Thoughts on Growth — Feb 16, 2018

Thoughts on Growth is Reforge's weekly newsletter of must-known updates and perspectives in growth. By subscribing, you'll join a few thousand PMs, marketers, UX folks, engineers and analysts at today's top tech companies. 

1. AMP for email might change everything

Google announced amp for email. This is either a huge deal, or just a huge announcement.


If Google is successful and AMP gets adopted, then email marketing is going to start looking a lot more like building and optimizing a mini web app than like traditional “email marketing.”

AMP is open-source, so it looks like Google's big plan is to drive global adoption of the framework from all sides — developer, ESP, consumer, and... advertiser.

Are we seeing a new channel being born?


We brought in John Egan, master of email (and other things growth) @ Pinterest, for his take on this development. Note: Pinterest was one of Google's launch partners for the initial AMP for email rollout.

Is it going to get widespread adoption?

Gmail is the biggest player in the email space, so I think even if this remains a Gmail only feature, it will be worth adopting for any company where email is a significant part of their re-engagement strategy.
Development time has been relatively quick, so this doesn't require a huge time investment. For us, it took one engineer two weeks to go from never having used AMP before to building out two interactive email templates for the announcement.

Is it hype?

“Writing email used to be like writing HTML for 1999. However as older clients drop off in usage, newer HTML and CSS features are becoming increasingly usable. The trend of using more complex CSS animation in email has been called Kinetic Email, but there are still a lot of limitations on what you can do. With AMP in email you can now turn your emails into simple apps in people's inbox. You watch this video to see a demo of what Pinterest was able to do with AMP in email.”

Is it good for growth people?

“Growth people will need to be thoughtful with how they use this. Growth people often want to bring people back to the product since that's where you can make revenue (ad impressions, purchases, etc).
I think there are a few strategies growth people will need to think through for AMP in email:
  • Do you use AMP in email to improve activation? For Pinterest activation is often about gathering signals from users, so getting them to give us signals about the interests can improve retention even if they stay within Gmail and don't click through ot the product.
  • Do you use AMP in email to improve your overall CTR rate by making the email more interactive and engaging?
  • If users can engage in core features of the product, make bookings, or purchases, etc, do you start to think of email as another client in addition to Web, iOS, and Android?”

Is it good for consumers?

“I think this is good for consumers because it makes email more interactive, which allows them to more quickly take action and get information.
The one difficulty in driving consumer adoption is awareness, since this is a pretty big shift in how people can interact email. If you provide a UI to make a purchase in an email, will consumers actually use it? Or will they be concerned about the possibility of it being a phishing attack?”


2. How LinkedIn 1000x'ed their user base with a strategy that most companies are ignoring

Hint: it's not virality.



LinkedIn is one of the best examples of multiple layered growth and retention loops. In the Growth Series, we talk in detail about their invite mechanisms and their activity notifications — the primary drivers in LinkedIn's first phase of growth.

But, to hit the 500 million mark, which it reached in 2017, LinkedIn had to make bigger bets, specifically in international expansion. LinkedIn opened its first non-US offices and launched its first non-English sites in 2008, and the company hit the 100 million mark (plus its IPO) three years later. Likely not a coincidence.

Today, over 70% of their 500 million member base is outside of the US and Canada.


LinkedIn's VP of Growth & International Aatif Awan, has this advice for companies looking to hit Big Growth with international expansion:

“It's easy to lose sight of global opportunities and focus on users near the team.  Make your company's mission global, plan regular visits for key people to priority markets, get your execs on board — and leverage them to evangelize everyone else.

  • When it comes to localization, you'll get the highest ROI from markets that already have product-market fit. It's not just translation, but copy optimization, payment methods, the content you pull in, localized customer service, biz dev, marketing, editorial, and sales.
  • You need to identify and remove local barriers to adoption (ie, form fields! state, ZIP code, etc. Or, site speed and markets that are mobile first/only). Qualitative and quantitative research helps with this.
  • Your growth channels may not 'translate' automatically to new markets. In LinkedIn's case, SEO and email-based virality didn't translate well to China and India, so we made a big investment to build mobile-based virality to grow in those markets.

Consider where the world is headed, not just what it looks like today.


3. Quora ads followup

Last week's Snippet on Quora's new ad targeting options was relevant to a lot of you on reading this newsletter. Makes sense: new channel = party!


We wanted to follow up with a bit more on this, so we looped in Aditya Vempaty, VP Marketing at Interana and former head of marketing at Amplitude, because he's been active in pursuing growth on that channel.

“My overall experience with Quora:
  • You have to invest the time from your team to answer specific topic questions that bring up a pain that your customers have solved using your product or at least tried to address that pain with your product.
  • Be very specific in looking for the question you want to answer as it almost always reflects the pain you are trying to solve. It’s better here to give quality answers to these questions vs search for vague questions and giving platitudes as answers.
  • As with Google, it’s better to have fewer questions answered that are of high quality vs loads with lower relevance.
  • To get upvotes and credibility on Quora, master of your domain is the key theme, not jack of all trades.
Regarding Quora + paid, remember that people want consumable content that is relevant to their area of expertise. For example if you want to get folks who care about cooking, make sure you the content you're adverting is prescriptive vs general ex: “7 steps to making a better dishes using an Instapot.” The content should be applicable from day one vs theory.
A few more tips:
  • Advertise content in larger categories. If you want audience that cares of making healthy meals, advertise on cooking, cooking tools etc. You want a broader reach for your ads vs making specific. This is because there just aren’t enough eyeballs in the Quora ecosystem to succeed with the latter.
  • If you're using lookalike audiences, I would import your blog viewers into the mix. They generally respond the best to your content which drives down CPC and CAC.
  • Interest targeting is 'interesting,' but I wouldn't put my bets there. The reality is that people's stated interests change, and then don't get updated in their Quora profiles.
  • Sending traffic to a blog does OK, but downloadables (ie, lead magnets) perform ever better for lead gen, especially in Asian countries.
  • Finally, regarding the behavioral targeting, remember that Quora is very much like an encyclopedia in that the user looks for things vs being suggested things that are relevant (most users would dismiss those suggestions). Their challenge is to start making people look at interests outside of what users are looking for, which will take time. Behavioral targeting won’t be accurate for a year due not having enough data points."

Thank you, Aditya! 

4. Exponential growth is a myth?

And for our final Snippet, a thought for you to ponder: are you failing if your growth curve doesn't look like a hockey stick?



A recent share from David Heinemeier Hansson (inventor of Ruby on Rails and founder / CTO at Basecamp) challenges the idea that everyone should pursue, and expect, exponential growth:

It's worth considering as a rebuttal to the common thinking that all products (and their growth teams) either need to hit exponential growth or call it quits. The other big takeaway here is that growth outcomes — and strategies to get there — shift as your company matures.


We showed this to Andrew Chen, who dug up some corroborating evidence:

“Exponential growth is a myth! It only happens during the very early stages of most startups. Here’s Facebook’s graph - also linear:


Thoughts on Growth is Reforge's weekly newsletter of must-known updates and perspectives in growth. By subscribing, you'll join a few thousand PMs, marketers, UX folks, engineers and analysts at today's top tech companies.