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Thibault Imbert wanted to launch a cutting-edge growth team inside of Adobe. He knew breaking habits of a large enterprise would be difficult, so he decided to try launching a growth team via an internal startup. He has held various roles in product management within Adobe and is now Director of Growth for the Creative Cloud business. When he's not growth hacking, Thibault enjoys baking and sharing his baked experiments on social media.

Prior to joining Adobe, Thibault was a software engineer and author for Pearson and O’Reilly.

You can follow him on Twitter: @thibault_imbert.

He will be live on May 8 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Thibault,

    So pumped to have you on here today sharing what you've learned. A few questions for you...

    1. What is the biggest challenge you faced when getting Adobe Spark's growth team started at a large enterprise?
    2. What have you found to be the best way to align your team for sustainable results?
    3. Do you have any recommendations for any enterprise that's just starting to rethink the way they approach growth?

    I could go on... but I'll give others the chance to ask before I add more. :)

    Cheers!
    Dani

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Dani! Thanks a lot for having me here.

      1. The most important thing was to get executive support, to:
      a. Have the resources we needed (team organization) to be successful.
      b. Get the visibility across various orgs to partner with other organizations like legal, etc.
      c. Help us challenge traditional org designs.
      d. Communicate continuously outside of our organization to other execs on what Growth is to have everyone support and understand it.

      2. Reward impact not activity. Be crystal clear on what success is for everything you do. What is the success metric that defines if your test is successful or not? Sometimes it can feel "processy", but that's really to help. If you don't measure things well, you can't prove you are actually having an impact. Yes, you are active doing stuff, but you can't prove your impact.

      3. Always assume that your current team probably wants to do the right thing. When you start in Growth, there can be a bit of arrogance sometimes, like "let me show you how to do marketing better", what I have observed is that often, people have good intent and good ideas, it's just that they have been beaten down by bureaucracy. So my recommendation is, first, talk to many individuals to seek patterns and start identifying where the problems are, step back so you can see these bottlenecks, then relentlessly try to get rid of them. Soon, you will help enable people and they will let you influence other things, now you are getting momentum and you can start attacking bigger elephants ;)

      4 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 1 year ago #

        re: "Communicate continuously outside of our organization to other execs on what Growth is to have everyone support and understand it."

        Can you expand on this? What did you communicate? How did you communicate whatever you did? What was the frequency?

      • TI

        Thibault Imbert

        over 1 year ago #

        Anuj,

        With my team, we designed what we call a "Growth Tour" deck, that has the following format. We went on a road show once presenting to all the leaders from various divisions.

        1. What is Growth and principles of a Growth team.
        2. Why Growth? Showing examples of existing issues we have.
        3. Examples of wins we achieved using that model.
        4. Proposal on how we could help that team.

        After that, we followed up and picked up some projects where we could help them and team up. The idea again is to get people excited about the mindset, process and velocity and hand the keys to the team and have them be autonomous, cause that's the only way to scale and it's awesome to see people pick up interest and become future Growth leaders.

  • TN

    Terence Ng

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Thibault

    Thanks in advance for your time to share your insights.

    Dani has asked excellent questions which I’m keen to hear from you.

    I have a couple of questions to add:

    1. What advice would you give for enabling large enterprises to be agile with growth initiatives, where resources (team composition) exist cross-functionally in various teams?

    2. What is your approach in planning growth initiatives that apply to a diverse region (say APAC), where it might be hard for a one-size-fit-all solution.

    Thanks
    Terence

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Terence,

      1. Initially, you need to get some wins to get people around excited about Growth. So you need some quick wins, I would recommend to start with a few individuals that are passionate about the topic, try to find an engineer, a designer and a PM and that's it. Generally, results is worth a thousand decks and meetings, if you demonstrate some simple wins, people will ask: How can we do more of that? This is your opportunity to say, well, we need a data analyst to help, and next time you can ask for a marketer to join forces and ultimately get people full time. Step by step ;)

      2. Good question, I believe that tests should be ran by the folks in the region, they have the best empathy and understanding of the audience. For this, we train the marketing teams in the regions to build the skills for experimentation and we let them drive and they love it. Also from an ethnography standpoint, culturization is key, to your point, you can't run a test that worked in North America and expect to work the same way just localized in Europe or Asia.

      3 Share
      • JP

        John Phamvan

        over 1 year ago #

        If you didn't have any direct reports, how do you go about convincing the bosses of the people that are passionate about growth to give up their reports' time for such growth initiatives?

      • TI

        Thibault Imbert

        over 1 year ago #

        John,

        I would not try to move them yet. Take a bottom's up approach. Get these individuals excited and have them take on some tasks in addition to their daily job, have them drive one project and get even more excited. Soon, if these people really like this will go to their bosses and say: I want to pursue this, I want to move to that team. As a manager, what you want is grow and develop people, so generally managers will be helping you make that move happen, but it has to come from them, not you. Your role is to facilitate and enable their passion for Growth.

  • MD

    Mark Anthony de Jesus

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Thibault,

    Dani asked about you biggest challenge when getting your growth team going.
    What is your biggest growth challenge right now?

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Mark,

      Good one. I think the biggest challenge for us today is scaling. Think about all the Creative Cloud products (more than 20), all of them want to do Growth ultimately.

      How do we incubate Growth in each teams, what is the framework we provide to do it well, the tools, without some process, this would be chaos. So what we decided to do is to go incremental, incubate Growth teams within one or two products, see what works well and does not, step back, learn and scale incrementally.

      • TN

        Tri Nguyen

        over 1 year ago #

        This will be very interesting to see how multiple growth teams under a parent umbrella work in concert.
        Based on your experience so far, do you that that this will be multiple growth leads for each product reporting up to you or do you think one overall growth lead will work better as that person (perhaps you) has the overall context in mind?

      • TI

        Thibault Imbert

        over 1 year ago #

        We are still learning every day, but our current standpoint is that we need both. A centralized Growth team to build the stack that enables experimentation for everyone but also looks at the success of a user across all of Creative Cloud, not just one product, a holistic perspective. In parallel, distributed Growth teams embedded in product teams to have the maximum product empathy and knowledge of the customer. Who these Growth leads report up to is for now the product leaders, and I think that's a good idea as Growth is so tightly connected to in product experimentation.

  • SK

    S Kodial

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Thibault

    What have you found out about why users churn from ACC products?
    What strategies have worked best for mitigating churn?

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi S Kodial,

      One of my favorite discussion, churn. First, there are different segments of users as you can imagine using our products, the future creative professional, the aspiring hobbyist, the small business owner, the social media enthusiast, etc. It is important to understand retention for each of these, for some of these segments, it can sometimes be learning curve, which is why we built a product like Spark.

      For a while we have been looking at churn a bit reactively, we are now building churn predictive models allowing us to detect signs of churn in a user behavior so we can prevent churn later. One of the thing that is critical is get the user to activate (build a habit around the core value prop), so one example of the things we are doing, we are currently testing a "white glove" type of onboarding, with daily challenges to get you up and running incrementally to help you build confidence, with daily personal streamed tutorials, conversations on Slack so that you can also learn from the community and see that you belong to one, and get you to a point where you can say: Cool, I know how to use Illustrator now.

      2 Share
  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 1 year ago #

    Thanks for doing this AMA Thibault. What do you think is the biggest barrier preventing enterprises from effectively exciting agile, cross-functional growth?

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey Sean!

      Wow, that's a dinner conversation with a good bottle of wine. Let me see. Generally want to do the right thing, so when you explain Growth, I have always seen people excited about the mission, but years of friction in getting simple things done can beat people people down and people accept that friction as the norm.

      That's why it is so important to have executive support, just one person to say: I believe in this idea, let's test it for a while. It is very hard to say no to someone who says: Let me test this to see what we can learn. The thing is, even a very simple test sometimes require blessing from legal, marketing or someone else, so again finding that sponsor internally who will give you that air cover is so important because you might ruffle some feathers by skipping some steps, leveraging a different team, hire a contractor to do that thing quickly, etc.

      At Adobe, I am so thankful to have executives who early on said, let's do this at scale, Thibault, what do you need from us to be successful?

  • JT

    Jason Thibault

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Thibault

    1. Do you "bake in" paid social ads into your growth frameworks?
    2. How did you end up with such a fantastic first name?

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Jason,

      1. Not yet, I would love to. So much yet to be done!
      2. Haha, I am French and my parents thought it would be a good idea to give me that name, it comes from the German name "Theobald". It is a miserable experience to give that name at Starbucks, trust me. The worst one I got on my cup was: Tivo. I keep thinking about the barista thinking: Poor dude, he's got the cable company name.

  • TS

    Tarun Singh

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Thibault,

    What's the current org structure of the growth team for ACC? I'm especially interested in the role teams outside of product/engineering (e.g. lifecycle marketing) are playing, how are their goals defined and what are the ways of working with them?

    Thanks!

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Tarun,

      So we have a centralized Creative Cloud Growth team (my team) and we are now incubating distributed Growth teams within the products. That's because there is no way we can provide capacity in PM, Design, Engineering for around 30 products.

      The centralized Growth team has PM, Design, Data Analyst and soon engineering to help prototype stack improvements, develop new experimentation surfaces, that we can productize on the stack across all of CC to be leveraged by all teams.

      For the embedded Growth team embedded in a product organization, almost similar, Growth PM (we provide), Product PM (from the team), Marketer (from our Marketing channel organization), Designer (we provide), Engineer (ideally from the product team) and Data Scientist and Data Analyst. The goals are defined by the Growth PM working with the team by picking a NSM to move in a 90 days window. 90 days allows the team to step back and think and not run in all directions, it also sets a timeline so that the team does not end up just ideating, there is a deadline. Boxing the sprints in 90 days total was a great advice from Sean Ellis early back then when I started Growth within Adobe.

      2 Share
  • JP

    John Phamvan

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Thibault,

    a. What tools are you using at ACC for experimentation & analytics right now?
    b. Where does your data live, ie, what is the "source of truth"?
    c. What collaboration tools does the team use?

    Thanks!
    John

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey John!

      a. We are using the Adobe Analytics products and a custom personalization framework that we built specifically for the needs of the Growth teams.

      b. We have a master dashboard that allows executives and everyone to get a pulse on how the business is doing. These dashboards are high level, for product, marketing and growth teams we built a Quantitative Growth Model that highlights lower level key metrics that surface opportunities to teams on where to look and also provide forecasting on the compound impact of a positive or negative test on the business. We aspire to build product dashboards that have a time to insights reduced to the minimum, it is easy to build dashboards that produce paralysis analysis.

      c. We use Slack, Quip, BlueJeans, Google Docs, the classic stuff :)

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Thibault

    Very cool to finally have you on!

    What was the spark (put not intended) for your desire to launch growth team inside of Adobe? Was it something you saw or read that told you that things needed to be done differently?
    Also, talk about the way things were before. What were the biggest things that were wrong or inefficient with the way you were operating?

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Anuj,

      1. Before Growth, I was a PM on Spark (spark.adobe.com) and I realized that my impact would be limited if I did not understand better what my customers were doing inside the product, and I knew that if I had this data, I would need to put it to use. Quickly, I saw that not having a parallel team helping prioritize these marketing tasks would be a blocker, hence the need of a parallel Growth function helping.

      2. For a long time, I thought marketing was useless (yes, I know). Coming from engineering, I think there is sometimes a rejection of marketing as something close to spam, I realize now how much I was wrong. As a PM (and I speak for myself), I did not consider marketing as an extension of the product experience, now I do. So I think one issue was my interpretation of what marketing is about, the second issue was to rely too much on qual and not quant, for a product like Spark (almost targeting consumers) the usual channels to get validation did not work anymore, because consumers have zero interest talking to you just for the sake of it. When you build a tool for professionals, it is easier, your product is in the center of their life so they want to talk to you, when you build a product for a Yoga coach or a dentist wanting to create a newsletter header, that person does not have the time or interest talking to you, if your product does not work for them, they are gone. So I realized we needed to build the product differently, a huge part of our audience would never tell us they have a problem using the product -we just need to know that.

      4 Share
  • GH

    Glen Harper

    over 1 year ago #

    Thank you for joining us today, Thibault.

    How have you been able to demonstrate the ROI of your approach to the broader organization?
    On a related note, what would you say is the best way to go about spreading the word of your efforts so as to have the highest odds of buy-in (horizontally and vertically)?

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Glen,

      Very good question, it is critical to have early wins to prove that the model has potential. The first thing I tend to focus on is velocity. Without velocity you can't fail fast, and if you fail slowly, you are doomed. For instance, we have been able to reduce for instance the time from campaign ideation to launch by 75%. This got people really excited and what happens organically is other teams reach out and say, how can we benefit from that too? This leads to your next question.

      What I have learnt is to always start small, show results and organically things will go in the right direction. If we told 20 product teams today, this is the new way of doing things, people would just roll their eyes and go back to work.

      2 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 1 year ago #

        Having worked at a place previously where multiple teams were told that "this is the new way of doing things", I can see the eye roll happening. :)

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    over 1 year ago #

    Hola Thibault,

    What is your best performing acquisition channel currently?
    What channel have you not tested (or tested properly) as yet that you think might hold a lot of possibility and why?

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Javier,

      For Spark, we built SEO landing pages that have been driving most of our organic traffic so far, and the conversion has been really high for these, but repeat use has been lower for that group because our SEO landing pages were tailored for one time use cases (like a Birthday card), that was a good lesson for us. So we are now looking at use cases that play well with repeat use.

      One channel I have always wanted to experiment more with for Spark was Pinterest, a few reasons: 1. Lots of small businesses and social media savvy users, so great pool of potential Spark users. 2. Very visual oriented so if you create these images that you share on the platform you need a tool for that ;)

  • DO

    Danielle Olivas

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Thibault,

    What is ACC's North Star Metric (and/or does every product have its own NSM)?
    Why have you settled on this as your NSM over some other number?

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Danielle,

      We encourage every product team to find out what the NSM should be for their own product. If we had one product it would be easier, but we have more than 20. Each product has different segments of users, cadence and frequency of usage but all products work the same way from a usage standpoint at a very high level: you create a project or not, you save it or not and you export the output or not. If you don't do any of that, there is potentially an issue and opportunity. Consistent edits or exports are probably good proxy as a NSM because they capture that you are getting value out of the product.

      So for example for Lightroom, we had the team focus on a specific segment and figure out what the NSM should be, the team teamed up with the data science team to look into what retention metric (editing, sharing or anything else) that correlates with retention and then develop hypotheses to move that metric up.

  • PD

    Porus Daruvala

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Thibault,

    You've talked about hiring the right people that are passionate about your product.
    Can you go into more detail about this?
    What signals do you look for that tell you that the person is the right one?

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Porus,

      This is so critical, I don't believe you can be a good marketer if you don't understand deeply your customers and the problem you are solving. If a person shows up at an interview and did not look at the product she/he is applying for: I did not have the time to look at it yet, etc. Showstopper.

      Ideally, the candidate has felt the issue herself/himself and has an opinion on how to solve it, has experimented solving the issue themselves. Sometimes you might get a candidate who has never had the issue but you need to assess how much capacity that person has to build the empathy to truly understand the users. You can then look at past experiences or examples where that person was able to do that.

      The best signal is a person showing up at the interview with some content she/he has done in their life with the product or has prepared for the interview using the product. Showing you used the product and have an opinion on the thing you like and would improve is (to me) the best way to demonstrate your interest and be respectful to the team of their work.

      2 Share
  • TI

    Thibault Imbert

    over 1 year ago #

    FYI. I am going to respond to all of the questions today. Had to step out for a bit. Will be back shortly!

  • TN

    Tri Nguyen

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Thibault,

    Can you share one of your experiments that was a really big win for ACC or led to some big insight?

  • JD

    James Dunn

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Thibault,

    Have you'll done any experiments around pricing and plans?
    If yes, can you talk about any one that was particularly impactful?
    if you'll have not done any tests in this area, why not?

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi James,

      Yes, we have and I would love to brainstorm on this, but as you can imagine, I can't disclose the details of this.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 1 year ago #

    One more Q:
    Have you encountered a scenario yet where the people who were passionate about growth didn't want to do the job they were originally hired for and just focus on growth?
    If yes, what did you do in this situation?
    If not, what would you do?

    • TI

      Thibault Imbert

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey Anuj,

      Interesting question. I would be curious to hear what role were they originally hired for, because Growth is a blend of: marketing, product, and data analyst. So if the original role does any of that, building that expertise will make them a better Growth practitioner. I believe that great Growth candidates are people who have been exposed to product management, or marketing or data analysis, these are key pillar skills. So I would tell that person, what you are doing now will make you a better Growth person later.

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