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Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares AMA Takeaways on Growth and Traction

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Gabriel Weinberg is the Founder & CEO of the search engine DuckDuckGoJustin Mares is the former Director of Revenue at Exceptional, a software company that Rackspace acquired. They are the co-authors of TRACTION: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth

Some basic theses that underpin the book are:

  • you need to do traction development in parallel with product development
  • you need to test multiple channels in parallel
  • you are biased against certain channels and that could be holding you back

The best growth goals are aligned with an inflection point in your company. For many companies, the first one is getting the amount of traction necessary to raise funding.

The book mentions a 50% rule. 50% of your time and company resources should be focused on traction. If you’re unable to focus on traction as much as on product, you should consider getting additional resources.

In their book they cover 19 channels to gain traction. They are:

  1. Viral Marketing
  2. Public Relations (PR)
  3. Unconventional Public Relations (anything else that would bring publicity)
  4. Search Engine Marketing
  5. Social and Display Ads
  6. Offline Advertising
  7. Search Engine Optimization
  8. Content Marketing
  9. Email Marketing
  10. Engineering as Marketing
  11. Targeting Blogs (Outreach)
  12. Business Development
  13. Sales
  14. Affiliate Programs
  15. Existing Platforms
  16. Trade Shows
  17. Offline Events
  18. Speaking Engagements
  19. Community Building

Go through the process of thinking about all 19 channels. They may be new advantageous ways of acquiring customers that your competitors are not using, or are not using effectively.

Virality doesn’t make sense for all products. It works for products that involve people communicating such as social media, messaging, and email. An article was shared on designing your viral loop.

“Engineering as Marketing” is unique method of gaining traction that stood out. This is when you make products that are completely separate but complimentary to your product.
Examples include:

Growth teams they’ve seen at Lyft, GitHub, Facebook and others are independent but work closely with product and engineering. An article on why marketing should have its own engineers is shared.

6 common traction mistakes and how to avoid them

  1. Not seeking traction early enough.
  2. Not setting an explicit traction goal.
  3. Not considering all 19 traction channels.
  4. Not doing fast and cheap traction tests.
  5. Not focusing on one core channel.
  6. Not using a structured approach.

Growth hacking is a term that is being misused and overused. However, data driven and technical marketing are not fads. They are the real deal.

3 main components that make a successful entrepreneur

  1. focus
  2. determination
  3. “willingness to slog away at something”

Check the full AMA here.

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Mattan Griffel AMA Growth Hacking Takeaways

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Mattan Griffel is a growth hacker, co-founder of One Month, partner at GrowHack and creator of the most popular deck ever on growth hacking.

Thought Process On Growing A Product

Do you know if it’s a product people enjoy? How many people who use it come back to use it again the next day? Or the next week?

If the product not sticky at all then you shouldn’t be focusing on acquiring new users, you should be spending time with individuals one on one, observing how they use the product, and asking them what they’re enjoying and not enjoying.

You’ll most likely find a lot of optimizations in areas like the onboarding process.

If the product is good, users will tell other people about it. Good products generally grow a little bit on their own, they just don’t grow as fast as they could.

If getting exposure for the product is really the problem then you have to get creative. For example, who are your ideal users? What is your user avatar? Once you know that, then it’s much easier to think about how to get in front of them.

There are plenty of ways to hustle and grow when you’re small.

  • Print out flyers
  • Go to events and tell other people about “this amazing product” they have to try that you’re addicted to
  • Teach classes about the area and show off your product
  • Cross-promote with others

Growth Hacking Teams

It’s crucial for growth hacking teams to be composed of creatives and technical members to take advantage of different ways of generating and testing ideas. One person will not be able to come up with all the optimal solutions.

The problem with taking a purely analytical approach is that you will tend to identify smaller optimizations rather than take big creative leaps that can be huge steps forward.

Mattan’s favorite example is an Upworthy headline where using the word “Wondtastic”instead of “Wonderful” got them a 50% increase in clicks.

Mattan envisions a future in which companies use the Lean Marketing Framework as a way to structure teams internally. Activation teams or Retention teams will consist of people from across an entire organization including marketers, engineers, operations, product, etc. That way you have a diverse set of people all aligned towards finding solutions for a common goal.

Growth Culture

A growth culture has a few characteristics:

  1. Experimentation –  a culture in which experimentation is encouraged. People at all levels of the company are encouraged to come up with ideas of things to test. Their ideas aren’t shot down as being “stupid” or “wrong”, and one where victories are celebrated while failures should be seen as a learning opportunity as well. Create a culture where learning is prioritized.
  2. Transparency and data accessibility – have the tools to make data really transparent. That means being able to measure exactly what’s going on. Create a feeling that the results of your experiments are being measured.
  3. Empowerment – Everyone needs to be able to contribute ideas. One person won’t have all the answers and won’t come up with all the ideas.

Mobile Growth Hacking

Mobile can be harder because developing on mobile can be kind of a walled garden. Iteration is much slower, you’re limited in the kind of testing you can do, and you can’t get as much data.

Underrated Growth Tactics

Retargeting paid ads is probably the easiest one that not many companies are implementing. Check out Adroll or A Perfect Audience.

Very few companies use paid advertising as research tools. A lot of really useful insights can be gained by testing out the copy of ads as well as the target demographics.

Where Does Growth Hacking Not Work?

Growth hacking techniques could be applied to all sorts of businesses and areas such as personal branding, selling books, starting movements and even revolutions.

However it doesn’t solve problems around product/market fit. Customer and product development should solve these problems.


Mattan is not a fan of Google Analytics because of lack of support and it emphasizes page views. He prefers event-based analytics such as Mixpanel or KISSmetrics. He also likes Segment.io, which lets you forward your data to a whole bunch of different analytics tools and options.

The Growth Hacking Deck

This is the exact deck that Mattan used when teaching in person classes on growth hacking.

Mostly it was a way to get more clients for GrowHack and as a hack to force him to sharpen his skills and synthesize all the things he had read and practiced.

He puts all the words to his presentations on the slides themselves as a teaching hack. That way he doesn’t have to memorize what he’s going to say.

A cool side effect of this is that he can post the slides from his class online.

He did the same with my How to Teach Yourself to Code class and Building Great Presentations.

One Month Growth Hacking Course

The growth hacking course really is built for people who are new to growth hacking – people who have products or even product ideas but aren’t even sure where to start getting new users.

It’s for those who want to construct a growth plan for their startup and set up the tools from start to finish.

The course covers:

  • Building a landing page, copywriting & positioning, landing page optimization, setting up a/b tests.
  • Implementing analytics/tracking code and tools (Mixpanel and Segment.io), UTM and link tracking codes, segmentation reports, funnels.
  • Creating mailing lists, setting up a drip campaign (10 day vs 30 day with examples), creating incentive structures and optimizing call to actions.
  • Acquisition strategies, paid ads and tools, organic content strategy, seo, pr hacking.
  • Referral and virality quick wins.
  • Onboarding. Measuring retention and retention growth hacks. And finally a few quick revenue things.

Singularity University

A lot of really bright teams and people that had identified problems to solve and had really good solutions, but weren’t always equipped with the tools to build those solutions.

Mattan taught rapid prototyping using coding frameworks like Ruby on Rails and getting those solutions into the market quickly to validate the ideas, marketing, and the business models behind them.

The Meaning of Success

Mattan thinks that success is all open to interpretation. Sometimes we think of someone as successful because other people have told us that they are. Whether it’s money or fame or power, some of the most “successful” people are the least happy.

Being seen as successful is all about personal branding, which is just marketing at the end of the day. Everyone should teach classes because it’s a good way to build a brand and an audience.

General Advice To New Growth Hackers

Get good at learning new things. Recognize when you don’t know something and when learning will be useful. Give it a genuine effort in figuring stuff out. Find and learn from resources on the area and give it at least 3 attempts.

Other Takeaways

  • Keep learning
  • Email is king
  • Track the things you’re doing. Don’t be upset if your numbers suck. You’ll mess up a lot and that’s okay.
  • Don’t be afraid to piss off your users. Experimenting will almost necessarily do that. You have to be okay giving it all up to try something new. Otherwise you’ll slowly just run out of money trying to make everyone happy.
  • Growth Hacking Quick Wins
  • Places to Start Acquiring Users

Check the full AMA here.

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How Rich Schefren Speed Reads and Takes Notes

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If you need to research and retain information on a topic, check out Rich Schefren’s process on reading books and taking notes. It will blow your mind.

Here’s a summary of what he does:

  1. Gather several books covering the topic.
  2. Scan through the books relatively fast to get a very broad view of the topic.
  3. Take notes quickly to get an overview. Understand what the big points are that every book is going to talk about and what the more detailed points are that each book goes more in depth into that are important. By doing this you will be able to understand all the relationships involving the topic. When you’re ready to dive deeply into a book, you will be able to make those connections.
  4. Going deep into a  book, highlight all the important parts.
  5. Once you’re finished with the book, rip the cover off the book. Yes, if you’re a book lover you might cringe .
  6. Use a guillotine to cut the binding off.
  7. With the binding off, use a sheet-fed duplex color scanner to scan the pages of the book.
  8. Take all the highlighted material and record them into a word document. Since this is time consuming, this is delegated or outsourced.
  9. Export the document containing only the highlighted material to a PDF.
  10. Convert the PDF into an eReader format using calibre.
  11. Load the ebook into a speed reading app such as QuickReader.
  12. Speed read the ebook a few times at different speeds. Rich reads it at 2000, 3000, 4000, and then back to 2000 words per minute

In the future when you need to review a certain topic in order to achieve something, you can use the speed reading app to quickly refresh your mind on what strategies and actions you need to take.

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The Most Important Thing About Life According To Steve Jobs

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In the video below, Steve Jobs shares his thoughts on life and what the most important thing about life is.

So the thing I would say is when you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

But life, that’s a very limited life.

Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

And the minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it.

That’s maybe the most important thing.

It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways.

Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

So how are you going to make your mark in life?

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Google Analytics API Made Easy

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If you create weekly, monthly, and/or yearly reports using Google Analytics, you might have experienced some of these frustrations.

  • Sampled Data Reporting – For certain reports, particularly custom ones, you’re limited to a sample of up to 500,000 visits. From my personal experience I do not trust sampled reporting for its accuracy.
  • Not enough dimensions – Because of this, you might have to pull multiple reports in order to create the single report that you’re looking for.
  • Limitation of 5000 results – This is another inconvenience which may require you to download multiple reports. It also leads to the next frustration.
  • Slow interface / Crashing – Some of the reports you request for may take a really long time for the interface to load. Sometimes the requests just crash too.

An alternative approach to solve these issues is using the Google Analytics API. This might sound complicated, but fortunately, David Sottimano from Distilled has published an awesome blog post called “Google Analytics API made easy – Google docs Magic Tutorial

It’s a tutorial on how to use the Google Analytics Report Automation (Magic Script) to help automate reporting. For some of you, you might be able to save a day or week’s worth of time in minutes by leveraging this. For a great start, implement the first three steps below. Once you see the power and potential of this, take a deeper look by reviewing David’s post.

Step 1 – Installing the Google Analytics Magic Script and connect the Google Analytics API

Step 2 – Open Google Analytics Query Explorer and watch this video

Step 3 Get your data and understand the Google docs setup / output

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