Guest Column | August 6, 2020

4 Tips For Providing User Value Through Growth Engineering

By Kim Wachtel, JumpCloud

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Growth engineering strategies have driven both mass adoption and huge increases in revenue for notable software companies including Atlassian, Slack, and Zoom. For businesses looking to emulate their success, making growth engineering a foundation upon which the entire company is built isn’t easy, but is essential. The movement to a user-centered growth strategy puts business focus exactly where it should be: on value, both initial and ongoing, for users. Solidifying value for users in turn creates value for the business.

Growth engineering is an approach that uses data, tools, and processes to gain, retain, learn from, and inspire users. It’s designed around creating instant—and continued—value for the user, which in turn results in high-value lifetime customers. It forces focus on overarching corporate objectives, rather than short-term profitability. It relies on offering an engaging initial touch, then building and developing products around a great user experience rather than relying on product vision that percolates internally. That so many businesses are adopting growth engineering is a tectonic shift, but a welcome one. Old models built on top-down vision often result in bad processes, with successes driven by luck, rather than by user value or data. Growth engineering transitions much of the decision-making influence from a top-down model to one driven by end users.

What is growth engineering not? A quick and simple shift. It can’t be yet one more strategy tossed into the ring. Growth engineering must be approached as a foundational concept that’s integrated throughout all parts of the company and that’s good for both users and business.

The benefits of a growth engineering strategy are many: direct feedback, cost-effectiveness, and user-centrality. The results are strong, happy customers, useful products, and profitability.

With that goal in mind, here are four best practices when considering how to implement a growth engineering strategy within your business.

1. Define Success Early

Defining—up-front—what success looks like is essential, whether starting small (with a handful of people) or kicking off with a larger team. When you articulate that vision and the metrics you’ll use, you give the team an ever-present yardstick for measurement and evaluation. Create personas to help product and sales teams define target markets, an especially important goal when accounting for the lack of access and insights that comes with pursuing prospects.

Whether your goals are measured in downloads, specific conversion rates, premium feature adoption, increased feature use, or something else, envision what success looks like to you and evaluate your progress regularly. Address questions like:

  • What did we learn?
  • Did the product do what we thought it would?
  • Did this create value for the user?
  • If users aren’t using it, is it a matter of education or a flaw in functionality?

2. Dive Into Data

Growth engineering relies heavily on usage analytics, on experimenting, and on changing course based on usage patterns. Usage analytics such as what features users access, in what sequence, and with what frequency are just a few of the data points you should be evaluating when planning a product’s roadmap.

Data visualization tools like Periscope provide clear and direct measurement of user access and activity patterns. Leverage tools such as Salesforce to weave that data into your product planning. Look at where a customer began their journey, digging into what they’re interested in, and distilling where commonalities might exist across different user journeys that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Analytics are efficient, offering nearly instant insight into A/B testing results, what content is capturing user’s attention, or patterns in the user journey that create the opportunity for feature innovation. Smart use of them can be leveraged to catch behavior anomalies and anticipate churn and can be integrated into CRM, customer success applications, and subscription management.

3. Build Communication Into UI

Because growth engineering centers on making value explicit to the user, offering a variety of communication touchpoints can not only educate but also increase the adoption of your service. A common challenge for SaaS companies is how to effectively communicate with customers about all of the features being added. You’re building and investing, but users may lose track of or miss those new capabilities. IT admins are often solo or on understaffed teams. They’re driven by interoperability; they want to be proactive, but often don’t have the time or resources. Meanwhile, existing users understand the initial value of your product (they wouldn’t be customers if they didn’t!), but they’re likely less clear about the new and ongoing value you’re creating.

Lessen the burden for all parties. Do everything you can to let users know, both within and outside of the product, how their life will be made easier by your product. Design for a great welcome or onboarding experience, with lightweight messaging that communicates how your new feature benefits them, then direct users to multiple options for deeper learning. Draw attention to functionality and provide a concise description of its real-world value within the application. Outside of the product, helpful communications include a regular newsletter that describes what’s new and what’s coming, along with a robust resource page that articulates tips, tricks, and new functionality.

4. Combine Talents

From the beginning, pull in different voices and work on building a healthy cross-functional team. While marketing and product teams often align objectives, also be sure to include salespeople to find out what they’re hearing from prospects, especially on the sticking points preventing deals from closing. Inquire about what customer success reps are hearing; leverage the feedback to deliver even better user experience, improving what’s not working, and making what’s good even better. Often, growth engineering teams work within a product’s codebase when experimenting with features, making coordination with other product, engineering, and QA folks crucial. Simply put, by including all stakeholders, you get better ideas and stronger feedback while avoiding unnecessary disruptions or unwittingly putting your service at risk.

I love product ceremonies where everyone shares information constantly, ensuring that everyone is aligned and that all participants—from developers to marketing—feel connected to what’s being built. Great ideas come from a lot of places; build in time for both intentional brainstorming and unexpected listening. Your business will benefit—and so will your users.

About The Author

Kim Wachtel, as vice president of growth engineering and UX at JumpCloud, designs innovative technology experiences that flex to people. With 20 years of insight into all phases of the product development life cycle, Kim is leading the development of a seamless experience for JumpCloud admins and users alike.