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Ethan Garr is a mobile growth expert who specializes in training and coaching teams in best practices to accelerate their growth trajectories. He helps clients apply the principles of sustainable growth that have powered many of the world's fastest-growing mobile apps and businesses.

Previously, Garr co-invented and grew RoboKiller, the leading mobile utility app that led to TelTech’s 2018 acquisition by Interactive Corp. (NASDAQ: IAC). He was also instrumental in driving the success of TrapCall and TapeACall and has helped build growth cultures across teams and companies. His articles have been featured on ConversionXL and GrowthHackers.com, and he co-hosts The Breakout Growth Podcast with Sean Ellis (www.BreakoutGrowth.com). Garr has appeared on NBC Nightly News, ABC World News, and in the New York Times. 

Garr lives outside of New York City with his wife, daughter, and two crazy dogs.

Ask him anything related to:

- Principles of Sustainable Growth

- How teams win with OKRs and a North Star Metric

- Building a data-driven test/learn culture

- Structuring and leading growth

- Product led lessons B2B companies are taking from B2C

- Growth experimentation on mobile

Make sure that you follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

  • NM

    Natalie Mandriko

    14 days ago #

    Hey Ethan!
    1. What are the common challenges the organization faces when they are getting started with the growth initiatives? What are the remedies?
    2. What B2C techniques are the most common organization apply in B2B settings?

    3 Share
    • EG

      Ethan Garr

      9 days ago #

      Hey Natalie. Thanks for your questions.

      When you are getting started with growth initiatives here are some of the key challenges you may run into:

      1. Getting buy-in from key stakeholders to support the process
      2. Developing a common framework and language around growth
      3. Organizing around data limitations to drive fast learnings

      Starting points for overcoming these challenges:

      Getting buy-in: I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all approach to getting buy-in, but I do think proving out the process on a small scale can be impactful. For example, if you can show value to key stakeholders through a few smaller-scale experiments, and really explain how the success was accomplished using a systematic, data-driven methodology, you can start a dialogue around expanding and building a larger growth process.

      Developing a common framework: This I think starts with a company-wide conversation around how value is created for end-users. When you can build agreement around how your mission impacts the people you serve, then you can explain how a framework for growth can help everyone work together to realize the larger goals of the organization.

      Data limitations: This probably best starts with an audit of what tools and resources you are using and what skillsets exist within your organization. If you don’t have data analysts or data scientists on your team it may limit what hypotheses you can test today. It doesn’t mean you can’t get started it just means you may have to prioritize around the limitations so that you can get valuable learnings.

      None of these should prevent you from getting started. Growth processes always are works in progress.

  • RP

    Romaine Piper

    14 days ago #

    Hey Ethan! It's great that you're doing this.

    1) What are your thoughts on the increasing competition within the B2B space, being that it normally has more creative restrictions than B2C? I assume you'll back doubling down on channels that are already working and scale down testing new ones? And which channels you'd recommend for sustainable growth (B2C and B2B)?

    2) Do you expect the whirlwind of advertising privacy issues to hit the B2B space as hard as it will B2C? Do you think that the researchers, assistants or even founders themselves care that they're data are being used to remarket ads showcasing a B2B product to them (not like they use their work related accounts much outside of work like for consuming entertainment content)?

    3) Any thoughts on how to deal with the current data tracking changes? Navigating GA4 and the upcoming FLoC? Any special analytics software you recommend to replace current tools?

    4) What's the most difficult experience you've had as a growth trainer and coach?

    3 Share
  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    11 days ago #

    Hey Ethan - so cool to finally have see you on here!

    I'm interested in your perspective on a couple of things:

    1. The first things about growth I learned from Sean, you etc were about the importance of the NSM, aha moments, retention, the experimentation cycle etc.
    I'd say that the first few years of my growth career were about developing competency around these areas most (while being a generalist who can find my way around other related things).

    For someone who's been at growth for 4-6 years:
    a. What do you think someone should be exceptional at after this amount of time.
    b. What is next that you think is/are a non-negotiable(s) skills that someone has to (learn to) be excellent at over the next few years and why?

    2. One big mistake I find with teams that are just at/post-PM fit is not understanding how to build a repeatable system for acquisition in at least one channel before pouring gas on growth.
    How would you go about understanding/quantifying that the team has indeed learned how to do this?

    3 Share
    • EG

      Ethan Garr

      9 days ago #

      Hey Anuj!

      I am always a little leery about saying you should be exceptional in one discipline or another because I don’t find growth from one business to another to be static. Some companies need people who are really skilled in one area that another company may not. But there are things that I think after 4 - 6 years in growth you should strive to be really great at. Here are a few:

      1. Optimizing your own growth process. It’s hard to get the testing flywheel going, but keeping it going, and making it constantly valuable is a never-ending process. Growth leaders should be awesome at systematically optimizing the process so that it continues to work to accelerate outcomes.

      2. Bringing data into experimentation from end to end. I think one of the biggest mistakes companies make is having a data team there simply to analyze results. Effective growth leaders work to make data part of the process from the ideas and prioritization stage, through the experiment and analysis stages.

      3. Teaching everyone their role in growth. This was the most important advice Sean Ellis gave me when I started my tenure at TelTech. Helping everyone understand how their contribution to the business moves the North Star Metric helps break down silos and helps get teams working towards a common goal

      In terms of part b of your question, I think you have to become proficient in using data to drive outcomes. I don’t think that is negotiable anymore. This doesn’t mean everyone has to be a data analyst, but you need to be able to use analytics tools to answer questions, you need to understand concepts like confidence intervals, and you need to be able to “speak in data” with your team.

    • EG

      Ethan Garr

      9 days ago #

      As for question 2, Pouring gas on growth before you are ready is definitely a common and awful mistake to make. Identifying one channel that you can scale is critical and I think that discipline starts with working from a growth hypothesis forward. The growth hacking methodology is built on experimentation, and experiments start with good hypotheses.

      When you look to test a channel you need to have an honest view of what success looks like, and a model for how that success will contribute to growth in the short, medium, and long term. It’s also important to think about how that channel will change over time. For example, a single paid ad channel could get more expensive and therefore become ineffective so you have to build that into your model.

      So I think the key, Anuj, is to lay out a clear growth hypothesis and prove that the channel is valuable and scalable before you light the match.

  • KW

    Ken Wimberly

    10 days ago #

    Excited for this one, Ethan!

    Two questions for you.

    1) When hiring your first dedicated "growth lead" to a team, what are the non-negotiables you are looking for?

    2) For a small(er) startup company, what does the ideal "Growth Team" look like?

    3 Share
    • EG

      Ethan Garr

      9 days ago #

      Hey Ken,

      Hiring your first growth lead is exciting. I worry about “non-negotiables,” because my greatest success in terms of growth leadership was at TelTech, where the two founders took a chance on me (I had been out of tech for a while and didn’t have mobile experience). I am glad they didn’t have or at least didn't stick to “non-negotiables” in the hiring process, and I am glad it worked out. Together we created the breakout growth success story of RoboKiller and other mobile apps. So, yes there are key things you should be looking for, but I would approach each candidate with an open mind.

      A great growth lead has a combination of tenacity, enthusiasm, and curiosity paired with a passion for data-driven learning, experimentation, and process. A few areas I would focus on:

      - Demonstrated ability to lead teams
      - Experience using data to drive decisions
      - A clear process for prioritizing ideas
      - Passion for learning and a natural curiosity
      - A history of applying creative solutions to solve problems

      To your second question, the ideal growth team is going to depend on your growth stage, industry, etc. For a mobile app developer that might include a product owner, designer, and a front-end and back-end developer as a starting point, but it could certainly include a marketing lead and a data analyst if you have those resources available. In reality, most early-stage teams don’t have all of the people on board they will need, and individuals play multiple roles to achieve the goals.

      My best recommendation is not to let the lack of resources slow you down. Go to war with the weapons you have, not the ones you wish you have. Teammates will step up if they feel you will give them the room to make mistakes and grow.

      Fortunately, the growth process is great at exposing the resources you need. When we started to build more complex experiments and realized we didn’t have the data expertise to prove or disprove our hypotheses we knew who we needed to hire next to be successful!

  • JP

    Jagdish Parmar

    5 days ago #

    Thank you all for question and thank you @Ethan Garr answering, I got much knowledge form it

  • GN

    Gustavo Nunes

    23 days ago #

    Hey Ethan! Thanks for accepting our invite. I have three questions for you:

    1) Do you think B2B SaaS products can use a lot of the B2C techniques to grow although the buyer personas are generally more complex (several decision-makers vs. single decision-maker)? What are some product-led lessons B2B companies are taking from B2C that you can share with us?

    2) As a growth trainer and coach what are the biggest miss concepts about the growth hacking methodology that you hear when working with a new client?

    3) If you could only recommend three episodes of your podcast for us to listen to, which ones would you recommend?

    1 Share
    • EG

      Ethan Garr

      9 days ago #

      Asking me to only recommend three episodes of The Breakout Growth Podcast is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child, but I will try:

      wTips for Building a Rocketship from Canva’s Former Head of Product was our interview with Georgia Vidler. Georgia has experience in product, marketing, and growth so it is a really insightful episode with very practical and applicable advice.

      From Onboarding to Healthy Habits, Noom's Growth is Powered by Psychology. We interviewed Co-founder and President, Artem Petakov, and got a master’s class in building mission-driven breakout growth success.

      Blinkist CEO Shares How Two Key Inflection Points Led to Breakout Growth. CEO Holger Seim went deep with us on how paid acquisition and Word of Mouth power growth, and he was just brutally transparent in sharing successes and failures.

      Our next couple of episodes I think will also really excite the GH audience. We will be talking about new opportunities in TV advertising and catching up with the Chief Revenue Officer of a company everyone knows.

    • EG

      Ethan Garr

      9 days ago #

      Hey Gustavo, thanks so much for the opportunity, it is great to be here with the GH community.

      B2B SaaS products can learn a lot from their counterparts in the world of B2C. The principles of sustainable growth that Sean Ellis and I have identified apply across industries. Whether it is the importance of dialing in product/market fit, aligning teams with a shared mission and a North Star Metric, or building brand awareness through brand experiences, these concepts always serve as the building blocks for success.

      When we dove into the world of B2B in our article, The New B2B Growth Playbook, we found that some of the worlds-fastest growing B2B companies are winning with product-led approaches inspired by B2C practices. Freemium and free trials are becoming more commonplace, and B2B companies are finding these to be super-effective in building relationships from the bottom-up to the decision-makers.

      For example, Miro’s collaborative whiteboards might be employed by a product designer using a free board to engage with a small product team, but as that user engages with other stakeholders the service's value value permeates throughout the organization, eventually becoming a must-have within the organization. We see this with Slack and others, and I think that trend will only grow.

    • EG

      Ethan Garr

      9 days ago #

      To question 2, "As a growth trainer and coach what are the biggest miss concepts about the growth hacking methodology that you hear when working with a new client?"

      Fortunately, I think as time has gone by less people have the gross misconception that the growth hacking methodology is about “hacks” or silver bullets that magically take you from zero to hero.

      What I do see when I go into training and coaching engagements is misunderstandings about what is needed to effectively support the process. Companies I have worked with sometimes look at growth as something “in addition” to the existing business.

      What I try to do is help teams understand that building a growth culture is a team sport that begins with a fundamental understanding of how we as a business create value. From there it is about building a systematic approach to accelerating growth by amplifying that value throughout your addressable market.

  • PC

    Pedro Clivati

    12 days ago #

    Hey, Ethan - thank you for this.

    1) How would you go about figuring out a Service-based company North Star Metric? For example, a marketing agency or a venture capital firm.

    2) How does the stage of a startup impacts their growth strategy? For example, an early-stage vs traction stage vs expansion stage?

    1 Share
    • EG

      Ethan Garr

      9 days ago #

      Hey Pedro, great question.

      I think the key to finding a good North Star Metric is to not focus on the metric itself but to instead start with how and why the organization creates value for others. Service-based businesses help their clients achieve specific goals. Asking yourself questions like why is achieving that goal important, why does our service matter to their success, etc. is a great first step.

      When you really understand how the work you do creates value for your clients you can put the mission in focus. Then finding a metric that measures progress towards that mission becomes easier.

      For your venture capital firm example, perhaps as you ask those questions you might find that the mission of the firm is to provide an ecosystem where founders are best positioned for success because of the support you provide through collaborative relationships. From there the team may look for a North Star Metric that focuses on driving those collaborative relationships. Something like “Weekly Quality Introductions”.

    • EG

      Ethan Garr

      9 days ago #

      In terms of your second question, I think that understanding the startup stage you are at is super-important to your growth strategy.

      If you are pre-product/market fit your growth strategy should be about one thing and one thing only . . . finding product/market fit. To me, everything else is a distraction. At this stage, you are figuring out how your product or service creates value for end-users, so you have to work relentlessly to prove out a value hypothesis before you move into growth mode.

      Transitioning to growth can be difficult as you build out teams, begin testing new acquisition channels, and build out your test/learn processes. This is when I think teams can really benefit from developing processes around a North Star Metric (and potentially by implementing OKRs). I talk about this extensively in this article, wHow to Win with OKRs and a North Star Metric

      When you reach the expansion stage, the growth mindset and growth culture you develop drives sustainable growth. Fast-growing companies need everyone pulling in the same direction, and it becomes increasingly important (especially as you hire new people), that everyone has a clear understanding of where the company is going, and why and how their individual role in growth matters.

      One of the things I love about hosting The Breakout Growth podcast is digging into growth strategy with leaders in this expansion stage. Our conversations with Hugo Periera of EVBox and Ferdinand Goetzen of 3D Hubs for example shed a lot of great light in this area.

  • AR

    Aymée Reis

    12 days ago #

    Hi Ethan. Thanks for doing this AMA for the community.

    1) How much emphasis is put on customer retention in regards to your growth strategy? Is acquisition more important, or does retention take the front seat?

    2) Experimentation and iteration constitute the foundation of growth hacking. What are some of the services/platforms/companies that you have learned from in your ongoing journey and what are some of the key lessons that you've learned from them?

    1 Share
    • EG

      Ethan Garr

      9 days ago #

      Hi Aymee, thanks for your question, I think it is a really important one.

      I don’t think there is a hierarchy between acquisition and retention. A growth engine depends on all of its components working together to accelerate the North Star Metric. So while I do believe in focusing experimentation on specific areas of the funnel for a given time period, I would pick which area to emphasize based on the specific challenges the organization is trying to overcome at that time.

      On The Breakout Growth Podcastwe spoke with Maria Thomas, Buffer’s Chief Product Officer and she explained the importance of having Product and Marketing leads in constant, daily communication with each other. Her point was that acquisition and retention depend on each other. If your acquisition efforts promise an experience, your product has to deliver on that experience to drive retention, so everything is tightly coupled. When these teams become siloed, it is really easy for things to go off the rails.

      To your second question, “what are some of the services/platforms/companies I have learned from in my journey . . .,” Where do I begin!

      Last year I took the GoPractice growth simulator course which was super-valuable. I like hands-on learning, so the format worked well for me (in the course you take on the role of a growth analyst within a mobile app startup). It really sharpened my data skills, and because it uses Amplitude in the process I was able to become more adept at using analytics tools to view, understand, and make better data-driven decisions. They just published a Skills Assessment Test and I think it is a great way to see where you are strong and where you can improve.

      Using Amplitude and Mixpanel with clients has also been very helpful for me. Both of those companies have generated high-quality content that I think anybody in growth, product, or marketing can learn from.

      As a mobile guy, I think AppAnnie and SensorTower are two really valuable tools. They provide really good insight into the app market as a whole and help you to identify trends to power your own growth.

  • RF

    Ricardo Françoso

    12 days ago #

    Hi Ethan! I hope that you're doing well.

    I have 3 questions for you:

    1) How do you split your time between coaching/leading your clients and executing on your own growth projects? What tips do you have on how to find the right balance between the two?

    2) What are some mistakes people should avoid when experimenting?

    3) What are some key indicators that something is not working? And how quickly do you change direction?

    1 Share
    • EG

      Ethan Garr

      9 days ago #

      Hey Ricardo,

      Let’s work backwards on your questions starting with what are the key indicators that something is not working?

      When we introduced the growth hacking methodology at TelTech (where I formerly led Product-marketing) we were excited to jump into high-tempo testing, so we dove in head-first trying to get a lot of experiments into the queue. Unfortunately, our hypotheses weren’t laying out clearly measurable expectations, we weren’t ensuring that we had the instrumentation to measure success, and we were setting ourselves up for failure.

      A few things happen when you are in that situation: experiments break down and you fail to get answers, and/or you start to create narratives of success based on guesses instead of facts. So I think the key indicators that things are not working are that your experiments are failing to confirm or disprove hypotheses, you are struggling to prioritize new tests based on learnings, and to the second part of your question, you don’t know when to change directions.

      We course-corrected quickly, and fortunately were able to churn out some really great successes, but the way to avoid these mistakes is to focus on high-quality testing first before trying to expand.

      Some tips for that include:
      - Ensure hypotheses have a quantifiable expectation for success
      - Check that you have the resources to accurately measure the experiment KPIs
      - Understand how big a sample you will need and how long it will take to get a result
      - Think through dependencies that might impact your results
      - Make sure there is a clear understanding of how success would positively impact your NSM

      I think within that answer I covered a lot of your second question, “What are some mistakes people should avoid when experimenting?” but I have also written an article exactly on that topic titled, How to Ruin an Experiment

  • AA

    A S A D

    11 days ago #

    How do you split your time between coaching/leading your clients and executing on your own growth projects? What tips do you have on how to find the right balance between the two?

  • SM

    Steve hendry M

    9 days ago #

    What is the common challenges faced by a startup while launching their online business venture?

  • EG

    Ethan Garr

    9 days ago #

    Thank you so much to everyone who participated today. Your thoughtful questions have made this a lot of fun, and I hope the answers prove valuable for you as you drive growth within your organizations.

    There are a couple of questions I didn't have time to get to, but I will try to respond in the next few days to those and any additional questions/responses that come up.

    If you have any specific questions I can help you with feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or on Twitter @ethanmgarr

    You can also request a meeting with me, listen to our podcast, and read articles Sean Ellis and I publish on our BreakoutGrowth website


  • YB

    Yonathan Beltran

    3 days ago #

    Hi Ethan, I'm brand new to GH.

    I would like you to tell me some examples of experimentation, how is it conducted? What do I experiment with, the website? and....

    I come from a marketing background and would like to know if this can help me be a good GH. What skills should I develop to be an excellent GH?