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Dan Wolchonok is the senior manager of growth and analytics at HubSpot. He leads a team of analysts that help to set, measure, and report on goals for the 30+ teams building products at HubSpot. HubSpot is the leading inbound sales and marketing platform helping over 20,000 customers grow their businesses.

Prior to his current role at HubSpot, he was involved in building freemium tools for HubSpot's sales products. He helped build the initial technology and helped grow its user base to hundreds of thousands of weekly active users. He was an engineer and product manager for both the product and growth teams.  He came to HubSpot through the acquisition of his startup, PrepWork. 

Dan graduated from Tufts University with a degree in computer science and with an MBA from Yale University. Dan has also worked in management consulting and at Microsoft. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his wife and dog.

You can follow him on Twitter: @danwolch

He will be live on Oct 4 starting at 12 PM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    8 months ago #

    Hi Dan, thanks for doing this AMA with us. I'd like to know how you time box the analysis for an experiment at Hubspot. It seems that the analysis for some experiments could take an infinite amount of time (always another piece of data you could look at). How do you know when you've done enough analysis to declare it a winner or a loser? I imagine declaring it a loser is harder since there may be something of value that happened as a result of the experiment if you look hard enough. FWIW, my own team has struggled with a growing backlog of analysis so I'm hoping you can give us some tips to get through it faster.

    7 Share
    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Hey Sean, thanks for having me on Growthhackers.

      I wish there was a simple way of knowing with 100% certainty. I think this is what separates the best practitioners from the rest. They know when to keep going vs. try something else.

      Some thoughts: I think it's helpful think about the timeframe you have to try to influence a metric, and asking yourself whether it's worth it to continue with the window you have left. If you have a model that lays out your goals and the metrics you need to hit along the way, it can help teams feel the urgency to show results and try vastly different experiments.

      I try to encourage testing broad themes with your experiments. Sometimes it's easy to keep going down a single rabbit hole, but if you keep track of the buckets you're testing you can't help but feel urgency to test other broad themes.

      It's all about prioritizing based on ICE (impact, confidence, ease) and being honest with yourself about whether there's more to be tested.

      Random plug on making sure you're testing for long enough from Peep Laja's talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjrd30-ihOU&index=22&list=PLOStnEM8wBOb2_Y_uMZcH79VwY06HnJMf

      5 Share
  • AA

    Aldin A

    8 months ago #

    Hi Dan,

    Great to have you here!

    1)How do think about retaining users, if your user only need to use your app occasionally by nature (ex shopping app)? If your app isn't used frequently building up the habit is hard, which makes it even harder to retain the user. How do you go about trying to stay top of mind so when the user has a need that your app solves they think of you?

    2)How do you increase your chances of determining that a feature that you are thinking of building is of genuine value to the user vs just leading down the path to a more bloated product? Do you have a process for vetting features? Additionally as your product grows how do you make sure your product doesn't become bloated?

    3) What are some of your favorite resources pertaining to not only growth, but business in general (books, podcast, blogs, courses, etc)?

    Thanks

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Thanks for the question, Aldin!

      1) I think you could look at engagement and familiarity with your brand over time, even before someone becomes a user of your product. Ultimately, you want to build an association of your product as a solution to a specific problem. The more you can do that even before they sign up or make a purchase, the better.

      I think you want to try to understand how to most effectively re-engage with your audience. That might be through social media publishing, an email list, a push notification, instagram posts, blog posts, etc, or whatever the next hot channel is.

      I think you want to try to remain helpful, but not come across too strong. I advocate for trying very aggressive tactics with a small % of your user base to identify what will have an impact, and then roll out less aggressive tactics if it works to larger numbers of your users. That way, you are able to go through many different ideas quickly and know whether it's worth it to try further experiments.

      2) I'm a big fan of smoke tests as much as possible to determine if people will truly use a feature. People think they'll want something in a user test, but they will always act differently in reality. I think you need to be ruthless about killing features that don't provide a lot of value to customers and aren't used very much.

      3) Books: Zero to One, The hard thing about hard things, Creativity Inc. Podcasts: Startup, Traction, Tech in Boston, This week in startups, Recode Decode, Seeking Wisdom. Blogs / Email lists: Hiten's newsletter, Stratechery, Benedict Evan's email newsletter, Brian Balfour's list.

      3 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        8 months ago #

        re: "I advocate for trying very aggressive tactics with a small % of your user base to identify what will have an impact, and then roll out less aggressive tactics if it works to larger numbers of your users"

        Could you provide an example of a test like that that was tried at HubSpot?

  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    8 months ago #

    Wow, welcome Dan, just want to say I really learned a lot from your blog/medium post on growth and retention, and have always been curious about how the growth team works within HubSpot. Can you share a little bit around the growth organization set up & process in HubSpot, and also how your team fit into that? How did the growth team get started, and are there any particular challenges in the growth process/organization?

    Another related question: do you think a small start up and an established company should use some different methodology & approach to growth?

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Thanks Hila!

      We have tried a couple of different models. We tried having an explicit growth team, and more recently have tried embedding growth individuals in more functional roles. I don't think there's a perfect model, you need to ask yourself what works best with the culture and values of the company.

      Brian Balfour was one of the original practitioners of "growth" within the product team here at HubSpot, and he had a massive impact on the company as a whole.

      One of the principles we have on our product team here at HubSpot is that we favor autonomy and encourage team ownership over problems. It's hard to give ownership / control to a growth team over the individual product teams and still keep our culture.

      Recently, I started an analytics team that helps the individual product teams set metrics, measure them, and incorporate that analysis into product direction. We work closely with our colleagues in our marketing, sales, and product groups to help understand our full funnel and gain insight into our business.

      I think each company should use the model that works best for their company, product, and should ask what is most appropriate for them. There are many things thing go into it:

      - Team's experience with growth
      - Maturity of product
      - Maturity of the team
      - Technical competency of the members of the team
      - Maturity of the company
      - Values of the company

      There is no perfect system, I think you simply have to be comfortable with the tradeoffs given your goals and current state.

      3 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        8 months ago #

        "I think you simply have to be comfortable with the tradeoffs given your goals and current state"

        Could not agree more with this.
        I find myself struggling with wanting things to be better than they are. It's only recently that I've begun to get comfortable with the idea that its ok to not have perfect data or processes because of the reality of the situation at hand.

      • HQ

        Hila Qu

        8 months ago #

        Thank you for sharing @danwolch . I remember once I had a conversation with @sean about growth process & structure & culture, he said something that made me nod like crazy: don't stress too much about all of that, just focus on one thing: testing. Echoed a lot of what you are saying here.

  • SA

    Shaker A

    8 months ago #

    Hey Dan,

    Thanks for doing this AMA!

    1) What are the most important lessons you've learned in your career? What are the biggest lesson's you've learned about growth?

    2)What is your process for figuring out what channels you should focus on for customer acquisition? How do you evaluate them? How do you come up with a plan of action to attack that marketing channel? Do you have a process for evaluating channels, if so could you share said process?

    3)How do you think about scaling traffic growth? What changes for how you use a channel from when you first identify it's viability,to using the traffic channel at scale? What question do you ask yourself to make sure that the channels stays viable as you scale it up? What are the
    pitfalls to avoid as you scale a channel? How do you overcome said pitfalls? Do you have a process for scaling channels, could you share said process?

    Excited to learn from you!

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Thanks for the question, Shaker.

      1) Advocate for yourself and find opportunities to contribute. I think the bar is set pretty low in many areas, taking initiative really helps you stand out. Don't be afraid to let others know what you want to accomplish, they need to know so they can help you. Biggest lesson I've learned about growth: be the best at getting better. Focus on the process, not the tactics.

      2) Talk to a lot of people about what they're doing, and run a lot of experiments. Don't blindly try what others are doing, try to understand what they're learning through an experiment and ask whether it makes sense for you to attempt to learn the same thing. I'd apply the ICE framework to testing additional channels, depending on the stage of your product.

      3) Most companies have a single channel that scales. That said, when something works it will only get worse over time as more people leverage that channel. I'd always be looking at the conversion of the channel and evaluating whether it makes sense to continue to invest in it.

      2 Share
  • NJ

    Nandini Jammi

    8 months ago #

    Hi Dan,

    I'm curious to know what role qualitative customer feedback plays in product decisions at Hubspot. How do you weigh those against user analytics? In other words, how do you reconcile what customers say vs. what they do?

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Thanks for the question, Nandini!

      You need both qualitative and quantitative. When launching something new, qualitative is king. When you're making small iterations, a quantitative perspective is probably the way to go. I always try to use the method that maximizes learning and helps get the most reliable answer in the shortest amount of time.

      People lie. If I can measure it, I generally use that to answer questions. That said, you don't have to speak to that many people in order to maximize your qualitative learnings.

  • JM

    Jason Meresman

    8 months ago #

    Hi Dan - Thanks for doing this AMA! How do the core product teams and growth teams interact at HubSpot? For example, where are the divisions of responsibility? Which tools, meetings and processes are used to keep everyone on the same page?

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Hey Jason, thanks for the question!

      We don't have an explicit growth team, we have growth team members / analysts embedded with teams. We chose this model as it allows individual teams to "own" the problem and solution.

      We use Google Docs to manage dashboards of numbers, and use our internal wiki a ton to document information that's key to running the business. We built a custom analytics solution, and are in the process of switching to an external vendor to gain insight into usage data. Our team is in the process of building dashboards and scoreboards to set a common language among teams and have consistent metrics we track throughout the organization.

      We dogfood the HubSpot product a lot to power insight into who is doing what, and who we should be targeting.

      3 Share
  • RB

    Ry B

    8 months ago #

    Dan,

    Thanks for being here!

    1)How do you look at hiring? Can you talk about some of the mistakes you've made hiring (and also seen others make)? What have you learned about hiring A+ talents?

    2)What do you think are the top skills/traits that a manager needs to have to bring out the best in their employees?How do you go about empowering employees and what does that look at hubspot?

    3)In your opinion what are things early stage startups have to do to not only survive, but thrive? Conversely what do you see startups messing up that they can't afford to, and how do they fix them?

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      1) My goal is to understand how hungry someone is to learn. There are varying levels of skills required for any job, but I always want to understand how someone learns, and how dedicated they are to constantly improving.

      2) I think they have to be committed to the development of their direct reports. There's a saying we say a lot at HubSpot, "help them grow or watch them go". I want to understand my team members aspirations and goals, and always be on the lookout for how I can contribute. This is true even if it means a different role / team than my own.

      3) Figure out how you're adding value / different, and only focus on that. I think being qualitative is extremely important, but I worry that too many startups spend time worrying about metrics to an unhealthy level. Don't worry about setting the perfect "aha" metric, just pick something and always be willing to course correct if you need to.

      3 Share
  • AT

    anca trusca

    8 months ago #

    Hi Dan,

    Do you use any other tool for monitoring site traffic apart from GA? I am trying to identify how often the GA code is blocked and doesn't record visits.

    Thanks a lot.

    Anca

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      I don't focus as much on the top of the funnel as I used to, so I don't think I have a ton of insight into this. Sorry about that!

      I'd wonder if you could use web site logs, or instrument your own call and send it along to GA or some other system to get an idea of how much is blocked.

      My gut is that it isn't that big of a number.

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    8 months ago #

    Bonjour Dan,

    Thank you for doing this AMA today.

    What's your take on chatbots for the future of content marketing?

    Merci!

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Bonjour! J'aime parler francais. Sorry I'm sure my grammar is off there.

      I think it's very cool what Dharmesh is doing with GrowthBot. It's cool to see the CTO of a publicly traded company working on a side project late into the night! He's obviously very driven and still engaged to this day, which is impressive.

      I think there's a big potential for chat bots that are used in a public channel and by their nature show others how to use them. We have a dedicated ping pong contingent here at HubSpot, and I like how we use a bot that shows the leaderboard and you can see others asking about their place in the leaderboard. I am excited for how bots can be seamlessly integrated into discussions and debates.

      For instance, in a customer support application, it would be really cool for a more experienced person on a team to interact with a bot and showcase how they would troubleshoot a problem. Rather than copy and pasting screenshots or data from external data sources, a bot could supply answers and the people in the room can add their color and thoughts to the data, rather than do the hard work of pulling it in manually. The same thing could be applied to marketing and growth.

      3 Share
  • AZ

    Anastasia Zdorikova

    8 months ago #

    Hi, Dan! Thanks a lot for SideKick ;) Do you plan on launching another project involved with emails?

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Hey Anatasia,

      Thanks for the question and I hope you like Sidekick. I miss working directly on that product (now called HubSpot Sales).

      I don't have any immediate plans to launch an email project, but I love email products. Before I came to HubSpot, I was working on another company that was largely email based. Why I love email:

      - It's open. Nobody "owns" email the way large companies own the APIs / rules.
      - It's incredibly easy to iterate / launch email based products
      - People live in their email. Any improvements can have massive implications.
      - People have a love / hate relationship with it. They're constantly looking to improve their process

  • MM

    martín medina

    8 months ago #

    Hey Dan,

    Thanks for coming on here and doing this AMA.

    What are some of the biggest challenges small businesses are facing regarding analytics?

    What are some new and exciting trends in analytics you have been paying attention to?

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Hey Martin! Thanks for the question.

      1) What to track, and how to make sense of the analytics.

      2) I like how companies like Heap and Mixpanel have javascript snippets you can add to your site, and they capture everything that happens on your site. Being able to retroactively create events and measure them is pretty cool and exciting.

  • RG

    rik gabson

    8 months ago #

    HI Dan
    Taking into account recent Possum Google updates (http://searchengineland.com/everything-need-know-googles-possum-algorithm-update-258900), would you invest more in content than backlink building?

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Hey Rik! Thanks for the question.

      I'd test it. Other than that, I'd always favor building quality content and promoting it through authentic means. I think high quality content will win long term through any google SERP update.

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    8 months ago #

    Hi Dan,

    I'm so glad you are on here as i'm just in the process of setting up a 1 man analytics tool internally at my company and it can be a real headache.

    A couple of questions from me:

    1) How do you quickly ascertain the importance of data and do you sometimes find you just need to eye ball some useless data even to discount it from your investigation?

    2) How do you combine paired data to give new proprietary scores or indicators. For instance for us we have start-up revenue growth rate vs their growth in burn-rate. Clearly these two are linked and we need to build an indicator that reflects per $ of money burnt how much growth is being achieved. How many layers of complexity can or do you build into this indicators?

    3) What got you into data and how do you keep your skills up to date?

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Hey Edward, thanks for the question and good luck!

      1) I like to call myself an optimistic skeptic. If you ask my colleagues I'm always optimistic about our future prospects, but I rarely trust any data at first glance. I'm always looking to eliminate data because it doesn't pass the "sniff test". Also, I look to validate data based on something I know is right, and make sure it's MECE (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MECE_principle).

      2) It's all about the model. My goal is always to keep the model as simple as possible, but be realistic about how much information it has. You should be able to project out where you think you'll be in revenue, and how much that will cost you. You should be constantly asking yourself whether your acquisition funnel is profitable.

      3) I like building products and started using Mixpanel. There's nothing like building something that a crapload of people use, and understand how they're using it. I try to follow smart people online and read their stuff. I want to surround myself with the smartest people so I can learn from them.

      3 Share
  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    8 months ago #

    Hey Dan - so stoked to have you on!

    Your posts on retention and cohort analyses are among my favorites (everyone who hasnt seen them - search for Dan's full name and retention in the search bar above).

    What would you say that most people still don't understand (or understand well) about these two things - ie retention and cohort analyses?

    Also, what resources would you point someone to who has never done a cohort analysis in their life - where should they start? What's good in your opinion to learn cohort analysis 101, 102 all the way to intermediate and advanced understanding? (its ok to point to your own stuff :))

    Cheers!

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Thanks for the kind words, Anuj.

      Cohort analysis is not something that is widely understood, I don't think enough people get exposed to it.

      I think there's probably a lot of material online about cohort analysis for beginners. To be honest, I haven't read that much of it. If you only look at one thing, I'd read David Skok's blog. Prepare yourself, it's dense stuff: http://www.forentrepreneurs.com/saas-metrics-2/

      That said, it's the best stuff out there.

      Other than that, I would get exposure to analyzing cohort data for actual users in a real product. There's nothing like trying to build your own retention chart and grappling with the inevitable questions that arise. Don't have any data? Volunteer to help out a SaaS startup in your neck of the woods.

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    8 months ago #

    Hi Dan!

    Thanks for joining us here today. I'm curious... what does the data analysis "stack" look like at Hubspot? With so many tools out there, I'm always interested to see how different companies navigate.

    Thanks!
    Dani

    • DW

      Dan Wolchonok

      8 months ago #

      Some of the tools we use:

      - Custom built behavioral analytics system
      - Redshift database with billions of data points in it
      - HubSpot (lists, workflows, tons of dogfooding our own product)
      - Google Analytics
      - Looker
      - R
      - Tableau
      - Excel (of course!)
      - Github enterprise

      That's just off the top of my head, I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch of other tools.

  • PL

    Preethi LR

    8 months ago #

    Hey Dan! Love to see you here at GH! Thanks for doing this AMA. :)

    Could you tell us more about the freemium tools that you had built for Hubspot and the reasons for choosing the pricing model to be freemium? How do you think this particular model affects conversion rates? Have you ever decided to pivot from freemium to say, free/paid model with the tools? When exactly can we make such changes..?

  • T7

    themeswild 7

    8 months ago #

    Hello Dan, I run a startup in India.
    How would you advise I go about attracting a global audience to for my business?

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