How to Engineer Growth in Mobile Apps

Sean Ellis coined the term "Growth hacking" and ever since then, there’s been plenty of push back over the years. There’s confusion and then there are misnomers. There’s debate on what growth hacking is all about and what functions it touches up on.

Growth hacking is really the confluence of marketing and engineering, as per what I’ve experienced in helping entrepreneurs building products over the years.

Growth, however, is a mindset and more than subset of marketing or engineering. In a conversation with HubSpot VP of Growth and blogger at Coelevate, Brian Balfour, said “Growth is far less about the terminology or tactics. It is more about a change in our mentality, process, and team structure of how we grow a technology company.”

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When looking at growth in totality, you have to look at every aspect of building and marketing the product and go a step beyond and even look at customer service as an aspect of growth.

But, that calls for a whole new column in the future where I will talk about leveraging growth from across different areas of your company.

For this column, we will focus on how to engineer growth within the product, while building the first version and while iterating on it through your customer development process.

1. Focus on the core value. The first step in engineering growth for any product is to have a clearly defined core value proposition of your product. A ‘social media for lawyers’ isn’t a core value proposition. However, a ‘network where lawyers can leverage to cross-promote their services to existing customers’, now that could be a value proposition.

So spend time drilling down on what the core value of your product is and let the first version of your product do that best.

Identify your ideal customer profile and build a solution for them they can’t live without, and boom, you’ve got an organic spread for your product because they won’t stop talking about it. TrueCaller and WhatsApp are two examples of apps that exploded in organic growth solely due to solving a problem well for a defined audience.

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2. Focus on time to value. Time to value, simply put, is the amount of time it takes your users to realize the core value of your product.

The goal of the engineering team along with the user experience team while building the product should be to get users to experience the core value as soon as possible.

Every product across the B2C or B2B spectrum will have their own onboarding process which can be from simple in-app wizard to a complex data integration or product configuration type. Measure this in hours and days rather than weeks depending on the complexity of your product.

Define what the value would mean to you -- higher conversions, increased revenue, quicker time to transaction, etc. Based on these metrics, you ensure that your product design addresses them at every stage of the customer touch point that is important to you.

3. Focus on the right metrics. The most important part of growth is tracking the right metrics at each phase of your product journey.

If you don’t track any metrics, you wouldn’t know what strategies to adopt if a course correction is needed or if you want to track and amplify what’s already working.

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Determine the metrics that you must prioritize -- is optimizing for total signups is more important than long-term engagement at the current stage you’re at? Measure each iteration experiment by tracking the results. Continuous experiments and iteration will help you get to a point where it just takes off.

Through each of the above stages, you have to stay invested and focused on a continuous build and experiment model to learn from your mistakes and feedback from your customers.