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How we achieve growth by ignoring conventional startup advice (medium.com)
113 points by mese848 67 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments



The stuff listed as conventional advice, I've never seen anywhere. Mixpanel, the biggest player in the space says just focus on a few key metrics.

>You should track “dozens of metrics” without fail.

>You should A/B test every variable.

The unconvential advice is exactly what you see on YC. Talk to customers.

>All of the not-so-sexy tasks I was focusing on — actually engaging customers, implementing feedback and building a library of educational content — were building momentum.

Legit thought I was gonna read something about how they never talked to customers, attended conferences and founder meet ups, made a shit product and struck it big.


Surely “have daily stand ups”, “have sprints” etc. are actually conventional.


Stand-ups in general just seem to be a way to brag and sprints are meaningless after a while.


I think your company is doing standups and sprints wrong.


Most probably are


Sprints and stand-up have that in common with communism, on the paper it sounds good but in practice it ends up very differently.


I don't think 'A/B testing every variable' is conventional advice in any sense.

A/B test where that degree of tuning would make sense, given the initiative.

If you are a massive blog, and 'word choice' will make or break your company, you might want to A/B links.

But for SaaS marketing? Maybe just write decent copy. There's rarely a large enough audience anyhow.

Summary of Article:

"A good product is usually better than good marketing"


I mean, you're right that those particular examples don't fit the conventional advice, but they are common traps people fall into.

You also didn't mention the other examples from the article which definitely do come up in conventional advice: things like tracking churn, ARPU & LTV, and making it easy for customers to try the product.


> Legit thought I was gonna read something about how they never talked to customers, attended conferences and founder meet ups

I can't tell, are you saying that attending conferences and founders meetups are conventional advice, or that the conventional advice is that they shouldn't be attended?


The conventional (or what I consider conventional as I see all the YC propaganda) advice is you shouldn't "play founder". There are hundreds of events that can jerk you off and make you feel like a star.

That said, conferences can be productive. There was a good talk during Startup School this year about going to a conference with a 100% booked meeting lineup and walked away with a bunch of deals. As well, peer groups can be very beneficial (that is very much what Startup School is). They might have been poor choices as proxies for "playing founder".


Most of the time they're useless because people don't have a plan. Who are you trying to meet? Customers? Investors? People to hire? Do you know the attendees or speakers? Can you save time with focused meetings? Also what's the cost in time and money compared to productivity lost elsewhere?

I've seen people spend thousands to go to conferences and just end up hanging out with their competitors. Fun maybe, but useless.



Jokes on you if you're rolling your eyes as you open the article, as I was. It's actually very practical advice on marketing for any company into revenue.

I frequently revisit the idea that you are a sum of what you do. For companies that are products, you should be product-centric with your time and resources. For service businesses, probably more focused on process and the people behind it since they are your product. It's stressful dealing with the influx of pressure to be growth-hacky and growth-focused every day. It's a pretty gross environment in digital marketing right now, especially in SaaS and eCommerce, and it's no surprise that innovative or high quality companies discover the growth secrets: because they have great products!

Aside: I used to do more SEO and have used ahrefs a few times, more often using their competitors, but I still follow quite a few SEO's on Twitter and via email: they all _love_ ahrefs. Stellar product and about within the last 7 days I saw a huge Twitter thread about how helpful their latest feature release is. I would say they're living it.


A refreshing take. On the surface it seems to be common sense (focus on product, talk to customer) but the real take away is to not get bogged down by metrics and a/b testing because you feel like its some mandatory part of success. It's okay to leave some of those things to the wayside if you dont feel like it's feasible for your situation. Given unlimited resources i'm sure the author would have people tracking more metrics and running more tests.


Helps that Ahrefs has the clearest value proposition among all the other players in this space. Moz and SEMRush might be bigger but I can never tell what specific thing they truly excel at.

With Ahrefs, I know that they have a very good index and that's the key value proposition


"All" the conventional wisdom would include a solid content marketing strategy.

Respectfully, I feel like you buried the lead on this one.

Please allow me to highlight the conventional wisdom you ARE following.

1)Nothing buries a bad product faster than good marketing (ahrefs is a great product)

2)Do one thing very well instead of chasing trends (great content marketing)

3)Create genuine value for your audience and they will generate value for you.

Great article, I just disagree with the premise.


>1)Nothing buries a bad product faster than good marketing (ahrefs is a great product)

I don't get this one, what do you mean exactly?


Well, great marketing gets a lot of people interested in your product. Create a high expectations + bad experience combo for a lot of potential customers, and now you got into a very bad position where even if you improve the product, you can't get people to try it out (because all/ most potential customers already did, and were sorely disappointed).


I think this is inaccurate. One, you can control your exposure while your product is crap. It’s just unlikely you’ll saturate your market before you can improve the product, if indeed your company is capable of improving the product.

Additionally, the downside isn’t “customers won’t use us bf they were burned”. It just creates a bump for the sales process to overcome. It’s an impediment to a sale, not a blocker.

Finally, before p/m fit, you need to be optimizing for learning over all else. More customers, even if they have a bad experience, brings more feedback. Also, you will have an asset - email list - of people who have signed up because you’re solving a problem they have curiousity / interest in.

Look at mongo. They’re now pretty successful by most evaluations, and they did this exact thing. Outside of Hn, very few remember how they over promised and under delivered.


I had to think about it too but I think they mean that a bad product with great marketing will get lots of hits and zero traction.


That is the short of it. If you have a polished turd and shine a spotlight on it you will "fail faster" than if you you creep around in the dark. It is still better to fail fast if that is where it will end up anyway.

Put another way, good marketing doesn't fix a bad product.(ahrefs is a very good product)


I am not sure about the feature discussion on slack. Too much chatter happens in slack and important information can totally get lost. Even in the listed conversation one is asking didn't we discuss about it.

I think the proper place for these sort of brain storming is via a feature request task entry in your project management tool. This helps to properly focus and not lose track of it. I think too much of slack chatter is detrimental to productivity.


Maybe this performs that prioritization in an adhoc way. If it keeps coming up, then he’ll notice and push it harder. Otherwise if he could forget about it it’s not worth thinking about.


Surprised to see a search marketing firm using Medium for its blog. Most of the feedback on HN is that you shouldn’t do this. Why do you stick with Medium?


My guess would be that they have so much SEO juice, that losing some traffic to Medium for their blog doesn't matter. Their core audience is probably immersed by the time they read their content, and in addition to their strong reputation/WoM where they host their blog is a non issue. Maybe they also believe a lot of savvy people searching SEO content arent googling and picking up the same blogspam that exists when you search these types of topics.


the topic that I'm covering in the article doesn't have any "search volume..." I mean people aren't looking in google for "how to grow SaaS while ignoring conventional startup advice".. And Medium has their "recommendation engine" that exposes my article to more and more people if the engagement level is high.

That's why this post is on Medium and not on our own blog ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


I love how on HackerNews posts, the top two comments are always two diametrically opposed takes on the same article.


Might be a sign that we're not in an epistemic bubble, which would be good!




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