Growth from User 0

with Morgan Brown

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Hustle Stage

Starting at user 0

Morgan Brown

Growth Hacker, Entrepreneur, Marketing Exec

Lessons Learned

Growth from user 0 ≠ growth from user 1 million. The channels and mindset are different.

Growth hacking is like building an engine while you are barreling down a freeway.

You will try 10 things and 9 will not work. Then you double down on the one.


Lesson: Growth From User 0 with Morgan Brown

Step #1 Hustle Stage: Starting at user 0

It’s very different starting from user 0 than starting from user 1 million or 2 million and that type of thing. The mind set, the approach, the channels are all very different. Zack and his scout, who is head of growth at Creative Market talks about this kind of early stages, the hustle stage. Which I think is the perfect term for it. Where you have no users, all you have is an idea. You have to figure out how to get initial people through the door to experience the product so that you can learn about it and iterate it and began to build.

Discovering new channels, figuring out your customer acquisition strategy, and you’re basically building an engine while you’re barreling down a freeway. You have very limited time, very limited resources and you have to start to figure out how to make this thing go. I think it's a very different mind set, lot of different tactics and, yeah, it’s its own beast, its own animal.

I believe growth is a team sport and that ideas are the fuel for growth. There's no way one person can come up with all of the ideas. I think you need a deep reservoir of ideas to pull from, to experiment. If you're going to have a high tempo experimentation culture, even if you're a small team or a team of one, like you are very early on, you need multiple inputs of ideas. Whether that's from other team members, people that are friendly with the company, your board of advisors, your investors, I think tapping all of them for ideas is really key to keeping that tempo going.

I do think that you have to be careful with how you impact the product road map and how you impact the overall company road map with your experimentation.

I do think that if you work on these kind of smaller batch sizes, smaller batch size projects and really get the buy-in of product in the engineering teams, that’s really where the magic happens. I do think, in kind of studying all of these high growth companies, best growth organizations are growth organizations at the core. It's not like marketing is really outstanding. It's that the whole company has bought in on growth being a priority. To some extent that will always impact the product road map. Growth should be seen as a product priority as well. In the best organizations it's always seen a product priority too.

There's definitely different strategies and channels that apply at different user sizes, so audience sizes, so kind of the 0 to 500,000 definitely one set of tactics, as you start to scale up beyond that, a different set of tactics. As you get into the tens of millions and hundreds of millions, it's definitely a completely different set of tactics there where more traditional stuff takes over.

I think very early on you have a lot of scrappy tactics. Things that are not necessarily scalable. Things that won't get you to tens of millions of people, but will get you the next 100,000, the next 200,000 people. They're short-lived, ephemeral tactics that tend to tap out very quickly but are very useful in kind of getting that initial ball rolling.

There are lots of different tactics that you can try very early on. That's the beauty of being so early on is that you don't know exactly what's going to work. They're really aren't any rules. You can try everything.

Growth is pretty much like anything else. You're going to try ten things. Nine are not going to work. You'll find one thing that's work and then you can double down on that. I've tried everything from things that I probably don't want to say on camera to co-marketing partnerships with other companies is a great way to leverage existing audiences, for example. It's a really easy, low cost marketing tactic where you can get distribution from existing audiences.

That's one of my favorite things for very early stages. Find complementary companies around you in your adjacent space that aren't direct competitors but that have similar audience characteristics and a similar vertical, similar goals and do co-marketing with them where you have your 10,000 people and they have their 20,000 people and you either put together a joint promotion or an email swap or that type of thing. That can be a very scrappy, a very low cost, easy way to gain your first customers and type of thing. That's one of my favorites.

I run lots of promotions. Tons of performance-based paid advertising is also another easy one, especially if you have some early venture money of seed round, that type of thing. Really focusing on performance-based marketing is a great way to get early traction. Other zanier tactics are trying to create viral videos, putting people out in the street in costumes and handing out flyers. We had an idea for one company to dress an employee up as a hippo and hand out flyers in front of Misconi. You can really run the gamut and that's the beauty of early stages. You can try anything as long as it doesn't take too long to execute on.

I think of early stage traction really being about small batch sizes for your experiments. Don't get too caught up in one tactic, or one idea that's going to take weeks to execute on. Try to keep the momentum high and the tempo high in your experimentation to kind of find the channels that are going to be performing and work and get you those initial users.

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