Sean Ellis on Growth

Why You Need a Growth Hacker at Your Startup

Neil Richler
May 7, 2014 · 6 min read

Growing startups is a passion of mine. There are few things more engaging to me than taking a compelling product and exposing it to as many people as possible. I decided to join Tradecraft to learn hands-on how to drive growth from some of the leading experts in the field. There is no better way to learn than to reach out to some of the gurus of growth, which is how I found Sean Ellis, founder of Qualaroo and GrowthHackers.com. Sean has done perhaps more than any other to popularize the concept of growth for startups. He has inspired me in my own pursuits through his clear posts that make a case for applying rapid, iterative growth hacking to drive customers through new and exciting channels.

I have tried to distill down Sean’s system for growing startups and have selected his most important insights for your consideration.

A growth hacker is more than just a marketer

The only metric that matters is growth

“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.”

A growth hacker carries this methodology throughout the stages of a startup’s development, innovating into new channels and using analytics to measure outcomes. He is constantly iterating, gauging users’ interest in different features and finding which resonate with a particular marketing channel. He uses a blend of intuition and analytics to find the fastest, most cost effective, and scalable channels for growth. Acutely aware of what a startup’s needs are at any particular stage of growth, he directs his efforts towards precisely those areas that will drive a startup’s continuous growth and development.

A growth practitioner’s job depends on the stage

Early Stage
• Validate Product-Market Fit
• Identify and lead users to a product’s core gratifying experience
Mid-Stage — the growth stage
• Identify and adapt to promising new channels
• Remove all friction to the must-have experience
Late Stage
• Scale up identified growth channels
• Continue innovating and finding new markets

With each new startup, I immediately started working to uncover the “must have” experience before I formed preconceptions about how and why a product would be useful. This involved a rigorous process for identifying the most passionate users and then getting their unstructured feedback about how they were getting value.

-Sean Ellis

The Early Stage: MVP to Product-Market Fit

Startups should think of their early users as a flock of sheep… “the flock always finds the best grass.”

Let your early users show you which features make your product outstanding and put all of your effort into showing those off.

Refine until it sticks

Validate your users’ interest

Whether or not your product has a for-purchase business model, you should include some deeper level of user interaction to gauge just how interested users are, beyond just a signup or the download of your app. Encourage users to share it with their friends or through social media, write a review, or even contact the developers. Increasing the user’s level of interaction with your app gives you a measurable indication of just how engaged they are.

As a bonus, giving users the ability to have that deep level of interaction so early on will help convert them into lifetime users. A user who has a positive interaction with the developers or sees a feature they recommended integrated into a new app may become a dedicated user for life, and is that much more likely to recommend the product to their friends. For example, a feedback button on your app can increase user engagement and make them feel like they are a part of the product’s growth. Interacting with users on sites like ProductHunt is an excellent way to build a connection with your most committed early adopters, turning them into dedicated fans and promoters of your product.

The Growth Stage: Remove all friction to the must-have experience

Make the most of your channel

A good growth hacker will use A/B testing to find the most compelling way to present information, heat maps and usage statistics to follow users through the experience, hands-on user interaction testing, and surveys to understand how users are engaging with the site. All of this is focused on finding and eliminating any friction points that get in the way of the user experiencing the core value proposition — how the product solves their need in the most simplified and intuitive way possible.

Growth Hacker

Posts from the greatest growth hackers of all time.

Growth Hacker

Posts from the greatest growth hackers of all time.

Neil Richler

Written by

growth@Algolia — passionate about growing startups — follow me @neilrichler

Growth Hacker

Posts from the greatest growth hackers of all time.