Key Growth Lessons from

GrowthHackers Conference 2018

April Dunford talks growth and context at GrowthHackers Conference 2018

April Dunford talks growth and context at GrowthHackers Conference 2018

“A company’s mission and growth are inextricably tied.”

This powerful quote by Brian Rothenburg, VP of Growth at Eventbrite, from his keynote session on mission-driven growth embodies the overarching theme of the GrowthHackers Conference 2018 in San Diego last week:

Growth fundamentals aren’t enough to achieve lasting progress – it takes shared organizational mission and strategy alignment across all departments and a company-wide culture of growth.

#GHConf18 was so jam-packed full of valuable learnings and some of the brightest minds in the world that my brain is still running a million miles an hour trying to process it all! This post is my attempt to summarize each session and the key takeaways from the biggest event in growth this year.


There was much more to learn from the conference than I could fit into a single post, but here are the top actionable takeaways from that you can put into practice at your organization right away.

1. Shared goals & team buy-in are key for sustainable growth.

Shared mission, goals, and NSM (North Star Metric) alignment throughout all levels of organizations is critical for sustainable growth strategy. The most common challenge of companies at larger growth scales: growth fundamentals aren’t really effective if you don’t have leadership and a receptive team.

2. The mission and growth of a company are inextricably linked.

Aligning your “how” and your “what” with your “why” is key to seeking product-market fit that aligns with your company’s mission. If you define your “why” and “how”, the “what” will always follow as your team makes decisions. Sometimes this means making less money in the short-term to make a greater impact on your mission.

3. Growth = Predict + Test + Optimize + Repeat x Grind.

Growth is a never-ending cycle of the scientific method of:  predict >> test >> optimize >> and repeat. You have to grind, grind, grind to move the needle forward on your NSM by testing and optimizing across the full customer journey (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenue). But growth hacking can’t just be random experiments. There needs to be a deliberate, systematic approach.

4. Hiring for growth mindset & growth culture > hiring for specialized skills.

To hire for growth: hire smart, positive, results-driven people with multi-domain (T-shaped) knowledge and low egos who want to triangulate around problems. They should be comfortable with ambiguity and have high emotional intelligence. Diversity on the team is super important.

5. Cross-functional project teams focused on growth goals are essential.

Growth requires cross-functional teams working together across product, marketing, engineering, data, sales, and operations.

6. Build your growth infrastructure now – not later (breaking down silos sucks).

It’s easier to set up a culture and framework for growth from the beginning at the startup stage than it is to break down silos and transform organizations into growth-oriented structures once they’ve already become heavily matrixed.  Growth organizations are structures around output – growth of customer value.

7. Growth results > growth activity.

When looking at team performance, don’t confuse activity with achievement. Impact on your growth goals is always more important than how much you do or how much activity you have elsewhere.

8. Embrace and apply empathy, human interaction, and intuition along with your data analytics.

Empathy is key to meaningful growth. It doesn’t matter if you know how to use your product. It matters if your customers do. Anecdotes from real customers and qualitative customer feedback are equally as important as quantitative metrics. Coming up with ways as a team to quantify and measure the qualitative feedback helps keep an empathetic pulse.

9. Growth is hard work.

Growth is like an iceberg. People often only talk about the more glamorous growth activities that happen above the surface (quick wins, hacks, cheap & free tactics). But the behind the scenes work is where the growth magic really happens (growth structure, culture & team, tools & process).

10. Optimal onboarding tactics are crucial & unique to each company.

Customer activation and onboarding are crucial for growth, but your optimal onboarding will be different than another company’s based on your unique business. You have to find what works best for your unique business model, mission, and customer base.

11. Failing at growth means you didn’t learn from what didn’t work. 

Stop looking at failed experiments as ‘failures’ and only talking about wins. Embrace the failures and reframe failed experiments as ‘saves’ – saving you from going down the wrong path in the future. More knowledge always = more power.

12. Unique value should be optimized for each customer segment.

One-size-fits all pricing models could be hurting your business. Optimize for each segment to enhance your product’s perceived value and LTV (Lifetime Customer Value).

13. The SEO vs. PPC battle rages on – both are still alive and kicking in 2018.

SEO is not dead – it’s still very much alive (with 5.5 billion searches per day and growing). Focus on site traffic > search rankings. For paid search: more spend does not always = more growth. You have to do the hard work and maximize the ROI of your channels (both organic and paid) before investing more capital into them.

14. Automation, AI, and machine learning for personalization will become the new normal.

Too many marketers use “spray” and “pray” tactics because they don’t know enough about their customers. Embrace automation, AI, and machine learning to accelerate your ability to rapidly test and optimize content that is based on customer behavior, to serve up more personalized and valuable content to customers.

15. Content Context is king.

The right product and brand positioning can unlock exponential growth and make or break long-term growth sustainability. You have to achieve product-market fit before any significant investment into a given market.

16. What’s in your growth stack? Martech’s explosive growth = new opportunities.

There are tons of opportunities using marketing technology to get better at segmenting, targeting, and evolving our relationships with customers – and this trend will continue to grow. There is now a greater need than ever for marketing technology specialists at growing companies.

Want to learn more?

There was a LOT covered in at the conference. I typed so much I thought my laptop might explode. Here’s live footage of me banging away at the keyboard during the conference to capture as many growth nuggets as possible to share with you all:

These takeaways are just the tip of the iceberg. In the coming weeks, I’ll be working with the GrowthHackers team to post more detailed recaps of each session and give you a peek behind the growth curtain of some of the most innovative companies in the world.

Don’t want to wait? Get instant access to the full conference recordings and with the 2018 Conference Virtual Pass and dig in!

Shout out to my new tribe!

I can honestly say that I learned more about growth hacking in 8 hours at this conference than I have over the last few years as a growth strategist to dozens of tech startups and Fortune 500s.

Not only did I take away valuable strategies and actionable tactics that I can apply at my growth strategy consulting agency, Rocket Strategy, to help my startup clients grow – I also found my tribe.

From trying poutine for the first time with designated Canadian growth hacker, April Dunford, to hanging with fellow growth hackers in an underground trailer park, throwing my back out taking silly photos with my BFF Selina (who also attended with me), and swapping growth stories with conference speakers and organizers over a cozy beach bonfire, my time at GrowthHackers Conference 2018 is something I’ll never forget.

I can’t thank Sean Ellis, Dani Hart, and all of the conference speakers, organizers, and volunteers enough for bringing together so many brilliant minds under one roof to help all of us grow! See you next year!

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One Comment

  1. […] is the second part of my series covering the top takeaways from #GHConf18. In this session, Sean set the tone for the conference by reminding us that we need to relentlessly […]

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