Growth Hacking Geniuses - Andrew Anderson - Visual Summary

Andrew Anderson

How Did You Become Passionate About Business Growth?

Unlike a lot of other people that come from a traditional marketing background, […] to teach history and history is nothing but a bunch of lessons of we thought we were going to do this and we ended up doing that. We get a lot of sanitized versions of it but pretty much nothing in history has ever gone exactly according to plan and that fact has always been a passion for me and the stories of that.

Growth is about finding those opportunities in the business world and in the companies I work for – all these things that we think we should be doing this and we end up doing that and finding those things and learning those things and teaching about all those opportunities is really what I love doing.

What Results Have You Gotten?

I’ve been doing this for fourteen, fifteen years now. I’ve worked with 300 different companies. Again, all of my favorite stories are those that come from we thought we’d do this then do that.

A perfect example, I was working with one of the largest SEM programs in the world for a financial services company and they had seven key products and they wanted to build a landing page that just served the products and information based on what the person was searching for – which is something that was suggested and didn’t come to practice. Instead, we talked him into testing out the content to everyone to see if it was matching right because, if the product meets the match, they’ll be the best performer and, every other outcome, we would find a better outcome.

What we ended up finding was, if we had done exactly what they originally wanted to do, we would have lost about 18 percent of leads which is millions and millions of dollars for them. But, instead, by doing that, we discovered that the only correlation between products was a couple that didn’t match but, by looking at browser or time of day and serving content based on that, we were able to get about a 24 percent increase.

Again, it’s another one of those cases where we thought we were going to go left and we ended up going right. Those types of stories happen in my current role in all the different companies I’ve worked for.

What Do You Do Differently than Other Practitioners that You Think Is Hugely Valuable?

So much of the space is about how do we measure and do what we think is going to work best. In the optimization space, a lot of how do we validate this hypothesis or validate these ideas that we have and everything that I do is about how do we look at all the possible options and prove ourselves wrong, not right. You’re able to get into a lot of things that other people aren’t even aware of.

In my case, I’m a math nerd so things like fragility, math of efficiencies and system thinking which allows us to both validate if those ideas are right but, in the day, we actually make more money when we’re wrong. By doing that, we’re able to have far more successes, far higher rate of impact to businesses and be more efficient with it.

That’s really the core of what I teach and how I work with people – again, teaching them the discipline to go past their own egos and their own previous thoughts and keep building on it.

What Are Your Thoughts on Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking or growth marketing, in a lot of ways, is one of those open-ended terms that you use for a lot of things. In a lot of cases, it’s just data-validated marketing. “We’re going to do what we did before, we’re just going to throw a different name of it and kind of measure things.”

To me, it’s really this opportunity to rethink classic marketing or classic online marketing and to go past just looking at channels or looking at outcomes to, again, explore and exploit information and to keep building things.

There’s a lot of great voices out there but there’s also a lot of voices that use different words to teach people to do what they’ve already been doing or to feel better about what they’re already doing. And so, growth marketing kind of gets a bad name in my mind from that. But there’s also a lot of key people out there that really help people learn and go a different way.

You know, to get a different outcome, you have to be doing a different action. And so, whether you want to call that growth marketing or exploration or whatever, it’s a great opportunity learn and grow and go different ways whether it’s how you do spend or how you talk to customers or even what channels or markets you explore into. It’s a great wide unknown and it really allows you to keep going in different directions as opposed to being under the constraints of classic marketing.

What Role Does Data Play in the Day to Day Grind of Growth Hacking?

Data is like oxygen, right? We don’t exist without data, but just having data isn’t enough.

So much of marketing and data usage is for validation or what I usually refer to as data-justified marketing, not data-driven marketing. You know, there was that classic saying that you use data like a drunk man uses a light post for support rather than illumination.

To me, data is all about how do you just have the discipline and be able to disassociate the outcomes or the measure of the outcomes from the concept you want to do and the execution that concept. By doing that and only using data to really drive decisions as opposed to find something that proves what I’m trying to do, it really opens up conversations and gets far more results.

One of the things I tell people is you can ask for data on anything but, unless you can prove how it’s going to add marginal value, it’s not something that I’m going to provide to you because you’re just doing it to make yourself feel good.

Data is both the most valued and least valued part of just about any organization.

Growth Hacking Geniuses - Pierre Lechelle - Visual Summary

Pierre Lechelle

How Did You Start Your Journey in Growth and Digital Marketing?

I formed the business a couple of years and it formed brilliantly – mainly because of product. I’m a good product guy when things are getting started. Like, when you have traction and stuff like this. But I’m a bad product guy when it comes to getting started from the ground up.

Basically, starting the company was awful for me. Beyond the product, we sell for over two years and, at the end of these two years, we started doing marketing and all that sort of stuff. But it took me so long to get the product out there and gather feedback from people. I was just too late.

You know, running these marketing campaigns, I learned that I was a good marketer but not a very good product guy – at least not at the beginning of the project. And so, that’s how I got started and, you know, getting to know all these strategies, tactics, and working in more and more businesses basically led me to where I’m at today.

What Are Your Thoughts on Growth Hacking or Growth Marketing?

You know, I think it’s quite a weird word. You know, you’ve got tons of people doing growth hacking and growth marketing. Basically, what we do doesn’t have a real title. I think it’s coming closer and closer to growth marketing itself but growth hacking to me is like everyone is talking about scraping tactics, about finding leads or LinkedIn, pouring them all into big campaigns and seeing the results and doing all that sort of stuff.

I think, you know, some people come to see me and they expect me to be like, “Hey! We’re going to scrape this and Craigslist and do all the good stuff.” I’m like, “Sorry but I don’t do that.” I think what’s the main reasoning behind this is I think growth hacking is mainly about finding that one small tactic that’s going to give you traction but it’s not going to be sustainable in the long term.

So, it might help you gain your first few hundred users – maybe the first customers – but it’s not going to help you grow sustainably over the next

five to ten years and this is what I like to focus on because this is what is going to have the greatest ROI for you and your business. If we’re just basically finding tactics, it’s not going to be very helpful over the long-term. I think that’s a huge distinction between growth hacking and growth marketing.

People – I believe – should focus on the latter because you’re not going to build a business or scraping and doing illegal stuff and weird tactics. Yes, that’s where I stand.

How Important Are Lead Capture and Conversion Funnels?

You know, I think we live in a world where we can have very augmented businesses. So, I don’t think everything should be fully automated or that everything can be fully automated. But, you know, if you are a consultant or you are a SaaS software, no one is going to go from no clue who you are to “I’m going to purchase a $1,000-a-month product.” There’s no way someone is going to go through that thought sequence in just a second.

I think it’s important for us marketers and for business but also for customers and prospects to basically go through these funnels that they can basically get nurtured into. Like, I don’t know if consultants, a lot of SaaS businesses are going to start with blog articles and they’re going to push you to some sort of an e-book then you may have multiple other e-books, email courses, and all that sort of stuff.

That’s going to educate you about the product, about what it can do for you, and the advantages it can have for your business. And then, later on in the journey, when you’re finally ready to purchase the product, it becomes a very simple decision-making process because it just makes sense. “I’ve been with that company for so long, why not give it a try?”

I think HubSpot is a very good company doing this. I’m a user of Modern Mark and they do listings of B2B SaaS companies and all that sort of good companies and they basically have a newsletter where they share content, share very interesting content.

Before I went about and became a customer, I was reading that newsletter. Every week, I would discover new features, I would discover new content that would allow me to put outbound sales to work and, you know, all that content, when I was thinking about doing outbound sales

myself, I was like, “Well, Modern Mark is all I need to speak to.” I think that is, in the end, what conversion funnels and high-level funnels are. It’s not necessarily about the different steps between a payment processing but it’s mainly about what’s the customer journey, customer life cycle that maximizes the number of customers that are going to end up at the end of the process, if that makes sense.

How Do You Get Customers a Quick Win?

I think it’s mainly a question about where should the business be focused. You know, when you get into a new business, you always have these huge low-hanging fruits – you know, you see weird things happening in the AdWords account.

I think the last business that I audited, they basically had 25,000 emails that never received any email. They were basically getting new email subscribers every day but they didn’t send any email to these guys. And so, it became obvious to me that we are to email these people and reactivate them and make sure they are great content and great experience. But, in the end, it’s about looking at the entire funnel of your business, the entire customer life cycle, and looking at where you have missed opportunities. It’s often going to be in emails.

One of the huge ones that every business can have is basically look at all the lost deals, all the leads that never got engaged, all these lost leads that you lost track with, and just emailing these people can tremendously help your business. But, yes, looking at the entire funnel and seeing where you can have impact.

How Do You Start a Growth Team?

I think it’s a very complex process. You know, we’ve talked earlier about growth hacking, growth marketing, and all that stuff. I think what people see is, you know, they want to experiment. Everyone wants to experiment and everyone is going to try to launch new things and do different tactics.

I think our entire discussion is mainly about creating a growth team. It’s about finding where you can have the most impact, generating quick wins so that you can show to the organization and board of directors and VPs and everyone in the organization that you can have impact. It’s about showing that you – you alone or a small pool of people – can have impact on the business.

As soon as you show to everyone that you can have impact by launching experiments, you can then start with a small pool of people, generally promoting a few people from the organization, probably the same ones that already participated in these experiments, and then you can expand from this.

Let’s say you are the growth manager, a designer, and an engineer. You start experimenting by finding these high-impact areas, launching experiments. You’re getting these quick wins and then you can expand on that group of people.

If, for instance, you see that design is your main goal, you can basically hire one more designer and start moving more quickly through the experimentation cycle. That’s basically then all about brainstorming ideas for experiments, launching more of them, and making sure that you’re having positive results on your bottom line.

Growth Hacking Geniuses - Jordan Benjamin - Visual Summary

Jordan Benjamin

How Did You Start Your Journey in Growth and Digital Marketing?

Well, you know, I initially wanted to be a lawyer and found out that that didn’t really align with what I wanted to do. And so, in school, I changed my major to business and then just kind of got aligned with a few folks that were doing different startups in kind of the early stages.

And so, my junior and senior year in college, I went to work for a friend’s company. I think it was maybe the fifth employee. I was an intern doing sales for them. We really had to kind of just start thinking about how do you bring digital marketing? How do you find your list of prospects?

From there, that kind of got me started on that path of really wanting to work with startup companies – being able to kind of see how does everything work internally. And so, it really kind of just got me started on that path and connected into the startup kind of mindset and group of folks.

There’s a really good community of startups in Boulder, Colorado, where I’m originally from. So, I was out there for about five, six years, working with startups. And then, I actually moved up to Boston to join on HubSpot to kind of watch how a startup moves from startup into public company. I got here and got to watch the IPO and got to watch us kind of move and then got me thinking about how do I start my own projects or business trying to drive growth as well.

What Problems Have You Solved for Customers?

A lot of the time, it’s about how to get new customers. How do you drive growth? How do you drive growth efficiently? How do you stay motivated? How do you prospect? How do you really bring more data to the table?

One of the things that I love about digital marketing is we can really look at analytics and very easily measure – not what just drives a new hit or visitor to my website but what actually turns somebody into a customer? How do they move through that process and how do we leverage data?

As a startup or as a young company or as anybody, really, how do we really use that data to say, “Well, what’s the most efficient? Where should we spend our time? What drives the best ROI?” And so, that’s where most of the companies I’ve been working for it’s how do we drive a more effective cost per lead or how do we actually bring data to understand what drives people through our sales funnel more effectively?

Now, I’m starting to work with companies to think about how do we lead more intentionally, how do we perform at our best as humans? Really kind of start bringing all those pieces together to really bring a kind of whole person/company/organization into the ecosystem.

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

I think, when you’re trying to approach growth, you’ve got to be able to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer or prospect. The word that we’ve been using a lot lately is empathy. How do you empathize with that prospect?

You go beyond just thinking about what do they want. You think about what do they really care about? What do they struggle with? What can you actually bring to the table that adds value?

When you think about “what does this person want to achieve?” then you can build resources, you can build content, you can build answers to their questions that they might be asking online or other places.

Really, what you do is you build trust, you build value, you build credibility before you ever ask for their dollars. And so, I think that kind of encompasses probably all three. How do you put yourself in the shoes of your prospect? How do you really understand them so you can lead with building trust so you can build credibility so you can really then measure everything that works? And see what works most effectively and then spend your time in those areas?

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

The one that I see continuously, I was working with a small business owner last week on this, he was starting to go and try and prospect and try

and get in front of more potential customers. The email that he started sending says, “I saw this. I want to know about this. I want to hear other things.”

And so, it’s really critical to think about how do you focus on that prospect? How do you talk about what they want and what’s really important to them? Because that’s what grabs attention.

Today, so many people are blasting different business owners, marketing managers, sales leaders, or whoever it is with “here’s what I want, here’s what’s important to me,” and you’ve really got to flip that on your head and kind of go against what you would normally do to think about “What do they want? What’s important to them?” to lead off with.

I think another mistake is there are so many tools, so many people are bombarding you with coming to use them, but really see what you can do to measure everything. If you can use this data and understand digital presence, understand how your website is working well or not working well, from there you can really leverage those tools to measure everything.

I see a lot of businesses that say, “Yeah, we just have an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of that,” or “All of the intellectual property is in my brain.” Most small businesses fail because they don’t have systems or processes that are repeatable. So, then when they actually have a little bit of success and they go hire somebody, it becomes nearly impossible to train someone effectively so you can continually grow.

So, really thinking about how do you measure everything, how do you build systems and processes, and how do you think about what does your prospect care about most as opposed to what you care about or what you want to get done.

Which Tools Do You Use to Grow Your Business or Help Clients Grow Theirs?

A lot of times, Google Docs, I love the Google apps. The Google suite is just so easy. It’s very inexpensive – you know, $5.00 or $10.00 a month to get email, to get Google Docs so you can actually share documents, hold people accountable, have meetings so you’re actually face-to-face. I think it’s great.

One of my favorite free tools as well is using Join.me to have webinars with folks or calls using something. HubSpot has a free CRM that’s just absolutely wonderful to use and totally free which is great. I think early stages it’s especially wonderful to have stuff that doesn’t cost very much money but then can scale with you. There’s also some free marketing products that HubSpot has or Google Analytics has some great tools to actually help you understand that interaction with your website.

If I’m trying to sell or prospect, using tools like BuiltWith or Datanyze to help understand, “Okay, do these people use tools that would be a good fit or my services are for me to sell into?” And then, you know, a tool called Zapier that really helps connect different things together. Depending upon the systems you have, it can really help you start getting a more holistic view of everything you’re doing.

I think those are some of the tools.

And then, I use Stitcher to listen to different podcasts, different interviews. Obviously, my Kindle to read as much as I can and learn from a lot of other people – to keep growing.

I’d say those are a handful.

Will Bunker

How Did You Start Your Journey in Growth and Digital Marketing?

You know, we had that experience where we built that first idea which took four, five months to even program it and then you’re sitting there and you realize you have no customers. And so, the thought that occurred to me is, if I don’t learn how to market, then all the stuff we did to build the site is for nothing. That launched me into getting very serious about digital marketing.

Would You Like to Plug Your Current Business or Product? What Do You Have Going On?

We’ve started GrowthX Academy which teaches people three different roles which we feel are critical to growing startups – sales in biz dev, digital marketing, and design. We want to create talent for our ecosystems so that these great companies that have good products don’t die on the vine because they can’t sell them or reach their customers effectively.

What Are the Top Three Qualities That a Growth Hacker or a Growth Marketer Should Have?

I think that you have to be extremely intellectually curious. What worked in 1995 won’t work in 2017. And so, teaching yourself constantly.

I think another issue is understanding that all of your ideas are hypotheses and acting appropriately – you know, not getting too attached until you get the feedback, the users that tell you you’re going in the right direction.

Another quality that matters greatly is your mental flexibility and ability to accept that feedback in a way that’s constructive. It’s super easy to get your feelings hurt. We’ve all had that situation where a potential customer writes that long email about how bad you suck. In there, there’s some truth that you can act on if you can control your emotions and then look at it, “Okay, what is this person really trying to tell me is wrong with the product and can we fix it?”

Which Daily Habits Have You Installed to Maximize Your Results with Clients?

I am a very deliberate learner. And so, I have a flashcard system; I’ve got 45,000 facts in that system. I probably spend 30 minutes a day reviewing technical material within that system so that my skills stay fresh with things that have longer range value. I read probably two to three books a week so I set aside daily reading time so that I’m inputting new things into my brain and making sure that I stay relevant.

What Are the Top Three Mistakes to Avoid When Doing Growth Marketing?

Well, the biggest one is to overcommit early. It just takes a while to build a great product and find product market fit and it’s super easy to get excited and want to push yourself to that next level that leads to investment. If you do it prematurely, you’ll kind of flame out. You see a lot of companies that get a great initial curve off of some growth hack but they don’t build the real value to the end customer and it fails.

Another big mistake is see is arrogance. You know, it’s interesting; it’s easy to be good at some pieces of this and then get the attitude that founders to listen to everything you say or their crap and it’s hard to understand all the constraints you’re going through as you build a business. And so, learning more empathy toward the other team players and understanding what makes their job work so that you don’t come across as a jerk is a big one.

And then, overreliance on one channel, especially early stage. There are lots of ways to go to market and all of them work under certain circumstances. And so, having the ability to switch a context so that you’re doing the right role channel for a particular startup.

What Are Some Resources that You Would Encourage People to Explore?

Being the big reader that I am, the last couple of books that blew me away were Gary Vaynerchuk’s Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Punch – kind of a long title but super interesting read on how to fit your message within a particular medium and how to be sensitive to how the medium works. I read one recently, it wasn’t a great read but, man, is it working! It’s How to Get to 100,000 Twitter Followers. I’m rapidly approaching 10,000 up from three, four weeks ago. Combined with Gary’s book, for the first time, I’m starting to feel confident through social market messaging versus just trying to advertise down those channels. That’s something by the end of this year, I’d like to have 10,000 followers from Quora and 100,000 followers on Twitter. I’m just trying to read resources around that to make me better.

Sujan Patel - Visual Summary

Sujan Patel

1. How Did You Start Your Journey in Growth and Digital Marketing?

I started off in SEO years ago in 2001, 2002, made an e-commerce website. This was before the luxury of Shopify, Big Commerce and those types of companies. So building it using a lot more rudimentary platforms. I put a lot of money into it, I was in high school and college. I built the website, no one came, I had to figure out a way to get people there. I stumbled on SEO. The business failed but I successfully kick-started my SEO career. As SEO has evolved over time, it’s become really just all things marketing. And so, over time, I expanded beyond SEO to just all things digital marketing. Growth has always been something I’ve been measuring myself against – what is actual growth numbers? There’s a lot of fancy numbers and things you can measure against, but at the end of the day it comes down to growth, which is really why you’re doing digital marketing in the first place. So growth is a new name for something I’ve been going off of, I call it ROI, fast-paced marketing. That’s kind of my entry into growth and digital marketing.

2. Could You Tell Us a Bit More About Your Company, WebProfits?

WebProfits is a growth marketing agency. When I say growth marketing, I mean we don’t do fluff, we don’t focus only on one channel, we can’t help with just SEO and PPC. When we help companies, we’re going to help them with all things growth, and we peel back the layers of going into the organizations – what else can they be doing on the customer support side? So we’re looking at all parts of that funnel, more than just driving more traffic or increasing conversions. And the services that we provide right now: one is content marketing, which we provide à la carte, and the other is called Fluid Marketing. Really what that means is we come into an organization or if we’re talking to a potential client, we want to understand what they’re struggling with, what are their channels that got them there, what are big opportunities, and we’re helping with all things growth. Our fluid service will adjust over the month to what we focus on. So we may start with an heavy emphasis on let’s say Facebook ads because that’s a great opportunity. But 3-6 months in, that’s gonna be on optimization mode, we’ve done a lot of the work, we may shift our focus to SEO or content. So we really focus on an omni-channel approach, leveraging any advantage a customer has to grow.

3. What Are the Top Three Qualities That a Growth Hacker Should Have?

Number one is hustle. Hustle is, I think, lacking in most people, not just marketers. What I mean by hustle is you gotta figure stuff out. I get lots of emails lately around people asking me questions and my response is Google it! Learn as much as you can by reading publicly available information and I guarantee there is publicly available information on every topic. You can be an expert coin collector. I want to help.

Ask people for help once you’ve gotten stuck or you’ve gotten to a point where “I got this, this, this information, this is what I’ve done, I’m stuck can you help me?”. That, to me, is hustle. People go immediately to the easy route. So that’s number one, the hustle, it’s working long hours and doing things that suck.

Some of my biggest success in marketing has been with working with customer support, it’s come from sending cold emails and doing the dirty work that you would probably outsource to a VA myself. Now, at some point, we’re going to scale those channels or tactics. But at the end of the day, it was the willingness to put in that hard work and doing it.

Number two is agility and understanding that it’s not necessarily tactics or certain channels that are always going to help you grow. You’ve got to think beyond the channel and think really to growth, what is going to help a company, your company, or whoever you’re working with to grow. That may not come from things you’re used to. So when I say agility, it’s the ability to move around, being uncomfortable, doing things again that are not sexy.

The last thing is testing. To be honest, nobody has a silver bullet. There is no silver bullet. Why work with me over someone else? It’s probably because I’m more relevant, I have more experience. Again, that can be said for someone else. Really, there is no silver bullet. Digital marketing has become so complex, it’s just as complex as offline marketing, and if not even more. It’s saturated, people are moving fast, you’re competing with people with bigger budgets. You have to be willing to get uncomfortable and learn and test new things, because you’re going to find things that work and then you gotta figure out how to scale them.

4. Who Are Some of the Successful Growth Hackers That You Learned From or Inspired You?

Honestly, there are so many people, I really love what Hiten Shah and Stellie are doing on the startup chat. Hiten is from Kissmetrics and CrazyEgg, and Stellie is from Close.io, great podcasts and great community around startup people. It’s not really what they say, it’s what they do, and it’s the fact that they’re solving problems which is awesome. I’ve been bringing people to that community. Obviously, Neil Patel. Dan Martell is a great guy, he’s taught me a lot, he’s with Clarity.fm. He taught me the power of mastermind dinners and networking and really just going out there, and even simple things like how to ask for advice. Guys like Gary Vee are awesome inspirations to see what they’re doing. Again their hustle – I work probably 50% if that of what Gary Vee works, and that teaches me how to be a better hustle. These days I look at their actions and the little things they do outside of that which really inspire me. Morgan Brown is another great guy and Sean Ellis, creating a great community around this. There’s so many people so it’s hard to list off these things.

The counter to that is it doesn’t matter. These guys are all great and inspiration, you can read all the knowledge you want on growth hacking and growth, but at the end of the day, it’s not about what you read, it’s about actions, testing, and then figuring stuff out, then scaling. At the end of the day, execution is the key, and these people personally inspire me to execute.

5. What Are Your Top 3 Pieces of Advice for Growth Hackers?

One, don’t believe everything you read. It’s probably true, but it’s very situational. Everyone write an article on how Hotmail did this, or how AirBnB grew by this, or how my company did this and that happened. Look, it probably did happen, use that for inspiration. Minimize your reading or silo it so that you’re reading maybe one hour a day and not throughout the day. Tip number one is focus on execution and try to read less, don’t ever thing you’re going to get the same results. Think “Oh, this is something I can test.”

Number two is split up your ideas and planning. That is right brain and left brain thinking, meaning your ideas should never be limited, but you don’t want to execute and plan when you should execute your ideas when you’re thinking so freely. You need to write everything down, so many people make this mistake is that they may be great at executing, but they don’t execute on the right things. And I’ve made this mistake many many times. In fact, I make it probably fairly often because I work on so many companies. But at the end of the day, let your right brain be creative and brainstorm ideas, write them down in Excel or on a napkin, but make sure you come back and you think about what’s the impact of that, maybe even sleep on it, and the next day plan when you can execute those based off of resources required and the impact it’s going to have. I emphasize the impact, because tactics are never going to be a winning strategy.

That’s kind of my last piece of advice. Whatever you’re doing is getting old. Digital marketing and growth moves fast. The lifespan of a tactic or strategy is getting shorter and shorter and that’s ok because the resources and tools and avenues for us as marketers to grow and leverage is getting bigger, so it kind of counters things out. So always be thinking about what the next thing is going to be, and think of how you can test. So, that way, as you have scalable channels that you’re working on for your business that are consistently growing or predictable growth, you’re also testing in new channels that may be unproven but you still have proven channels on top of unproven ones. So you have a chart, of graph of consistent growth, and then you have these crazy graphs of ups and downs of things that could work. And realistically, probably you’re not going to get everything you test to work, maybe one or two out of ten, and that’s ok, you still have the consistency. So combining those two is very powerful. Never rely when you’re done or out of scalability on your current channels to then start testing, you’ve already lost a strong foothold on growth.

I recommend that you spend 25-30% of your time in the exploration phase. This will also help you and your team be creative and think outside that box, because frankly as a marketer the worst thing you can do is not innovate because six months or a year your strategy is going to be either milked completely dry or not as scalable. If you look at Facebook ads, years ago they were the hottest thing, you could get clicks for cheap. Now you’re paying more than Adwords sometimes and how much things cost. Things get expensive, and if your economics don’t work out, if you’re not first there or early in, you might be starting at $6 CPCs and that may never work for you.

Sammy Najar

1. Would You Mind Introducing Yourself? Who Are You? What’s Your Background?

I’m a Marketing major, then I was trying to find a job in marketing. I thought I would find a crazy fun job in advertising, but you know what marketing is not that easy. I finally ended up in a web agency. I didn’t know anything about web or digital, it was still called web back then, but I learned a lot.

The digital space is really fun place to be. It’s dynamic, it moves a lot, there’s always something new so you’ve got on top of your game if you want to follow. There’s one thing that I found out in this industry – there’s a lot of opportunities and a lot of space for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs have always been people that I highly respected and I always wanted to become one, so that’s why I created Commentts.

Commentts allows you to react to the trending and latest news. What we do is we gather the best and trending news from cities all over North America every day and every hour and bring it back into the app. Then you get a normal news feed. Then we put the comments up front. In the app, you select a news, you create a Commentts – it’s an image with a bit of text on top, with a style and filter to enhance the aesthetic value of the comment.

Really what you get is a feed of visual comments on what’s happening around you, instead of a normal boring news feed.

3. Who Is Working on Commentts?

We’re two co-founders. My partner is Jean-Sébastien Lozeau. We have two different backgrounds. I’m more from the marketing digital agency world. He’s a pure a creative, book writer, movie director, he made a documentary. He’s the total opposite of me, and that’s a good thing.

The two of us together can cover 360 degrees. What we’re missing is a CTO, but we’re good at finding the right people to work with us. At this moment we have a few developers, front-end and back-end, and we’re looking to hire a new one for Android because we don’t have an Android version yet.

So we’re really building the team, and obviously behind us there’s a good investor that really believes in our product and our team, and that’s also important. I’m more the spec-down-to-earth guy, and my partner lives in the cloud, so we try to find middle ground and complement each other.

4. How Did You Come Up With the Idea?

I used to work with a media company and so was Jean-Sébastien. We met in a meeting, exchanged different ideas. We liked each other and after a few months we went for a beer, Jean-Sébastien had an idea that evolved into Commentts. The idea was to do a comic strip on the news, which is not simple to execute. We got together and evolved the idea into a social network around the news with people expressing themselves with images, and this is how it came to life.

It was a long journey, it is not something that you do in a week, it took us almost two years before we were ready to leave our jobs and work full time on the product.

The first thing that we did is a marketing search, we created wireframes, we set up a pitch, and we went looking for an investor. We were lucky enough to find someone that believed in us, lent us some money, which allowed us to build a prototype. With that prototype we were able to find more money, and actually develop the app that is available in the market now.

We always took it step-by-step and kept our focus. You have to put in the hours, and always move forward and never stop.

5. What Did You Learn From the Challenges?

People think that you have success over night. Facebook and Twitter guys worked a lot before they got to where they are now. We’re trying to have an operation in our own backyard, in Quebec, instead of spreading across all of North America right away. We released the app, got some promotion and some user acquisition, then we stopped and pulled the plug on acquisition. It’s a crazy thing to stop the momentum on user acquisition, but at the same time we wanted to get a first feedback from our users. We validated every step before, but the ultimate validation is with actual users playing with the app.

We learned, for example, that our target market was wrong. The persona we created was wrong. But that’s a good thing, you gotta start somewhere and put it on the table, then validate it or reject it and create a new one.

Right now we’re validating our persona, and looking at what users are doing within the app. We’re actually talking to them a lot, over the phone and interviews to get insights.

We’re at the stage to fix a few things before going into full growth and user acquisition again.

You gotta test the market and be smart about the way you do it, otherwise your server will explode, or get a lot of downloads without retention. I rather get 10,000 downloads and 5,000 people in the app, as opposed to 1,000,000 downloads and 10,000 users in the app.
Go step by step, don’t try to take big leaps. Baby steps, always in the right direction.