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Scott Kritz has been leading product, engineering, content strategy, partnerships and growth in the digital publishing world for over a decade. 

As a Founding Member and the EVP of Audience Development for Liquor.com, Scott's helped build the startup's audience from 0 to over 23 million annual unique visitors and nearly 2,000,000 registered subscribers, making Liquor.com the world's leading and largest lifestyle publication dedicated to cocktails, spirits and entertaining.

With a degree in computer & information science from NYC's Fordham University, Scott began his career at 19 years old at FHM magazine as a website coder and graphic designer until transitioning to a focus on content development and eventually leading the entire publication as Editor-in-Chief and Acting Publisher. Scott's also spent time making online TV shows for Sony Pictures and helped lead Bleacher Report's audience growth strategies prior to the company's acquisition by Turner in 2012. 

When Scott's not taking care of his young family or fooling around on one of his guitars, he advises a number of interesting companies in the digital space.

He will be live on June 13 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    3 months ago #

    Hi Scott
    a. What has worked for you to rally your entire team behind Liquor.com's North Star Metric?
    b. Do you have a formal growth team over there? If yes, how is it structured and where does it belong organizationally? If not, why not?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      B. I LOVE this question. Maybe you'll love my answer? (Hopefully, it's not too confusing...)

      So here at Liquor.com we officially have an "unofficial" cross-departmental team focused on growth that we call the "Growth Cohort" or "Growth Team"

      It's a flatly-run group of creative, data-savvy players across all the key departments at Liquor.com.

      It includes all the members of my very formal and official Audience Department (see here for visual: https://screencast.com/t/x9y2OfcfgwD), as well as the leaders of our Content, Design, Product & Revenue teams (see here for visual: https://screencast.com/t/Nfdit6zM).

      The Growth Team is "unofficial" because one day we all sat down and said to each other: "Why aren't we working together, cross-departmentally, as one cohesive unit?"

      So we made one up, started a Slack channel for daily chats, and put a weekly 90 to 120 minute standing Growth Meeting on the books.

      And thus, as a made up "team" of people belonging to other "real" departments at Liquor.com, everyone invited to the table has an equal seat at the table (including interns who get invited). It's pretty awesome. And SO PRODUCTIVE.

      You can learn a bit more about what we focus on in this answer: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72319

      4 Share
    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Hi Dani!

      A. First off, here's a little more info. on Liquor.com's North Star Metric from a little earlier here in this AMA: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72317

      • SK

        Scott Kritz

        3 months ago #

        To answer your question about what's worked to get the team to rally behind it: that's been pretty natural and easy.

        First off, we have our "audience funnel" pretty clearly defined for ourselves—from audience channels at the top through to retention loops at the bottom (leading back to the top).

        Here's a top-level look at our audience funnel that I've never shared externally before: https://screencast.com/t/7PFvZmm1

        And here's a slightly deeper look inside of that funnel: https://www.screencast.com/t/8tQrm7moopwL

        Because we operate a flat, cross-departmental Growth Team with the scientific method supporting everything we do, it's really easy to test and measure against our North Star Metric (as generally depicted by the bottom of our funnel + loop back to the top of our funnel in the links above).

        And here's a visual on how we employ the scientific method in two primary cycles (1. Innovation Cycle; 2. Iteration & Optimization Cycle) at Liquor.com: https://screencast.com/t/yr0sifMs

        If you want a TLDR on how we make Growth work at Liquor.com, here's a simple but powerful visual I lifted for our team from Sean & Morgan's "Hacking Growth" book: https://screencast.com/t/0qbh5n0U

        It took me 15 years to fully sort out that simple loop.

        I learned about it for the first time in 4th grade... and then again while studying C.S. at Fordham University... so actually, maybe it took me more like ~25 years to sort out for myself?

        You can learn it in less than 15 minutes from their book: https://www.amazon.com/Hacking-Growth-Fastest-Growing-Companies-Breakout/dp/045149721X

        In fact, in light of all those revelations I've just made... why exactly am I here again?! :P

        Hope my answers in this comment are helpful!

        3 Share
  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    3 months ago #

    Bonjour Scott,

    Here are a few questions for you:

    1) What's your favorite cocktail? (Link to recipe please! :) )
    2) How did you go about defining your must-have target persona for Liquor.com?
    3) How do you validate they actually are your must-have targets?
    4) How do you link your content strategy and distribution at Liquor.com to your NSM (North Star Metric)?

    Merci beaucoup!

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Arsene, thanks for joining. You have some fantastic questions here!

      I have to say, though, they start so easily with this first one and then—much like my favorite cocktail—get progressively more complex and substantial! (See what I did there?!)

      1) So my hands-down favorite cocktail is the Mezcal Negro (a.k.a., the Oaxacan Negroni): http://www.liquor.com/recipes/mezcal-negroni/

      A classic Negroni has the simple, symmetrical, proportional ratio of 1 Part Gin to 1 Part Sweet Vermouth to 1 Part Campari. While it's a relatively simple recipe to make, the flavor is intensely complex, crescendoing thereafter each subsequent sip. (I can wax poetically, but it's really something you just have to experience if you've never had a Negroni before.)

      With my favorite cocktail the Mezcal Negroni, you simply swap the 1 Part Gin for an equal amount of smokey, delicious Mezcal.

      If you like bittersweet and smoky flavors, the Mezcal Negroni is a dream in a cup.

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      2) I'm not sure we went about this in a traditional way. We started in a niche (cocktails & spirits) and decided on a wide-angle lens (lifestyle) for telling our stories and building our brand.

      We initially thought we'd attract mostly male readers in their 20s to 40s. But rather than getting too lost in chasing after "what we thought," we decided to launch an MVP product with some strong content along those branding and audience targets and waited to watch/measure/analyze who it actually attracted to Liquor.com.

      Very quickly after going live, we found that we were attracting a majority Millennial audience, followed by youthful Gen Xers—so that part came true (though we do have a nice audience segment of Boomers and they're awesome too).

      We also quickly learned there was equal interest amongst male and female readers in Liquor.com. We loved that!

      Lastly, and quite happily, we found ourselves with a majority upwardly mobile/affluent HHI readership (>$100k).

      We've taken an almost entirely unpaid audience development strategy path for Liquor.com, so once we realized these were the cohorts of folks interested in the digital publishing brand that we were building, we used lots of analytics, custom reports and tools to ensure we were/are always creating the best possible product features and content to attract, engage, retain and reactivate our readers.

      We use the scientific method at Liquor.com, so we're constantly analyzing, hypothesizing, deploying and measuring tests geared at drawing in larger and larger sums of that somewhat wide target audience (with the end goal of retaining and perpetually reactivating them as readers/users of Liquor.com).

      We also ended up amassing the largest audience of professional bartenders around. Over 100k of our registered users are professional bartenders (which is relatively small compared to our ~2M total registered users, but massive per the number of professional bartenders in the U.S.).

      When we realized we had a fast-growing trade audience in parallel to a fast-growing consumer audience, we quickly spun up specific products and content offerings for that trade audience and essentially created a parallel publishing brand just for them. And that's where we stand today.

      3 Share
    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      3) If they're active, engaged users—and they convert to registered and retained users—they're our must-have targets. :)

      I think we set a tone with our content, product and brand that does attract upwardly mobile and affluent young professional men and women... but it also attracts lots of other types of people. And that's great! We want diversity. We want anyone who loves cocktails, spirits, food and entertaining. Those are our people.

      We're kind of like a bar in that way: we have a diverse, sophisticated bunch of consumers sitting in the bar AND amazing professional bartenders standing behind the stick. We try to have something for everyone who loves good food, great drinks and socializing with good friends.

      3 Share
    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      4) Retained & Reactivated Users is our North Star.

      There's a lot of metrics that factor as data points in that North Star, but our primary retention channel is email and one of our primary retention levers is Website User Profiles (and the user-curated Collections of Liquor.com's recipes and articles that live publicly within those User Profiles).

      In 2016, we drove around 23 million unique users into Liquor.com via unpaid channels per year. It'll be higher this year. We convert and register 3%–5% of every user that comes to Liquor.com to our email product (which is then a gateway to our very engaging and retention-driving User Profile website products that are still very much in an MVP state of rapid feature and UX design testing).

      Once users register on Liquor.com, they've opted into our email. And thus, they now exist in our primary retention channel where we have the ability to message them to come back anytime (and they'll come as long as it's with the right content sent at the right time).

      We use a bevy of analytics, reports, tests and tools to make sure we're reactivating email subscribers with the content and product tools that will bring them back to Liquor.com as often as possible for deep, long, satisfying sessions on Liquor.com.

      3 Share
  • GH

    Glen Harper

    3 months ago #

    Thank you for being here, Scott.

    What is the person of Liquor.com's ideal user? What psychographics are at play here?
    What user research did you do to uncover this (and how did you do it)?
    Anything you did as part of this process that in hindsight was not useful towards getting to the final answer?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Hi Glen!

      Got some of these already answered. I believe the anchor links below should bring you right to them:

      1. LIQUOR.COM'S IDEAL USER:

      PART 1: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72312

      PART 2: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72315

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      2. USER RESEARCH:

      A. Lots of analytics feedback loops validating/destroying very structured hypotheses for content development tests we're constantly running for very specific (although, "very specific" sometimes means VERY BROAD) Liquor.com audience targets.

      B. Lots of structured Liquor.com Audience polls and panels.

      C. Lots of passive 1st party data collection based on structures taxonomies of tags that we've assigned to all our content to help derive contextual insights about the different content that our diverse cohorts/segments of readers consume.

      D. Amazing tools like Atomic Reach that go DEEP on segmenting our readers into very specific personas and archetypes with a ton of gained insights on content formats, trigger words, paragraph lengths, readability levels and a bevy of other data points that we could NEVER get without brilliant deep learning AI. (See more about Atomic Reach here: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72329)

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      3. PAST MISTAKES TO NOTE

      This is an interesting question because every mistake we made along the way was a useful and necessary step on our path to the here and now.

      That said, at the moment, no mistakes come to mind that were "earth shattering" and worth flagging here for you (though if any do come to mind, I'll update here with another comment later on).

      With all that said, here is one piece of advice I think is worth giving: don't get too bogged down on trying to "solve for" this.

      You have to get to an answer to this question for yourself, however, you're not gonna come to some static, groundbreaking epiphany or revelation one morning (or evening) after "battling through it."

      If you're employing the scientific method in your growth operations, you're gonna be getting deep into the analysis of all the aspects of your product and audience, and thus, your understanding of your audience will snowball with your daily operations (just as your audience segments, and their profiles as users, will also evolve with time, scale and product iterations).

      Lastly, I'd recommend you make sure you embrace the folks who are already using your product—that is, unless they're the ABSOLUTE WRONG folks for your product.

      But even then, you should probably figure out how to embrace them, right? They dig you... so welcome and build upon that! Focus on making a GREAT product for the folks that are interested in you today.

      That's an amazing place to be starting. And you can always expand and scale to more target segments with new products and tactics from there.

      2 Share
  • TM

    Thierry Maout

    3 months ago #

    Hello Scott and thanks for answering questions!

    What in your opinion and from your experience are the biggest management challenge for companies observing high growth in a short amount of time?
    What are the biggest management pitfalls for founders and the most important steps to take how to avoid them?

    Thanks!

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Thierry, PHENOMENAL question.

      And luckily for the both of us, just this morning I was listening to the latest episode of Reid Hoffman's "Masters of Scale" podcast with Eric Schmidt. He actually summed up everything I've learned through a lot of pain, heartaches and wins over the years very well.

      Unluckily for us, I have about 9 minutes left in the episode (so hopefully he doesn't end with, "...and then I realized all of that was wrong!").

      Here are some paraphrases from Schmidt—as I recall them from the podcast—that I thought articulated everything I've learned thus far so, so well:

      To successfully manage for growth and innovation, you must exert an obscene amount of humility. That is, you much recognize, accept and embrace that you don't (and NEVER WILL) have all the answers yourself. Look to your team. Always. With an open mind.

      You must also gain a full and true acceptance of uncertainty, as great ideas and growth breakthroughs don't function on a set schedule. They also don't occur until after a lot of failures and tons of frustration. Moreover, they also typically feel very risky.

      If you want to manage a great team and scale your business, you need to become great at managing chaos. If you try to "control" your team, or "control" your product, or "control" your audience, or control any other aspect of your growth YOU WILL ULTIMATELY FAIL AND IMPLODE.

      You have to be fearless in making quick decisions, of which many you'll know will fail out. And you have to be happy about that—afterall, if you flip the same quarter 20 times over 20 days OR 20 times over 20 minutes, you're gonna get similar results either way. Get them in 20 minutes. Note the failures so you don't repeat them. Note the wins and develop them further. Then move on.

      So try new ideas and embrace failure. The value of each failure is incalculable. You try something and it doesn't work. You don't pout or get mad at yourself. You go and try something else.

      Persistence doesn't mean trying something, seeing it fail, and then exerting the force required to fit that round peg in an ill-fitting square hole.

      Persistence means you keep trying, while always measuring the results of your efforts, and quickly shifting your tactics as you progress. Persistence means modifying your strategy as needed. It forces you to think differently about solving your problems AND it forces you to NEVER give up.

      If you want to learn more about this, check out the "Eric Schmidt" episode of Reid Hoffman's "Masters of Scale" podcast. (In fact, I highly recommend checking out all of Hoffman's "Masters of Scale" podcast episodes.)

      4 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        3 months ago #

        "Great ideas and growth breakthroughs don't function on a set schedule" - Can I get an amen?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      One more tip I'll give you about hiring that I've learned over time (and now live by exclusively): only hire people in key roles that, in other circumstances, you'd be happy to work for yourself.

      At this point in my career and I can tell you that every direct report I've hired, and every colleague I've helped hire to run departments other than my Audience group, is someone I would and could work for right now.

      In fact, when anyone on my team gets bandwidth blocked on executing their tactical, ongoing duties due to some exciting, new, intensive strategy or experiment they're running, I offer my time (usually for a max of a few consecutive days) to work FOR THEM on their blocker tasks. (Almost always on a tactical level.)

      It's fun and interesting for me. I learn a ton doing that. It's also an interesting change of pace. And, most importantly, it unblocks my teammates to do "bigger things" that could make a huge difference for our business/brand arc (or it helps them to fail fast on those new ideas so we can all move onto the next thing).

      4 Share
      • TM

        Thierry Maout

        3 months ago #

        Thank you very much Scott for this great and very insightful answer! I have been doing a lot of research on this precise subject and your answer nails it!

        I'm downloading and subscribing to the Masters of Scale podcast right now :)

  • JP

    John Phamvan

    3 months ago #

    Hey Scott,
    How did Liqour.com gets its first 100 users?
    What was the most painful part about that experience?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Hi John!

      1) We got our first 100 users by creating strategic landing pages before we had any actual product (or even a logo) for Liquor.com and then buying ads on Google Search and Facebook to validate target audience interest in pre-launch content and product hypotheses we had.

      We got the next ~100M website users since publicly launching our brand and product, as well as the millions of active registered/retained users that comprise our most loyal audience cohort today, through the general game plan described here: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72342

      2 Share
  • VA

    Vahe Arabian

    3 months ago #

    Hey Scott,

    Keen to hear your thoughts on the below two questions:

    1. How do you think tier 2 publishers can compete with bigger publishers i.e. NYT who are increasingly taking a 'lean vertical publishing' approach in expanding their audience development efforts? Do they have enough Klout to do this properly, given the current industry challenges?

    2. What kind of data and metrics does your audience/growth team review on a daily, weekly and monthly basis (few key ones would be great)?

    Thanks :)

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      2) We look at SO MUCH data on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. But to give you a few key ones...

      On a daily basis, we're tracking KPIs by audience channel against our month-to-date goals. We're also looking at how many "Saves" to registered User Profile "Collections" are made per day per active retained user.

      On a weekly basis, we examine our top content across each of Liquor.com's major audience channels (again, almost completely unpaid channels) to dissect our wins vs. average performances vs. losers. We look for patterns across topics/themes, formats, headline structures, art/photography, etc. We formulate such insights, and then our actionable takeaways to execute next, with my audience team AND the heads of our content, design and product teams, who all map into Liquor.com's larger, cross-departmental "Growth Team" (which isn't actually an official team or department, but a flatly-run group of creative, data-savvy players across all the key departments at Liquor.com).

      Each week we also go deep on the dozens of "new innovation experiments" we're running at any given moment.

      Further, we keep detailed weekly historical notes on our growth operations, progress, performance anomalies and blockers (for content, product, experiments, etc.), so we're referencing those all the time too (while also adding to this "historical" documentation constantly).

      At the beginning of a new month, we're doing all of the above in a pretty macro-to-micro intensive way to close out the month and measure our overall growth progress and to vet/confirm our growth roadmap moving forward (per next week, next month, rest of year, next year, etc.).

      We also go pretty deep on ALL of our experiment metrics following the start of a new month.

      I could write a whole book on our Growth Team data models and playbook. But alas, Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown have already done so!

      Check out "Hacking Growth", folks! Sean & Morgan basically documented everything I've learned in an entire career as an engineer, editor, show programmer and growth lead in one easy, fun, SUPER USEFUL read: https://www.amazon.com/Hacking-Growth-Fastest-Growing-Companies-Breakout/dp/045149721X

      4 Share
    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Hi Vahe!

      1) I honestly believe there's plenty of room for everyone to play... as long as they play smart.

      So how do you take on NYT or WashPo or BuzzFeed? Easy. You don't.

      Carve out and own a niche within your vertical focus. Take calculated risks where you experiment with topics and tactics that they won't (or can't) touch.

      I think anyone who takes that path makes their own "klout." Are they gonna overtake the big guys on the scale front? Probably not. But niche ownership can trump mass scale in many cases.

      And in other cases, like my former team at Bleacher Report, you CAN end up virtually taking over a massive, established category.

      3 Share
  • NR

    Nicholas Richwine

    3 months ago #

    As the EVP of Audience Development and Growth, what tools would you recommend marketers use when trying to understand their customer's voice and intent during the different stages of their buyer's journey?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      To add a bit more, there are also some amazing tools to help you automate and vastly scale the practices I just mentioned.

      One tool that seems incredibly exciting and POWERFUL—which we're eagerly testing right now—is called Atomic Reach (https://www.atomicreach.com).

      They're using deep learning AI to crawl and contextually index every word of every piece of content you create to find patterns that map to reach and engagement KPI anomalies.

      Besides crawling, ingesting and scoring all your content, they also marry in KPI data from all your major social channels that you use to promote said content, as well as your Google Analytics data.

      Further, they also power a "real-time" editing tool that we've placed in the hands of our editors to actually "engagement optimize" the content they're developing/editing very specifically for different target segments of the audience on Liquor.com.

      We're just getting started with Atomic Reach, but it could be a game changer for how we operate (and the mass + velocity of performance gains we see from such content optimization efforts).

      Another tool we're looking into that is similar, but applies a bit more directly to SEO optimization, is Conductor (https://www.conductor.com).

      And though we've never actually spoken Nicholas, if I'm not mistaken, you work with Conductor and are chatting with our Executive Director of Marketing Seth Schreiner about a trial, right? Seems super cool and we're excited to check it out soon!

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Nicholas, I could write for about 6 hours on all the amazing reports and tools we use to understand what our users want (and much moreover, how we can retain and perpetually reactivate them).

      I'm gonna go top-level here, though.

      Further, I'll answer this question in the context of a "reader's journey" vs. a "buyer's journey" (but I think it mostly also applies to a company who's end-user is considered a "buyer").

      To start, you have a ton of signals based on the product you're already producing (for us, that's our content and the digital product that presents/distributes it with a layer of utility and discovery tools).

      You're gonna get those signals from all of your analytics tools: your Google Analytics account, the analytics in your Email Service Provider (ESP), in all your bespoke social channel analytics, etc.

      If you're creating/iterating your product offering with calculated variables to test against your audience, then upon deploying your messages on your audience channels to promote your users to come try/enjoy it, you have everything you need to get started.

      That is, however, if you're actively measuring their responses to the abovementioned within all of your various and pertinent analytics tools. This is the basis for a testing loop designed on the principles of the scientific method for finding what does/doesn't "turn on" your users.

      IN SUMMARY OF THE ABOVE (TLDR):
      (A) Measure everything a user sees/interacts with (across ALL your audience channels and products)
      (B) Embrace the wins (and use them as data points for developing future efforts)
      (C) Question and dissect all your "average performance" players (and run tests based on this)
      (D) Ponder and note your failures for the future

      2 Share
  • SB

    Slavik Boyechko

    3 months ago #

    Hi Scott!

    How did your time at the FHM print/online stint prepare you for the web-centered liquor.com gig?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Slavik, how are you?! Thanks for the question. :)

      To put it simply, FHM was my life-changing Malcolm Gladwell "outlier" opportunity. It set up my entire career arc and is almost definitely why I'm sitting here answering this question today in this AMA.

      When I joined FHM as a web development and production intern at 19, FHM was the largest men's magazine in the world with 30+ national editions. The U.S. edition that I was directly working for was the second largest men's magazine in the U.S. (behind Maxim).

      But at the turn of the millennium, when FHM and I found each other, print was still king.

      And thus, a couple young, amazing guys (John Hurwitz & Tom Conlon) who were running FHM Digital on a shoestring budget needed to find an intern who could code front-end, backend, design product, do graphic design AND write content... all for minimum wage.

      Moreover one of those guys (Tom Conlon—a mentor whom I owe my entire career arc) had graduated Fordham the summer before I started at Fordham, where I was majoring in Computer & Information Science and filling all my elective classes with design and writing courses.

      When I saw Tom's FHM web internship posting pinned to the Fordham communications department's bulletin board, I figured I might be the only single person in the 5 NYC boroughs who checked all the boxes (including the minimum wage compensation).

      What's more, I was an avid FHM reader & subscriber and literally willing to do the job for free.

      Flash forward a couple years, and I was basically going to school full-time (with as many classes held in early mornings + late evenings, and as many internship "work skill" credits + weekdays off in my school schedule as possible) and working at FHM full-time in between.

      I didn't sleep for those 4 years, but I did still manage to party hard, and somehow I graduated at the top of my C.I.S. department at Fordham, with all kinds of honors and awards.

      I loved (and still love) coding, but I was hooked on digital publishing and digital entertainment. (Probably to the dismay of most of my C.S. professors.)

      Upon graduating Fordham, Tom Conlon moved over to the print side at FHM to be a full-time editor (he codes, designs and writes too—and he's much better than me at EACH of those skills). Moreover, Jon Hurwitz, our boss running digital, moved on from FHM shortly thereafter.

      Suddenly, I found myself at age ~21 running the second largest men's magazine's entire digital operations (and just as digital was becoming "what matters most").

      I got a budget and hired a staff of several digital editors, digital producers, digital designers and engineers. And we started experimenting... often in partnership with the print side and all their amazing celebrity contacts and PR access.

      It was like a digital startup that I was running within the incubator of a massive men's media empire. It was literally AMAZING.

      I learned everything that sits at the foundation of what I know today about content strategy, ad sales, hiring amazing people and running a business from all the mentors on the print editorial, print ad sales and business ops fronts at FHM.

      And then print fell apart and they were all laid off. And I was suddenly running the ENTIRE U.S. brand.

      It was literally unbelievable.

      Anyway, there's more to the story but I've already droned on too long with this answer.

      Suffice it to say, that little FHM internship at 19 in 2002 *QUITE LITERALLY* changed my entire life and career.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        3 months ago #

        I know what you mean about the "outlier" opportunity.
        GrowthHackers is exactly that for me - it's changed my life in unimaginable ways.

  • AR

    Alejandro Russo

    3 months ago #

    Hey Scott!

    Two questions:

    1. Have you tried Mamajuana before? (The Dominican Republic's native drink)

    2. What do you look for in a brand partnership? What would be the ideal partner brand for you?

    Thank you!

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      2) By "brand partnerships" I'm going to assume you mean partnerships with brands where they pay us to help market their products to our audience.

      Assuming I'm correct there, I'll tell you that for me personally—and I really can't speak specifically for our Brand Partnerships Team here because I've never actually directly asked them this very great, important and obvious question—it's any brand partner that has a great product that maps to our publishing brand ethos (lifestyle through the lens of cocktails, spirits, food, socializing and entertaining) who wants to truly partner and leverage what we know about generating content, products and promotions that engage and activate our readership.

      For me, any brand partner that meets that description is an AWESOME partner. And moreover, they're gonna see great resonance with their brand marketing with the Liquor.com audience.

      The good news is—and perhaps this is why I haven't ever specifically discussed this topic with our Brand Partnerships team—I think that describes the vast majority of our brand partners.

      I don't interface directly with many of our Brand Partner teams, but there's a few I talk to often—just to trade/share ideas with like I do with our non-commercial audience growth publishing partners.

      One in particular—whom I just got a note from this morning—stands out as just so impressive. These are Growth Hackers who totally get it.

      Working/talking with them is AMAZINGLY fun and rewarding. :)

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Alejandro, thanks for taking the time to stop by and write in! I absolutely LOVE both your questions.

      1) I have not! But now I REALLY WANT TO! (I'll report back in on this comment thread after I have with thoughts.)

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        3 months ago #

        Two new drink recommendations in one AMA - another first! Makes me think we should do our next AMA in a bar...

      • AR

        Alejandro Russo

        3 months ago #

        Scott, thanks so much for being cool and helpful!

        I'd love to send you a bottle of the world's best tasting mamajuana, Candela (www.drinkcandela.com).

        Can you provide me with the shipping info? If you want to send privately, my email is alex@koi.global

        I think you're going to like it!!

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        3 months ago #

        @alejandro_russo Shocked (and mad at myself now that) I didn't even hear about Mamajuana when I visited DR a few years ago (silver lining: Presidente all the time!). May have to go back now!

  • TN

    Tri Nguyen

    3 months ago #

    Can you elaborate more on what your audience development strategy is (for new and existing users)?
    How has this evolved from the early days to now? What are you still doing that you were doing initially? What are you not doing anymore (and why)? What are you doing now that you were not doing earlier?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Tri, thanks for stopping by and for the great questions!

      1) You can get a good sense of our audience development and general growth strategy here: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72342

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      2) Due to the nature of our process (described within the answer post link I put in #1 above), what we're doing today vs. yesterday vs. last month vs. last year has evolved—and continues to evolve—in an unbelievably fast and robust way.

      And that's happened via an unquantifiable number of tested and measured iterations to our ongoing growth strategies and tactics via the "Infinite Loop of the Scientific Method" seen here: https://screencast.com/t/0qbh5n0U

      Again, there's a lot more details about our general "growth playbook" detailed here: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72342

      I guess one massive thing to note—which we were NOT doing in the beginning—was operating quickly, without silos, via a flat, cross-departmental Growth Team utilizing all the basic principles of the scientific method.

      However, once we instituted and began executing in that way, EVERYTHING fell into place across departments and we started the great growth curve we're still riding upward now.

      I think that's probably the only "major milestone" for growth at Liquor.com that I can point to as a "monumental game changer" for us. Everything else is a growing tower of wins and failures, incrementing upwards towards the sky and stars. And I really don't ever see any end to that work happening. We're just always building, changing and growing.

      The good news is it's so simple to get all this rolling for yourself. And the wins + ease of operating in this manner snowball as you continue rolling forward as a team in this growth mindset.

      We simply just didn't know what we didn't know when we started. So we had to "fail our way" into operating such a Growth Team.

      But like I've said elsewhere in this AMA, I personally wish "Hacking Growth" was written and published by Sean and Morgan a decade ago. The whole gameplan is in there. You have to tailor it to your brand and goals... but the blueprint is ALL THERE in that book.

      2 Share
  • HW

    Hayden Wood

    3 months ago #

    Hey Scott.

    A questions for you.

    What community management software do you recommend?
    Also on this subject, can you tell us more on how you came to your decisions on your platform. Is it and integration using API or a custom build platform?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Thanks for the great questions, Hayden!

      1) Community Management is a pretty wide term. So apologies if my answer goes too wide (if it does, hopefully, parts are useful to you and other parts to others reading this AMA).

      In terms of the reader community we've built on Liquor.com via Website User Profiles (and the user-curated Collections of Liquor.com's recipes and articles that live publicly within those User Profiles), we've built that in-house from scratch. It's relatively new, and still very much in an MVP state, but is testing out in AMAZING ways (engagement, retention, etc.) with our audience and we're in the process of rapidly testing/iterating that product as we speak.

      We also have a "content contributor community" on Liquor.com called DrinkWire: http://drinkwire.liquor.com/. The core infrastructure of that community is built and co-managed by a great company we love called Tidal Labs.

      Another really interesting API-driven on-site community building platform we're looking to test soon on all our content pages is called Spot.im. What they've built so far—and where they plan to iterate their product in the future—is extremely POWERFUL.

      In terms of offsite community channels, we use all kinds of tools to help us find, write and post the right content to our social audiences at the right times. Some of these tools include:
      -trueAnthem
      -Social Flow
      -CrowdTangle

      We also use GetSocial (https://getsocial.io/) to help us track our content with "viral loops" (i.e., content with k-factor coefficients >= 1) in real-time, as well as to narrow the fairly sizeable pool of mislabeled "dark social" Direct traffic that everyone struggles with within Google Analytics.

      GetSocial is still a young, budding product... but they are AMAZING. They're a MUST-HAVE tool for anyone with social sharing button on their site who pay any sort of attention to their analytics.

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      2) As per 3rd-Party/API vs. In-House Build, it's really always about weighing cost vs. time vs. effectiveness.

      So it's fairly bespoke per each problem we're trying to solve with new technology solutions.

  • GK

    George Kurts

    3 months ago #

    Hi

    What advice would you give a two person team to grow a brand in 18 months?
    And what would you say would be the most critical thing to focus on to get growth?

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    3 months ago #

    Hey Scott - so cool to finally have you on!

    1. What do you think the most unique thing Liquor.com does to not only keep bring people back but get them really fired up about what you'll are doing?

    2. What acquisition channels have been working best for you of late? Are any of these channels different from what was working great last year?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Thank YOU so much, Anuj!

      And thanks to the WHOLE GrowthHackers team for having me—especially including Sean Ellis, who invited me to do this AMA.

      1) This is actually the toughest question I've been asked today!

      So I'm not really sure how "unique" it is, but in addition to our shift in growth model/mindset, and our full-bore adoption of the scientific method in everything we do for growth (discussed ad nauseam throughout this AMA), I suppose the MOST IMPORTANT thing that we do at Liquor.com to keep our readers fired up and coming back is pretty simple.

      We listen to our readers.

      We listen to what they say they like and don't like in their comments on the site, in their posts on social, in their personal emails to us and in all the metrics within our analytics tools that they passively (but completely and totally) control through their clicks and engagements.

      We really try to play in the space where art meets science. That center of the Venn diagram where the "qualitative" meets the "quantitative."

      We try to make the most beautiful and fantastic content and products that we know how to make. We make them for our readers, for our friends and for ourselves.

      And then we listen to what people tell us—directly and indirectly—about what they love and what they hate.

      And then we iterate from there.

      We're constantly iterating.

      The day we get static is the day we've jumped the shark and its time to move on.

      But if we have it our way, we won't ever see that day on our watches.

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      2) All of our Unpaid Channels have been growing annually over that past 48 months, although Search and Social have been on fairly sharp growth curves over the past 12 months. They're leading channels for us per bringing in "new users" at the top of Liquor.com's funnel.

      Again, ~98% of the audience traffic at the top of our funnel comes from unpaid sources... so we LOVE sharp rises, as we know 3% to 5% of those people will then be converted to our core retention channels for subsequent reactivation as audience members.

      Email—followed by Social Followers and Website Profile/Community Features—continue to lead the way for us per retaining new audiences, i.e., our core means of compounding our month-over-month growth of highly loyal, active, engaged users.

    • AR

      Alejandro Russo

      3 months ago #

      Hey Anuj!

      No need to go back to the DR! I imported the best mamajuana, Candela, into the US... check us out: www.drinkcandela.com

      Presidente is a great beer, by the way... I'm sure you'll love Candela even more :)

  • MD

    Mark Anthony de Jesus

    3 months ago #

    Is there any experiment you can talk about that was either a big win or resulted in some insight you didn't have?

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    3 months ago #

    Hi Scott, thank you for your time.
    1. What was the toughest challenge of growing Bleacher Report's audience?
    How did you overcome this?

    2. Similarly, what is the toughest challenge related to growing Liquor.com's audience?
    How are you dealing with this?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Javier, thanks for the questions!

      1) Probably the hardest part of creating the early Growth Model for Bleacher Report was figuring out the playbook for them.

      At that point, I had been a front-end engineer, backend engineer and product designer for FHM, and then thereafter, Editor-in-Chief & Acting Publisher for FHM in the U.S. Following FHM, I ran Show Programming (i.e., original online TV shows) for Sony Pictures's Crackle.com.

      I had an arsenal of growth weapons to draw on from all that experience, and had accumulated tons of audience growth, data analysis and analytics experience, but I was a new person, in a young, exciting company, charged exclusively with building a Growth Model from Day 1.

      I did a lot of learning about working across silos (which was very easy at B/R), getting over the fear of failing and moving very fast with my work/decisionmaking.

      But outside of that, it was an easy job to help them grow.

      At that time at B/R, the team there was chiefly run by the Co-Founders (Bryan Goldberg, Dave Nemetz and David Finocchio) who are equal parts GENIUSES and SALT OF EARTH people. Their CTO at the time Sam Parnell is also equally brilliant and humble/fun/cool.

      So I set up some foundation, ran a ton of tests with their help, and immediately started seeing big results (in the millions) in audience growth.

      When I left them to help start Liquor.com, they took what I started and brought it somewhere that still blows my mind.

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      2) I could spend weeks answering this question. But I promise I WILL NOT put you through that today!

      So the toughest challenge earlier on as we were starting Liquor.com was figuring out how to operate with absolute (or at least, near-absolute) "humility," as well as learning how to make fast, risky decisions and embrace failures as steps on the path to wins (versus seeing them as personal and/or team failings). I wrote a bit more about this here: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72322

      Another major challenge was figuring out how to hire the right teammates on the staff. I've been managing teams at major digital publishing and entertainment properties since I was 21 years-old. I'm almost 35 now. But it took me a long time to boil down how to vet for the best possible hiring fits. In recent years, I have found some real clarity there and wrote about it in some (though not entirely complete) detail here: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72325

      Lastly, probably our greatest challenge—which was/is our greatest breakthrough for Liquor.com's growth to date—was figuring out our growth model and mindset. There's lots more about that all across this AMA, and more specifically, right here: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72342

      Beyond all that, I literally have hundreds (if not thousands) of big, medium and small "tough challenges" at any given moment. I don't ever see that changing. That's the nature of growth. It's a neverending cycle of analyzing, testing, iterating, optimizing and measuring again (then rinsing and repeating that cycle... FOREVER). So conquering our growth model and mindset was (and still is) paramount to our continued future success.

  • DO

    Danielle Olivas

    3 months ago #

    Hey Scott

    1. What is your conversion/marketing/analytics stack?

    2. What is Liquor.com's "aha or "wow" moment? How have you optimized for this over time?

  • MF

    Mark Fidelman

    3 months ago #

    Hi Scott,

    1. What's the best way to use video content on Youtube and Facebook to promote alcoholic beverages?
    2. What's the best (however you define it) marketing campaign you've ever run for Liquor.com?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Hi Mark. Thanks for the great questions!

      1) I wish I had some "silver bullet" answer for you. But unfortunately, I don't...

      For us, we can get a single video—across all our audience channels (including the Liquor.com website)—to well over 1M views in a relatively short period of time for no hard cost.

      It doesn't happen every time, for every video we release, but if we go great guns, we can almost always do it for (almost) any new editorial video we create. Although, that's not necessarily the case for some of our older content that we re-promote.

      You might ask why that's so. Principally, it's because we're constantly testing and optimizing every video we produce: for watch times, run times, topics, bounce points, promotional tactics, etc.

      And thus, with every new video we produce and promote, we (for the most part) get better.

      It's a lot of work... but it works!

      More on the general process here: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72342

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      2) We have one for a Brand Partner that's starting soon and will run for several quarters that I'm REALLY excited about. But I can't say too much more about it yet.

      However, you can read more about what I personally think makes for a GREAT Brand Partner that will see great results by partnering with Liquor.com here: https://growthhackers.com/amas/scott-kritz-evp-audience-development-and-growth-liquor-dot-com#comment-72349

  • MA

    Matt Alldian

    3 months ago #

    Hi Scott - huge fan of the site! How did you decide to organize the selection of cocktails? Seems to be Classic, Theme and by Occasion. Did any testing or validation go into the organization?

    • SK

      Scott Kritz

      3 months ago #

      Matt, this is SUCH A GREAT question!

      When we started Liquor.com there wasn't really a model out there for doing this. In some ways, I suppose there still isn't one exactly.

      Way back when we were planning our launch, we scoured a ton of well-respected cocktail books—new and old—and tried to build the best possible information architecture for organizing and classifying our cocktail recipes. (The books mostly all varied from one another in their classification and organization system, but we did our best to extrapolate an information architecture out of them.)

      At the same time, though, we also realized our needs on this front would evolve over time. So additionally, we built a fairly robust meta-taxonomy of contextual meta-tags behind the scenes that editors assign to every piece of Liquor.com content. This means we can dynamically shift our tactical information architecture in the front-end UX anytime over time.

      The "Classic, Theme and by Occasion" you referenced actually maps to a very small set of the taxonomies (and in the case of "Classic", a nested tags under our Type taxonomy) that we have at our disposal in the backend.

      Our VERY AWESOME Creative Director / UX Designer Ashish Gatne is actually deep inside a complicated exercise that aims to figure out how to overhaul our recipe information architecture in a way that vastly enhances site UX, usability, and discoverability.

      I'd love to pick your brain further if you have any ideas per what you think would make sense for us. Again, we have all the taxonomical "elements" in place, we're just not yet completely sure what navigational/organizational "molecules" to make with them next.

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