Leave a comment
Get the GH Bookmarklet

AMAs

Morgan Brown is the COO of Inman News, the leading business intelligence source for real estate. A digital marketing veteran with 17 years helping early stage companies find traction and breakout growth, he launched GrowthHackers.com with Sean Ellis and also wrote, the upcoming "Hacking Growth" book.

He speaks regularly at major conferences such as SXSW, CTA, HubSpot, and more.

You can follow him on Twitter: @morganb

He will be live on April 20th starting at 830 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 2 years ago #

    Another question... How awful was it to work on this book with your coauthor? I've heard he is a bit of a prima donna!

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hahaha :) It was actually really easy! I think one of the things that worked really well is that we spent a couple of years working together on different pieces of the puzzle with contributed blog posts, presentations, etc. So that when it came time to put it altogether there was a lot of agreement about what was important, how we thought about growth hacking, etc.

      I think if we didn't have that groundwork it could've been harder to hash out those things, so I think that was a real key to making the book easier to write.

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 2 years ago #

        Completely agree that our cowritten work in the past helped us find alignment on the things that really matter. And whenever we were unaligned, it always led to an interesting discussion!

    • AA

      Anuj Adhiya

      over 2 years ago #

      There's all sorts of rumors about the co-author!

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 2 years ago #

    Hey everyone - super excited to chat with you all. Feel free to ask anything growth, startup or book-related. Talk soon!

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hey Gang, I need to bounce for now, but will come back and try to answer more questions later today!

      Thanks for having me!!

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 2 years ago #

        Thanks for your time Morgan - looking forward to the rest of the responses. Safe to say that you've left a ton of gold already!🙌

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 2 years ago #

    What would you say is the most common misconception about growth hacking that you've come across while we were writing the book? Why do you think these misconceptions persist?

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      I think the common misconceptions are the fact that growth hacking is about traffic acquisition using questionable tactics and that it's all about one-off tricks instead of a considered methodology.

      I think that most of these persist because there really hasn't been anything definitive written on what growth hacking really is, and I hope that this book is the starting point that can help clear those misconceptions up.

      6 Share
  • SP

    Sujan Patel

    over 2 years ago #

    What are few good channels for early stage startups?

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      I think it really depends on the type of startup, for instance, a social network is going to have a different set of needs than a mobile game or a SaaS product, so I really like Aatif Atwan of LinkedIn's matrix for figuring out what channels to use which is to look at the user behavior of your perspective audience and then map it back to a channel.

      For example:

      user behavior / channel
      are people searching for a solution? / SEO or SEM
      do users share your product via word of mouth? / virality or referral programs
      does having more users improve the user experience? / virality
      are potential users using another product/platform? / integrations and partnerships
      do users have a high LTV? / paid acquisition

      So once you kind of figure that part out, then you can narrow down a set of channels to go experiment and test with to see what works.

      But I also think there are some things that all companies should just do:
      - build an audience (typically via an email list or social following) to have a direct line of access to customers and potential customers
      - build the groundwork for being discovered via search visibility or referral/word of mouth

      Those two things are never bad ideas, IMO.

      8 Share
  • JD

    Johnathan Dane

    over 2 years ago #

    Where do you buy your glasses?

  • SP

    Sujan Patel

    over 2 years ago #

    Would love to know what your marketing stack is at Inman News

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hey Sujan,

      Are marketing stack at Inman is really focused around email and data about our subscribers. It looks like this:

      - Treasure Data (data warehouse)
      - Segment
      - Stripe
      - Chart Mogul (subscription analytics)
      - Bounce Exchange (email capture, cart abandonment)
      - Selligent (ESP)
      - Unbounce (landing pages)
      - Hubspot (Demand gen marketing automation)
      - Google Optimize (A/B testing)

      I think those are the big pieces!

      8 Share
  • JQ

    Jason Quey

    over 2 years ago #

    1. Similar to Sujan - What are few good channels for new ecommerce stores?

    2. At what point do you switch from awareness to focusing on a different stage of AARRR? What stage do you focus on (from a previous webinar, I'd assume you'd focus on revenue?), and what are the key parts you are looking for before moving to the next stage?

    3. What are the upsides to having a large amount of content at Inman? What are the challenges and downsides? *IF* consistent quality was not an issue, do you believe as a general rule, companies should increase quantity?

    Thanks Morgan!

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hey Jason,

      All good questions.

      1) I really like the tactic of building an audience first before launching the ecommerce store. Whether that's a Facebook group, a forum, an email list, a Facebook page, an Instagram account or whatever, starting by building the audience around content before flipping the switch to selling can be much more effective than trying to tackle it the other way around. Guys like Dollar Beard Club and others have done this really well.

      Also, I think working with micro-influencers can be a really powerful way to build traction early on. I know that space has become super competitive, but I would definitely still look at it. I think the key is not to go after the mega-influencers who are getting bombarded with offers, but rather look at smaller names that have high engagement on their content and work with them.

      2) I think the best place to start is with activation, which is converting more website visitors to customers. I think there is so much lost opportunity in that phase because we tend to just take for granted that a large portion of web traffic is going to bounce away or that our conversion rates are going to be very low. In many instances I think this is a lie we tell ourselves and that if you really lean into improving activation you can make a big impact in your growth.

      3) The upsides to a large amount of content at Inman is the large search footprint. The downside is that with too much content the best content gets lost. So the highest converting content, the most valuable content, the most shared content, etc. all get easily buried. The challenge is getting that best stuff to people all the time. This impacts our business everywhere, from onboarding, to discovery on the site, to thinking about the search budget that we have with our Google crawl everyday and on and on.

      I think most people think they need to create more content than they really do. Most people use creating more as an excuse for not doing the work of creating better. I'm just as guilty of it. Creating better is harder than creating more. I think people should focus on "better" and not "more".

  • BH

    Benji Hyam

    over 2 years ago #

    Morgan - really interested in learning more about your career path.

    Why the transition from the consulting and startup side of things to a larger more established company like Inman News?

    Do you think there's going to be a growing segment of startup marketers whose skills can be used in larger companies?

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      This is a longer drinking conversation, but what I've found to be true is the following:

      1) For nearly every early stage startup there is a set of marketing programs and infrastructure that needs to be put in place across the board. These are: analytics, channel discovery, marketing infrastructure to support execution.

      2) Marketing can't be a huge expense for startups prior to having clear PMF/traction, so they need to keep their investment low, but they still need to do the discover and generate early stage growth.

      Those two things make consulting a good fit because you can keep costs down, bring a lot of experience to the table and accelerate the learning curve for those companies quickly.

      The downside to consulting is that you can only make how much you can charge per hour and how many hours you can work in a day (outside of equity considerations). So you can scale consulting to a point but then you either need to bring in a partner who is just as good as you, or you start to lose sleep, lose focus and lose effectiveness. All of those are bad things.

      So I made the move out of consulting for three main reasons: 1) It was an opportunity to move from marketing leadership to having full profit and loss ownership. I think anyone wanting to grow their career should gun for owning the P&L in some way/shape/form and then 2) being able to focus on one problem and really lean in to it and 3) getting some semblance of quality of life back (which I quickly threw away by trying to write a book while working full time :))

      • BH

        Benji Hyam

        over 2 years ago #

        Interesting things to think about. Let's grab drinks soon. I want to learn more.

  • MP

    Matteo Pozzoli

    over 2 years ago #

    Hi Morgan,

    Growth Hacking is a process that on a mid-long term definitely pays off its high running costs.
    It is exclusive to wealthy and/or venture-backed tech companies?

    How do you see Growth Hacking applied to the nonprofit sector, where the majority of the market is full of small players with lack of human resources and small budgets?

    Thanks

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hey Matteo, thanks for all of your help with the book btw! (If you guys need a super-smart marketer, talk to Matteo!)

      I actually think growth hacking is probably the most inexpensive marketing process you can run. That's because you can use your existing team, it's about learning faster and eliminating big, wasteful bets and cutting down time on work and campaigns that aren't adding value.

      So I actually think companies that are more cash constrained have a greater imperative and opportunity with growth hacking that those that can spend their way to growth (though those companies can surely benefit, too).

      For non-profits, I think it's about looking at the skillsets of their team and reshaping their teams for growth. Most non-profits think of marketing in the traditional sense, a marketing/communications person who works with a PR person, while the IT person handles the website, desktop support, etc.

      I think non-profits should look to reorient their teams around more technical talent and break down the traditional silos of marketing and technology that exist even in the smallest of organizations. By realigning and getting the right skill sets on the team, they can make growth hacking a powerful tool for hitting their goals.

      I think that's why you see organizations like Planned Parenthood in the States joining Y-Combinator, to learn how to reorganize around product and growth to find more success.

      • MP

        Matteo Pozzoli

        over 2 years ago #

        Thanks Morgan, great point of view.

        I like the perspective to focus on people at first, helping NPOs shaping their teams and gain internal efficiency before external growth.

        Can't wait wait for the book! ;)

  • EB

    Eleanor Bennett

    over 2 years ago #

    What advice would you give to someone wanting to "growth hack" an Ecommerce business with a primarily older demographic (45 to 65)?

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      I think for an older demographic, you really have to get inside their head, sit with them and understand how they use technology, how they find things and how they make decisions to buy.

      For example, we have an older demographic who read Inman and we deal with lots of people with AOL addresses, people who use default search engines built into browsers. We deal with a lot of out of date browsers, etc.

      We used to have Facebook Login and Google Login on our user sign up forms on Inman because they speed registration. For our audience, however, it confused them and it hurt conversion rates (and added to customer support on the backend, when people didn't remember how to access their account again), so we removed them and saw conversion go up and customer tickets go down.

      So the first thing to do is really get a clear picture of how they are interfacing with your product and work backwards from there.

      The other part is to figure out where they are and how to reach them. Like I said, they may be using things that are non-intuitive or seem unlikely, like Bing search over Google search, or type of toolbar or browser that you're not familiar with. They are probably on other sites or in other areas of the web than you are, so really figuring out where they are, what they value and how they access and use your product are the most important pieces, IMO.

      That's not really a growth hack, but it's the best way to reach them and win their business. Once you have that down, then you can figure out cool hacks to acquire and retain them, like buying a Facebook group or small blogs, or whatever. But you need to know the above before you can apply any acquisition or conversion strategies.

      3 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 2 years ago #

        Your answer made me think of the episode of Better Call Saul where Jimmy figures out the old folks in senior homes are sitting around TV in the afternoon or late and night and runs infomercials at those times to get them to call his business.

  • EI

    Elena Ikonomovska

    over 2 years ago #

    Hi Morgan! Very exciting topic and looking forward to your book coming out. A question for you: which are the best analytics tools for growth hackers these days? I'm very interested in the application of machine learning to this topic and would love to hear your thoughts on this!

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hey Elena,
      Thanks so much! I think the best analytics tools are the ones that let you see the full customer experience. So tools like Amplitude, Mixpanel, KISSmetrics are the ones that I would look at. I also can't recommend building out a data warehouse early on enough. It is hard work combining data sources from your email system, Stripe, your user database, etc. But that is exactly where the best insights come from.

      Tools like Segment can really help here, because they allows you to instrument your product once and pipe data wherever. It gives you a lot more flexibility in reporting and pushing data to different analytics and marketing tools.

      I also think that it's really important to set up your product for analysis. For example, I find most companies woefully under-track the events that happen on their website, within their products or within their apps.

      Things like machine learning can't work to their fullest without the datasets behind them, so I think things like Heap Analytics, that track all events on your website are really appealing/interesting in that regard.

      I still think the best though is having a data scientist on your team who can write the queries you need for your database and find the deep insights that these tools can't really give to you easily.

      I also think having that talent on the team is essential to taking advantage of things like machine learning, personalization, etc. For example, my very first hire when I became COO at Inman was our data scientist. She's gone on to build some very complex reporting and profiling of our readers for us to help us grow our business.

      No software could've done that.

  • DO

    Danielle Olivas

    over 2 years ago #

    Hi Morgan,

    It's very nice to have you host an AMA with us!

    What are some of the obstacles you've encountered when building growth teams, and how did you tackle those obstacles?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

  • LK

    Laura Kinnard

    over 2 years ago #

    I teach Entrepreneurship at Drake University. I just started last fall and the program is still being developed. I am looking at programming and content. Growth Hacking is never talked about and I am wondering about your book as a resource and when it would be appropriate to introduce it.

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hey Laura,

      Great question. Of course, I'm biased, but I think our book really offers the best conceptual framework for understanding what growth hacking is and how it's really done that exists on the market. Other books speak to specific tactics, channels and strategies, which are very valuable in their own way, but we really tried to provide the foundational groundwork for how to think about what growth hacking is holistically.

      I'd be happy to chat with you in greater detail if you wanted to learn more. The case studies that form the foundation of the book are taught at Harvard Business School and elsewhere already. Let me know!

  • MK

    Michael Karavolos

    over 2 years ago #

    How would you think about which initiative to sink your time into first:
    > Referral Programs
    > Affiliate Programs
    > Beefing up SEO / Organic Traffic
    > Inbound Email Marketing (more robust sequences for conversion)

    What metrics would you use to decide, etc.

    Thanks!

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    over 2 years ago #

    Bonjour Morgan,

    1) If you had to find a co-author for your next book, who would it be?

    2) If you were an early stage real estate startup looking to achieve product-market fit on the luxury segment of real estate agencies, how would you get started?

    3) Where do you see the future of tech for real estate?

    Merci beaucoup!

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hey Arsene!

      1) It would be someone I could learn from. The best part of writing this with Sean is the amount I learned along the way. I am always optimizing for learning, so I'd want to write with someone I could learn a ton from.

      2) Real estate is a very relationship driven business and agents and brokers are bombarded by technology options (most of which are not very good). Therefore they use a lot of social signaling and social proof to figure out what they should be using. So I would try to find some influential luxury agents (and not the Million Dollar Listing people) but folks who have real credibility, real production numbers and work with them to make your product a part of their success. Then use that word of mouth and social proof to drive reach with a larger audience. I also think building relationships with brokers is key, as they manage large numbers of agents and can help with distribution to their teams (as opposed to going agent by agent.)

      3) The future of real estate tech I think is in the increasing efficiency of all sides of the transaction. There is still so much inefficiency in any real estate transaction and people don't have time or patience for that. Companies like Opendoor are really interesting to me in that regard.

      • AL

        Arsene Lavaux

        over 2 years ago #

        Hi Morgan,

        Thank you very much for this powerful insight.
        It makes a lot of sense...

        :)

  • MS

    Marcio Santos

    over 2 years ago #

    What is the most effective way of asking questions that uncovers fundamental marketing/growth issues a startup needs to prioritize?

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hey Marcio,
      Great question. I think there are two ways to look at it:

      1) Understanding what's working now and then asking how can we do more of what's working? Too many people, once they find something that's working race to go do something else new, rather than optimizing what's already going in their favor. I think this is a huge mistake. Double down on what's going right first, and you'll find more wins and growth. Chances are what's working is not yet optimized to it's fullest.

      2) Digging into areas where people are disappointed or dissatisfied are the best areas for exploration. I learned that from Sean, who is always advocating for discovering how disappointed people would be if they could no longer use your product. I've found that it applies across the customer journey. Figure out where people are truly disappointed, what the true pain points are, and you can use that to prioritize where to invest to grow.

      3 Share
  • TS

    Terence Strong

    over 2 years ago #

    Hi Morgan:

    Thanks for doing this!

    What tests have you seen effective in increasing conversion @ an e-commerce stores check out?

    -Terence

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hey Terence,

      Increasing conversions on ecommerce - I've seen two really powerful ones:

      1) Cart abandonment or winback. We've seen huge jumps in conversion by including exit overlays on our site that offer a limited time (5 minutes in our case) discount if you complete your purchase. And, even further increases by using winback email sequences to bring people back once they've left your site.

      2) Single click payment options. If you have a big mobile audience and aren't using PayPal, Amazon Payments or Apple Pay, you're leaving a lot of money on the table with your mobile audience by asking them to fill out credit card details on your phone. Add single click payment options to drive mobile conversions.

  • GH

    Glen Harper

    over 2 years ago #

    Mr. Brown! Good to have you on. I know you are busy at Inman now, would love to hear about some of the growth challenges you are facing there and how you are attacking them. Good luck with the book launch!

  • TJ

    Timothy Johnson

    over 2 years ago #

    How soon will the Audible version of your book come out? Or do you have other plans for those of us that consume mostly while commuting?

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hey Timothy! Audible version launches the same day as the hard cover! Sean read the intro and I read the rest of the book, so apologies to your ears in advance! :)

  • DN

    durvesh naik

    over 2 years ago #

    What are your favourite books for business and marketing?

  • EB

    Ed Burrows

    over 2 years ago #

    Hi Morgan, great to have you on this AMA. I preordered the book, looking forward to it. I have a question around experimentation vs scaling. Businesses always have pressure to hit topline metrics which typically aren't moved until successful experiments are scaled. How do you think about the process for how many experiments to run before scaling to an audience, especially as it relates to marketing channels that can result in opt-outs like email and push notifications?

  • AC

    Alessio Carrà

    over 2 years ago #

    Hey @morgan how do you envision Growth Hacking in 5 years from now? It seems that new platform are coming (VR, AR, ecc); Ad blockers are becoming more common, so my guess is that in the future will be more and more difficult/expensive to reach users via paid channels. Which role would play Enginereed Marketing?

  • SS

    Scott Sapire

    over 2 years ago #

    If you were looking for a co-founder to beta test (online) a consumer facing real estate product, what role/experience would they have - what organizations would they be found in?

  • MS

    Matt Saperstein

    over 2 years ago #

    Thanks for doing the AMA!

    Working with a CPG brand and we're trying to find the secret sauce to our retail marketing strategy. Any chance you could help me come up with some ideas to scale across 2500 stores without in-store buy-in? :D

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 2 years ago #

    Big man - so stoked to finally have you on!

    For someone looking to become a T-shaped marketer today, what advice would you give for which skills to develop FIRST within each of the 3 layers (ie basic knowledge, marketing foundation and channel expertise) ? Why?
    [For those that need more context to this question, see this: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/528c45f9e4b06be250a9fe30/t/52d0a1a6e4b06f651ac023d5/1389404583123/expert.png]

    • MB

      Morgan Brown

      over 2 years ago #

      Hey Anuj,

      Thanks for having me and great question!

      I think the following are most important:

      1) Data fluency - understanding how to read, use and manipulate data and consumer psychology - how people think and why they make decisions and how they make decisions
      2) experimentation and funnel marketing - have some ability to spin up landing pages, emails, facebook ads, whatever and run tests
      3) Channel expertise - pick one you love and learn everything you can about it. Focus on either a) new/emerging channels with little competiton for your skills/expertise but that have meaningful business implications (e.g. being a Periscope or MySpace expert not super valuable) or b) really big channels that require a ton of specialization to be excellent at (e.g. SEO)

  • TJ

    Timothy Johnson

    over 2 years ago #

    For new e-commerce sites, how important is it to have your own store vs. selling on marketplaces in the early-traction stages vs. 2-3 years in? We want to set up our own site on a commerce platform like Shopify or a WooCommerce enabled site, for sure, but we want to know if you would recommend Ebay still, Amazon, and any other marketplaces out there... or do we just focus on content marketing and driving traffic to our main properties?

  • RM

    Rhizo Mos

    over 2 years ago #

    Thank you for this invaluable opportunity.
    I have a rather abstract question.
    What insight can you give about the right balance between the value proposition of a product/service and growth hacking tactics?
    More specifically do the growth hacking methods and strategies employed add extra value to a product value proposition?
    Thank you

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

Get Weekly Top Posts
High five! You’re in.
SHARE
62
62