1. Can You Tell Us a Bit More About Your Business?

Time Inc. is a very well-known publisher – a leading consumer multi-platform publisher based in the US, leading in the US, but also has a branch in the UK which is the leader in terms of volume share with 23 percent volume share; leading also in terms of advertising with something like 33 percent market share; and with a reach of nearly half of the UK population.

We have 60-odd brands across print, web, mobile, tablet, and events. We reach 8.4 million users which is 17.7% reach of the UK internet population.

2. What Does Growth Hacking Mean for a Magazine Business?

That’s the interesting part, I think. You’re talking about a business of print magazines that has been declining for the last eight to nine years consistently across both newsstand and subscriptions as well as advertising. In many ways, advertising revenues going in a new direction now with more digital advertising than print advertising in terms of business. So, more and more of a shift towards digital. Obviously, magazines being print, they need to reinvent what they’re about.

So, I guess, growth hacking means for us looking at areas where we can grow outside of our traditional business. Rather than acquire new magazines or buy and sell more, it’s really about where else can our brands expand? How can we reach the same customers in different places? That’s really the exciting journey I’m on right now with looking at different ecosystems. But starting with one thing in mind, we’re about passion points with our stories and we can tell those stories in different places and we can go into adjacent markets such as events, eCommerce, marketplaces where the same customers are and where basically our brands can also stand for something.

3. What Are Your Thoughts on Growth Hacking or Growth Marketing?

As I’ve been on that journey for almost a year and a half now, I think the first thing is you need to be in a position where you can look at your business with a new fresh pair of eyes and challenge what you traditionally stand for.

Rather than saying, “We are a print magazine publisher,” we went back to our DNA and we thought, “What we do is actually tell stories.” Regardless of whether the stories are in text, on print, video, pictures, events, it doesn’t matter. It’s about storytelling. That’s what we’re good at and that’s what our brand stands for.

So, there’s an element of growth hacking that has to do with disrupting yourself and challenging your own business and thinking, “If we were to compete with ourselves, what would we do?” I guess you’re more creative when you’re trying to do that than when you’re trying to survive or trying to protect yourself. It’s about really attacking – hacking, in a way – your own business so that you can identify areas where you can move to. So, that’s one thing.

Another thing, I think, around growth hacking is speed. It’s about going fast – failing fast. Test, learn. A/B test all the time and not be afraid to fail in many ways because, otherwise, you just sit still and stand still and, therefore, do nothing.

That’s the key two things that come to my mind in terms of growth hacking – disrupt yourself and do it at pace.

What Are Your Top 3 Pieces of Advice for Growth Marketing?

As I said, if you want to be in a position where you can look at your business with a fresh pair of eyes, you need to think out of the box. The first thing is really there’s no bad idea. Interrogate your partners, your employees, everyone, and really start coming up with ideas that you would think maybe are crazy but actually they may make sense in a couple of years. So, test everything and think out of the box. That’s the first one.

The second one I think is thinking like a customer. Take the view of a customer. If you are passionate about cycling or equestrian or beauty and fashion – any given magazine brands stand for – what would you accept from that brand to tell you in terms of new stories? Would they be able to sell you anything? Think as a customer is the second one.

And then, as I said before, all ideas are okay. Generate ideas from inside the business. You know, there’s some really good people who are in your marketing teams, in your editorial teams, and they will come up with ideas and any idea is good. And then, it’s about having the arguments and the best argument wins.

What Are the Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid when Doing Growth Marketing?

I think the first one – and I see this repeatedly in businesses that want to move through digital, like retailers or catalog businesses that have gone through that transformation and change – it’s about working in silos – creating new silos and not collaborating.

The first mistake is thinking you can do that in isolation. We need the people who know about the business, who know about the brand, who need new skills as well; therefore, you really need to involve your own experts is the one thing. And so, work across metrics, work in  multifunctional teams, and create those new teams that are going to hack growth.

The second thing is it should not be just a top-down approach. Obviously, you need buy-in from top management but that energy and that speed and that envy around growth hacking has to come from the bottom up.

The third one is a lot of people say they want to hack growth and grow and start doing labs and things like that but usually there’s no fund attached. So, you need to fund it and properly. I would say dedicate 15 to 20 percent of your marketing budget to growth. It’s probably the minimum.

What Are Some Resources You Encourage People to Explore? Any Favourite Book?

Rather than books… Well, there’s one I like that I’ve just discovered. It’s called The Growth Director’s Secret. It’s pretty good. I’ve just started reading it and it’s about the connections between consumer behaviour, organization strategies, and boards and so forth. So, it’s joining the dots between all these things that are available. It’s a good read by Andrew Brent.

There’s another thing in terms of resource that is probably more important than any book – your network. I think reaching out to your network, working with LinkedIn, asking questions whenever you have one, that’s the best solution I think in terms of resources.

Another resource is your own common sense. I think these are some of the interesting areas. I’ve also recently listened to a book. I think reading books is great but, if you don’t have time to sit down and relax, when you’re traveling, I think listening to books is also great. I recently listened to a book called Zero to One – it’s about start-ups – from Peter Thiel and that’s really a good book as well. Really, really motivating and eye-opening in terms of how start-ups create themselves and how you can just create roads from zero to one, basically.