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Why Growth Hacking is a Team Sport

Reporting is part of every marketer’s job and—according to the experts—is an integral step in creating and maintaining a culture of growth. Yet most marketers don’t have a formal process or spend any significant amount of time compiling and sharing results with their teams.

The findings of a recent study on GrowthHackers.com point to the need for marketers to invest more time into the process of collecting, documenting, and sharing wins and learnings to help foster a greater organizational interest and investment in growth.

We surveyed nearly one thousand marketers about how they track and share marketing and growth experiments. This post highlights the biggest findings, and offer key takeaways on how you can change the way you track, report and share wins and learnings to create a true culture of growth within your organization.

The Hard Truth: Marketers Don’t Share Enough

do you have a defined process for sharing

A full 73.7% of survey respondents said they don’t have a formal process for sharing learning (wins/losses) with their teams. If you’re like us, you’re probably surprised. This reality runs contradictory to the prescription and practice of growth experts like Brain Balfour, Noah Kagan and more—all of whom champion measurement as an important part of growth optimization.

When the marketing team isn’t sharing the results of new campaigns, it’s hard for the organization to understand marketing’s value and what does and doesn’t work when it comes to driving growth. This lack of transparency can hurt marketing’s reputation and limit organizational buy in to important growth opportunities.

According to Joe Chernov, VP of Content at Hubspot, “Marketers who measure surface-level metrics are being replaced by those who are able to prove their impact on revenue and even retention.” In particular, when competition for resources is fierce, proving the efficacy of marketing efforts is important.

joe chernov quote

Yet sharing isn’t just constantly celebrating how great you are—quite the contrary. Chernov recalls a board meeting in which he presented a slide showing a massive slide in user acquisition followed by a slide showing an activation rate of 0%. “I didn’t hide my failure, nor did I present it as a success,” he explains, “Instead I marketed my failure, positioning it as a lesson learned. I don’t believe I have ever been more credible than I was during that meeting at that moment.”

But managing your internal reputation is only part of the problem.

Perhaps more importantly than reputation is that a lack of sharing hurts organizational participation in growth. Growth is driven by a strong pipeline of experiments that can be implemented, learned from and optimized. This pipeline grows from the contributions of people with diverse ideas and perspectives on what can move the needle for the business. When this ideation process is limited to the marketing team, the company is missing out on the intellectual capital of outside ideas.

When marketers share learning with the organization, the company is empowered to contribute new ideas that can lead to new growth opportunities that aren’t considered by the smaller marketing team.

Growth is a Team Sport

Noah Kagan, founder of AppSumo and former growth team member at Facebook and Mint.com, knows that growth is a team sport, which is why his company, SumoMe uses a visual dashboard so that each and every team member can track daily progress. Unless everyone is involved, the marketer or growth team is operating at below capacity. Sharing wins also gets the company energized and vested in the success of growth efforts.

noah kagan quote

Don’t deprive the rest of the team the dopamine rush that is a key part of keeping people motivated and focused on growth.

Find a System to Share Wins and Learnings

how do you share your wins

The majority of marketers who do share results with their teams or companies do so by making it up as they go with a mishmash of systems and processes. Perhaps most shockingly, 35% of marketers don’t share wins and losses at all. Though there is not a single, right way to share learning with the team, it’s important is to find a system to do so.

As Kagan pointed out in his quote above, the numbers should be accessible and understandable by anyone at any time, and they should be reported consistently. Whether by dashboard, television monitor, daily email digest, or other, learning is best shared when it’s done on a regular basis and is easy to understand by anyone reviewing the results.

ann handley quote

But that’s not all. As Ann Handley, MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer, explains, data is only one part of the story. In addition to reporting wins and losses, there should be time set aside for discussing and debating them so that each and every team member also has a grasp of what the numbers mean.

brian balfour quote

As Brian Balfour, VP of Growth at HubSpot, explains, people need to understand the why before the what. This increased understanding that growth is a process will not only help boost morale around marketing efforts, as we’ve already discussed, but it will also help everyone to become more growth-focused—resulting in new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking across the entire organization.

Making Sharing and Learning a Priority

make sharing and learning priority

In order for this organizational participation in growth to happen, sharing wins has to become a priority. Currently, 92% of marketers spend less than 25% of their time compiling, assessing and sharing wins/losses. This is a big missed opportunity. Retrospectives and post-mortems are an important part of closing the feedback loop of growth experiments.

Without results and analysis there can be no learning, and without learning there can’t be any improvement. Closing the loop is important for all feedback systems, and growth is no exception.

BitTorrent CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, keeps the company focused on growth with daily stand ups, weekly brainstorms, and monthly “share” days so that each and every team member has an opportunity to contribute ideas. Kaykas-Wolff recommends “total transparency,” and this is something that can’t be achieved without effort.

jascha wolff quote

Zack Onisko, head of growth at Creative Market, underscores the benefits of sharing wins and losses to drive organizational change.

zack onisko quote

From the varied approaches it’s clear that there’s no one right way to share learning, and what this transparency looks like at your organization will vary. Clarity.fm Founder and CEO Dan Martell recommends team-wide two week sprints, complete with daily stand up meetings, that intensely focus on a single metric.

dan martell quote

Luke Thomas, Growth at Safari, sends out bi-weekly updates to the entire company that shows how they’re tracking management-established key metrics for improvement. According to Thomas, these updates only take around an hour, and they deliver a perfectly-digestible amount of information while leaving the door open for anyone interested in learning more about day-to-day growth activities.

Drive Growth With Sharing

Jon Miller, VP of Marketing and Co-Founder of Marketo, asserts that while “marketing activity is easy to see and measure (costs going out the door), … Marketing results are hard to measure.” Thus, marketing must rigorously tie activities to revenue in order to avoid being perceived as a cost center.

Similarly, Greg Isenberg, Founder and CEO of 5by, agrees that “Marketing in general is often misunderstood in other areas of startups, so the key here is to onboard new hires and existing team members of the pain needed to make the gain.”

jon miller quote

A key element of driving growth is creating a growth-oriented culture in which every team member invested. This comes through sharing of results, getting people vested in the process, and making growth and analysis a regular part of the culture, language, and behavior of the company.

jason lankow quote

By celebrating your results—both wins and losses—you create build an institutional knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, catalyzing new ideas, and ultimately contributing to better results from your growth efforts.

The data visualization for this survey was built with Visage.

About the Authors: Sean Ellis is the CEO of Qualaroo and founder of GrowthHackers.com. Prior to Qualaroo, Sean held marketing leadership roles with breakout companies including Dropbox, LogMeIn (IPO), Uproar (IPO), Eventbrite and Lookout. You can follow Sean on Twitter: @SeanEllis.

Morgan Brown is the head of growth at Qualaroo and the co-author of Startup Growth Engines with Sean Ellis. He has over 15 years of experience helping B2B and B2C startups gain traction to reach their next milestone. You can follow Morgan on Twitter: @morganb

  1. Its see easier said than done especially if your company keeps growing and teams getting bigger.
    You have to build a organisation culture first where other teams have to care about the figures of your department.

    Thanks
    Ajay

    • Completely agree Ajay. Changing culture in a startup is much easier than a more established company. But either way, the growth and marketing teams need to be transparent with experiments/results and need to encourage ideas from the rest of the company. That’s a pretty tough first step for most of us marketers. After you’ve done that, other teams are much more likely to take an interest.

    • Hey Ajay,

      I totally agree with you. Growth really has to be an organizational priority. That’s definitely a “culture thing” and comes from the top down.

      Marketing can lead the charge though by being the beacon — putting the work and results out there and holding themselves accountable to them. When they “walk the walk” they can ask more of the organization to do the same.

      I really like Joe Chernov’s quote at the beginning of the article. By owning the results he made the rest of the company look at marketing differently. That’s something we can all do.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. With online marketing, I believe that transparency is really the best way to market yourself and your company. The fact that most of these marketers are willing to share both their failures and victories is huge in establishing themselves as real genuine people. Too often, people try to fudge the numbers to make it look good, but the real key is in owning up to your mistakes and learning from them.
    People want to know that you are human, you make mistakes… but most importantly you know how to fix those mistakes.

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