Growth Experiments: A Beginners Guide

If you’re reading this, congratulations! You’re looking to elevate your marketing efforts by advancing from digital marketing to growth marketing. And the first stop on the train to growth marketing town is understanding growth experiments. 

I wrote this post because this is something I wish someone laid out for me when I got starting being a full-stack marketer / growth hacker (or whatever cool lingo the tech world is using these days). I hope it helps you on your journey. 

If you have questions or want me to dive deeper on anything, send me an email. 

Let’s grow 🚀

What Is A Growth Experiment?

I’ll give you the technical version first: A growth experiment is a process of testing new marketing and acquisition methods to grow your business. 

Good. That’s out of the way. Now I can share things to you in layman’s terms. 

Growth experiments are new tactics and strategies that you haven’t tried yet, but want to see if they work. So you write down all of your ideas and tricks that you’ve picked up on the web, and give them a go. But you don’t go all in and stop everything you’re currently doing to go after an unknown outcome. So you experiment with a little bit of money and time. If the experiment works, you go bigger for round 2 of the test.

Make sense? 

For example, to generate more revenue, let’s say you want to go from a freemium version of your product to a “enter your card and get a 14 day trial” method of activating potential customers. A decision like that could absolutely burn the world down and cause chaos. So instead of going all in on on things, test it out with a small sample set of website visitors and see how things convert. If you’re seeing higher conversion of customers with a trial method over freemium, then roll that out to a larger segment of your leads. 

If the experiment shows the 14 day trial had a negative impact on getting new sign ups for your business, lesson learned! At least you didn’t mass roll it out and then have to mass undo it to learn a lesson. 

That, my friends, is why we do growth experiments. 

Why Should You Run A Growth Experiment?

We all know the tried and true basics of marketing – paid, search, social, email, SMS.

But hot damn, there are so many channels and so many options out there. How do you choose the tactics and channels that are right for you? 

Better yet, are there High-Conversion/Low-Cost tactics out there that can help grow your business? 

That’s where growth experiments come into play. They allow you to continue operating your current marketing efforts, while testing out new methods of growth that don’t break the bank or disrupt your current ways of operating. 

Look at it like dipping your toes in the water at a pool. Growth Experiments aren’t about cannon-balling your ass into that pool. They’re about testing the waters and seeing if it works for you. If it does, go bigger with it and see how your experiment works at scale. 

If the water’s too cold, fuck it. At least you tested and now you know. Lesson learned. 

Components of a Growth Experiment

To try and keep things simple, I’ll break the components of a growth experiment into bullet points for you.

  • Form Your Hypothesis
  • Decide What Part of the Pirate Funnel This Experiment Belongs To (AAARRR)
  • Decide What Will You Need To Run This Experiment
  • Run Your Experiment
  • Data Analysis and End-Of-Experiment Insights

Aways start with your hypothesis – what you think the outcome will be with your experiment. If you don’t know what you think your outcome is going to be, definitely don’t run the experiment.

One you have your hypothesis set, figure out what part of the Pirate Funnel this experiment will fall into. Is it about Acquisition or Referrals or Retention? Find your experiments home in the funnel.

Okay, your hypothesis and Pirate metric laid are out. What now?

Figure out what you’re going to need to make this experiment happen. Will you need engineering? How much money will need to be allocated? How many team members will be involved?

Now that steps 1 – 3 are completed, let’s run that shit! Give yourself a timeline though (2 weeks is enough for most experiments).

After the 2 weeks is up, analyze the data and find out if the results were what you expected. If the results seem promising, run the experiment again on a larger scale.

If the experiment failed, write down why and either iterate and test again, or shove that idea to the side and don’t let it get you down.

What Experiment To Test First

So you have all of your experiments and ideas written out. But how do you know which experiments to go after first? 

This is where you measure your ICE Score. 

ICE = Impact. Confidence. Ease.

Each category of the ICE Score is graded on a scape of 1-10, with 10 being super easy / mega impactful, and 1 being the worst. 

Here’s a simple way to breakdown each pillar of the ICE framework:

  • Impact: How much does this experiment contribute to your end goal?
  • Confidence: How confident are you that this experiment will work?
  • Ease: How hard is this experiment to implement? Is it draining of tools, people, and money? 

Once you’ve done the ICE Score for each of your experiments, add up the total of each experiment then order from highest score (30 out of 30) to lowest score (3 out of 30). 

Start with the high scores first. 

Simple, right?

The ICE Score presented by jexo.io

Tracking It All

When you start doing Growth Experiment for a living like I do, things can get messy fast. A question I get a lot is, “how do you track it all?”

To keep things organized, I made this Notion board to help me track all of my experiments. I have it set up in really 2 sections:

Section 1: The Growth Experiments Tracker

Section 2: The Growth Experiment Process

By dividing things up like this, I can get a birds eye view of what experiments I have written down plus where they sit in the experimentation process.

Below, I took some snapshots of a blank tracker so you can see what I’m looking at. (You can download a free copy of this tracker in the section below)

Growth Experiment Process Tracker
Growth Experiment Tracker (Part 1 of 2)
Growth Experiment Tracker (Part 2 of 2)

How Much To Spend On Growth Experiments

This is always a hard question to answer, because with all things marketing — it depends. A good rule of thumb I like to use is allocating 10% of your annual budget to growth experiments. Use 90% of your budget for basic marketing tactics that drive growth, but keep that 10% for the experiment process. 

Obviously, do what’s best for you and your situation though. The ideas I’m writing here are more for inspiration and a jumping off point, rather than a roadmap you have to follow. 

Download Your Growth Experiment Template (FREE)

Want a free growth experiment template? You’re in luck. Here’s my Notion template that you can duplicate and customize for your own use 👇

    Final Thoughts

    If you made it this far, you’re ready to get going on growth experiments. Test some channels. Get crazy and see what works. You’re going to fail in a lot of experiments, and that’s okay. Failure is a chance to learn and grow. Don’t be afraid to fail!

    Peace, love, and punk rock ⚡️

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