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Jason* has spent the last three years building out and scaling the growth hacking discipline at IBM, along with running several winning, multi-million dollar experiments within IBM product experiences. He has been an data-driven marketer working with startups, SMBs, and enterprises for over a decade.

At IBM, Jason was one of the first growth hackers hired when the company began to explore the daunting task of incorporating growth at one of the largest and oldest technology companies in the world. From a team that began with two growth hackers, IBM has seen growth as a concept expand and scale into a discipline now in daily use by over 20 product and functional teams, and 150+ practitioners. Between partnering with forward-thinking teams to run experiments, constant internal and external evangelism, and working to build an agile and flexible growth hacking technology stack, Jason is one of IBM's true pioneers and advocates for growth hacking. 

Before IBM, Jason spent 10 years in digital marketing, taking an analytical, inbound approach to transforming and growing brands and businesses ranging from startup to enterprise; as an internal expert, agency lead, freelancer, and consultant. He is based in New York and he and his wife have five children...all under 10 years old!   

*Jason is speaking at the #GHConf19 stage.

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    4 months ago #

    Hey Jason!

    So awesome to finally get you here for an AMA. :) I could ask countless questions, but I'll sum it up in 3.

    1. What does the growth process look like for IBM products?
    2. What has been your most successful strategy (or top 3) in getting people involved in the growth process?
    3. How do you balance such a demanding role with your personal life? Any habits you contribute to your performance?

    Can't wait to read your answers.

    Cheers!
    Dani

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hi Dani -- great to hear from you and follow all the great growth things you're doing :)

      1. Generally, growth for IBM product/offering teams involves an enablement engagement. A growth strategist such as myself will evaluate a product through an evaluation call/meeting with key stakeholders to understand pain points, key metrics, pre-existing experiment ideas, and more. If we believe there's a fit we move right into a 6-week/3-sprint program that allows us to objectively explore and analyze their user journey both quantitatively and qualitatively, arrive on a series of experiment ideas, organize a small growth team for ongoing execution, train that team on the tools within our growth stack, then we experiment live along side them. By the end of the six weeks they are actively experiment independently, and that drives them forward to do so perpetually.

      5 Share
      • JB

        Jason Barbato

        4 months ago #

        2. Getting people involved takes on many forms, but is mostly focused on elevating our largest experiment wins/successes, evangelizing the value of growth within IBM through content and case studies, and being open/receptive to any engagement that comes our way; much like a startup. We've considered the evolution of growth hacking within IBM to be our own startup.

        5 Share
      • JB

        Jason Barbato

        4 months ago #

        3. I'd say for me first and foremost it has been all about entrepreneurial spirit. Growth at IBM is my business. So with that comes flexibility and patience -- both in the engagements we take on, and my personal life. With five kids at home work is a nice diversion so it's not hard for me to be motivated. Also, IBM allows me to balance office time and remote/home office time so when I need a mental break I can step away to exercise, walk the dog, run an errand, etc. to regain my mojo.

        5 Share
  • KG

    Kieran Goodacre

    4 months ago #

    Hi Jason,

    What an interesting career you've had to date.

    What advice can you give to a person wanting to instil a growth culture within an organisation that doesn't explicitly have one yet? (but is still successful)

    How do you handle inter-departmental conflicts/rivalries? (marketing, product, engineering etc)

    Your favourite reading sources for growth?

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      2. As you might imagine IBM is heavily matrixed and most people maintain focus on their own accountabilities. The statement I've used countless times when pitching our work to new teams and individuals is, "we are here to enhance and advance what you're already doing." It's not to expose or implicate flaws in your personal work or your product journey. You can enhance this pitch by elevating and showcasing meaningful work you've done for other teams. Real-life case studies go a long way.

      3 Share
    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hello Kieran, great to connect!

      1. I'll echo my statement above to Dani: entrepreneurial spirit and making a growth culture your personal business to grow within your organization is essential. Never turn away an opportunity. Share every project and learning (good or bad) in as many places within your org as you can, and of course elevate the heck out of the big winners.

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      3. I read many blogs and always have a book in progress. Right now I'm reading "Contagious" by Jonah Berger and books like Growth Hacker Marketing (Ryan Holiday) and Hacking Growth (Sean Ellis / Morgan Brown) have helped me transition from a traditional digital marketer into a growth hacker.

      On the blog side, I love Conversion Sciences, Brian Balfour, HubSpot, Usability Geeks, KlientBoost, ClickZ, Marketing Watch, and many others.

  • EC

    Emília Chagas

    4 months ago #

    Hey Jason, thank you for doing this AMA! I have two questions:

    1. The first one is regarding your incredible track record: the experimentation methodology you implemented brought +$600k in revenue in 2017 and +$12M in 2018! What changed from one year to the other in terms of volume of tests, number of teams engaged and overall learnings?
    2. How do you prioritize your growth efforts: how do you know what to test and what to scale?

    Looking forward to your talk at #GHCONF19!

    4 Share
    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hi Emilia -- thanks for this opp, so excited to be here (and see you soon in SF)!

      1. Easy answer on this one: SCALE. The smaller wins in 2017 elevated our internal brand around IBM, got more people's attention, time, investments and resources, and led to many more project and experiment opportunities in 2018 -- some of which led to what I call "experiments of magnitude," those big, home run hacks that have made IBM millions and made our users happier as they use our products and services.

      3 Share
    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      2. Prioritization is something I liken to sales. There is an inbound and outbound aspect at IBM -- sometimes product teams approach us, and sometimes we find something compelling and approach them. Then, we look at growth potential -- metrics like number of users, amount of usage, revenue history and trajectory, and general volume to top-of-funnel channels. Then, as important, there's the aspect of our growth stack. Any project we take on requires the product team to have proper instrumentation/integration with all of our core tools; it's a pre-requisite.

      3 Share
  • PC

    Pedro Clivati

    4 months ago #

    Jason - awesome to see you here and excited to see you on stage at #GrowthHackersConf19.

    You probably hear this a lot, but my question goes around how did you manage to deploy the Growth Hacking mindset and methodology at an organization the size and age of IBM - any tips for other GHackers willing to do that same?

    Tks a lot!

    3 Share
    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hi Pedro! Always enjoy our 1/1 meetings and thanks for the question.

      My answer for you has come out in those prior -- entrepreneurial spirit, evangelism, and going to great lengths to elevate and showcase successful hacks and projects. You have to believe in what you're doing as a growth practitioner, leverage your expertise, and be very deliberate, outgoing, and flexible with your approach to scaling out.

      4 Share
  • AF

    Alexandre Ferrari

    4 months ago #

    Hi Jason!

    Thinking here about the mindset challenges of big companies have at implementing a proper growth strategy. Normally at corporations, efforts are not experiment-based or even data-driven. In some contexts may be the "old-school marketing works fine" until now. In these companies, what do you think that is the main mindset challenge for their directors when looking to implement a growth strategy?

    Working w/ Unilever for a while and our growth teams are normally responsible for validating new business opportunities and create their first growth foundations. At IBM, there's also this association? Looking forward to this, what you think is the main fit for big companies to implement growth efforts?

    Thank you so much!
    Best,
    Ale

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hello, Ale -- great to connect!

      1. So true what you say about the old-school mentality. Set-it-and-forget-it. I think that the evolution of digital marketing puts so much more data at a marketer's fingertips that you're doing your organization a disservice if you don't capitalize on this depth of information. Sometimes it takes one new insight you hadn't discovered, and turning it into meaningful results, that flips that old-school mentality on its head. But someone has to reveal the power of this data to these marketing leaders (and the ease at which you can obtain and analyze it).

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      2. I wouldn't say growth directly influences new business opps at IBM; though we do partner directly with sales teams to enhance and optimize their process. We're most focused on acquisition and retention of individual users attached to IBM new business accounts.

      I think for big companies in general growth practice adds agility, adds value to available data, and disrupts the norm. On its own, as it has at IBM, it's a mindset change that forces people to look at the whole journey, and every element and individual aspect of it through a data-driven lens -- then test the resulting hypotheses. These aspects alone make it a useful (and scalable) fit.

      2 Share
  • AS

    Alanna Sousa

    4 months ago #

    Hi Jason,

    It's a pleasure to have you here. Thank you for your time!

    I've got a couple of questions for you:

    1)Why work with growth? How did you build this path?

    2)How does IBM manage all the info around testing ideas from these almost 200 people?

    Looking forward to meeting you at the #GHConf19.

    Cheers,
    Alanna

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      2. We have a formal "growth stack." There's a standard analytics tool, messaging tool, project management tool, A/B testing tool, etc. Our enablement program moves product teams through understanding growth theory, and into actively using these tools and experimenting; including a platform (your NorthStar platform, actually) that gives users the liberty to log ANY idea they arrive on -- whether during a lunch or water cooler conversation, in the office elevator, laying in bed, anywhere -- inside the Ideas section so it is never lost or forgotten. All ideas are fair game and we have a place to capture them!

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hi Alanna. It's been great working with you on this :)

      1. Why growth? Because it's agile, disruptive, and extremely different from fundamental marketing. I had been a "traditional" marketer for 10+ years before coming to IBM and I didn't really understand the difference in growth hacking myself at the time. I found out quickly it was simply a different application of my analytical approach; the coolest part of it being that I wasn't doing the typical fundamentals such as SEO, social, SEM, blogging, etc. that I was used to but provided me a platform to ideate, try crazy things, and take risks I normally couldn't in a traditional role.

      2 Share
  • CT

    Camilo Tamayo

    4 months ago #

    I'm a Digital Marketer, before I was a front end web developer... What I need to learn to begin to be a Growth Hacker?

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hello Camilo -- great to connect!

      I'd say you have an immediate advantage with your dev background, as you can code. That's a HUGE asset to growth hacking! Combine that with your current digital marketing role and I'd say all that's left to becoming a growth hacker (which in itself has multiple definitions) is increasing your value and appetite for data, building up an analytical mindset, and being comfortable with being creative and disruptive within the space you work in. It's time to break away from the fundamentals and test like crazy!

      Good luck and feel free to reach out with further questions...

      2 Share
  • GR

    Growth Rockstars

    4 months ago #

    As a husband of three and in the same field, how do you balance work/life and arrange all family things etc.

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hi. As I mentioned prior, my entrepreneurial spirit creates my drive. I don't mind wearing many hats at work, and at home. The most important thing, which I'm appreciative to IBM for, is trust, space, and flexibility. When I need a mental break or a diversion -- from work or from home life -- I have that luxury. For example, and my IBM colleagues can attest, I do a lot of "heads down" work at night, after my family has gone to bed. SUPER productive time. But you have to go into it with flexibility and anticipate some give-and-take.

    • DF

      Daniel Foster

      4 months ago #

      Do the three know about each other? ;)

  • DF

    Daniel Foster

    4 months ago #

    What role do technology integrations with other vendors play in fueling growth within the IBM ecosystem? Is that something you have explored?

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hi Daniel. Great to connect. I've touched on this a bit today.

      We wouldn't be here without our ability to replace or supplement legacy IBM systems and tools with ones we not only need to growth hack effectively, but also innovate and accelerate capabilities across IBM. We have individuals on a partnering team who ONLY job is to explore vendors, tools, and improve our stack.

      I can think of at least five tools the growth hackers at IBM use daily that were not in place three years ago when I joined the org. In other words, it's essential!

  • OJ

    Oscar Jaime

    4 months ago #

    What is the biggest challenge to apply GH in latin american companies?

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hello Oscar, great to connect!

      This is a tough one, as our growth work at IBM has been fairly geography-agnostic. I've run hacks in Australia, the US, UK, India, and seen some of that work scale and standardize in 100+ other geographies and countries.

      I tell you this because other than language, I don't find there to any other barriers in terms of geographic location. But perhaps that a luxury of working at a global enterprise. Growth hacking can be applied globally with the right infrastructure :)

  • SF

    Sergio Fuentealba

    4 months ago #

    Hi Jason, congrats for your career. My question: what about the growth engine between HW and SW products in IBM differences? Any tips to see the one path or two ones? I’m looking for hardware product growth options and efforts. Thanks a lot.

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hello Sergio, great to connect! Thanks for the congrats.

      As you might expect, in-product hacking is more difficult with local or on-prem products vs. digital/software offerings. At the same time, we're only able to do what we do at IBM on either side (HW or SW) thanks to that same advanced stack of tools. Our core data platform integrates with both, so we can quickly and easily analyze and pull insights in either place, and then hypothesize and experiment.

      I'd say plan to have more patience with hardware, and anticipate more resource requirement with hardware. But my short answer is to find growth hacking tools that are flexible to both!

  • AB

    Anna Belous

    4 months ago #

    What is the planning process in your team?

    • JB

      Jason Barbato

      4 months ago #

      Hi Anna, great to connect!

      We take an extremely agile approach at IBM, which in itself is not the norm (but we're adopting overall). Our enablement program is sprint-based, two weeks per sprint with weekly or daily standups depending on the project or engagement and a playback or readout of progress, learnings, what's up next at the end of each sprint. That allows us to plan, execute, and reflect in small bites.

      Most of the time, in our current model, this agile approach supports a larger project or engagement with a formal process and clear scope including timeline, objectives, KPIs, contributors, commitments, and dependencies.

      Then, as a growth team we also meet weekly to address provide progress reports, share experiences, handle any escalations and blockers, etc. among only the growth hackers. It sounds like a lot of process and meetings, but we've already "hacked" it down through our own process and work.

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