Growth Hacking

Have You Heard About The Growth Hacking Skill No One’s Talking About? ft. @SeanEllis


Image created by Yasmine Sedky (‏@yazsedky).

Ok, some people are talking about it, clearly, but it’s a vital step that doesn’t get nearly as much press as it should. Without this step, Growth Hackers couldn’t achieve any of their results. So why are we not having daily discussions about Goal Setting?

Goal Setting – Growth Hackers Do It Differently

Yes, just like those hundreds of self-help books tell you, setting goals is important. Unlike those hundreds of self-help books, the goal setting approach used by Growth Hackers means you win whether you succeed or fail. In January, Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown of devoted 42.44 minutes of their time to explaining the glory of goals:

  • Why goals are so effective (sounds simple, but they bring it to a whole new level)
  • Where goals go wrong
  • How to Goal like a Growth Hacker

Failure to Meet Goals Can Be Even Better Than Success

The team at Qualaroo had a goal: To drive distribution and get more people to adopt the software. To meet this goal, they came up with a plan to “beef up” the free version.

That totally flopped.

Their freebie offer wasn’t turning heads like they thought it would, but even though they didn’t reach their goal, they did reach a conclusion that was even more valuable: Their consumer wasn’t price-sensitive, which meant they would pay more. They found an opportunity to grow revenue more effectively by raising the price (and adding a few new features).

But Failure is Scary

Let us acknowledge that people get freaked out by goal setting for good reason. Often, goals are handed down by the higher-ups, and when they’re not met, there are consequences – like losing your job, or not getting that promotion. But that’s not the only approach to setting goals. When a Growth Hacker, like Sean Ellis or Morgan Brown, sets a goal, it’s like setting up a hypothesis (an educated guess) which provides a framework for the experiment. Success is determined by how much you learned.

Goal Setting – Not Just for the Self-Help Crowd

There are a million things you can do every day, many of which fly across your desktop in emails labeled “URGENT!” What’s urgent is rarely what’s most important, but they can sure take up the majority of your time and distract you from your real purpose. Having your goals listed in plain sight can get you back in touch with what matters most.

So how do you set a really great goal?

Goals need to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Challenging (but not impossible)

Having “baby-step” goals are good since they can give your team quick wins along the way, keeping everyone motivated on their way to the big goal. Motivation management is a big factor in who succeeds and who doesn’t. Sean and Morgan call this “Hacking your brain.”

Bad Goals, and How to Recognize Them

There are bad goals – and you’ve probably made them (how often have you kept your New Year’s Resolutions?).

This is what a bad goal-setting looks like:

  • Setting fuzzy & poorly defined goals.
  • Too goal driven – Your goal may come with a downside that you don’t see. Spend some time asking “If we achieve this goal, what is the worst thing that could happen?” and creating a second goal to address that possibility.
  • Too rigid – You have to adjust your methods as new data comes in.
  • Too many goals – Some people think that setting a goal will magically generate motivation. It doesn’t. Better to focus on one or two attainable goals at a time.
  • Setting impossible goals – The object is to motivate, but the effect is the opposite. There’s a difference between setting big, audacious goals and impossible goals. You want to stretch with challenging goals, but you don’t want to set yourself up for failure.
  • Measuring success with vanity metrics – You want metrics that are tied to specifics. Define failure as clearly as you define success.

Growth Hacker Goal Setting Looks Like This

Growth Hacker Goal setting framework:

  • Form Hypothesis
  • Select KPI (Key Performance Indicator)
  • Set Goal
  • Execute
  • Track Progress (adjust execution as necessary)
  • Socialize/Iterate (let everyone know how it worked)

The last step on the Goal Setting To-Do List is to socialize your wins and findings, good or bad. Let the whole company in on it through Slack/HipChat, weekly emails, internal dashboards, office posters, lunch and learns, or by ringing a cowbell every time progress is made. (Who doesn’t want more cowbell?)

Growth works best when everyone is aligned around the goal, but 35 percent of marketers don’t share testing or growth wins with their teams. Share everything to align and motivate everyone towards a common goal.

When you set a really good goal, one that’s specific, measurable, and challenging yet attainable, you’ll discover more about your company and your target clients than you ever could have known without it. So set that goal, get everyone involved, and remember: It’s an experiment. If it fails, you’ve still learned something valuable.

Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

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  • Reply Jack Haldrup June 8, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    Great Post Nichole. Having a growth goal is so important but often overlooked. I recently read the book “traction” by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. The book outlines a great framework for creating a meaningful Traction Goal and then laser focusing on only the key milestones needed to reach that goal. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a deep dive on this topic.

    • Reply nichole June 8, 2015 at 10:31 pm

      Thanks, Jack! I just now picked up Traction and plan to start reading it this week. I’m looking forward to it.

  • Reply Stuart Langridge June 9, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Great article. I think the other thing that we do well relates to process. Too many people see a failure as a problem and lose patience or quit. When you take the execution of the process as the goal, to learn or validate something, then the result is actually slightly less important. If its a success, great, what did we learn? If its a failure, what did we learn? I think that this different mindset enables goal setting to be much more realistic because the aim if just to do the work well and find out what happens. That is much more likely to be completed than “this year I will earn $1 million” or whatever.

  • Reply Amel Mehenaoui October 27, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    This is by far the best post I read since a while (maybe best ever) that brings Goal settings and growth hacking together in such and effective way.

    Loved the part where you list the Growth Hacking Goal Setting Framework. Seems so simple, short but so powerful when implemented!

    Your headline was also very intriguing…good choice of words. I almost didn’t click to read the post but I needed so badly to know what was the missing skill!!!

    I could’t fight the urge to click 🙁

    But I’m glad I did 😉

    Thanks Nichole for a refreshing article!

    Wishing you the best in life.

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