Sean Ellis, Father of Growth Hacking, is brilliant. Unlike many speakers, he is well-known for providing actionable tips. The only problem? Just because they are actionable doesn’t mean they are easy to put into practice.
I heard Sean speak at Startcon 2016 but waited to write this post because I wanted to see which action items he suggested would prove hardest to follow. Here are his five hardest tips I challenge you to action in 2017.
- Stop stroking your ego
In most of his talks, Sean references the “North Star metric” but the part we seem to miss is picking the right metric. Founders start companies because they truly believe they will work, so it’s natural ego is going to play a (big) part.
A true North Star metric provides value to the customer, not our ego. “More signups” or “products sold” don’t necessarily mean we’ve delivered actual value to the customer, making them dangerous stars to follow.
At Recomazing, it’s taken us a couple months to drill down on one metric - business profiles viewed. Our goal is to help entrepreneurs find a relevant business or tool to help their company grow faster, so business profile views are a good start towards indicating that they’ve found a business of interest.
- You always remember your first time
Remember job descriptions? Yeah me neither. One of the most exciting things about working for an early stage startup is creating something (usually) from scratch. It means there are 456,823,108 features you can implement followed by a deep urge to do them all straight away.
Follow Sean’s advice. Fifty percent of the effort you put into your product should go towards the user’s first experience. If they can’t complete what you want the first time, they ain’t comin’ back for the 456,823,108 other cool features.
Recomazing started as a B2C platform where users could recommend any service under the sun. We didn’t really know what a good first user experience looked like because our concept was too broad. We saw a real issue specifically within entrepreneurial communities prompting us to narrow our focus. And it’s worked.
- Take em for a test drive
When you first start out, you wholeheartedly believe that your product will be successful. It’s such a great idea that you are nervous someone else might steal it, so you hire best friends and past colleagues you trust. Or your product suddenly changes and you find yourself desperately in need of a certain skill set, yesterday.
So it’s understandable that Sean’s advice here is scary, but it’s better to hire a freelancer who is twice as expensive, than gambling on a full-time employee. You are testing different solutions and channels and when one doesn’t work out, you’ll be stuck with an expertise you don’t need.
At Recomazing, we have a small core group of full-time employees, each of whom would struggle to tell you “what they do” since each do about five different jobs. We contract the rest of the team so that we can expand and contract to the skills required at present and only bring on full-time employees when we’ve proven that expertise is here to stay.
- Be a show’er then a grow’er
Growing a crap product no one cares about is the fastest way to failure. Sean says: If 40% or more would be distraught then you should start to scale. If not, go back to your product – there’s more work to be done.
Sean mentioned using a survey to ask this question. I asked “what if no one responds to the survey?” He looked at me and said, “Then they probably don’t care about your product.” Touché sir! He softened the blow by pointing out, if you’ve built a product of interest, your customers will want to provide feedback to make it even better. If the survey method isn’t working, call or email individually and have a one-on-one conversation.
At Recomazing, we scrapped the survey and went back to the source - our customers. And they’ve provided some awesome in-person feedback.
- Grow some balls
They call it a MVP for a reason. When you are ready for growth, Sean tells us to build it, get it out there and then send lots of people to use it (1,000 people per day). Maybe only one of those 1000 people accomplishes the task you wanted. Does that conversion freak you out? Are you lamenting all those lost customers who might never come back?
If you really listened to Sean, you don’t. You need to drive some traffic to your product in order to know what works. It’s okay to lose some short-term customers for the sake of long-term solutions. If you don’t send enough people you don’t really know what’s broken. If something breaks then GREAT! You know where to focus your efforts.
Sean also says you shouldn’t start to grow until you have a product that people want. At Recomazing, we are just starting to send larger numbers of public users to our site because we wanted to perfect our product a little bit more.
So there you have it. Five tips of Sean Ellis’ that you might find very difficult to follow. I hope you and your company, like us here at Recomazing, spend part of 2017 working to action at least some of these tips.
If you are interested in other tips and recommendations from Sean’s talk, you can check out his profile on our website.