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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, 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, 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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