How to Up Your Marketing Game in 2018 

One of my goals in 2018 is to focus on learning new marketing skills.

That means dedicating time to online classes, podcasts, books or YouTube videos to get better at certain verticals.  For me, I am particularly interested in technical marketing, conversion through customer based marketing and writing marketing copy from with a foundation in behavioral economics.

Oh, and I want to get better at making waffles but that’s for another post.


Here are some of the marketing courses to take in 2018 and the ones I would recommend for anyone looking to up their marketing game.  Some are free and some are not.  I have listed them by area of interest.

How to Start a Startup Series by Stanford and Y Combinator

How to Become a Technical Marketer

The Lean Analytics Workshop

Learn SEO from the Head of SEO at Airbnb

The Mastering HubSpot Course by Rob Sobers

An advanced AdWords course to grow your business

How to Make Six Figures with Email Marketing 

Learn Content Marketing Strategy to create and grow an audience

The Ultimate Playbook for Conversion Funnels (Spoiler, I made this course.)

A Half-Day Workshop (with Yours Truly) on How to Run Growth



The Conversion Funnel Course We Use for New Hires at Our Growth Agency

Really excited to announce the launch of our first online course.

We partnered with the former Head of SEO at Airbnb (Tommy Griffith) to create The Ultimate Conversion Funnel Course.  It’s the same curriculum used to train marketing hires at General Assembly and my growth marketing agency, GrowthHit.

The online course includes:
– 25+ growth marketing case studies
– Proven funnel frameworks for running growth
– Conversion rate optimization techniques and strategies
– Tools and tips for optimizing every part of your funnel.

Tommy and I spent 6+ months fine tuning the curriculum, the case studies, filming and editing the content.  We launched it on his education platform ClickMinded and really hope you enjoy it.

It costs $497 but you can get 50% off by using the promo code MIJ.

Please let me know if you have any feedback.

The Consultant’s Dilemma

It started as an accident.

“What’s your rate?”

“Ummm . . .”

After teaching a growth marketing workshop at General Assembly in 2015, a startup founder in my class asked me to build them a marketing plan.

And she wanted to know my price. I said the first number that came to my head.

“It’s a flat fee for a marketing plan at $750” – I said this number having never consulted for anyone before.

I ended up spending 30 hours and three full weekends on it.  That’s $25/hour for those of you scoring at home.


I shot myself in the foot on that deal, but I impressed them enough that they asked if I would consult on the side.  When they asked for my hourly rate, I decided to do some research before I answered this time. 🙂

This happened a few more times as I was teaching marketing workshops and sharing my blog content.

At the time, I was an employee at a demanding startup, and it became more and more difficult to juggle my priorities.  I woke up at 5 a.m. every weekday to work for three hours on my clients, then I would head into the office for my day job.  I left at 7 p.m. every evening to spend a few hours with my wife and then worked a few more hours until I passed out with my laptop in bed, usually around 1 a.m.  After months of this, I realized it wasn’t sustainable and my wife was worried I was becoming a zombie.

I had to make a decision.

The Jump: Leaving my day job and going out on my own

First, I had to weigh the risk vs the reward. Can I get a guarantee that the money will come in?  Can I get more money consulting than being an employee? What’s the upside of each? Stock options with my employer vs. the opportunities that come with consulting.

My first task: Could I get clients to commit to a six-month guarantee?  Two clients agreed to raise my fee and guarantee six months of pay.  With these two, I was able to make more than I was at my startup.  Plus, I had other clients that were getting started.  Financially, it made more sense to make the jump.  Plus, I had been saving the consulting money for a rainy day.  (Sidenote:  I am always paranoid that every client will just leave me so I don’t spend money.)

Some people see the jump as a risky move, but it was the opposite for me.  I had already proven that I worked well with these companies and they guaranteed they would engage me for 6 months at more than what I was making.  Fortunately, my wife had a job with benefits and insurance to cover us both. Quick rant: I really feel for single consultants who don’t have this luxury.  It sucks, and we should be supporting bootstrapped entrepreneurs/consultants, but that’s for another blog post.

In my eyes, the jump was the safe move. Clients are committed. Insurance is covered. Game on. It was time to start hustling.

The Reality of Consulting

Your boss = Everyone
I quit my job and went full-time to work for myself.  I’m my own boss! I can do whatever I want, right? Nope. That’s 100% wrong.  My job was to help early-stage companies grow.  That means CEOs are paying me to get results.  That also means when things don’t go well they can email me, slack me, text me or call me 24/7. It usually goes like this: “We run out of VC money in 9 months and we have to hit our goals.  What are we doing to make that happen?” I went from having one boss to multiple bosses.

Accelerated Learning
One thing I hadn’t factored in was my exposure to new growth experiments.  I went from focusing on one business model to working on multiple marketing strategies across multiple industries.  This allowed me to accelerate my learning by performing more tests and experiments across different sectors.  I found that I was learning more in three months than I did the entire previous year.  As my experience went up, I became more confident in things I could do and more aware of the things I didn’t want to do. Also, I quickly learned what my weaknesses are … like design work. 🙁

The Unspoken Conflict
This is what sucks about consulting and most people don’t admit it. The more clients you take on the less you can deliver for each one.  I was in denial about this for a while but now I have come to terms with it.  My natural instinct is to say yes to every task and go above and beyond.    I’m game for all-nighters or working weekends to get things done.  This works as an employee but not as a consultant. You have to manage expectations and be very clear about your scope of work and your deliverables. I still try to undersell and over deliver, but not when it hurts my personal business.  This has been hard for me but very necessary.  Also, I have learned that I have to cap how many projects that I take on at one time so I can over deliver.

The Dilemma: How to Scale Yourself
I started hiring virtual assistants to help with some day-to-day items.  I was able to outsource my weekly reporting, copywriting, web production and research projects.  With the help of tools like Report Garden, Bonzai and Boomerang, I can automate invoices, correspondence and client reports.  This helped free up time, but that time was quickly filled with new clients and meetings.   I have since hit a wall.

So, how do I scale?  What do I scale?  This is the dilemma. What do I do?

I have decided that these are my options.

  1. Go upstream and raise my rates
  2. Niche down and just focus on one offering
  3. Become an agency (Hire and train employees so I can take on more clients)
  4. Keep consulting and self-fund a product on the side (Hey, it worked for 37signals and Hiten Shah)

Instead of picking just one of the above, I’m trying a couple of these options. Most people would say this is a bad idea and to focus on one.  They are probably right. Instead, I have found partners I trust to help with each one of these. Would love to know your opinion on what to do? Or you can wait to see what happens with me.

Feel free to take a peek at each experiment.

How to Run a Growth Team (Includes Free Download)

A look at how to run a growth team with frameworks from Sean Ellis and the book Lean Analytics. Includes free download with templates.

Growth is flatlining. Ads are dipping. Your growth team isn’t getting results. 

Yup, I’ve been there.

I’m currently leading growth at an ecommerce startup. As our marketing team grew, the results started to stall.

It’s not that we weren’t working hard, it’s because we weren’t focused.


That’s when I dove into these resources — Hacking Growth, Lean Analytics and Rob Sobers’ blog for guidance. If I was going to scale a startup the right way then I needed to apply the framework used by companies like Dropbox and Airbnb.

Here’s a look at the process I used to run my growth team and scale a startup to over half a million dollars per month.

Start With The End In Mind

What is your business objective? For our ecommerce company, it’s pretty simple – we care about revenue growth.  To unpack that further, we want a conversion rate over 4% and a 7% week-over-week user growth, with a customer acquisition cost (CAC) that’s under $30.

But, what should we focus on right now?  The key word here is focus.  We can work on our conversion rate and our user acquisition strategy at the same time.  But, can we do both of them extremely well at the same time?  For smaller growth teams, the answer is no.  That’s why focus is so important.

Brian Balfour, former Head of Growth at Hubspot, makes a strong case for focus in the following illustration.

How to Run Growth

One Metric Should Drive Your Actions

The goal is growth, but what is the one metric we should be focused on? With the ecommerce company, it’s about conversion rate.  Before we increased our ad spend or invested in content marketing to get people to our site, we wanted to hit our conversion rate goal of above 4%.  This way, we would be prepared for an increase in traffic volume.

We picked our metric, and, most importantly, set our goal.  This is the number the entire team has written down as the number we want to hit.  The best part about this decision is that it helps us determine the actions of everyone on the team.  From the developer to the designer, we’re all focused on moving this single metric.

Another example of how one metric drives a team’s actions is Moz, a SEO toolkit. They determined that their one metric was net adds.  Below is a graph from Lean Analytics on how this metric drove the actions at Moz:

One Metric That Matters Moz

How can you determine your one key metric or your north star?  Lean Analytics explains how  you can figure it out based on two things: your industry and your stage of businesses.  Here is a graph that shows you the one KPI you should focus on based on your business vertical and stage:

Lean Analytics Book

Your one key metric might not be on this graph, but it could directly impact one of the metrics on the above graph.  It could be a micro-conversion of one of these metrics. Here is an example of how Airbnb used one micro-conversion metric to scale their growth to a $24 billion valuation.

In the first three years, Airbnb really struggled to get any traction with their product.  They had a small group of users that loved their product but they couldn’t break through to a big audience.  They built up the supply side with listings and started to get potential renters to the site but they struggled to convert them. Their conversion rate was below average and they couldn’t figure out why.  After going through the user flow, the CEO didn’t like the feel of the product.  That’s when he decided to test professional photography on the site instead of user generated photos of listings. They tested this idea in the NYC market by sending out a professional photographer to the listings and the results were staggering.  The NYC conversion rate outperformed every other market they were in.  That’s when they decided to launch professional photography in every market.  Their metric ended up being the percentage of listings with professional photography.  Their founders still credit this move with the main catalyst for their success.  Here is a breakdown of how they ran the process:

STEP 1: Use Your Gut Instinct to Create an Experiment
Professional Photography = More Bookings

STEP 2: Test with a Clear Goal (Increase # of nights booked)
Sent 20 Photographers to Photograph NYC Listings

STEP 3: Measure Results
Professionally Photographed Listings > Other Listings

STEP 4: Data-Driven Decision
Launched Photography as a New Feature (Percentage of listings with professional photos)

How to Run Your Growth Team

You’ve determined your main business objective and the one metric to focus on.  Now, what do you do to impact that number?  How do you maximize your resources to have the biggest impact. How do you run your growth team?

First, lets look at your options. Below are two charts that show almost everything you can do as a marketer to grow.  The first chart is from the book Hacking Growth and shows 27 growth experiments to run.  The second chart is from the book Traction and it lays out the 19 channels you can use to get traction.  Think of this as your Denny’s menu for growth.

27 Growth Experiments
(Source is the book Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown)




Social Media Search Engine Optimization Online Ads
Embeddable Widget PR & Speaking Affiliate Advertising
Friend Referral Program Content Marketing Influencer Campaigns
Online Video App Store Optimization Retargeting
Community Engagement Free Tools Ad Networks
Giveaways & Contests Email Marketing Sponsorships (Blogs, Podcast)
Platform Integrations Community Building Native Content Ads
Crowdfunding Strategic Partnerships Content Syndication
Games, Quizzes Contributed Articles
Website Merchandising

19 Traction Channels
(Source is the book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg)

1.Viral Marketing
3.Unconventional PR
5.Social & Display Ads
6.Offline Ads
8.Content Marketing
9.Email Marketing
10.Engineering as Marketing
11.Targeting Blogs
12.Existing Platforms
13.Business Development
14.Affiliate Programs
15.Trade Shows
16.Community Building
18.Offline Events
19.Speaking Engagements

You might be thinking these are great resources but where the heck do I start?  How do I know the main thing to focus on right now?  Instead of trying to guess which ones will impact your one key metric, you can use a quantitative process to decide for you.  List the top 10 experiments you’re excited to run to impact your key metric.  Next, give those experiments a score (1 to 5) based on the level of impact, and then another score (1 to 5) based on ease of implementation. For impact, 1 means low impact and 5 means high impact.  For ease of implementation, 1 means hard to implement and 5 means easy to implement.  Finally, add up those numbers to determine what to focus on right now.  Below is a template to use when scoring your experiments.

Growth Team Scorecard

How to Implement This Process at Your Company

It’s not easy to introduce a new process. Here are some resources to help you do it with confidence.  Below are guides on how to implement this at your company.  I’ve broken it down into four deliverables to guide you.  Also, you can reference them in this Google Sheet for your own use.

  • The growth process
  • How to structure your team
  • How to structure your meetings
  • How to structure your week

The growth process for your team:

      1. Identify Business Objectives: Why do we exist and what are we trying to accomplish? EX: Increase customers.
      2. Set Goals for Each Objective: What does success look like? What is the outcome? EX: 5% increase in new customer emails per week
      3. Establish KPIs: What are the numbers that tell you if you’re successful or not? EX: Email Conversion Rate
      4. Create Targets: What is the expected or desired result for the KPI? EX: Conversion Rate of 7%
      5. Build Segments: What will we analyze to see if we’re successful or not? EX: Visitors by Social, Search, Referral, Direct and Paid Traffic

How to structure your growth team:

  • Growth Lead / Product Manager: Owns the meeting objective and the OMTM (One Metric That Matters).
  • Marketing Specialist: Marketing professional that specializes in the vertical (SEO, Copywriter, CRO, Social Media Manager)
  • Data Analyst: Collects and organizes the data. Builds dashboard.
  • Software Engineers: Technical person who can execute on the digital marketing experiments.
  • Product Designer(s): Designer that can execute on the digital marketing experiments.

How to structure your meetings:

15 Minutes: Metrics Review & Update Focus Area

          • Review data around the OMTM
          • Positive factors vs. negative factors
          • What to focus on now (short term and long term)

10 Minutes: Review Last Week’s Tests

          • Number of tests and what we learned

15 Minutes: Key Lessons Learned for Experiments

          • Positive vs. Negative (Embrace the failures)

15 Minutes: What to Focus on in this Cycle

          • Take growth idea nominations from the group based on ease of implementation and impact

5 Minutes: Growth Check of Idea Pipeline

How to structure your week thanks to the growth team at

MONDAYS = Analysis
Track your OMTM, Measure Experiment, Spot trends, Performance vs. goals

TUESDAYS = Planning
What experiments can you run to hit your business objectives? Manage experiments pipeline

CEO/Management Approval on executing experiments and update

THURSDAYS = Execution
Implement experiments and based on data driven ideas

Continued learning of customers, industry, and competitors

To manage the meetings, I am a big fan of Trello. Rob Sobers, Head of Growth at Varonis, created a Trello template for running growth that I use for all of my clients.

Did you find this post helpful? Want to dive deeper into setting goals, hiring, and running a growth team? Check out my in-person workshop, Mastering Growth, that I teach along with  Rob Sobers, Varonis Marketing Executive.

The TechStars Startups to Watch in 2017

We just had our Mentor Madness session with the 2017 TechStars IOT (Internet of things ) batch.  This is where we chat with founders about how to grow their businesses.

It’s fun for us because these are IOT startups. That means drones, smart homes, hardware and one company that’s making their own Alexa for Cars.

Just wanted to pass along these 12 businesses so you can find some inspiration for your own projects within one of these sites. Also, check out Jenny Fielding’s blog – she’s the TechStars Managing Director in NYC and is a must-read if up a great weekly newsletter.

As usual, here are five articles that got my attention this week:

(1) 5 Steps to Create a Killer Instagram Ad Strategy for eCommerce Products

(2) How to Grow Your Business to $1 Million — and Beyond

(3) SEO for Copywriters: Tips on Measuring SEO Impact – Next Level

(4) 6 Must Reads for Scaling Yourself as a Leader

(5) Startups are cheaper to build, but more expensive to grow – here’s why

I will be teaching or speaking in the next few months. Here are the dates:

– 8/15: Digital Marketing Workshop in Seattle, WA
– 8/23: Marketing Talk in NY, NY
– 8/14: Data Talk in San Francisco, CA
2/22: Growth Marketing in LA, CA


Jim Huffman
Co-Founder & CEO

Newsletter: How to Create a Data-Driven Social Media Strategy

Snapchat. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. Linkedin. Quora. Reddit. Pinterest.

The list of social channels goes on and on. But should your company be on every channel? Or just one?

And how do you know if you’re focused on the best social channel for you?

Well, I worked with MediaBistro to come up with a Data-Driven Social Media Strategy. Read it here.

As usual, here are five articles that got my attention this week:

(1) Facebook Metrics: New Ways to Measure Ad and Page Engagement

(2) How to Get Your Emails Delivered to the Gmail Primary Tab Easily

(3) Our 6 Must Reads On Pricing a Product

(4) 17 Obscure Persuasion Techniques for Conversion Optimization

(5) The Road to a $100M Company Doesn’t Start with Product

I will be teaching or speaking in the next few months. Here are the dates:

– 8/15: Digital Marketing Workshop in Seattle, WA
– 8/23: Marketing Talk in NY, NY
– 8/14: Data Talk in San Francisco, CA
2/22: Growth Marketing in LA, CA


Jim Huffman
Co-Founder & CEO

Newsletter: How to NOT Become an Outdated Marketer

As a marketer, how do you stay on top of everything?

It’s really hard to know what’s trending in the digital space. The landscape moves so fast. It’s overwhelming. And it’s just annoying.

Translation: it’s easy for your marketing skills to become outdated.

But, I’ve found a few go-to sources that help me stay in the know.

Actually, they help me stay ahead of most other marketers.  I am able to browse these sources in 10 minutes and learn a little something every single day.  If anything, they help me identify trends of where the market is going.  Here is a quick list by vertical.

For Facebook ads, I use this blog and I do a call with my Facebook ad rep once a month. Their blog is good as well – boring, but good.

For conversion tips, conversionXL is hard to beat.

For SEO tips, Search Engine Land, MOZ and the Google Analytics blog will cover 99% of what you want.  (Brian Dean’s blog is worth a shout out.)

For growth case studies, these guys are the main hub and I love the Sumo blog.

For social media, the team at Buffer constantly churns out great case studies.

For product inspiration, I reference the Product Hunt App at least once a day.

For design inspiration, I am not a designer but I like to be in the know. I check out Dribble’s top list and I look at the top apps in the app store once a week. Optimizely provides great case studies as well.

I use Feedly’s RSS feed to pull in most of these feeds.

Disclaimer: I’m kind of obsessed with basketball so here are my other must-read resources for staying in the know as a die-hard hoops fan.

For basketball season, I toss on another 10 minutes of reading here and . . . here.  Oh, and I may or may not watch the locker room speech from Hoosiers before big meetings.

As usual, here are five articles that got my attention this week:

(1) 7 Facebook Headline Hacks to drive clicks through the roof

(2) How to Turn Your (Boring and Generic) Emails Into Emails that Convert

(3) 3 Ways To Drive Visitors To Your Latest Blog Post

(4) Funnel Analysis: Finding and Fixing Conversion Problems with Google Analytics

(5) Why Product Market Fit Isn’t Enough

I will be teaching or speaking in the next few months. Here are the dates:

– 7/17: Digital Marketing Workshop in Seattle, WA
– 8/15: Digital Marketing Workshop in Seattle, WA
– 8/23: Marketing Talk in NY, NY
– 8/14: Data Talk in San Francisco, CA
2/22: Growth Marketing in LA, CA


Jim Huffman
Co-Founder & CEO

Newsletter: 23 Things I Learned from Spending $100,000 on Facebook Ads

So, you want to scale your Facebook ads?

You want to go from spending, say $5 per day to something like $30,000 every month?

Great! But, hold onto your wallet.  Let’s cover some basics.

This past year, we took on two tasks: mastering the always evolving Facebook ad platform, and scaling a budget for Facebook ads from $20 a day to $50,000 a month.

Here’s what we learned about Scaling Facebook Ads along the way.

As usual, here are five articles that got my attention this week:

(1) How to Launch a New Website When You Have Zero Experience

(2) 16 Genius Ideas for Your Facebook Ad A/B Testing

(3) Finding and Fixing Conversion Problems with Google Analytics

(4) CASE STUDY: The Pre-launch Strategy That Built MeetEdgar a 100k List

(5) The Hypergrowth Curve: How to Navigate the 3 Stages of Massive Growth

I will be teaching or speaking in the next few months. Here are the dates:

– 6/8: Data Talk in San Francisco, CA
– 6/13: Marketing Plan Workshop an Online Webinar
– 7/24: Digital Marketing Workshop in Seattle, WA
– 8/23: Marketing Talk in NY, NY


Jim Huffman
Co-Founder & CEO

6/23/2017 Newsletter: Thank you for Downloading Our Alexa App

I just want to give a quick thank you.

My co-founder and I truly thank you for downloading and supporting our Growth Hacker Alexa App.  We’re approaching 5,000 plays and our team is working hard to curate content just for you.  To date, here is the most popular growth hacking tip:

“Tweet and Like buttons isn’t word of mouth marketing. Rather, word of mouth comes from content, thoughtfulness, solved problems, and ease of use—in short, the whole experience of a product or service.” – Sean Ellis, Former Head of Growth at Dropbox and GrowthHackers CEO

Again, thank you for your support. We’ll continue to bring you more products and services. Like this one.

As usual, here are five articles that got my attention this week:

(1) 5 Facebook Ad Optimization Rules to Steal (And 5 Reasons Why You Need Them)

(2) If You Had 24 Hours to Improve Revenue, What Would You Do?  Top Growth Hackers Respond

(3) How to Write Sales Copy for Your Emails to Get Results?

(4) 162 Best Ecommerce Site Designs of 2017

(5) How to Get Your Medium Stories to Rank on The Front Page of Google

I will be teaching or speaking in the next few months. Here are the dates:

– 7/17: Digital Marketing Workshop in Seattle, WA
– 8/15: Digital Marketing Workshop in Seattle, WA
– 8/23: Marketing Talk in NY, NY
– 8/14: Data Talk in San Francisco, CA
2/22: Growth Marketing in LA, CA


Jim Huffman
Co-Founder & CEO

How to Become an Experienced Growth Marketer When No One Will Hire You

Here is a guide on how to get experience as a growth marketer without having a job.

Students in my General Assembly digital marketing class constantly ask me one question about getting a job in growth marketing or digital marketing.

For a while, I didn’t know how to answer it.  This question is the main reason most of them don’t break into a career in digital marketing or growth hacking. The question:

How to get experience as a digital marketer when no one will hire you?

Not having experience is the main reason they think they are unable to start a career in growth marketing. These are smart people asking this question. The digital marketing class at General Assembly is usually filled with young professionals looking to get a digital marketing gig, experienced professionals looking to make a career change or veteran marketers from the print world wanting relevant skills to become more marketable.

It’s possible to get experience without having a job title of growth marketer or digital marketer because that’s how I started.

I have broken down my answer into two parts below. The answer involves rolling up your sleeves and relentlessly pursuing this career path by targeting early stage companies or getting experience on your own. Here are the steps I would take if I were starting today.

Read. Read every book or blog you can find about growth hacking, technical marketing or digital marketing.

So what to read . . .

Get any experience you can growing companies by applying what you’ve been reading. If you don’t have a growth/marketing job — offer to work for free. If they won’t hire you then launch a side project on the cheap with WordPress, Shopify or even just a social account. The key is testing the different growth ideas you’re reading about. Test driving traffic and then converting that traffic.

Then once you have learned a few interesting things find companies that could benefit from this new found knowledge. Reach out to these companies and demonstrate the experience you have and pitch how they could apply it to their business. Seriously, this strategy works — Neil Patel has made his best hires from cold pitches like this.

Okay, so how to get experience applying what you learned from reading . . .

  • Look for growth jobs on Angellist, and Linkedin.
  • Launch a side project and try to grow it. Embrace your failures. Some half-baked ideas:
  • Witty Shirts on TeeSpring
  • A travel blog on WordPress
  • An affiliate site that sells Nerd Mugs
  • An Instagram account for foodies

What to test:

  • Running email capture tools like Sumo
  • Setting up Google Analytics
  • Setting up Facebook lookalike audiences
  • A/B testing landings pages with Unbounce
  • Optimizing for search with 3rd party tools like Yoast and SEMrush
  • Building digital tools to generate users or leads
  • Creating a content strategy based on Buzzsumo’s results

Thanks to Youtube, Google and Podcasts you can learn as much as you want for free. Then you can actually test these ideas for as little as it cost to buy a web domain. You can do it. I credit this self-taught approach to everything I know in digital marketing.

Want to learn more? Check out our guide to making a marketing plan in 2017.

This was originally posted on Growthhit.