Product and marketing: the #couplegoals of digital ventures

Some of the team at Josephmark collaborating

The product manager for the Josephmark venture, Hash, arrived at the office one day with a curveball. “Charlotte, we need to change every growth test in our backlog. Hash was just featured in the App Store and we’ve had 50,000 downloads in 2 weeks. Forget growth for now — we need to focus all of our tests on retention.”

No, the product manager wasn’t referring to a downloadable form of cannabis. Hash is a catch-up news service created by Josephmark. In the world of agile marketing, growth processes, templates and tools need to be in place and able to react quickly. New product, growth and marketing ideas need to come to life, well, immediately. Within a day of Hash being featured in the App Store, we compiled a list of 20 tests to meet our new goal of retention.

At Josephmark there are currently 10+ digital companies at various stages of development and launch in our Ventures arm. Once we’ve created a digital product and achieved product/market fit, our prime objectives are quality growth and retention. After all, growth without retention isn’t real growth.

During a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor. He walked over to the man and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?” “Well, Mr. President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

Why am I telling you this? Regardless of someone’s position, they are contributing to the progress, growth and narrative of your organisation. When everyone embraces the attitude that they’re contributing to the bigger vision, incredible things happen. When it comes to growth teams, the same rule applies — everyone is responsible for growth, and the product and marketing teams need to work together during the build to create a product that is marketable.

Growth marketing and tactics shouldn’t start until you have achieved product/market fit (PMF). Marc Andreessen, General Partner and Co-founder of prolific Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, defines it as being “in a good market, with a product that can satisfy that market.” As he sees it, “The life of any startup can be divided into two parts — before PMF and after PMF. When you are before product/market fit, focus obsessively on getting to product/market fit.”

Josh Elman, a VC and Product Manager who’s worked at Twitter, Facebook Connect and LinkedIn — ie a guy who knows about this stuff — says, “When you focus on understanding your users and how they discover and adopt your products, you can build features that help you acquire and retain more users, rather than just spending marketing dollars.” Using data to understand the user intimately, a marketer or growth hacker can then communicate this to the product team. This lets them refine the product and build more feature sets for that user — thus hopefully achieving PMF. Where data doesn’t exist, marketers can create a user survey to gather the data either from either existing users or a target audience. For a venture to get to a marketable stage, it’s essential there’s a collaborative effort between the marketing and product teams.

Jospehmark product managers at work

My dream growth team exists at Josephmark, with a combination of content strategists, designers, product managers, developers and marketers married together to perform quick, data-driven tests to spur user acquisition and retention. They are generalists and specialists, and are mind-blowingly good at what they do. At Josephmark we’re given full autonomy, and as a result feel a deep sense of responsibility to be accountable. We also have full permission to fail, and the team see our failures as learnings and not mistakes.

Here are some characteristics of a great growth team:

  • Grit. Roughly 1 out of 5 tests does really well and gives you the encouragement that you need to persevere. It takes stamina to find the tests that lead to success.
  • Creativity. New ideas are key.
  • Analytical mindsets. Everyone needs to understand funnels and data. More fun than it sounds, I promise.
  • Goal-orientated. A great team member gets excited about goals — and excites others.
  • Strong communicators. The best communicators make potentially dry weekly growth updates a pleasure to read. Never underestimate the power of a pun.

Goal setting is absolutely critical for driving sustainable growth in your business. “Focus on a high leverage goal,” says Growth Hackers CEO Sean Ellis. “If you don’t take the time to figure out the right goal, then you will be annoyed when you hit the goal and it doesn’t make a difference.” You should determine one metric that truly matters and rally your team around this goal. As the head of growth at Zillow, Nate Moch, said at a recent talk at StartCon, “Empower your team to set a big goal and have your team work out how to get there. Make them ambitious, aspiring and time bound.”

Create a huge list of growth ideas to test, and be super strict. If the test won’t directly impact your OMM, regardless of whether or not it’s a brilliant idea, then save it for later.

Enter your ideas into this nifty tool to make sense of the mayhem, or use Google spreadsheets or a calendar to highlight which tests you’ll complete and when. Our inspiration comes from ideas that have worked on past Josephmark Ventures, as well as reading tons and tons of case studies on Growth Hackers and other sites. Don’t be prescriptive and copy them, but do allow them to inspire you.

You’ve got your laundry list of ideas. Now what? You can prioritise the list using a system called ICE — Impact, Confidence and Ease. This is a system created by Sean Ellis — the guy that coined the term ‘growth hacking’ and founder and CEO of GrowthHackers — so you can be fairly sure it’s the way to go.

Ask the following questions of each test, and award a score from 1 to 10 for each question. The highest ICE scores get prioritised.
“How likely is this test to have an impact on growth?”
“How confident are we that this idea will work?”
“How easy will it be to run this test?”

To put this in context — for Hash, one of our growth tests was to submit the app to Product Hunt. It got a high enough score for impact and confidence, and a score of 10 for ease. Hash was ‘hunted’ and quickly got bumped to the front page, which gave us a huge spike in traffic and downloads. We believe this is one of the reasons that Apple noticed Hash and featured us as the number 1 app on the App Store, which triggered 50,000 downloads in 2 weeks.

Schedule weekly meetings with your growth dream team, and analyse your KPI data points and the results of your tests beforehand. Accountability is one of the most important aspects of growth marketing — and reporting back to a team on how their ideas performed, along with what you’re going to iterate, is critical.

Finally, we think it’s important to have fun with growth. Make it a challenge — create a leadership board on Slack where everyone can brag about the results of their tests. A public forum is an awesome way to spur a bit of healthy competition and group learning. Overall, at Josephmark we believe that the union between product and marketing is not optional. It’s essential. And it’s the only way of meeting the objectives of creating a marketable product, product/market fit, quality growth and retention.

Charlotte is a growth & product consultant. Contact her with any questions!

Originally published at medium.com on February 1, 2017.

Innovation | Marketing | Product. Working at Fusion Labs

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