It seems you can’t visit a startup networking event in London these days without bumping into someone talking about choosing a growth hacker or growth marketing. OK, hands up, it’s often us – but we’re only doing it because we’ve noticed it’s a passion area for all the startups we meet, not only in the UK but globally.
The problem with trendy concepts is that they risk becoming empty buzzwords if they are not carefully deconstructed. There’s a huge amount of detail to the methodology behind the words that if not understood properly, can make the difference between success and failure.
To coax out some of this detail, we sat down with Kate Fairhurst, CEO and co-founder of GrowthMinds. We asked Kate to deep dive into the vision of the team of ethical growth hackers that she built. And of course to talk a little about how a plug-in team of growth hackers can help startups and scale ups to define their messaging and positioning, attract the right clients, and grow their business in a sustainable way.
In 2016 we spotted that there was a challenge in the scale-up space for businesses to source and bring growth hacking expertise in-house. Growth hacking was becoming increasingly common and desirable to source. However, Growth Hackers themselves are a bit like unicorns – they are rare, hard to find, and hard to hire. So scale ups and startups wanted growth hacking knowledge inside their businesses, but were finding it hard to source.
At that time Niklas and Petteri, my co-founders, had a similar business in Finland, called Omni Partners, that was very successful. So when we noticed that the same problem existed in the UK market, we launched GrowthMinds to deliver Growth-Hacking-as-a-Service into the UK.
Companies really benefit from working with an external partner like GrowthMinds if they are very fixated on the thing that they’ve built, but they want to grow. There is a moment when any founder realises he/she is not a growth expert. But they still need and want to see results. So, that’s when having an external company to work with is very beneficial. The founding team can keep focusing on the product and we’ll take care of making sure that it’s positioned correctly and that the experimentation happens that allows them to get the data that they need to perfect the customer experience and the route to market.
Generally we work with the founding team. The amount that we’re stitched into a business depends on how developed it is. There are even times when we work closely with the board. For one particular client we have their investors involved in all of our strategic get-togethers, as what we’re doing is very much influencing the development path and success of the company, so much so that it really is an executive level discussion that needs to be had.
Other companies we work with are more evolved and perhaps less subject to the whim of market experimentation. In those cases we might work with the three essential functions of any tech company: sales, marketing, and product.
Yes, absolutely. We have clients who are legacy businesses who have got to a certain point and stalled, potentially because their product hasn’t evolved or because they’ve reached the stage where the low hanging fruit are gone and they haven’t quite figured out how to pivot to be more market resonant. In those cases we’ve been working with them on developing the product to make it more appealing to wider audiences and on their messaging to unlock more market segments.
It sounds like a really interesting job!
It’s a lot of fun.
You are actually changing how it is people see what it is that they’ve built. When you start working with one of your clients on growth marketing, what is a typical big impact thing you might put in first?
Through the years we developed a methodology. We call it the “The GrowthMindset”. We use it across all our clients. This method helps us to be open to experimenting, while keeping the scientificity necessary to tweak and improve what we do.
We start with making sure that the message and the website are working well. For example, the message needs to be market resonant, as I’ve said before, otherwise there’s no point driving people to it because it won’t work.
And also the website needs to be set up in the right way for conversion. It needs to have the right calls to action, it needs to have a conversion process that isn’t too elongated or too complicated. It needs to have a conversion process!
So we make sure that those things are in place, first and foremost, and that they’re working well, so that everything else we do around data experimentation produces data that is valuable.
Before companies start working with GrowthMinds, I think it’s very important for them to get their Unique Selling Proposition right. Everyone involved in the business needs to be on the same page on that. The most important thing for a scaling business is to make sure that their value proposition is extremely powerful.
Then they need to invest in developing something that actually solves a problem to avoid me-too services and to go for something that’s really going to help somebody.
I think getting the product right and having something that the market genuinely needs is the critical thing for success or failure in this space. Once they’ve got that, it’ll be easier for them to get the investment that they need because investors are smart people. If you give them a product that’s got a strong USP, generally they’ll get involved.
One of the things that you talk about is the complexity of digital marketing. It’s now very difficult for a company to do everything. So how many channels are you and your team actually testing at once in a typical case?
It’s not so much about the volume of channels. It’s about the volume of data and being able to analyse that data in very technically-capable ways. Traditional marketing was about the channels that you use. Now, of course, we run different campaigns on different channels, but it’s also very important to then look at the data that you get and to be able to slice and dice it in a way that extracts to get the information that you need to do the right things in the future. It’s not about getting growth right from day one, it’s being given the freedom by a company to test things, to experiment, to fail, because what you’re getting from that is data. What you’re getting from that is quick feedback that then informs the company, the product and the value proposition, and allows changes for it to be made to be effective the next time.
There are some channels that we find a business really must do right. As traditional as it sounds, Search Engine Optimisation is really important. Getting that right can make the difference between success or failure. And then there are other things around experimentation. Social media is a great platform to run short-term sprint campaigns. We work a lot with social because it’s great for experimentation and because you get real-time feedback. But also, it’s very good to target people who are absolutely interested in your thing. In the old world, people would talk about “audience personas”.
But “Personas” should be used carefully. We’ve realised that every individual is inter-sectional and it’s not possible to say “oh, my target is Denise, she’s 35, she’s got two children and she likes daytime television” because now we’ve realised that there’s so much more to Denise than that. And really, you can only target on an intersectional basis on social.
I really like what Jack’s Flight Club are doing. It’s a community that’s run by an entrepreneur who is an expert at trawling through flight websites and finding really low price flights. That’s all he does every day. Find really inexpensive flights. And then he sends out emails to subscribers, of which I am one, telling us of really low cost flights that are coming up. It’s really beneficial. I’ve got flights booked to Japan in January for £280 (quid) return. Right? That’s amazing!
Anyhow, so he starts with a freemium level subscription that you can sign up to a newsletter and get a certain amount of low value flight notifications. But then he also runs competitions on Facebook. He’s got one going on at the moment that, if you invite other people into the community you get 5 invites to submit to win a free flight. So, he’s just really smart with the way he’s building his community. He’s also really accessible. I’ve sent him emails and he replies. He’s very personable and therefore he makes good PR as well.
I think for any business it’s important to have a human face. People generally respond to people and stories, even if the product is really boring, I think it’s important to be real about that because, even if it’s dull, it will serve a very important purpose somewhere. And if you can communicate that important purpose in a way that is soulful, then that’s still something people will engage with.
There are some mistakes we see a lot of scale ups making. Doing bad PR is definitely one of them. There are a lot of scale ups who think that their announcement of some sort of new product is valuable or interesting to journalists or the wider community. And it just isn’t. And they don’t take the time to develop the relationships with journalists that they need to be able to then position a unique piece with any efficacy. There’s also too much time spent on short-term advertising campaigns without any optimisation and experimentation and not analysing the data and learning anything from it. That can burn through budget very quickly without actually delivering any return.
In the last 4 years, I would say that data has become a lot more complicated to work with. Four years ago it was still easy and safe to do marketing outreach by cold email and clearly the GDPR changes in legislation have quashed that completely and it means that people not only have to be more careful around the marketing activity that they do with data, but also manage the data that they harvest in very secure ways as well. That’s definitely changed the face of the marketing industry completely, that one change.
Otherwise, I would say that there is now much more appetite for experimentation. There are many more tools available technologically and, therefore, it’s much more complicated. You have to keep pace with all of the new platforms that are available and all of the things that they can do. So, it gets more and more complicated by the day. But it also opens up more opportunities.
Experiment costs have always varied, between being free, or very high cost depending on what you want to learn and whether you want to learn it from quantitative or qualitative methodologies. And also who your market is. I would say that, yes, there are platforms available like Reddit, like Facebook, where you can run a quantitative campaign very, very inexpensively compared to traditional above the line advertising. But you can still do free experimentation if you try innovative things.
Yes, absolutely. The level of ROI is very much dependent on where the business is at in its growth curve. An earlier stage business will have less brand visibility, less reputation in the marketplace and that means that the time it takes to build that will probably reduce the return on investment in year 1, potentially year 2. Whereas, a business that’s further along in its growth curve can certainly see strong ROI straight away.
For example: there’s a client that we’re working with at the moment. They have been going for 5 years so they’ve got enough brand reputation and use cases to be able to really accelerate from the first day that we started working with them. And, having just completed the first 6 months I can say that we haven’t really had the opportunity to optimise our work very effectively at all, but yet they still received a 3x financial return on their investment with us in that first 6 month period. Obviously, we expect that will accelerate as we keep being able to optimise, and experiment and learn and refine what we’re doing.
If you have any question GrowthMinds is your go-to team. From helping you figure out the right growth strategies, right through to campaign execution and monitoring. We’ve got the technical skills on tap to help you grow.
This interview was realised by Olga Pavlovsky.