A surefire strategy
Do everything better and your company, side hustle, creative project – whatever is your jam – will succeed.
If you look into Growth Hacking you will find a dizzying variety of ways to improve the countless metrics you can focus on. There are the big ones (often the Pirate Metrics are used) and then there are thousands of contributing metrics – followers on the various platforms, click through, engagement, comments, store visits, phone calls, emails, chats, duration of web visit, use of coupons and discounts, adds to cart, returns and on and on.
How can you focus when your dashboard has more blinking lights than the Las Vegas strip? This is why Growth Hacking can appear so daunting.
Five Whys is a well worn technique for getting to the root cause of a problem.
What follows is an example of using Five Whys to get to the reason a company customer base isn’t growing as fast as it would like.
Why don't we acquire enough new customers?
Because not enough potential customers see what we offer.
Why don't enough potential customers see what we offer?
Because the cost to run our ads is so high.
Why is the cost to run our ads so high?
Because too few people click through.
Why do too few people click through?
Because our ads don't seem relevant to them.
Why don't the ads seem relevant to them?
Because our value proposition is weak.
Five Whys is often presented in a very linear way like the preceding example. There are two problems with this. In reality, rarely do five questions and answers line themselves up as neatly as in this example. You may find there are multiple reasons for each question. You may also find that you are forced to speculate because you simply don’t have enough information.
Forced to speculate
Why don't we acquire enough new customers?
Because potential customers who visit our website bounce.
Why do potential customers who visit our website bounce?
This second example is interesting because you are forced to speculate why potential customers who visit your website bounce. The Because that follows is likely a theory. Your theory could be that potential customers bounce because your website is ugly, or not what they expected, or confusing, or doesn’t have a clear call to action, or is only in English, or doesn’t render on their phone or or or…
May the meeting is getting a bit heated at this point! Did you design the page? Did you develop the call to action? You could easily feel attacked if the implication is that your work is affecting the outcome.
Fortunately all you and your team need to agree on at this point is an experiment.
This is what growth hacking is all about!
It’s about asking why until you find yourself speculating and saying, “I will come up with a hypothesis and test it.” It’s about reserving judgement until an experiment can be run, and data found.
To select your experiment, you can apply your judgement, or that of your team, to arrive at a reason that is both likely and easy to test.
Is it that the website is ugly? Try another design and split test the outcome. Do people who come to your “prettier” website bounce less often? If so, you can keep testing new versions knowing that this is a factor that makes a difference. Keep testing until the tests yield too small a difference to justify your effort and begin at the first Why again.
Finding yourself forced to speculate is its own call to action. Hypothesize and test!
For every Why, a Because
The beauty of following the Why questions to the point of speculation is that you can follow it in reverse. In this case, we revised the look of our website because too many potential customers bounced. We reduced the the number of potential customers because we wanted to acquire more new customers. Did we?
A counter metric ensures that the end is kept in mind. In this case the metric is bounce rate, but the counter metric is overall conversion rate. If your bounce rate falls but your overall conversion rate stays the same or gets worse, then begin at the first Why again.
Following the Why questions to the top from your growth hacking experiment helps prevent focusing on vanity metrics, i.e. metrics that look good because they are improving but in the end don’t contribute to the bottom line.
The light here is better
A guy walking his dog finds his neighbour standing under a streetlamp. The neighbour is staring at the ground.
“What are you looking for?” asks the guy.
“I lost my keys,” says the neighbour.
“What makes you think they are here?” asks the guy.
“Oh they could be anywhere, but the light here is better.”
Don’t be the neighbour. If you find yourself asking why and the many possible reasons are impossible to assess, it’s because you don’t have enough data. Switch on the light by creating an experiment that will yield the data you need.
Growth hacking often involves web-first options like Facebook advertising or SEO, but good old fashioned legwork can be useful too. If you don’t know who your customer is, or what they value, a phone call can be far more effective than blindly running ads.
Growth hacking doesn’t mean “do everything better”.
Yes, there are an overwhelming number of metrics you could look on, but begin with the pirate metrics and ask why until you are forced to speculate, and run an experiment. Do this until you find the keys to growing your company.
See what I did there? Keys! I slay me.