Free Agent Kwadwo Adu om Growth Hacking

As every business strives to outgrow existing players and competition, the discipline and trend of growth hacking is growing considerably as a separate field. Growth hacking is a process of rapidly experimenting with different marketing and product-development techniques with the goal of faster results and potentially lucrative opportunities.  

In the fast-paced world we’re living in, everyone wants instant gratification. Challenges can either be seen as assets or challenges – here, you would probably prefer them as assets. This is where growth hacking comes in. Growth hacking helps companies to not just sit back and wait for the long-term results of customer service, product development and marketing. Instead, growth hacking opens up for experimenting faster, keeping costs leaner and getting ahead of the competition. Thus, turning challenges to assets.

Kwadwo Adu is a Free Agents™ freelancer, an entrepreneur by heart and has since 2004 been involved in multiple startups as either employee or founder. Some of these include e.g. Trendsales, Bloggers Delight, Achoo & SPACE10 and now PLYO Lab. As the founder of PLYO Lab, Kwadwo helps businesses uncover opportunities for growth. Rather than spending months building big concepts, PLYO Lab tests ideas fast and use the insights to reach goals. 

We had a chat with Kwadwo about growth hacking as a discipline, current trends and the future of the market post-COVID-19. He also elaborates on his favorite books, podcasts and dream project within growth hacking.

How do you define growth hacking as a discipline?

A growth hacker works effectively in an interdisciplinary team that preferably includes colleagues with expertise in products, wireframing, development, data and marketing. An outright growth team where marketing, product and data melts together and has the job to identify and validate opportunities for growth in the customer journey – fast and effective through sprints (shorter periods).

It is wrong to believe that a growth hacker brings a magic wand and unlimited amounts of new clients, but it is instead a team with methods and tools which systematically work with growth through data-driven experiments.

In your opinion, what characterizes a strong growth setup?

A strong growth team consists of an interdisciplinary team with e.g. a Product Manager, Developer, Marketing Specialist, Data Analyst and UI & UX Designer. Such a team diminishes the silo between departments, can work agile and can independently execute and validate experiments.

But the decisive factor is a culture backing up data as the primary driver behind each decision – both in the team, but also the management.
An experiment does not end up as a success per default. The company and management should acknowledge that it is almost necessary that some experiments fail as this then disprove a hypothesis.  Likewise, it is important to drive experiments that can give new insights and confirm a hypothesis.

“It’s not an experiment if you know it’s going to work” – Jeff Bexos, Founder & CEO, Amazon.

What are the most important trends and tendencies within growth hacking in the light of COVID-19?

In order to not be surpassed by competitors who would otherwise have an advantage in terms of new technology, target group or during times of crisis as we’re seeing with COVID-19, it is crucial for companies to be ahead when it comes to innovation and trends. A culture that allows for experiments can be the difference between success and failure.

At the beginning of April, we helped a company that offers physical courses to test the potential of taking their business online. Over a longer period, they planned everything that was supposed to happen, but it wasn’t their top priority and was a project they delayed until the end of the year. When the market was hit by COVID-19, they became very busy to get started and did not know how to launch their courses online within taking on too much risk.
Here, we helped them test a single course of 20 participants which contributed to them confirming or denying a handful of hypothesizes such as ‘our customers will not pay the same price without being physically present’ or ‘our customers will not receive the optimal value from our courses with an online format’.
With minimal risk, a relatively small budget and 14 days we disproved their hypothesizes and created a strong foundation to digitalize their entire product portfolio.

The company would never have received these results and learning if they had kept their planned million-big project, which was only supposed to be launched at the end of 2020.

Where do you find professional inspiration?

I find professional inspiration through persons such as Guillaume Cabane, Brian Balfour, Andrew Chen, David Skok and Christoph Janz who has driven high-performance growth teams at Uber, Hubspot and Segment, etc.

I would also accentuate a handful books: Measure what matters, Spring, Hacking Growth, Influence, Hooked, Lean Analytics, Lean Startup & Traction – they’re basically about growth, psychology and analytics. See the full list here

Finally, I also listen to various podcasts like e.g. Oliver Rechnitzer (Prehype, Reppio), Christophe Lephilibert (Barry), Casper Rouchmann (Templafy), Krestian Korgsgaard (Dinner Booking), Emil Buhl Sannino (UNDO).

What is your biggest professional success?

Apart from establishing my company PLYO Lab, it is the latest success in the form of a project for an international conglomerate. In 6 weeks, we validated two business cases and created the foundation for two companies which inter alia included building online brands and creating a closed community with brand- and product ambassadors. It helped the company form their products after their exact needs and not least a lot of pre-orders.

What does it take to win the dream project? And how do you stand out from the crowd as a growth hacker/advisor?

Trustworthiness, patience and expertise in the area; it takes a good amount of trust for companies to dare to experiments to find growth. Therefore, it is important to build a strong relationship where the management on the other side of the table understands what I take and what happens when. They buy a vision where it is okay to fail before success and that takes coolness. Trustworthiness, patience and expertise are also valid when it comes to standing out from the crowd in an area that is still relatively new.

How do you see the future market within the discipline?

I see a growing market where it has been the norm for companies in Silicon Valley such as Facebook, Amazon and IBN to work in this way with growth experiments which both fail and become successful – relevantly, another quote from Jeff Bezos goes:

“Our success at Amazon is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day

The trend has also spread out in the rest of the startup- and corporate world with the tech-firms as frontrunners. Apart from that, we’re already seeing how COVID-19 has changed companies’ approach to how employees work remote, and it is now becoming easier for external companies to act as growth teams.