Thursday, 2nd March saw the first taster event in the UK for a growth marketing course which has already seen 1,400 Dutch practitioners upskilled by what calls itself Europe’s first growth hacking academy. Growth Tribe is focused on both start-ups looking to scale and established brands who need to embed new skills via a training programme with hard data and analytics at its heart.
“At the core is an assumption of how to drive growth through retention, up-selling and cross-selling,” David Arnoux, co-founder of Growth Tribe told DataIQ. “Fifty per cent of wrong assumptions could be avoided if organisations tapped into their business intelligence better, even in larger organisations. Assumptions can be tested by analysing the data correctly.”
As Arnoux acknowledges, “this is very scary for people - but we make it accessible.” That is evident right from the outset in the language and design used by the academy. But even the introductory course which the company has brought to London for the first time doesn’t duck the tough stuff - the first sessions address data-driven funnel marketing, holding back “the stuff we all love” (such as behavioural pyschology) for the second afternoon.
By that time, students will have been through 32 separate exercises over the course of two days. Each of these typically lasts 30 minutes. As co-founder Peter van Sabben explained: “Each exercise involves building a growth strategy, identifying the right tools and testing it. We have put a ‘wow’ moment into every module.”
Inspiring digital marketers as much as giving them the skills for growth is important because of the risk that organisations get stuck in a business-as-usual mindset, regardless of their maturity level. “We have investors now coming to our courses, not just to understand the companies they have invested in, but for their own growth,” he said.
Van Sabben has a track record in digital marketing, having spent seven years at Red Bull, before moving into the technology, investment and start-up space. What he saw there planted the seed of the idea for Growth Tribe. “Technological change is so rapid, but organisations are not making rapid enough progress with their sklls,” he said.
By chance, he met Arnoux, who had been working in sales consultancy for start-ups, during a boot camp accelerator. Back in 2015, having explored the world of growth hacking, the pair discussed their concept for an academy with Facebook and both the City and University of Amsterdam. With support from those organisations, they started work on the syllabus.
“We developed the course from a blank sheet,” explained Arnoux. “We analysed the top 100 fastest-growing companies in the world, especially the top dozen. From there, we identified four key areas - behavioural psychology, creative marketing, coding, data and anaytics. We put those into Bloom’s taxonomy of learning and other learning methodologies.”
It took six months for the full course to take shape. The founders had two important decisions to take. The first was whether to adopt the Silicon Valley model of AAARR (acquisition, activation, adoption, referral, revenue) which aims to create a hockey stick spike in user numbers, but without any clear revenue stream in sight (think Twitter). “We are not interested in that top of the funnel model - our focus is on retention and revenue,” said Arnoux.
This also led the pair to wrestle with what to call their programme. “Should we call it growth hacking or growth marketing? There are some bad associations with the first and an emphasis on click-through rates and A/B testing,” he noted.
As part of the data-driven approach taken within the Academy, a spirit of test-and-learn experimentation is instilled into students. This is one of the hardest culture changes for organisations to make, whether they are a new technology start-up or a long-established brand like ING, which has sent teams to Growth Tribe. An addiction to the data streams generated by event-based digital marketing tools, combined with overwhelming volumes of reporting they generate, can narrow the focus while making digital marketers feel they are practising data and analytics.
Van Sabben believes the time is right to export the success of the Dutch programme to the UK as organisations wake up to their skills gaps and start to want to fix them. “A shift is happening in organisations. It used to be that you got 70% of your training from the job, 20% from your peers and 10% in formal training,” said van Sabben.
“You can’t learn how to optimise a landing page or run a test on Facebook for yourself - those are skills you don’t figure out yourself, you have to be trained. Better skills mean marketers get a better return on investment,” he said. With 52% of marketers saying that acquiring customers - in other words, growth - is their biggest challenge, it is no surprise that Growth Tribe has grown to 16 people in under two years and is now moving into a new market. Having sold out the first London taster event and with a second due to land in April, the company looks to have learned its own growth marketing lessons.