Inside eFounders
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Inside eFounders

How to Scale #ProductGrowth, with Maxime Berthelot (Buffer)

This article includes key takeaways from Maxime Berthelot’s talk on how to scale product growth. Check out the full video on Youtube or get the latest from our Scale series.

5 key best practices

Best practice #1: 4 key skills

When setting up your growth team, the skills you imperatively need are: engineering, data, product, and design. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your team will need 4 positions from the get-go, but it does require the positions that you open to combine (as much as possible) these 4 skills. Maxime puts particular stress on this as your growth team can only deliver if they have the means to set up experiments properly.

Note: Maxime draws from his own experience at Buffer where the team started with 2 members, one managing Product and Design and another on Engineering and Data. Once the team started to grow, they were able to level up on the areas that the team were less specialized in. However, keeping these 4 skills in mind from the start will enable your team to execute better and learn faster.

Best practice #2: Focus on 1 metric

When crafting experiments, Maxime recommends attempting to impact one metric at a time (engagement, conversion, or other). He then summarizes the goal in a simple structure: “if ____ then ____ due to ____”. He also considers the timing for the experiment and considers alternatives to regular split testing if traffic doesn’t allow for an A/B test to be performed in a limited timeframe. Maxime is a fan of Hotjar and suggests using qualitative testing — observing user behavior on a new “B” version — as a substitute for more quantitative methods.

Note: Maxime recommends that growth teams build their understanding and feeling for how their tests will perform by running A/A tests (splitting traffic on two identical versions of a given page and tracking variations in conversion, engagement, etc). This method allowed him to better interpret results — be they from regular A/B tests or qualitative testing.

Best practice #3: Document your experiments

As mentioned earlier: the growth team need to grow their intuition. Another way Maxime suggests they do so is by thoroughly documenting their experiments. Why did they run an experiment, how did they run it, did it work, and why: all these answers should be kept in a single knowledge base that will help the growth team draw from past learnings when they move forward, onboard new team members, and communicate their experience to other teams.

Note: Maxime’s team run short, 6 week cycles. They specify experiments, weigh the implementation difficulty versus the perceived impact, and retain knowledge from these cycles in the form of a consolidated knowledge base open to all employees.

Best practice #4: Activating hidden growth

Testing pricing is tricky. Conflicting pricing models in your existing user base create complexity. Diverging information in different parts of your site and marketing materials create frustration. But, as Maxime stresses, it is also the single lever for growth hidden in every product. Maxime draws on the exemple of how Buffer doubled pricing on one of their plans to calculate an optimal price point (whereby conversion dropped less than the increase in price) to demonstrate how testing pricing is an opportunity to consider for all growth teams.

Note: If Maxime advises aggressive experimentation on pricing, he also recommends products that rely on a freemium model to drive acquisition to work only on demonstrating the value of the product, and later of the paid plan, for users of the freemium version. The goal isn’t to convert users to paid plans by blocking features, but to solve the pain and show how the product could further help users with premium features.

Best practice #5: The power of words

Maxime is a firm believer in the power of copywriting. He tested, with tremendous impact, wording on various CTAs in experiments that allowed the team to reach impressive boosts in conversion rates. The specific example he gives is of changing in-app messaging from “Upgrade to Awesome” (the name of Buffer’s top pricing tier) to “Upgrade for more features”. The result: a 3% increase in conversion rate from a lower pricing tier to a higher one. Just. With. Words.

3 key mindsets

Mindset #1: Everyone is responsible for growth

Product, marketing, and support: all work hand in hand on different stages of the funnel to trigger growth. Maxime outlines the different areas of focus for each team along the lines of AAARRR (Awareness, Aquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, Referral), also known as Pirate Metrics. The marketing team focus on Awareness, Aquisition, and Referal. The product team on Activation and Retention. And the company/CEO on Revenue.

Note: The division of tasks doesn’t eliminate the need for collaboration and alignement between teams. Maxime strongly recommends involving support in different experiments that can impact the amount of incoming tickets. Likewise, support should involve growth in quantitative and qualitative reporting on tickets to inform further experiments.

Mindset #2: Setting up the growth team

The question whether to set up the growth team on a dedicated or functional model often comes up too early. For Maxime, there is no single set up for the growth team in a company: it all depends on the size of the team. Beyond the org chart — under a VP growth in the dedicated model, under a VP product in a functional model — what matters most is recognizing the specific mindset required for growth, and focusing on the right metrics right from the start. That is: signups, trials, and revenue.

Mindset #3: Minimum viable experiment

There is an undeniable pressure for growth teams to conduct multiple experiments each week and to learn fast. Maxime advises teams to focus on quality in their experiments, rather than to run flawed experiments on poorly designed features. Case in point: Maxime’s team ran a test adding a poorly designed “progress tracker bar” in the user’s onboarding — with no impact on engagement. Having then released a second, more polished version of the tracker bar, the results drastically changed: +20% engagement and boosted trial conversions. Details matter.

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About Maxime Berthelot:

Maxime’s process is unique. He heads up the Product Growth team at Buffer where he utilizes his skills as PM to trigger user activation and retention. Maxime shares how he set up the Product Growth operation at Buffer and how a product team can — and should — work on developing user acquisition, activation and retention. He is also the founder of Pixelme, the URL shortener for savvy marketers. Follow Maxime on Twitter.

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