How do I take the guesswork out of which growth experiments to do first?

Embracing failure is a surefire way to ensure you’re not short of ideas when it comes to growth experiments, but that doesn’t mean you need to fail at every step.

If you crawl the web you will find numerous listicles about which growth hacking experiments and tools are the “best”. We even have our favourites, such as the 35 tools that can help you to run growth hacking experiments if you don’t code, we’ve even written a few growth hacking tips of our own. It’s easy to search for growth hacks and end up with a never-ending list of things to try, sites to sign up for and automation platforms promising rocket-like growth.

The question is: how do you make sense of all this information? How do you guess what you should try and what you shouldn’t when it comes to growth hacking experiments?

What if we told you there was a way to reduce the guesswork when it comes to designing your next steps forward? In this post, we will share with you what we have learned in 4 years of growth hacking experiments.

 

By knowing the direction that you’d like to drive your business, you can begin to score these experiments in terms of how much impact they’ll have on the metric that’s pushing you forward. Designing a quick system to rank these tests, using variables you can score quickly, will give you a list of tests that you are confident will fuel your growth.

You need to prioritise your growth hacking experiments so that your work can be targeted and laser focused. Click To Tweet

 

Why you need to prioritise your growth hacking experiments

 

As human beings we have a tendency to follow our guts. It’s crucial to understand why we make blind guesses so that we don’t do it again. The super simple answer is that we don’t know exactly why. Part of it is related to how we behave in conditions of stress or pressure. When we don’t know what to do, we do anything that feels productive. It doesn’t mean we will choose the right thing.

Busy work is productive work right? Wrong.
Targeted work is productive work.

You need to prioritise your growth hacking experiments so that your work can be targeted and laser focused. Through targeted work, we can move in the right direction. In the next section, we go over how to establish a direction. For now let’s work out why it’s so easy to fall for the trap of busy work.

 

Throw your mind back to when you were getting started, every step that you took most likely had a positive effect on your reach, an increase in users, or at least more eyes on your content. There is a reward for doing anything.

  • Setting up a website – more visitors
  • Starting a newsletter – increased reach and engagement
  • Attending an industry show – better customer research

 

You get the idea. So, surely doing anything on those huge lists of experiments is beneficial? You could try all of them, but if they’re not aligned with your audience, or product, or the time you’ve got available to test then it’s all just wasted efforts. It helps to put a timeframe on the numbers you need to achieve to ensure you’re not spending too long with an idea that isn’t working.

 

How to evaluate whether the growth experiment you’re doing is right

 

As we said earlier, the first way to prioritise is to make sure you define the direction towards which you are moving. When you are driving you measure the distance between where you are and where you have to be. But of course, you need to know where you are going even before moving.

Ideally, before carrying out any growth experiments you should take a step back and decide on one single number that you want to change based on your goals.

If you feel like your experiments aren’t driving you in the direction, you will not change the direction. Rather you want your business to determine that single metric. Sometimes that metric is too broad. If your end goal is to “grow your business”, or “acquire more customers” or “do fewer custom jobs than last year” then it’s too broad.

 

A North Star Metric?

It’s been discussed in many other blogs just how important it is to focus on your North Star metric, or the One Metric That Matters. There are many different terms for it, but in essence, it’s the one number that you want to focus all your efforts on changing.

You want a specific, hard number. One that is measurable on a daily basis, one that we can design your experiments around to change. Without a specific metric, it is impossible to understand if you are moving in the right direction.

Once you know your direction and your metric, you can use them to build your growth hacking experiments. By assigning a system to each experiment, that scores it based on your confidence of success, time to complete and the impact of its success, you can prioritise what experiments you think will have the biggest impact on your metric.

Remember failure is fine, as long as we fail fast and learn from each failed experiment.

 

Some great examples of single metrics

 

There’s an amazing article on discovering your North Star Metric over on Amplitude.

By settling on the one metric that you’re looking to change you can take a step back and look at your experiment as a bigger picture. By removing yourself from the details you can assess to see if what you’re doing will really have an impact on your North Star Metric.  

 

  • Airbnb – How many nights booked, both a metric of the number of guests they’re servicing and the number of hosts on the platform.

 

  • Medium – The total amount of time reading.

 

  • Facebook  – Total Daily Users.

 

By boiling your growth metric down to something simple and explainable, you can be certain that all efforts are part of a continued goal. Next, we’ll discuss a method you can use to quickly assign a score to your experiments, planned and in progress.

This way you can decide, through numbers and not guesswork, if what you’re working on now is worth your time and effort.

A simple plan to prioritise which growth experiments to focus on

 

It’s easy to throw yourself into the deep end without giving much thought of if you’re being smart with your time. Here’s a simple way to organise your ideas for growth – from your head to neatly priorities and ready to action.

Oh and it’ll give you your growth to do list as well.

Let’s say your goal is to increase the number of people to a new landing page. Right now you’re not worried about the page conversion, just getting more eyes on the page.

Firstly, you should write all our ideas down in an easy to understand format (we’ve provided a spreadsheet for you to use at the bottom of the page, or you can make your own). You can list as many ideas as you want here. The more the better, remember at this stage you’re just listing them, there’s no commitment to execute right now.

Now give each one of the experiment ideas a score out of ten for each of the following four categories:

  • Impact
  • Confidence
  • Speed
  • Budget

 

Impact

How much of a difference do you think this will make toward your one metric that matters. Should the idea succeed what is it’s perceived return on investment.  If it’s a huge crater-like impact, give it a massive 10/10. If it’s just pushing the needle a tiny bit, then a 1/10. Don’t be too critical, just try to be realistic.

Confidence

Do you really think it’ll work? If you give it your 110% will it produce the results that you want? By being honest with yourself here, you can see what is something you believe in, and what is something that’s a pipedream. We’re after achievable results today, not someday.

Speed

Pretty straightforward. How long does it take to complete? How long does it take to see results? Do you have the time to get it done? Score this inversely based on 10 is super speedy, and 1 is requiring a lot of time.

Budget

How much is the test going to cost? Again, score this inversely based on 10 is little to no cost to you, and 1 is taking out a new mortgage to fund it. We’re looking for something that works with a low cost first, and has the potential to be scaled if it’s given more budget.

Now to order which growth experiments you’re going to do

For each experiment, score according to these criteria, add your numbers together and divide by 3 (round it up if you like nice whole numbers). Now you have your priority scores for getting your experiments done. The higher the number the bigger the priority. No more guesswork! You now have a list of experiments according to priority, simply make your way down that list!

We’ve put together a spreadsheet to make it easy for you, grab it over here.

You’ve got your direction just remember to iterate on these initial ideas as you progress!


Now a little extra: how to transform your growth hacking experiments this into a Sprint Plan

Assign a few days to test and go do your experiment. For this first attempt don’t go over 10 days, remember you need to stay focused.  Then reassess. How easy was it? How much did you spend? Is it going to take longer than expected?

Is it moving the needle in the right direction in terms of your key metric? And most importantly, are you going to continue the test?

Maybe it’s too time-consuming to continue, or it costs more than you thought, or it didn’t have the impact you were hoping for. If this is the case, then stop. Learn from it and move on to the next experiment in your list.

On the other hand, if you decide to continue your test, take some time to re-run the numbers. What will be different this time? Do you have another audience to focus on? Can you scale it by putting more budget into it?

With a sprint – assess – sprint – assess mentality you can ensure you’re time and efforts are not the product of guesswork and endless lists, but that of targeted bursts of energy and focused reflection on what is driving your business toward success.

What even is a Growth Hack? Check out our Growth Hacking learn guide to keep up to speed

In summary, we need to assess not only the experiments that we’re doing, but the direction we’re looking to go in. Detaching for a moment from the process of your experiments and running them through these quick tests will give you the confidence that you’re not wasting your time and efforts on which growth experiments to do. All good experiments have a short brief and hypothesis, yours should be no different.

Be sure to download our excel file to rank your ideas and remove the guesswork from your experiments before you get your head down and start building your empire.