[Interview] Dani Hart from GrowthHackers on A/B testing, UX & growth
If you’re a marketer or even just remotely interested in growth, I bet you know about Sean Ellis and his company GrowthHackers (if you don’t, you’re missing out big time, check them out).
They created the biggest growth community in the world and also have now a conference, software, recruitment board, online courses and provide consulting services.
So, how do they think about growth, UX and A/B testing, uh? ?
Welp, we had the chance to ask Dani Hart, Growth Master at GrowthHackers (@dahartattack on Twitter) directly. She even shared spicy details on how the different elements of GrowthHackers came to be. Enjoy!
Question: How long have you been working at GrowthHackers and what does your job consist of?
Dani Hart: I started out at GrowthHackers in August of 2016. I’m our resident Growth Master where I work closely with our CEO, Sean Ellis, to set short-term objectives that map to improving our North Star Metric, which represents growth in the value we provide to our customers.
I manage the growth process for our team, which includes keeping everyone informed on the targets we’re working towards, ensuring new ideas are being input, tests are being run and analyzed, and no blockers are in the way for those executing.
As a lean team, I also get to have fun in many different areas of the business. Recruiting and engaging thought leaders for the GrowthHackers Conference, improving onboarding for our Growth SaaS product – Projects, promoting webinars, writing blog posts, creating growth ideas for our community and many other tasks are examples of what I work on to help meet our growth objectives.
Q: GrowthHackers has a community platform, a book, recruitment board, an event, online courses, consulting services and a software. How do you stay focused and prioritize where to apply your efforts?
Dani: Great question. With so much going on, it’s easy to get distracted. That’s why our team sets short-term growth objectives that rally our team’s efforts around meeting a specific goal. The objectives take into consideration the largest impacts for growth company-wide.
Think of it this way, we rotate a spotlight on the biggest problems/opportunities to improve funnel throughput and turn those into achievable objectives. Once we finish one, we move the spotlight to the next objective with the next biggest impact.
As the growth master, having these objectives helps me identify when an idea or teammate is straying away from the core of what we’re trying to accomplish. Ideas are endless, but it takes diligence to create and test ideas that are relevant to moving a specific metric.
This inevitably means that we cannot focus on everything. And that’s okay. While we have many different aspects of our platform, we choose to optimize the largest opportunities that tie back to growth for the company and the value we provide to our customers.
Q: Was it always the plan to have so many different aspects to your platform or did some happen serendipitously?
Dani: I think it will help to go through the history of GrowthHackers to understand how everything evolved.
Growth hacking is taking a product that provides real value to customers and using a highly iterative experimentation process working across the full customer journey to identify the biggest opportunities for improvement.
Sean Ellis coined the term, Growth Hacking, in 2010 to help build awareness around the critical movement that companies need to understand to grow sustainably. This is where everything began.
In 2013, the community was launched to help marketers and growth practitioners make the shift to agile growth organizations. Along the way, we started getting requests from companies and growth practitioners for help finding matches for jobs in growth. That’s when we created a talent dashboard.
After studying the most successful fast pace growth companies to understand how they reached their triumph, Sean and the team began baking these learnings into our software, Projects, built to help teams experiment and learn to improve their North Star Metric (value to customers). Today, Projects is used by companies to support fast paced growth teams in a rapidly changing environment.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Sean and Morgan Brown were also turning the learnings from their studies into an all-encompassing growth playbook – Hacking Growth.
Our training and consulting were started as a vehicle to help companies understand their North Star Metric, launch a growth team, and initiate a growth process for rapid experimentation. Having this foundation is vital to success with our software, so it was a natural next step.
The annual GrowthHackers Conference is a thought leadership opportunity where we bring together top growth experts to learn how successful growth teams are operating. We obsess over the speakers we bring to stage and the content they share for this event. The goal is for the audience to walk away with the latest and greatest growth patterns and how to get started in or improve growth at their organization.
Q: You guys coined the “high tempo testing” methodology. Could you remind our readers of what it is?
Dani: Growth hacking isn’t just about a specific tactic to skyrocket user acquisition, but rather it’s finding opportunities across the full customer journey (acquisition, activation, retention, referral, pricing) to grow the value being provided to customers.
Successful growth teams have established a rhythm of high tempo testing to help discover new tactics, channels, product features, etc. that will be effective for long-term sustainable growth.
The more tests you run, the more you learn what works and what doesn’t in growing your business. It’s basic math – if you run 100 tests and 20 work, you will learn more and faster than the competition that’s only running 50 tests with 10 of those working. So, it’s only natural to want to run as many tests per period of time as possible. That’s the idea behind high tempo testing.
Q: What are you currently A/B testing?
Dani: Right now we’re A/B testing our Facebook Ads. Our strategy has been to test the aspects of the ads in order of potential impact on results. First up is the audience.
Typically, we start with a few images per audience. Images can have a drastic change on how well an ad performs. What we often learn from these tests is that while one ad might be a winner, there’s a certain audience that responds well to it. This allows us to refine our audience for that ad and then test new images and audiences.
Once we have a winner for a specific audience, we can start testing other aspects of the ad, like headline copy.
Q: Moving fast and statistical validity usually don’t go well together. What’s your consensus on the topic?
Dani: I think there’s a place for each of these mentalities when it comes to A/B testing. For a new product with limited traffic, A/B tests should be more drastic to see what works well. Starting out with small optimizations (think button colors or subject lines) will likely have a smaller impact than a more drastic test at this stage.
When it comes to moving fast, I think the qualitative feedback for the tests is important to consider. While you might not have significant evidence for a right or wrong answer, if you can learn something from an A/B test, you’ll be better off.
Q: What recent A/B test results surprised you?
Dani: Usually all of them. I joke that whatever I think is the ugliest, silliest, or worst variant, will end up winning. But what’s great is that when there’s a difference in opinions, you can test it and see what works.
Q: Do you use personalization to grow GrowthHackers? If yes could you provide an example?
Dani: We do. Within our software, we provide different messaging depending on your level of experience in growth. Many times, our visitors are just getting started in growth or haven’t found product market fit.
It’s helpful to send these users resources to get them started based on where they are vs. dropping them into a product that may not deliver value at their stage of the growth journey.
We will be evolving this strategy as we focus on successfully onboarding new users.
Q: How do you see UX optimization shaping up in the coming years? What’s your take on personalized user experiences to drive more growth?
Dani: As Sean Ellis says, “one of the biggest levers for a growth hacker is improving the user experience.”
If a user never experiences the value your product offers, no matter how many cool features you think you have, the likelihood of them coming around a second time and engaging with your product is slim to none.
More and more companies are understanding that getting users to the ‘aha’ moment in the product as soon as possible is vital to long term retention. With this understanding and by focusing on optimizing the user experience to the aha moment, you can affect activation, retention, referral, and revenue without spending an additional dime on paid acquisition.
Q: Any parting words for marketers out there getting started with user experience optimization?
Dani: Talk to your customers and analyze your available data first. Look for successful customers and ask what lead them to be successful. Find trends in successful customers and do your best to replicate that for more customers. You may uncover there are different segments that need to be approached differently through this exercise. Even better. Then you can start targeting those specific audiences in your acquisition efforts and have a clear path to their success.
Even more important, don’t expect this process to be easy. Growth is not easy. Behind every successful unicorn company like Facebook, Airbnb, etc., there’s a story of extreme hard work, diligence, and commitment to finding solutions that work to solve a problem for consumers.
One of the main reasons I love my job is because I am constantly challenged to figure out what will work for our customers. Relentless testing of new ideas is how our team operates. The tests that work are celebrated. However, there are more tests that don’t work. Take each failed experiment as an opportunity to learn, and don’t get discouraged or give up. Keep g(r)o(w)ing! 🙂
So, inspired? Dani wasn’t playing around, the interview is packed with golden growth knowledge nuggets!
What about you, what’s your current focus in your quest for growth?
If you want to know more about Dani, check her out on Medium.
And again, if you’re interested in Growth Hacking I highly recommend you to check out the GrowthHackers Community. You’ll find AMAs with the biggest growth experts out there and a community of the best marketers sharing insights, content or experiments ideas.