Growth from User 0

with Morgan Brown

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Build your foundation first

Morgan Brown

Growth Hacker, Entrepreneur, Marketing Exec

Lessons Learned

You need solid analytics to run and scale growth experiments and to draw the right conclusions.

Startups usually miss the boat on understanding when they are fully instrumented.

Look for existing groups of people that are aggregated around an interest that you can leverage.


Lesson: Growth from User 0 with Morgan Brown

Step #6 Optimize: Build your foundation first

Growing a start-up is a lot like flying a plane. If you don't have an instrument panel, you can't tell if you are going into the earth or going up into the sky. It is a very dangerous situation. As a growth professional, or someone who is trying to grow a business, a founder, you really are trying to figure out what's working, what's not working and building a feedback loop. Without really solid analytics foundation, you don't have that feedback loop.

So, most companies, because they're in such a race to build their product, get to market, or that type of thing, analytics feels like a distraction, especially with free tools like Google Analytics. Most founders will say, "Well, I have Google analytics in place. Our metrics, our analytics is solved. Let's move on, we've checked that box. Let's move on to the other thing." And really, that's unfortunate because Google Analytics has a lot of shortcomings. It doesn't give you the whole funnel, doesn't do a lot of person level tracking, and there is a whole host of other problems with it.

Really, creating a solid analytics foundation gives you the confidence to run growth experiments to scale, growth experiments to spend money, to draw conclusions, and all the good things you are supposed to be able to do. So, if you don't have that foundation in place, then all of those decisions become much harder to make because there is lots of questions about the numbers. Are they accurate? Are they realistic? Is this even the right number? Are we looking at the right thing?

One of the big things that I see start-ups usually miss the boat on is understanding when they're fully instrumented with their analytics versus they have Google Analytics set up. So what happens is, Jamie Quinton wrote this great post about metrics STED, and basically the idea is that when you're not fully instrumented, it's harder to make decisions. There is more opinion involved. You can't ask really hard questions about your business and get answers, such as which source is the most profitable for us or where do our most active users come from. Those questions get really hard to answer. So over time, that slows down the business.

So, if you have a question about your business, because you are not properly instrumented, that takes you three days to answer versus five minutes. You're requiring a ton of metrics STED. So, I think even though early stage companies are really interested in growing and getting new users in the door, they should take a step back and really make sure their products are really well instrumented. And the team at Segment has actually created a really nice blueprint for instrumenting your start-up from the website to the mobile app to the conversion funnel to in-app use. Then I think if companies took the time to get well-instrumented, they would be able to make decisions faster and it becomes a tail-wind for your business that you're not burdened by these metrics STED and are able to move much quicker, and results in faster growth, more wins, and all the things that everyone likes.

One of the huge benefits that today's start-ups have that companies didn't have even just 10 to 15 years ago, is that there are these massive networks of people aggregated out on the web. And people obviously think that Facebook and Twitter and some of these bigger consumer plays, but these aggregations of people exist everywhere. So whether it's Craigslist, Salesforce, Google Chrome, other consumer platforms like Tumblr. Lesser known places have big platforms like Shopify for e-commerce or Magento. So you have these big groups of people that have ecosystems that already exist in one place that are really easy to reach now that you couldn't reach ever before. So I think start-ups that think beyond using Facebook and Twitter and look for other ecosystems that exist like GitHub. These are all huge platforms that can be leveraged for growth.

I think what is interesting is that, early on, when these platforms are very new, they're not designed for traditional marketers. There is no ad product. There is no pay for install product or ad management platform, which makes them cumbersome to deal with from a traditional marketing mindset. But, on the flip side, they are also the most open and most accessible and give you lots of opportunities to try figure them out. So I think start-ups today should always look for existing groups of people that are aggregated around an interest or a technology or a model that you can leverage. So I think a platform integrations are a must have for many different start-ups. I think it depends on the model, the platform you are going to choose, depends on the customer you're going after. But I think in general, they are a great opportunity for growth.

A couple of specific examples of companies that have really been successful with platform integrations are a company called Mavenlink. They are an enterprise, product management software. They created a free plugin for Google Chrome, the web browser. And worked really hard to be optimized for visibility in the Google Chrome store. And made it really easy to add manager tasks through Chrome for Mavenlink. I think they're either the number one most downloaded extension in the Google Chrome store or number one in their category. It's been a tremendous success. It has been a huge customer acquisition opportunity for them. You don't really think of a web browser as a customer acquisition channel, but the ability to integrate there has been really powerful for them.

Then you can take any numerous business tools that leverage the Salesforce app exchange. I know plenty of developers where the Salesforce app exchange is their number one customer install base. And then, of course, you have companies that sit on the back of Facebook. The thing with platform integrations is that sometimes the platforms can change the rules. A very recent example, is the video streaming service Meerkat was growing like crazy on top of Twitter and Twitter cut them off from their platform, and stopped their growth. And of course, like any good growth story, they were bending their rules a bit on how they use the Twitter API. That's an example of an app growing fast on the back of an existing platform by integrating with their API and using some of the inherent capabilities of that platform for growth themselves.

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