Maker Hunt’s AMA with Dylan La Com from Growth Hackers
So I saw that people seemed to appreciate Nikki’s bio she wrote, so I wrote up a bit of a longer bio to drop in here too:
I co-founded my first company in high-school, Wellen Surf, an apparel company that still exists and is growing today! It’s run by my co-founder now.
I started doing web development in college. My first web project was a music site where my friends and I interviewed musicians. Our third interview was with Ellie Goulding! I’m still surprised she agreed to do it ☺.
How I got into growth:
I had been following Sean Ellis’s startup marketing blog and I became extremely fascinated by the ideas of growth hacking and growth marketing as they crystalized in the minds of early growth hacking proponents like Josh Elman, James Currier, Sean Ellis, Andrew Chen, and others. I realized quickly that the work being done in areas like user acquisition and retention especially for these massive social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn would play an important role in all tech products in the future. And I couldn’t learn about it fast enough, so I begged Sean to give me a job at Qualaroo so I could work with him ☺
When I was originally hired at Qualaroo, I was doing marketing and some outbound sales, but having an interest and some experience with web development I wanted to eventually do more product related work. I was working part time at Qualaroo and studying computer science part time at a community college until I was hired full time as Qualaroo’s Growth Product Manager, where my role was to conceptualize and develop ancillary products that could help drive leads and sales to Qualaroo.
It was around this time that the idea for a growth hacking community was being floated around the office. We initially worked with a part time developer to build it, but soon after the project started, we took it in-house and I took over the product development. This was in July/August/September 2013. We launched GrowthHackers at the end of September 2013, and I’ve been working on building it and growing it ever since! I currently spend most of my time conceptualizing and implementing growth experiments with my team, as well as engaging with the community and doing general product management work. I love working with such talented and smart marketers both internally and talking with them on GH.
Maybe the above gives you ideas for questions, but if not, here are some random things I’m proud of:
I love surfing, in fact I chose my college because it was close the beach ☺and I ended up surfing for our college team winning a national championship
I have done 1 hackathon ever. It was an AngelHack in Los Angeles, and we took 1st place, beating 30 other teams. We had the opportunity to present our idea in San Francisco at the global AngelHack competition. I’d like to do more hackathons.
Ask Me Anything!!
Q. Can you mention a couple of your favorite growth hacks from well-known tech companies (like how Airbnb hacked Craiglist to build out their supply side)? — Eric Willis
Some of my favorites are some of the classics. The hotmail email signature is amazing. The Airbnb -> Craigslist one too. I love some of the tools as marketing ones too like Hubspot’s Marketing Grader site which drove them a ton of leads I’ve heard. SEO grader is another one. And even more recently I was impressed by Apple’s little growth hack of installing an Apple Watch app onto everyones phone!
Q. To someone new to the concept of growth hacking , can you explain exactly what growth hacking is? — A’nita
I’d say growth hacking has changed in the last several years. Originally it was more focused on these one-off creative tactics used to leverage exisiting user bases for your own growth but I believe it’s much more process oriented, we’re asking questions like, ‘How can I make this a repeatable process for nearly any company”
Now it is (IMO):
About spending less money and coming up with creative ways to grow your product, and turning this into a process, or a growth engine
Q. Do you see GH as distinct from metric based advertising? (optimizing funnels, etc.) because I see them conflated quite a bit — Michael Buckbee
I don’t. I think even in paid advertising you still want to spend as little money as possible and get the best result, so a lot of the same concepts and philosophies still apply
We run multiple tests a week, trying to do anywhere from 3–6 right now. One of our biggest wins was moving the email collector from the bottom of the page to the top for logged out users. I don’t think anyone expected a huge result, but for such a small change it was a massive win — over 700% increase in organic email subscribes per month.
We’ve also done a lot of testing of our Twitter feed, resulting in big gains in social media referrals. (use images in your tweets)
Q. Hey, would love to hear about some recent ‘growth hacks’ you’ve implemented and found to be successful? How did you find them? — Dan
I wrote about a couple of them above. Also things like in-app notifications are a great way to increase retention for users. We find growth hacks by constantly monitoring our data. Our whole team contributes ideas into a giant idea database we’ve built internally. From this backlog of ideas, we go through and prioritize ideas based on impact, cost etc. And we run lots of tests. Some tests we’re confident will be winners end up being losers, and vice versa. It’s very hard to predict which tests will lead to positive results, so we mitigate that by running lots of tests ☺. When you run lots of tests, you learn about your product faster, and are able to come up with better ideas for future tests. So, as a team, we’re all getting better at growing GrowthHackers
Q. Yo — never asked you this, but what were some of the lessons you learned from founding/growing Wellen to your role at Qualaroo/GH or the tech space in general? — Everette Taylor
Wassup!! I miss you man! Good question! At Wellen we never had anyone who was dedicated to marketing, it was sort of just handled by myself and co-founder. But marketing is so important to creating a great business, and it’s a shame when there’s a great product that doesn’t have great marketing behind it. I also learned a lot about managing a team. Choosing the right people on your team is so important. A strong team can do amazing things together.
Q. The standard criticism of “Growth Hacking” is that it’s “Just Marketing” — what distinctions do you draw between traditional marketing and “Growth Hacking” — Michael Buckbee
I speak for myself on this one haha, others may have a different answer, but TBH it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s just a name, and yes there is a lot of overlap, so you can call yourself whichever one you want. But I think the basic principles of growth hacking are much more data-driven than traditional marketing. And I think that’s because of how the ideas came about, in Silicon Valley, right as data is becoming a commodity. There’s a lot more to it than that though, and I’ll leave it to the experts to answer ;)
Q. What tools are in your growth hacking toolkit and which one is your “favorite”? — Eric Willis
I use: Kissmetrics, Google analytics, email, Optimizely, and internal tools mostly. My favorite right now is Optimizely though. We’re able to build complex alternate pages on GH, and redirect targeted traffic from any source we choose to see our tests, then pump this data into GA and KISS to monitor retention cohorts. It’s pretty great, and I love that Optimizely allows so much customization. Also that they’ve rebuilt their statistics engine, so it provides more accurate reports now.
Q. Are you a developer? Do you think a development background helps with Growth Hacking? — Michael Buckbee
Okay, I think that’s the end of it. Thanks so much for everyone’s questions. I had a lot of fun. If you want to connect with me I’m on Twitter!
Want to really thank you for doing this!
Super fun! You’ve got Mr. Morgan Brown coming tomorrow right?
We’ll get your AMA up on Medium soon. This was great. Yes. We have Morgan Brown tomorrow! Stop in! You can probably ask Morgan a great question considering your background.
I definitely will haha
I get his newsletter and I generally don’t like newsletters, but I stop what I’m doing to read this daily — Eric Willis
I’ll probably be sitting next to Dylan when I do it ☺ — Morgan Brown
Hahaha! I didn’t expect that response ☺— Eric Willis
Yes we work right next to each other. I siphon all his knowledge.
Don’t cheat and give him the question in advance, Dylan! — Eric Willis
Haha deal. Alright thanks everyone!
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