Growth Hacking Strategy
Most things we can read about Growth are very operational. You need to run experiments in order to improve your growth. Quid about Strategy? What comes before?
When thinking about Growth, most people think about CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) on the ToFu (Top of the Funnel). They don’t really understand what is the power of Growth.
To solve this issue, it’s necessary to take a step back and to think about Growth in a strategic way. So, what is a Growth Strategy? How to create one? What are the challenges?
To help you even further, I’ve designed a template you can use to work on your Growth Hacking Strategy. Click here to download it.
Getting the strategy right comes before the Growth Hacking Process. You’re trying to identify the area on which you can have the most impact within your limited resources.
When you start with the Process the main issue is that you’ll start brainstorming ideas around every aspect of your business.
You’ll probably brainstorm ideas to bring more people in (Acquisition), make them use your product (Activation) and so on.
You’ll then start to experiment ideas with the most impact.
The result: you’ll lack focus and you won’t move the needle.
Despite your lack of focus, you’ll probably grow your Customer Base, however, your efforts won’t be very effective. You can do much better!
To overcome this issue, we want to design a Growth Strategy beforehand to identify the best areas to focus on.
Strategy is a building block of your growth. The aim of the strategy is to:
Create focus & directions within the Growth Team
The strategy is mainly comprised of:
- High-impact areas
- OKRs (Objective and Key Results)
In other words, you’ll identify the areas where you need to focus on along with the key results that you expect.
Once you’ve done your strategy, you’ll be able to start experimenting on one of your high-impact area with the Growth Hacking Process.
By having a true strategy, you’ll be able to better brainstorm ideas and prioritize them. If you focus on Retention, you’ll be able to say no to experiments on another part of your funnel.
You need to put your Strategy into writing so that it can be available across your whole business. You’ll also avoid changing of focus every week.
Getting your Strategy ready shouldn’t take you months. You want to move the needle, you don’t want to spend too much time here. Just spend enough time to identify where you can have the most impact.
You don’t need a 10-pages long document, 1-2 pages or 2-3 slides are enough. Spend enough time thinking it through but make sure it’s accessible to everyone.
Getting your strategy ready beforehand is the first step of your Growth’s success. You’ll give focus and directions to your entire team and make sure your efforts aren’t going to waste.
How to define a strategy?
In order to define a winning strategy, you need to gather insight around your product and consumers.
You need to gather 2 different kinds of insight:
- Qualitative by talking to your customers & prospects
- Quantitative by looking at your metrics and surveying your user base
It can also be helpful to define your Growth model so that you can have a look at the bigger picture.
In this section, understand your funnel (e.g. AARRR) and the metrics of each step.
You need to go through your key issues and start understanding why it doesn’t work and how you can make it better.
Let’s take an example:
- You discover you have a Retention problem: most of your users Churn after 120 days
- “Let’s work on Retention!”
- What if people are actually done with their job after 120 days? Your problem of Retention is built within your product…
At the end of this part, you should be able to understand your funnel and get the true reasons behind each problem.
Identify High-Impact Areas
You should now be able to clearly identify your weaknesses and strengths.
List out each step of your funnel along with the key metrics. You could use the following template making use of the AARRR framework:
Once you know each steps and their metrics, you can easily identify where users are dropping off and where you can have impact.
Your weaknesses should appear quite obvious:
- Are most people dropping-off before they can even see your product?
- Are people never coming back after their first visit?
Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, you should start to realize some of them will have different impact over your business.
If only 5% of your users start using your product, but out of these, 90% convert as paying customers, you know where to focus…
Define success & failure by designing clear OKRs you can look at. They’ll help you reassess how you’re doing after each iteration.
Now that you’ve identified all your high-impact areas, map your progress over the next 6 months.
“We will start by focusing on Retention, then move onto Activation.”
Plan iterations of 60-90 days. You’ll reassess how you’re doing monthly and at the end of each iteration.
Note that I’ve only included Metrics Goals here, you’ll need to define bigger OKRs for each iteration.
This roadmap is just to make sure you have your head clear. If you didn’t reach your goals at the end of an iteration, you’ll need to reassess the whole strategy.
Bonus: Map your Growth
Now that you know where you want to have impact and all the metrics that goes along it, you’re able to map and predict future Growth.
Predicting your Growth is especially useful to show your leadership where you’re going and that you’ve done your homework.
You’ll probably notice the simplicity of the models I’ve used. That’s mainly because you shouldn’t spend too much time on the planning.
Your numbers will be wrong anyway. You’re gonna have fluctuations on other parts of your funnel.
You need to make sure that your Growth Strategy is aligned with other strategy within the company.
If your Product Team wants to remove a certain part of your product, there is no point for you to start working on them.
On the other hand, if your CEO wants to increase the user base and you want to focus over retention, you guys have to talk!
In order to do so, talk with everyone involved and present your strategy to the whole company. Everyone should be involved in your Growth.
Growth and Growth Hacking, if they are two different terms, have been largely distorted over the years.
We can read plenty of articles over the operational side of things (aka “10 Hacks to Boost your Retention”). However, we lack of documentation over the bigger picture.
This article aims to show everyone what is truly happening within Growth Teams: they don’t just experiment blindly.
Want to go even further? Click here to download the Growth Strategy Template.
The Growth Process is all about launching experiments regularly. The Strategy gives the right trajectory to your team and company.
If you have been experimenting for a while and your Growth isn’t going anywhere, you probably lack of focus because you didn’t think it through beforehand.
You got it, Strategy is a main aspect of Growth. Take the time to set it up and you’ll do great.
What do you think? Have you struggled to identify your high-impact areas? How did you go about it?
Pierre – Thank you for this extremely detailed and clear framework…As I learn more about Growth Hacking, I can definitely see why strategy is a fundamental precursor to successful execution.
We’re still trying to get a handle on in-app engagement, so it would be awesome if you could write more about retention. I’m guessing this is very product specific, but if you have any insights like above I know I’ll be back to read more.
Thanks Jason. I’ll try to write more about Retention in the future, thanks for the heads up.
Retention is a primary issue to tackle. Before you can truly retain users, you can’t step on the gas and start Acquiring more users. That’s also where a lot of founders can get it wrong: instead of focusing all of their energy on Retention, they start doing Acquisition, which is like filling in a leaky bucket…
Thanks Pierre for this wonderful insights. This article couldn’t have come at a better time. We are looking out for ways to growth hack our acquisition. Been cracking our heads on coming out with the strategy.
For the looks of it, growth hacking seems to need a bigger team than expected for the whole strategy to accelerate. We are actually picking up bits and pieces from here and there on growth hacking. Do you have any recommendation on what are the books or article that can help us understand and embrace growth hacking?
Thanks for the sharing this article!
Thanks Jeremy! To embrace Growth Hacking, you need to have a general understanding of how Marketing works, I’d recommend you to look at this article by Brian Balfour.
Once you have this general understanding, you can start looking at articles on GrowthHackers.com to get deeper into Growth Hacking.
I’d love to hear more about how you assigned values to the actions in the High-Impact Areas table. I’m slightly confused about how you came up with those numbers and would love to implement something similar!
Thanks in advance.
These numbers were randomly chosen. It’s a simple implementation of the AARRR framework.
You may have different steps within your funnel. You’ll have to adapt the framework to your own business.
The main idea here is to understand the flow of the users and to understand where users might get lost / blocked. In other words, you are looking for bottlenecks. You can then start to identify the high-impact areas.
Love the tone of the article! Always good to re read some of the basics, we all tend to lose our focus from time to time.
Looking forward to reading other articles!
Glad it helps Laurent :)!
Great article! Especially after that even growth hacking requires strategic planning to be successful.
The concept of a short 1-2 page plan to get moving quickly is brilliant.
Would you have any real life examples you could share?
Most companies running Growth decide to focus on specific area in order to avoid spreading their efforts on too many things.
One great example of this is The Growth Study of GrowthHackers.com. They clearly put the focus on Email Collection and applied a thorough process to their growth (High Tempo Testing).
Fantastic article, Pierre.
I particularly like the point you make about choosing one area of AARRR to focus on.
I’ve brainstormed on ALL areas and it gets messy!
Glad it helped. Brainstorming on all these areas can get messy but it’s definitely the way to go in order to build your Growth Strategy.
Feel free to use the template provided in the article as it can allow you to structure your thinking.
Wow! Powerful and clear! Thank you for this article 🙂
Thanks for reading!
Very upcoming topic and nice illustration.Thanks for sharing your views with us.
Glad you found the article helpful Sophia 🙂
Very interesting article. Indeed there is a lack of information regarding aligning growth hacking with a overall strategy.
What I still don’t understand well is how to align the OKR model with the AARRR model, since OKRs and respective KR can go beyond this restricted framework – or did I understand something wrong?
For example Create a content marketing backlog could be a OKR but content can be used in every stage of the funnel couldn’t it?
Maybe you can help me out…
Hey Nick, Glad the article was helpful.
You probably should but you don’t have to align OKRs with AARRR. Content can improve all areas of the funnel. However, do you have the resources (e.g. team & money) to achieve results on every part of the funnel? If not, you should focus a specific channel to help with only one part of the funnel (e.g. Acquisition).
“Creating a content marketing backlog” is not a key result, nor an objective. Here are some examples:
Objective: Acquire 10 clients (out of 50) through Content Marketing
– Publish 3 articles per month and acquire 1k visitors per articles
– Get 200 newsletter subscribers per articles with a CR of 2%
In the end, don’t get bogged down too much into goal setting. Of course, it’s important, even primary so that you can focus and motivate your team. However, what matters most is setting objectives & goals that make sense and will really move the business forward.
Thanks Pierre for your amazing insight. It’s open my eye to see the bigger picture how to improve my business growth.
One of the fantastic and implementable stuff that I have found so far. With my new role as VP of Growth, my stride is going to be a cakewalk with this article. Thank you so much for sharing this. Please keep writing.
A voracious reader of a practical, startup content.