5 Key Takeaways from Reforge

This is part of a series of reflections inspired by my Reforge Growth course. I'm part of a cohort of marketers learning how to develop a systematic approach to solving growth challenges. Find the whole series here.

I've spent the last few months learning all there is to know about growth through Reforge. And while I still have a lot to learn, this course has completely changed my mindset about what "growth marketing" actually means and how to implement it in our business. Here's my top takeaways applicable to anyone looking to grow:

Growth is much more than "growth hacking"

"Growth hacking" is a term thrown around all over the internet. The discourse centers around hacking and tinkering, rather than building sustainable, predictable growth. Similar to the myth of the lone genius, it's just not true. To build growth, the entire organization has to change their mindset. 

In other words, as a content marketer, views are great, but are people actually using the product as the result of your content? Everyone on the team has to balance every part of the funnel and stay maniacally focused on moving the needle and creating impact.

Growth can be in loops, not just channels

One of the biggest misconceptions I had going into this course was that growth was done in channels: Paid, SEO, content, etc. While this is still true, the real power comes instead from loops. We need to ask two big questions:

  1. How does one user group contribute to the creation of another? (Acquisition)
  2. How does one user's activity make them (or someone else) more likely to come back? (Retention)

Modeling growth as a loop that feeds on itself to perpetually drive growth completely changed how I think about what I'm doing every day and what we're doing as a business. 

If you have a leaky bucket, acquisition is worthless

Similarly, before this course, I focused entirely on acquisition. I've only been focusing on getting more and more and more people to try (and buy) our product. Acquisition often overshadows retention, but retention is the foundation of growth. 

Imagine a leaking bucket. You can try and fill it with water as much as you want, but water will continue to leak out unless you patch the leaks. Retention experiments are the way you can patch that leak. It's great to get someone to try your product, but how can it be so sticky that it would be painful ever to leave?

Your ability to monetize makes or breaks your business

When it comes to analyzing the channels that feed your loops, monetization is key. Acquisition channels are becoming more and more competitive as they become saturated. (Hence the phrase, "marketers ruin everything.") As they become competitive, they're less powerful, whereas improvements in the revenue part of the funnel dramatically increase your growth.

For growth teams to succeed, you need qualitative, quantitative, and intuition

Growth is often referred to as the science side of marketing, and that's largely true in today's data-driven organizations. But growth is a combination of art and science, like anything that requires a combination of skill and luck. If you're going to learn from your successes and failures, then you have to have the intuition and the qualitative skills to know why you were successful or why you failed. Otherwise, you're just a growth monkey pulling levers.

Bonus: Growth is hard.

Ok, I didn't really learn this one brand new. Growth is hard because it's the "sales" side of marketing, and it's not always easy to dig beneath the layers and figure out the psychology behind your users. It's difficult to change your mindset, too. What worked before might not always close the gap to get to the next step.

You can find the full series here.