6 Actionable Takeaways from Adam Fishman’s Growth Hacking AMA

growth hacking

This is the second in a running series which breaks down and analyzes the advice, speeches, AMAs, podcasts and webinars of growth hacking thought-leaders.

This piece focuses on last month’s Ask-me-Anything from Adam Fishman on Growthhackers.com.

Adam was head of growth at car-sharing giant Lyft for two and a half years, and oversaw that company’s growth from 0 – $300 million+ in funding and expansion to more than 70 cities within the US. He is currently the VP of Growth at WyzAnt tutoring, the largest private tutoring marketplace in the U.S.

We’ve taken our favorite six questions (and answers) from the AMA and broken them into palatable, actionable strategies for your business to put into practice today.

Check it out.

#1. When you were with Lyft, how did you perceive your competitor Uber?

Adam’s Answer:

We spent time thinking about what our differentiating factors were, but not a ton of time looking at their business.

Our Actionable Takeaway:

I’ve actually broken Adam’s answer down into a single sentence, as (for me) it’s the one that matters most.

When considering your business’ competitors, don’t waste energy chasing their tails trying to emulate their strategies or what you perceive to be the “right” way to do something. Instead follow a few simple strategies:

1. Examine where your business has advantages and talk about them (loudly but not in direct relation to the competitor).

For instance, Wishpond’s entire free landing page builder was built to be mobile responsive. As this is a primary difference we have from competitors, it features prominently in our display ads (particularly in our remarketing ads as they’re shown primarily to prospective customers who are shopping around looking for differences.)

2. Identify niches that they aren’t taking advantage of. Consider niche audiences and marketing opportunities (like social platforms, content formats, etc).

For instance, Wishpond recently released a huge update to our free landing page builder. Rather than spend hundreds of dollars on focus groups, we posted a link on Reddit which gave free access to the builder and asked for honest feedback. Not only does this give us valuable insight in terms of UX, but also creates buzz in our target market.

3. Watch who they’re spending marketing budget on and see if there isn’t another target market who might be more cost-effective for your business.

A great way to do this is to use Facebook’s Audience Insights (within the ad manager) as it allows you to see the characteristics of your competitor’s Facebook Fans. For instance, Audience Insights can tell you the other Pages your competitor’s Fans follow on Facebook. Consider co-marketing with that business to reach your target market.

#2. How much time does your team spend trying to find new ways to grow?

Adam’s Answer:

This particular “term” (we divide the year into 3 parts) we’re focused a lot on some of our core channels and experimenting within them. So we’re always experimenting, but sometimes it’s within channels that already have proven value and sometimes it’s brand new areas for us. We approach this in a very straightforward way — research, data, hypothesis generation, lightweight experimentation, learning. Lather, rinse repeat.

Our Actionable Takeaway:

This one’s simple, as Adam spells it out pretty well. I’ll expand a little though:

5 Steps of Lean Growth Hacking:

  1. Research: Identify marketing opportunity which your company hasn’t previously tried out.
  2. Data: Determine if the opportunity is worth testing by looking at case studies, examining competitors, and conversation with mentors or peers.
  3. Hypothesis Generation: Create a concrete, measurable hypothesis and establish the parameters of success and failure as well as a timeframe for testing.
  4. Experimentation: Implement the marketing strategy and compare it with a similar strategy (or amount of resource expended, perhaps).
  5. Learn: Examine the results of your test and determine A) If the hypothesis should be implemented across the board and B) What you learned from the test and how it can be implemented in other areas.

And as Adam says: “Lather, rinse, repeat” forever.

#3. What are the necessary efforts in the first week and first month at an early stage company?

Adam’s Answer:

Understanding your customers, their needs, and what motivates them is the #1 thing you should get a grasp on in your first week. In fact, you should have a good grasp on this before you walk in the door. If the answers aren’t available, then that’s where you need to start adding analytics, interviews, etc.

Our Actionable Takeaway:

Unless you’ve identified your target customer (and, equally importantly, their pain points) each and every one of your marketing strategies could be off the mark, wasting money. There is no growth hack currently available not based on your target market, and there is no target market which can’t be hacked to drive growth.

Here’s the four-step strategy we’ve used to to determine our target customer:

  1. Ask ourselves a simple question: “Who has the problem our product or service solves?”
  2. Ask your users and customers who they are (either by email, random selection or through the form fields in your landing pages).
  3. Break down the answer to question one and your responses from point two into smaller and smaller demographic and vertical segments.
  4. Take this information and create a profile for your target consumer. Write your inbound marketing content, website and advertisements with your target profile in mind.


We took a look at Brian Balfour’s recent AMA a couple weeks ago, in which he took a deeper look at his company’s user data, and determined that less than 30% of them were actually the people being targeted by marketing. Brian generalized his message (to appeal to all his users) and improved almost every one of his KPI’s.

#4. Would you recommend focusing on specific skills or continuing to broaden my skillset to further a career in growth?

Adam’s Answer:

It’s time to start to focus. I don’t know of many people at a growth-stage company who write a job description and think, “What I’d really like is someone who knows a little bit about everything, but isn’t really good at one particular thing.” Nope. Doesn’t happen. If you have a broad background and can wow people with deep knowledge in a 1 or 2 specific areas then you are infinitely more marketable. B2B, B2C, B2B2C… doesn’t really matter. So my answer is focus.

Technical expertise is a big plus these days — at least for the people I’m hiring. If you’re not self-sufficient at getting your own data then you’re already in a bit of a hole. You don’t need to write code, but a solid grasp of SQL is a good start.

Our Actionable Takeaway:

Structure your growth team as Wishpond does: 4-10 individuals who work together as a team to drive your business’ KPI’s, but who are responsible for an individual element of the strategy.

Wishpond learned this lesson the hard way. Our marketing team was initially structured with each member of our marketing team responsible for a different segment of our target market (as well as international markets). This meant that each marketer was trying to do every aspect of marketing, leading to a group of marketers a little bit good at everything, but no one exceptional in any particular area. If anybody had an issue which needed to be solved, nobody (really) had much more to offer them. Not good.

Thankfully we realized the error, and we switched to having each member focus on one specific area with their own KPIs. Not only has this lead to WAY better results, but our team itself works far more effectively as one single unit.

Check out my article “How We Work: A Look at Wishpond’s Growth Hacking Team” for an in-depth look at how we structure (and you should) a growth hacking team of seven.

#5. What are the advantages you discovered when working by yourself or in tiny growth teams?

Adam’s Answer:

Usually a growth team of one means that the company is at an earlier stage so you can be a little more risk-loving in your approach. It’s a green playing field and you live and die by your efforts, but don’t have a lot of other folks involved telling you what not to do. Celebrate that time because if you get really big it goes away for most people :-).

One thing you really need to focus on when you’re a solo growth practitioner at a company is how to better leverage your time. I am a huge fan of oDesk and other outsourcing tools that take away menial tasks which aren’t productive uses of my time.

Our Actionable Takeaway:

Outsourcing work is a great strategy for maximizing the ROI of YOU, but I’m equally a fan of other time-saving growth hacking strategies. Here are 3 we use all the time:

  • Don’t run tests twice. Pay close attention to the tests you’ve run and catalogue them based on objective, page or strategy. If a strategy worked once (provided variables such as target market remain the same) simply extrapolate and implement again.
  • Re-use content, particularly for drip campaigns and sector-based marketing. Many of the base strategies remain the same and, so long as you’re careful and put some time into real-world examples and relevant case studies, the base templates can be used time and again to deliver more personalized content to nurture leads into sales.
  • Use mouse-tracking software to determine optimization opportunities and exactly where your traffic is struggling. This saves you serious time (and money) in the long run. Don’t guess, check.

#6. What are the key tenets of growth hacking that you would recommend bringing to a more established (i.e. stodgy) b2b business?

Adam’s Answer:

I don’t think you can just show up one day and say, “We’re going to do this now. Get in line.” There’s a lot of historical friction you may need to overcome. I recommend a few things: understand your customers and what makes them tick, start with some small and very measurable experiments, and try to assemble a relatively autonomous team from within to work on them. People like seeing teams put points on the board, so that’s always a top priority.

Our Actionable Takeaway:

I think the concept of assembling an autonomous growth hacking team from within is a good one. Many of your current marketers have traditional skills which translate easily and quickly to growth hacking. For instance…

  • Content marketers can quickly become the writers of an optimized drip campaign which nurtures leads into sales.
  • Your designer and product person can team up to improve UX.
  • Your most code-savvy member can learn SQL and Javascript to implement the more technical aspects of growth hacking.

Brian Balfour also talked a bit about convincing a traditional business to get into growth hacking in his AMA:

“What I’m finding is that most established companies that try to implement growth teams fail because they have other teams/executives “protecting their turf,” creating an immense amount of friction.”

Check out his three recommendations to reduce that friction in 6 Actionable Takeaways from Brian Balfour’s Growth Hacking AMA


There’s a lot to be learned from growth hacking thought leaders, and they’ve never been as accessible as they are today. Hopefully my recommendations give you an idea about how to take action on Adam’s answers.

If you have any questions about anything I’ve said above, reach out in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you.


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