Growth Is Never Done

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This is the post five of a five part series detailing the principles that I've implemented in high performance growth teams. 

At any given time our growth team is focused in on the highest impact area we can work on given limited resources.  We determine that by going through our growth process using growth models to guide us.  That means we might focus on virality for a period, then first seven day retention, then activation rate.  At some point our team will be big enough to have full time people on each one of those areas.  But even at that point there is one thing we always keep in mind...Growth Is Never Done.


There are always more experiments to run, learnings to be gained, and optimization improvements.  Just because we might have focused on virality for three months, doesn’t mean we are done with it.  

There are two core reasons why growth is never done. 

Everything Is Always Moving

Over time, things are always moving.  As things move, you need to adapt.  Specifically there are three areas that are always changing. 

1.  Your Product Changes
Over time the core of your product will evolve (hopefully a lot).  Just consider how much Facebook’s product has changed since it’s inception.  As your product changes, what works for growth will change as well.  You’ll need new on boarding flows, new email nurturing, new push notifications, etc.  What worked before, will become obsolete as your product moves forward. 

2.  Your Audience Changes
Every huge product typically goes through the innovation adoption lifecycle.  Your audience will start with the innovators, then move to early adopters, then early majority, etc, etc.  Lets use Facebook as an example again.  They started with a few core progressive colleges.  Expanded to all colleges.  Then high school students.  Then everyone.  Now even my 70 year old Dad uses Facebook and gets more comments/like than I do.  
As you move through these stages, different audiences behave and respond to very different things.  That means you need to evolve your messaging, on boarding, channels, almost everything as you grow.  



3.  Your Channels Change
User acquisition channels (especially online) is an adapt or die environment. This happens on both a macro and micro level.  At the macro level the number of new channels is increasing, and their cycles of effectiveness are accelerating.  This is best captured by an incredible chart put together by James Currier of NFX and updated by Peter van Sabben.  


On a micro level, each major channel is going through an incredible amount of changes.  What worked on Facebook Ads 90 days ago doesn’t work today.  I highly doubt what works today, will work in 90 days.  This is true for every major channel.  I put this graphic together 7 months ago and it is already out of date:  


Tactic Fatigue

Every growth tactic has a lifecycle of peak effectiveness to tactic fatigue.  This was described well by Andrew Chen in his post The Law Of Shitty Clickthroughs.  

Every tactic goes through the above curve in 4 steps:

1.  Someone discovers a new tactic that works really well mainly because it is novel. 
2.  The tactic is optimize it to its peak effectiveness. 
3.  Other companies copy the tactic so it becomes more widespread which causes it to lose its novelty. 
4.  After a while users start to block the tactic out which causes effectiveness to decrease.  


A great recent example of this is the proliferation of website light boxes such as mine:


I implemented this tactic long time ago when few people were doing it and I was getting email conversion rates above 10%.   But these days you would be hard pressed to find a site that doesn’t use these light boxes in some way shape or form.  An incredible amount of tools such as LeadIn, SumoMe, Hellobar, and more have made it super easy for anyone to implement.  As a result, the effectiveness of light boxes has decreased and is now in a steady state between 5% - 6%.  To combat this you could be testing new tactics such as SumoMe’s Welcome Mat.  

Once you understand this cycle then you should draw two really important conclusions: 

1.  It Is Important To Be Early 
The earlier you are to new tactics and channels, the more you can take advantage of that tactic’s peak effectiveness.  If you hit it super early, you can reap results that heavily heavily outweigh if you were to hit the tactic later in the cycle.  

2.  You Have To Keep Working Just To Maintain
It takes constant work, just to maintain the effectiveness of your channels and tactics.  This becomes harder and harder as you grow in size.  You have to keep investing more if you want to keep accelerating your growth rate. 

How We Apply This Principle

So how do we apply this principle on our team?  It comes down to two things.

1.  Culture Of Constant Experimentation
We institute a culture of constant experimentation on our team through our growth process.  Even if we only have the capacity to do things that we know have been successful I try to make sure the team is spending at least 30% of their time on experimenting with new things.  It is the only way to stay ahead of the curve.  

2.  We Aren’t Afraid To Throw Out Playbooks
As we find things that work, we systemize them in the product or by building playbooks.  It is easy to get into a rhythm of just running the same playbook because “thats whats worked.”  A lot of teams can fall into the trap of “we do that because we’ve always done it that way.”  As a result, we constantly try to be brutally honest with ourselves.  If something doesn’t seem to be working any more, we shouldn’t be afraid to throw out that playbook and replace it with something new. 

3.  Hire For Grit
“Growth” is a sexy job title to have right now.  With anything that is new and sexy you get the imposters that follow.  We try to be very careful of who we hire and make sure one of their personality traits is grit.  Knowing that what you are working on will never be fully optimized, that you may have to re-do it all in the near future, and that your job will never be done can be tough for some to handle.  We often go through times of constant failure.  The only way to get out of that is having the grit to stay focused, stay true to the process, and focus on quality experiments.  

Growth Is Never Done

At the end of the day, Growth is a long term game so take a long term view.  At times it will feel like you are running on a hamster wheel.  Just keep moving and never stand still.

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