Growth Hacking Tales...
Growth Hacking Tales
- gro.team growth hacking tales Rorie Devine September 2018
- ★ what is growth hacking? ★ a measure-act-measure approach to growth sprints ★ the art of growth hacking ★ the growth hacking holy trinity ★ the growth hacking funnel ★ questions ★ appendices ★ interim.team search terms on Google.co.uk July 2017
- what is growth hacking? growth hacking is picking one (and only one) growth metric (visitors, registrations, check outs, downloads…whatever) and doing anything and everything possible TOF (top of funnel) to BOF (bottom of funnel) to grow it… a growth hack is something that delivers growth but is cheap, can be edgy, and ideally is quick… (Sean Ellis – IPO’d LogMeIn and Uproar.com and first marketer at DropBox coined the phrase Growth Hacking in 2010 and it really started to get traction in 2012)
- online gaming users +1,000% an online gaming company decided to force players to share the game at least once to get to the next level…
- interim.team’s measure-act-measure approach to growth sprints parking lot on-ramp in progress complete live ideas needing more thought or the timing isn’t quite right ideas that need some initial input or an owner ideas with an owner that are being worked on ideas that are ready to implement ideas that have been implemented blockers ideas being worked on that cannot continue until a problem or dependency is resolved ideas
- online gambling revenue +30% one company had a very comprehensive but complicated navigation structure to get to the particular thing the users were interested in one of the the team had the idea of putting a search box on the home page
- the art of growth hacking is…targeting ←→ relevance… the reason that growth hacking can be so much more effective than “traditional” marketing is that it focuses on putting interesting/useful things in front of very carefully targeted audiences.. growth hacking is to put the right things in front of the right people at the right time to deliver GROWTH
- e-commerce company revenue +27% an e-commerce company “accidentally” put the “buy now” button right in the middle of the head of the brand’s animal character logo a lot of people complained that it looked stupid…
- the growth hacking holy trinity referral “free” traffic content relevance & targeting Know Your Customer
- affiliate company traffic +200% an affiliate company noticed that its’ competitors weren’t targeting year e.g. “2017 best chromebooks” so it kicked off an SEO campaign doing just that…
- Inbound TOF activities such as competitions, email, social media, content, SEO, referral schemes, paid advertising, white papers, free trials… Success! Conversion MOF activities such as minimising friction, guarantees, testimonials, stating benefits, one time offers, forced virality, layout… the growth hacking funnel If you can’t Measure it you can’t Move it…
- listings publisher traffic >100% a listings publisher realised that it already had a lot of content that could be targeted at high search frequency terms (such as “ gay”) so it reorganised and regrouped its content…
- interim.team thank you and questions? firstname.lastname@example.org 0800 246 5735
- content company revenue +100% an organisation had a large loyal following for its unique content but not enough ways to monetise it. After much debate it ignored the “prophecies of doom” and enforced post home page registration/sign in. On “lock down” day there was a lot of criticism on social media and a 3% drop-off of usage. On day two usage returned to normal and the company had started building an email address database of 18-35 year old men that has ultimately become its most valuable asset…
- online company revenue +30-40% a niche provider was disrupting its industry and growing nicely but noticed a lot of its customers were also using the providers of the “traditional” services within its industry as well. After much soul searching it decided to also provide services very much like the traditional ones in its industry but with twists that made them much more consistent with its disruptive brand values. It didn’t alienate its core customers and by delivering a broader portfolio of products it lifted its growth to the 30-40% per anum range…
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Agility Where Your Organisations Need It Most...
Everyone’s doing it, trying it, or talking about it. No longer just the preserve of software development teams, ‘Agile’ is becoming more pervasive in all parts, and at all levels of many organisations.
So where and when is agility most important in an organization, and which tool to use?
During a Major Incident, the importance and urgency of effective decision making rapidly increases.
You may quickly enter uncharted territory; have to interpret incoming data from many sources; work across functions in hastily assembled teams and quickly make decisions that will save your organization from impending disaster.
I think it’s during a Major Incident, when your organization faces the greatest immediate danger, that it needs to be able to demonstrate the greatest levels of agility.
A Major Incident may start off as a single ticket being raised, and investigated by one or two people in your immediate team. Small, contained, it is easily managed.
As the impact of the issue becomes more apparent, the complexity can quickly rise.
You may need to arrange internal and external comms, to a range of stakeholders, via multiple channels such as email, social media, corporate web sites, customer contact centers, and helpdesks to name a few.
you need to get on and actually fix the problem and return the service to normal as soon as possible.
Pulling in expertise from different parts of the business to try to identify the root cause, put a work around in place and start working on a fix, and deal with any potential impact of the original incident.
As the team swells with members drafted in from across the business it becomes harder to keep everyone on the same page, interpret all the different incoming sources of information, agree a plan, make effective decisions and provide consistent messaging to all those stakeholders.
As your rapidly growing team assembles there is little time for the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing cycle to play itself out. You need to perform now!
In this situation, the Kanban Board is my agile tool of choice. A Kanban board can easily be created on the nearest white board or on a wall with the help of a few Post-It Notes (other sticky notes available).
In its most simple form, you pull tasks from left to right through three stages, from ‘To Do’, into ‘In Progress’, into ‘Done’. You can then add horizontal ‘Swim Lanes’ that map to different parallel streams of activity.
The board quickly fills up with a back log of tasks, showing what has been prioritized and what has been accomplished across the different streams of activity. One benefit of Kanban is that it allows you to add and ‘pull through’ a new task at any time.
This allows you to inject new work and re-prioritize tasks as the situation evolves. By creating your Kanban board in a newly requisitioned war room it quickly becomes a center of focus, something for team members to gather round to share updates with the rest of the team working on the Major Incident.
It’s also great for showing nervous stakeholders outside of the team what is being worked on, and what has already been achieved.
The Kanban board can provide a structure for update meetings, allowing the newly formed team to quickly establish a rhythm, saving valuable time. You may have input from technology, infosec, external comms, customer contact centers and content teams.
With all these people in the room, it helps to maintain the focus of the meeting. By allowing each stream lead a turn to talk through their cards on the board, giving updates on items that were ‘In Progress’, moving them to ‘Done’ if complete, calling out the items that have moved from ‘ToDo’ to ‘In Progress’ and capturing additional tasks and adding them to the board as the other teams provide their updates.
Based on the updates provided and the tasks to be worked on you can then agree when it makes sense to meet again as a group for the next status update. In between status updates, team members can pop into the war room and update their part of the board or look at the progress of the other streams tickets as they move across the board. You may continue to have status updates for a few hours, a day or a week.
It just depends on how serious the incident was but if you’re carrying out the role of Major Incident Manager at the first sign of trouble, get a war room, assemble your team, throw up a Kanban board, clear your diary, start collaborating and go agile…
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Digital transformation deserves better than a buzzword and a marketing concept...
It is often associated with long, expensive and hazardous projects led by big consultancy firms, as well as expensive and (vastly) under-utilised technology. It should not be so.
I have helped deliver digital transformations fast and with a limited cost. I am pleased to share practical tips from 10 years hands-on experience with international companies, so that your company too can thrive in the digital world.
Tip #1: understanding the digital ethos
The irony in the digital world is that we, people, live and breathe digital in our everyday lives, when we shop online, exchange with friends and family on Facebook, check in on our smartphones, pay our taxes online… However, understanding the implications of how companies can grow in our everyday digital reality is clearly a different challenge when we put our corporate hat on.
The digital ethos is about:
nurturing your customers’ satisfaction, by delivering a seamless experience and active communication with them.
executing flawlessly on your brand promises.
The digital ethos is also about constant improvement, learning and outward looking, to keep up with a fast changing market.
Tip #2: digital transformation is all about the customer
I disagree with the idea that loyalty has gone.
Indeed the success of the GAFA is a story of strong loyalty driven by remarkable products:
Google as a search engine dominates as it is simply the most relevant and constantly tests and invests to stay so.
Amazon got me in because of their wide inventory, perfect delivery and impressive customer service.
Customers are loyal to those companies because they trust them. The improvements brought by those companies are based on a systematic test and learn approach, which is a form of automatic listening to the customers even without them noticing.
The market research I did for my customers consistently showed me that branded terms drive a clear majority of the search traffic in most verticals. Customers care very much about Brands, and traditional advertising (TV, radio…) is still very powerful.
However, to be relevant, Brands have to ensure that they keep their customers satisfied, by addressing any pain points, poor execution or bad customer service experience.
The customer feedback is also a priceless opportunity to improve their offering and innovate relevantly: the customer is the real asset for most Brands, shame that so few companies have customer KPIs in their CEO scorecard or annual report.
Tip #3: digital transformation is all about the staff
Can you name a great Brand with poor staff morale? You cannot sustain a successful business if you don’t build a strong team who feel proud of their company, are strong advocates, and are ready to work beyond 9 to 5 on projects which they are excited about. Your staff also need to be genuine customers of the company (don’t force them), providing them with this healthy external view of their own company.
It is also a great time to fully recognise the value of the operation and customer service staff:
they are the face of the company and have a decisive influence on the customer perception.
they are the eyes and ears of the company and can provide some essential feedback.
The operation staff understand the details of how the products and services are delivered and will have a critical input in opportunities to improve the service more relevantly than any external organisation consultancy firm. They need to be nurtured and engaged.
The staff culture will bring you the digital ethos. You might still need to complement your core team with digital talent, or coach your team how to do digital by bringing interim staff to develop the process and transfer the skills.
Tip #4: a digital transformation is data driven
Every sperm is sacred laughed Monty Python.
In digital, so is every interaction and every item of spend as they form the basis of actionable insights to make better decisions across the company: how can we drive retention, how can we increase satisfaction, where can we invest profitably, which are the pain points we need to address, where should we focus our attention?
The issue is that before you know it, you can be drowning in data. This is one of the biggest challenge companies face: how to effectively “gold pan” your digital data? To solve it, you need to combine 3 skills which don’t come together often:
business acumen (you need to understand what the business is about as well the economics of revenues and costs by product, customer and channel).
digital proficiency (understand the digital levers and prioritise them based on the former).
data wizardry (how to quickly and then consistently provide the right information to execute the key processes).
This is very much my speciality, passion and business; and I am really proud to have seen businesses do a fast turn again whilst cutting on their marketing addictions, by focusing on those areas that mattered.
Tip #5: a digital transformation is all about the culture
Combine the previous tips, and you start getting the picture of what a digitally transformed company looks like. They are:
customer-centric as opposed to inward looking.
fact based rather than opinion based (let alone hipo Highest Income Person Opinion based).
information is shared and connected rather than standing in silos.
they favour collective intelligence rather than ego.
It is a strong team culture where the energy is focused on collectively beating the outside competition.
Tip #6: it starts from the top
The digital transformation needs to touch all the parts of the organisation, cut across silos and foster a sharing culture. It cannot just happen or be contained to a specific team or department.
No digital transformation can happen unless they are sponsored by the CEO, and the C suite embraces the digital ethos: the C suite creates the cohesion by setting a compelling vision, and embodies the company values by leading by example.
Tip #7: it is not about technology, even less about money
Obviously, having modern tools such as analytics, CRM tools, ability to gather customer feedback and act on it, investing effectively in marketing is important, and technology can support companies execution very effectively.
However, none of the internet stars was ever created by hiring hundreds of big 6 consultants, or splashing money on expensive technology: digital transformation projects relying on technological promises will fail more often than not.
The focus on technology misses the digital ethos and culture dimension, they move the focus away from daily execution and absorb precious management and staff bandwidth: very often, process improvement generates better benefits than new developments.
Technology led projects also pay themselves by reducing staff, sometimes at the detriment of customer service or operational excellence.
Money is even more questionable as the technology is increasingly cheap as it evolves very fast: investing a lot in a tool which can be obsolete by the time it is implemented is not always very effective.
Tip #8: there is no silver bullet
Companies are bombarded by the latest tool which can turn around the business in the blink of an eye: I have got news for you, there is no magic wand or silver bullet.
You as management of the business and only you own the future success of the company, by proper planning and mobilising your workforce. We can help you there, using simple but effective audit and planning methods to identify your key areas of focus, and developing effective plans and processes accordingly.
This is really my business: help businesses see the wood for the tree, and bring people together around a compelling project. More Dumbledore than Harry Potter, really.
Tip #9: you need to focus on what you are best at, and work with trusted partners
There are very few pure digital or technological companies. Whether you are a travel agent, an airline, a retailer or a law firm, your company has a clear product and services proposition, and customers will keep on working with you based on the quality and consistency of those products and services, and how well you treat them. Period.
In a fast changing and highly technical data and digital world, it is hard to hire and retain individuals and build strong teams from scratch. Competition is high, and you also need to give their fair share of daily challenge to individual who are motivated by problem solving.
It is also very difficult to build a pragmatic but effective digital architecture to support your business. The good news is that we can help you on both aspects, recommending and implementing simple, effective tools which will not break the bank but deliver high value. We also train your people to look at the data they need to constantly improve the company performance.
Tip #10: it is beautifully simple
You just realise that digital transformation is a new name for business re-engineering, or no more than a reformulation on how best to create a business for the long term.
It is about developing a compelling customer proposition, focusing on the execution and customer service, communicating effectively (Brand is really the formulation of the company proposition), underpinned by a great company culture based on facts, trust and accountability.
Having done this a few times now for small, medium and big companies, I will be delighted to help your business thrive.
I cannot recommend enough the read of the attached article: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/the-ten-deadly-mistakes-of-wanna-dots. What is still baffling me is how fresh and accurate it is despite dating back to … 2001, yes, that’s right, 16 years ago and counting.
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Growth Hacking Wiki
“Strive not to be a success but rather to be of value” – Albert Einstein
Good News – After reading this wiki you’ll know what Growth Hacking is.
Bad News – You’ll realise that some of the core approaches are not all that new.
What Is Growth Hacking?
Growth Hacking Might Be Defined As
“Hacking social media, SEO, incentives, product features, traditional marketing techniques and anything and everything as part of a singular focus on Growth.”
growth hacking is picking one (and only one) growth metric (visitors, registrations, check outs, downloads…whatever) and doing anything and everything possible TOF (top of funnel) to BOF (bottom of funnel) to grow it.
A Growth Hack Might Be Defined As
A growth hack is something that delivers growth but is cheap, can be edgy, and ideally is quick…
Real World Example…an online gaming company decided to force players to share the game at least once to get to the next level…users increased by 1,000%
Where Did Growth Hacking Come From?
Sean Ellis (IPO’d LogMeIn and Uproar.com, first marketer at DropBox) coined the phrase Growth Hacking in 2010 and it really started to get traction in 2012.
What Does Growth Hacking Mean?
To Growth Hack is attack Growth in a x-functional way using skills traditionally found in Marketing, Sales, Product, Digital/Online, Technology and so on…
To Growth Hack is to address the whole customer lifecycle from Top Of Funnel to successful Conversion.
The Growth Hacking Funnel
Inbound TOF activities such as competitions, email, social media, content, SEO, referral schemes, paid advertising, white papers, free trials…
Conversion MOF activities such as minimising friction, guarantees, testimonials, stating benefits, one time offers, forced virality, layout…
The Growth Hacking Triangle
The x-functional and edgy nature of Growth Hacking means it might not be usable by everyone but it can deliver spectacular results and change business trajectories…
But…Growth Hacking is a hungry beast – it devours content…
…an online Gambling company had a very comprehensive but complicated navigation structure to get to the particular thing the users were interested in. One of the team had the idea of putting a search box on the home page…revenue increased by 30%
Top Tip – At the time of writing https://gro.team are Google UK #1 #2 #3 #4 for “Interim Growth Hacker” and have Growth Hacked successfully for a number of organisations…
The art of growth hacking is…targeting ←→ relevance…
The reason that growth hacking can be so much more effective than “traditional” marketing is that it focuses on putting interesting/useful things in front of very carefully targeted audiences..
Growth hacking is to put the right things in front of the right people at the right time to deliver GROWTH
More Good News
All we need to do is put something interesting/useful in front of potential customers.
How hard can that be right?
All we need to do is Target –> Influence –> Interact –> Convert.
B2B growth hacking is hard. Really hard. There is probably a relatively small number of people you need to talk to in a B2B marketing context and they are probably difficult to reach. In B2C growth hacking the addressable market may be millions or even billions of people. In B2B growth hacking we may be targeting only thousands or tens of thousands of people. To reach them we’re going to need to use laser guided bombs rather than the blanket bombing approach typically applied in B2C growth hacking. A lot of the “go to” approaches in B2C growth hacking (such as competitions/referral programs) don’t work so well in a B2B context when people are normally procuring on behalf of their organisation.
Definition – We’re mostly going to be talking about what is now called “Inbound Marketing” in this wiki. In inbound marketing we “earn” a potential customer’s interest by demonstrating that we have something interesting/useful to them. This is opposed to old-style Outbound Marketing that involved a one way push to an untargeted audience.
Top Tip – Don’t be afraid to challenge any orthodoxies and try things that may not be “fashionable”.
For instance – As the number of advertisers in Yellow Pages style directories is falling the value delivered to remaining advertisers is going up and up. Good ROIs (Return On Investments) are possible if your target demographic includes people over 50 in particular.
…an e-commerce company “accidentally” put the “buy now” button right in the middle of the head of the brand’s animal character logo…a lot of people complained that it looked stupid…revenue increased by 27%
Before We Start
Design your product/service
In an ideal world we would start with clearly identified customers and needs and then design the product/service to get product-market fit and an optimum growth hacking strategy. We can then think about optimum SEO/content/URL/referral approach before we build anything but in the real world we tend to get called (0800 246 5735) after the MVP has been built and customers are needed – now!
OK so you have a B2B product/service you need to growth hack and you know who your target customers are so let’s do the first things first…
What you’ll need
A responsive HTML5 web site that can be edited/changed as we test and learn. (Responsive is another way of saying that it works well on a mobile phone). WordPress is a very fast and easy way of getting a professional looking responsive web site up and running quickly and cheaply. The WordPress CMS (Content Management System) makes it easy to create and manage content – which will be very important to us.
A Google account so we can use the Google suite of free tools like Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Adwords …
Google analytics installed on your web site (some people will say GA aggregates data too much but it’s free and we can work around its limitations).
A way of managing, sending and tracking professional looking emails. Tools like MailChimp are easy to use and effective.
What is the SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy? In other words what phrases typed into Google would we want to rank highly for? The Google KeyWord planner tool here is a great place to see what people are searching for (and how competitive those words are).
The content strategy. It has been the elephant in the room and now I’ve said it.
If traditional (“above the line”) marketing involves spending lots of money mostly talking to people that don’t want or need your service then growth hacking is much more targeted but there is no such thing as a free lunch and it needs content rather than money to fuel its engine. Growth hacking is a hungry beast – it devours content. Content can be anything from short blog posts to status updates on social media – but you will need a way of regularly producing relevant, interesting content. The more authentic the better.
Nice to have
Some kind of “freemium” proposition that means the product/service is free to start using with money changing hands when more customer benefit is taken.
The first thing you need to do is to decide who your potential customers are – and it’s not as easy as it sounds. gro.team will be working with a cool new start up called Workteam (who provide SaaS HR software that is actually really easy to use and is designed to improve employee engagement rather than irritate employees) so in a B2B growth hacking context who will be “target market”? CEOs/MDs? HR Directors? IT Directors? Employees? (It all comes down to who is accountable for the benefit the new product/service brings but more on that another time…)
OK so you have a B2B product/service you need to growth hack so let’s do the first things first…there are some things we need to know and some things we need to do…
B2B Growth Hacking Task List
What is your primary geography – The UK? USA? Needless to say this affects the growth hacking approach needed. Google is very dominant in the UK with an 86.94% market share according to statista.com but is much less dominant in the US with a market share of 63.6%.
What is your target company size – 1-10 employees? More than 1,000? Smaller companies tend to have low barriers to purchase but can be very price sensitive whereas big companies will have the resources but can be very difficult and bureaucratic to transact with given their approval cycles…
What is the target “subject area” if there is one? Google Analytics talks about in market segments like Travel/Hotels & Accommodations, Software/Business & Productivity Software, Employment/Career Consulting Services…
What is the target customer role? CEO? Head of? Manager of people? Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your B2B service will only be purchased top down. A lot of products/services can be adopted by teams/individuals bottom up.
What is the target customer persona? Is there a demographic that your typical customers fit given the nature of your product/service?
HTML5 responsive web site – we need landing pages and a funnel. Can be existing or new.
LinkedIn individual/company page – an effective LinkedIn presence is very important in a B2B context.
Facebook company page – depends a bit on target customer persona but Facebook can be an important weapon in our armoury.
Twitter page/account – should probably be part of the toolkit but results can be underwhelming.
Instagram/Pinterest account – nice to have and generally underused in B2B growth hacking.
Has a Google account been created?
Has the gro.team Growth Hacker been added to the account?
Has a goal been created? An alternative is to set up a funnel in Hotjar (see later).
What is the daily/weekly/monthly session and conversion baseline?
Visitor behaviour (usage heatmaps, session recording, conversion funnels)
Has an email list management list tool such as MailChimp been implemented?
Search Engine Optimisation
Ten’ish target keyword phrases to generate search engine traffic need to be selected.
Using the Google Keyword Planner or similar tool the optimum search phrases need to be selected.
2 – 4 word phrases will probably be optimum. Single words will be too generic and competitive.
Ideal phrases take the form <product/service key benefit> For example gro.team is working with Workteam which is SaaS software that helps companies and managers improve employee engagement. A good keyword target phrase for Workteam might be “increase employee engagement”.
Optimum keywords are the ones that deliver maximum traffic at minimum competition levels. The Google tool will tell you the average search volume and AdWords Cost Per Click bids which is a good proxy for how competitive the phrases are.
One of our other posts here shows you how to track your keyword positions for free (the best known web site charges $150/month).
A draft content creation and publishing plan needs to be created.
What kind of content will be created and what “voice” will it use?
Who/how will the “foundation” content be created?
Who/how will the “front of mind” content be created?
Dipping Our Toe in The Water
We are going to need three things to get going;
1. To have an optimised destination for our growth hacking traffic.
2. A blog.
3. An initial idea of who our target market might be…
Once we have those three things we can start to test and learn on how to communicate with our target market most effectively.
Top Tip – start small. We want to be as targeted as possible as we start to test and learn so we need to break our problem down into manageable chunks.
For example…when Workteam started rather than starting with “SaaS software to increase employee engagement” (which it is) it picked one element of its’ offering, which was managing employee time off, and started with that. It was a much more manageable problem.
Top Tip – a blog is very, very important. It will be a great place to publish interesting/useful content 2-3 times a week and you can easily add a plugin to capture and add email addresses to your email list.
For example…when gro.team started we used SumoMe to automatically capture and add email addresses to MailChimp on our blog . The Pro version of SumoMe (which is needed to integrate to MailChimp) isn’t cheap at $29/month and they will bill you a year in advance.
B2B Growth Hacking – Setting Up A Landing Page and Goal
We need a landing page on our web site optimised for the search engine phrases we have chosen to point our traffic at that has the tags for Google Analytics and ideally Hotjar installed so we can see what happens when they get there.
We also need to define a goal in one or both of those tools so we can measure success.
We will eventually need a page per phrase but one page across all the initial phrases will be good enough to get going.
Once we have these things in place we can start to post some content and start testing…
B2B Growth Hacking – Finding Your Target Market
If you don’t have have existing content then you will need to create a post that says something interesting/relevant/useful/funny around the “need” your product/service is designed to fill.
Top Tip – video is very effective content and using sites like GoAnimate they are much easier to create than you might think. Make the soundtrack first and re-record until you’ve nailed it in one take. Then put the animation to the words. It will take about a day per minute to create great videos like this one from Workteam.
Remember to have a call to action (“CTA”) on your content and link to your optimised landing page. Once you have your content post it from your company page on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Top Tip – publish your content as an article post on LinkedIn rather than sharing it as an update. It will appear in your connections’s notification feed and you will be able to access enhanced analytics about its’ reach.
Definition – Reach is usually defined as the total number of different people exposed, at least once, to a something (usually a piece of content) during a given campaign time period.
If you are starting from scratch you may need to spend £50-£100 on Facebook boosting your content to get enough reach. If so don’t target the audience – yet. Let’s start off with an unbiased sample.
Now we have content out there that should be relevant to our target market we can start to use the analytics capabilities in Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Analytics to learn about the reach and effectiveness of our content, and who and how people are responding to it.
Creating, Testing And Learning With Growth Sprints And Channels
What we need
At this stage your product/service needs to be in MVP form at least, a blog, an email management tool and you need to have set up the conversion goals (see above) so we can measure success.
Top Tip – if you are going to change any URLs or move to SSL (https:// …) do it all now before we start. We don’t want to change anything once we have started acquiring links back to your site (known as backlinks).
Before we start you need to decide, estimate or measure a few very important things;
Growth Metric – The first thing we need to do is to choose our Growth Metric. To Growth Hack is to have a pathological focus on one and only one thing and do anything and everything necessary to grow it. What is the one thing we want to grow? Something like revenue is too high level to accurately establish cause and effect as we measure-act-measure so things like landing page visitors, web page conversion, registrations, subscribers, check outs, and cart abandonment all work well as they are very important but focused enough for us to influence and measure accurately.
CLV – the customer life time value needs to be measured or estimated for your product/service. This sets the parameters of our growth hacking because the customer acquisition cost (CAC) needs to be lower than the CLV. (If CLV < CAC we aren’t growth hacking – we’re buying customers and that isn’t the road to business success…)
Top Tip – In simple terms CLV can be calculated as the monthly sum of all the revenue you expect a customer to give you x the number of months you expect to keep that customer. (Other less simple ways of calculating CLV are described here). For example – if the average customer will earn you $12 per month and you expect that customer to pay for your product/service for at least 18 months then your CLV is $12 x 18 = $216. If you have a “freemium” product/service then you will need to estimate the anticipated conversion rate from free to paid subscribers to calculate a CLV. If it is a new product/service then it is very much “finger in the air” at this stage but don’t worry – we have to start somewhere and you will be able to refine this number based on real data in the future.
CAC – the customer acquisition cost per channel is easier to measure as it is simply total cost of the customers acquired through a channel/number of customers acquired through that channel.
For example…if we acquired 200 customers through AdWords at a cost of $670 then our Adwords CAC is $3.35
Choosing your initial search keywords
If you are growth hacking an established product/service you can use Google’s Search Console to see what phrases are driving traffic to your site. See https://gro.team/how-to-track-google-search-engine-keyword-ranking-for-free/. If it is a new product/service you will need to use a paid for service like Google Adwords to test and learn.
The Google AdWords tool (here) will suggest 50-200 potential keywords for you. Filter out the ones that obviously aren’t relevant to create a starting search space.
For example…with “interim” as the seed word AdWords suggests 157 phrases. I would filter out phrases like “interim in English”, “interim pronunciation” and so on. The suggested bids range from $16.64/£14.20 for “interim finance” downwards (gulp).
Top Tip – the thing to bear in mind when choosing keywords is INTENT. You need words that imply that the person typing the words into the search engine has the need your produce/service meets. For example “buy umbrella” is much more interesting than “umbrella by Rhianna” if we sell umbrellas.
Search, Display and Paid Inclusion Advertising
There are lots of legitimate ways of paying for web traffic but they can be broadly classified as Search, Display and Paid Inclusion.
Search – paying to be displayed before and alongside the “natural” or “organic” search results on search engines. What makes it so important is that the people typing the phrases have intent. They want to read, find or do something. That is not necessarily the case with Display Advertising although it will be interesting to see if Facebook search ultimately becomes more like Google search…
Display – paying to be shown amongst other content on web sites, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or whatever. Not as valuable in growth hacking as Search advertising because people looking at what their friends are eating (or whatever) are much less likely to want to buy a product or service than people searching for something relevant to your product/service. What makes Display advertising very interesting though is just how hyper targeted it can be. You could literally target a single individual with Facebook advertising.
Top Tip – if you are producing video content don’t forget to include sub titles so people can “watch” the video with the sound turned down.
Paid Inclusion – paying to be included in a directory or some other content.
For example…when Workteam started one of the things they tried was being included in the software directory site Capterra (each click cost $2).
Setting Up Your Growth Hacking Channels
By now hopefully we have a landing page on our web site optimised for conversion, a blog, an email list management tool and a large collection of search engine phrases we might want to try. The tags for Google Analytics (and ideally something like Hotjar) are installed and success goals are set up so we can see what happens when people get to our site.
Top Tip – we should be aiming to convert more than 33% of the people we send to our optimised landing page. We’ll probably be nearer 10% at the beginning of our growth hacking journey though.
Sprints And Retrospectives
The optimum way to manage growth hacking is to choose a set of channels and test and learn on them during two week or monthly sprints. At the end of every sprint the performance of each channel needs to be reviewed in a whiteboard session known as a “retrospective”.
The number of customers acquired per channel and the CAC for that sprint needs to be compared with the other channels and LTV. Everyone in the team should be included in the retrospectives, growth is critical for any business and everybody in the team will be able to contribute insight and ideas.
During the retrospective you should look to increase spend in the successful channels, adjust or pause unsuccessful channels and launch new channels.
Top Tip – if you want to hit the ground running with email you could ‘seed’ your email list from your LinkedIn connections. In LinkedIn click on My Network –> Connections. Click on the Settings cog in the top right and you’ll see “Export LinkedIn Connections” in the top right. Don’t change the suggested Microsoft Outlook (.CSV file) format and you will have downloaded a file of email addresses you can easily upload into MailChimp or other email marketing platform. Getting an unsolicited email from you like this will irritate some people but as long as you allow people to unsubscribe easily then they will only ever receive one email. We generally see very low un-subscription rates as long as you don’t spam people and only send things of genuine interest or potential value.
A Starting Set of Growth Channels For Sprint #0
A good set of growth channels for Sprint #0 might be
Paid Inclusion e.g Capterra
Once we have started to get some learnings from Sprint 0 we can start to think about adding in other channels like SEO, guest blogging, referral and so on.
Top Tip – write your own Blog content. It should be an authentic communication channel for you to communicate things of interest/value to potential and current customers. If you need help with it make sure that the outcome is still very much communicating your ideas, thoughts and opinions in your voice.
Top Tip – wait until you have some real data before setting your SEO strategy. It will be one of the most important channels in the future but it takes a fair amount of work to make it effective and a bit of analysis before you start could save you a lot of time in the long run…
Ready to growth hack?
Need a hand? How much does interim growth hacking cost?
Not that much actually. It depends on what the singular growth target is but to double/treble traffic, sign ups, customers or whatever we would need to do a one-three day deep dive with you followed by a campaign execution phase of one-ten days a month until the target is reached. That normally takes 2-6 months depending on the start and end points.
We won’t take an engagement unless there is an #highROI up for grabs and you will end up “hugely up on the deal”…after all we really think that the more people we help become more successful the more successful we become…
If any of this is of any interest why not give us a shout on email@example.com or +44 (0) 800 246 5735 for a friendly informal chat about your growth hacking agency needs?
At the time of writing gro.team is #1,#2,#3 and #4 on Google UK for “interim growth hacker” and we have lots and lots of happy clients we can tell you about..
Ratna Chengappa, interim CFO, gro.team
Start-ups: 17 tips for starting out in 2018
It’s another new year already and this young century has already seen change like no other.
With so many leaders out there in social media and so many new enterprises to watch and learn from, you would think that an ideal ‘win-win’ should come easy to the first time entrepreneur. Not always.
Media is flooded with great stories from superhuman billionaire entrepreneurs. They make a fascinating read, no doubt, but often I find they rarely address the practical issues and day-to-day problems experienced by the majority of mere mortal entrepreneurs like myself.
I love working with start-ups and am very fortunate to be currently working with two such ventures, serving as the CFO of gro.team, experts in Growth Hacking and C-level leadership, and my own new venture for 2017, Intelligraft, specialists in next-gen ERP and cloud solutions.
I learnt a lot before, during and after my first foray into entrepreneurship. Much of it was not something I could have prepared for, no matter how many business management seminars I attended or books and articles I read beforehand. I found it was not easy to get good advice on these matters, so I hope these 17 lessons, learnt the hard way, will help ease some the challenges you may face.
Watch the money like a hawk:
Are you making a profit? How much? How often? If not, why not?
Make sure you have unrestricted and frequent access to all financial data (bank statements, financial KPIs, expenses, budgets and P&L reports), especially when others are involved. Focusing on revenue and sales alone can be misleading and can give a false sense of success. Profit (the bit that’s left over after deducting costs) is often the truest measure of how well you are doing. Of course, it can be hard to compute without the right tools (see point 6) and while many entrepreneurs dismiss the need to make a profit (often citing examples like Amazon and Uber) most companies need to, and should, make profits to have a serious shot at surviving and thriving.
Collect your dues:
It’s your money! Bill fast and chase arrears.
It surprises me how many experienced business people whom I meet are adept at dealing with customers, sales and tech but let the mundane task of collecting “their” earnings slip. Always make sure that you have a well-managed cash-flow and sufficient operating reserves at hand – if you’ve earned it, collect it. Think of it like having enough fuel in the tank and no leaks, otherwise you will be stranded!
Preserve your assets:
If you can, move your excess capital into a separate account from the one you use for day-to-day transactions.
It can be a simple and effective way to ring fence it so you need a formal board approval to use the extra capital. Also, it can help protect against falsely overestimating how much money you are really making (or losing) on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
With one windfall that we earned from a large deal, the board voted to invest in a high-yielding investment to protect this dormant capital while making it work for us at the same time.
Sharpen your finance skills:
It is possible to do well without an intricate understanding of corporate finance.
In a 2007 TED talk, Sir Richard Branson jokes that he only recently learnt the difference between net profit and gross profit (after decades of building successful and enormous businesses). [ref: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XQcdVp9sls]
That is Sir Branson, though.
For lesser-mortal entrepreneurs, it is a good idea to make sure that you understand the key financial factors which relate to your business.
If you need a jump-start, grab a copy of Entrepreneurial finance – Steven Rogers. It is written in a simple and easy-to-follow style, and I quote from pg 2: “They [entrepreneurs] must realize that finance is not as difficult as it is made out to be. It must be used and embraced as it is one of the key factors for entrepreneurial success”.
I personally found executive education to be extremely beneficial, helping me to sharpen up my business skills, however this takes some effort, planning and investment. But going to business school is not the only way – now there are even quicker and more direct options: lots of quick and cheap MOOCs, books and websites which you can easily avail of. At the very minimum, it is a good idea to understand your company accounts and key concepts like direct costs (of sale), gross profit, net profit and EBITDA. If you can go further, learn about funding strategies, taxation (including withholding taxes if you have foreign companies) and the mysterious topic of company valuation – topics which are really handy when securing investment, sharing profit, granting equity and planning exits.
Whether you are bootstrapping, or using investor’s money, use your resources well.
A budget can be hard to devise and even harder to stick to. It is not necessarily an attractive way to run a start-up but will hold you in good stead. To emphasize this point let me simply quote an outstanding example from Bill Gates. “The thing that was scary to me was when I started hiring my friends and they expected to be paid. And then we had customers that went bankrupt – customers that I counted on to come through. And so I soon came up with this incredibly conservative approach that I wanted to have enough money in the bank to pay a year’s worth of payroll, even if we didn’t get any payments coming in. I’ve been almost true to that the whole time.” [ref: pg. 100 – What They Teach You at Harvard Business School – Philip Delves Broughton]
Upshift to a professional finance platform as soon as you can, especially if your business is growing.There are plenty of cost-effective SAAS offerings available now, far more than when I started out a decade ago. You can get accurate, real-time and on-demand reports to easily assess your financial position without having to struggle with increasingly complex (and error-prone) spreadsheets and estimates, or having to wait for the annual accounts prepared by your accounting firm, usually several months after your financial year-end.Leveraging these tools effectively will help you cover the points mentioned above, and also empower you to make well-informed decisions.
Look out for more on this in my next article.
Many entrepreneurs take the “Screw it. Let’s do it!” approach (ref: Losing My Virginity – Sir Richard Branson) – I was one of them.
At some point, though, even when you are in the thick of it, you should invest time in defining and regularly refining your strategy, by sometimes abstracting yourself from day-to-day operations. Ask the important (and difficult) questions.
For example – Are we performing better selling services or products? How much should we invest in product development and innovation vs consulting and services? How do we make money with those products and services – licensing, subscription, sales, or by some other deal structure? Is our goal to hold out, give it away for cheaply/free and try and sell once we have traction? Are we entering a mature and well established market and if so, how can we compete with the market leaders and/or first movers? What are the margins? What happens if a key technology we are relying on gets acquired? (This is what happened to us, with the Sybase acquisition by SAP – we were lucky to be able turn it to our favour).
Obviously there are many more questions to ask, some more relevant to your business than others, and it is not possible to predict and analyse all future scenarios (Brexit and the recent demonetisation of the Indian currency, for example, seemed to take everyone by surprise), but it is certainly worth exploring and including the ones you can foresee in your game-plan.
Plan for the best and the worst:
Building a venture takes an enormous amount of drive, enthusiasm and up-beat determination. But there are always two sides to a coin and you can land on either one on any given day. Playing the devil’s advocate could be your saving grace. Don’t shy away from taking a pessimistic view when assessing risks and performance, and being ready to react and adapt should the worst happen.Especially before you find yourself at risk of losing your home, pension, life-savings and/or children’s college fund, which can happen sooner than you think, if you cling to non-viable ventures and investments, funding them yourself (David Brent: Life on the Road). You have to be brutally honest about how well your business is performing and knowing when (and how) to take action can be essential.
Get good tax advice:
Spend time investigating what the most tax efficient structure could be before you grow too large.A good set-up could be to have a local company to transact but an offshore holding company to retain profits and/or hold intellectual property. Locating yourself in a state with lower taxes could be another option. Be wary of transfer pricing and other subtle, but internally relevant operating costs. Get professional advice when setting up such structures – do it right the first time so you don’t lose sleep (and money) over tax issues later.
Get good legal advice:
Gentleman’s agreements, e-mails, personal favours, written assurances, verbal promises and friendly alliances are hard to enforce, and sadly, often forgotten – rely on them at your own risk. Just because you have a contract does not mean people will stick to it and enforcing such things in law is slow, risky, stressful and very costly. It is sad, but some can try to take advantage of this, so make sure you have the right processes and measures in place to identify, regulate and enforce things quickly, easily and up-front.Even if things don’t go according to plan, you will be in a better position if you made the effort to get legally enforceable contracts, agreements and resolutions in place, and stuck to them.Do it sooner rather than later. Shop around and find a good lawyer with reasonable rates and one that you are comfortable with and understands your business. You will be glad you did, especially if a crisis occurs.
Approach the topic of equity with great care:
If someone approaches you for an equity share, they need to bring something really special to significantly enhance the business. Cash injection, strategic partnerships and technical skills are usually not enough – all these can be borrowed, rented, hired or contracted in – and are usually not good enough reasons to give away equity. If they want a partnership, first try a dealership or reseller arrangement, so that they can prove the relationship works and is profitable.There are always exceptions, of course, which you need to judge carefully before committing.
Don’t be in a hurry to share:
If you have to give away equity, don’t do it too early and have a strategy defined up-front.
This is a huge topic which is discussed at length in The Founder’s Dilemma – Noam Wasserman, but some basic tips are:
a) Have separate classes of shares for different purposes e.g. Class A voting stock, Class B non-voting stock, Class C non-voting stock/non-dividend bearing, and so forth. Separate share classes are key because dividends and voting rights do not need to be equal across classes.
b) Ensure you utilise vesting periods, options and exit terms to protect against people accepting them and quitting soon after.
Some agreements have in-built termination clauses that withdraw share options when someone quits.
c) Get a cast-iron share-holder agreement and have it registered in court officially by a lawyer – if things go wrong, this can be your only defense.
d) Be very clear in all the main concepts (anti-dilution, anti-competition, drag-along/tag-along rights, unanimous agreement topics, inability to participate due to death or incapacity, enforced exit, etc.) – but beware, these can be used against you also.
And at the risk of repeating myself, get professional help! Sooner rather than later.
Trust and respect your customers:
Getting customer contracts signed can take a long time. And some can be really lengthy and complex, especially in highly regulated industries. In my experience, however, it is rare for a customer to use these complex clauses against you, so these can be less risky than your own internal dealings, especially with large well-known firms.
Clients hired you because they want you to deliver. They prefer you do a good job in the first place, especially if they have been through a complex vendor selection process to get you on-board. So, it is worth being flexible to respect and accommodate the legal policies of such customers (who often cannot bend).At worst, if something goes wrong unavoidably, you need to fix it with skillful and pro-active management. And even some free/discounted remedial work. Keep things sweet and make sure you get paid and that they remain happy.
When dealing with experienced investors be very wary:
Professional investors know every trick in the book and more. They will try to get their pound of flesh (with blood), if not two!
In my experience, even when reputable law firms are involved, you need to be careful – I found mistakes (possibly intentional) in contracts written by prestigious law firms which would work against me had I not spotted the errors and challenged them there and then. Impartial advisors can in fact be secretly biased. So please read up, stand your ground and be prepared to negotiate or even walk away, if they cannot agree to fair terms.
Experienced hires don’t always deliver:
When you are experiencing the challenges of scaling you may feel lost.
It is tempting to hire someone more experienced than you who has worked on a larger scale, in the hope they can steer you in the right direction and help you reach new heights. Unfortunately, I found this does not always work out. Zipcar’s founder, Robin Chase, says it best: “Our mistake: hiring a big-company guy for a start-up. He spent a lot of money on lunches and parking, created huge lists and detailed tasks and procedures that were 25% out of date by the time they hit my desk and 50% out of date by the following day. He was used to working at a much later-stage company where the goal was to put procedures in place and follow them strictly.” [ref: Chapter 8 – The Founder’s Dilemma – Noam Wasserman]
Individual motives may not always be in the best interests of the company:
I had always assumed that like in sports, teams would align and focus on achieving a common goal. I was naïve.Unlike sports where the goal can be clear to all players (beat the other team), business goals can often have different meanings for different people. This can result in people tugging in different directions or forming competing factions and groups. This can be disastrous amongst a group of share-holders and board members. Even though I experienced this first hand, it is hard to say how to avoid this. It is possibly one of the trickiest challenges of all, as summarized in this quote “ Business is a constant process of keeping your own guard up – in fact, it is the only way to do business – while encouraging others to lower theirs.” [ref: Pg 16 – What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School – Mark H. McCormack ]
DO NOT neglect your health and family:
I learnt this the hard way. It is so easy to put your business first and your family second. I made this mistake for many years – in my experience, no venture is worth ruining either, or both, of these for.
Launching or already running a business? Need help with leadership, growth hacking, coaching ¦ mentoring operations or tech?
Why not give us a shout on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 800 246 5735 for a friendly informal chat about your biz dev needs?
Recently for the first time in my life, I was a patient in a hospital. I won’t bore you with the details but after a quick trip in an ambulance and a brief sojourn in Wexham Park Hospital ITU (Intensive Therapy Unit) I’m back home and well on the road to recovery.
Given the generally negative narrative around the NHS in the UK my preconceptions ahead of my visit were of dedicated staff probably doing their best given challenging circumstances.
What I was surprised and delighted to find at Wexham Park ITU was a high performing team using state of the art approaches to deliver amazing outcomes.
Wexham Park ITU has chosen to work based upon self-organised cross-functional teams, real time dashboards, virtual hierarchies, agile-like rituals, and a culture of empowerment and accountability.
At Wexham Park ITU patient care appears to be organised physically and logically around what I will call “pods”. Each patient has a bed space at the end of which is the nurse’s station. The nurse’s station has a PC, keyboard, screen and phone and is adjustable for sit-down or stand-up use.
The nurses seem generally to be allocated 1:1 to patients although it looks possible for a nurse to float between patients 1:2 if the pods are adjacent.
This nurse:patient 1:1 relationship is the foundation of the operating model used so successfully at Wexham Park ITU. The nurse’s responsibilities are simple and clear – they are there to care for this one specific patient.
The nurse’s feel total ownership and accountability for achieving positive outcomes and are supported rather than constrained by all other processes and activities in the ward.
During quieter periods nurses self study the conditions affecting their patient – further improving their knowledge, capabilities and effectiveness. (The nurses told me that this more “technical” style of nursing tends to attract more male nurses which only helps create a stronger and more diverse team).
The nurses use the terminal in the pod to read and update patient KPI data in real time into what would be called a “dashboard” in other contexts. Charts/graphs were available in real time and information was presented in a very clear and accessible way. Blood tests results took 1-2 hours before being available on the “dashboard”.
This real time people-technology relationship is critical to how the unit wants to work and I think they would struggle with the old “clip board at the end of the bed” approach (they went paperless three years ago).
The unit’s approach to cleaning also spoke volumes to me. Needless to say the ward was spotless and that was because it was continually being cleaned. They didn’t batch cleaning up to be done after more “important” activities were finished but integrated cleaning into and alongside all other activities…continuously. (An analogy with QA as part of software development is illustrative..good software development teams integrate testing so well that it’s hard to spot it. Other teams throw software “over the fence” at the end of the sprint to QA).
During the twice daily doctor’s rounds the “dashboard” is used to get everyone up to speed on patient status and collaboratively discuss and record next steps. The respectful way the doctors interacted with the nurses made it very clear that they were valued members of the team whose opinion was sought and listened to. The doctors also took the time to explain their reasoning – further improving the contribution the nurses will be able to make to their teams in the future.
I saw very little evidence of any hierarchies at Wexham Park ITU…talented people were organised into cross functional teams with common goals and clear roles and responsibilities.
Morale was high and people laughed and smiled their way through what must have been some very tough situations. They were self-aware and took time to help develop each others knowledge and experience for the collective good.
I think Wexham Park’s ITU shows that high performance can be achieved pretty much in any context by great people working in great ways.
I for one am very grateful that Wexham Park’s ITU have set themselves the challenge of operating at the level they have and consultants like Omar Touna and Clare Stapleton are role models for the rest of us in terms of their passion, ability and positive impact they have on other people’s lives.
We need too avoid so much negativity whenever the NHS is mentioned in the UK. Of course what it does is so important that we need to hold it, and ourselves, to account but we also need to celebrate success and recognise world class performance when we see it.
Congratulations and thanks Wexham Park ITU..you guys are showing how it’s done.
Rorie Devine is the CEO of gro.team who help people and teams achieve their aims and be successful.
So..will micro services live up to the hype they are receiving?
Yes..probably..but they are far from “free” and there are important things to be aware of before you start down this particular road…
Micro services seem to be “on the rise” so before we get to the “peak of inflated expectations” let me jump in with some real world experience.
We began implementing H2, a fully fledged event driven micro services platform, at Hailo way back in June 2013 so I guess we were relatively early adopters. It has recently been open sourced at https://github.com/hailocab/h2
What is new about micro services?
“Micro services” is our latest attempt to take away all the peripheral overhead from writing software and allow developers to concentrate purely on new business impacting functionality when they write software.
By creating sets (100-200) of small, loosely-coupled, simple, reusable software components software should be quicker to write, less fragile, and easier to test and change.
Sounds great..what is the catch?
All the communication/consistency/coherency overhead that gets taken away from the micro services has to go somewhere..and it goes into your micro services platform.
Learning one is..
When adopting micro services don’t under-estimate the capabilities of the platform you will need. You will need more DevOps, automation and tooling than you expect to.
When we started building H2, our micro services platform, we pretty much had to build everything from scratch. These days a lot of the work around service discovery, service binding and general management can be provided by SaaS providers like ww.iron.io
Learning two is..
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look to use open source software and micro services SaaS providers to save yourself time and money.
When we wrote our micro services our war cry was that each service “should do one thing and do it well”. That worked pretty well but don’t over do it. Hailo has more than 200 micro services now and maybe it’s too many. You have to find the right balance between maximising reuse and minimising dependency.
Learning three is..
Don’t be too purist. Start with fat “macro” services and only decompose them when experience tells you it will make things better.
As our platform matured we also learnt a lot about the general housekeeping processes you will need to perform when running a micro services platform. Feidhlim O’Neill wrote a great blog post about it here.
So would Holden Caulfield be right if he thought micro services were phoney?
No. They really can help you create an architecture that is very quick to develop on, resilient, performant and cost effective to run.
They aren’t “free” though..if you learn from other people who have already done it, leverage open source and SaaS whenever you can, and go into it with your eyes open you’ll definitely prove him wrong.
Contact gro.team here for a discreet, “no strings”, chat if you’re thinking of using micro services..we’d love to get involved.
I’ve worked with a couple of companies that are taking very different approaches to “Agile” recently and it has caused me to pause and reflect on what the best ways to utilise Agile might be.
The news that Dropbox has migrated its’ performance-critical backends from Python to Google Go (confusingly also known as golang) has surprised some people..but probably not people like me who have already successfully migrated a backend platform to golang.
What is Google Go/golang?
Go/golang is an open source programming language created at Google in 2007 by Robert Griesemer, Rob Pike, and Ken Thompson. In computer language terms that very much makes it the new kid on the block (Java has been around since 1995 and PHP since 1994) but Robert, Rob and Ken have done a great job of bringing together all the best ideas from all the existing languages. As an open source project it is essentially free to use and Google say more then half of check-ins on the project are now done outside Google.
At Hailo we migrated our back end from a mixture of PHP and Java to golang and in the process made our backend faster, simpler and cheaper to run.
We didn’t have any golang developers at Hailo when we decided to move to it so our existing PHP and Java developers had to learn it “on the job”. With a few exceptions they took to it like “ducks to water”.
Golang is easier to write and manage than Java, it runs faster than almost everything except C/C++ and because it scales across the multiple cores/CPUs in a server “out of the box” you can save money by using less servers.
Faster, easier and cheaper..really?
Go is a compiled language that compiles the source code programmers write down to the binary language servers can execute without further translation.
This is different to the interpreted languages like PHP/Python/Ruby that need to run on top of software virtual machines. This makes Go significantly quicker in a straight line than scripting languages. (It’s not even that much of a problem that you need to compile your code before you run it. The run command compiles and runs your go code so quickly that it’s like working with a scripting language).
Go is so blisteringly fast that it is now actually being used to write a lot of the components underpinning the leading edge digital architectures. Docker (the rapidly growing virtualisation technology) is written in Go as is NSQ (the rock solid messaging platform) as is Bitly and so on.
Go is object based (rather than object orientated like Java) and has none of the fiddly memory management and pointer things you need to keep on top of in C++. Because it compiles down to a binary executing it is as simple as deploying a file to a server and running it. There are no libraries, frameworks or interpreters to worry about.
Some people think the Go compiler is a little too fussy (it will complain if you include a library and don’t use it for instance) but in combination with Go being a strongly typed language (I won’t open that can of worms here) the upshot is that more errors are usually found at compile time rather than found at run time – and we’d much rather we saw any errors than our customers did.
Go’s killer feature is its concurrency model.
Out of the box it will automatically create code that utilises multiple cores/CPUs by creating parallel executing threads.
With interpreted languages even if they are technically multi-threaded only one thread can ever execute at one time (because of the Global Interpreter Lock).
This is how companies like Hailo and Dropbox have achieved dramatic scalability improvements by moving to Go.
This is a graph of Hailo jobs (blue line) and Amazon Web Services cost per job (brown line) that Boyan Dimitrov of Hailo presented at an AWS conference last year.
Faster, easier and cheaper? What is there not to like?
There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” computer language, they all have strengths and weaknesses, and you need to work back from the problem you’re trying to solve before deciding which language is optimum for your particular circumstances.
Golang’s relative newness also means that there aren’t as many libraries (chunks of code you can include and use) as existing for other languages. Good open source citizens like Dropbox are writing and open sourcing any missing ones as we speak.
There aren’t as many golang programmers on the market yet as for other languages but we certainly found at Hailo that the opportunity to use golang attracted as many talented programmers as we needed and nearly all of our PHP and Java developers found it easy to learn and get productive on.
Having two names (Go and golang) is a bit confusing and the Gopher logo (above) is a little odd..but I’m nitpicking now.
In my experience a back end platform written in Go will probably be quicker, easier and cheaper than all the current alternatives but a lot really will depend on your business needs.
Not every business wants or needs minimised response times and maximised scalability and the cost of migrating an existing API/Platform is far from free of course.
Contact gro.team here for a discreet, “no strings”, chat if you’re thinking of using Google Go..we’d love to get involved.