20: Sean Ellis: Create a Nimble Company Culture through Growth Hacking

“What you’re seeing is that most of the bigger [legacy] companies are [hacking growth] through acquisitions. [That’s] how they’re trying to drive the transition.”

– Sean Ellis


You know that explosive growth we hear about – on the regular – from startups from Silicon Valley? What if the passion industries could harness just a fraction of that success? What lessons from the tech industry can we apply to brands that focus on getting people away from the computer screen?

On today’s show, I talk with the great Oz, himself: Sean Ellis, the man responsible for so many of those growth stories. We take the lessons from growth hacking in tech and interpret them to the physical product world of the outdoor industries.

Spoiler alert: The application is not always the same, and you can take solace in that what we’re trying to do is hard! Companies that sell physical products can be more challenging to growth hack than Saas and tech companies. But as Sean says, we all know the downsides. Successful companies stay focused on the upsides and what there is to be gained by trying something new.

The GREAT news is that the guiding principles are indeed the same. Growth hacking is a well-outlined methodology that we can all take from and apply to our unique businesses. And while tech may have an advantage at “turning the ship” more quickly than outdoor brands, the foundations of a corporate structure, testing, and knowing your customer are the same for all. Get ready to grow!


Sean ellis

Sean Ellis is CEO and founder of GrowthHackers.com, and co-author of Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success. He coined the term “growth hacking,” in 2010, to describe the methodology he deployed to ignite growth for Dropbox, Eventbrite, LogMeIn and Lookout – each now worth billions of dollars.


Sean also founded and sold customer insights company Qualaroo, growing it to millions of dollars in recurring revenue with customers such as Uber, Starbucks and Amazon. He regularly speaks to startups and Fortune 100s and has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street JournalWIREDFast CompanyInc.com, and TechCrunch.


growth hacking, the importance of testing, research and measurement, using information to incentivize, startup mentality, transition from legacy operations to growth hacking methodologies, how physical products can go viral, the benefits of bad feedback, coordinating and organizing your team for growth, hiring a growth master, identifying high leverage opportunities, focusing on the narrow end of the funnel, cross functional experimentation


“What you’re seeing is that most of the bigger [legacy] companies are [hacking growth] through acquisitions. [That’s] how they’re trying to drive the transition.”

“Once you understand your customers on a level where you know exactly the value that they get from the product, then you can start to think about, ‘How do I evolve how I work with customers and enhance that value?’”

“One of the biggest changes that has happened with digital exploding is that there has been a lot of alternative channels that have gone out there. Access for new brands has exploded as that’s happened.”

“That’s the starting point that you want to figure out: what is that brand attribute that really matters to your customers? And then what is the experience within your product that delivers on that brand attribute?”

“Ideally, you want to try to find a way of measuring how people get that value from your product on an ongoing basis.”

“How would you feel if my brand was no longer available?”

“Trying to please the 90% or the 80% of the people who don’t care that much about you, you’re not going to learn that much from those people. You’re going learn a lot more from the people who are really passionate about your brand.”

“Most customer journeys cross all of the silos within a company, or most of the silos. …And the more that those groups are not in coordination around a common goal of ‘What is the experience that we’re trying to drive for these people?’ the more likely it’s going to be a fragmented experience and there are going to be a lot of conflicting goals.”

“The more that you can quantify [units of the value delivered to your customer], the more that you now can have everyone [on your team] thinking, ‘What is my role in expanding how much value is being delivered across a growing customer base?’”

“The growth master is really trying to identify the high-leverage opportunities that you can set some short-term objectives around. And then, ultimately, how do you define and drive experiments to improve upon those short-term opportunities?”

“[A growth master is] it’s really someone who’s driving that cross-functional experimentation.”

[On the value of calculated risks] “Usually the downside is wasted time, and maybe some wasted resources. But the upside really comes by modeling, ‘What’s the best scenario?’”


GrowthHackers: https://growthhackers.com/

Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest Growing Companies Drive Breakout Successby Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown: http://growthhacker.com/

Connect with Sean on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/seanellis/


Qualaroo: https://qualaroo.com/

Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com

Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/

Lookout: https://www.lookout.com/

LogMeIn: https://secure.logmein.com/home/en

Suggested survey tools (from Verde Strategy):

Keys to growth hacking:

  1. Set up the right measurement systems and testing infrastructure
  2. Acclimate your team to a culture of testing (for agility, not condemnation)
  3. Survey your core customers to determine the level of loyalty and/or brand preference
  4. Hone your brand promise and experience around the needs of your core customers
  5. Break down the silos and work cross-functionally
  6. Be able to quantify units of value delivered to you customer
  7. Identify and set goals and tactics around high leverage opportunities

Have questions or ideas for Kristin and the Channel Mastery podcast? Email: [email protected]

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