The #1 Mistake in Driving Growth

golden ticket

I’m privileged to talk to hundreds of companies about their growth. YesGraph helps recommend who a user should invite to an app, which is a growth power tool for referral programs and invite flows. Talking about your growth is part of our sales process.

Plus I ran growth at Dropbox, so I get a lot of people asking for advice. This is one reason I write this blog at all — I have a lot of say from this experience.

There is a common pattern among less experienced companies:

People think there is a silver bullet to solve their growth, they just need to find it.

No. Stop it. There is no silver bullet. There is no golden ticket. There is no magical growth hack.

Belief in this fantasy is actively hurting your company. It stops you from digging in and just getting down to work.

But Airbnb used Craiglist… Nope. Airbnb ran very many experiments. They visited their customers. They did things that couldn’t scale like great photography. They built up an amazing community of hosts that still is the hallmark of their brand. Airbnb didn’t have a silver bullet.

But Dropbox and referrals… Nope. I know the inside story here. Dropbox worked tirelessly to smooth out the rough edges of their product. They built something amazingly high quality and people wanted to tell their friends about it. I personally ran dozens of tests to optimize multiple sharing channels. Dropbox didn’t have a silver bullet.

The reason these complex stories get boiled down to something that looks like a silver bullet is because most media about growth and startups is junk written by outsiders. Another reason is that there is a natural audience for such thinking: hopeful founders who want to win. You see this thinking everywhere: money, dieting, dating.

The secret to driving growth is that there is no secret. You need to be humble, dig into your data, run real experiments, and drive to do it again and again. This is the message you’ll hear consistently from people that have done it at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other high growth startups.

There are practical frameworks to use that can help run this process. There are many tactics you can use in experiments. That is what we cover on this blog.

For virality, we’ve written about what to measure, testing whether referrals might work, and when to focus on virality.

For growth process, we’ve written about the importance of picking a goal and building a map to understand how to hit your goal.

There is more on the way! We’ll write more about growth, metrics, and virality. High quality content around growth is rare, and our hope is to make it easier to build the next Dropbox or Airbnb.

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