How Noah Kagan Changed Our Growth Model

A look at Noah Kagan’s growth model and how we put it into practice.

The other day I was cruising through my RSS feed (#Feedly) when I got sucked into the following TechCrunch Headline:

You’re Still Modeling Growth Incorrectly

And I was sure I would be able to disprove it

I do marketing for a living — I got this.

As I started to read, the first few paragraphs, I realized that this was pretty good and I was wrong, very wrong.  This method is exactly how a startup should model out their growth strategy.

The article was written by Noah Kagan and the guy knows a thing of two about growing startups  — just read it for yourself here. Or check out his bio.

At, Noah was tasked with getting the first 100,000 users. Lots of people would approach this task with the model seen below.

You know this model.

The one where you pull a number out of the sky, multiple that number by a growth rate and, boom, you hit 100,000 users. The problem is the growth rate. You don’t just pick a rate.  No, you have to pick what you work on — your inputs. Noah references’s Andrew Chen’s article about this common forecasting mistake.

Instead of modeling off of a growth rate you should model off of your inputs and your goals. Mint’s goal was 100,000 users so he found enough inputs to get to hit his goal. check out his growth model below that involves converting traffic into users from press, google ads, his network and more:

Noah Kagan's Growth Model

That’s when I created our own traffic model based on Noah’s framework. Since we’re dealing we reoccurring traffic and existing users we added some variations.

First, we have a “baseline” of traffic from our existing practices — basically our average monthly traffic if we do business as usual. Second, we added what I’m calling traffic “drivers”. Drivers are the things that we can control to grow traffic: increase email sends, ad spend by platform, new partnerships, etc. Email send frequency is a powerful one because we’re building up a significant email list. By doubling our email sends we can double our email traffic. (Well, assuming we’re not abusing this channel.)

Also, we’ve determined our acquisition costs on Facebook, Pinterest & AdWords so we know how to turn the knob on the paid channels if necessary.

Here is a basic template with the traffic drivers. (I tossed in some dummy data for this example.)

Noah Kagan Growth Model Example

This model has drivers you control to help you back into your traffic goals. This model increases the email campaigns by 4x, has two partnerships and increases the total paid traffic spend from $0 to $800. As a result, you hit over 500,000 sessions with a 42% monthly grow rate.

Yes, you could stick with the model driven by growth rates – they look pretty as charts.  However, this model is driven by you.  That means that you have complete control over your traffic so it’s not a guessing game. It’s a bottoms up growth roadmap that helps you hit those lofty growth projections.

We should probably buy Noah a beer (or some tacos) for this model.

What Trending in Marketing on 6.23.2016

My Favorite Articles of the Week 

How to Launch a Product the right way.

One powerful Social Media Tool for Twitter.

A 40 point checklist for content marketing.

Below are the articles that got my attention this week. Cheers!

Launch Plan by Foundr

How ‘Foundr’ Pulled Off a Successful Product Launch, A Step by Step Guide

13 eCommerce Conversion Optimization Case Studies that are Game Changers

Indispensable Growth Frameworks from A Facebook, Twitter and Wealthfront Alum

The Ultimate 40-Point Checklist for a Smarter Content Marketing Strategy 

Arguably, The Most Powerful Social Media Tool on Twitter

The Top Marketing Articles of the Week 5.19.2016

My Favorite Articles of the Week 

The ultimate guide to Instagram.

300 free tools to grow your startup.

And some business advice from a Navy Seal.

Below are the articles that got my attention this week and one of my favorite commencement speeches. (It is graduation week after all.)  Enjoy!

The Ultimate list of 300 Free Tools for Startups

How to Grow Your Instargam Following With These 7 Guides

The SEO Handbook with 17 Essential Tips You MUST Follow

37 Proven Methods To Increase Blog Traffic And Boost Engagement

A Navy Seal Has Some Business (and Life) Advice for You

4.11.2016 My 5 Favorite Marketing Articles of the Week

Case studies. New social media tools. Industry best practices.

Here’s a roundup of the best articles, growth advice, and podcasts that I’ve found to be helpful this week.


20 Growth Hacking Tools for Marketers

How I Drove 34,000 SEO Visits in 60 Days (For Free)

How to Decrease the Odds That Your Startup Fails

Growing a Site from 0 to 10k Visitors a Month

13 eCommerce Case Studies that’ll Make You Rethink Your Site

Want to Attend more Startup Events in NYC? Use this.

Have You Tested Your Headlines Shareability? This Tool Will Help.

Here is My Presentation on Growth Hacking in Toronto

The “Growth Hacking Your Marketing Plan” presentation from the 2015 Realtime Marketing conference in Toronto.

I did a presentation at this social media conference in Toronto last year called the ‘Realtime Marketing Lab‘ conference.  The topic was “Growth Hacking Your Marketing Plan” and this presentation covers how to build growth and scale into your digital marketing initiatives.  I finally got around to putting the slides online.  Here you go.

Here is a breakdown of each slide:

How to Growth Hack Your Marketing Plan

  1. How to Growth HACK Your Marketing Plan Jim Huffman VP of Marketing TheTake
  2. @JimWHuffman
  3. Acquired for$500M
  4. @JimWHuffman
  5. $24B Valuation
  6. @JimWHuffman
  7. $10B Valuation
  8. What is a Growth Hacker? Sean Ellis (Dropbox) came up with the phrase “Growth Hacker” in 2010 when he was trying to hire his replacement. Because a the Marketing candidates weren’t working out. “A Growth Hacker is a person whose true north star is Growth. ” – Sean Ellis
  9. Wait, So What Does that Mean? “After product-market fit and an efficient conversion process, find scalable, repeatable and sustainable ways to grow the business.” – Sean Ellis
  10. Product Data / Analytics Marketing Growth Hacking What Goes into Growth Hacking?
  11. GH = Distribution Built into Product LINKEDIN Add Your Address Book and Build Your Network. GILT Invite a Friend and Get $25 When They Buy.
  12. Growth Hacking Summary 1. North Star = Growth 2. Find scalable, repeatable and sustainable ways to grow 3. Use Product, Data & Marketing 4. Distribution Built into Product
  13. STOP How do you know you’re ready to GROW?
  14. You Need to Answer Three Questions
  15. 1. Do You Have Product Market Fit? How do you measure Product Market Fit? 1. 40% of Users would be “Very Disappointed” if your product disappeared. 2. NPS Score How would you feel if you could no longer use [product]? (A) Very disappointed (B) Somewhat disappointed (C) Not disappointed (it isn’t really that useful) (D) N/A – I no longer use [product] ( DISCLAIMER: False positives could emerge from surveys. Make sure your engagement & retention data supports your results.
  16. How Do You Maintain PMF? CASE STUDY Talk to users and understand their problem. And do it every single day. We call our experience the “Happiness Initiative” and we measure it daily.
  17. 2. Are You Optimized for Growth? CONVERSION: Can you convert a user? RETENTION: Can you keep a user?
  18. How We Messed Up Conversion and Then Fixed It CASE STUDY < 1% Sign-Ups
  19. We Leveraged Our ‘Magic Moment’ CASE STUDY • Users coming through SEO (70% of traffic) are trying to Solve a Problem, • Identify when you solve a user’s problem = “Magic Moment” • RESOURCE: Alex Schultz, Head of Growth – See your friends • Demonstrate why they should sign up Over 4% Sign-Ups
  20. We Bring them Back with Email CASE STUDY • Editorial team dedicated to keeping you users engaged through high quality content.
  21. 3. Is Growth a Priority? Then you better track it every single day. Facebook’s #1 Metric: How Many More Users (as a percentage) Were Added Per Day?
  22. Summary 1. Product Market Fit 2. Conversion & Retention 3. Everyone’s Focused on Growth
  23. GO Congrats, you’re ready for growth.
  24. Lets Get in the Growth Mindset 1. Your Goal is to Expedite the Speed of Your Feedback Loop. 2. A/B Testing & Analytics are the Language of Growth. 3. Over 80% of your Growth ideas will FAIL. (And that’s okay.)
  25. GROWTH HACK: Plan of Attack STEP 1: Identify Growth Ideas to Test STEP 2: Test for Scalable & Repeatable Ideas STEP 3: Measure & Model Your Growth STEP 4: Repeat
  26. How to Come Up with Growth Ideas? It starts with thinking about your Customers. 1. What does the customer or the market want? 2. Who are my customers / users? 3. Where do I find my customers / users? 4. What language do my customers / users speak? STEP 1
  27. Here are 19 Traction Channels 1. Viral Marketing 2. PR 3. Unconventional PR 4. SEM 5. Social & Display Ads 6. Offline Ads 7. SEO 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 17. Sales 18. Offline Events 19. Speaking Engagements STEP 1
  28. Get Inspiration from Market Research 1. Study a Brand or Competitor 2. Research their Traffic Drivers 3. Analyze their channels that have traction 4. See where they’re putting their creative energy STEP 1
  29. What to Consider When Testing? • Biggest Impact • Free vs. Paid • Fastest Feedback Loop • What A/B tests are you the most excited about? • What segments are you targeting? And most Importantly . . Are these Ideas are Repeatable & Scalable? STEP 2
  30. How to Measure Your Growth? • Simplicity. Simplicity. Simplicity. • Pick One Thing: Traffic, Sign-Ups, Engagement/Retention, Whatever. • Automate Your Reporting. STEP 3
  31. How to Model Your Growth? • Model Growth Based on Your Growth Channels • Use Your Inputs to drive growth. Do NOT use growth rates STEP 3
  32. Repeat.
  33. Case Studies Growth Hacking Inspiration
  34. Google Images + Timing = Traffic CASE STUDY Capturing Users Through Organic SEO Screenshots taken in an incognito window • Be the first website to submit images & pages for movie & TV show products • Search = over 70% of Traffic
  35. Coach.Me: How They Found 70k Users CASE STUDY • GOOGLE KEYWORD PLANNER: How are people talking about your product? • QUORA: Where are they talking about your product?
  36. Hitlist: Engineering as Marketing CASE STUDY Chrome extension went viral on product hunt & featured in the Chrome Web Store
  37. Mint: Growth through Content • Challenge: Personal finance (not viral) and requesting personal data • Product Wasn’t Viral but their Personal Finance Blog Was viral. • 1.5 Million Users in 2 Years, Sold for $170 Million CASE STUDY
  38. SumoMe: Just Get in the Door CASE STUDY • Promote Free Products (ahead of Paid) • Frictionless Sign-Up: No Credit Card Required
  39. Evernote: Find a New Growth Channel CASE STUDY • App Store = New Distribution Channel • “We really killed ourselves in the first couple of years to always be in all of the app store launches on day one.” • 19,000 New Sign-Ups / Day
  40. My Favorite Resources 1. How to Start a Startup: Alex Schultz, Growth at Facebook (Video) 2. Lean Startup Marketing (Book) 3. The Viral Startup (Book) 4. Traction (Book) 5. The Viral Loop (Book) 6. Growth Engines (Book) 7. Hooked (Book) 8. The Ultimate Sales Machine (Book) 9. What Great Brands Do (Book) 10.First Round Capital Review (Blog) (Forum) 12.Startup Grind (Podcast) 13.The Growth Show (Podcast) 14.Paul Graham’s Essays (Blog) 15.Neil Patel (Blog) BONUS: (Blog)
  41. Let’s Talk Jim Huffman VP of Marketing Twitter: @jimwhuffman


18 Startup Resources That Have Changed How I Approach Growth

The 18 startup resources that have a shaped how I approach growing a company.

I’ve been trying to read more books this year and I’m doing alright if we count audiobooks. (And we are.) I’ve leveraged recommendations from podcasts or favorite blogs to get the best startup or marketing reads. Here are 18 badass books, videos, blogs or podcast about growing a startup that have probably saved me. In no particular order . . .

(1) How to Start a Startup: Alex Schultz, Growth at Facebook (Video)
What I liked: The entire ‘How to Start a Startup’ series was awesome and this talk was my favorite. Hearing how ‘Zuck’ was relentless about his focus on growth was inspiring. And his overall analysis of how they leveraged a user’s ‘magic moment‘ to retain them for the long term.

(2) Lean Startup Marketing by Sean Ellis (Book)
What I liked: Sean Ellis lead growth at Dropbox and this book is essentially a marketer’s guide to growing a startup. It’s so rich with knowledge and tips you’ll find yourself taking note after note.

(3) The Viral Startup by Andrew Chen (Book)
What I liked: Andrew is now the head of growth at Uber and if you are a stats or numbers person then you’ll love his approach to growth. This is his blog in book form but it’s absolutely worth the read.

(4) Traction by Gabriel Weinberg (Book)
What I liked: They breakdown the 19 traction channels for finding users/customers and have strong case studies. I took those 19 channels and built them into our growth model. It’s great for getting inspiration for growth ideas.

(5) Viral Loop by Adam Penenberg (Book)
What I liked: It dissects the history of viral growth across the most revolutionary startups. Consider it your growth history lesson.

(6) Growth Engines by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown (Book)
What I liked: Growth case studies on top of growth case studies. Great for coming up with growth ideas for your own projects.

(7) Hooked by Nir Eyal & Ryan Hoover (Book)
What I liked: It’s a playbook for how Product Hunt build their retention engine. If you’re building a community then it’s a must read.

(8) The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes (Book)
What I liked: Horrible title. Awesome book. Honestly, this might be my favorite. I have never dog-eared so many pages in a book. Just read it.

(9) What Great Brands Do by Denise Lee Yohn (Book)
What I liked: If you’re at all focused on branding then read this. Denise has you analyze your brand from 7 verticals. It’s somewhat straight forward but a necessary read when it comes to branding.

(10) First Round Capital Review (Blog)
What I liked: This might be the best VC blog out there. Every post is long form and it’s insights from their existing portfolio companies. They cover everything from growth and sales to product design and hiring. It’s like getting your startup MBA in blog form.

(11) (Forum)
What I liked: The AMA’s and case studies are second to none in the growth industry. Plus it’s run by the guy who invented growth hacking.

(12) Startup Grind (Podcast)
What I liked: Great storytelling from entrepreneurs in San Fran, NYC, London and all over. Nice listen for the daily commute.

(13) The Growth Show (Podcast)
What I liked: Short quick hits with industry leaders about specific examples of growth. Do it.

(14) Paul Graham’s Essays (Blog)
What I liked: The Y Combinator founder wrote a series of essays that are a must read for anyone getting into startups. He tackles everything from how to come up with an idea to why growth is the #1 thing that matters.

(15) Neil Patel (Blog)
What I liked: Warning: you’re about to get lots of emails. But the guy knows his stuff and offers lots of thoughtful tips and, dare I say, hacks.

(16) The Pmarca Blog eBook by Marc Andreessen (eBook)
What I liked: When Marc Andressen speaks you listen. I think he night be the smartest person on this list – need to get everyone’s SAT scores to confirm that. He is extremely good at explaining hard concepts in the startup world.

(17) The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (Book)
What I liked: The entire damn book, the rap references and the brutally honest truths about growing a company. I have read this one twice.

(18) Feld Thoughts (Blog)
What I liked: Brad Feld is an entrepreneur turned VC that’s also written some awesome books about startups. His blog is a nice snapshot of what’s happening in the current startup space from his founder-friendly perspective.

6 Must-Watch Growth Hacking Videos

The 6 growth hacking videos that have changed the way we approach marketing and user acquisition at our startup.

WHO: Alex Schultz
WHERE: ‘How to Start a Startup’ at Stanford University (2014)
WHAT I LIKED: The entire ‘How to Start a Startup’ series was awesome and this talk was my favorite. Hearing how ‘Zuck’ was relentless about his focus on growth was inspiring. And his overall analysis of how they leveraged a user’s ‘magic moment’ to retain them for the long term.

WHO: Noah Kagan
WHERE: ‘Search Love Conference’ in NYC (2011)
WHAT I LIKED: Noah gives you his exact playbook for growing users. It’s a great talk that gets into the blocking & tackling of growing your business and sales. Lots of great intel to apply to your business. Plus, he tosses out his cell number and crowd-sources the audience for . . . sex. Link here.

WHO: Chamath Palihapitiya
WHERE: ‘Growth, Myths & Anecdotes’ Talk (2012)
WHAT I LIKED: Hearing how he managed the uber-talented growth team at Facebook. The fact that he never focused on virality until he nailed the 3 hardest things: 1) getting people in the door, 2) delivering the ‘magic moment’ as fast as possible, and (3) delivering core product value as often as possible. (Good insight at the 9 minute mark.)

WHO: Sean Ellis
WHERE: ‘Growing Your Startup’ at Pioneers Festival (2012)
WHAT I LIKED: The emphasis on Product Market Fit and how to validate it before focusing on growth and talking to users. Then he dives into the principles of growth at a startup — pretty helpful since he invented the term “growth hacker.” This serves as a growth manual for any startup.

WHO: Josh Elman
WHERE: ‘Grow Conference’ Talk (2013)
WHAT I LIKED: No fluff — which is nice. He dives right into case studies from Twitter and Linkedin about the double viral loop, the learn flow & user accounting. Good A/B testing examples that have helped drive our tests. (And lots of pretty graphs.)

WHO: Neil Patel
WHERE: ‘Growth Hacking’ at Pioneers Festival (2014)
WHAT I LIKED: Neil breaks down how & where to find your customers. Some strong examples on integrating with powerful distribution platforms to spread the word. But the best part is the Q/A section when he rattles off growth ideas for random businesses.

15 Mobile Stats You Need to Know Before You Start Marketing

A look at 15 eye-opening smartphone stats to help you understand potential users.

Just walking around NYC it’s not hard to see the power of mobile.

And I’m guilty. (I do everything but shower with my iPhone.)

At our startup, every design and product iteration begins with mobile in mind or as the top priority. It’s how over 50% of our users consume our website, blog, email, or app. And that number is only going up as we’re even embracing bigger mobile screens. (Sadly, the Zoolander phone didn’t win out.)

To truly process the impact of this mobile movement, I dug up 15 staggering stats to help you understand the mobile phone user. Here we go:

  1. 50 Billion texts are sent on WhatsApp everyday.
  2. 6.3 Billion texts are sent per day in the US.
  3. The average American sends and receives 35 texts per day.
  4. You check your phone 150 times per day.
  5. The US adults spends an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes a day using mobile devices.
  6. 80% of internet users own a smartphone.
  7. 78% of Facebook users are mobile-only.
  8. More email is read on mobile than on desktop email clients.
  9. Text messages have a 98% open rate (Email is 22%)
  10. The average response time per text is 90 Seconds (Email is 2.5 days)
  11. A texting campaign is 8 times more likely to be shared then an email campaign
  12. 44.7% of email opens occur on a mobile device.
  13. Over half of smartphone users grab their smartphone immediately after waking up.
  14. By 2019, mobile advertising will represent 72% of all US digital ad spending.
  15. Traffic from mobile devices is now nearly 50 percent of overall online U.S. retail traffic.

And one last note on mobile stats comes from Benedict Evans at Andreessen Horowitz. He created graph showing where people use there mobile phones. Turns out that mobile doesn’t really mean mobile. See his graph here.

Good luck with your marketing.

I got these stats from, SlickText, GSMA, WhatsApp and Forrester Research.


How We Got Our First 20,000 Emails

This is how we used our product’s “magic moment” to activate users and get our email list to 20,000 email addresses.

The conversion funnel.

Apparently, it means you need to convert people.

Well, we f*ed that part up.

When we launched our product we were focused on the top part of the conversion funnel: driving traffic. For us, this is done with SEO, content marketing & affiliates/partners. After optimizing all of our pages, links, headlines, images and whatever else, we succeed. Over 70% of our traffic was coming in from Google and we had significant month over month.


Well, that was until we noticed our sign up conversion rate was less than 0.5%. We‘re losing thousands of email address every single day.


We didn’t completely ignore this. We had a basic pop-up with the standard prompt about joining a list. Users closed it at a record speed.

We tried pop-ups with humor, stats emphasizing social proof & sensational headlines. But they didn’t move the needle. Then saw this talk by Alex Schultz and it changed our approach. We decided to focus on our “magic moment.”

Magic moment is essentially figuring out when your product adds the most value to your users and that’s when you ask for something.

And it’s about getting to this moment as fast as possible.  (1) Get people in door, (2) Get people to magic moment & (3) Deliver core value as often as possible.

Another way to thing about it is finding the moment when your users are the most exited about your product. The second they derive the most value from your website and say, “F* yeah this is awesome”, is the moment when you want to activate a user.

Here is how we did that.

  1. Understand the user’s intent. Users coming to a specific landing page through search are great because you already have an idea of their intent. EX: a person coming to the James Bond sunglasses page has a strong intent to figure out where they can get the sunglasses from the movie.
  2. Find the Magic Moment. For this one, you need to get emotional. Think of the problem the person is trying to solve and then identify the peak moment when you solve that users problem. For us, it was when they saw the sunglasses on James Bond and the words “Exact Match” and “Buy.” This is when they understand our full value proposition and we can ask them to become a member of TheTake.
  3. Say why They Should Join. Make sure the understand what they’ll get out of this product.  And be very very clear.
  4. Test. And Test Some More. Test everything from the copy, images, GIFs, timing and segments to optimize this experience.

The Result: We’re able to convert over 13% of users across desktop, mobile & app because we understand our magic moment. And we understand how our users experience our product.

Up next, figuring how the heck to get them back to our site. But that’s for another blog post.