The first stage of every single growth marketing framework centres around gathering high quality growth experiment ideas.
If you want to have good ideas you must have many ideas. Most of them will be wrong, and what you have to learn is which ones to throw away.Linus Pauling, Double Nobel Prize Winner
Ideas are the leading input to the entire growth marketing process, they are the rocket fuel for growth. Without a consistent, steady pipeline of ideas there’s a lesser chance your team will make an impact because there’s less to test and learn from.
So, where should you look to find high quality growth experiment ideas for your team?
Finding High Quality Growth Experiment Ideas
Growth marketing teams tend to gather high quality growth ideas across 5 different areas, we’ll dig into each of these in more detail below.
- Customer research
- Analytics & metrics
- Experience deep-dives
- Industry research
- Brainstorming sessions
1. Customer Research
Customer research, or customer insights, are the best place to find new growth opportunities as they are most likely to result in improved experiences or more value to customers.
“The No.1 thing that has made us successful by far is obsessive compulsive focus on the customer.”Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder & CEO
In a world of undifferentiated features and increased competition, understanding your prospects and customers better than anyone else is a key competitive advantage. These qualitative and quantitative insights can come from a range of sources including:
- Recordings of sales conversions
- Support requests
- Live chat conversations
- On-page surveys
- User session replays
- User testing
- Talking to customers
2. Analytics & Metrics
Data and reports from tools such as Google Analytics, MixPanel, Amplitude and others is a great place to find inspiration for new experiment ideas. A simple understanding of key conversion rates enables a growth marketer to quickly pinpoint opportunities for improvement and understand where the biggest drop-offs are in a marketing funnel.
Analytics insights may come from:
- Form analytics
- Technical analytics
- Web / search analytics
- Live chat analytics
- Mouse tracking
Use these insights to identify issues for customers and prospects, and use them to guide experiment opportunities.
3. Experience deep-dive
An experience deep-dive is where a growth marketer aims to walk in a customers shoes in order to truly understand the customer experience, without the bias of existing organisational knowledge. The goal is to improve understanding of the most common user flows, this may include experiences such as:
- Perform a conversion action in order to experience email nurtures
- Submit website contact forms to test the follow-up experience
- Search for high-ranking keywords to check titles and meta descriptions
- Sign-up for your own product to experience the new user onboarding process
- Test your website or application on mobile and tablet devices
An experience deep-dive is an excellent opportunity to spot issues, bugs or missing growth experiment opportunities.
4. Industry / Competitor Research
Many creatives believe that nothing is original and everything is actually a derivative, filmmaker Kirby Ferguson makes his argument in this regard in Everything is a Remix. Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like An Artist is in a similar vein – steal, remix and iterate on other people’s ideas.
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”Pablo Picasso
Looking at competitor websites and products can be a great source of inspiration for growth marketers. In particular, growth marketing teams in modern high-growth tech companies tend to run lots of AB tests so the latest iteration of landing pages and product experiences are likely to be optimised based on previous learnings.
Consider picking 2 or 3 key competitors, continually monitor and analyse their websites, landing pages, keyword ranking data and ad traffic over a month in order to gain new growth experiment ideas.
5. Brainstorming Sessions
One of the most common methods of idea generation for new growth teams is to run regular brainstorming sessions where everyone shares ideas on how to improve a specific metric or KPI. The general approach here is as follows:
- Start with your goal
- Think about the inputs needed to achieve the goal
- Build a model and understand what points are most critical to improving
- Ask what you can do to improve the conversion point
Ensure an efficient brainstorming session by focusing on a specific KPI, metric or key result to avoid the session being too open-ended, and be sure to defer judgement – don’t judge ideas in the midst of brainstorming. For more tips on brainstorming, we recommend this excellent article on How To Brainstorm Like A Googler.
Similar to brainstorming, question storming is a similar technique often used by growth teams. These are typically 20 minute sessions in which a team generates nothing but questions – no discussion, no explanation and no answers. Team members write their questions on post-it notes, announce the question to the team, then put them on a notice board. The goal is to ask as many questions as possible and to rethink how things are done without the influence of previous history or experiences. Question storming can incite ideas by uncovering the areas your team doesn’t fully understand.
The Wisdom of the Crowd
The easiest way to maintain a good pipeline of experiment ideas and to avoid idea fatigue is to democratise the ideation process. The more people you get involved in idea brainstorming and voting, the better your chances of finding and testing the best ideas.
“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department”David Packard, Co-founder, Hewlett-Packard
We often assume that the key to solving problems or making good decisions is finding that one “expert” who will have the answer – the Marketing Director, the CEO, the Agency, the Consultant. However, chasing “the expert” is often a mistake and better results come from employing the collective “wisdom of the crowd”.
In his 2004 book, “The Wisdom of the Crowd”, James Surowiecki outlines 4 conditions for a group to make better decisions than the individuals within it:
- Independence – The various guesses have to be independent of one another. The best way for a group to be smart is for each person to think and act as independently as possible.
- Diversity Of Opinion – It is important to have a diverse group of people with varying degrees of knowledge and insight. Some people may be experts, while others may just have a passing interest.
- Decentralisation – The people making the guesses should be able to draw on their own local and specific knowledge as valuable information may not be disseminated.
- Aggregation – To produce intelligent results there must be some way of aggregating the information of everyone in the system.
In growth marketing, this can mean involving (and incentivising) employees, partners, suppliers and customers in growth ideation.
Building Growth Experiment Idea Muscle
In the early 2000s some of the world’s best researchers from Harvard Business School undertook what remains one of the most in-depth studies into the origins of creative thinking. In order to understand what makes one person more creative than another they interviewed 100 of the world’s greatest leaders and innovators over a 6 year period – Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Michael Dell, Richard Branson, Howard Schultz, Peter Thiel and many others.
The study found that there are 4 main skills to building creative intelligence:
Observing involves carefully watching the world around you, scrutinising the behaviour of other people and other companies, and using those observations to gain insights and ideas for new ways of doing things.
“All of us are watchers – of television, of time clocks, of traffic on the freeway – but few are observers. Everyone is looking, not many are seeing.”Peter Leschak
A core habit of the worlds greatest leaders and innovators is to ask a lot of questions.
Most individuals and managers focus on understanding how to do things, typically how to make existing processes – the status quo – work a little better. Creative individuals and leaders ask why. They challenge the status quo, challenge assumptions and frequently take the opposite position.
- “Why …. ?”
- “Why not …. ?”
- “What if …. ?”
As a growth marketer you should be inquisitive, challenge common wisdom and ask provocative questions.
“While there are many theories of creativity, the only tenet they all share is that creativity comes from unlikely juxtapositions.”MIT’s co-founder Nicholas Negroponte’s 1995 email to Wired magazine
Great innovators and creative thinkers often link questions, problems and ideas from unrelated fields. Associating describes this ability to connect the seemingly unconnected in order to deliver new ideas.
Connecting wildly different ideas, objects, services, technologies and disciplines often leads to the discovery of the best ideas. Look outside of your immediate work environment and consider other:
- Areas of knowledge
- Business Models
If you are a growth marketer in a b2b business, consider looking b2c companies for inspiration. If you work in Finance, look at companies outside of your industry for ideas.
“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”Bill Nye
Talking with other people is a great way to find and test ideas. Creative leaders spend a lot of time and energy finding and testing ideas through a diverse network of individuals.
You may also consider:
- Holding regular idea lunches with growth marketers outside of your company
- Brainstorming a specific problem or objective with others in your company that are not in your team
- Attending conferences and networking events
- Participating in online discussion forums and groups
The goal is to connect people from different backgrounds, ages, industries, political views and experiences to uncover new ideas and to help you see things differently.
Storing Growth Experiment Ideas
As David Allen, the productivity guru once said “Your head is for having ideas not for holding them”. We need a store for ideas.
This could be as simple as an excel sheet, or a generic task or project management tool such as Trello or Asana.
A more customisable solution such as Airtable. For more information, see our article on using Airtable for growth marketing.
We have an airticle highlighting growth experiment templates for Pipefy, Trello, Airtable, Excel and more. Alternatively, growth experiment ideas can be stored in a dedicated growth marketing project management tool, such as Growth Method.
A consistent, steady pipeline of ideas is critical to the growth marketing process. There is no such thing as a “bad idea” or an idea that is “too crazy”. The goal at this stage completely unconstrained ideation. A good volume of ideas is important in order to find the diamonds in the rough.
Here is Brian Balfour again talking about how the growth team at HubSpot use this principles to generate new growth ideas. The link below should start around 14 minutes in, you should watch until around 17 minutes 30 seconds.
Remember you should always brainstorm on the specific Inputs that you believe will drive your desired outcome. If your goal is new website signups, brainstorm on the actions your team can take to influence that, such as increasing website visitors and improving conversion rates. Overarching goals such as new website signups are too broad and unspecific to be useful. Always brainstorm on your Inputs, not on your Outputs.
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