Leave a comment
Get the GH Bookmarklet

AMAs

Barron Ernst is the Senior Director of Mobile and Growth for Naspers. Naspers (JSE: NPN) is a multinational global platform operator with principal operations in Internet services (focusing on e-commerce), pay-TV and print media, with assets spread across Eastern and Central Europe, China, Russia, Latin America, India, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Naspers also owns minority interests in two listed, integrated social network platforms: Tencent (China) and Mail.ru (Russia). In this role, he serves as a product, growth, and marketing advisor to the Naspers portfolio of companies. He's also the interim Chief Product Officer for their Showmax product, which is an SVOD offering that's bringing 10000+ hours of on-demand video to South Africa.

Prior to Naspers, Barron ran email marketing, personalization, and growth for One Kings Lane 2014-2015. While there, he re-platformed the entire email system which resulted in 50% more registrations within 3 months for a relatively mature business. This also increased email open and CTRs in a channel that had been declining previously andultimately generated 10s of millions in revenue growth for the business.

Before that, he ran monetization, acquisition, and the mobile team at IMVU from 2009-2011. During that time, the business grew from 20-50mm annual revenue. 

He was also VP of product for a small startup called Rewarder (2012-2013), a marketplace connecting consumers with home, auto, travel, and technology questions with a network of experts who could help. 

He will be live on Jan 5th starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours, during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    7 months ago #

    Hi Barron - thanks for joining your experience is epic.

    So my question are:

    - How much has the original 'lean methodology' implemented at IMVU had to change to keep up with current trends or has it and does it continue to withstand all the tests of time?
    - Do you think international mobile design will pose significant cultural differences e.g. mobile usage in China (WeChat) and do you expect this to homogenise?

    Any input would be amazing!

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Thanks Edward!

      IMVU and Lean Startup

      I joined IMVU just as the lean startup movement was starting outside of the company, so it was certainly an exciting and interesting time to be there. Some of the key things that I learned at IMVU that I still think are incredibly relevant:

      - Start with a hypothesis and then come up with the simplest way to test that hypothesis that minimizes development effort to get maximum result.

      IMVU was the first company I'd worked at (this is back in 2009, so at the time was less common and prior to solutions like Optimizely) that had a fully built out internal A/B testing infrastructure that could essentially give the product management team the capability to create tests, turn them on/off, and then get a full suite of analytics down to regression analysis of key metrics within retention and usage to make key decisions about tests. This meant that the internal company culture was all about hypothesis-driven development creating the basis for many of the large improvements that we saw in the business

      - One of the things that Lean Startup did well early that I also think is a key growth concept is the realization that a product without customers is not a business. This isn't necessarily surprising, but when you look at how product development has changed over the years, considering your growth and traction channels has become a key part of early product and business strategy and not something that the marketing team does after the fact. This was one of the key principles that Lean Startup had thought through by validating concepts with customers to ensure that there was actual product-market fit before spending a lot of money on acquiring users.

      - Another impressive part of IMVU was that they had a true continuous deployment framework at the company, meaning any code could be shipped at any time. While this is more commonplace now, at the time, it was revolutionary to be part of a system like that and realize how much flexibility it afforded when wanting to rapidly test new hypotheses with customers.

      There are some things that I think people have taken out of context regarding Lean Startup. I don't think Eric Ries ever intended these to be the takeaways, but I think there are some things companies still get wrong about the framework. My co-worker Duncan Steblyna has done a great talk on some of these concepts for some of our internal conferences.

      - Companies forget to actually talk to their customers. Oftentimes, companies miss a lot of nuance in what they are shipping or interesting hypotheses because they skip the phase of actually showing concepts to customers or they don't spend actual time with customers to understand why something worked or didn't. Instead, they just look at the raw experiment data without actually questioning why or why not something performed the way it did. As far as I understand, this was never the intent of Lean Startup, but I still see a lot of companies that get this wrong.

      - Companies forget to actually derive a hypothesis for their test. If you don't have a good reason for why you're running a test or you can't easily explain it to someone, it's actually worth the effort to figure out why a test matters and why you're running it. Obviously, this applies differently now that it's easy to test concepts such as layout, button color, etc., but every test has an opportunity cost, even if it's not strictly coding cost as it used to be. Whether it's the fact that you have to pay attention to the test, the fact that it takes 2-3 weeks for a smaller company to get to statistical significance before knowing a result, or a variety of other things, there's a tangible cost to just "throwing tests at the wall" based on what has worked successfully for other companies without thinking about the context of your own organization.

      - Product Hunt Podcast's interview of Eric Ries also did a great job addressing how Lean Startup has evolved: https://www.producthunt.com/radio (maker stories episode 10 as you scroll through)

      Design

      - Specifically to WeChat, we definitely see others in the market (notably Facebook Messenger) trying to mimic what WeChat has created in China. The most interesting challenge will be whether or not the global market is similar to China where they will leverage a chat/messaging app as their core means for a variety of other activities such as payments, e-commerce, hailing a cab/uber or whether that's a behavior more prominent in China as a result of the deep penetration of WeChat among the install base there.

      --Great post by Fred Wilson that talks about some of these concepts, especially how other apps will slowly become the web browser: http://avc.com/2015/12/contextual-runtimes/
      --Good background on WeChat for those less familiar: http://a16z.com/2015/08/06/wechat-china-mobile-first/

      I do think Whatsapp provides a good example of something that works incredibly well across all borders with simple design. Every country I travel to people use Whatsapp as their primary messaging companion, so I think the interesting work will be to see how Facebook thinks differently about Facebook Messenger vs Whatsapp as they try to place more services into their messaging applications.

      While I do think there are some strong elements that are influenced culturally, good design that leads the user to do what the product is designed to help them with is winning in markets around the world, so I think there will be a continuing trend towards simple, focused design. It may differ with things like iconography, coloring (we often forget that color has very different meaning depending on the market), and language, but I think there's a core set of fundamentals that will be standards for other apps to look at.

      We see this with many of the apps in the Naspers portfolio as well. As they get refined and focus shifts to key metrics, it often comes with simplification of core flows in the app, making it easier to invite friends, and cleaning up their design to reduce confusion and increase usage.

      One other important element that companies looking to expand internationally need to consider: devices in emerging markets often have far less storage space than those we're accustomed to in the United States or developed markets. Therefore, whatever your design is, it better hook the user rapidly. Otherwise, there's a strong chance they are going to delete your app as they're working with a much smaller storage space meaning app spaces are at a premium.

      • ES

        Edward Stephens

        7 months ago #

        Holy smokes, mind blown by this AMA.....absolutely awesome thank you so much Barron.

      • HQ

        Hila Qu

        7 months ago #

        @barronernst

        Totally agree with your comment on wechat.

        Wechat is pretty much everything consumer related: payment, cab/movie, media, e-commerce, and it also allows business to engagement with consumers via "Official account", similar to FB.

        AND, it is starting to offer B2B/B2E solutions, which is very different from FB.
        https://www.gartner.com/doc/3108717/wechats-new-enterprise-offering-brings

        http://technode.com/2014/07/23/wechat-based-crm-solution-weimob-raises-30m-yuan-of-series-a-financing/

        What is your thoughts on this? It seems we will never see Facebook doing this.

      • BE

        Barron Ernst

        7 months ago #

        Responding to Hila's followup:
        No clue if we will ever see Facebook doing this type of stuff, but I have to imagine the move to put David Marcus in charge of that group is designed to eventually move them in that direction.

        The recent Uber partnership is a pretty big deal in moving that way as well - I expect we'll see many more of those in the near term.

        I do agree they are quite far away on all the B2B elements. And whether or not we'll ever see Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp become a dominant commerce channel similar to WeChat is a much harder question to answer. I have to believe that's an eventual possibility, but unclear whether user behavior is just different in China than in other markets.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    7 months ago #

    Hi Barron, thanks for doing this AMA. Given that you have experience across multiple channels (email, mobile, personalization...) I'm curious what you think are the most important emerging and declining channel opportunities these days. For example, would you rather focus on a business where you see substantial growth opportunities in mobile distribution or email distribution (assuming it's something people want and ultimately end up loving). Any context on why that channel would be appreciated.

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Thanks Sean and thanks for creating this awesome community and everything you've done!

      I think it's highly dependent on the company you're starting. Email is still a great channel for many companies but what I've seen with previous companies I worked with and with those I'm working with now, the era of the generic deal email or the un-targeted newsletter is certainly coming to an end (or is over). This happened for a number of reasons, but main ones I think of are:
      - More and more people consume email on their mobile device, and like anything on mobile, the attention span is short, meaning they are only going to read emails that are relevant for them (http://marketingland.com/34-percent-email-opens-now-happen-pc-83277, http://marketingland.com/majority-emails-opened-apple-devices-android-users-pay-attention-115945)
      - Although a lot has been written about this, the promotions tab on gmail definitely mattered when it came to removing things from your core inbox, and when you combine that with the trend to read email on mobile, I think you have a situation where people feel totally ok providing you with their email address knowing that most of the promotional emails will be filtered intelligently keeping their inbox clean. This means they can selectively seek out the promotional emails they care about, consume them, and ignore the rest. It also means there's a lower chance of stumbling on something that seems interesting in the moment.

      Therefore, if you're going to keep using email, the content needs to become more relevant and personalized for the user and less generic.

      We spent a lot of time on this at One Kings Lane. A big focus for our team was making our daily newsletter highly personalized by ordering the sales tiles based on product interest to also leveraging that data to show the right subject line to the right user and we saw some great gains.

      We also did this with our targeted emails and notifications. Essentially, using user actions and events to trigger critical messages was a great way to drive the actions we cared about in the product and move the user towards making their first purchase, a repeat purchase, or some other critical event for the business.

      One thing we do see in emerging markets vs the United States/developed markets is that email read and open rates can be quite a bit lower. Therefore, the market you are focusing on will be an incredibly important factor in the success of your email channel.

      For example, many markets in Sub-Saharan Africa, I've seen open rates of less than 2% for emails that you'd regularly get an open rate of 10-15% in the US.

      It's easy to forget that for many, the smartphone is one of their first (if not their first) connected device so learned behaviors we take for granted aren't necessarily ingrained in the population.

      For that reason, I do see the trend continuing to move towards mobile with a lot of personalized elements over time, especially in international markets.

      If you can take advantage of the inherent channels on mobile like notifications and combine those with notifications that are relevant to the user, there's a strong chance that's going to be the dominant channel as we move forward. For many, it is the dominant channel now.

      It also makes it incredibly important that you keep users opted into your notifications or get them to opt in

      As personalization goes, I strongly believe it needs to be an element of whatever channel you pick.

      For email, personalization should be a core driver for both regular emails to determine the content to show a user. Over time, you start to pick key user moments or events that will drive critical emails to move the user to take an important action such as finishing onboarding, purchasing, friending, following, etc

      Same goes for push, with the big difference being that mass push notifications seem to have a higher propensity to backfire since they aren't as easily ignored as email may be. Therefore, I think being even more highly targeted with push notifications is critical. And either building or leveraging a service that can send the notification at the ideal time of day for the user is another really important element.

      Lots of good tools here like Leanplum, Localytics, Swrve, Kahuna to name a few.

      To answer your question with examples, here are two:

      If I were a US based E-commerce company doing a monthly box concept (Trunk Club, Ipsy, MM LaFleur, etc), email still feels highly relevant. It's a great channel to drive users back to site to finish their initial checkout, to remind them that they have another box coming, to give feedback on what they received, etc. Your users are also highly likely to engage with the emails because the content is likely to be highly relevant for them and there's a lot of opportunity to target users at different lifestages of the process. I think mobile is likely critical here as well, but I'd imagine response rates from email could still be easily higher than what you see on mobile push at least in the near term

      If I were starting a grocery delivery company in India, I would likely put much more emphasis on mobile. For many, the mobile device will be their primary (if not only) way of interacting with your service, meaning that push and other mobile notifications will be critical drivers for your business.

      In both cases, personalization plays a huge element.

      • BE

        Barron Ernst

        7 months ago #

        Replying to Anuj:
        For iOS, certainly one of the best tactics is not to hit users with the notification prompt upon first use or login without giving a clear explanation of benefits.

        Much better to leverage the leading prompt (prompt before the actual notification prompt) to make sure the user is actually interested. Remember, you only get one chance to make them accept, so it's better to build in multiple times when you ask when they are likely to accept. I like to think about it similar to when you should ask for a rating - you want it to happen at a time when the response is likely to be positive.

        Something like, you added a friend, now don't you want to know what they are up to. Accept notifications.

        It's much harder to get them to opt back in given that there's a bit more of an education barrier. That being said, similar tactics informing them about what they are missing out on or making some features dependent on notifications is potentially a good way to think about it.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        7 months ago #

        "It also makes it incredibly important that you keep users opted into your notifications or get them to opt in"

        This reminded me of this post from last year by @andrewchen: https://growthhackers.com/articles/new-data-shows-up-to-60-of-users-opt-out-of-push-notifications

        If the rate of people opting out of notifications is still comparable to last year, clearly that's an uphill battle for most.

        What strategies/tactics have you found that have worked better than others towards making people not opt out or better yet - opt back in?

  • SJ

    Sebastian Johansson

    7 months ago #

    Hi And thanks for this AMA Barron!

    Reading your CV and about all the different assets Naspers own, the first thing that popped up in my mind was "this guy must be really stressed".

    1. Are you taking any proactive steps towards staying healthy?

    2. How do you approach the role of being responsible for growth for one product/asset vs. many at the same time?

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Thanks Sebastian!

      As for my health, I fortunately had a strong habit before I got started of working out 5-6 days a week in the morning. While the travel schedule with Naspers has gotten quite a bit more hectic (at one point flew to a different location for 9 straight weeks), I try to be really strict about always staying at a hotel with a gym and sticking to that routine. My workout routine is not incredibly complicated, just a 4 mile run, jump rope, pull ups, push ups, and some ab work, so I can't say I have anything revolutionary to share there.

      I've also cut down quite a bit on meat and carbs and emphasized vegetable content in my diet, which does certainly help with energy, especially when battling jet lag across time zones. I'm still definitely a bit dependent on coffee, but I'm getting better about that as time goes on.

      And last big thing is drinking a ton of water, especially when flying a lot as your body definitely gets de-hydrated easily.

      Growth at Naspers

      The role I have is unique in that we are often working across multiple companies at the same time to advise them in different areas. One week might involve spending a lot of time with our classified companies while another might involve focusing on an e-commerce company in a specific market.

      The great part about this is that you always get to tackle a new challenge, but over time, I've tried to create consistent, re-usable elements that you can leverage despite how different each company may be.

      When working with them, I try to start from a similar growth framework so that there's some similarity in each interaction, but also so that companies in the portfolio can have consistent frameworks.

      The frameworks I tend to focus on are borrowed from the blogs, presentations, and links of lots of great people like Andrew Chen, Brian Balfour, Andy Johns, Sean Ellis and Dave McClure, with some key things I like to try and do:

      - Take a look at their current business metrics and determine what they think are critical metrics vs. what might actually be the most important things for the business. Essentially, if I can move a company from focusing on a vanity metric like page views or even CPI to something more relevant like a Cost Per Action (CPA), Cost Per Paying User (CPP), retention rates by channel and key indicators of retention, or something that's more relevant for their business, that's at least one area where I like to start.

      -- I also spend time talking with many companies about the toolkits they are leveraging for analytics and other growth areas to provide advice there in case there's an issue tracking core metrics.

      - Next, if we can agree on a core set of metrics for their business, then it's a good time to help the company review their product roadmap to understand how the initiatives and projects they are planning for the next quarter or so are actually lining up with the key metrics for the business.

      - I'm a big fan of trying to take companies through something like AARRR (http://www.slideshare.net/dmc500hats/startup-metrics-for-pirates-long-version) because it forces the marketing and product leadership to think critically about how they are doing at each step of their product funnel and where they have their biggest opportunities for improvement. (and also can help identify blindspots if they don't understand things like their retention metrics or other key elements)

      - Lastly, I'd point out that the portfolio companies that I work with at Naspers still remain ultimately responsible for their metrics, so my role is a combination of consulting them in key areas like growth and then working with them to implement the strategies over time so that they can achieve the results they want.

      • BE

        Barron Ernst

        7 months ago #

        I've used a number. My favorite tools in general:

        - Optimizely for A/B Testing
        - Mixpanel for Analytics
        - Amplitude for Analytics
        - Apptimize or Leanplum for App A/B Testing (and Leanplum is also good for push and other areas)
        - For push/email notifications, I'm a fan of Localytics, Leanplum, Kahuna.

        In general, I try to recommend companies leverage segment as an underlying place to store all their data making it easy to plug and play with different solutions to figure out what works for you.

        If you're warehousing, I've used Tableau and Looker a lot as a visualization layer as well.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        7 months ago #

        Talk about starting off with a bang!

        To the point of "toolkits they are leveraging for analytics"

        Do you have a preference for any specific tools or conversion stacks? If yes, could you talk about why?

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    7 months ago #

    Hey Barron - thanks for taking the time to do this.

    I was fascinated that your title included "Mobile and International Growth"

    Normally I've seen those roles - ie mobile growth and international growth as separate but you're doing both of them!

    Am I correct in assuming that Mobile growth is mostly focussed outside the US for you?
    If that is true, do you feel like mobile and international growth are pretty much synonymous going forward or is there still something(s) really big that's distinct about growing mobile and international that they require separate focus?

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Thanks Anuj!

      My title is a bit misleading as my role encompasses advising and working with our portfolio companies on growth, mobile, product, and marketing strategies, so we tried to come up with something to encompass that. I agree, it's still not totally clear.

      Most of my role is focused outside of the United States. In fact, I spend nearly 100% of my time with international companies at this point (and I relocated to Amsterdam from San Francisco when I took this job back in June, which has been quite the life adventure!).

      To answer your most pertinent question, I do feel that mobile growth and international growth are nearly synonymous with one another. A big reason our team exists at Naspers is to continuously push all of our businesses to be mobile first in all things they do because our markets and users are so mobile. In most international markets (and the US to a large extent), if you aren't growing your mobile presence, you likely aren't growing your business.

      It's just more pronounced in certain international markets where a majority of your users are:
      - Mobile only with smartphones being a gateway to internet access
      - Using devices that have less total storage making it even more critical that your mobile experience rock and get them engaged, onboarded, and using the app early (meaning you have even less time with these users)
      - Paying high costs for data with limited connectivity

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        7 months ago #

        Awesome!

        From what you've seen, are there some international markets where this mobile-first behavior is even more pronounced than others? Who are the top 3, if you had to pick?

        Also, in terms of onboarding strategies, are there any patterns you've come across that have worked better than others in getting those users to their a-ha moment?

      • BE

        Barron Ernst

        7 months ago #

        Anuj,
        Mobile first is pretty prevalent in many emerging markets.

        Some of the better examples:
        1. China - look at the prominence of Wechat and how many businesses depend on it
        2. India
        3. Africa, especially Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa. Huge numbers of people are getting online for the first time with mobile devices in many of these countries and your product strategy needs to address it. This is also a critical market to think about how to introduce long ingrained web behaviors for the first time to a new audience. As an example, shopping and buying on a phone in Nigeria is a unique challenge and one that companies like Konga (Naspers is an investor) are working hard to tackle.

        In terms of onboarding, the best pattern for me historically has been to keep the path as clear and obvious as possible. Essentially, I mean:

        1. Don't make a user "crawl over broken glass" to get to the good stuff.

        2. Tell them what you want them to do and guide them to the obvious steps.

        3. Have a clear goal in mind for your onboarding experience, where do you want the user to get to in their first session

        4. Track each of the steps obsessively. Figure out which ones have the biggest dropoff and then figure out why that dropoff is happening.

        5. Test everything a lot

        6. Once you have a pretty good onboarding experience, also email or notify people who are dropping off to bring them back and get them to complete.

        7. Make sure the strategy, messaging, and everything ties together.

  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    7 months ago #

    Hi Barron, so nice to have you as the 1st AMA in 2016. ✨

    1. Since it's the time, may I ask what is your new year's resolution? :) Also from your past experience, what are the best habits/mindsets you formed that benefit yourself a lot, both in your career and in your personal life?

    2. In your current role at Naspers, I imagine you need to manage growth for multiple products in multiple countries, when you face a unique business in a country you have never worked in, what is your method about finding relevant strategies?

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Thanks Hila!

      Resolutions

      I've actually yet to put a New Years Resolution in place this year, but I have a few I need to work on. 2015 was actually a huge year of change for me, so I want to take stock of what worked and what didn't before I decide on exactly what things I want to take on in 2016. However, I did accomplish a life long goal of living abroad with the role at Naspers, so that has been an awesome experience thus far.

      In terms of habits, I think the best thing I ever learned was to continuously learn and seek feedback about myself. As long as I'm improving, it seems like it's always benefitted myself and those I'm close to.

      For me, having some form of routine definitely matters. Working out in the morning also represents time where I disconnect from the world and try not to check devices or other things. I'm also trying to get better about meditation in the morning, but I still haven't been totally successful.

      Naspers
      In terms of finding strategies, i tend to start from the same place I mentioned in a different answer. I like to understand what the key metrics for the business are. From there, it strongly influences the potential growth channels we start to look at.

      For many, it's looking at channels of user acquisition to understand where most users are coming from. If we are seeing strength from a particular channel, then that offers an ability to double down and spend more money or resources to continue to optimize that channel.

      Same often goes with retention. We try to understand what activities users who retain in the product for a long time are doing to get a sense for what types of users they are, where they came from, and what actions they are taking. We then leverage this to try to test some of the hypotheses we gather and see if it can create higher retention for others in the base

      One of the big things we do have to focus on is the differences in potential acquisition strategies market to market. Each market will differ starkly in things like:

      - Smartphone platform adoption. Many emerging markets are much more strongly Android, so that shapes a large part of your mobile focus.

      - Costs of data in the market. In many of our markets, data costs are incredibly high. When we encounter this, it often means you have to come up with elegant solutions. For example, with our Showmax product in South Africa, we introduced downloads for our Android app early on, allowing users to download content at home with wifi rather than having to use their mobile data to watch on the go. In other markets, like Eastern Europe, data is ubiquitous and not nearly as big a concern.

      - What paid acquisition channels are available and which ones are worth pursuing. For many markets, things are similar to the United States and primary paid acquisition channels are still Google and Facebook.
      However, there can be a time lag for the latest developments from these companies coming to emerging markets, the scale of the channels in the markets, and other differences. For smaller economies with less smartphone users, there's a marginal return to advertising that happens a lot more rapidly than it might in the United States

      - How you reach your customers. In many markets, partnering with local companies is the best way to get in front of your customers. Whether it be a service they use all the time like their home ISP or something similar, establishing these relationships is a critical way to get share of mind with users.

      - SEO has a murky role. Given the prominence of mobile and SEO's potentially lessened role on mobile, it's not always clear if SEO will be the channel in mobile-first emergin markets that it has been in the United States. This is definitely more of a hypothesis than anything.

      - Payment methods differ throughout the world and Cash on Delivery still matters in many markets. As you're thinking about growth, figuring out how to get paid is ultimately a complex problem in markets where credit card penetration can be low and where cash is still the preferred payment method for many folks. It means you need to get creative with how you solve transactions and offer lots of solutions for unbanked customers or customers without credit cards (things like prepaid cards, direct to cell billing, cash pickup are all tactics that have been tried and used by companies we work with)

  • AH

    Agnes Haryuni

    7 months ago #

    Hi! My questions are:

    1. What is the craziest or weirdest, most uncommon, or most unthinkable industry/business/service provider you've ever worked on/with?
    Could you share any interesting learning(s), if you've had such an experience?

    2. What's your favorite ice cream flavor?

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      One of the companies I currently advise is called MoodMe and they are trying to do facial recognition technology work to enable you to append your face or lips to almost anything. It's pretty exciting technology and they have done some very cool things in the early going. As things grow, it will be interesting to see if the technology can be put to cool use through social or some other platform.

      Biggest learning there being it's sometimes quite fun to be part of a technology project where you are trying to determine how to leverage the very cool technology to solve interesting customer problems.

      There hasn't been something I can really point to that would be totally earth-shattering unfortunately, although spending time at IMVU (which is a 3d virtual world company) for almost 3 years was quite a different experience than most jobs I've ever had.

      Favorite ice cream would actually be either pinkberry regular flavor or yopi when I'm back in SF (more a frozen yogurt person than ice cream). For pure ice cream, I'd go with mint chocolate chip or phish food.

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    7 months ago #

    Hey Barron,

    You've helped with growth for a variety of different types of companies (domestic, international, startup, mature). Which of these past roles/stages do you find to be most challenging for someone in a growth role? How did you confront those challenges and execute so effectively?

    Also, if you weren't working in business what creative work would you pursue?

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Thanks Logan!

      I still find the earliest stage of a business (pre-product market fit) the most challenging in many ways. Mainly because at that phase growth can't really exist until you actually discover what the product needs to do, what customer it's serving, and how it needs to work. And I hesitate to say that a growth role for someone at a company that's pre-product market fit might not be a great place for them unless they also have a broader skillset.

      The other time I have found growth challenging is when a business is in a maturing phase or when the classic growth tactics for the business are starting to have very marginal returns but there isn't a clear alternative to get things back on the same growth trajectory that investors and shareholders were previously accustomed to.

      Flash sales provides a good recent example as many of the companies achieved astronomical growth through deals within email and other channels, but as they reached saturation within a given market, there wasn't a clean and easy way to easily acquire more users that didn't involve spending a lot of money. And in many cases, transitioning from flash to in-season sales is a difficult thing for a company that has created it's identify around flash and one time sales.

      If not in business, I'd desperately want to find a job related to sports in some way. I consume way too much ESPN and other sports related content for my own good but I've never found a way to combine that passion with a job. I'm not sure that fulfills your requirements for creative work, but that was the first answer that popped into my mind.

      • LS

        Logan Stoneman

        7 months ago #

        Barron - thank you for your extensive answer. This is a very interesting perspective as I have some background with flash sales!

        The addiction to sports is real as well. It's definitely a creative outlet!

        Who are you rooting for this year's NFL playoffs?

      • BE

        Barron Ernst

        7 months ago #

        I'm a lifelong Bengals fan. Although I'm from Reno, NV originally, lots of family from Cincinnati. So, I'm not feeling very confident at this point.

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    7 months ago #

    Hi Barron- Thanks for sharing your expertise with us in the AMA.

    What is the simplest, yet most powerful, mobile growth hack you have ever acted on?

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Thanks Arsene!

      This is a good and really tough question. I don't actually have a great answer that's totally mindblowing.

      Most of the greatest hacks with big results have tended to be smallish things that had huge gains:
      - Removing first and last name fields from One Kings Lane registration
      - I mentioned earlier not prompting users with push notification prompts until you are more confident they will join. Doing that correctly can increase your push acceptance by a substantial margin (can be easily over 50% if done right) giving you a much larger audience for push notifications, significantly increasing your reach for growth tactics
      - To this day, abandon cart emails and push notifications still are some of the greatest drivers of additional revenue and checkout and a must do in e-commerce
      - Optimizing your emails for mobile can result in a 10% increase in open/CTR rates and many companies still don't spend the time to do it. But it has to be done well.

      • AL

        Arsene Lavaux

        7 months ago #

        Thanks Barron!

        This is fantastic insight. I do appreciate.

        Enjoy Amsterdam, it's a great city to live in per what my European friends tell me :)

        Curious if they'd have magic mushroom frozen yogurt...?

      • BE

        Barron Ernst

        7 months ago #

        No reported sightings of magic mushroom frozen yogurt to report ;)

      • AL

        Arsene Lavaux

        7 months ago #

        Here we go for a new startup idea then ;)

  • BB

    browning bbb

    7 months ago #

    Thanks! What are the big differences between getting growth on Android vs IOS?

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      I'd say the biggest thing is that for iOS you need to convince the user to opt in for push vs Android where opt out is the default. This means that on iOS, you need to spend the time to convince users to want your push notifications which could be a major driver for retention and eventually virality and other growth.

      On Android, you immediately have access to push, but if you spam the user, you're going to lose trust and either get opted out or uninstalled, so you have to be judicious with how you contact them and what the messaging is about.

      A big difference is also the number of potential connections a user has in a particular market (essentially market penetration of the specific device within a given geography) as that's going to be a big factor influencing what device type you focus on and what tactics you take.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    7 months ago #

    Hey Barron,

    Thanks for doing this AMA. How do you account for cultural differences and preferences in your growth planning, organization design, and optimization/growth processes?

    Have you found distinct differences or similarities that were unexpected?

    How would you advise someone who has been primarily focused on growth in the US go about thinking about international expansion?

    Thanks!

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Thanks Morgan!

      It really depends on the organization. For many, the growth concept is new, so there's a learning curve of helping them understand the different between a product and a growth roadmap.

      I think that's why I've historically defaulted to focusing on key metrics that matter for the business. If we can separate out vanity metrics from actual performance metrics, then it gives us a fundamental building block where we can start to focus company strategy and that starts to pave the way for more of a growth based mindset.

      Another thing we've done is really pushed the idea of talking with customers. Oftentimes, the sound bytes you'll get from customers will back up the issues you're seeing in your data, and then the cultural differences tend to melt away a bit as they start to understand they need to get better at addressing their core customer need.

      One of the things you often see culturally are definitely some language barriers or desire to have locals from the specific country in positions of leadership. This hasn't been unexpected but I think it's interesting to see it happen and then figure out how to influence others in the organization and work with them.

      In terms of international expansion, I think it's important to understand the market that you are expanding to. If you're going to work in India, it's critical to understand the market penetration of certain smartphone devices and to plan your mobile strategy accordingly.

      If you were going to do e-commerce in a foreign country, it's important to figure out if local addresses are reliable. If not, what's going to be your method of delivery - will it involve SMS and timed pickups and dropoffs, kiosks, or something else?

      What's the key set of payment options in the country? Do you need to integrate new ones in order to support the market?

      Last, what's your data usage within your app. You might want to ensure that data usage in a new market is less if you use a lot of data in the United States.

  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    7 months ago #

    Hi Sir, you mentioned that one of the best habit you learned is "continuously learn and seek feedback about myself.", can you talk more about how you do that?

    Also, can you talk more about your experience of living and working abroad, what are the challenges and funs, it sounds really amazing,

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Sort of a simple answer, but I always ask. And I ask everyone, all the time for feedback. Every 1:1, every time I start with a new company or a new boss, I'm very upfront about the fact that I want constant feedback. And I often try to prompt with leading questions about a project that will hopefully lead to a conversation about what went well and what didn't

      Living abroad is amazing but very different. Startups are definitely starting to become more and more prominent everywhere, but it still doesn't hold the center of the universe the way it does in the valley. I love having the different cultural influence, the opportunity to meet new people, to travel to different countries, and to experience the world all while doing product and growth.

  • AS

    Alex Sherstinsky

    7 months ago #

    Hi Barron, thank you for doing the AMA with us! Do you have a preference for how a growth team should be structured?

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Thanks Alex!

      I've historically been parts of organizations where growth is a part of the product organization or where the company has been too small to justify a standalone growth organization.

      That being said, I do think have a dedicated growth team is the right way to go once you reach product-market fit and are growing rapidly. I think having the combination of product, marketing, design, engineering, and analytics under one team with a clear goal is a key to making rapid growth occur. While I think it's ok to have each team reporting up through a functional structure and that can fit this scenario, having a dedicated growth team with a head of growth seems to be the better model as we keep moving forward.

      It also prevents there from being barriers between the different departments and means that everyone works toward goals that are shared, which is a practice I'm a big fan of.

      In terms of goals for the team, I do like having it structured in some OKR like way, where the goals of the growth team ladder down to each of the sub-growth teams, so that everything aligns and makes sense.

  • DL

    Dylan La Com

    7 months ago #

    Hi Barron thanks for being here today!

    What tools are in your customer feedback stack?

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Thanks Dylan!

      Surveymonkey is still quite useful for many of our companies, and we're seeing more usage of it for their fielded surveys as well.

      We've had a lot of folks using hotjar for both heatmaps, surveys, and other in product elements with good success.

      Usertesting is great, but unfortunately not as easy to use in international markets as in the United States.

      I'm not sure if you include analytics in customer feedback, but I posted a good response to Anuj with all those tools earlier in the AMA as well.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    7 months ago #

    One more: The concept of identifying your "One Metric That Matters (OMTM)" is quite popular among startups.
    Can a company as diverse/huge as Naspers have an OMTM?
    How about with One Kings Lane - was there something like that over there?

    • BE

      Barron Ernst

      7 months ago #

      Not so easy for Naspers, largely because we have such a diverse portfolio of companies, so we focus more on helping those companies try to identify the OMTM to help focus their company and growth strategy.

      With One Kings Lane, we focused on a couple of key ones, but I don't think we nailed it ala Facebook's 7 friends in 10 days.

      Key for us was:
      1. Get the user to register
      2. Get the user to actually view a product or look at something during a first session
      3. Get the user engaged with email and reading on a regular basis
      4. Try to keep the user retained for the first xx days
      5. Get the user to first purchase
      6. Get the user to repeat purchase

      Not perfect, but this gives a high level sense of some of what we focused on.

Join over 70,000 growth pros from companies like Uber, Pinterest & Twitter

Get Weekly Top Posts
High five! You’re in.
SHARE
53
53