Written by James Scherer
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Top 11 Actionable Takeaways from this Year's Growth Hacking AMA's

All the writers at the Wishpond Blog are devout followers of GrowthHackers.com - particularly its Ask Me Anything (AMA) section.

It's the site's most popular feature, and it's no surprise why.

GrowthHacker's AMAs enable marketers from all over the globe and from every stage of growing a business to ask a question of the world's thought-leaders on business growth.

Unfortunately, popularity breeds a superabundance of content. If each AMA from the past 12 months alone features fifty comments (which is low-balling it), you'd have to sift through 1,000 questions and answers.

Luckily for you, we did just that. Though this article can't hope to encompass all the value of the awesome AMA's on the GrowthHacker's platform, it does cover the ones we felt delivered the most value from the past 12 months.

Here are the Top 11 ('cause I got to 10 and then couldn't not include Guy Kawasaki) Actionable Takeaways from this Year's Growth Hacking AMA's.

Featuring thought leaders like (click on each to navigate down to their section)...

Kevan Lee Talks Starting Over

Kevan Lee works on marketing and content at Buffer, a powerful social media management tool used by 3 million agencies, brands, publishers, and individuals.

For the past two years, Kevan has helped grow and maintain the Buffer blog, building an audience of 1 million monthly readers and an email list of over 40,000. He's been part of Buffer's unique marketing efforts with email courses, social media growth tactics, syndicated articles, soft-sell content, workshops, and community-building. (Source)

The Question, from Jason Quey...

If you were to start the Buffer blog over today, what would be the route you would take to get it to a position like it is today? And perhaps a rough timeline of time spent? Look forward to your AMA!

The Answer

If I were to start over with the blog today, I would spend a lot of time thinking up a "blue ocean strategy," trying to find a topic that is unique and fairly low on competition.

I'd test a couple different methods (these are my 2 faves): 1, posting consistently 1x per week on the topic, or 2, posting intermittently and only when the content is really good (the Brian Dean/Backlinko method).

In terms of getting the new blog to where the Buffer blog is (1M visits/month), I think both of these strategies can work great. My sense is I'd want to be really, really good on social/email with the 1x/week strategy, and really good on SEO with the every-so-often frequency.

I wouldn't put any big expectations on myself for the first 6 months. Then after 6 months, I'd feel in a good position to really chase some ambitious targets. (of course, those first 6 months, I'd hope to have learned a lot about what worked and what didn't).

2. Kevan Lee Talks Social Media Strategy for SaaS

This is another one from Kevan. You'll forgive my content-focused man-crush...

The Question, from Alexandra Belicova...

Buffer has quite a following on Instagram. How do you guys convert your followers into customers?

The Answer

We view our Instagram efforts as a way to build brand affinity, and less so a direct follower > customer conversion channel. I think MailChimp has a great way of putting it; we want to create a bias for Buffer in the mind of our followers so that when they're ready to choose a social media tool, we'll have a leg up. :)

On a very tactical level, we'll sometimes use our Instagram captions and bio to direct followers to landing pages. We change the link in our bio, then write "Check the link in our bio for more info" in the caption.

Contests tend to work well, too! Our IG contests are our most popular ones to date.

3. Hana Abaza Gives Her Top Customer Persona Building Questions

Hana Abaza is the VP Marketing at Uberflip, a platform that helps marketers create, manage and optimize content experiences at every stage of the funnel to boost engagement and generate leads. A blend modern chic, tech geek and entrepreneurial hustle, she combines a data-driven approach with her knack for communicating inspired tech solution to mainstream audiences to get results. (Source)

The Question, from Terence Strong...

What are some good customer development questions to enable the development of amazing content?

The Answer

Here are some we've used in the past (warning - there's a lot here, pick what works for you):

  • How long have you been in your role?
  • How many people are on your team?
  • How do you compare yourself to your coworkers?
  • How does the team work together?
  • What tools do you use/spend the most time with?
  • How do you learn about marketing?
  • What kind of content attracts you? Can you give an example of one unforgettable piece of content?
  • Do you look at content during the workday or outside of business hours?
  • What's the one area of your job that you feel you need to learn more about?
  • What is your mind on most of the day? What do you think about the most?
  • What part of your day do you love most?
  • What part of your day do you hate most?
  • Who is your marketing hero?
  • What is your dream job? --> seems random, but we get great answers

We also ask our sales and success teams questions. This can be fodder for content but also helps with many other areas:

  • What is the top non-product related question you get?
  • What is the top product related question you get?
  • How do you answer these questions?
  • What are the main objections you hear from potential customers?
  • What are the main complaints you hear from customers?

Ideally, there's some sort of feedback process between these teams. If you're small, it should be simple. As you grow, it gets a bit more structured.

One more thing: don't just send a survey. Pick up the phone.

The best insights come from real conversations where you can pick up on the nuances of people's responses. Not from an online survey.

4. Maud Pasturaud Breaks Down the Ecommerce Growth Model

Maud Pasturaud is the VP of Growth at Spring, the mobile app that enables you to shop and discover 1000+ amazing brands. With $32M in funding, Spring is revolutionizing mobile commerce, and Maud's role there spans user acquisition, user retention and growth-related product optimization. (Source)

The Question, from Loe Lee...

How do you create and maintain your growth model (i.e. show how different product levers contribute to growth and ROI)? How do you know which levers will provide the most return?

The Answer

Hi Loe, thanks for your question! It's a really good and important one.

The fundamentals of Growth for an ecomm business are pretty simple: - New users: how many users you get into the door - Activation rate: how many of those users buy for the first time - Return rate: how many of those users come back and buy again - AOV: how much are those users buying for (which is a combination of price OR number of items they buy)

We focus on all of those metrics to drive Growth.

Not a fundamental but an aside, the viability/sustainability of an ecomm business lies in being able to drive new user acquisition with a reasonable payback window - 12 months is the standard in the industry. Meaning that your 12 months LTV (which is a combination of the metrics outlined above) needs to be higher than your customer acquisition cost.

5. Sean Ellis Gives Advice on Churn and 'Word-of-Mouth' Marketing

Sean Ellis is the founder & CEO of Qualaroo & GrowthHackers.

He has led marketing at two companies from customer zero to IPO filings (LogMeIn and Uproar.com). He was also the first marketer at Dropbox, Lookout, LogMeIn and Xobni and worked on Eventbrite growth in the early days. (Source)

The Question, from Katy Katz...

Hi @Sean! I'm so excited that you are doing this AMA. My question is related to churn and customer retention. Knowing that customers listen to their peers, what are some of your favorite above-and-beyond tactics to get customers to not only stay but become passionate promoters of your brand?

The Answer

Hi Katy, thanks - I'm excited to finally be doing one on GrowthHackers!

I think lowering churn starts with developing the right promise for your product in the first place so that you set the right expectations for what your product is truly great at. The way I figure out the promise is to really study my “must have” users and learn the key benefit they are getting from the product. Then I ask them why that benefit is important to them. That allows me to reach new prospects in the right context and convert them based on an authentic promise. Once you have people that love your product, then I think you need to concentrate on every other touch point to ensure you don’t turn that love off. Great customer support on top of a must-have product makes people want to spread the word.

It's interesting that I often see people trying to replicate the referral program at Dropbox, but the truth is that we had great word of mouth before the referral program was implemented. The referral program simply amplified it. My one tactical tip would be to prompt more word of mouth after giving an reward for it happening naturally. Something like "Suzy just signed up from your invite, so here's an reward you weren't expecting"; Want to invite someone else and get more rewards?"

6. Josh Elman on Pitching a Growth Structure to Management

Josh Elman is VC at Greylock Partners, Ex-Product Lead for Growth at Twitter. Ex-FB Connect, LinkedIn & RealPlayer. Josh Elman joined Greylock Partners in 2011 and invests in entrepreneurs building new consumer products and services. He specializes in designing, building, and scaling consumer products. (Source)

The Question, from Brian Parks...

Hey Josh - Any tips on developing a culture of growth from the bottom-up at an organization? E.g., what's your one-liner for the goal of a growth team/growth experiments that you would pitch to an exec team? Or would you just say screw and start experimenting to lead with results as your firepower? Thanks!

The Answer

Hi Brian-

For a growth team, I'd pitch "we want to create a team that prioritizes and builds features and campaigns simply in the order that we can have the highest impact on driving growth of our active user base." But results of having done the right methodology first can help.

I think the best way to do this is to take any project you are working on or asked to evaluate and do three things:

  1. Have a baseline understanding of the data and usage in the area you are working.
  2. Create and state a clear hypothesis of what impact you may be able to have on what you are setting out to build
  3. After you ship and get a little data from users, create a report and analysis of what you learned and where you were both right and wrong on your hypothesis. Being a team that approaches everything you build this way should help increase your respect with execs and you will be asked to take on larger tasks. And hopefully can shift the culture to expect everyone to build products this way.

7. Josh Elman on Priorities and Growth Methodology

The Question, from Hila Qu...

From your experience at Twitter, FB, Linkedin, can you talk about how do you approach around creating a growth model?

More specifically, how do you solve the prioritization issue and decide where to focus first?

Really interested in your way of thinking, methodology, but any insight (strategy/tactics/process) is appreciated.

The Answer

When you are building your growth model, you want to have a framework for:

Identifying your target users:

  • Who are the users you want to get into your product
  • Where do they congregate and pay attention online and in the real world
  • Who do they pay attention to

Getting in front of them:

  • Pick some channels that will get in front of them. Viral, SEO, advertising, massive word of mouth campaigns, etc.
  • See which bring in the right people and understand conversion by channel and by user group as best you can

Activating your users:

  • What do they do in the first session to get sticky
  • What can you do in the first week to bring them back to do more or try more
  • How can you improve your activation system so they get going faster and better

That's pretty rough but hopefully directionally right.

8. Jonah Lopin Gives a Complete Picture of Onboarding for Growth

Jonah Lopin is CEO and co-founder of Crayon (crayon.co). Crayon tracks more than 20 million pages across 4 million companies and helps the world's best marketers with inspiration, ideation & competitive intelligence. Crayon raised a $1.5m seed round in 2015, has tens of thousands of users, and is growing quickly. (Source)

The Question, by Logan Stoneman

Hey Jonah! I strongly believe that customer retention begins at the first moment the customer interacts with your brand. Specifically, onboarding plays a massive role. What tips or strategies do you or would you implement during onboarding that has helped most with your customer retention and LTV?

The Answer

Hey Logan!

You'd get a very different answer from me depending on whether there are going to be humans delivering your onboarding experience or if it's a pure software thing.

If you sell to businesses and the price point supports it, I think onboarding with humans is an incredibly powerful tool. A lot of businesses will pay for onboarding as well, so it doesn't have to be a drag on margins.

If you're talking about more of a software product "walkthrough" for new users, I'd treat it like any other product feature.

In general, I'd design & optimize the onboarding process in the context of what you want users to do, what information needs to get into their brains, what work needs to be done to set up the product and get them up the learning curve.

I'd ask yourself first: what would happen if you completely stopped any type of "onboarding"? What would happen if you signed up a cohort of customers and didn't do anything? That's the baseline.

What metrics or aren't acceptable in the baseline case? That is, what's the "business case" for an onboarding process? Is it going to drive up engagement? Referrals? Upgrades?

Then I'd start to think about given your customer, product, pricepoint, where are you on these questions:

  • Does the product price point and customer's investment level warrant simple in-product onboarding or human-based onboarding?
  • Should we send people on-site to onboard customers?
  • Should we do 1:1 calls with customers over the phone for onboarding?
  • Should we do 1:many calls with groups of customers?

And then I'd just measure the crap out of it to see whether the process you design successfully drives up the metrics you care about.

9. Justine Jordan Talks Litmus' Growth Challenges

Justine Jordan is VP of Marketing at Litmus. Justine has headed the team which propelled Litmus to $49M in first round funding from completely bootstrapped (and profitable) beginnings without a sales team or a single cold outreach campaign. (Source)

The Question, from Brand Winnie...

Hey Justine!

What are the biggest challenges you've encountered with growing Litmus?

The Answer

Oh gosh! Speaking honestly, I'd probably say feeling like I don't know what I'm doing most of the time :)

A more useful answer would be finding that line between growth that solely benefits the company vs. growth that is mutually beneficial for the customer and the company. It's a delicate balance, and one of the biggest challenges any marketer will face. You'll be faced with decisions where you can opt to benefit the company as the expense of the user, or dial back your expectations for growth and err on the side of building brand trust. My instincts have always been to err in favor of the customer, and that seems to have paid off in the long term.

10. Andrew Dumont Gives his Top Tools for Growth

Andrew Dumont is VP of Marketing at Bitly. He's a serial entrepreneur (from the age of 18), Forbes 30 Under 30 and former Director of Business Development at Moz. (Source)

The Question, from Chris Johnson...

What tools do you use on a daily basis?

The Answer

I nerd out pretty hard on productivity tools. :) This is what I've got in my current "stack":

  • Things - Believe pretty strongly in the GTD methodology, and this is my favorite app that I've used from a task management perspective. I've tried them all. Wunderlist is a decent free alternative to this.
  • Soulver - It's not free, but so worth the money. Makes doing quick calculations easy and quick, while also accepting plain text.
  • Boomerang - Returns emails back to your inbox when you specify, great for programmatic reminders to follow-up and get back in touch.
  • Instapaper - Bookmarking tool for saving webpages, articles, and video that you want read or watch at a later time.
  • Alfred - Dead simple interface for quickly finding files, folders, and applications on your computer. Mac specifically.
  • Buffer - We all know this one. :) Huge fan of these guys, and they've got a killer integration with Bitly.
  • OneTab - Condenses all of your open tabs into a single view that you can restore, save, and re-open.
  • Strict Workflow - Breaks your work into 25-minute intervals where social media and other distracting sites you specify are blocked.

And of course, Giphy for all of my many GIF needs, Spotify for music, Slack for internal communication and Sublime Text 2 for any dev work.

11. A Selection of Answers from Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki is... (Do I really need to introduce him? Alright...). Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva. He is on the board of trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation and a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz USA (he got the job by asking for it). He was also the chief evangelist of Apple.

He is the author of The Art of the Start 2.0, The Art of Social Media, Enchantment, and nine other books. (Source).

A Question, from Hila Qu

If you are suddenly 22 again, just graduated from Stanford, how would you start a life/career again for Guy 2.0?

The Answer

I would have taken at least one programming class so I would be better able to tell when programmers are bullsh*tting me. Although, a good rule of thumb is to take whatever a programmer says and double the time. i figured this out without taking any classes!

A Question, from Alex Sherstinsky

What were your biggest failures that you learned from and were able to rebound?

The Answer

I learned that the best product doesn't always win. But I learned that when people love your product, they become your evangelists. And I also learned that while everyone might not care about design and elegance, enough people do to make a company successful.

A Question, from Clayton Wood

What's the best tool or strategy to profile a target audience?

The Answer

Facebook. Nothing comes close.

Wrapping it Up

I hope you find these 11 growth hacking takeaways give you as much to think about as they gave me. I chose as wide a selection as I felt could still be relevant to our valued readers, so hopefully there's something here for all of you.

For more on growth hacking, do check out the GrowthHacker AMAs on GrowthHackers.com, as well as the following content...

And remember to download our ebook on growth hacking:

Written by James Scherer

James Scherer is the content editor at Wishpond. When he's not writing or designing for Wishpond he's risking his life biking around the city. Reach out to him on Twitter @JDScherer.