Strong Fundamentals

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How to plan your own growth spurt

Matt Dean

Head of Growth

Growth is an output of experimentation. More than that, it’s an output of constant experimentation. It’s not always easy to come up with new experiments, so it’s no surprise there is a tonne of content online about the best “hacks” (*shudder*) that all your favourite tech startups used to 10x their Growth.

But the reality is that those hacks were experiments, and while those experiments did work, they worked for that company, at that time. Just because a tactic worked for them, doesn’t mean it will work for you. So how do you come up with your own enormous backlog of experiments? The answer is Growth Spurts. And here is how you can run your own.

Planning for the session

You’ll need a solid 5 hours (with a break or two) in a room with whiteboards and a pile of post-its and markers, with as many people in the room who make sense to be there. Alongside your founders, you’d probably want representatives from a mix of growth, marketing, customer service, business development and product - and maybe think about getting breakfast or lunch in to battle any grumbling stomachs. Here is a breakdown of a session that we ran recently:

Time Topic
0900-0945 Mapping the customer journey
0945-1045 Defining growth OKRs
1045-1100 Break
1100-1215 Brainstorm experiments
1215-1300 Prioritising your backlog
1300-1345 Defining Minimum Viable Tests
1345-1400 Confirm next actions

 


 

1. Mapping the customer journey

What to do

Draw your customer funnel on the board, starting at site visit and going all the way down to repeat purchase (or whatever action you define as the “last” in your funnel). Be sure to add the conversion rates for each step (example below), and keep it linear and simple.

Why you’re doing it

Doing this will give everyone a single source of truth to pull from. Mapping out the entire funnel will give an end-to-end view that might have existed in individual pieces and belonged to different teams up until that point. It will help to highlight where the problems actually are in your funnel and will act as the foundation for the “why” for your experiments later on.

Example:

Lost Then Found has decided to run a Growth Spurt to help them hit their targets. They’re a SAAS business that allows people to keep track of their socks while in the laundry by uploading some basic data. They’ve invited their Growth Lead, the CEO, CTO, Business Development Manager, Product Manager and Customer Success Lead. They drew out the funnel below:

 


 

2. Defining growth OKRs

What to do

Now you need to ask yourself one big question: What’s the one area that if we made substantial improvements, would have the biggest impact on growth? With that answer in mind, give yourself a timeframe of anywhere between 30-90 days (any shorter won’t be ambitious enough, any longer is a bit too ‘big picture’) and define your OKRs (objective and key results). Here’s a guide to defining good OKRs you might find useful.

Why you’re doing it

Clear OKRs give the entire team a north star - a target to work towards and something that can be referenced down the line  - especially when planning new experiments in future growth meetings. Anything that isn’t contributing to these OKRs should be deprioritised or added to a backlog.

Example:

Lost Then Found have decided that the one area that will benefit their growth the most is retention. Many of their users find initial value in keeping pairs of socks together, but eventually return to their barbaric ways of wearing odd socks. They’ve set the following OKRs.

Objective:

Make Lost Then Found the most engaging service in the sock reunion industry.

Key Results:

  1. Net Promoter Score of 8

  2. 60% of new users come back 3 times in 2nd week

  3. Churn Rate of 20%

 


 

3. Brainstorming experiments

What to do

You know where you want to go, now you work out how you get there. Give everyone 10-15 minutes to individually write down as many ideas as possible on post-it notes. There is no such thing as a bad idea, as long as they contribute to one of the key results. With all the ideas then presented and placed up on a wall, begin grouping these ideas to identify key themes - to help fuel further conversation, and to help prioritise later on.

Key tip: When brainstorming, don’t directly brainstorm around the metric you want to improve, but rather brainstorm around the factors that impact that metric (an example below). You want to be brainstorming around the inputs, not the output.

Why you’re doing it

With a good group of people in the room, there are going to be a lot of different opinions on how to best achieve your OKRs and a lot of ideas on how to get there. And that’s exactly what you want. People that work in different areas of the business will have different insights and experiences, each and every one of them valuable ammo and will help you build out a huge backlog of ideas.

 


 

4. Prioritising your backlog

What to do

With so many ideas, it is important to prioritise your energy and effort - not just by what sounded fun, or you think is easy to do. We recommend using the I.C.E framework - giving impact, confidence and effort for each idea a score out of 5, adding these scores together, then starting with the idea that scores highest.

Why you’re doing it

There are always going to be a lot of experiments and initiatives that may or may not contribute to growth. Prioritising your backlog in this way forces you to ask yourself the tough questions and brings the focus back to the most important question “How does this really impact growth?”.

Example:

With multiple team members from the Lost Then Found team in the room it was easier for them to estimate effort and impact. The Product Manager could make quicker and more accurate estimates on the effort to implement any experiments with a technical aspect, and the Business Development Manager could gauge the effort and impact of a new script. Once they had run through the experiments in the meeting, the Growth Lead formalised the backlog in the following spreadsheet (feel free to copy this and use it yourself).

 


 

5. Defining your Minimum Viable Tests

What to do

Now’s the time to decide which experiments you’re going to be focusing on over the next 1-2 weeks and figure out how you’re going to run them with the least effort and money possible. There is always going to be a lean way to test something - you just need to find it and do it. It doesn’t matter if the experiments isn’t scalable or is heavily manual, the goal is to prove the hypothesis of the experiment itself. If it’s a success, then you can start to think about how to systemise it.

Why you’re doing it

Resources are going to be limited. The tech team are working on a new feature, the designer is in the middle of a huge project and you’ve only got so many hours in a day (and pounds in the bank). Building out fully-fledged versions of your experiments is going to cost you a lot of time and money for something that hasn’t been proven yet.

Example:

Lost Then Found have some supporting data showing that users who have more friends in the group (their “Sock-ciety”) are more likely to continue to use the app. They have come up with a referral reward (every successful referral allows you to track another pair of socks) but want to test the offering. The Product Manager indicated that it would take 3-4 weeks to implement a referral solution since the next sprint was already fully allocated.

Instead of waiting 3-4 weeks the Growth Lead has decided to set up a simple automated email that explains the referral reward and asks people to refer friends. When they click on the link they’re taken to a simple TypeForm survey that asks for their friends email address and some other basic details. The Growth Lead then receives the details of the referral, sends the friend an onboarding email and processes the referral reward manually.

After 2 weeks, the referral scheme has proven to be a huge success and it’s time to systemise the entire process. The Growth Lead decides to implement Mention Me, a referral marketing software which will automate the entire process for them and allow them to continue optimising their referral process.

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