborative workflow for managing ideas, prioritizing testing and building a knowledgebase of experiments. It is integrated with the GrowthHackers community. It’s still in private beta.

        I'm also on the board of directors of Mavenlink.

    • AC

      Alex Chaidaroglou

      over 1 year ago #

      Good luck Sean!

  • NK

    noah kagan

    over 1 year ago #

    1- During your career what have been the major inflection points of growth in the businesses you've been a part of?

    2- What has surprised you the most with marketing Qualaroo?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey Noah, thanks for the questions. For the first one, I specifically remember the “aha” inflection point that led to a huge part of our revenue growth at LogMeIn. It was during a helpdesk trade show in London where we engaged with existing customers everyday and partied hard every night. By the third day we had almost no sleep and in my haze of thinking it struck me that outsourced IT was an amazing target market for us. Most of that market was two guys in a garage, so it was very informal and hard to measure. But I realized they loved and needed our product. Within a year they accounted for the majority of our revenue (we realigned product roadmap and marketing around these guys).

      For your second question... My biggest surprise Qualaroo surprise came early. When we acquired KISSinsights (the product that became Qualaroo), I was convinced that an awesome free version would spread like wildfire. Yes it would drop our upgrade rate, but better to monetize 2% of a steep growth curve than 10% of a relatively flat one. The surprise was that an awesome free version barely accelerated growth. But the silver lining was that we learned there was very little price sensitivity for people who really needed the solution. So we focused on premium functionality/integrations and significantly increased the price.

      • RG

        Ruben Gamez

        over 1 year ago #

        I have a follow-up question to growing Qualaroo: I remember when you took over you seemed to move very quickly and tried several different things. How do know when an approach isn't right and you've given enough of an effort before it's time to move on?

        For example, with freemium did you try multiple approaches to freemium for X period of time? (I see a lot of people saying "X didn't work for us" when execution was likely the problem.)

  • YS

    yassin shaar

    over 1 year ago #

    Sean, thank you for doing this AMA!

    My question is, how do you go about optimizing retention when you're working with small data sets?

    Background, I run a B2B subscription based business and we currently have 1,500+ paying customers.

    From week to week, about 40% of our customers engage with our product (average).

    Which makes running A/B tests a challenge. It takes 4-6 weeks to reach statistical significance.

    Should I focus more on qualitative indicators instead of running A/B tests?

    Thank you for your time and for all the effort you put in building this amazing community :-)

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      I’d love for others to chime in on this one. On Qualaroo we have a similar customer base size and have cut our churn in half in the last 12 months. Very little of that churn reduction was via A/B tests. Most of it was based on acquiring more of the right types of users and encouraging them to use the product in the right way. Excellent onboarding is absolutely critical to SaaS B2B customer retention. Our onboarding improvements were driven through more investment in account management and customer success. We also did several integrations which make it more core to the overall marketing technology stack. So I’d probably characterize our improvements as being based on "root cause of churn" research and then trying to implement proven best practices to solve the problem.

      On GrowthHackers we do more A/B testing around retention, but we have a bigger base of users to test on. Still statistical significance can take several weeks here too.

      Finally on http://Canvas.GrowthHackers.com we found that our 6 week retention cohorts dropped 50% when we gave people access without a demo of the product (despite a pretty good onboarding tutorial)

      • YS

        yassin shaar

        over 1 year ago #

        @Sean this is great. Can you please expand a little on the "root cause of churn" with an example?

        • SE

          Sean Ellis

          over 1 year ago #

          Sure - I essentially mean what is causing the churn in the first place. So with Canvas we were able to see that people who didn't get a demo weren't using it very effectively. A demo allowed us to show them the features and explain the benefits of using those features. Hope this helps.

  • JH

    Jim Huffman

    over 1 year ago #

    How would you approach doing a growth audit of a company?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Can you please clarify what you mean by a growth audit?

      • JH

        Jim Huffman

        over 1 year ago #

        Sure, if you were thrown into an early stage company, how would you assess the growth potential of the company? And how would you approach evaluating the channels with the greatest growth potential? Thanks Sean.

        • SE

          Sean Ellis

          over 1 year ago #

          Hey Jim, I used to do something like this before I agreed to interim growth/marketing roles. I'd start with assessing product market fit and the conversion process. If the company has strong product market fit and a relatively efficient conversion process, I'd look at any existing referring channels to understand if they can be scaled. Then I'd start making a list of other channels that might be effective for that business. If I only come up with one or two, I'd be worried. But if I can come up with a handful of potentially viable channels (including product driven channels such as sharing features), then I'd take on the challenge of trying to grow this company. Deciding which channels to test first is really a function of their potential impact, confidence that they'll work and ease of testing them. For GrowthHackers we have about 450 growth ideas in our backlog and run 3 experiments per week. We choose the experiments based on the criteria I just listed.

          • JH

            Jim Huffman

            over 1 year ago #

            Sean, thank you so much. This is extremely helpful and makes so much sense. It starts with evaluating PMF & the conversion process. If those are ready then you can prioritize the channels to test. And we'll definitely start building up a deep backlog of growth/testing ideas.

            Love the AMA . . lets do it again. Cheers, Jim.

  • JH

    Jim Huffman

    over 1 year ago #

    We're looking at how to structure our growth team - any advice? We're thinking a data/analytics person, a product person & a marketing/branding person.

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Generally I recommend that you start with a PM Growth and make the rest of the team ad hoc initially. Start trying to hit a weekly experiment launch goal and figure out where the bottlenecks are. If you can’t get access to a designer, then hire a designer. Same for growth engineer, analyst, etc. As you add dedicated people to the team, try to find people that are pretty dynamic so they can address multiple bottlenecks. The best teams I’ve seen have people that can do it all (or train themselves to fill in the gaps).

      8 Share
  • RM

    Rafael Mambretti

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean,

    Tools that any startup 'must have', whether it's B2B, B2C, P2P etc?

    Thanks

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      At the very least you need good analytics. If you're bootstrapped then Google Analytics is probably good enough. But if you can afford it, user based tracking systems like KISSmetrics or Mixpanel are worth the investment.

      I'd also recommend something for surveying. SurveyMonkey is pretty good. Main reason is that face-to-face customer development gives you good guidance on customer needs, but a survey can start to give you a representative sample size. Understanding your users is critical in any business.

      Finally you should have something for managing email messaging. Mailchimp is a good place to start. You can get a lot more sophisticated from there with triggered emails or even a full marketing automation solution. But I wouldn't add those until you know exactly how you'll use them.

      Customer support software is important too. Zendesk offers a free product called inbox that is actually a pretty good place to start.

      Finally if you are B2B, then you probably need something like Salesforce (or a cheaper competitor).

      Hopefully I didn't miss anything. But if you are wondering about something specific, just ask and I'll let you know what I think.

      • JM

        Jasko mahmutovic

        over 1 year ago #

        surveymonkey, really? I would say Google forms if your bootstrapping. Great AMA, your the man Sean :)

  • KK

    Katy Katz

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi @Sean! I'm so excited that you are doing this AMA. My question is related to churn and customer retention. Knowing that customers listen to their peers, what are some of your favorite above-and-beyond tactics to get customers to not only stay but become passionate promoters of your brand?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Katy, thanks - I’m excited to finally be doing one on GrowthHackers!

      I think lowering churn starts with developing the right promise for your product in the first place so that you set the right expectations for what your product is truly great at. The way I figure out the promise is to really study my “must have” users and learn the key benefit they are getting from the product. Then I ask them why that benefit is important to them. That allows me to reach new prospects in the right context and convert them based on an authentic promise. Once you have people that love your product, then I think you need to concentrate on every other touch point to ensure you don’t turn that love off. Great customer support on top of a must have product makes people want to spread the word.

      It’s interesting that I often see people trying to replicate the referral program at Dropbox, but the truth is that we had great word of mouth before the referral program was implemented. The referral program simply amplified it. My one tactical tip would be to prompt more word of mouth after giving an reward for it happening naturally. Something like “Suzy just signed up from your invite, so here’s an reward you weren’t expecting… Want to invite someone else and get more rewards?”

      • KK

        Katy Katz

        over 1 year ago #

        "concentrate on every other touch point to ensure you don’t turn that love off" >> Really great advice! Thanks @Sean!

  • OS

    Othmane Sghir

    over 1 year ago #

    Thanks for running this AMA Sean. I would like to reiterate my appreciation for your work and would love to have your insight on a few questions I have.

    My questions are the following:
    1/ What would you consider to be the major misconception people have about growth and traction?
    2/ From Bull's Eyes Framework to High Tempo Testing and other growth frameworks, what do you think growth frameworks miss the most generally?
    3/ Looking at what most growth teams are currently doing, what are the major errors they do in your opinion?
    4/ What sets apart successful growth teams from lagging ones? Is this gap more noticeable between start-ups and big public companies?
    5/ What are your top 5 recommanded books that are directly related to growth technics? -besides the Traction book.

    Thanks so much,

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      1) Historically I would say that startups focused too much on trying to build awareness. The reality is that the average person sees 3000 advertisements per day and startups don’t have the resources to break through and build awareness. Their best chance of building awareness is to focus on profitable customer acquisition. By delivering experiences to people in a profitable way, companies can build awareness.
      2) I think marketers often forget that at the center of all of these frameworks is people with motivations and needs. If you can’t tap into the motivations of users to try your product and/or the product doesn’t meet their needs, customer acquisition frameworks aren’t going to help very much.
      3) The major error is inconsistency. I think growth teams need to commit to a process and stick to that process. There’s always some very good excuse to move resources off of growth or to skip a weekly growth meeting. But that breaks the rhythm of growth and then the team loses momentum. As the team loses momentum the lose faith in the process.
      4) Successful growth teams have unwavering support from the CEO.

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi @Sean, merci beaucoup for making this AMA possible.

    Could you share with the growth hacking community 3 alternatives to validating product/market fit other than the "40% of existing users would be very disappointed without your product" rule?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Arsene - The best way to think about product market fit is that the product should be a “must have”. People have too many choices today to settle for a nice-to-have. So what makes something a must have? Essentially it needs to be both valuable and difficult to replace. For me the “being very disappointed without it” is simply a leading indicator of it being a “must have.” The lagging indicator is churn. If someone stops using your product, clearly it is not a must have. So some alternative signals to consider are understanding the next best alternative to your product and trying to assess the gap between the two products. If there are several alternative products with little differentiation, then the product is really a commodity. So I’m not sure I can give you three different ways to measure it. The main ones are what people say they’d feel without the product and what they actually do.

      7 Share
      • AL

        Arsene Lavaux

        over 1 year ago #

        Merci Sean - This makes sense.

        Something else I tried, a bit contrary to popular belief, especially in the app world, is to charge a premium even in the early MVP stage.

        But this vets the quality of the marketing to properly shape the target customer's perceived value of the core benefit, if anything. Only post-use metrics as you mentioned, churn, and to a stronger extent, referral, can help gauge actual product/market fit -- the confirmation that the core benefit is actually delivered by the product.

        Building on that, I am even considering for the next app I plan on launching this year if I shouldn't market it without even the MVP being finalized. Just put the core value prop out there on an app store and see if the fish bites.

        There shouldn't be too much long-term impact on the brand -- you can always change the brand later, it's the most disposable asset in the early stages based on some real-life testing I did.

        Any other thoughts on this from the Growth Hackers out there?

      • OU

        Osinachi Ukomadu

        over 1 year ago #

        Hi Sean - Do you have a script to conduct the "must have" interview?

    • BN

      Babak Niroumand

      over 1 year ago #

      I second this Sean. Almost every company I walked into had no idea what this is and unfortunately they didn't care. They just wanted to show "numbers" to their board/investors.

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 1 year ago #

        If you are responsible for growing the business, you should care. If people don't consider the product a must have you will likely fail. I recommend doing a free "growability" assessment for the company before you commit. Run the Survey.io questions. If the product isn't a must have go and find another opportunity. It's not worth hurting your reputation trying to grow an ungrowable company.

  • RR

    Rahmat Ramadhan

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi sean, i just want to asking how growthhackers.com revenue stream comes ? thanks

    • GC

      Gabriel Costa

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey Sean,

      Our Growth team is made by speacialists (SEO, Social, Paid media, Email Mkt and Mkt automation, Data Scientist). But it is really hard to find CRO specialists here in Brazil.

      Considering I will have to hire a smart and analytical person and invest on his/her training, what skill set should this person have? And how should this training be?

      Thx!

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Rahmat, Today growthhackers.com is mostly pre-revenue (we generate some revenue from job listings). Fortunately Qualaroo revenue covers most of our costs so our burn is relatively low. But we are currently in private beta for Canvas which is a team collaboration solution for managing the growth hacking process (collect ideas, prioritize/test ideas, build knowledge base). Eventually we’ll make it very easy to send ideas from the GrowthHackers community to http://Canvas.GrowthHackers.com. Canvas will have a free version and also a premium SaaS version. So long term, that's how we expect to make money from GrowthHackers.

  • MR

    Máté Rauscher

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean, thanks for doing this AMA.

    What are the 20% of the growth hacks that brings the 80% of results for you right now?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi @rauschermate - since you are asking right now, the two products I focus on growing are GrowthHackers.com and Qualaroo. For GrowthHackers our growth is mostly a function of feeding a long tail of community curated growth content into Twitter, where we have 140,000 followers. Surprisingly Twitter is more of a retention channel for us that an acquisition channel. Email is another important growth channel for GrowthHackers as it's another way to consume the content. As you can see, the right channels are very dependent on the type of business (a content site benefits from content distribution channels).

      For Qualaroo the key channel is our product itself. As our customer use Qualaroo, they expose it to millions of users. Many of those exposures include a link that say "have you tried Qualaroo?" Over time Qualaroo has been seen billions of times and has been experienced by millions of people. So unlike most SaaS businesses we don't need to make a big invest in customer acquisition and can operate the business very profitably. Other SaaS businesses need to invest a lot up front in customer acquisition and may not break even on that customer for a year or more.

  • DS

    Daniel Sosa

    over 1 year ago #

    Sean - Thank you for this. What is the absolutely first tactic you use to acquire your first 10,20,100 users. We are launching www.wiind.com (Snapchat meets Outlook)

  • DS

    Diana Smith

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean! I appreciate the meta-ness of you doing an AMA on GrowthHackers...

    My question: How do you make sure your experiments aren't too MVP? I think it's easy to put some kind of prototype out into the ether and have that fail, then not know if it's because the idea was bad or the execution was too low quality. Have any suggestions here?

    Thanks!

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey Diana, I would try to make sure that the person managing the implementation of the idea is passionate about it working. Agree that it's easy to be too MVP.

      Another thing that I do occasionally when someone goes too MVP with one of my ideas is to add the same idea to the backlog but describe it the way I originally had in mind. Then I make sure the next time it's implemented exactly how I imagined it.

    • BN

      Babak Niroumand

      over 1 year ago #

      This has always been a challenge for me too. Would love to here your thoughts @Sean.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean, thanks for doing the AMA!

    As one of the originators of the term growth hacking and someone who has thought a lot about and talked a lot about the evolution of marketing, where does marketing/growth go from here?

    What does the next couple of years look like for growth marketing/agile marketing/growth hacking/etc.?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey Morgan, I recently did a presentation where I showed that the average tenure for a CMO doubled in the last 6 years. The interesting thing is that the original drop was blamed on metrics (marketers weren't used to the accountability) and the recovery was also credited to metrics. Essentially a new generation of marketers has been able to use metrics to cut waste from campaigns. But I think it's about to get ugly again. Cutting was the easy part. But marketers need to drive growth too. And as more marketers are metrics driven the shelf life of channels is collapsing. What works for you today probably won't work next month. Thriving in this environment requires a very different approach to marketing than that used by traditional marketers. Growth teams using an agile test-driven process will be the only ones who succeed online. They'll get in and out of channels fast enough to really thrive. Others will be left behind.

      I have a lot to say on this, but that's enough rambling for now :)

      • MB

        Morgan Brown

        over 1 year ago #

        Awesome thanks - great insight. I agree. It's only going to get harder.

        I was listening to an interview with the founders of Buzzfeed and they're producing and distributing thousands of pieces of video content each month on more than 20 platforms.

        20 platforms!

  • BN

    Babak Niroumand

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi @Sean and thank you for taking the time to do this AMA.

    My question is more about Growth as a career path.

    How do you see the future of Growth specialists and Growth marketing as a career? Do see Growth marketing to find its way into larger corporations and multinationals?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey @babakniroumand I definitely see it finding it's way into larger organizations. I had the Chief Digital Offer of one of the top 10 brands in the world reach out to me today about growth and innovation. It's a hot topic at Microsoft, Intuit and IBM too.

      Basically growth is important to every company. If there is a better way to do it, people are going to figure it out. Considering the 100s of billions of dollars in value that have been created by the fastest growing tech companies, it's hard for others to ignore.

      I do think it will be a challenge for these companies to make the culture adjustments to support a high tempo growth process. But eventually they'll figure it out.

      Personally I wouldn't have the patience to try to help a fortune 500 company make the transition, but I think there will be great opportunities for anyone who does. Just make sure the initiative is driven from (or at least supported by) the very top.

      • BN

        Babak Niroumand

        over 1 year ago #

        Thanks @Sean for putting extra time and answered my question.

        I agree that we won't be able to establish the very basics of growth marketing if we're not going to have the support from the top. The required autonomy for a growth team is going to be a challenge in large corporations.

  • JS

    Jerko Skoric

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean, thanks for the AMA.

    What do you think is the best path a young marketer should take to sharpen his skills as a growth hacker?

    I would really like to join a smaller company growth team. My questions is how can I acquire a basic set of skills that would qualify me for the job? I know the basic theory but lack the on-hand experience that would get me the job.

    Thanks

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi @yerkooos I had a similar question so hope you don't mind if I just copy the answer: I think there are a couple paths that you can take. One is that you could go deep in a new emerging channel. The benefit of this approach is that no one has much experience in that channel, so a lack of experience isn't really a disadvantage. Even channels that have been around for a while like Pinterest still have relatively few marketers that are really good at driving growth from them. Smart companies will work with a contracted specialist to explore a channel and only hire someone fulltime to manage the channel once it's proven. You can charge a premium as a consultant or use it as a gateway to become the person who manages that channel (if you can make it work). The downside with the approach is that your expertise will likely have a relatively short shelf life and then you'll need to learn a new channel.

      The alternative is to learn a skill that will likely remain valuable over time. There is already a big imbalance between demand for people who can manage a growth process and those who have the skill. These people are often called product managers of growth or growth masters. I think if you learn this skill there will be demand for it for a long time. And fortunately we have one of these people doing an AMA tomorrow on GrowthHackers, Julie Zhou (growth lead at Yik Yak). My recommendation is that you fire off a bunch of questions for her now. Here's the link to her AMA https://growthhackers.com/questions/ama-i-m-julie-zhou-growth-lead-at-yik-yak-ex-hipmunk-ex-google-author-at-practicalgrowth-co

  • JH

    Jim Huffman

    over 1 year ago #

    What should the average work day look like for a growth hacker? Where should most of my energy go? Thanks Sean.

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Building a testing backlog, launching tests, and learning from the results.

  • YS

    yassin shaar

    over 1 year ago #

    Another question :)

    Lets say you guys decide to focus this quarter on increasing retention at growthhackers.com, specifically you're going to focus on increasing weekly active users...

    - How do you go about defining your active users & why did you choose those specific user behavior?

    - Whats the process you go through to finding your growth levers? Can you please give us some examples?

    Thank you. You ROCK :-)

  • JM

    John McBride

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean, thanks for taking the time to answer questions! Big fan of the awesome community you have built here.

    I have three questions for you:
    1) Where do you see GrowthHackers 3 years from now?
    2) If you could make one change to the GrowthHackers site overnight to make it more valuable/engaging for community members, what would it be?
    3) Outside of Twitter and GH, what do you think are the best places to find high-quality tech/growth/marketing content on the web?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Thanks @JohnMcBride24 , appreciate the feedback. 1) Three years from now I think GrowthHackers will be where performance marketers spend most of our day. Essentially we'll have a private workspace for managing experiments with our internal teams and we'll collaborate publicly with our peers about emerging growth opportunities. We'll also be able to find channel specialists to help us develop new growth opportunities and we'll be able to enhance our reputation among peers based on our success driving growth and what we share back with the community. Basically, those outside the community will have a very hard time competing with us. 2) The change I'd make overnight if I could we be to launch an awesome redesign we've been working on (it's getting close). 3) The blogs of marketing technology companies and smart marketing consultants.

  • CS

    Cara Sherratt

    over 1 year ago #

    How long did it take you and what was your journey from the concept to the implementation and launch of GrowthHackers? What was your marketing strategy to build the site's community?

  • DD

    Deandre Durr

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean I am only going to ask the questions that i know you can answer.

    1. What the hell is in your hair, because it always looks so perfect in every video?

    2. What question do you get the most that is extremely annoying related to "GrowthHacking"?

    3. Is it better to work for a up and coming startup to improve your growth hacking skills or to start your own startup?

    4. What is the future of Canvas?

    xoxo
    -Deandre

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey @Deandre - just noticing this question now. I would have answered soon just because it seems like a fun one...

      1. Gel in the hair. Funny thing is that when I'm not speaking I often look like a mad scientist because I think with my hand on my forehead.
      2. Probably just the questions about growth hacking being spammy stuff. To be effective growth hacking should be focused on delivering people into a fantastic experience. Spammy crap is the opposite of that.
      3. I think it's better to work for an up and coming company to improve your growth hacking skills than to start your own company. I often say to my team that I'm a crappy part time marketer for our business. And as CEO the most I can be is a part time marketer. It's better now that we have Canvas because I can contribute ideas and influence when ideas get tested each week. But I'm still not as immersed as I'd like to be.
      4. Future of Canvas is that we hope to make it generally available in the next couple of months. We're about to open the flood gates for the waiting list (which is over 1800 companies) and we'll do group webinar demos to help people get started with it. We haven't finalized the pricing model, but I expect we will have a free version in addition to a paid version. Both will be pretty integrated with the overall GrowthHackers experience.

  • TB

    Tamar Ben-Moshe

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean!!

    When you first start working with a startup with a small to NO budget, what are the first steps that you think should be done, and in what time frame is it realistic to get them done?

    Do you first start off by writing a marketing plan? If so, what does it include?

    Also, what tools do you use to stay organized and plan out marketing projects end-to-end? Do you create a Gantt? Do you use any apps?

    Thank you for your time!

  • MO

    Mike Onghai

    over 1 year ago #

    What mistake did you commit or omit in your early 20's that you wish you avoided? Thanks!

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Mike, I was really lucky in my early 20s so don't have any specific mistakes that come to mind. For example, I invested every dollar I had into an internet company in 1995 before the first VC money was invested. That company eventually reached a billion dollar valuation. I joined the company six months later and was promoted to VP marketing within a year.

      The mistake I regret most in life was when I started a company in my late 30s and hired a couple of my best childhood friends. In my intensity to try to build a successful company I damaged both relationships. One has recovered and the other has not. I should have been more patient with my friends or possibly shouldn't have hired them at all.

      Of course mistakes are the best opportunities for learning. I have definitely become more patient with my team and try to not over react. Sometimes the desire to succeed makes it hard to be level headed, but I'm learning :)

  • TB

    Tamar Ben-Moshe

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean! Thank you so much for your time!

    When a startup decides to get a marketer on board, and have little to no budget, what do you recommend they do (i.e., start guest blogging, start local then global, etc.)? What do you recommend that they DON'T do (i.e., "waste time" creating a marketing plan, don't try to get PR until xyz, etc.)?

    Also, if I can ask a second, and just as important question: What tools do you use to see projects through end-to-end? How do you stay organized, especially when you have to do all of the work for marketing from beginning to end?

    Thanks!
    Tamar

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi @EcoTamar , fortunately in a startup with product market fit and some new user flow, a new marketer can generally make a fast impact without spending much on marketing. The first thing they should do is find the users who consider your product a "must have" (in other words would be very disappointed if they could no longer use the product). By understanding the main use case and key benefit that these users get from the product, they can start to optimize the onboarding flow. Essentially they should build a promise based on the "must have benefit" and A/B test the conversion funnel to maximize the number of people who reach that benefit. In my experience this not only leads to more revenue, but starts to drive more organic growth. The reason it drives organic growth is that people are now experiencing the product in the right way. When they do that, they are much more likely to spread the word.

      Once you've built a fairly optimal value delivery machine, you should then start with building free channels. For example, make sure your site is following best practices for SEO (such as being mobile friendly). You should also build out a presence in social channels and include some relevant content in those channels (even if it's not content marketing from your own company). Depending on the category of your business, content marketing can be effective but it is also pretty time consuming.

      Next channel I would test for most companies is retargeting. If someone has shown an interest in your solution, it makes sense to continue to serve their advertisements until they convert.

      From there I'd start building out a big backlog of ideas to run across the funnel. Some might require development resources and others might require some advertising spend. But advertising is not an expense if it's delivering a positive ROI.

      I wouldn't spend a lot of time on marketing planning, but you should understand your user personas, competitive choices and key use cases. Continue to update this research quarterly.

      Finally for staying organized, we use our system that is currently in private beta. The signup list is at http://canvas.growthhackers.com . It really won't be very useful until you can start running at least a couple experiments per week. Before that a spreadsheet should work fine.

      • TB

        Tamar Ben-Moshe

        over 1 year ago #

        Thank you so much for your helpful advice, @Sean ! I truly appreciate it. Sorry for the multiple posts on this AMA, I kept getting errors that they weren't going through. ;)

  • GP

    George Papadongonas

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean,
    which do you think is the best approach to introduce the philosophy of growth hacking in the corporate world, especially when there are many stakeholders and the decision making process is top-to-bottom and slow?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      I think the best thing you can do is scare the crap out of them. I don't think they'll adopt growth hacking proactively. They need to realize that the old way of marketing doesn't work anymore. If they can adopt the agile approaches that have transformed product development they can remain relevant. I also would work top down. Execs need the business to grow or they lose their jobs. With exec buy in and motivated digital teams larger organizations will be able to make the necessary transformation to drive growth online.

  • MA

    Mido Aboshihata

    over 1 year ago #

    Dear Sean & fellow growth hackers,

    Best advice to give a B2B customers who are dabbling into marketing. We basically automate content curation and distribution while helping them convert that audience into leads.

    Many of these customers are heavily focused on building and selling. They understand the value of marketing & content marketing but connecting the dots becomes more difficult.

    How do you go by connecting the dots when selling marketing tools to non-marketing folks.

  • BW

    Brand Winnie

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean!

    After leading marketing and growth teams over the years, what made you want to start your own thing and become an entrepreneur. Has that always been in your blood since you were little or was it sort of a natural progression in working with so many startups?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey Brand - fun to have a question from someone on my team! It's always been in my blood. I got in trouble for selling candy at school as a kid, had a christmas tree delivery business with my best friend in high school etc. I always intended to start a company some day but when I started online marketing in the mid 90s I immediately fell in love with it. For the next 10 years I worked with the same team to launch two startups and really enjoyed the camaraderie.

      Then I got caught up in a new mission which was to figure out the optimal way to bring companies to market. It was a lot of fun and lucrative too (I built an equity portfolio across a bunch of companies).

      Eventually I decided I wanted to finally tackle the challenge of starting a company myself. It was way harder than I expected, but now I can't imagine doing anything else.

  • MN

    Momchil Nikolov

    over 1 year ago #

    What is it worth to different (<1m rev, <5m rev, <10m rev.) e-commerce sites knowing their CLV with accuracy and precision? What is it worth to them if they can say "those customers will churn next month with x% of probability"? What is it worth to them if those are broken down not only by cohors (i.e. channel) but also by latent (hidden) segments?

    How good are companies at those levels in calculating such things? Will they be open to contract somebody to do it for them?

  • AF

    Arran Ferguson

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean,

    A simple question from me. What Growth hacking method would you say is practical for a startup to implement and get results from?

    Also, is there any reading material you would suggest?

  • JT

    Jessica Turner

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean, looking forward to your answers to everyone's questions!

    I work at an agency who specializes in working with early stage startups. I currently have 3 startup clients, each with very different products. In most cases they come to us for help achieving growth. I realize there isn't a one size fits all when it comes to growth, I'd love to hear your thoughts on assessing multiple startups growth needs and how you would determine the best path to move forward. Keeping focus in mind as time and budget is sometimes limited for each client.

    Thank you in advance!

    2 Share
    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Jessica, first thing I do with any company is figure out if the product is a must have and if so, for whom. Based on that information I can start to think about how to reach more people that match those profiles. Generally you can deliver a fast boost to any company (assuming product market fit exists) by focusing on conversion rate optimization first. The benefit of conversion rate optimization is that those gains come without an increase in external spending. Once you start to have a fairly optimal funnel, then it becomes a lot easier to build customer acquisition channels. The right channels really depend on product and customer type. My best ideas on channels usually come from spending time with customers.

      2 Share
      • SW

        Samuel Woods

        over 1 year ago #

        +100

        This is, by far, the most ignored critical component of "growth hacking" -- the right channels and tactics depend on product AND customer. Ideas for growth that end up working should be mined from spending time understanding your customers.

        You need far less "hacks" than you think you do. Growth hacking is customer-centric (or should be.)

  • TT

    Tamas Torok

    over 1 year ago #

    What was the biggest failure in your career?

  • TS

    Terence Strong

    over 1 year ago #

    Sean, thanks for doing this! Growthhackers.com has been really helpful to me and my company.

    What's the biggest risk to an e commerce company that has already found product market fit and a distribution channel that yields profitable unit economics?

  • AG

    Alex Gu

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for doing this AMA!

    One quick question: How do you guys generate growth ideas? Any methods you use?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Alex, each person on our team generates growth ideas in a different way. The key is that each person is encouraged to generate at least some ideas. I personally generate ideas by being intimately familiar with my customers and my product and constantly on the lookout for tactics that other companies are using. When I see something interesting, I try to think about how I can tweak it to be effective for my own customers. Often my best ideas are when I combine a couple of ideas I see externally. I don’t really have a method to it, I’m just fascinated by how companies grow and I’m constantly on the lookout for interesting things. One area where we do spend a lot of time as a team is understanding experiments that work and trying to double down and apply that learning in a new experiment. Those are the experiments with our highest success rate.

      3 Share
    • TB

      Tuan Bui

      over 1 year ago #

      I personally find growthhackingidea a good place to get ideas every day.

      • MM

        Matjaz Muhic

        over 1 year ago #

        Any chance I could get an invite to matjazvn at gmail dot com? :)

        • AA

          Andrew Allsop

          over 1 year ago #

          I was going to ask too, allsop . andrew at gmail . com. I shared my Mailbox coins on here a while ago, so I don't feel like I'm just someone who takes!

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    over 1 year ago #

    Bonjour again @Sean. I'd have another couple of questions for you.

    If my understanding is correct, you could be an advocate of the High Tempo ICE growth hacking methodology. As part of this growth discovery process, many ideas are generated and organized for execution upon impact, confidence and ease criteria (hence the ICE acronym).

    Based on your experience at various growth stage companies, what has been your most unexpected learning from this methodology?

    Here is the second part to my question. Imagine that the high tempo lever to boost growth was two-pronged: a marketing one and a product one.

    Which prong have you found to most significantly impact growth if any?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey @renaissance17 , yes we use high tempo testing and generally prioritize our ideas by ICE scores. For anyone whose not sure what that means, see slide 19 in this deck https://growthhackers.com/slides/agile-marketing-meetup-moving-beyond-the-marketing-plan-so-you-remai?r=trending .

      My biggest surprise has probably been how difficult it is to predict impact. I think it's important to try to predict it as part of your prioritization efforts, but often things that your sure will work well don't make much of an impact and vice versa.

      As far as growth levers, product and marketing tend not to be mutually exclusive. Improvements in product (particularly onboarding, retention and referral) make it easer to find effective growth channels. And a bigger flow of users from growth channels gives you the feedback to improve onboarding and retention (if you're collecting and acting on that feedback). Growth is really based on doing a lot of things right.

  • RL

    Rhys Lindmark

    over 1 year ago #

    What kind of test task would you have for final-round growth/marketing job candidates?

    Context -- We're a 6-person B2C mobile kids music education app that has essentially 0 traction, but a great product coming out in December.

  • JR

    Jalem Raj Rohit

    over 1 year ago #

    Sean, Does a data scientist add value to a growth team? If yes, then what should be the primary focus and responsibilities of him/her in the team?

  • MM

    Manjit M

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean!
    Thanks for the AMA..and most importantly giving us GrowthHackers!

    I wanted to ask how does growth hacking differs in a Hyperlocal startup vis-a-vis other startups (such as in ecommerce space).

    In addition to this, what are the Top 3 growth hacking tool/strategy you would suggest for a Hyper local startup.

    Thanks for your time!
    PS: We are a hyperlocal beauty startup in India

  • NS

    Nidhi Shah

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean,

    Thanks for taking out time and doing this AMA!

    I write content for entrepreneurs and small businesses. What are your thoughts on writing hyperlocal content for a blog? Is it a good idea? If yes, how can one go about it, should we have different categories, landing pages, domain names?

    Thanks!

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi @NS_nidhishah I haven't really thought much about the benefits of hyper local content. If you're targeting entrepreneurs and small businesses, I'm not sure the content they need is substantially better if it's hyperlocalized. You're probably just limiting the market for the content you're creating.

  • RK

    Richard Kuwahara

    over 1 year ago #

    How would you try and introduce high-tempo testing and growthhacking techniques to a larger company? Especially working within existing frameworks?

  • SL

    Stuart Langridge

    over 1 year ago #

    Thanks Sean.
    We all read a lot about focusing on one number to grow a firm. Obviously for lots of companies, LTV will be the number to work on. However, for early stage companies with little or no revenue yet, how do you identify the best metric to work on? Have you developed any ideas as to how and why you might select one number over another?
    Thanks.

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey @Stuart_Langridge I think the number that tends to matter most in the early days is retention. Most Series A VCs obsess on retention cohorts. For good reason, if you can retain the users you acquire, the acquiring more users is simply a tactical challenge. But if you can't retain users, then you probably have something more systemically wrong with your business - ie no one needs your product or it's a temporary use case. Once you've validated that you can retain users, then your metric might shirt to a number that aggregates retention and growth. For SaaS that's usually MRR growth. For a community such as GrowthHackers we focus on Monthly active users. Again that's a function of the new users plus the retained users. @uclacademix and @bbalfour both have written some great material on this subject.

      • SL

        Stuart Langridge

        over 1 year ago #

        Thank you! That makes lots of sense and actually, it wasn't the number I would have guessed. Very kind, thanks.

  • LD

    Leon de Rijke

    over 1 year ago #

    How would you approach growth hacking in businesses where most distribution takes place offline?

    • AA

      Andrew Allsop

      over 1 year ago #

      Group your data into buckets like geography or some other demographics and experiment on them. Take Uber or EventBrite as an example. You're better focussing on smaller markets at first and satisfying their needs. For example, AirBNB focussed on tech conference attendees in San Francisco. Instead of A/B testing on website traffic, use populations in similar demographics, i.e. Manchester strategy vs Birmingham strategy.

  • JR

    jason richards

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi @sean, thanks for all you do for the growth community. If you were a B2B startup in San Francisco or the Valley, what would you do to leverage the massive Dreamforce crowd in SF this week? Thanks!

  • TM

    travis mathis

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean, this is great, thanks!

    I work for a company that has been in the SaaS business for nearly 13 years now. We've in that time grown completely organically through word of mouth and bootstrapped ourselves by our shoe laces. We finally feel we have a product that is ready to be shouted from the roof tops at imagerelay.com and something that we pride ourselves on is exceptional customer support and service.

    We're getting ready to start our first real marketing drive through various means(paid, content marketing, etc..)

    What are some ways we can maintain that high level of personal interaction while growing our user base?

    My concern is we grow so fast we lose some of that ability to deliver the highest level personal service possible. I know this isn't directly related to "growth" but its a concern that i have that is a by product of growth and i'm hoping you can shed some light on things your companies have done in the past to handle it.

  • BB

    Buckley Barlow

    over 1 year ago #

    Sean, what are the key roles in a Growth Team for a non-Saas business?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi @BuckleyBarlow , I don't know that the key roles on a growth team differ that much from a SaaS business to a non-SaaS business. For both I'd recommend starting with a PM of growth. That person should set a weekly growth testing tempo target. If they aren't hitting the tempo target they should hire to fill the bottlenecks. Some likely roles for both will be designer(s), growth engineer(s), analyst(s)... I highly recommend you ask this question to @jyzhou who is having an AMA tomorrow. She runs growth at Yik Yak (which isn't SaaS) so she should be able to give you some useful insights. Here's a link her AMA if you want to post the question now https://growthhackers.com/questions/ama-i-m-julie-zhou-growth-lead-at-yik-yak-ex-hipmunk-ex-google-author-at-practicalgrowth-co

  • AC

    Alex Chaidaroglou

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean,

    What are some effective tactis or strategies you have seen or done to get a B2B SaaS from $1-2 millions ARR to $10 millions?

  • JF

    John-Michael Fancher

    over 1 year ago #

    Good morning Sean. What is the best way to find good, fresh, desirable content for your marketing campaigns when you are a start up? Everything out there to reference seems to already be from competitors or not overly interesting.

    • MA

      Mido Aboshihata

      over 1 year ago #

      Had same problem. We started with creating social media accounts and finding relevant content and re-share & engage with influencers.

      After experimenting with a bunch of tools and watching our traffic we found some patterns like (content type, topics, keywords) and some subtle qualities of what drove traffic. Those insights helped us to figure what our first blog post/viral infographics would be.

      In a nutshell, find what engages your audience and if it's not interesting/exciting congrats you have found a niche and you can go now and create your own.

      After doing the above several times, my friend and I built a platform that automates content marketing for b2b companies. You can take a look here http://ndstr.us/1F0ZLMY

      • MA

        Mido Aboshihata

        over 1 year ago #

        Yikes, wrong url :/. Apologize for self-promotion but really believe we can automate a good portion of marketing and provide growth hackers with insights to better target, engage and retain their audiences.

        Signup for free trial via link below, my cofounder and I will personally answer any Q's and share insights we have.
        http://ndstr.us/growth_hackers_free_trial

  • VP

    viare-nuble Pina

    over 1 year ago #

    Thanks for making yourself available to the community, Sean!

    2 quick questions:

    (1.) What have you observed to be the most effective email access capture screen (not an app such as Sumome) that prevents access to a company's homepage unless an email is provided?

    (2.) What have you observed to be the most effective referral landing page that has high conversion rate for SAAS products?

  • DA

    Dimitry Apollonsky

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean,
    Really excited to read your responses to all these questions.

    Where do you see Growth Hacking going in the next 2-3 years?

    What are some innovations and trends you think will happen within the growth community?

    What are your favorite books? :-)

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi @demi I see companies shifting to thinking about growth holistically. It will be a lot less silo-d than it has been historically. Growth hacking is really just a transition from marketing being the owners of growth to growth being a company wide endeavor. I've listed my favorite books in a couple other answers.

  • CF

    Chris Field

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi @Sean - What are the three tools that you couldn't live without when it comes to customer retention? Why?

  • BH

    Breanna Hunt

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean - thanks for taking the time to do this. My question is - How do you recommend orgs prioritize growth initiatives? With this being such a hot topic board members, executives and the growth team itself all have ideas but how do you select the right ones?

  • DT

    Damilola T

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean, Thanks for doing this.
    Running a two-sided marketplace can be tricky (chicken and egg problem). What growth hacks have you done or seen that work well for a two-sided marketplace (in this case, a ride sharing platform )?

  • VG

    Vinish Garg

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean

    I have validated my product in the niche market. Most of the influencers whom I approached are its early users and they are talking positively about it. However, it is a classic case of masses and classes. Classes have accepted it but masses are slow to respond. Can you share some directions on how to build on this, to reach masses?

    Thanks
    - Vinish

  • AK

    Amey Kanade

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean, Thanks for doing this.

    Growth hacking principles discussed here and other forums in most cases revolve around software services - SaaS based, freemium models where providing incentives for customer acquisition is fairly simple. Can you give a few good examples of hardware brands (IoT) where you've seen growth principles being implemented with great success.

  • SS

    Simon Sylvest

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean
    What is your view on the "there are not silver bullets" argument = that because you will always be in a different market, with different customers at a different time, there is no point in studying growth-hacks of other companies?
    Thank you for you significant contribution to the environment
    /Simon

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      I actually think it's worth studying the growth tactics of other companies. I just don't think you can count on all of them working without some tweaking. Ultimately I get a lot of my best inspiration from what I see other people doing. The art is understanding why they work and combining elements from many in a way that will work for your business.

  • SP

    Simone Pereira

    over 1 year ago #

    Have you ever had insights from a survey shaping your growth hacking strategies? If yes, please share an example

  • NS

    Niti Shree

    over 1 year ago #

    What are the key things to keep in mind while designing the growth hacks?

  • BG

    Bernardo Gago

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for doing this AMA!

    I am feeling slightly defeated about my website's slow revenue growth, which I launched in July 2012. Based on the data I've collected, I have good CLTV figures, good retention, and my customer acquisition costs are decent (can most likely lower with some adjustments).

    Here is a quick break out of my yearly revenue so far:

    Launched: July 2012: $5K
    2013: $45K
    2014: $100K
    2015: $165K (estimating)

    I put all my free time into this website. This is a side business for me as of now but my goal is to have this be my full-time job. At $165K there is not enough left over to pay myself a salary at this point. I need to reach at least $500K-$1M in revenue, but at the current pace it seems like I never will.

    How can I increase my website revenue growth at a faster rate using more growth strategies instead of mainly relying on "paid advertising" methods?

    I'm in the process of trying to integrate some "viral referral loops" into my website to see if this hopefully helps my website get more exposure and grow.

    I'm constantly researching different ways to grow my website from SEO, email marketing, guest posting, social media marketing, press releases, etc. but nothing seems to really move the needle fast enough to allow me to really close the gap between me and my more successful competitors.

    Thank you!

    A "slow revenue growth" founder :)

  • JO

    JP Obbagy

    over 1 year ago #

    What are your "hit the ground running" suggestions for a SaaS product that targets SMBs and is being developed from a successful on-prem enterprise solution? Basically, it's a product that requires a significant amount of data to solve a complex problem. There's little/no online marketing presence. Product has disruptive capabilities with the cost savings and efficiencies, but am trying to determine best approach to getting users and onboarding. Thanks.

  • JM

    James Meincke

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean!

    When should an early-stage bootstrapping startup invest in inbound marketing/automation software?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      If you're very early stage you might qualify for deeply discounted programs with some of the inbound marketing automation programs. I believe Hubspot has a program. @dharmesh any information that you can share on this?

      Otherwise for a very early stage bootstrapping company, I would wait until you have reasonably good sales volume (assuming you're B2B). If you're B2C, it would be a long time if ever before I'd recommend investing in inbound marketing automation software.

  • CW

    Carl Wirth

    over 1 year ago #

    What can a one man company start to do to move into the market?

  • KS

    Kamil Szybalski

    over 1 year ago #

    Sean, if you had a product that had a few thousand loyal monthly users but you need to scale new user growth very rapidly (10-20%) month over month, what would be your strategy?

  • SB

    Sam Beaudin

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean,
    Appreciate all of the tactical responses to others questions! This one is a bit different: When hiring for Growth, what characteristics do you look for? How do you weigh experience vs technical sophistication vs just having a 'good head on their shoulders'? Are there particular occupations or industries that you've seen produce good applicants/growth hackers (i.e.- maybe 2-year Goldman associates are strangely very good growth hackers because they're extremely quantitative and thorough in their analysis). Basically, I'd love to hear your thoughts on hiring for growth.

  • TS

    Terence Strong

    over 1 year ago #

    What are some good questions to ask customers in order to develop awesome content for them?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Could be as simple as asking "what would you like us to write about?" But generally I think you can get more useful guidance by asking them about their biggest challenges. When I was at LogMeIn, we found that one of our key B2B target markets actually had a challenge with marketing. While our product had nothing to do with marketing, the more they grew the more demand they had for our product. So we recruited our fastest growing customer to do webinars with us about how they were growing. We did the webinars with 3rd party publishers and set attendance records because there was so much demand for that content.

  • MS

    Mj Salvato

    over 1 year ago #

    In your opinion who are the 3 top VC knowledgable in the digital/ad tech/mar tech space?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      I'm actually not sure, but I'd have to put @kobiefuller on the list since he created GrowthVerse. Jim Goetz from Sequoia would probably be on this list as well since we led investments in both Hubspot and Admob. From there, my recommendation would be to just search crunchbase for the lead investors in the big adtech or martech companies and see what else they invested in. Here's an example of someone who has a few big wins in Martech https://www.crunchbase.com/person/lawrence-bohn

  • SS

    Sean Si

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for this AMA. Just one simple question: How do you feel about the rise of SaaS companies this year? The rise of competitors are inevitable - what's the biggest advise you can give to hedge your product/company against being beaten by these disruptive new startups?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi @seohacker - I think competition is always a risk in technology. Especially if you weigh it against the challenges of reaching product market fit. It's easier to out-execute someone who has proven a market than it is to create a new market.

      So ultimately for any business I think you need to start building in layers of defensibility as soon as you create a business. Network effect businesses are probably the most defensible. For example it would be really hard for someone to create an auction marketplace that would challenge eBay. So I think the right move for most SaaS businesses is to think about how they can layer network effects on top of their business.

      That's really what I'm trying to do with GrowthHackers. We built our community first and then started building our SaaS solution that will integrate into the community. It's in private Beta now, but it will become evident soon how it all fits together. You're starting to see this with a lot of SaaS solutions. Here's a great discussion about some of them https://growthhackers.com/articles/from-social-networks-to-market-networks/

  • MS

    Maria Sallis

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA.

    What do you recommend to new Growth Hackers trying to get their first growth project or job?

    Thanks!
    Maria

    2 Share
    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi @MariaSallis , I think there are a couple paths that you can take. One is that you could go deep in a new emerging channel. The benefit of this approach is that no one has much experience in that channel, so a lack of experience isn't really a disadvantage. Even channels that have been around for a while like Pinterest still have relatively few marketers that are really good at driving growth from them. Smart companies will work with a contracted specialist to explore a channel and only hire someone fulltime to manage the channel once it's proven. You can charge a premium as a consultant or use it as a gateway to become the person who manages that channel (if you can make it work). The downside with the approach is that your expertise will likely have a relatively short shelf life and then you'll need to learn a new channel.

      The alternative is to learn a skill that will likely remain valuable over time. There is already a big imbalance between demand for people who can manage a growth process and those who have the skill. These people are often called product managers of growth or growth masters. I think if you learn this skill there will be demand for it for a long time. And fortunately we have one of these people doing an AMA tomorrow on GrowthHackers, Julie Zhou (growth lead at Yik Yak). My recommendation is that you fire off a bunch of questions for her now. Here's the link to her AMA https://growthhackers.com/questions/ama-i-m-julie-zhou-growth-lead-at-yik-yak-ex-hipmunk-ex-google-author-at-practicalgrowth-co

      2 Share
  • RT

    Rajyavardhan Tater

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean, I've read your numerous articles and they are very insightful. Thanks.

    Can you recommend a good read/book on app installations?

  • OU

    OpenBooks.com Ula Zarosa

    over 1 year ago #

    How do you judge the impact of social media on the businesses you have run so far?
    When launching and introducing a startup can they help a lot or focusing to omuch on them can lead to waste of time and money?
    I am afraid that 10000 followers on Twitter does not convert successfully to visits & decision making on my startups website that maybe I put too much stock in social media?

  • ED

    Eric Dutil

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean! Thanks for taking the time out for this AMA.

    I'm wondering if you could share what your hacks are for generating really great content?

    Thanks!

  • EM

    Entrepreneur Mindset

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean, Thank you for your AMA here on GrowthHackers :-)

    Imagine the following example:

    - the product is like Paypal
    - target group is everyone, who buy on the internet
    - your CAC max = 1$

    Goals: 1) Largest volume (#)
    2) Lowest cost ($)
    3) Best-performing (%)
    >> 100 Mio. Users

    Question: What growthhacks would you recommend to grow as fast as possible in the first 6 Months?

    Thank you!

  • RR

    Raman Raman

    over 1 year ago #

    Thanks for hosting!

    What strategies would you recommend to help someone (me!) looking to grow a client base for executive/1:1 coaching (high ticket service)? This is a case where I am looking for a few dozen highly qualified clients, not 1000s of people on an email list.

    There seem to be so many options: write blogs, host webinars, attend networking events, etc. What have you seen as being most effective for you personally and/or your friends who are coaches/consultants?

    Thanks,

    Ravi

  • MO

    Maz Osman

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean, thank you for taking the time to do this AMA.

    Wanted to know your thoughts on best tactics to get attention of CMOs and CTOs of companies with 3M+ marketing budgets. We do marketing technology solutions for various clients on a vast types of projects.

    Personal connections and networking are quite effective, but can only last for so long.

    Do you recommend reaching out to CMOs & CTOs via where they'd hang online? if yes, then how?

    And would it be effective to try and see which events/conferences they'd attend and network with them there? or are there better methods?

    Thanks Sean.

  • AP

    Anthony Panepinto

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey @Sean

    Thanks for doing this AMA! I've got a couple questions:

    1. I've just launched a market place for booking venues - www.venuevortex.com, and I've successfully begun calling venues and on-boarding them for a free-trial. To truly provide value for them and get them to pay once the trial is up I need users, and the users need to send the venues requests through the site. What are the ideal marketing channels to target in this space?

    2. I've got mixpanel setup and some internal metrics tracking, what are the key metrics to track and optimize for this type of application?

    Thanks!!
    Anthony

  • AT

    Alan Treanor

    over 1 year ago #

    How important do you think it is to have a dedicated "growth" dev team? Why is growth different in needing a dedicated team vs. taking resources from a general pool?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi @ajit9 , sorry for the delay in getting an answer to you. There were a lot more questions than we expected! Regarding your question, I think every organization is going to be different. I would not recommend starting with dedicated growth engineers. I would start with a targeted number of experiments to launch per week and see where the bottlenecks are in getting those experiments executed. If you find that the main cause of not being able to launch experiments is lack of access to development resources, then I'd advocate dedicated resources. FWIW, this turns out to be the case at most companies.

  • TM

    Tyler MacDonald

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean!

    Starting a boutique web/media solutions shop without really much of a portfolio to work with. What advice would you give to acquire the first 20-100 customers? Who should be the initial target market?

    Thanks so much for your time!

  • MR

    Matt Restivo

    over 1 year ago #

    Sean! Thanks so much for doing this, we really appreciate it.

    Let's say you walked into a business like a boutique gym, where you are focused on selling classes to people.

    What tactics would you focus on to get more athletes in the door (activation), and keep people coming back (retention)?

    Follow up: are there tactics SEM tactics you would look to execute?

  • JH

    Justin Harris

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean,

    Hope you been well!

    Two questions for you:

    What metrics do you measure or look for when validating products in the their early stages?

    Where do you see the future of marketing and growth hacking going?

    Thanks Sean!

  • CT

    CR Thelin

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean, So many great questions in here that I have had on my mind. So let me ask you what are your top productivity apps?

  • JP

    jaideep poonia

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Sean,
    I am a great fan of your work.
    Currently, we have a free product which our end users (teachers) love but in many cases they have to take permission from the principals or the heads of the schools before they can start using it. Now going through the school will increase the sales cycle and it will take a lot of time to reach our end users.
    Should we start aligning our product according to the school and start charging for it (scaling will be very difficult and not-so-exciting) or we should try out different market segments such as college, tuition (it's a very big market in India) and hope that eventually school teachers will also start using it?

  • SW

    Stéfano Willig

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Sean, how are you? Thanks for the AMA! :)
    I have a small SaaS, we're starting to scale, getting 15 - 25 new paying clients each month, they are all coming because of the work I did with link building and SEO. Organic Search is the number 1 reason people come to our website. and ask for a trial. This is good because the CAC is lower then if I used CPC.
    But, I want to make AdWords work. I'm producing more content so that I can make we grow faster by the organic search channel and making other efforts, but I wanted to explore AdWords a bit. In Brazil, CPC is a lot lower than in the US, but all the AdWords campaign I did... failed. I already know the basics of AdWords, but it's clear to me that I'm missing something. Where would you start to find the mistakes I'm making in AdWords? Or maybe this is the path, throwing some money in the trash so I can negative the words and test it?
    I'm attracting a lot of bad clicks but I'm negativating the words bringing them... So this is a start. What else should I do? Do you know any free article or course that's good so I can make it? Any tips on it?
    Thanks! :)

  • RC

    Roman Chernomaz

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi, Sean
    We have a start up based on instagram, foursquare and maps features. Now it only shows content from instagram and twitter on the map...in real time. Our aim to add different types of entertainment businesses like concert halls, pubs, clubs, comedy clubs etc to show what's going on at this moment. We tried (for a week) to test our website - made an ad on Fb, proposing ordinary users to interact, but we failed. Now I think that we need, at first, to add as many businesses as possible for free, and ask them to use our referral program - they have to tell their customers, subscribers, visitors to use our service.
    Appreciate for any advice.
    p.s. sorry for mistakes, English is not my native language

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