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I was asked this question by the CEO at a public SaaS company. He specifically wanted to know about innovation around things like virality and e-commerce conversions. I've post my response in the comments, but wanted to get thoughts from other people in the GH community about this question. I specifically called out "public company CEO" since I believe they have to delegate more than a startup CEO. Startup CEOs should be very hands on with growth projects.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 6 years ago #

    As a CEO I'm trying to push my team to think beyond their day-to-day job and knock down barriers that may be in their way to trying the things that can unlock new growth. In essence, you want to see if you can get them off of local maxima thinking.

    Therefore, I'd ask these types of questions:

    What new experiments have we run recently that are completely out of the ballpark as they relate to our other experiments? In other words, what big swings have we taken lately and what do we have planned?

    What would you test/try if you could test anything you wanted?

    What are the measurements that are most important to you every day?

    What's the one thing you believe will work that no one else does? (h/t Peter Thiel)

    What has another company executed on that really stood out to you as something original and effective? How can we be inspired by that?

    What's our net promoter score?

    What are the top five reasons people love us? Have we taken advantage of that in our growth and product efforts?

    What are the top five reasons people abandon or cancel? What have we done lately to solve for that?

    When's the last time the team has spent a whole day off-site thinking of blue ocean ideas?

    Is the team rewarded properly for pursuing the right types of opportunities.

    Is the team properly staffed to pursue the right types of opportunities.

    Is the business properly instrumented to make it easy to build, test, and measure things quickly?

  • JB

    Joseph Bentzel

    over 6 years ago #

    Relative to this question, the key phrase is 'CEO at a public SaaS company.'

    Public SaaS companies are not startups and their CEOs must operate within the context of quarterly revenue & profitability guidance provided to public market investors. Public company SaaS CEOs are then measured continuously on 'quarter over quarter' improvement relative to this guidance.

    It's in this context that the CEO must measure the 'growth team' and the growth team must measure itself.

    For digital businesses that are actually set up to realize viral growth effects and improved conversions the questions I've seen most often would be as follows:

    1. What level of resources/spend do we need to achieve our quarterly revenue and profitability objective?

    2. What new programs will the growth team be running? What's the mix in these programs relative to inbound, outbound, upsell, churn reduction, etc and why is that the mix?

    3. What are the risks in these programs and in this spend projection and what's our backup plan if halfway through the quarter we're not on track?

    4. Do we have 'interlock' issues we need to address with product management, product marketing, development/engineering etc that are assumptions that go into our growth programs?

    The thrust of my answer here is that while 'experiments' can and must be run---they must be run in the context of some commitment to the revenue guidance. That's what drives valuation and share price improvement. And growth team compensation/performance bonuses.

  • RS

    Rob Sobers

    over 6 years ago #

    Ah, great question!

    The question my CEO *does* ask me every day is "How many trials did we get today?"

    As a public company CEO, he's very focused on outcomes and trends. It's sort of implied that we need to innovate in order to hit the bar he has set.

    Some questions he asks routinely:

    * How much are we growing each week?
    * Is it sustainable?
    * How much are we spending (time and dollars) to get that growth?
    * If I gave you more money, could you grow X faster?

    The questions I would ask as a public company CEO, in order of importance:

    1.) What growth channel is working best for us right now and how can we scale it fast?
    2.) What are you actively doing right now to uncover other scalable flywheels of growth?
    3.) Is there anything out of your reach that we can change as a company to accelerate growth?

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 6 years ago #

    Here was my actual response - "One question I would ask is 'what was the last viral/ecomm experiment that you ran and how did you interpret the results?' I'd also want to know what other experiments they have planned. Essentially it's really hard to know what is going to work, but it's important to keep experimenting."

    We're in crunch time for the GH conf in London next week... Would love to see answers on this question from others in the community like @rsobers and @bbalfour .

  • KD

    Karolis Dzeja

    over 6 years ago #

    Ideally, his team is creative and full of ideas (or he needs new people) and it's up to him to figure out how to enable them to reach their potential. Figure out what the bottlenecks are and remove them.


    How many experiments are we currently running? What's the constraint keeping us from running more? (Time, resources, visitor traffic, etc.) How is number of running experiments look like month to month?

    Are there any areas we aren't experimenting on? Why?

    How many ideas or next steps are in the queue? (Big red flag if it's not a huge queue) What's the highest priority idea to be tested next? What's the bottleneck keeping it from being tested right now?

    • SG

      Stepan Gershuni

      over 6 years ago #

      I guess, if you ask "How many" then people would make as many as possible thinking that's the only thing you care about. As a result, you'll be running thousands of meaningless and inconsiderate experiments.

      Nice way to create a visibility of hard work, but will hardly yield any result.

      • KD

        Karolis Dzeja

        over 6 years ago #

        The idea underlying what I said, and maybe I should've made it explicit, is that experiments are difficult to predict (that's why we test) and running as many as possible (within reason) is the best approach to stumbling across the Black Swan winners that really move the needle.

        On the surface level, the number of running tests a vanity metric, like counting lines of code. But when each individual experiment costs relatively little and the potential return is enormous, you want to optimize your velocity and test as much as possible.

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 6 years ago #

        I actually think a big backlog of potential experiments is a great thing. With a good prioritization system, you'll never run weak ideas.

  • CO

    Chris Out

    over 6 years ago #

    Very insightful comments in this section. It's really fascinating to see how corporates are implementing and using growth hacking.

  • SM

    Scott Miller

    over 6 years ago #

    "What data do you need to increase your understanding of our customers and what can I do to help you get that data?"

    A recent study by Oracle showed 88% of marketing departments feel they don't have the data they need. As a CEO my first job is to make sure my team has what they need. Oracle study discussed here: http://eepurl.com/554zX