This post is an excerpt from The Product Manager’s Guide to Customer-Centered Growth. It’s the first step in a proven 5-step experimentation framework originally developed by HubSpot’s VP of Growth, Brian Balfour. Enjoy!
Every company wants to grow their user base or their revenue—fast. And as a result, most of them end up looking for the one tactic, secret, or hack that will skyrocket their growth rate. But the experiments they decide to run are often based on opinion and speculation, rather than hard evidence (it happens more often than you might think). If that situation sounds familiar, consider this metaphor from conversion optimization expert Peep Laja:
“Would you rather have a doctor operate on you based on an opinion, or careful examination and tests?”
It’s a no-brainer. And the same question applies to growing your user base (or revenue). You’re like a growth doctor, and your product is your patient. So instead of choosing which experiments to run based on opinion, base your decisions on real customer data. The first step in any sustainable growth process should be to collect quantitative behavioral data and qualitative user insights. The goal is to identify the biggest issues your customers and potential customers are experiencing, and then using those findings to guide the experiments you run. Fixing these problems will help you meet your customer’s needs and expectations, craft an experience they’ll love, and improve your growth curve along the way.
Start by gathering quantitative data that shows you where the problem is—where the biggest dropoffs are and where your funnel is leaking. Once you know where the issues are happening, you can gather qualitative insights to understand why. What’s causing people to have doubts, uncertainties, and hesitations?
Where’s your funnel leaking? What’s causing people to have doubts, uncertainties, and hesitations?
And once you know the source of the problem, you can come up with hypotheses to test about what you think would remove the friction.
Here are 11 data sources you can use to generate data-driven test ideas. They’re a combination of ideas from a book called The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton Christensen and the ResearchXL framework, originally developed by Peep Laja. You don’t have to use every single one—choose a combination of three to five quantitative and qualitative sources that make the most sense for what you’re trying to learn.
Identify specific pages and steps in your product flow where you’re losing customers and potential customers.
Identify annoying cross-device and cross-browser issues that are hurting your conversion rates. Fix issues if the added value is greater than the value of the time it will take your developers to identify and fix them.
Know exactly which form fields people hesitate the most to fill out, which fields they leave blank even though they are required, and which ones cause the most error messages.
Anonymously record video of everything people do as they interact with your product. Watch how people respond to your product while risking their real money or personal information.
Place surveys on low-performing pages and ask people why they aren’t converting. And chat transcripts give you insight into common frustrations and where people get confused.
Observe people while they use your product and speak their thoughts out loud. Hear and see where people get stuck, confused, and frustrated.
Use click maps, attention maps, and scroll maps to record what people do on your product pages with their mouse or fingers.
This is an hour-long team exercise. Review your product page by page with your team and identify where you can make the experience more relevant, clear, and value-adding—and where you can reduce friction and distraction.
This is a twenty-minute team exercise. Everyone picks one or two products from your competitive and noncompetitive space that they use actively. Walk through their product flow and discuss what they do well, what they could do better, and how you can adapt it to your own product and audience.
Talk to other growth professionals on the phone on a regular basis. Exchange ideas, share experiments, and discuss what worked, what didn’t, and why you think you got the results you did. Adapt ideas to your own product.
This is an hour-long team exercise. Spend the first 20 minutes asking nothing but “why,” “what if,” and “what about,” questions. No discussion or answers. Write your question on a sticky note, announce it to the team, and put it on the whiteboard. This reveals what you don’t know and generates discussion.
As you gather and analyze the data you collect, you should be dumping all the issues you identify and experiment ideas you come up with into a master list. The next step in the process is to translate those findings into a prioritized pipeline of hypotheses to test. If you want to learn how to do that, download our ebook The Product Manager’s Guide to Customer-Centered Growth. You’ll learn how to:
Click the button below to download your guide now!