Accelerating Early Product

with Amy Jo Kim

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Growth Fuel

When to iterate and when to grow

Amy Jo Kim

Game Designer, Social Architect, Startup coach

Lessons Learned

Traction means different things depending on your business.

Traction has very different phases. Always make sure you know what your goal is.

It’s important to know when you need to focus on plugging leaks and when to add growth fuel.


Lesson: Accelerating Early Product with Amy Jo Kim

Step #10 Growth Fuel: When to iterate and when to grow

Within larger scale phases, before product/market fit and after product/market fit, a lot of people would say when you get product/market fit, that's when you get traction. "Come back to me when you get traction," is a classic BC thing. What does that mean? It means all different kinds of things. It's like a different timescale, right? So traction sometimes means get your first 500 people. Sometimes traction means earn your first $20,000. It means different things. Sometimes it means show me your sales pipeline. Once you have that, if you have traction then you are growing.

I work with clients. I have ongoing relationships either as an advisor or as a once a month high value coach with a lot of my clients and I'll work with them as they go through it. That's why I say you don't stop finding product/market fit because they find traction and then they keep going and then, if I keep talking to my clients, they'll say "Okay. Well, now we've found we've sort of hit this wall and now we need to do this," and so they need to develop some new feature, but which? They had all the same questions again. Or they'll say, "Okay, we did it but now we hit a wall and we don't know why."

So I feel like traction has many phases and I don't know the right definition. But I know that with my clients, what I always work on is, "What is your goal"? For instance, I did a job with Netflix. And they're not a startup, or they weren't a startup when I worked with them, I should say. They were having real issues with two-month drop-off. And so they defined "on-boarding" as people use it and then around two months a lot of people are dropping off. This is quite a few years ago. They've, I think, largely solved it. They've gotten much better. We did a lot of work around understanding why that two-month drop-off was happening and then designing systems that would leverage their existing systems to push people through those two months and give them a reason to stay for another month. And there were lots of ideas that came out of that.

But that was an example of working with a client where they were at a very different stage and yet, "What's your goal? What's your strategy? What problem are you trying to solve? Who is it you're trying to solve the problem for? What need do they have?" All the same things applied to solving what features should we use to solve this problem. It was the same process, but at a very different phase. And again, they had traction but they were still struggling with this thing. So I feel like it's never solved. I just feel like your lens comes at different magnifications.

Having worked on so many projects at different phases, I've gotten much better at understanding what works at different phases. I think that one of the key things I've learned is when to pour fuel into your growth engine and when not. So phase-wise, that doesn't just happen very early in the product. It happens at later times. I worked with Indiegogo when they were very mature, and they were really struggling with some things that they needed to get right before growing further, even at a very successful point.

So I think that phase-wise, it's very helpful to understand when you have a leaky bucket and when you should plug those leaks and then when you should go ahead and pour some growth fuel in because your bucket is non-leaky enough that it's worth it. I think that's really a key thing. And I think that knowing that balance is something that really great tech executives and product executives and leaders are very good at, and they are sophisticated enough to know that there is no one right way or one right moment.

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