What’s the 6V Conversion Canvas and how do I use it?

This is the eighth in a series of articles on growth hacking, which I’m going deep into with a minidegree in Growth Marketing from the CXL Institute. Read more: What is growth hacking? | How to run a successful growth marketing experiment in six steps | This is the successful formula for A/B testing mastery| This one mindset will make you a better marketer

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Optimization is all about efficiency. When you optimize, you are making things more efficient. You’re getting more out of the same resources by improving how they’re used or allocated.

But that’s only part of optimization. It’s also about effectiveness. As you make things more efficient, you also want to make them more effective. When you increase both efficiency and effectiveness, you fully unleash the power of optimization by not just streamlining (efficiency) but also amplifying (effectiveness).

For most of us, efficiency is the easy part. We’re great at the tweaking and fiddling that can unlock a few percentage points of improvement. It takes much more thought and experimentation to figure out the most effective way to use our resources.

That’s why I really like the 6V Conversion Canvas: It’s a clear framework for uncovering the information necessary to be most effective in your optimization efforts.

The 6V Conversion Canvas

In conversion optimization, success is pretty much correlated with research. The better you are at doing the dusk research upfront, before you start experimenting, the more likely it is that you will run effective experiments — which just also happens to be more efficient, as your waste less time and be more effective.

The 6V Conversion Canvas is a framework for desk research. It guides you through the six steps of gathering information and building a knowledge base to draw on for your conversion experiments. Even if you’ve been doing conversion optimization for a long time, the simplicity and structure of the 6V Canvas keeps you on track.

How to use the 6V Conversion Canvas

From the beginning, you need to do the research right so that you don’t waste time on experiments that don’t work because they’re built on faulty assumptions and bad data.

At the start of a new conversion optimization project, open the canvas and start at the top left. You’ll follow each prompt to help you surface useful information and valuable insights. To really excel at the research phase, think like a detective!

1. Value

First, you dive into the company values that are most important and relevant to the project. You want to carefully consider what would be most impactful to the business. This is where your understanding of the current parties comes in handy. At this stage, the objective is to be sure that your chores and projects can help the business of cheap it’s near term goals, rather than distracted.

2. Versus

The next step is to do a thorough competitor analysis. It’s quite possible that this information already exists internally. Even so, you want to be sure that you have a clear understanding of who the competition is and what they stand for. In fact, it’s almost always advisable to purchase from all of your competitors so you can experience what it’s like to be a customer.

Questions to ask yourself

To get a complete picture of your competition you’ll also want to:

  • look for any important audience overlaps
  • see how they are adapting and adjusting their own user experience by tracking their changes using tool like visualping or wachete
  • Learn what tools are using via built with.

3. View

At this stage, you’ll dive into your web analytics and get to know the behavior of your visitors.

Ask yourself questions like: where visitors again on your side, where they come from, what their journey is, and how they act on the most important pages. You’ll also want to explore any differences between segments or products, all of which can provide useful information for building effective conversion experiments.

Key areas to explore:

  • Traffic sources
  • Landing pages
  • Customer journeys across key segments, products and landing pages
  • Time on page
  • Scroll depth
  • Heat maps

After a thorough analysis, translate these insights into specific behavioral segments that track through your typical flow. These are essential, as you will be matching specific segments to each experiment.

4. Voice

You have some of the most useful information internally. Mainly, all of your customer service communications. Speak with everyone that you can, anyone that interacts directly with customers. That could be anyone from customer service reps to salespeople. Those that are closest to the customer or valuable resources direct, real-time insight into your customers.

For instance, your sales team will have a list of common objections that can help you prioritize experiments. These insights can also inform your information architecture so that you rank information in a way that directly addresses pressing problems.

Other treasure troves include social media feedback, website chat logs, user research, and interviews with actual customers.

5. Verified

Now it’s time to nerd out. A major part of successful conversion optimization is understanding the psychology behind human behavior. You always want to have a reason why you’re running a test and why are you expect there to be a result. Remember: hypothesis building that is at the core of growth marketing experiments. And strong hypotheses are based on science and not just internal data.

6. Validated

Nearly there! It’s so easy to run out of steam at this point. Just put in a little more effort to validate what you’ve learned so far through the lens of previous tests.

Pull up your experiment tracker and review your past tests to see if there is anything you can learn from them. More often than not, a quick refresher will prompt learnings that can make your next round of tests better.

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Of course, this process is much longer than a block us. And not every experiment will require a lengthy research process. However, it’s best practice to pull up the canvas for each round of experiments. Things change quickly, especially at start ups. You’ll likely uncover fresh insights by going through this process regularly!

This is the success formula for A/B testing mastery

This is the sixth in a series of articles on growth hacking, which I’m going deep into with a minidegree in Growth Marketing from the CXL Institute. Read more: What is growth hacking? | How to run a successful growth marketing experiment in six steps | How to identify the best channels for your next growth marketing campaign | What the FUD? | How to test the health of your Google Analytics

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When it comes to conversion optimization, there’s no tool as powerful and useful as the A/B test. Since A/B testing is the main tool in the conversion optimization toolbox, you’ve got to master it to be successful.

These tests are how are you evaluate the validity of your growth marketing hypotheses. You take your current page, and then you put it next to a challenger page that has something different, such as a missing element, new copy or different information architecture.

And then you run the test for a defined period of time, anywhere from a week to a month, and see if the challenger version can improve conversions on a specific goal or event when compared to the defauly.

As always, that’s easier said than done.

Ton from Online Dialogue cuts through the noise and offers up a simple success formula for mastering A/B testing. Here’s my note:

The beauty of the success formula is that it is self-explanatory. It’s simple and straightforward. It’s also a helpful guide and reminder to keep you on track when prioritizing the order of your A/B tests.

It’s about doing the right research, coming up with the right hypothesis, testing it in the right location and then prioritize based on potential effect. Do the ones first that will make you the biggest impacts.

Ton @ Online Dialogue

I’ll explain each of these real quick below so you have complete clarity on what needs to be done when prioritizing your A/B testing.

Relevant location

The first part of the formula is having a relevant location. What this means is prioritizing pages that both align strongly with your hypothesis and have the greatest potential for impacting core business metrics. These metrics will vary but always related to conversion of some sort of event: a completed transaction, an email sign up or moving down to the next stage of the final.

Ultra often, a great hypothesis with strong potential effect fails because of the tests being run at the wrong location. This is doubly unfortunate, because a location-based failure can lead to wrong assumptions about the relevancy of the hypothesis and its potential effect.

Think carefully about each test: Is this the right place to test this specific hypothesis? And is this the right product that we want to optimize for our specific focus KPIs?

Don’t fall in the trap of just now focusing on the specific templates. Instead, focus on the products you want to optimize with the right KPI and have the hypothesis that are backed up by research.

Ton @ Online Dialogue

Relevant hypothesis

The A/B testing success formula Also requires a relevant hypothesis. This hypothesis should be based on extensive customer research, as well as a curiosity and understanding of broader consumer psychology.

As a refresher, this is what a good hypothesis looks like:

[from Ton @ Online Dialogue via CXL]

You can and should have many hypotheses. That’s a good sign! It means you did the proper customer research before implementing your tests.

User research, which is part of running a growth marketing experiment, should be based on extensive conversations with customers and colleagues. You want to learn as much as you can about user behavior, user challenges, and user fears, uncertainties and doubts.

If you’re uncertain how to build a long list of relevant hypotheses, turn back to your research using the 6V Conversion Canvas. Each of these areas are rich with insights waiting to be uncovered. When going through this extensive research process, you should find no shortage of potential hypotheses.

[from Ton @ Online Dialogue via CXL]

Once we have brainstormed a good number of hypotheses, then you can start matching hypotheses with specific locations for testing. And then choosing which ones to start with based on potential effect.

Potential effect

Last but not least, you want to consider the potential effect of each of your tests. It may be stating the obvious…but you don’t want to waste time on experiments that have low impact.

But success formula requires that you start with those location/hypothesis combinations that have the highest potential for moving core business metrics. Of course, the most important metrics can and will shift depending on the season, business needs and all that. Most often, these metrics are directly related to revenue.

However, there are plenty of ways to optimize for potential effect that aren’t directly correlated to revenue. For example, if you find a major drop off early on in the checkout phase, optimizing that page may trickle down and have a major impact on revenue.

Creating your “experiments roadmap”

Once you have these three components — location, relevant hypothesis, and high potential effect — you can build out your experiments roadmap. This is a list of all the tasks that you want to run. Your roadmap gives you an overview of everything you want to accomplish.

As you can see below, each test has location, a hypothesis based on a psychological determinant, and a stage of the customer journey.

[from Ton @ Online Dialogue via CXL]

Next, so use that roadmap to prioritize first based on Minimum Desired Effect and then, once experiments are running, based on actual measured results. More on that in my next post! In the meantime, check out this great tool for prioritizing your A/B experiments.

Ask these questions to test the health of your Google Analytics

This is the fifth in a series of articles on growth hacking, which I’m going deep into with a minidegree in Growth Marketing from the CXL Institute. Read more: What is growth hacking? | How to run a successful growth marketing experiment in six steps | How to identify the best channels for your next growth marketing campaign | What the FUD?

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Analytics are complicated. And rightly so: There are many different factors in channels that go into influencing people to visit your site, engage further and potentially become a customer — or at least sign up for your newsletter.

But when was the last time you checked up on your Google Analytics? Just because it set up and seems to be working doesn’t mean that it is accurate and reliable. Mini analytics configurations we never set up correctly to begin with or did not evolve alongside new features and functionality.

If you want to do growth hacking right, you have to measure it. And if your measurements are off, at best, you’ll be aimlessly hacking away with little to show for it. At worst, You’ll be acting on the wrong information and potentially doing harm to your business.

A proper analytics configuration gives you what you need to confidently make both marketing and site optimization decisions.

During his session on Google Analytics, Peep from Conversion XL shared a few key questions. I’ve riffed a bit here, but the gist is the same: Use these questions to begin evaluating the health of your Google Analytics. It’s by no means comprehensive but it gives you the structure to get started!

#1: What are the business-moving metrics?

When it comes to your website, the reason for analytics isn’t to just show you who comes to your site and how long they stay. Those are mostly just vanity metrics, in service of the real goal of analytics: to track the metrics that influence actual business outcomes…so you can improve those metrics and make your business better.

To do proper tracking, you must have your goals, funnels, event tracking and ecommerce tracking set up correctly. Not every site needs all four of these; But at the very least, you should have goals set up so that you can track how are you doing at getting potential customers and existing customers to complete the goals that move your business forward.

  • Goals: Goals are conversions that tied to business objectives. It could be a completed purchase, a newsletter sign-up or
  • Events: Events are things that impact the user journey but aren’t directly correlated to a conversion, such as a video of you.
  • Funnels: Funnels tracks event completions to help you visualize how well you’re doing at moving prospects towards conversion.
  • eCommerce: eCommerce tracking allows you to attach an actual cart value to each visit so that you can optimize with an actual dollar figure attached.

#2: Does it collect the data we need?

Once you know which critical milestones you want to be tracking, you can work backwards to see if the installation is collecting the data you need. It’s quite possible that something is broken or that you have not fully set up the right tracking functionality.

And don’t go overboard. The goal isn’t to collect everything under the sun. You want to be very strategic and tracking the data that moves your business. Since analytics configurations can capture everything in a firehouse, you can always go back and create a new view if you determine you need something additional.

#3: Do we trust this data?

If something doesn’t look right, then it probably isn’t right. And just because something appears on the dashboard in your analytics doesn’t mean that it is true. It’s important to be skeptical And listen to your intuition. If anything seems off, investigate further!

One of the easiest ways to determine level of trust is to cross-reference data from your analytics system with the data source elsewhere. For example, if an advertising campaign says that it sent 1000 visitors to your website but you only registered 200, then that’s something to investigate. You can also look for any dramatic outliers, such as a page with no bounce rate or a segment that seems to convert far more highly than another.

#4: Where are the holes?

At the outset, this one can be quite tricky. But as you dial into your essential business metrics, holes may appear. You may realize that you are unable to view data in your analytics from your Facebook ads, for example. The more specific can be with the milestone metrics you want to track, the more control you can have over patching gaps in your analytics configuration.

One way to identify holes is to view your analytics through the lens of your corss-channel marketing plan. Are there any areas that you don’t have visibility into that will directly impact how you can evaluate the performance of your plan? Start there!

#5: Is anything broken?

Not everyone is an analytics maven and that can understand how the sausage is made. The idea isn’t to know how things work. Rather, it’s about having the confidence to understand when something may be broken and not registering correctly.

As I mentioned earlier, it comes down to understanding analytics and not hesitating to investigate something that does it doesn’t quite seem right. The worst thing that could happen is that you waste a little time or maybe look a little silly. But in my view, thoroughness is never silly. There’s an added benefit here, especially when working with contractors: Vigilant customers always get a little bit more attention than those that are hands-off…

#6: Do I have the right reports?

The final question is to make sure that you have set up the right reports for your specific business needs. Since you can share reports with other people on your analytics configuration, these reports can provide a shared baseline for everyone.

And as you can imagine, share reports can influence others and increase the visibility of the work that you were doing as a conversion-minded marketer.

BUT…Shared reports can also magnify mistakes in analytics configurations. Setting up your reports should be the last stuff that you do, once you are certain that things are good to go.

Finally, be sure to revisit your settings and general configuration set up every few months or so. That way you can catch anything that may have changed or shifted. You can’t predict what the ghost in the machine will do so you have to check in every once in a while!

Audit your analytics with this checklist and these guides

As you move from answering the foundational questions to identifying specific things to fix in your analytics, use this checklist from Annielytics. It features a long list of specific settings to verify so that your analytics is set up correctly.

Annie’s spreadsheet is so helpful!

For more reading on Google Analytics, check out these ConversionXL guides to Google Analytics 101 and Google Analytics 102. Proper analytics configuration is one of the best investments you can make!

What the FUD: How to uncover what matters most to your customers

This is the fourth in a series of articles on growth hacking, which I’m going deep into with a minidegree in Growth Marketing from the CXL Institute. Read more: What is growth hacking? | How to run a successful growth marketing experiment in six steps | How to identify the best channels for your next growth marketing campaign.

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When it comes to conversion optimization, and marketing in general, clarity is everything. We have to be clear about what we’re selling and for whom, as well as what that specific segment will get from our product/service. And it’s not just the features they’ll get, it’s the benefits delivered and the emotions felt.

Everything we do should be filtered through that lens: the call-to-action, the web copy, should all be centered on the customer. Here’s one approach to getting into the mind of your customer for effective engagement: address their fears, doubts and uncertainties in your user experience and give them what matters when they need to hear it most.

What the FUD got to do with it

As we research ways to improve our website and thus optimize conversion, we must address the fears, uncertainties and doubts (FUD) of our customers. These are powerful feelings that can lead people to act, to pull away, to leave your site, or to tell friends about your brand. These are the types of feelings that can make or break your brand building and product marketing.

Because let’s be real: No one really cares about your product.

At least, not about its features. They care about how they’ve offered product makes them feel, solves their problems, eliminates a worry.

We’re all inundated with so much noise these days, but everyone is looking for a reason to say no. Simply listing out a bunch of features isn’t going to cut it. We need every page on your website, every message, to give people a reason to say yes. To click, to buy, to share their email.

That’s what the FUD is up!

Fears

Fear is one of the most powerful human motivators. It’s kind of an on/off, yes/no thing. It can trigger action and encourage retreat. The same situation could likely result in two different options for different people. Fear is incredibly personal — and so if you can relate to your customer by acknowledging and addressing their fears, you have a chance at a deeper emotional connection that lasts.

To really understand the fears of your target customers, you need to get out there and talk to them. You have to ask them directly and gain a thorough understanding of the major human motivator and the ways it both positively and negatively impacts them. Then, armed with that understanding, you can develop a brand story (and down the funnel, with direct response copy and advertising) that talks directly to your audience in an honest and real way. In a way that shows them that you get them and that we’re all in this together.

“A series of product attributes it’s not the same thing as a good story. To cut through and be remembered, you must extract from those attributes a narrative that exceeds the sum of its parts. “

Andrew Essex, Fast Company

You also need to ask them directly for feedback, as close to the action as possible, So you can begin to understand why they react in a particular manner. The main example of this and growth marketing is “click fear.” This is a behavior in which someone on the website doesn’t want to quick such as submitting a form because they don’t know what will happen once they click. They fear the unkown and so they don’t click and leave. You’ve lost a potential conversion.

To prevent that, it can be as simple as running a single question survey on that page to ask them “why” they’re leaving. The pop-up could say: “Anything holding you back from buying right now?” Gaining that knowledge from a direct ask can help you streamline your user experience and identify friction that reduces conversion.

Uncertainties

Uncertainties are a little less powerful than fear but are nonetheless important to understand. While fear can force an immediate reaction, uncertainties simmer for longer periods of times. Uncertainties are also mostly related to external factors, and are a more focused way that consumers find a “reason to say no” when considering a product.

Uncertainty can be things such as whether or not this product will last a long time or if there’s enough money in the bank account to justify that expense. It can also be questions around product fit, like whether or not this is the right product for a specific circumstance. Or whether this is a good deal or not.

There are far more levers for brands to control uncertainty than fear or doubt. That’s because uncertainty is more linear, a scale that can be moved in one direction or the other. You can actively write copy and create a user experience that reduces uncertainty.

Doubts

Whereas uncertainties mostly relate to external factors, doubts correlate more closely with internal narratives in each customer. Doubts can linger and are more insidious to the mental state. Fear might drive you to action and uncertainty may cause you to waver (or make a deicison one way or another) but doubt can break you apart or paralyze you.

Doubt is much more insidious than fear or uncertainty because it’s tough to measure. It’s tough to predict. And it’s one of the most challenging human emotions.

As a brand marketer, you must really try to avoid letting doubts creep in — and address existing doubts that are barriers to conversion.

For instance, a doubt around a product like a new treadmill could be, “I’m too lazy there’s no way that I’m going to use this.” That type of doubt is a steep hurdle for a brand because you need to deliver messaging, consistently and across pages, that allays this doubt.

And whatever you do, never write copy that adds in a doubt that your customer didn’t have before. You can really paralyze your customer with poor copy that doesn’t resonate with target segments!

FUD is everywhere

We know it’s a bit challenging to understand the nuances between fear, uncertainty and doubt. And that’s OK. The psychology of selling is a messy human thing. You’ve just got to keep it top-of-mind as you craft a user experience that addresses FUD effectively.

Remember that FUD evolves with time and isn’t static. You’ll always want to revisit your customer research to maintain a current view. The way you address FUD can also change throughout the user experience to address how mindset shifts across the buyer’s journey.

So when evaluating your website and brainstorming growth marketing experiments, keep the FUD top of mind. The better you can dial each page — and each call to action — into a specific FUD, you’ll improve your conversions while nurturing long-term relationships.

How to identify the best channels for your next growth marketing campaign

This is the third in a series of articles on growth hacking, which I’m going deep into with a minidegree in Growth Marketing from the CXL Institute. Read more: What is growth hacking? | How to run a successful growth marketing experiment in six steps

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Growth marketing requires a nuanced understanding of which channels are ideally suited for each campaign. Just picking the channels you used last time — or the ones that your competitors use — won’t cut it. You’re basically setting yourself up for failure if you don’t adequately align your channel strategy with the overall objective of the campaign.

To put yourself in a position to succeed, follow these four steps when identifying the best channels when planning your next growth marketing campaign.

Step 1: Specify a segment

If you set up your growth marketing campaign correctly, you have a clearly defined objective. Everything you do should be filtered through this objective; most especially, it should frame your approach regarding your target audience.

Let’s say your objective is to increase signups for the freemium version of your SaaS product. Your hypothesis is that your ideal users spend a lot of time on Twitter and you want to test if that’s the case.

This is where user research comes in handy. You need to know who you’re speaking with so that you can build your campaigns around a specific segment — and target the channels that this segment uses the most.

When specifying a segment, you can build it according to a few key criteria. Whether you select only one or build a blend that reflects your current marketing priorities is up to you.

Demographics: Who they are

  • Age
  • Income
  • Marital status
  • Family size
  • Job role
  • Ethnicity
  • Education

Geographic: Where they are

  • City
  • Country
  • ZIP Code/Postal Code
  • Geo-fenced

Psychographic: Why they buy and what shapes their personality and unique worldview

  • Personal beliefs, principles and opinions
  • Intrinsic motivations
  • Individual personality and temperament
  • Personal priorities
  • Activities and interests
  • Attitudes
  • Social class

Behavioral: How they buy and how they engage with your brand/the world around them

  • How often they browse
  • Where they buy
  • How much they spend
  • How often they purchase
  • How often they return to your website/store
  • Which aspects of your product/service they value most
  • Any other data on individual patterns and behaviors

You don’t just have to pick one of these as you segment your audiences. In fact, it’s often a blend that creates the types of precise segments that lead to the most valuable growth marketing wins. The better you are at segmenting down to your most “perfect” users, the stronger your focus will be when finding the channels those people frequent most.

Step 2: Choose one channel

The broader your campaign, the less valuable the insights can be. It’s much more insightful to segment your audience and pick a single channel to test.

You don’t want to test multiple channels at once because you are really trying to find the top 1 to 2 channels to focus on. There’s only so much time in a day. Its the growth marketer’s job is to find the channels that return the most results with the least amount of investment. That includes time — unless you have a large team, you don’t have enough of that resource to focus on many channels at once!

To identify these channels, take everything you know about your best users and find where those people hang out online (and offline too, if that’s part of your brand marketing plan).

As you research, don’t just observe. Dive in, create an account, Invest some time engaging on those channels where you can find your ideal users. It will be much easier to build credibility and competitive insights when you engage up close rather than observe from a distance.

Remember that the goal is to test whether or not your target segment a sense a lot of time on this channel and be as responsive to your brand!

Step 3: Test it out

Before you commit major resources to a growth marketing campaign on a certain channel, do a few small tests. Don’t invest a ton of time or money. Only invest as much as you need to deepen your understanding and see if your target audience is present and engaged on this channel.

A few questions to explore:

  • Is there a specific way that your audience speaks on this channel?
  • How does your target segment behave on this channel? What do they use it for?
  • How often do they use it? Are there peak times of engagement?
  • Are there any pockets of engagement that may be under targeted by other brands (potential low-cost growth hacking opportunities)?

Step 4: Measure results

There are two outcomes to each test: iterate and optimize when a channel shows promise or retest and move on when a channel underdelivers.

If the channel underdelivers on expectations then you need to determine if it’s just with that specific audience. As in: the channel is still a good one for your business but it’s not the right one for your chosen segment. To determine a channel’s overall viability, run another test. Circle back to the first step, select a new segment and run the test again. You may have simply had a channel/audience mismatch.

When a channel shows promise — as in, initial tests were positive — you double down on that channel by iterating your experiments and optimizing how you use that channel.

Successful channel tests also help you catalyze your learnings into muscle memory. As you start to understand how your target audience is you specific channels, you simply get better at using those channels. So this is an additive and always improving process.

And that’s growth marketing: making many small tests and rapidly iterating based on what you learned from each test. Your knowledge builds with time and improvements compound to make growth marketing an exponential engine for your company’s growth.

How to run a successful growth marketing experiment in 6 steps

This is the second in a series of articles exploring growth hacking tips and tricks, which is top-of-mind as I’m doing a mini-degree program in Growth Marketing from the CXL Institute. Read more: What is growth hacking?

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The key to effective growth marketing is experimentation. It’s everything. Here’s what you need to know about running a growth marketing experiment.

Step 1: Define

The first step is to define your objective. This is essential. Your objective should be extremely focused on a single metric that you want to influence.

Your objective should be specific and precise.

For instance, an objective of “increasing awareness of our brand” is far too general. How would you measure success? If the objective is to broaden and imprecise, it becomes impossible to judge whether or not your experiment delivered results.

A better objective would be to identify the specific metric to focus on: newsletter sign-ups, email open rates, landing page conversions, completed sales made, top-of-the-funnel leads or demos scheduled.

Another option is to use “pirate metrics” to select a specific part of the funnel for this particular experiment to focus on. It’s AARR:

  • Acquisition: Tippy top of the funnel; it’s all awareness as a new person discovers your product service or website
  • Activation: You’ve captured attention and an acquired customer “activates” by taking an action.
  • Retention: Ongoing engagement as you nurture users so they return again to engage with your website or to consider your product
  • Referral: You’ve delivered an experience that’s worth sharing with friends
  • Revenue: Users purchase something or are otherwise monetized

At the end of the first step, you should have a clear focus: either a specific metric (ideal) or at least one part of the customer lifecycle

Step 2: Hypothesize

Next, you make a hypothesis. This is the time to leverage your expertise about the customer journey. You want to understand the customer’s needs at the specific touchpoint defined in Step 1.

The hypothesis should be framed like this:

Doing THIS [the experiment] will result in THAT [the predicted impact] because of these assumptions.

An example: Let’s say that you are focusing on increasing paid sign-ups from your main newsletter. Your hypothesis could be “Increasing sending more emails will result in more sign-ups because those getting more emails are more likely to buy.”

Your assumptions are actually one of the most important parts as it’s where you share your expertise. Make sure that your assumptions are from the user’s perspective! Your thorough understanding of the customer journey improves the accuracy of your assumptions. It’s all about putting the user at the center of your marketing, so that your marketing is more effective and get you better results.

Step 3: Set up the experiment

Even if unsuccessful at improving business outcomes, each growth marketing experiment offers learnings that can be used in future experiments. But you need to set your experiments up correctly so that these learnings are accurate and thus useful! The last thing you want is to have bad data influence your business decisions.

The three components of a proper experiment:

  1. Independent variable, or the thing that you’ll change to test its impact on the dependent variable.
  2. Dependent variable, or the thing being measured/tested.
  3. Control group, or the group that will be the baseline for comparison. Nothing changes for the control group.

Since the independent variable causes a change in the dependent variable, you want to be careful to Choose an independent variable that directly impacts the dependent variable, and doesn’t cause a bunch of other changes that you can’t measure. Precision is your friend!

Let’s continue the example above about increasing paid sign-ups from the newsletter. It doesn’t make sense to simply start increasing the number of emails sent out to everyone on the list. Since you have people who have been on the list for different lengths of time, you’ll never be able to truly know if sending more emails worked.

To set this experiment up correctly, you could segment your newsletter into two groups based on when they subscribed. You’ll take the older subscribers as the control group.

Another approach would be to focus only on the newest subscribers and split that group into two segments: A control group that gets the current email sequence and the other that receives the experimental sequence with more meals.

TIP: When experimenting on a part of the funnel or on a metric for the first time, start with a very basic A/B test. That’s because you need to deep in your understanding of how your experiments may change behavior. If you dive into a new area with an overly complex experiment, it will be difficult to analyze results.

Step 4: Implement

Noticed that implementation is towards the end of the process. Proper planning and set up are the bulk of this work!

When you implement the experiment, set an expiration. Whether it’s for a specific time frame or for a certain number of users, you need a clear endpoint. Do you want to move fast and do multiple experiments so avoid driving individual experiments out for too long. It’s better to set small

Step 5: Analyze

As you analyze the experiment, look not just at the success or failure of the experiment itself. Carefully observe anything unexpected that may reveal helpful insights about the customer journey, your customer’s mindset at this specific touchpoint, or anything else relevant.

At this step, you’ll evaluate the experiment impact on metrics:

  • Did it increase open rates?
  • Did it influence purchase frequency?
  • Were there more sign-ups?
  • Did it improve click through rates?

Your analysis can be simple: It answers the hypothesis. “Increasing the number of emails for new subscribers increased conversions to paid sign-ups by 5% when compared to the control group.”

Then it can go down another level: “

For successful experiments, you’ll then want to further optimize to squeeze the most value out of this particular path. Then, automate so that you can set it and forget it. In our example, you would replace the existing email sequence with the new sequence, which will then automatically send out more emails to your new subscribers without you having to do anything else.

As you stack one success on another, you build incremental value that compounds over time. That is the true power of growth: it’s not linear but exponential!

Step 6: Share

Sharing is caring! Take the time to share out your learnings with other groups in your company. By doing so, you not only raise the profile of the growth marketing effort but you also potentially gain advocates across the company. Show your work and build the continued case for investing in growth marketing.

Since growth marketing is a collaboration across departments, Take any opportunity you can to show value and build goodwill. You never know when you’re going to need some help — or when a specific insight proves valuable to another team’s work!

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Look for the next article in this series next Monday. In the meantime, here’s why growth hacking isn’t brand marketing.

What is growth hacking? Hint: It’s not brand marketing

Growth vs brand marketing

This is the first in a series of articles on the theme of growth hacking, which is top-of-mind as I’m doing a mini-degree program in Growth Hacking from the CXL Institute. To kick off the series, here are a few key points about what growth marketing is and what it isn’t.

#1: Growth isn’t brand marketing


For me, as a brand marketer, it’s helpful to contrast growth marketing with brand marketing. The comparison offers clarity around how growth marketing fits into the bigger picture of building a valuable, venerable brand.

I’ve always been a brand guy. In my decade-plus career as an entrepreneur and employee working in both startups and Fortune 500 companies, brand has always been top-of-mind. A great brand tells a story; it suggests a narrative and sets the parameters for how a customer feels about — and engages with — a company. A good brand stands for something, be it a heritage, a promise for the future, an aspiration or some other trait. A great brand stands the test of time by attracting passionate devotees.

Brand is also what makes marketing either easy or hard. It’s a brand marketer’s dream to have a good brand that translates seamlessly into creative marketing that attract your target audiences effortlessly.

That’s the objective of brand marketing: building awareness about a brand by doing traditional marketing campaigns. These campaigns are usually run over longer periods, have larger budgets and are “one to many.” You build the campaign and invest time and money upfront. You put all of your chips on the table and then only see if the camapign worked after you’ve invested all those resources. It’s risky and there are few guarantees.

That’s because growth marketing, on the other hand, is a series of “educated guess” experiments in which you use test a specific hypothesis. You take what you know about your customers and your channel-specific knowledge, and then run experiments. Growth also prioritizes personalization. The better you know your customers, the more accurately you can segment them and run specific experiments. See next point.

#2: Growth is experimentation

The key to growth is experimentation. The best growth marketers know that they know nothing. They work carefully to not let preconceived notions or other unproven assumptions affect how they run experiments. Instead, let the data speak for itself.

Each experiment starts with a hypothesis, which is backed by a central observation or datapoint that gives some indication that this hypothesis may be true. For instance, the hypothesis could be that offering a discount to unengaged email subscribers with reengage them because our customers are motivated by discounts. You could test the hypothesis by sending emails to two segments of your list to see which message performs better: engagement via discount or engagement via an exclusive “value add” package/bundle offer. Then, see what works and use that knowledge to get better after every experiment. Improvements build on each other over time, with compound growth driven by experimentation.

#3:Growth is failure

Within a growth mindset, failures are to be celebrated. Not because there’s some inherent value in failing; no, it’s because failures teach us a lot about our customers and their prefences. About what works and what doesn’t work. Every single experiment is thus valuable in growth marketing; the successful ones can be amplified and the failures can be mined for insights that can inform the next round of experiments.

Failure is simply another data point to use. And this data can also be shared with other teams within a company, improving knowledge and contributing momentum elsewhere in the company.

#4: Growth is cross-functional

In fact, the cross-functional element is another defiing feature of growth. Owing to the fact that growth marketing experiments often reach across teams, growth is a cross-functional pursuit. Since experiments may touch different areas of the company, growth marketing often requires collaboration across engineering, design, product (and yes, even brand marketing!).

#5: Growth and Brand work together

My conclusion from the first part of this course on the foundations of growth hacking is that there’s a place for both growth marketing and brand marketing. It’s not like one replaces the other or that there’s some sort of battle royale over who “owns” the brand.

The way I see it: brand marketing exists to establish/further entrench the brand in the minds and lives of both new and existing customers. There’s also the public relations aspect of communicating what the brand stands for not just to prospects but also to the media, investors and others in the general public. Brand marketing is thus mostly a top of the funnel thing. It’s also somewhat of a cudgel, less precise but can be a powerful tool for long-term business building.

Growth marketing combines data-driven experimentation with a customer-centric mindset to improve the user’s experience one experiment at a time. Whether through personalizing a landing page, tweaking the homepage so it’s easier to use, or getting the right message to the right customer at the right time, growth marketing improves business outcomes via a “test and learn” approach.

Growth marketing looks to leverage opportunities at every part of the funnel, driving growth in any way you can across the business. These “small wins” build on each other, compounding over time and thus dramatically influence how fast a business grows. It can be a very powerful tool that can be precisely wielded.

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I’ll be posting articles on the topic of growth marketing each week for the next few months. Keep an eye out for more!