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Interviewing Growth Hackers: David Arnoux

Growth Hacking

David Arnoux is a growth evangelist at Amsterdam growth hacking agency, Growth Tribe, and co-founder of collaboration platform, Twoodo.

He has been involved in growth hacking for almost as long as the industry has existed, having started his growth career at an e-commerce business in Paris. He took that site beyond 1m euros in turnover, and adopted the principles of lean marketing and and lean analytics to get there.

TL;DR: David makes six big points:

  • People think Growth Hacking is a magical power
  • Growth Hacking is a mix of creative marketing, experimentation/data, and programming/automation
  • Personality is important: you go against the assumptions of the highest paid person in the room
  • Growth Hacking is dissolving the wall between product and marketing
  • Automation is a way to double down on what works. Sometimes automating is just delegating to someone else
  • Growth Hacking is a team sport; the number of skills needed to growth hack is daunting

David Arnoux - Growth Hacker

Question: There’s a lot of talk about what Growth Hacking really is, how do you define it?

It’s always the first problem as people read a lot of different articles about it. It’s evolving over time, since Sean Ellis coined the phrase back in 2010.

To me growth hacking is a mix of:

  1. Creative marketing, this notion of David vs Goliath and thinking subversively to win.
  2. Then you mix that with experimentation and data, so a very strong reliance on both hard and soft data, and having a scientific, experimental approach to marketing.
  3. The third part is programming and automation; using development code to enhance marketing but also to automate things.

It’s software that eats marketing, sales and support.

The best growth hackers are ushering in a new movement of data and code based marketing, and we’re slowly dissolving the wall between product and marketing. That combination of product development and marketing is now what we call growth hacking.

Is the automation side of growth marketing brought in at the start of an experiment, or after you’ve seen data?

We usually do things by hand when experimenting but when we start to get a really strong signal that it’s working then we go in to automation. What’s great now versus four years ago is that you have a lot of automation tools that are available off the shelf.

Sometimes you can half-automate something with an off-the-shelf tool, then once you’ve tested using this you can build more personalised, customised tools that can meet your specific technical requirements.

When we see that something works we try to automate it by coding, or if you can’t code it then we create playbooks and we build that into a process in the company. A good example of that is a company that has a content marketing strategy and they find that reaching out to influencers on Twitter is a great way of promoting certain types of content, then you can build scripts or tools that allow you to do this more rapidly.

I love the use of automation in growth hacking, so you have a group of people who are constantly experimenting, but that resource isn’t diminished over time as you use automation to take on older tasks, and free up time for new ones.

We sometimes keep some of the tasks within the growth teams, but we improve on them. Brian Balfour says you should double down on what works. Eric Reis says, find what works, double down on what works and what doesn’t work, just kill it. Automation is a way to double down on what works.

The goal of a lean startup is to move through the build-measure-learn feedback loop as quickly as possible. Eric Ries

About this growth hacking thing, this whole term – it’s not just about people within the marketing and product areas, it’s really important for people on the outside to understand that the nature of marketing has completely changed.

You have these two words: “growth” is not just about attracting users it can also be about retention, how to grow a product and grow a business. And then you have “hack” which is either thinking subversively, or also coding.

I know a lot of people don’t like the term growth hacking, they say it’s the same wine in a different bottle, but it’s important to have a different bottle right now. When you’re talking to corporates, they have to understand that they’ll be entering a much more different environment than five years ago.

Are you tired of the term Growth Hacking?

I think it’s a great term. We ran a load of ads for one of our courses and we experimented with Growth Hacking vs Performance Marketing vs Growth Marketing. We get a lot more click-throughs and signups for the term Growth Hacking. In a way, the term Growth Hacking is a psychological growth hack.

The only problem that I find with the term is that it doesn’t manage expectations well, people think it’s a magical power.

You started out as a business developer, is there anything in BD that you’d take forwards to growth hacking.

The main one is that when you’re in BD you just want to get things done. No excuses, make as many phone calls as possible and get as many leads. Back in the day I had to do a lot of lead generation so I had to create a few techniques to do this. When you’re in sales you have to find these techniques to get through to people.

It showed me the power of being able to automate things, if you can automate the lead generation process to make it smoother or faster then you gain so many hours.

Sometimes automating is just delegating to someone else, and I used virtual assistants to do the manual work. Tools like Upwork, Mechanical Turk and Fiverr.com.

Back in the day I was looking for procurement directors, it was quite hard to find their email addresses and it would take twenty minutes per email, so I found this virtual assistant and he was specialised in finding email addresses of people and he was much cheaper so there was a better opportunity cost, and he was able to do it much faster.

If you could go back to your first year of growth hacking, what would you have done differently.

Maybe I would have learnt Python more, it’s something that you really need to deep dive into. Now there’s too many other languages that I need to learn and I’m in a position where I can delegate tasks, so I’d liked to have deep dived into that earlier. I used to be a performance marketer, and in a way I was growth hacking. I wish I’d known about the lean methodology sooner too.

David Arnoux speaking at OSCON

How easy is it to become a great Growth Hacker?

We’re building a growth hacking academy, and we see such a huge pain for high growth startups and corporates for technical marketeers that they are begging to be able to get growth hackers. We partner with a university so we take people with the hard skills to teach them the growth hacking process and mindset.

We think it’s a lot easier to teach a developer to market, than a marketer to become a coder. We got so many applications from people who have full time jobs, and who also want to upskill.

It’s really difficult to find people who can code, who understand marketing and who have customer empathy, but who also understand UX and who can be convincing, with a strong personality.

Is personality important in a growth hacker?

It’s super important. You have to go against the assumptions of the highest paid person in the room all the time. We say that data levels all arguments, but you have to be able to communicate that data as well.

You see a lot of companies that are going through a digital transformation but who are not data driven, they’re CEO or gut driven, and it’s not enough to show the CEO the data. You also have to convince them so a strong personality is extremely important. A lot of the time you are testing the CEO’s gut feeling, and you have to have the strength of personality to say “you’re wrong about your assumption.”

What software and processes do you use?

The process we have is based around the lean startup so trying to create as many MVP experiments as possible. We have this backlog of experiments that we put through a prioritisation framework, once we know which ones we want to launch then we just get it done, then we analyse with hard and soft data. Then we continue with the brainstorm, design experiment, execute experiment loop process.

There is no tool for that specific process that I prefer, you can use Sean Ellis’ Projects tool which I’ve heard really good things about, or you can use a spreadsheet or Trello. That’s going to take you through the prioritisation, design, execution phase, analysis phase and learning phase.

On a day to day basis I use a hundred tools; there are so many tools out there:

  • I’m a big MixPanel freak, I use that every day, and of course Google Analytics which is a lot more powerful than people think but it can be a little bit overwhelming.
  • I’m a massive fan of Intercom, I’m actually wearing one of their t-shirts right now, it’s an amazing events space messaging. The drip campaigns you can create on Intercom are great, and the UI is so cool that you can delegate the tasks.
  • I’m also a huge fan of emailhunter.co which is a cool tool to guess peoples’ email addresses, and use Connectifier with that.
  • I also love Facebook and Twitter’s custom audiences.
  • We use Import.io on a weekly basis for scraping.
  • We use Buffer every single day, but we also use MeetEdgar to keep a backlog of every single tweet, message and post so you can re-use them.
  • I also use SumoMe, we use all their lead generation tools.
    The Welcome Mat and List Builder are really powerful. We use it right now on our academy page, and we get around 20% of people who leave their email address. They might not want to buy something right now, but if we keep on sending them good, relevant information over the next six months then they might.
  • Quora is incredible for finding B2B leads, and I’m also a fan of LinkedIn.

What other Growth Hacking communities are you into?

Slack channels. There’s a bunch of growth hacking slack channels and content marketing slack channels. You have direct access to amazing people at the click of a button. It’s a lot harder on Reddit and on websites to connect with people.

In Growth Hacking we talk about OPN (Other Peoples Network) so where your target audiences are hanging out on other people’s platforms, and how you can leverage these audiences. Sometimes it’s platforms that are never going to take off, but at the start they get a huge buzz and your target audience is hanging out on them. Slack is a big one for tackling this.

Do you see every business having a growth hacker?

Growth Hacking is a team sport, and it’s really hard to find that team. If you look at the number of skills needed to growth hack it’s daunting. You have statistics, programming, conversion rate optimisation, UX, UI, psychology, copywriting, funnel marketing and database querying. It shouldn’t be one person, it should be a growth team.

Most dev teams focus on functional features that focus on the needs of current customers. Developers should be integrated into the acquisition, onboard and retention teams, so you’ll remove the silo between dev, sales support and marketing, but have one interdisciplinary team within the company. 50% of the dev capacity of the company will be focused on acquisition and retention.

The growth hacking academy has this directly integrated. We take three people from three different backgrounds: data scientist, coder/designer and marketing person and we put them into a company. This is a big test for the company as they’re not aligned with lean startups and working this way. You still see silo’s between dev and marketing in smaller scale startups.

I’d like to recommend Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Ben Yoskovitz: Lean Analytics book

Also, come check out The Growth Hacking Academy. If people are in Europe we have our first course in November, then a second cohort in 2016.

Thanks to David for sharing his knowledge. You can follow David on Twitter, @darnocks