Relentless Pursuit of Growth – Growth Hacking Strategies for 2018 from Sean Ellis

“Growth fundamentals aren’t enough – companywide team buy-in across all departments and silos is critical.”

This key insight by Sean Ellis, Former head of marketing at Dropbox and LogMeIn, Cofounder & CEO of, and co-author of ‘Hacking Growth’, during his opening keynote session at the GrowthHackers Conference 2018, signifies a shift from tactics to a more strategic focus for growth hacking in 2018.

Relentless Pursuit of Growth - Growth Hacking Strategies by Sean Ellis at GHConf18

This 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 pursue growth by aligning growth tactics with growth strategy and seek team buy-in to see long-term, sustainable growth results.

Here’s an overview of what Sean shared with us on growth in 2018 and beyond.

Keys to driving sustainable growth:

  • Growth is not just “up and to the right” on a graph. Sustainable growth is based on generating true customer value. Revenue is directly correlated with creating this value.
  • Growth and value must be measured by a North Star Metric that provides a lens for measuring sustainable growth. Then ask yourself: how does what you do affect your north star metric?
  • Growth hacking can’t just be random experiments. There needs to be a deliberate, systematic process for driving growth based on the scientific method to:
    • Generate Ideas
    • Prioritize
    • Test
    • Analyze
  • There are many ways to move the needle on your North Star Metrics by experimenting with your business’s various growth levers, such as AARRR (I’ll avoid a bad pirate pun here…you’re welcome):
    • Acquisition
    • Activation
    • Retention
    • Referral
    • Revenue
  • Tracking and testing your experiments (continuous learning) and analyzing the results is key to driving growth.

Sean’s LogMeIn Case Study:

Sean shared a case study with us to explain how he used this approach to rapidly grow and scale LogMeIn. When he was the VP of Marketing for LogMeIn, he knew testing was important and did a lot of testing to optimize landing pages, etc. but he eventually hit a wall at $10k/month in ad spend and couldn’t get more users to convert to paid subscriptions.

So he looked at the data and realized the majority of leads weren’t using the core features of the free version of the product (so they weren’t seeing the value of upgrading to the paid version). Sean’s solution: bringing the product, marketing, and sales teams together to work on a shared cross-organizational goal of getting activation rates up.

The results?

  • 10X improvement in activation rates
  • Significant increase in referral signups
  • 100x scale in profitable ad spending
  • Today LogMeIn is valued at $6 Billion+

New Growth Learnings from 2017:

Sean also shared some new insights he’s gained from doing hands-on Jumpstart workshops with 50 companies in the last year.

  • Growth fundamentals aren’t enough – companywide team buy-in across all departments and silos is critical.
  • You can achieve this organizational buy-in by applying the typical customer journey in the growth process to your organization to get acquisition/activation/retention/etc. for your ideas from your team members).
  • Executive vision and support to drive change must come from the top and be reinforced at all levels.
  • There needs to be a shared mission and vision to help align and engage the team.
  • There should be a shared growth metric/goal (North Star Metric) to gauge overall progress. This metric should be determined together cross-functionally as an organization to get all teams to own these metrics.
  • Persistence is needed until the habit and culture take root (you can’t set it and forget it – growth mindset must be intentionally managed to become a companywide culture).
  • Achieving quick wins through small-scale growth experiments is a great way to establish this habit and buy-in quickly.
  • As a leader, the more times you mention and talk about your mission, the more the team will remember and embody the mission to drive business growth forward.
  • You have to speak the language that your different team members understand and connect with. The CEO may care about revenue. But most team members don’t stay late to drive revenue growth – they stay late to have a personal impact on a mission that’s bigger than themselves. Tapping into this passion is key.

My Personal Takeaways:

On a personal note, I was very excited to see Sean kick off #GHConf18 with this focus on strategy and culture vs. tactics, for sustainable growth. The very tactical focus I see from a lot of growth hackers online has always been a pet peeve of mine…even the term “hacking” can imply something unsavory.  

This is why I’ve always positioned my growth consulting agency as a provider of growth strategy, rather than growth hacking services. There has to be a focus on what happens after you initially get some sales or user traction for truly sustainable business growth.

By setting the stage for the GrowthHackers Conference with a focus on strategy and sustainability over cheap tactics, Sean also reclaimed the term “growth hacking” and seems to be guiding growth specialists to look at the big picture and become champions for lasting change.

To that end, the GrowthHackers team recently released their (newly rebranded and improved) North Star growth management software, to help companies prioritize, plan, and track the results of their growth optimization experiments. I’ve had a chance to explore the system a bit, and it’s a great tool for keeping track of experiments and optimizing for what works, while also getting the whole team involved in growth project outcomes. I’m looking forward to setting this system up for my agency and seeing how well it improves our performance.

This is the second post in a series covering highlights from #GHConf18 (more growth gold to come!). If you’d like to dive deeper into the conference details and learn more, don’t forget to check out the 2018 Virtual Pass for full access to every session by the top growth leaders in the world.

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