Our growth process is and always will be a work in progress. Almost every week, I think of ways to make it leaner, more efficient and more scalable.
Projects and Experiments
I’ve touched upon the difference between projects and experiments before. It is an important distinction that we make. Many companies have growth processes that revolve entirely around experimentation, meaning that larger projects are often coordinated separately, if not neglected.
Experimentation is a key part of our mindset. We believe that testing new things and validating our assumptions in the leanest possible way is vital for growing fast. However, not everything can or should be treated as an experiment. Sometimes you need to distinguish between an experiment (something new that you want to test in a controlled environment with clear hypotheses, deadlines and goals) and a project (something larger that either has been validated and now needs scaling or is simply a must-have).
Examples of experiments at Recruitee would include conversion tests, new acquisition channels or new email formats. Projects on the other hand could include anything from marketing playbooks to website content updates to an in-app referral marketing setup, to content guidelines, to on-site SEO.
Projects are usually based on already-validated assumptions and take longer to implement. They usually require more resources and do not involve the hypotheses and success-standards that experiments do. They are also often ongoing and in constant need for iteration (e.g. Google Adwords campaigns, website content updates). Most of the time, successful experiments are scaled into projects.
Whilst some companies will treat projects separately from the experimental growth process, we believe that both projects and experiments carry equal value and will often be intertwined; we have therefore developed a process whereby both are coordinated in the same way, at the same time.
An example of an experiment-turned-project would be Recruitee’s MidWeekRead. The MidWeekRead is a weekly newsletter we send to all our users and followers. Initially, the MidWeekRead was a simple experiment. My assumption was that we needed to create a regular communication that was easy-to-digest and super relevant to both current users and non-users (aka leads). We came up with a bullet-point format that combines company updates with genuine value including useful interview questions, inspirational quotes and trending articles. The first few tests resulted in open rates of 28-32% on a list with tens of thousands of contacts.
I’ve written about our ‘extreme ownership’ approach before and how it can provide freedom, flexibility and results. The ability to take ownership is one of the most important skills I look for when hiring for the growth team. No matter how junior or senior you are, you need to be able to take initiative and responsibility.
Every experiment or project we develop is assigned an owner. The owner is usually the person most suited (and available) for taking over the experiment or project and is completely in charge of how it gets executed. For example, most of our design-related experiments are owned by our designer.
Ownership within the growth process means that you are in charge of getting it done, from the process, to the delegation, to the goals, to the deadlines, to the results. The idea of ownership is also that owners get to choose how an experiment or project is executed. Obviously, there are still feedback loops to ensure that everyone is aligned and following any guidelines and best practices that are relevant.
Ownership is vital because it allows everyone to work in a way that they feel comfortable. It gives the whole team trust, creative freedom and the chance to prove themselves and share new ways of doing things with the rest of the team. Most importantly, extreme ownership makes it possible for us to stay on top of all the different experiments ands projects that we run. It isn’t productive to have one person who is constantly chasing after others to make sure deadlines are met.
I spent a long time trying to figure out what tool to use to organize the entire growth process. We started out with Trello as a temporary solution, but it simply wasn’t cut our for coordinating such a diverse range of projects and experiments. Design projects obviously have very different requirements from acquisition channel experiments.
After trying a number of different tools, we settled on Asana. Even though there are tools specifically made for growth and marketing experimentation, I feel that nothing covers the bases and allows as much flexibility as Asana.
Within Asana, we have a ‘Growth Team’ within which there are 3 board: Lead Generation & Branding, Product Growth and Product Marketing. Given that our developers also work on Asana, we can easily share projects and tasks and cooperate seamlessly between each others’ workflows.
All 3 boards are organised a little bit differently due to our company and team set up. Product Growth is coordinated closely with the product team and follows a similar flow to that of our developers. Product marketing is coordinate by our product marketing manager and is coordinate on a feature-by-feature basis due to the fact that product marketing revolves so strongly around process, communications and long and constantly ongoing as well as longer-term projects.
The Lead Generation & Branding board is the one that is most closely associated with our agile growth process. The board follows a kanban design and is split into ‘Idea Backlog’, ‘Doing’, ‘Review’, ‘Done’, ‘Always Ongoing’, ‘Scaled’, ‘On Hold’ and ‘Failed’. Every project and experiment is added as a ticket, tagged accordingly and assigned an owner before adding followers, a detailed description, deadline and tasks.
Asana has proven the best way for us to organise our process and communicate effectively. The ability to assign individual tasks and followers allows us to loop in relevant people on a case-by-case basis, such as our data privacy officer.
One the best things about Asana is that you can make different projects and experiments depend on one another, which helps automate deadlines and progress tracking.
We try to avoid unnecessary meetings as much as possible. Everything in the growth process is coordinated through bi-weekly growth sprints that last about 2 hours.
Before every growth sprint, everyone on the growth team needs to plan an update on all projects and experiments that they own. They also need to list any new ideas that they have to be added to the growth board.
Growth sprints begin with a general update on marketing and growth performance and OKR progress, followed by individual updates by the team. The owners of various projects and experiments then layout their progress and blockers and delegate any tasks and resources needed to move forward.
At the end of the updates, we discuss and prioritize all new project and experiment ideas, add them to the board, assign owners and list the tasks and deadlines.
Developing a scalable process for growth is a challenge and there will always be room for improvement. The key is to always work closely as a team, define the biggest challenges and figure out the most scalable ways to build upon the process.