Turn your startup into a process or die

Following the last post using 3 examples where startups had created a system that powered their growth I got thinking about what the experts had already tested out. I found a nice post from a couple of years ago from Referral Saasquatch which explores the topic in more depth, with Brandon Gains talking with Brian Balfour, VP of Growth at HubSpot.

What it nicely includes are Google docs to download which allow you to see growth and test growth experiments. The growth experiments are the building blocks to create your process: Experiment Backlog Spreadsheet and Experiment Design docs here.

What’s also really nice about Brandon’s post is that it also shows Hubspot’s overall process following those growth experiments. He also gives examples (captured in the Google docs) for each section of the system. And with the reproduction of that system  captured in a playbook.

Here’s the growth flow chart Brian uses with his team.


Source: coelevate.com


Creating a Backlog

growth experiment backlog

This is where you put the brainstormed experiments that your team wants to run. Think of it like your product development roadmap, but this time it’s for your growth team. The key here is to accurately understand the scope of running the experiments. IE what the steps are to implement and what resources are needed for each experiment.

Creating and Using an Experiment Doc

This is the lifeblood of the growth experiment process. You start with your idea and create the objective and hypothesis to help prioritize the experiment.

Once you make the test a priority you begin to design the steps needed to implement the experiment.

When the test is complete you then record the results, discuss your findings and plan the next steps.

Growth Experiment Design Doc

Creating a Playbook

This is where you take your successful experiments and document the step-by-step process into a playbook that your team can revisit as a repeatable growth experiment. For example marketplace startups like Airbnb, Uber and UrbanSitter have built playbooks for their city-launches.

They use a combination of guerilla marketing tactics to seed the initial word of mouth of their city launch. Measure what they spend hosting events, meeting with influencers, putting up posters, etc..

In a recent talk from the 500 startups bootcamp. Rebecca Rosenfelt went over how the teams tracked the ROI from their city launches that used targeted FB ads and compared them to their guerilla campaigns.

After seeing the higher ROI from the guerilla marketing campaign they created a playbook to help the team build a repeatable city launch strategy.

content marketing playbook

source: nextviewventures.com

Internally, a parallel version of a playbook is a guide for onboarding staff, for example my friends at MBJ London which just recently raised £715K on Crowdcube, have created a staff ‘playbook’ to ensure the secret sauce for the Website as a Service product is understood by staff as they expand globally.

Getting that right is easier said than done. At Sony EU in 2012 the Radian6 social monitoring software playbook was 28 pages long, and wasn’t very effective at driving adoption, but despite my queries to Tokyo HQ that was the tool we used!

In other words if you are designing systems for growth either externally with customers or internally with onboarding, it doesn’t matter how good they look or sound if they don’t actually do the job.

Getting them to work is often about keeping it simple. My most popular flowchart (over 150 downloads) on Slideshare is the simplest, a one slide explanation/example of how KPIs work.

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