5 Growth Lessons I Learned From Sean Ellis at the First GrowthHackers.com Meetup

growth hackers

A couple days ago, I attended the first ever GrowthHackers.com meetup, and we had a great time of getting to know each other plus learning from a Q&A with Sean Ellis.

We covered a wide range of growth topics, and I came away with five main learnings to apply to my work.

#1 Perseverance is Key

When I look at the results people like Sean have achieved, I often try to convince myself that they are simply “extraordinary” or “talented”. By attributing their success to some sort of genius, I’m giving myself permission to be ordinary.

During the discussion though, stories about Sean’s long work hours and dedication reminded me that talent is never enough. The real key to success seems to be that potent combination of intelligent planning, relentless determination, and a small dose of good fortune.

#2 Everyone Should Do More CRO

Much of the talk focused on conversion rate optimization (CRO), and Sean emphasized how pivotal continual optimization has been to his various successes.

For instance, when Sean was working at LogMeIn, the entire company once spent 4 months focusing on testing and optimizing the downloads to first use conversion rate.  Fixing this section of the conversion funnel dramatically increased their activation rate and at least partially contributed to LogMeIn’s eventual IPO.

#3 Don’t Focus On Growth Until After Product-Market Fit

In the normal company growth phase model, you achieve product-market fit, transition to growth, and then grow.

I understood that model, but at the same time I’d always thought that extra growth is always good at any level (my fancy mathematical formula: more customers = more better).

Sean made the important point though that landing too many customers before achieving product-market fit (PMF) can actually hurt long-term growth. Extra customers before the product is finished just means more unhappy customers who will probably never return when PMF is achieved.

#4 Learn From Failure

Everyone talks about “learning from failure”, and we all nod wisely. Too often though, this phrase can simply be an empty platitude used to comfort ourselves, rather than actionable advice spurring greater success.

Sean helped me to understand what it really means to learn from failure with a short example:

At one of his companies, Sean ran an experiment on the trial model hypothesizing that more trial features would encourage more people to upgrade. The test failed completely, and conversion rates actually dropped.

Learning from this failed experiment, Sean re-hypothesized that customers either needed this product or didn’t – thus they didn’t really care how much (or how little) they paid.

Testing this assumption, Sean was able to leverage the knowledge gained from the failed experiment to raise the price by fully 5x without dramatically hurting the conversion rate.

#5 The Answer To Everything Is… It Depends

This came up frequently throughout the night from many people.

The more mathematical of us in growth would like to see a “do x to achieve y” type of formulaic route to success, but that just isn’t possible.

What works for one business could be an utter failure for another business. Ultimately, we just have to do a lot of testing to discover what is most effective for our company and customer base.

A Big Thanks

A big thanks to Sean Ellis for speaking, Ben Hoffman and David Adeyalo for organizing, Sincerely for hosting, and everyone else for coming.  I enjoyed getting to meet many of you, and I’m looking forward to more of this in the future.