Mattan is a Partner at GrowHack, the world’s first growth hacking shop for startups based in New York City. He also teaches at General Assembly and is a NY Ambassador to the Sandbox Network, a collection of young leaders under 30.
→ His college background
→ How he learned to study marketing and advertising
→ How he get interested in growth hacking
→ His strategy for growth hacker and how it evolved
→ How did he get jump to Udemy began
→ His highest grossing class on Skillshare
→ NY Ambassador on Sandbox Network
→ His thoughts on Growthhack
→ His thoughts on Startups
→ His thoughts on KISSmetrics
→ His thoughts on Mixpanel
→ His thoughts on Google Analytics
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Morton Griffin with us. Morton, thank you so much for being here.
Mattan: Thanks, guys, everyone.
Bronson: Hey, so let’s start with you telling us a little bit about yourself. How did you become interested in growth hacking? What kind of start there? And then we’ll move into some of the specifics that you do to kind of help the world with growth hacking. But how did you initially get interested in it?
Mattan: So I actually didn’t study anything related to marketing or growth hacking or even start ups. I studied finance and I studied philosophy at NYU, and.
Bronson: I studied philosophy myself.
Mattan: Awesome. Let’s talk a lot more about that and basically insured that I’d be unemployable.
Bronson: That’s what liberal arts does.
Mattan: That’s right. So I was referred to a startup actually out of college and and they liked me and they needed to create a role for me. So they actually had me do their marketing and I didn’t know anything about marketing at the time. So, you know, you learn about a topic. How do you learn about a topic? You know nothing about it. You go through all the online resources, you take classes, whatever is available. I was lucky that out here in New York City, the General Assembly was sort of just starting. And so they had a lot of classes on both marketing and advertising and and, you know, all that when it comes to start ups. And so I was able to, while I was actually there, digest as much as possible and then figure out what was actually relevant and what was not. And I found that a lot of the stuff you learn about in a lot of the resources out there are pretty useless when it comes to startups. Like, I’m, I’m glad that I never studied marketing in college because they teach you about, you know, efficiently spending your advertising dollars and how to conduct, you know, consumer focus groups and all of these things that are essentially impossible for a startup to do because they have no money to spend on advertising, essentially. So I basically learned the stuff that worked and I threw out the stuff that didn’t work. I tried everything. And and the company is called App Savvy. We grew to about 80 people. We did 40 million in revenue the first year that I was there. And I learned a lot. And by the time that I left there, I had a bunch of friends and other startups just knocking at my door asking me to do the same thing. For that, I didn’t necessarily want to have to pick one, and I thought that there’s a lot of help that I could do for all of them if I just sort of put them on the right track. So I started a company basically to help them more of a consulting capacity. And before that, I actually took a month off and I learned I taught myself how to code. So I learned Ruby on Rails. And then, yeah, I went out to San Francisco about a year ago in August and I wanted to build an application. So that’s that’s what I did. And I built the application. And then when I came back, I had this sort of marketing expertize combined with that, the interest in the technical side, you know, actually implementing some of these some of the, you know, the analytics tools, for example, or even tweaking the products. Yeah. From a marketing standpoint. So, so more and more, I saw that there there was an interest in case studies about what startups did, like some interesting line or strategy they used that suddenly got them a bunch of new users or suddenly got them a bunch more engaged users. And I started trying to look between the lines and figure out what are what are the some of the more general principles that we can pull out of these case studies that we’re seeing so that we could actually, you know, teach people things beyond just here’s a story. And if this is relevant to you, then you can use it, you know, take what you will. So that’s turned into you know, we now do a growth hacking agency here out of New York City, the first in the world. Yeah, I’m officially growth hacker with Quotidian Ventures, which is a New York City venture firm. And we advise probably dozens of startups and and we’ve got a site now grow hardcore and MIT up here in New York City and several other places and currently working on a book on growth hacking. So it’s been really interesting and and it’s also helps augment a lot of the other projects that I’m working on.
Bronson: So yeah, it seems like it’s kind of coming together in a unique way for you to really follow any traditional standard path. But in a sense, I think that’s what makes a great growth hacker. It takes some base level understanding of a number of disciplines and then having the wherewithal to kind of bring it together and make something meaningful out of it. So it’s really interesting hearing your back story a little bit. You said you now have the website up, Grow Hack. That’s Pro Hacker, correct? Yeah. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about that. What are you doing with Girl Hack? It seems like you have a partner there. Tell us what what that kind of encompasses.
Mattan: So Grow Hack is. I’m more interested in the academic side of it and actually thinking out some of the models that I’m teaching about, we’re doing. We teach classes both at General Assembly and on Skillshare and on Udemy and a number of different places. Mm hmm. And so I’m developing a lot of, you know, the ideas and the frameworks in that the material. My my partner actually came in because I started getting so many inquiries about doing this for companies. And, you know, personally, I’m not all that interested in the consulting model. I’m more interested in know, thinking about this stuff. So he is he’s been leading that business in and doing really well. And the site itself is, you know, we try to highlight interesting growth hacks every week and we put case studies up there. And it’s been a it’s been a pretty big driver of of awareness, although the biggest thing has been when I put up the slides for my class on SlideShare and those have been viewed over 150,000 times.
Bronson: Wow. That’s incredible. Yeah. So you have a partner. Does he do the consulting and you’re kind of the the academic brains behind the service?
Mattan: We both. I mean, we both do the consulting, although at the end of the day, you’ve got to have one person leading each decision. So he is essentially the the, you know, pass off the sales to him and his account manager for making sure these guys are happy and making sure that we’re delivering when we need to deliver.
Bronson: Absolutely. And that’s actually one of the reasons I was really interested in having you on the show, is because a lot of people do it. Russian say a lot. Some people do it. Even fewer people understand kind of conceptually what they’re doing. And as I looked at all the stuff you have gone online, it was I didn’t know you had a degree in philosophy, but now it makes complete sense. I mean, I agree, you know, like that you’re used to mapping out large chunks of information in digestible ways so that can be kind of consumed. And when I see what you’ve done with growth hacking through the blog, through your classes and through all your different media outlets, it shows that you have a real broad understanding of what’s actually going on in the space. And that’s kind of what I want to get into next, because I really want to pick your brain because there’s not a lot of methods in the world doing that kind of thing, which I think is awesome. So you taught a Udemy class. It’s got a lot of students, the reviews, everyone raves about it. What led you, first of all, to create the Udemy class? Was it just a legion? Was it an outlet because we had too much inside and you had to get rid of it somehow. Why did you go to Udemy? You know, how do I begin?
Mattan: How did the jump to Udemy began? I so I’ve got my class that I do a General Assembly and I do both the growth hacking. And I also teach a class on how I taught myself how to code for people who are interested in that.
Bronson: Quick side note isn’t that the highest grossing class on Skillshare?
Mattan: Twice, actually. That’s incredible. It was in November. We had 1600 students, the highest grossing class they’ve ever had, and we’re launching another one on March 12th. And we’re at we just broke 1500 today.
Bronson: And it’s so class or.
Mattan: It’s going to be I’ve actually tested out different variations of it. So this is I tested the first and second variation didn’t perform as well. So I’m back to the first one and it’s just taking off from there.
Bronson: A true growth hacker testing his own courses on Skillshare.
Mattan: Yeah, and that’s sort of what Udemy is like as well. When you have this content, there are many different ways to present the content. And so the Udemy class ended up just being and it ended up being a repository for all of this information that I’m putting together. But what I did originally was just record the class that I was already delivering at General Assembly and put that up online for people that aren’t in New York City to have access to it. But we’ve done meetups here and so we’ve been able to record videos of people like Noah Kagan talking about how to get customer loyalty or Cassie Lance, a lot of young talking about cohort analysis and start to include that in the class and that’s been really cool for people to get access to that content to.
Bronson: Yeah, I want to access that content.
Mattan: Yeah, it’s I’ll send it to you.
Bronson: To do that. I was looking through some of the reviews on your Udemy class, and this one kind of stood out to me. It was from Andrew Dumont of yours. He said By far the best description and practical advice on growth hacking that I’ve seen, that’s quite an endorsement. He’s not a nobody and he’s saying this is one of the best things he’s seen in terms of the way you describe it and it’s advice you give. Let’s talk about the description a little bit because there’s a lot of descriptions being thrown around. There’s a lot of definitions. Some people love the word, some people hate the word. Some people don’t even understand the word. But I feel like you do have a grasp on what it does, what it means to be a growth hacker. So how do you define growth hacking and how do you see it related to the whole Lean Startup movement as well?
Mattan: Totally. It’s it’s something I’ve thought a lot about. And like, it’s been troubling me, too, as a philosopher to try to come up with the most concise and most meaningful definition.
Bronson: Of the necessary and sufficient conditions. Right.
Mattan: Yeah. So I’m not I’m not so interested in, in whether it was meaningful when it was first created like it may have been created as a marketing term. I really don’t care because I think that there is something meaningful to it. There’s something there. And and if if we can make it more academic, there’s definitely value to it. And I think any term that gets created that people start using, it usually happens. And I like to give people the benefit of the doubt that they do it, that it happens for a reason. Yeah, I think when it comes to growth hacking it both identifies a shift in mentality and how startups think about both growing but also operating in general. I think it’s bigger than just like growing. I think it’s how are we going to run businesses in the future? And I think, you know, when you look at some of the most successful startups in the world, like Airbnb or Facebook or Zynga, like they don’t they never followed the rules that were taught in business school. They did things in a different way. And and I think we’re going to start teaching things the way startups are actually doing them. So I think growth hacking in some way encapsulates all of that. If I had to give one definition, a lot of people talk about like, you know, Andrew Chan saying it’s a hybrid of marketer and coder, which I think is kind of it’s is your mistake and it’s like that’s what people point to. It’s not very helpful because you put a marketer and coder together and like, who knows what you’re going to get.
Bronson: You may not growth.
Mattan: Hacker That’s right. Yeah. I think Growth Hacker is it’s it’s really it’s a it’s a practice. It’s an activity. It’s it’s like a role in a company for the person who’s responsible for figuring out problems related to the user lifecycle. We talk about growth of users in general, but it’s not just that doesn’t mean growth of traffic to a website that’s like one kind of user, but you really have many kinds of users. So you’re ultimately figuring out growth of active users, engaged users, and then at the end of the day, monetized users, users you’re making money off of. So the way I’ve got this, this lean marketing funnel as a framework that I’ve come up with, it’s derived from, from Dave McClure’s, our metrics and I think it’s a good way of thinking about the entire user lifecycle, but there’s really the five big stages of, you know, getting someone. Your site has never heard of you getting them to sign up. Getting them to become active. Getting them to refer their friends. And then making money off of them. And that’s really all that there is. Right. And so as a growth hacker, your job is to really know that funnel and know how it works for you inside and out. Decide where we’re going to be focusing our time on now and what we’re going to be doing to try to improve, say, you know, activation rates or retention rates. So it could be, you know, the CEO of a company. Mm hmm. I think more and more, we’re going to see job titles like Head of Growth. And we’re already already seeing companies like Airbnb have like 15 people growth teams. I think organizations are going to be shifted around that where instead of having a marketing team and an engineering team and an operations team, we’re going to have an acquisition team that consists of a marketer and an engineer and an operations guy and an activation team and a retention team. But but back to your question about how it ties in to lean marketing. Mm hmm. I see I see growth hacking and the hacking part specifically as this like this whole process applied to really early stage companies. So you have the lean idea that a lot of people have tapped into for figuring out how do you know if your product is actually valuable with customer development and hitting product market fit? But the problem a lot of startups are facing now is that what do you what do you do after you hit product market fit? Right. Do you have a product that you know people want and there’s value, but how do you continue to operate the company in a lean way? And there’s that sort of there’s no answer to that yet. It’s sort of so I think that’s growth hacking. And I think that that takes off of where the Lean Startup by Eric Reece left off. Yeah. Once you get to that point, how do you then grow the company in a lean way? And I think that’s why I think growth hacking is lean marketing. That’s why you need one guy who’s very much a generalist, because when you’re two people at a startup and you know, you hire a third guy and he’s your growth guy, well, he’s going to have to do everything. He’s also going to need to know how to code because if if he’s just coming up with ideas and then, you know, relying on some other person to actually execute them, you know, if he has to keep talking to an engineer to keep testing everything out is going to be a liability rather than an asset.
Bronson: So resources instead of giving resources.
Mattan: I think that’s where the idea of marketer plus coder comes in is that you need to know what your goal is, how you’re going to be trying to change it, what the test is, and then actually building the test yourself. Otherwise you’re not going to be coming up with tests fast enough to make a significant difference at a startup.
Bronson: Absolutely. So it’s not that you just happen to know how to write code. It’s that you understand marketing very deep and then you use the code to kind of support that endeavor. Because if you happen to know marketing and I happen to know, you know, engineering and you put them together, it may not work and really make them work together.
Mattan: That’s right. Yeah.
Bronson: And I love the way you kind of see growth hacking because it seems like you see it as the growth hacker is the one person or the team of people that truly understand users, whether it’s how to get users initially in the door, whether it’s how to move them to the funnel, whether it’s how to retain them, build community around them, help them after you’ve monetized them, support them. It seems like the growth hacker is really the user evangelists through the entire process. They’re the person that just really gets the psychology of a user. That’d be fair to say.
Mattan: Yeah. What I like is that it helps answer a lot of questions too, that you’ll have inside a company. You’ll often have people in the boardroom debating about whether, you know, whether you should put this pop up before a user gets to the dashboard when they first log in. Right. And people will talk about the pros and cons and like at the end of the day, the growth hacker is the guy who says, like, I have a great way of testing this and we can know whether it’s going to be valuable based on how it actually affects how people use the product. But if we show it to people and we see that people are more engaged with the product, then it’s valuable and we’re going to do it. And if they’re not, then there is your answer right there.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. I love that. In your course on Udemy, one thing that I noticed is that when you teach growth hacking, you have this picture of a iceberg. All right. With a little bit above the water and a lot below the water. So what is it like with icebergs? About 10% or less is actually above the water. Sure. On the top of it, you have a couple of words. Then below the surface you have a lot of words. And that’s kind of how you show sort of all the disciplines that go into growth hacking. Walk us through that a little bit and I’m sure I’ll put it on the screen for our viewers as well. So they’ll actually see it maybe as you’re talking about a little bit. But talk us through the iceberg, because I really love that image.
Mattan: Yeah, I love the iceberg as a metaphor, even though I found out, sadly, that image is photoshopped.
Bronson: But that’s all right. It still looks awesome. Who cares?
Mattan: Yeah. So I think what happens is a lot of people point to startups that they see that have had successful, extremely successful growth companies like Pinterest or Instagram or Zynga, where they see viral growth. And they’re like, That’s what I want. What’s really happening with growth hacking is that the viral growth is that tip above the water of the iceberg that’s like that five or 10%. That’s the sexy part of growth acting. And that’s what everyone wants, obviously. And that’s that’s that’s what everyone sees. And that’s what happens when growth hacking is done. Well, it looks easy and it looks like obviously this product grew because people want it or whatever you take for granted that there’s below the level so much stuff going on and all of these different things that have to work together. And if any one of them doesn’t work, you’re not going to get the kind of viral growth you need. And so some of the things that I include on that slide are like landing page optimization and SEO and search engine marketing, PR, behavioral economics. Mm hmm. I think at the core of it is analytics, and that’s very important. But this gets to the point you brought up before, which is that growth hackers in many ways are generalists because. For any startup there, there may be a different answer. Some startups need a CEO. For some startups. CEO is like the key. Mint.com, for example, had tremendous success built like creating content for their audience because they were at it. They were created at a time where no one was serving like the younger, the younger professional who needed financial help. They had questions about How do I file my taxes or how do I set up an IRA? There was no content for that. So they created a blog and that was number one in personal finance and drove a lot of traffic to them. Yeah, but these days SEO is not such a great strategy for most startups, and so it doesn’t make sense for for a startup, for example, to hire an ACL expert or an AdWords expert, because that may not be the answer for you. There’s, you know, for, you know, amount of optimizing AdWords may make you, you know, a successful company or make your product successful. So so you’ve got all these different things and you need to know enough about each one to be able to test out whether you think there’s an opportunity there. Like you need to know at least how do I set up a really simple AdWords campaign in a weekend? And how will I know if there’s something there? Yeah, right. And then if there is. Well, you also have to have have be humble enough to go and learn about that thing and not assume that you know everything. So as as a growth hacker, you’re always learning about what’s what, some new strategy or new channel and not assuming that anything is out of out of question, like maybe radio advertising is the right thing for you. Who knows? Yeah. But so I think what happens is when all of these little pieces are they fit together, then you have something that that sort of tips the scale and becomes viral grows. A lot of people don’t really realize that viral growth is actually a few different stages. Right. Like, if you have a user who shares your product with ten of their friends or ten of their friends, get to your sites. Right. But then you need to convert those people and you need to make them active. And then only then can they go and share it with ten of their friends. So there’s the cycle and there’s many steps of that process. And if even one of those is broken, you’re not going to get virality. Yeah. So you need to start tweaking little bits and then at a certain point, it starts to work together.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. And I love the way you see it because, you know, for so long when growth hacking was kind of in its infancy, we thought, oh, the viral coefficient, we just need some little, you know, quick hack, some little add on to the side, some little thing we do in 10 minutes that just gives us viral growth. But the way you see it, the viral coefficient is itself a little mini funnel that you have to really take care of and look at and understand. And so even viral growth isn’t as simple as it looks. And that’s only the little piece above the surface that had a lot going into it. I think that’s a holistic way to look at it. I think it’s a wise way to look at what growth hacking really is.
Bronson: Yeah. Go ahead. I’m sorry.
Mattan: I just think, you know, as a I think it is a science or I think that there are aspects that can become a science. And it’s more useful for people who are trying to build their own companies and who want a better shot of getting a successful product. I’m not saying that at the end of the day, there’s not a lot of luck involved, because there probably is. But there are people who have been able to do this successfully and repeatedly. And I think that’s a good indicator that there is a skill here and a science. And so, you know, it’s better to say, you know, how do we get a higher conversion rate on the site then how do we get more virality? Because it’s there’s no obvious answer to the second question because you don’t even know where to start.
Bronson: No, I think that’s great. Start with what you can actually influence, not the unknowns that really can’t be penetrated. Yeah, I’m really interested in what you’re doing as a grow hack and for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons I’m interested in Grow Hack is because for so long a startup could go to a dev shop and say, Hey, here’s the specs, build me a product. And there was a designer and there was a developer and there was a team of people and they could go and they could build that product and say, Here’s startup, here’s what we made for you to the specs. But there’s never really been a shop you could go to and say, I have a product, but I got the Eric Reis first part done. Right, but I don’t know where to go next, right? I got the lean startup, but I don’t have the lead marketing because no one’s filled in that blank yet. And not only have they not talked about how to fill in the blank, there’s definitely no place where I can go and hire somebody to do it. That’s even a further stretch of the imagination. And yet almost you kind of leaped to things, you know, at once. You’ve defined the second half of the equation as the lean marketing and where Eric needs to go from there. But then you’ve also given them the tools of, look, me and my partner, the academic and the consultant, we can come together and actually help you to kind of bridge that gap in. Go there. And so I know that you get a lot of inquiries of people wanting to hire you and they should. I mean, given your track record as an individual, given your track record at other companies, you should be in high demand. So let’s do a little mock consulting session. I guess we can hear. Obviously it’ll be Vega they want it to be because we don’t have specifics of a real company. But I want people to know kind of what you would do for them and with them if they were to come to you. So if a company came to you and you decided that, yes, you’re going to take them on as a client, it seems interesting. They have the budget for it, etc., etc.. What’s the first thing you would do to assess their current position, to assess where they’re really at in the marketplace? What do you look at when they come in the door?
Mattan: Yeah. Well, so beyond just making sure that they’re on board and that they understand sort of what the goal is there, you’d be surprised how often you end up having to deal with teams that are on the same page. Right. And just as well. So you often find teams of people where one person is responsible to like investors, for example, and needs to make investors happy and make make sure that the metrics are actually going the right direction. Whereas the product person, for example, might have this like Steve Jobs in attitude of I know what’s right and I’m going to follow my gut. And that’s what’s going to be successful for us. And while I mean, there’s some people really have great insight and have a really great design esthetic. You need to be both. You need to be humble enough to understand that sometimes your gut is wrong. And the only way to know the right answer is to actually try it and to be open for testing. Otherwise, it just ends up becoming, you know, arguing again about what’s right and wrong. And that’s a really hard question to answer. You know, as Steve Blank says, there are no facts inside the building.
Bronson: That’s right. That element happens outside the walls.
Mattan: That’s right. And so so, you know, beyond that point, though, the first thing is almost always like 90% of the time is making sure they have some sort of system in place for for starting to measure the stuff. I mean, most or a lot of growth hacking is testing things. And unless, you know, whether you’re testing different acquisition channels or different pages or different value propositions, unless you have some sort of system that you can then plug that test into where it can track which what the variations are and what they’re doing. And you’re just sort of guessing. Right. So on to that.
Bronson: A little bit, because I know the people watching this interview, they’re going to be saying, okay, like, tell me how to do that. Like, what systems do I put into place? You know, is it just Google Analytics? Is it more than that? What does it look like when you come to them and say, look, we need to put this in place and this in place? Is it in house code? Is it dropping a snippet from KISSmetrics? Like, what is it you’re really doing there to get the data you need as a growth hacker?
Mattan: Yeah. So the big shift and what a lot of people don’t really get about the tracking is you want to be tracking transactions or events rather than just page views. Explain that.
Bronson: To me.
Bronson: So Mixpanel can actually send the email now.
Mattan: Yeah. Or you can plug it into your application so that it can it can feed into if you’ve got a newsfeed or some sort of notification system in your application, it can ping users within that. So then the email looks like it’s coming from you or whatever. So that’s something that tools like used to have to go to tools like Intercom IO or customer IO to do that, but now it’s integrated into the analytics system. So I think that’s really like a very cool step in the next direction.
Bronson: Yeah, I didn’t know it could do that personally and I’m going to go back and implement that and half a dozen products. Awesome. The next few hours if possible. Very cool. So many custom from scratch using secret or our own servers. When this event happens, do this. It is completely frustrating getting all that working. So I’m excited about that and actually have Neil coming on the program next week. So I’m going to prod them a little bit and see see what’s around the corner for KISSmetrics and what they’re going to do to kind of stay ahead of the curve.
Mattan: That sounds awesome. Like you mentioned about the building your own system, a lot of the old, you know, a lot of the original growth hackers had to do that. And that’s where companies like KISSmetrics and Mixpanel really came about. So it’s easy enough to set up an intellect system these days, although at a certain size, a lot of people end up building it themselves anyway. And that’s because doing that allows you the flexibility to do some things that these systems don’t let you do. Specifically, the thing that’s really hard to do these days is ab testing of the product itself, you know, adding a specific feature to a subset of users and seeing how that affects usage of the product. You can do a B testing with unbalance or with with visual website optimizer or any of these other tools for the landing page. But it’s hard to do at the product level these days.
Bronson: Still makes sense, but you would have to have a pretty big user base to start building really in-depth customer analytics.
Mattan: Yeah, right. Absolutely. For a lot of.
Bronson: Startups, Mixpanel, KISSmetrics, Google Analytics, that kind of trio really gives a lot of data to start with.
Mattan: Yeah, and more and more of their, I call them growth hacking automation tools. If they’re five years ago or three years ago, if you’re a growth hacker, you would have had to build the site yourself, which is another reason why you’d have to be really tech savvy. But these days you can do a lot of this stuff using tools that people are building for you that are really, really good. And so if you know about the right ones and you know how to use them, then you’re already going to have a lot of new built. I know how to code websites and I still use on bounce for building landing pages just because I can do it in half an hour.
Bronson: Same here. We actually have Unbalance come on the program next week too so I can give my props for the good work they’re doing. All right, so when you get all this data back, you see kind of what the metrics are telling you. You’re looking at the events instead of just the users as one whole big pool of people, you start to put together a strategy of what to do. Does your strategy almost always look the same? Is it pretty typical that, yes, we’re going to do this and then this and then this, that the events are kind of telling us what we already knew we were going to do because this is just kind of the way it always is. Or is it just completely random, purely chaotic? And every startup is 100% different. Tell us how you see it as a consultant, because I want to get inside your mind a little bit on how similar these startup needs are or how different.
Mattan: Yeah. So to some extent there is stuff that’s very similar across all of them, but that’s only because a lot of startups are making the same mistakes. That’s to be expected because a lot of people who are starting startups are not necessarily experts at running businesses. Right. So they didn’t they’ve never done it before. And even if they are experts at some things, they may not be experts at, like email marketing, for example. Right. So they’re always going to be a few a few gaps to be filled in. And that’s something you can only you can only really know the best practices from like kind of a gut level by being in the space a lot and really looking and observing of what the other startups are doing. Yeah, we, we try to focus on one point in the time. So the key of setting and the good point of setting an intellect system in place and think about it as a funnel is that you can identify what I call the bottleneck of that funnel, right? You’re getting in users and you’ve got a funnel, but it happens one stage at a time. Right. So there’s no point in focusing on monetization if no one’s signing up is your activation rate is 1%, meaning the number of people with all the people coming to your site, only 1% sign up. That’s pretty low. It doesn’t matter what your retention rate is, right. Because first of all, like, you’re not going to have anyone coming in to actually be retained. But second of all, you’re not going to have the that amount of people to test out retention stuff on until you get people through the activation stage. Hmm. So we’re generally looking at at one stage at a time, usually there’s a lot of we look for upside. So you get a sense of when a metric could be improved by a lot. Yeah, this it can be different per product, but generally speaking, if you are a like a social network and it’s a product that’s free to sign up for, you can get an 8% sign up rate is good, right? A lot of startups see like a sub 1% signup rate and that would be a good sign that there’s a lot that you can do specifically on the page itself before you even worry about retention. But then, you know, the idea is once you get it to a point where it’s acceptable, like, you know, so you get to 80%. I’ve seen startups with upwards of 30% activation rate, so there’s a lot that can be done. But but you also end up sometimes spinning your wheels and not really being able to jump to the next stage. So if you can get it to like 8%, well, you might start to get the sense that like, okay, let’s leave this where it is and now focus our attention on retention. If you’ve got 10% retention rates, you know, good can sometimes be a 20 to 30% retention. Right. Obviously, depending on the product. So sometimes products don’t really care if people come back because it’s like set it and forget it. Yeah. Whereas with social networks, you want as many people to come back on the first day as possible. Yeah. So you sort of you let the funnel be your your way of knowing where you should focus your resources because as a startup, you don’t have the resources to focus on all of those stages. Absolutely. And but at the end of the day. So a lot of startups are not doing email.
Bronson: Well, yeah. I was going to ask you give me the list. Like, what are they. To get so that as they’re listening, they can go, yep, that’s me. Yep, that’s me. So email. What about email? Are they not doing right?
Mattan: What I see people. People email is extremely underrated. People think of me as old school. They say, like, we’re going to sort of try to break the mold and go to the next level. Email really works and every there’s no successful startup that didn’t figure out their email strategy. What I see most startups do is send one welcome email when a user signs up and then that’s it. And then they are surprised when a user never comes back. Yeah, right. The problem is that, I mean, how many websites do you visit every time you go on the Internet? You probably go to the same five every single time.
Bronson: Yeah. And reminded of the other ones that are already used to like.
Mattan: Even if you like, it’s like unless you’re literally like poking someone and getting them to come back to your site. Yeah. I like to think of that. The old rule of like 7 to 10 repetitions of, of a message before someone gets in. Yeah. So try to get them to come back at least seven times before they’ll ever think of going to your site on their own. Yeah, right. So if you’re only sending a welcome email, well, then why would they ever come back? Send email. I like to think at least three days later, seven days later, and then 21 days later that they’re very close in on.
Bronson: What are you telling them in those emails for? You know, just a typical company.
Mattan: So there’s two styles of emails really. There’s there’s they call it like a drip marketing where you just sort of set the emails in place and this is like a campaign and this email goes out three days later, seven days later, 21. So and that’s.
Bronson: The same days it’s going out. It has nothing to do with their interaction with the site at all. It’s just going out on a set schedule no matter what.
Mattan: And that’s that’s what you mentioned is the second kind of email, which is which is notifications of things that are happening within the application. Yeah, those can be really effective. That’s just a little harder to set up, technically speaking. So that involves a little more product development generally. But at the very least, it’s like, thanks for signing up. Right. And, and, you know, reinforcement of what the value is. Good feelings. But you want to make sure that there’s one clear call to action with each email. And generally it’s Here’s why you should come back to our site. Yeah, right. In the case of Quora, it’s like your weekly digest. Here’s a are an answer you might like. Click this link, come back to our site. Right. So it should be like, you know, pretty sure it’s here’s why you signed up in the first place. A button come back and then, you know, that could be three days later, seven days later. And you can come up with any number of different. Ideas of how to get people to come back. Yeah. And, you know, that’s one of the jobs of a growth actor.
Bronson: Just creative. Yeah.
Mattan: If you have two ideas, don’t put them both in one email. Send them a separately.
Bronson: Or a B, test them.
Mattan: Now or 80 to see which one works better. Absolutely.
Bronson: Do you recommend having both kinds of campaigns or should you really just pick one and run with it? Should it be event based or drip or can you do both or is it overwhelming? What has been your experience? What do you recommend?
Mattan: I say start with Drip initially. Eventually it makes a lot of sense to go to the like the notification kind of stuff. What works really well is if you have someone in their first like usage of the product seed, something that will be the catalyst for them coming back again. Yeah. And the classic cases like Zynga where the first time you play Farmville, within 10 minutes you’ve planted your your crop and then you have to come back 4 hours later or the next day to harvest it. OkCupid has you during the first. The onboarding flow has you message a user, right? Just say, hey, if you can be like 95% sure that if you message a user and that person gets a response, that person’s coming back to the site to read what that response is. Right? So if you can say, hey, something you set up is now ready for you to check it, then they’re going to be coming back. That’s sort of how Quora does their email digests. They you get it, they get you to follow people and follow topics the first time you’re using it. But it can be pretty technically involved in site. You know, I would say just focus on marketing at first at least something to get people to come back because.
Bronson: Drip, you can set up easily within MailChimp or any of these simple third party applications, you know, campaign monitor, whatever it may be, constant contact. So Drip is really easy to set up on a small budget with no resources. And then as you grow, you’re integrating the Mixpanel kind of event notifications, integrating some custom tools. But I think you’re right. Email is so underrated and so important. If people walk away with anything from this interview, I hope it’s that I hope it’s that get an email strategy because this is monstrously important. Well, let me give you a chance to brag for a minute and tell me some of the big wins you’ve had for some of the people you’ve you’ve helped, maybe through Girl Hack or even before before it was called Roll Hack. What are some of the things that you can say? Yeah, that was a big win for them. But then more so what I’m really interested in is what did you do? Like, you know, what’s the action items that we can take away to go and maybe have some of those big wins if it’s relevant enough?
Mattan: Example Yeah. So, so some of the more interesting and creative stuff out there may not be as applicable as like we did a conference for a company social activity. So that was awesome. Sometimes, like that’s what you need. We had one company win a Guinness Book of World Record, but you.
Bronson: Know, the idea of what they were going to win and then kind of coach them through the process of winning it or.
Mattan: No, it was sort of just the realization that like, hey, I think we might have broken a world record here turned out to be true. Wow. But the more interesting stuff is like, I often teach a class and then I have students email me and say, Hey, I played just like three of your things. And someone emailed me the other day that they his a company, they do $100,000 in sales and not just selling furniture online. They increase their signup rates of people who come to their site from 5% to 25%. And that was as simple as just having this like this modal overlay on the page pop up when a user came there asking for their email address. Yeah, that works really well with a lot of companies. In fact, you know, Quora does that with with when you click on an answer and like Groupon does that before you can check any deals. Yeah. What else is there. Oh with, with one of my clients, we did a simple homepage redesign. They were focused a lot on content and so there’s their home page of the site. It was just like articles. A lot of times I see startups make this mistake where they they want people to see the value of their products before they ask them to sign up. And I think while that’s that’s well intentioned, you often don’t need to show people very much before you can get them to sign up for something. And sometimes showing them more information will decrease your conversion rate because people get distracted. And in fact.
Bronson: 37 signals found that out with their conversion. You know what they did?
Mattan: That was interesting.
Bronson: It was very.
Mattan: So we redid their homepage. The big thing was that we we cut out the number of questions they were asking in the sign up process down from like from like 25 questions to four. Yeah, right. Just like name know.
Bronson: Should you get it as low as you can?
Mattan: Absolutely. As low as you can start with there. And only then then you can start introducing and testing things you might add only if you think it’s gonna be valuable later. Like. As a baseline. Ask for someone’s name, email and password. It’s really all you need. You can log in with your email. You may not even need someone’s name really, but it’s kind of standard to ask for it. You can personalize emails that way. That’s going to give you your highest conversion rate. Then you may say play around with introducing a connect through Facebook feature during the sign up process. That may decrease conversions, but the fact that people connect through Facebook may down the line, increase the amount of sharing that they’re doing. And so the two, you may end up getting a more engaged user for, you know, more through virality at the end of the day. So that’s why it’s important to have a sense of the entire lifecycle and not just focus on one thing.
Bronson: Absolutely. Yeah. Those are great tidbits of information. I mean, that’s exactly what I was looking for because people don’t realize that sometimes growth hacking. It can be very intense and difficult and it takes a lot of knowledge. But then sometimes the specific things that work are actually kind of easy to implement sometimes. So a lot of knowledge to know why that mattered. But then once you do it, it’s not that hard sometimes. So there’s some great takeaways.
Mattan: Sometimes you don’t know why it matters. Like green buttons convert that or I have no clue why.
Bronson: That’s an interesting thing that I’ve been thinking about kind of in my free time is that part of growth hacking is understanding that the data is pointing somewhere, but not always needing to understand why the data is pointing there. So something can be happening. And as long as you’re understanding that it is happening, you don’t even know why it’s happening, because your job is to kind of harness that lightning in a bottle and not understand the mechanics of lightning.
Mattan: Yeah, that’s certainly true. You know, when it comes to especially a lot of landing page optimization, you know, green buttons and orange buttons converting best read headlines in like I think Tahoma font converts fast and stuff like that. But then there’s some other really interesting examples of when it’s important to try to figure out what’s going on. Like there was one company I worked with where they, they, they had a really low conversion rate and they couldn’t figure out why and only until they actually brought in sample like people to actually walk them through the process and figure out what they were thinking at each stage. Did they realize that like it was a free product, but no one believed that it was free because it was so awesome, like they had done so such a good job, like convincing people to use it that people were skeptical. Right. And so, like, they. No one is signing up, right? So. Yeah, yeah.
Bronson: Like, so what is the fix there to, to make it seem like you’re doing less than you really are, or just to convince them that it really is free somehow.
Mattan: What they did was they ended up showing them two options they had like a paid version and a free version with. And they made it very clear what the differences are to make it people very comfortable knowing there is a conversion. And here’s what they’re interested in. But here’s what I can get and I can know that they’re not going to try to scare me into something or try to, like, sell me too hard on whatever. Yeah, that ended up working really well for them.
Bronson: That’s a really interesting example.
Mattan: Yeah. There’s another really fascinating one. There used to be three ways to get people to connect their Facebook accounts and then add friends through this Facebook integration. There was like one big one with people’s faces, one smaller one, and some third variation where they were like, box on the bottom and on the top and you could drag friends. One of these ended up getting like three times as many as many friends. And it was totally unexpected. It wasn’t the one with all the faces, which is like what people usually think.
Bronson: That’s what it feels like to just now.
Mattan: But it what it turns out and they only figured this out once they actually saw people do it, that the one that did really well was the only one where a user could just keep their mouse in the same place and just click and click and the users would disappear and another one would come into its place. Yeah. Right. So very little where you just click and you add people would add like 30 friends, whereas the other ones you had to move the mouse over and click and then click.
Bronson: That’s great.
Mattan: So, I mean, take that for what it’s worth.
Bronson: Absolutely. Well, as you’re one of the few educators in the growth hacking space right now, I think, you know, a couple of years that won’t be the case. But right now it’s a very short list. Tell us what single thing has taught you the most about growth hacking, what one event or thing you read or think you did or thing you tried kind of opened up your eyes the most so that other people are kind of trying to break into this industry can maybe recreate that themselves.
Mattan: Well, that’s a really good question. I mean, there’s a lot of resources as point people to what I what I really love is the is the core board on growth hacking, because it’s really just people asking like, how the hell did it get one and a half million users, they don’t have a viral product. And then there’s like the head of product admins going like, well, here are the seven things that we did. Yeah, right. And you’re like, okay, cool. And, and, you know, you start to, to pick apart some of the stories of what’s happening. Mm hmm. I would say there’s that. And just the understanding that. Just don’t go with the flow and just try to prove people wrong. Like you always want to be. Try to principle wrong. I have so many people in my classes who have such kind of like a dogmatic belief about what will work and what will work, so much so that they’re not even willing to test out something to see if it’ll work. And those are the kind of people that are missing out on a really big potential opportunity, because they’ll just assume that’s not going to work for us.
Bronson: Yeah, well, I think that is an incredible place to end the interview right there. I think that last bit of advice is gold. Don’t make assumptions, try things. Don’t think you already know what’s going to work or you could be missing out on the thing that really will work. MARTIN You’ve done an incredible job with this interview. I think you’ve exposed a lot of things. You’ve taught a lot of things. You’re got to educate a lot of people through this. Thank you so much for your time and thank you for being here.
Mattan: Thanks a lot.
Bronson: Absolutely. Take it easy.
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