Building & Running a Cross-Functional Team for Growth

September 26, 2018

(Coming Soon)

Dani Hart

Former Head of Growth at GrowthHackers

Are you ready to break down the silos between Marketing vs. Sales vs. Product vs. Engineering vs. Customer Success, and align your team around growth? Dani Hart is the person you want to talk with. She’s the former Head of Growth at GrowthHackers, currently offers independent consulting services under the name GrowthGal, and also mentors SaaS marketers & founders via Growthmentor.

We love that Dani’s definition of growth goes far beyond simply acquiring new customers. Rather, “growth” includes improving onboarding experiences, boosting customer retention, and even creating product virality. As such a cross-functional effort, “growth” is naturally a sport that’s best played as a team — and building cross-functional growth teams is where Dani really shines.

Dani’s talk is just one workshop of many in our SaaS Marketing Workshop series. Here are the highlights:

Above All, Focus On Providing Value to Customers

First of all, what even is a cross-functional team? Dani defines it as a team made of people with different capabilities (likely from different departments) coming together to optimize growth, or fix a problem within the company. Naturally, then, a growth team’s ultimate goal is to create more value for customers.As Dani puts it:

“Anybody in the organization can lead a growth initiative, and it's hard because it's going against the grain. It's looking at: What goal can we set to actually uncover these growth opportunities? What are the biggest broken parts of the business right now? And then focusing on those.”

Ideally, a growth team’s process should follow these general steps:

  1. Identify projects that will meaningfully impact company growth, and choose which to focus on
  2. For each project, identify a baseline, then set a goal and timeline to achieve that goal
  3. Run the project
  4. Analyze the results

Step 1: Ideate

Ideas for growth can (and should!) come from everywhere in the company. In fact, it’s important that people from across different departments feel empowered to give the growth team their input on how the company may improveWhen presenting an idea, Dani explains that it helps to be specific:

“We at GrowthHackers love ‘unbridled ideation.’ Meaning, come up with any idea you want at any time. It doesn't matter. But, it's always helpful to categorize those ideas, then give them a description or hypothesis, such as: What will this idea actually do? What metrics should you be measuring to make sure that you know whether or not this idea works?

Step 2: Prioritize

Once ideas have been gathered, use the “ICE” framework (Impact / Confidence / Ease) to rank them.Take time to evaluate...

  • The Impact an idea could have on the company’s growth.
  • How Confident the team feels about the likelihood that it will succeed.
  • How Easy it will be to execute the idea.This will provide a framework for which idea should have the highest priority.

It’s important to pay attention to which ideas are consistently endorsed by other members of the team. They may be seeing things you couldn’t perceive on your own. Dani recommends weekly meetings to check in and ask what everyone on the team has learned this week.

Step 3: Test

As the saying goes, the only real failed test is one you can’t measure the results of. For that reason, Dani recommends getting very specific about exactly what measurable results you’re trying to achieve when testing an idea. She offers up this process from her GrowthHackers days:

“[When planning how you’ll test an idea,] Does the test have a clear hypothesis that you're going to measure it on? We would run this through a double check, so the person that created the idea would write a hypothesis.We would run this through a double check, so the person who created the idea would write a hypothesis. But then, before we launched the test, we would have someone else double check to make sure that we had everything in place to actually measure it, so that we weren't caught up afterwards in analyzing it, and saying, ‘Hey, we don't know if this worked or not, because we never gave it any kind of direction.’”

From there, assign a test owner who is passionate about the idea and will diligently work to run it to the best potential outcome. It’s also important to let the rest of the company know that the idea will be tested, so that they can report back on any unexpected results they happen to see.Don’t have a lot of resources or traffic for testing? Dani explains that that’s not necessarily a problem:

“Whatever you have will work, I'm sure, better than nothing at all,” she says. “If you have nothing, then this is a great place to start, and then you can cater it from there. But, prioritize the current objective: What are you actually trying to achieve at that given point?

Step 4: Analyze

Once you’ve executed on the idea, it’s time to check the results and identify whether the idea worked or not. However, as important as hard numbers are, Dani encourages folks to think beyond just numeric results:

Additional learnings, I think, are very important to discuss at this stage. Because you'll learn a lot about your team and how they execute and how things are implemented, and that can sometimes throw off an entire experiment. And, if you just say, ‘Hey, it didn't work,’ and then throw it out and no one ever sees it, again, then you never learn something from it, and it was a wasted opportunity.”

When deciding what to next after a test is complete, use the “Stop, Start, Continue” model to guide you. In other words: what does each member of the team feel it’s important to stop doing, start doing, or continue doing during the next round of testing? Creating a regular dialogue around Stop, Start, Continue will encourage healthy, continuous change within the org.We recommend that you listen to Dani’s full talk if you want to learn about building growth. She shares 10 Tactics To Start Building Growth Today, which build upon these basic points in more detail. Dani also shares anecdotes about how they were implemented in real companies and the results of the implementation.

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Dani Hart

Dani is a sustainable growth enthusiast who's passionate about finding sustainable growth opportunities for businesses, and understanding how people operate (also: goats, clean tech, renewable energy). Over the past 2+ years, she's worked alongside Sean Ellis leading growth efforts at GrowthHackers, planning the 2017 and 2018 GrowthHackers Conference, contributing to the GrowthHackers blog, and working directly with teams adopting growth hacking methodology for sustainable growth.

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Claire: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Forget the Funnel. I am thrilled, today, to introduce a brilliant guest that we're very, very excited to have onboard with us. Today, we have Dani Hart, who is the former head of growth, at GrowthHackers. Oh my gosh. Dani, I've been reading and following along with your work for a while, and I know you've been organizing a ton of the AMAs on GrowthHackers and just really elevating a lot of great markers in the space.Claire: It's wonderful to have you here. Dani's gonna be talking about how to build and run a cross-functional team for growth, which is really, really cool. Dani, do you wanna take it away?

Dani: Yeah, absolutely, and I just wanna say that the feeling is mutual, and I've been following Forget the Funnel for a while, so it's awesome to merge these worlds together, today. Awesome. I'll kick things off, coming live from my dining room, here. Today, I'm really excited to talk about building and running a cross-functional team for growth. And, I know you've probably heard about growth teams and that kind of idea, but really any team can implement this kind of way of working. And, it's pretty easy to do once you understand the foundation.

Dani: I first wanna start with a quick story. A few years ago, I was home sick, had the flu, bedridden, and for me that's very difficult to stay still and not be around people for an extended period of time. I was going a little bit crazy at this point, and I got targeted with an ad, and that ad was to run the San Francisco marathon. And, I've always thought about it. I always thought, "Wow, it'd be great to have this 26.2 sticker on my car, and I can do it; it looks awesome. I can tell people I've done a marathon."

Dani: All of that great stuff. And then, I signed up for it and after a few weeks of being bedridden, I thought this would be a great way to get some motivation to get back on the mends. And so, then reality set in, and I realized everything that goes into training for a marathon. On the left, you'll see my training program, that I couldn't even finish writing the dates for. So, how was I gonna finish actually running this marathon, and getting the right input? So, all of the right food and the water, and having the mental state of believing that I could do this?

Dani: After the first long run, I just thought, "I should give up now, because I'm pretty sure I'm not gonna be able to double this long run, and then run 26.2 miles when it comes to race day." And, I ended up talking to one of my old colleagues who raced in college, and she, as I was pretty down and about to give up, and she said, "Dani, you're looking at this all wrong. You should have two goals. One goals is showing up on race day, racing that race, finishing, and that's it.

Dani: That's like, the day of awesome. That's the 26.2 sticker that you're looking for. But then the other part, the other goal that's even more important, is to actually go through this training program, and complete the training program, to the best of your ability, knowing that you can do it, but it's going to be challenging, and it's going to take a lot of effort." And so, when I started to re-look at this, I said, "Okay, you know what? I'll take it one day at a time, and understand that it is going to be challenging."

Dani: And now, looking back on this experience, I can draw all kinds of parallels between this and growth, because I talk to companies every single day that are looking for that silver bullet. They're looking for that 26.2 sticker, but they're not paying attention to what goes behind that 26.2 sticker, which is this training program. It's understanding your inputs and your outputs, understanding that it takes discipline and hard work, and putting in work when you don't necessarily want to. And so, I like to start here, because I think when you hear about growth, it's so easy to think about all the companies that have skyrocketed, just taken off, and then you compare yourself to them.

Dani: Whereas, you really need to understand what went on behind the scenes. So, for the Airbnbs and the Facebooks, what did they actually do, to drive this growth? And so, I like to start there, but let's dive in. I'll show you, first, how marketing channels are evolving over time. And, this is just to set up the landscape that you are in, today. You can see all these channels are evolving over time, and that means that you as a marketer, have to adopt with them.Dani: If you're still using Myspace, even though it's crashed and burned, then there's a challenge, there. You're never going to get those customers that you're looking for, because you're not where your customers are. And, the challenge with these marketing channels evolving is, they lose efficiency over time. And so, their effectiveness tends to go down after mass adoption, and so the cost to compete will also increase at that point.

Dani: Once someone figures out about the new channel, whether that's Instagram, TV, or whatever it is, then it starts to become very challenging to compete in there, because yes, your users are there, but so is every other company. And so, as a marketer, this create a lot of problems, because if you're only focusing on the acquisition part of your company, as a marketer, then you're not going to be as efficient as you could. And so, that's why I say it's really important to rethink the way that you're approaching growth, and looking through that entire customer journey.

Dani: Whether you are the marketer, you're the founder, you're in business development, no matter what, you need to be aware that these are all levers of your business, that can drive growth. And so, if you're a marketer, and you can control any of these experiences for the user, then hats off. Half of the challenge is done for you. But, if you are a person that maybe only has control over paid acquisition or something like that, then you're going to have to work towards controlling these different parts of the user experience. And then, figuring out how to work with them, to basically fix the most broken part of the organization or the company.

Claire: On the concept of having to drive acquisition to drive growth, I feel like that Meryl Streep GIF where she's like, in an audience—

Dani: Yes.

Claire: Calling out, "Yes."

Dani: Yeah. Definitely, and what's awesome, too is that, activation, that first user experience, yeah. You might have to work with sales or customer success or something like that, but there is so much leverage there, because if you're bringing in tons of new leads, and none of them are qualified to use your product, or none of them actually gets that first user experience because, maybe there's even something just as simple as a bug on the site. Your job as a marketer is going to be 10 times harder, because those leads will never convert.

Dani: But, if you can look at that full customer journey and say, "My job as a marketer is to make sure that this customer is successful and that we deliver value to them." And then pulling in people from different parts of the organization to get that job done, then you're going to have 10 times more impact. All right. Next, I'm going to go show how this customer journey really does cross a bunch of different silos.

Dani: This is a diagram that Sean Ellis put together, but he basically was ... He was going to different organizations, and being the VP of marketing, an Interim VP of marketing, and he would have to get that buy-in from different parts of the organization to be able to experience across activation, across retention and revenue. And, trying to get people to that first awesome experience, so that they wanna tell their friends about it, they wanna come back and use it, again, and they wanna actually fork out money to buy the product.

Dani: Now, I like to look at growth initiatives at that. How do you provide more value to customers? And, anybody in the organization can lead a growth initiative, and it's hard because, it's going against the grain. It's looking at: What goal can we set to actually uncover these growth opportunities? What is the biggest broken part of the business? And then focusing on that. Having a vision towards demonstrating value to customers, so we often talk about a North Star Metric, which is, being able to track value and growth of that value over time, and then intuition.

Dani: Intuition means, are they working with the right people? And are they looking at how customers actually move through the journey? Those kinds of things. Are people on this team data-driven? Are they looking for reasons to dive into different areas? And, do they have empathy? Are they actually able to step into the customer's shoes and understand them? And, this has changed from the siloed approach where, as a marketer, you're looking at, "How do I bring in more leads?" Instead, you're saying, "How do I demonstrate more value to customers?"

Dani: Well, that might be bringing in more leads, but it might also be getting those leads to experience that first awesome experience or the "aha" moment, whatever that is. And then, understanding that there's going to be people across the organization that need to focus on this problem. And, this can be on top of your existing duties as a marketer, or this could be in replace of, because if you are driving that kind of growth, then it shouldn't matter if you're doing paid acquisition or not. You're driving growth for the business, and at the end of the day, that's what's important.

Dani: The first part of this growth initiative idea is, to set a high impact objective and you really need to have the support. You need to support the growth of long-term customer value, and identify leverage across that customer journey. Setting baselines, making it a smart goal, so that you can actually understand if you're going to achieve it over time. And give yourself a timetable for it, so that way, if you're making no progress after three weeks, you can re-evaluate, "Hey, is this even the right objective to be focusing on?"

Dani: And then, empowering the team to test new ideas around that. That means, since you pulled in this cross-functional team, whether that's engineering product, marketing, sales, allowing anybody to add a new idea to test for reaching this objective. I wanna go through a couple of examples, now, which just shows the impact of the right objective. I was working with a e-commerce client that, I usually send out a survey in the beginning to say, basically, "Tell me where you think there's the most impact in your organization, and rate it amongst the different levers or, the different parts of the customer journey."

Dani: So, acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and so on. And, he said, "Well, acquisition is absolutely where we need to be spending our time." And then, he gave me the rates at his "add to cart," and "cart to purchase," ratios and I uncovered something where I was just like, "Hey, your add to cart ratio is actually pretty low compared to a lot of other e-commerce companies. Why don't we focus on that, first. So, instead of spending more money, let's focus internally at what's going on on your website."

Dani: When we did that, I broke it out, and showed, "Okay, we could start with just doing acquisition, which is objective one, and increase the traffic, and you can see, yeah, you'll increase how many new customers and potentially even some more repeat purchases. But that cost per acquisition is going to remain pretty constant. It might even get higher because it is becoming more challenging to [be in 00:12:36] paid advertising.

Dani: But then, if you focus on objective two, then you can see you're still paying the same amount, but you're actually going to lower that cost per acquisition, bring in probably about the same amount of customers, or objective three, you can focus on the cart to purchase which is the same kind of idea that still, that that activation realm of ideas. And then objective four, focusing on the repeat purchase. So, getting people to come back and buy, again.

Dani: So, if you did all of these in order, starting with acquisition, and putting more paid acquisition up top, then you would basically see these numbers, here, where it's like, you get a 96 cent cost per acquisition. Yeah, you grew, but look at how those results would challenge when you actually optimize the order. Meaning that, you started with the activation, and then you put more money on top of that. You fix what was broken, and then you poured more on top, so that way, it wasn't leaking out.

Dani: Instead, they were actually getting to the bottom, then they loved your product, too, and bought more." It's basically building a loop that makes your product more efficient over time, and then spending more money, instead of trying to do it in the reverse order, where you're just putting more money on something that is going to leak out of the bucket.

Claire: I love this system you set up, basically for scoring. Which part of the customer journey you focus on.Gia: We talk about doing the math, a lot for stuff like this, and I love, love, love this example. Also, how translatable obviously this is for SaaS. Everybody can envision here, what this would look like for SaaS company, and, yeah. It's incredible how much better the results can be, if you implement it in this way. I'm actually curious about something: I would love to see the math if you did one, if you started with, let's say in this case, repeat purchases and optimized for that all the way up to acquisition, as opposed to one after the other or all. I would love to see the math on that. I know the math would probably even be more favorable.

Dani: Yeah. It's so amazing to think about, because I think from a marketer's perspective, their goal is to drive more traffic or more leads to the website. And so, it's really difficult to get out of that mindset and to think, "Hey, there's more leverage, and I will be even more impactful as a paid marketer, like as a performance marketer, whatever it is, if I fix these problems, first." And so, I’m gonna go through a real life example where I have that "aha" moment.

Dani: I wanna share with you, thinking that, "Maybe that will inspire something where you can go home and feel motivated to implement it yourself. When I was at Payoff, I was leading the email automation and direct mail for Payoff. So, we were helping people pay off their credit card debt with personal loans, which is kind of an abstract idea for most US citizens. The math is challenging for people to wrap their heads around. There's that cognitive problem that we were trying to overcome.

Dani: But, at the same time, I was running direct mail, which was a paid channel. And, I was basically working with all these different parts of the organization, to get that direct mail campaign off the ground. So, I had to work with user research to make sure the campaign was geared towards the right people and really building that customer empathy. And then, I had to work with compliance to make sure that it was actually being approved by the banks that were supporting the loans.

Dani: And, there's a third party we had to go through which could potentially take a lot of time, and also really hurt our response rates if we waited too long, and if we didn't get that approval right away. And then, customer success. Going in and actually training customer success around, "Hey, when someone calls in, when they have these types of questions, these are the types of campaigns they'll be seeing." And then products, so what does the landing page look like?Dani: How can I work with them to make sure that all of the data is ready, so when someone goes to submit their pre-approval code, that everything worked as it should, and everything was planned. And then, marketing: Were there other paid avenues that we wanted to implement with the direct mail from Facebook ads, Twitter ads, whatever that was, we needed to coordinate those. I was already in the prime position to be managing a cross-functional team. I was managing a cross-functional team.

Dani: But, I was focused on, "We need to get more leads from direct mail." And, we did. Over time, we definitely made the campaign more efficient, and cut down costs. We did all kinds of things where, the start to mail date was much quicker, which gave us better results. But, I knew it would never be profitable at that rate of optimization. And so, the Facebook, and I had a woman, Hailey, that I worked with, who was running all of the paid ads.

Dani: She was coming to the same realization, as well, and so, we said, "Okay, well is there a better way to look at this?" And, fortunately, enough, our CEO had read 'Team of Teams,' which is the idea of building teams from different facets and pulling them together to basically represent the entire company within one team. We got together and we centered around one common goal, which was increasing the number of improved loans to funded.

Dani: That meant, we did all the work to get them to the point where they'd been approved, and they just needed to get funded. We were at, I don't know the exact numbers. Basically, we were able to 2x that number, and that meant that, we then cut our marketing acquisition costs in half. And now, that direct mail looks much more likely to be profitable when you have that kind of gain.

Dani: This is where I was like, "Okay, there's something to this cross-functional team thing." Because what we did is, we basically, we got centered around that goal, and then we had someone from user research, we had a data analyst that could look at past campaigns, past data for everything that we knew about the organization, we had someone in compliance that would give us real time feedback, to say, "Hey, if we just change this one word then, we're more likely to get approved."

Dani: And then we had two customer success agents. One was more on the qualitative side, one was more on the quantitative side. And, we just tapped their insights. They knew exactly what questions customers had. They had that empathy built in from talking to customers day in and day out. And then, obviously we needed someone from product to help with the implementation of whatever we were going to test. But when we said, "Hey, we have this one objective that we want to improve." Then it was, "Hey, let's come up with all the ideas that we can to test here, and anything goes. Put it all on the board, we'll see what happens."

Dani: And, we prioritized, first a new onboarding series, once someone got to that approved loan state. We took them through the idea was that, this is kind of like a best practice. I had read a book that talked about this 'Gain, Logic, Fear,' series that you could implement, and to me it just seemed like low-hanging fruit. Like, if we implemented this, it would make things a lot easier. People would probably understand what they needed to do to actually move forward. 'Gain, Logic, Fear,' meaning that: What can you gain from this service or product?

Dani: Logic, is basically the details; what are the commonly asked questions? And then the fear is: This is what you're gonna miss out, if you don't do this. And, in this case, "Debt is scary, and you're going to be in debt." So, we kind of play to those angles. We implemented that, and within just that one test alone, we were able to see those kinds of results. Hands-down, it's just like, I will never look at marketing the same way, because I know that working across teams and working in this kind of fashion where you're using the different perspectives of people in the organization that you should be using.

Dani: Not using the empathy that's built up in customer success, or sales, or whatever, however your team's set up, is crazy. You need to have some kind of feedback loop, and when you center it around a goal, it makes it that much easier. Now, this is just a quote that I like to share, because I think it's important to remember that, big successes in growth hacking or growth marketing, whatever, they don't come from just one silver bullet.

Dani: It's small wins that are compounded over time. Yeah, we had the low-hanging fruit in my last example, and so it was easy to make those kinds of gains. But, from there, then it was much smaller wins that we had to continue testing, and continue making better over time. And then, maybe even moving to a different part of the funnel, which that also needs to happen as well. The zoom in zoom out approach, where you zoom in on a problem, and then you zoom out to see, "Hey, is this still the best problem to be working on? Or should we move to a different one?"

Dani: But, I think no matter what, it's important for this cross-functional team, to have these different attributes. So, they're growth-minded. They agree that there's a better way to do something. They have high empathy, they have high empathy not only for the customer, but for their team member as well. And, they understand that there's a better way to work with people, and they understand that people are coming from different parts of the organization, and they need to respect that.

Dani: And then lastly, negative ego. Don't let the ego get in the way, and when it comes to coming up with ideas, maybe you set some kind of prioritization standard where, people have to double check the scores of the ideas, so that way, people aren't just nominating their own idea, based on the fact that they're the highest paid person in the room. And so, we basically implemented this growth process and that's what we've been doing at GrowthHackers or the past two years.

Dani: We built a software around helping teams adopt this growth process, so if you're interested in that, it's available at, and it's called North Star. But, basically what you want to do is, find a way for people to be involved in a positive feedback loop. If that's the only thing you take away from this, it's just: How can you make it so that you are adding new ideas to a circle, testing them, analyzing them, and then at the end of the day, coming up with new ideas.

Dani: Step one of that is, ideation, and so we at GrowthHackers, we love the ideas of unbridled ideation. Meaning that, come up with any idea you want, at any time. It doesn't matter, you should be able to store those in some place, and reference those when you need to. But, it's always helpful to categorize those ideas, give them a description or hypothesis, so: What will this idea actually do? And then: What metrics should you be measuring to make sure that you know whether or not this idea works?

Dani: And then, ICE. ICE, is the impact, confidence, and the ease that you have that this idea will work. And, what we recommend is actually putting an objective around your ideation, as well. So, yes, you'll have the unbridled that, at any given point, anybody in your organization should be able to add ideas. But then, also, focus your ideation. There's basically two different levels of ideation going on at any given point.

Dani: And, I love to start with this exercise when I go through the growth process of asking, here, I'll ask Claire: Give me a word.

Claire: I'm looking around, I'm like, "What one of the things I can use?" Microphone.

Dani: Microphone. Okay. Give me a color.

Claire: Red.

Dani: All right. Perfect. You could see how easy it was for Claire to come up with a color, right? And that's because I gave her specifics on what I'm looking for. And so, the objectives do the same thing. They basically say, "Hey, we want ideas on how to fix this one problem, instead of ideas on how to fix this entire company." And, she had a very, very, it was like, "Oh, well I've got a color in the back pocket, or I have this idea of how to fix the activation at this given point."

Dani: But, unless you ask around a centered objective, you're gonna get ideation from all over the place, which again, should be happening. But, when you are focused on a growth initiative, this is how you need to prompt for ideating. And, so ideas, they can come in forms of A/B test to optimize or ping test to discover. Ping test and why we have this little battle ship image here, that's the idea of a ping test. If you say, G4 and G4 is correct, you get this battleship.

Dani: Are you going to try to get something in that general vicinity? Or, are you going to guess a number that is way off, and in a different area? You're gonna guess in the general vicinity, because you know that there's more opportunity for you to sink that ship in that area, than there is to just try something new in left field. That's the idea of the ping test is that you discover something, and if something works in that area, then you double down on it. And, if it doesn't work, then you try in a different area.

Dani: And then, you might be able to come back to that initial idea, once other things have changed within the business. But, at that given point, it's better to move to a different test or different idea. And then, A/B tests are really when you have enough traffic to be able to optimize something. If you've got new features, you've got new messaging that you wanna test, obviously you wanna make sure that that's significant and that you're not just looking at numbers that really are gonna be misleading.

Dani: That's why I say, it's important to have enough traffic for that, 'cause otherwise, I think discover tests are probably your best bet. And then, you wanna prioritize these ideas. That's where the ICE score becomes really important, because you can say, "Hey, let's rate all of our ideas based on the impact, confidence, and ease." And the ICE score is basically the average of all of those three on a scale of 1 to 10. Now, you might have your own framework for prioritization. That's totally fine.

Dani: Whatever you have will work, I'm sure, better than nothing at all. If you have nothing, then this is a great place to start, and then you can cater it from there. But, prioritize on the current objective: What are you actually trying to achieve at that given point? And then, look at your available resources. Back at that Payoff example, we didn't have a lot of options, at least starting. We didn't have a lot of buy-in at least from engineering to get a new feature launched, or something like that.

Dani: So, we started with something we knew we had available, and that was email automation. I could go in, write an email, and send that to the same day, so why wouldn't I do that instead of waiting four weeks to get something launched in engineering? And then there's this idea of minimal viable tests. How can you break down an entire campaign into one test, or one Facebook ad, or whatever that is? Just get something out there and see if it sticks, and then you can start to double down on that minimum viable test, and maybe expand it from there.

Dani: And then, we worked at GrowthHackers in this way of nominating ideas. We did weekly growth meetings where every week we would come in, and each member on our team, that was focused on growth, would nominate two ideas. And then, as a team, we would discuss those nominations. We used ICE more as a guiding light of what ideas would be the best to nominate, and then from there ... You could nominate anything though.

Dani: If I found something that was outside of an objective, then I nominated it. But I still knew that it could make a big impact, based on my intuition or, data that I found. Then, I had that opportunity to present that data in this meeting. And so, I think it's important to listen to your colleagues and what they're actually nominating, because they may have uncovered something that you have no idea about.

Claire: What kind of sprints did you work in, by the way? 'Cause I saw it said nominate every spring. Would you run in quarterly cycles, or was it more of a monthly cadence?

Dani: We actually did weekly, and so then it was like a, "Do we have the resources to implement these tests?" Those types of questions became really important because—

Claire: I can imagine.

Dani: We [remembered 00:30:19] them so quickly.

Claire: Yeah.

Dani: Yeah. But, if you're just getting started, you can do bi-weekly, you can do monthly. Whatever works for you, but I still think, getting together on a weekly basis, to at least come together and say, "Hey, what have we learned this week?" Will make your team smarter, and help you reach that goal faster.

Claire: Yeah.

Dani: Step three is testing. Does the test have a clear hypothesis that you're going to measure it on? We would run this through a double check, so the person that created the idea would write a hypothesis. But then, before we launched the test, we would have someone else double check to make sure that we had everything in place to actually measure it, those kinds of things, so that we weren't caught up afterwards in analyzing it, and saying, "Hey, we don't know if this worked or not, because we never gave it any kind of direction."

Dani: Hypotheses are really helpful, and I also think really helpful in the ideation process as well, because it gets people thinking through, what are they actually trying to achieve? Instead of, "Hey, this is a shiny new object idea that I wanna implement just because I saw it on the news," or whatever.

Gia: The only real failed test is the one you can't measure the results of.

Dani: Right. Yeah. And it's frustrating when you can't measure whether to not something worked, because then you can never give credit and you can never also learn from it. So, yeah. Make sure the measurement's in place. Assign a test owner that's passionate about the idea that wants to see it succeed. If you have the one person that was doubting the idea the entire time owning that test idea and seeing it to its launch, then you might be setting yourself up for failure.

Dani: It's really important to think about who has bought into this idea, and make sure that that happens before you assign it to them. And then, communicate to the team. If you launch something, don't just launch it and then see what happens in a week. Tell your team you're launching it, because they can keep an eye out and build that intuition of, "Hey, you know, we had a call that came in and it sounds like they got this new messaging test, because they said X, Y, and Z, and they ended up doing this."

Dani: And yeah. It might be not statistically significant in that way, but you will learn. You will learn that, "Hey, we had at least one person call from that where the last time we had zero people call." So, you can start to just learn a little bit as you go, if you communicate this with the team and have them on the lookout for anything new that is out of the ordinary.

Dani: And then lastly, analyze: Determine did it work? Did it not work? Was it inconclusive? Additional learnings, I think, are very important to discuss at this stage. Because, you'll learn a lot about your team and how they execute and how things are implemented, and that can sometimes throw off an entire experiment. And, if you just say, "Hey, it didn't work." And then you throw it into over there where no one ever sees it, again, then you never learn something from it, and it was a wasted opportunity.

Dani: If you say, "Hey, this didn't work, but it didn't work because we launched the campaign late, it wasn't matching. The landing page had different copy than the ads." You start to pick up on different things that maybe next time around, you'll run a smoother campaign and I love the retrospect idea of "start, stop, and continue." So, if you need a framework for how to look at an idea, once it has been tested, or in general.

Dani: When we ran the GrowthHackers conference, we always do the "start, stop, and continue" model where I ask everybody on the team and volunteers, everybody, I wanna know what would they start, stop, and continue, because next year, then, I'm going to start, stop and continue those things, most likely. Great reference point for the next time you try something. Yeah, this is a positive feedback loop meaning that it continues. It just keeps going, so you wanna repeat this, you wanna get into a rhythm.

Dani: If that means only testing one idea per sprint and doing that bi-weekly, but you at least do something every other week, then that's awesome, and then you can grow from there. You can make your process more efficient over time. But, you need to start, you need to get into some kind of habit of doing this and coming together and learning and talking about the uncomfortable stuff.

Dani: Over time, if you start to increase that testing velocity, then you can see this was Twitter back when they started launching more tests. You can see how their growth rate actually went up, because they were experimenting more, they were learning more, and those small winds compounded over time, and they saw the growth rate completely change its trajectory based on this. Again, Brian Balfour actually was the one who coined this idea, but zoom out, zoom in, zoom out, this is so important not only in business, but now that I apply growth to all facets of my life, it's important to do it in life, too.

Dani: How can you take a bigger picture look, and then say, "Where is the biggest opportunity across all of these different things that I know?" And then zoom in, focus on that, relentless focus. And then, after a few weeks or months, is that still what you should be focusing on? Then zoom back out and have that bigger picture look, again. And, the more people on your team that have the ability to zoom out, their intuition will grow over time, but obviously you need to give them the data and the resources to be able to do that.

Dani: Claire, Gia, before I get into these 10 tactics to start building growth today, do you have any feedback, questions, anything that you wanna—

Gia: So many. Go, Claire. You raised your hand.

Claire: I'll try to keep it succinct. Well, what I'm really glad that you emphasized was not just the velocity of the testing, but also the importance of stopping and reflecting and deciding: continue, don't continue, or results were inconclusive. And, I say that because it's one thing for a company to be, "Oh, we have a growth-driven mindset," in which they're just trying new shit all the time. That kind of can be very methodical, or it can just mean that they have no process, and they just try random stuff, but they don't ever learn from it.

Claire: You even mentioned a very specific example that hits close to home. 'Cause I've had this experience myself where, you're trying a new channel, or you're trying a new tactic, and when you stop and look back, if it isn't going the way you want it to, you start to pinpoint like, "Oh, well. Maybe there's weird message match," or, "this could be the problem." And without the reflection point, your team never really have new information to work from. They just keep trying low level experiments, but never taking those learnings from old experiments and applying them.

Claire: And so, the compound growth doesn't happen. So, I'm really glad that you emphasize not just, "Hey, you should be doing a lot of tests," but also, "You need to build in some reflection time as well, or you're not gonna see the results that that tests and ongoing growth are supposed to bring."

Dani: Yeah, and I think especially with earlier stage companies, you're very rarely going to have a test that is binary work, where it didn't work. But, you will learn so much from those tests, and so if you are actually collaborating with your team, and discussing that, then it's going to be 10-fold on what you can learn. Think about one example of, I was working with a client that was saying, "Hey, we're testing direct mail. And here's this campaign that we're testing." I'm like, "Oh, well is this your first campaign?"

Dani: "Yeah, this is our first direct mail campaign." I'm like, "All right. Well, you have a very high price point, and you have ..." Basically giving the mind of the customer. And then they were like, "Well, we're trying to decide if direct mail is worth it or not for us." There are hundreds of different offers that you could use for direct mail, and with a high price point, it's very difficult to find one that's just gonna be like, "Yup. Blew it out of the park."

Dani: But, to say direct mail will never have a place in your business, is kind of silly. To just put something so binary on an entire channel is crazy. Great point, there. I think that I imagine that a majority of the people here, could probably learn something from what they've implemented, and share that with their team and get some kind of discussion going.Gia: I would really highly encourage everybody to look back at those slides, too. Those four steps are maybe the most disciplined approach I've seen to this, yet. And, I've been in and out of this for a long time, especially like the testing environment and talking about running A/B tests in particular, obviously. Having a really disciplined approach, I loved. Each of those steps, have check, check, check, on all of these things.

Gia: Make sure that you reference back to all of them, like from the scoring, to ... Obviously I'm gonna space on them, now. But, I just really, really love how disciplined of a process you have for each of those steps, because especially in a chaotic environment like startups are, it is really hard to stay that disciplined and be like, "No, we've gotta come back here. And I can't just go listen to my boss who is, hot on my idea this week, and she's saying, 'implement this question, or this test,' or she really wants to know whether to not this channel is a win or a lose."

Gia: And actually run through all of this, it's too easy to just be like, "Okay, I gotta listen because it's my boss." But actually introducing the disciplined approach to this, I think is part of the challenge that I think a lot of people watching, today, are gonna be probably thinking, like, "Okay, I gotta get buy-in for actually implementing this process to begin with." And, "This team doesn't currently exist in my company, but how can I go from the current setup I have ..." Which is probably responsible for marketing or the marketer at a startup, to going to having this cross-functional team within the company.

Gia: And so that process is actually the bones to be like, "Well, here's the process, and here's what we should run through, and yes it's gonna be cross-functional," and so it makes ... I don't know it just makes it a lot more attainable and a lot less abstract for somebody who's a solo marketer for a company. It just makes this whole thing a lot more tangible. So, I'm like, nodding the entire time you're talking, and I don't wanna interject, but I'm like, "Yup, yup, totally." 'Cause it just makes everything ...

Gia: It's very scary to be responsible for the entire role of marketing at a young high stakes company. So, I love that this is like, "Okay, I'm gonna implement these things and I'm gonna be disciplined about it." And the chance of getting buy-in on implementing something like this are so much higher, so everybody reference these slides.

Dani: And honestly, before I was at GrowthHackers, I was butting my head against the wall, 'cause as the email automation person, as the direct mail person, I was getting bombarded with requests of, "Hey, can we do an email for this? Can we do an email for this?" And, I just said, "Hey, guys. You have to fill out this form." I created this Google Doc form where, I put my own idea of what I felt like basically an experiment should look like. And, what I found was that, these people, there were problems with a product that people were trying to cover up with ... you know.Dani: And I think that that is probably pretty typical for anybody that [sort of 00:42:32] scenario. And so, it gave me the opportunity then, to build some kind of process and say, "Great. I would love to help you out, but I'm gonna need you to fill out this form, first." And then, when I came to GrowthHackers, it was like, "Ah, this is amazing." Because they built a software around that process, and it was just like, "Oh, now I have like a trusted third party that's basically guiding me through this process.

Dani: I didn't have to do any of that work. It scores everything for me. It was just like, I 100% understood the use case for it. And, for everybody to see what's actually being tested at any given point, that kind of stuff. It just made my job 10 times easier. And then I can focus on what's actually important, which is actually being results oriented at trying to get something accomplished.

Gia: 100%. Love it.

Dani: Awesome. I will go into these tactics, which some of them I think will kind of play off of what we're talking about, here. Guys, feel free to interject if you want. But, number one is: Start the team with an easy win. Just like at Payoff I was explaining, I had that email series that I just knew was low-hanging fruit. A great place to start is also looking at high bounce rates on your site, to understand, "Hey, where is there an opportunity to maybe tweak some messaging?" Or, if a bunch of people are writing in to customer service, saying, "Hey this part of your product's broken."

Dani: There's just so much low-hanging fruit that companies can start with. So, try to get some kind of win, early on, so that people can start to buy into this process and understand why being results-oriented is important. And, how easy it can be to fix something when you are looking at something across multiple silos in an organization. Two, once you do start creating objectives, you're looking at that whole customer journey and understanding that the big point of leverage, or the most broken part of the customer journey, putting an objective around that, and then communicating why is 9 times out of 10 the biggest challenge for companies, because—

Claire: You get buy-in.

Dani: Right, you get buy-in, but if you can show some data, if you can show some customer stories, it's really hard to ignore that. So, try to get the team understanding that you will never over communicate it, and ask for questions. Say, "Please come see me. I want to talk to you. If you don't agree with this, come talk to me." Because those conversations, they will either turn your objective into an even better objective.

Dani: Because someone else has other data that's saying, "Hey, we should actually be looking over here," and awesome, you have an even better objective to be focusing on. Or, you help get that buy-in, and you help explain to that person that maybe ... And you gotta look at yourself, too. Sometimes just because one person doesn't understand it, doesn't mean that they're dumb. Sometimes it's in your—

Gia: [crosstalk 00:45:33] that one person.

Dani: Right. And, I think that I fell into that trap, early on, because I got so frustrated. I was like, "Why aren't they focusing on these things?" Well, they didn't see what I saw on a daily basis. They couldn't see that 90% of the people were being lost at this given point, and if we focused on that, then we could 2.5x our customer conversion cost. There's a lot of opportunity to be had, just from discussing and getting clear on what the objective is and why it matters.

Gia: I would add that this also helps combat shiny object syndrome, as well. If you have shared and democratized, "This is the objective that we are focused on. This is why. Does everybody get it? Kay, great. We're all in agreement that this is where we're focused for the next whenever x period of time."

Dani: Right. Which leads me perfectly into this next slide, which is: Asking people in the company for their ideas. Once you have that objective out there, and it doesn't have to be a formal email where you go and you send a company-wide thing that's super scary. No, just go talk to someone. If they're getting coffee, like, "Hey, I found that people are dropping off, here. Do you have any ideas on how we could fix that?" People would love to respond to that.

Dani: And, instead of the random passing in the hallway of, "Hey, I've got this idea," have them think through that. Give them the experiment document, so that they can start coming up with that themselves. And, maybe it's walking them through, "Hey, let's help you understand what this hypothesis would actually look like, what we would need to measure." Work with the people on your team, and understand, again, when you train for a marathon, it's not going to be like, you get out there and you run a marathon. It's going to take work, and it's going to take conversations and hard conversations, and real conversations—

Gia: And not everybody will necessarily come to you as well. There might be people in the company who have ideas who are never asked for their ideas, and never feel like they're the ones who are supposed to raise their hand. And, this gives them an opportunity to do that.

Dani: Absolutely. And, especially if you have people close to the data. We had a guy who was basically pulling all of the data sources together, into one dashboard for the company. The amount of insights that that guy had, just from being in front of that data—

Gia: That's kinda sad.

Dani: All day every day. Just like, "Well that's an easy win, right there, just talking to him." But, yeah. Different perspectives will approach the same problem very differently. That's why getting that company-wide ideation, that's why it's so important. Because, someone from engineering might actually have a better idea, and then also be really excited to implement it, because they know, they understand what goes into actually getting that idea done. And, they know what's easy versus not easy, and a marketing person might not have that perspective. But, they might know a new acquisition channel to test to get to the right customers.

Dani: There's just so much you can gain from talking to people across the organization, and that's kind of the premise of the cross-functional team. Number four is, ask team members what have they learned, lately. This goes back to, maybe not the binary worked or didn't work. But, "Hey, what have you learned, like customer success? Hey, have you talked to any interesting customers, lately? What have you learned, lately?"

Dani: At first, it's really bizarre when you are asked this, also, so keep that in mind. I remember the first time Sean asked me, "What have you learned, lately?" Like, "What?" And then I started thinking, and what I told him, he would've had no idea. It was like, "Well, I realized that our market email situation isn't really great. I gotta fix this and blah blah blah." So, then he's got 10 times more context than what I'm working on the daily basis, but also, he's learning as well, and then he can use that as his point of context moving forward.

Dani: Five, share weekly wins and learnings across the company. Maybe this isn't weekly, maybe this is monthly, but something that keeps top of mind for the entire company that you are focused on demonstrating value to customers. And, keep it at that. This is how we were able to increase the number of people that actually get to the point where they love our product. And, bring in whether it's that binary worked or didn't work, or just, "Hey, we learned that there's a better way to do X, Y, and Z."

Dani: And, that's what helps a company be data-driven and growth minded is, being open about this stuff, and also being open about the failures, as well. Introduce postmortems. I already gave you the model that I use for that, which is "start, stop, continue." There's plenty of research and all kinds of stuff out there around different types of postmortems, so dig into that. But, just gather your team after you launch a campaign, or once you launch a test, and say, "Hey, was there anything that we could've done better, here?"

Dani: And 10 times out of 10 times you will find, it might be at first you might get some like, grasshopper sounds, but then one person opens up. Maybe you start by opening up, maybe you share something that you learned, specifically, and then the rest of the team opens up, as well. And then, number seven, introduce customer success stories into weekly all-hands or whatever your regular meeting is as a company.

Dani: And, I really hope that you do have some kind of all-hands meeting regularly scheduled because that alone can be a really good morale booster, just getting everybody in the same room together, knowing that they're all for the same cause. But, how can you reiterate this mission through the customer's voice? Does that mean getting on the phone with a customer and then replaying that actual conversation? We would get messages back from people at Payoff that, how we changed their lives.

Dani: Like, we literally changed their lives, because believe it or not, people with AFS, which is Acute Financial Stress, actually they have similar symptoms as people going through PTSD. So, for someone's life to change, we made a difference. And so, when we can bring that back into the organization, and show the person that doesn't get to interact with the customer, as much on a regular basis why their work matters, then it's just amazing the results that you'll see from that.

Gia: It's huge. Yup.

Dani: All right. And then, create a channel for internal feedback. If someone doesn't understand or agree with something, give them an opportunity to ask and tell you their perspective. This doesn't necessarily have to be face-to-face. Some people don't always vibe well with coming up to you and telling you they don't like what you're doing. So, whether that's anonymous or whatever, you wanna know what people are thinking in your organization.

Dani: Now, do we always agree with it? Do we always implement what they say? Maybe, maybe not, but I think it's really important to have that kind of feedback loop within and organization, just so that you aren't being completely biased in that way that you're approaching something. And, nine, start a reading club. This is something that we did at GrowthHackers where Sean and I would just pick up books and talk to each other about them and it was pretty informal.

Dani: It was like, "Hey, I'm reading this. You wanna read it, too?" And then we'd read it and then we'd come back and we'd have completely different interpretations of how the book could be applied to the business. But, that's what's amazing is like, those different perspectives coming together and then, we would get new ideas on how to approach our own problems. I personally love reading science-related books and tying them back to business, probably because I studied environmental studies in college, along with marketing, so I'm just fascinated by the environment. And, I like to see where you can find parallels in the environment and business, and they are very much there.

Dani: Yeah, so, a couple of books to start with, obviously I'm gonna praise 'Hacking Growth," because that's been my bible. But, 'Hooked," by Nir Eyal, just understanding how people form habits around things, I think is amazing. 'Smarter, Better, Faster,' gets into really using these smart objectives and feedback loops in practice. And so, there's a lot of great examples that you can learn from in there. 'The Lean Startup,' is another. It's right up there with 'Hacking Growth,' in my opinion for anybody that's working on startups on how to use what you have available to make the most impact.Dani: And then, 'Splitting the Difference,' is just amazing for building empathy and that one was actually recommended to my by the head of growth at Slack, or former head of growth, Merci Grace, and it's amazing. Yeah. I love it. Yeah. Then, lastly, do something fun. This is the cheesy slide where it's I tell you to do something fun, you go home and you never do it. But, in reality, whether that's getting lunch with someone that you don't know, something where work is not necessarily the topic of conversation.

Dani: And, at Payoff we did something like Craft Beer Thursday, which then turned into a wine club, which turned into other things. And, it definitely doesn't need to be surrounded by drinking, but I personally, I love beer. So, it was an amazing opportunity for me to get to know the engineers and other people in our organization that then, I could go back months down the road and say, "Hey, Scott. I've already built this relationship with you." I didn't tell him that, but, "Hey, how would you approach this?" And then he would tell me how he's approach it a problem, and then he would also try to help me get it done, because he liked me as a person.

Dani: And so, this doesn't have to be super time-intensive. Maybe it's some kind of board game or something. Some kind of thing that brings people around something common, but it's really important to build some kind of rapport and do that on a regular basis, because it's easier when you enjoy the company of the people you're with. Yeah. That's all I got for you. There's a picture from our Craft Beer Thursday.

Dani: On the left, Linda, she's amazing. She's our designer who would take any snack food that was left in the office, and would create some kind of concoction. So, I remember my favorite was the Hawaiian rolls with Nutella with crumbled Oreo on top. She was our own little personal Craft Beer Thursday chef. But, you see that in people. They expose something about them that you wouldn't have known, otherwise. I think it's awesome. Yeah.

Dani: I will leave with this reminder that you want a team that is growth minded. They can have empathy for their team and for their customers, and are low on the ego. And so, if you can strive for this, you might not always have it from the beginning and that's okay. These things can be developed over time. But that's kind of the guiding light that I'll leave you with, and—

Gia: Oh, yay.

Dani: And here is me finishing the marathon, so anything is possible. I actually didn't get a 26.2 sticker.

Gia: I was gonna ask. Where's the sticker?

Dani: I didn't get one, but I did finish and then I walked around San Francisco, afterwards for like another five miles. It was kind of silly. But, it was just like, it all made sense once I finished that marathon of like, yeah. It is two completely different goals, and if you can follow that training program and understand discipline and understand how you can become disciplined and work hard, then anything really is possible. You just gotta keep at it.

Dani: But thank you. I did leave a resource for you at the bottom here, so: One person that I will give a shout out to, quickly: Jessica Mendosa. She has been writing all kinds of awesome stories of her experience implementing cross-functional teams. So, I've linked to those, there, so that you can read up on a couple of different examples of how to approach these kinds of problems. And then, feel free to read the rest of my content on my blog.

Gia: That's amazing. Thank you so, so much, Dani. I don't even ... I wanna ask ... There's additional stuff that I would love to dive into. I feel like we could do like, hours long.

Claire: I was gonna say, this could be like a multi-part workshop to be honest. This was so cool.

Gia: Yeah. I've got a lot of logistical questions, and the ... Anyways, I probably shouldn't.Dani: You might need to ask them just so I can write a blog post about it, now.

Gia: Okay, I'm gonna send them to you. I'm gonna send them.

Dani: Yeah. [Look for 00:59:16] that, too, on my blog.

Gia: Awesome. But, yeah. I will stop, here, just because we're definitely at time, but that was amazing. And, yeah. It's a really deep topic and we could obviously talk about this all day long, but, we'll call it at that. But, thank you so much. Everybody, I definitely encourage you to check out Dani's favorite resources that she shared for you, at that URL. Go grab it. Go ask her your questions on Twitter, she's on Twitter, and she hangs out there, regularly. And, you talk about this stuff all the time; I know I'm totally offering you up, like—

Claire: On Twitter.Gia: On Twitter. Which, we always do, so hopefully you're okay with that.

Dani: Yeah. Absolutely. I love meeting new people, too, so if it's a virtual coffee, by all means, I'm open.

Gia: That's so awesome. Thank you so much. And, I guess with that, we'll call the workshop done. But, thank you so much, again, Dani, and thanks everyone for joining us.Dani: Yes. Thanks for having me.

Claire: See ya.

Dani Hart

Dani is a sustainable growth enthusiast who's passionate about finding sustainable growth opportunities for businesses, and understanding how people operate (also: goats, clean tech, renewable energy). Over the past 2+ years, she's worked alongside Sean Ellis leading growth efforts at GrowthHackers, planning the 2017 and 2018 GrowthHackers Conference, contributing to the GrowthHackers blog, and working directly with teams adopting growth hacking methodology for sustainable growth.

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September 26, 2018

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