The USERS Growth Framework

To be used by Got Users clients & community. Updated June 2023.

Introduction to the USERS growth framework

The philosophy behind the USERS framework is simple: your users know things you can't learn anywhere else.

Sure, you can copy the competition, engineer a perfect hack, or hope digital ads will save you, but that won’t get users at scale.

To achieve scale, you’ll have to talk to users, strategize from those learnings, brainstorm experiments from that strategy, and reflect on those experiments to find a scalable channel or channels.

Our process is simple, but it’s not easy.

Although we can pattern-match what's worked for startups in the past, we can't pinpoint exactly how you'll grow.

There is no playbook that works for every startup in every context. So, we’re not promising one.

We're promising the process to find the playbook.

Client Results

  • Vendr worked with Got Users to crack partnerships, cold outreach, and digital ads — and drove over $1 million of profitable ACV within a year. They raised a $60M Series A and are now valued over $1B.
  • Fair Square Medicare turned paid search into 20% of their revenue within two weeks. They raised a $15M Series A in 2022.
  • Tinycare combined personalized landing pages, social ads, and a sales monitoring system to close over $500K in revenue within three months. Got Users helped them raise a $15M Series A.
  • Klue cut their acquisition costs by 67% through clearer value props, revamped copy, and properly optimized LinkedIn campaigns. They raised a $62M Series B in 2021.

U - Users

Your growth depends on the people who use you. Products don’t grow if people don’t use them.

So, first, we have to understand our users.

1a. Who uses you?

To understand who uses you, we recommend interviewing your happy users.

Happy users are users that retain — they experience the core value of your product over and over again.

The goal of growth is to get more people (like your happier users) to repeatedly experience the value of your product.

To know if we’re doing that, a metric should improve.

Growth teams call this metric the North Star Metric.

Examples:

  • Rides completed per week (Uber)
  • Monthly active users (Facebook)
  • Documents sent per month (DocuSign)
  • Daily active users (Slack)

Bad Examples

  • Signups. What if people don't actually take a ride, order food, etc.?
  • Revenue. Revenue happens because of your NSM.

We have serious horror stories about teams picking the wrong NSM. Choose wisely.

Once you have a North Star Metric, you need to answer the question: who is doing your NSM the most? Then, interview those people to understand…

1b. Why do they use you?

Figuring out why happy users use you helps you target and convert people just like them.

Many founders don’t know why users actually use them — other than a vague sense that their product is useful.

This is why we recommend filling out a value props sheet.

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People use your product when they hit problems with “bad alternatives” (more here). The implications of those problems are very painful to deal with. You pitch features to solve those problems so your user benefits.

We use these details to brainstorm acquisition channels and copy ideas.

1c. How do they buy you?

Writing out your buyer’s journey — the steps that lead users to buy your product — forces you to think about which boxes users have to check before they purchase.

A buyer’s journey determines things like messaging, how you handle objections, and at a high level, what experiments you’ll need to run to make sure people buy/use your product.

Here’s the buyer’s journey template we recommend clients fill out:

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Here’s an example buyer’s journey for an engineering hiring company, EngTrain.

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We’ll use your buyer’s journey to debug onboarding problems, figure out where in the funnel to run experiments, and more.

S - Strategize

Good strategy means you work on the right things first. It’s how you come up with a good backlog of experiments.

2a. Monitor metrics

To make sure your experiments work, you need to track what’s happening when you run them.

We recommend clients measure every major step of their funnel, along with CAC.

For example:

  • Traffic
  • Sign Up
  • Activation Event
  • North Star Metric
  • Revenue
  • Referral

It should look something like this. Here's a template you can copy.

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This usually starts in a spreadsheet, but you’ll eventually move to a data tool like Improvado, Databox or Google Data Studio so you don’t have to manually update it every week.

There are two main reasons to monitor your funnel:

  1. You can debug marketing problems. For example, we’ve had clients who saw unusual dropoff between their landing page and checkout page, then narrowed the problem to their mobile site being broken.
  2. You can track if experiments are working at a high-level. For example, if you’ve been writing a lot of content, you’d expect to see your site traffic go up over time. If you’ve been fixing your homepage, you’d expect to see signups go up.

2b. Find and exploit growth loops

You can read more about growth loops in our intro docs here, but to summarize, growth loops are when you take an output of your product and repurpose it as an input acquisition channel (where people put their attention).

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Examples

User-generated content (Reddit)
  1. You search for cat pictures on Google [input - SEO]
  2. You click the top result, which is a Reddit post for cat pictures
  3. You go "Reddit is cool!"
  4. You sign up for Reddit
  5. You post your dog pictures [output - content that ranks]
  6. Those dog pictures rank on Google [input]
  7. New people search for dog pictures and find your post
Inherent Referral (Box)
  1. You get an email that a client shared a Box file with you [input - your email inbox]
  2. You make a Box account to access it
  3. You go "Box is better than [my old way of sharing files]!"
  4. You share files with an agency on Box [output - agency's email address]
  5. Your agency contact gets an email [input] that you shared a file with them
Branded/watermarked products (Livestrong bracelets)
  1. You see someone wearing a yellow bracelet that says "Livestrong" [input - people walking by you]
  2. You go, "That looks cool!"
  3. You google Livestrong (or ask a friend what it means)
  4. You buy a bracelet on the site and wear it around town [output - bracelet with a unique word]
  5. Someone else sees you [input] wearing the bracelet

Based on your user interviews, you may think of a growth loop to monitor, but growth loops aren’t always obvious. It sometimes takes researching & experimenting before you find it.

E - Experiment

3a. Brainstorm & prioritize experiments

We like to run low-hanging fruit experiments as fast as possible before adding tons of process.

In conjunction, we recommend you create a simple backlog (see template here) to help you track experiment ideas (and after a couple weeks prioritize which ideas to run).

When prioritizing, we recommend a framework like RICE.
  • Reach: how many people does this touch?
  • Impact: if this works, how big is the impact?
  • Confidence: how likely is this to succeed?
  • Effort: how much work will it take to run?
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    As a reference: here's an Airtable template we frequently use to prioritize growth experiments. Feel free to copy.

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3b. Use our docs and feedback to run experiments

It’s vital you run experiments effectively.

You won't build on useful learnings if you don’t run experiments well.

How do you know if you ran an experiment poorly or if the experiment actually failed?

We’ve seen too many startups’ half-ass experiments. This means you waste weeks of time and tens of thousands of dollars — with no learnings to show for it.

This is one of the main reasons we built Got Users. We have docs that cover every major experiment, from running social ads to writing cold emails. We give detailed feedback so you only ship experiments that pass a high-quality bar.

R - Reflect

After each experiment and each week, close the loop to learn what works and build on it.

4a. Reflect on the past week by sending learnings through Slack

Every week, before your growth call, you’ll send us a Slack message that includes the following:

  • Experiment learnings (e.g., ”We tested new copy on the landing page highlighting our locally-sourced materials, and it performed 30% better.”)
  • Metric learnings (e.g., ”There’s a huge dropoff after people sign up. I looked at Hotjar recordings, and they never leave the integrations page.”)
  • User learnings (e.g., “A lot of users are emailing in confused about pricing.”)
  • Blockers & Asks (e.g., “I need an estimate from Got Users of how long it will take to learn Google Ads.”)

The message should look something like this:

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4b. Review, debug, and brainstorm on biweekly growth calls

Our growth calls follow a loose structure, but we adapt the call to whatever you’re struggling with or need the most help with in a given week.

This is the rough structure we’ll follow:

  • Review relevant learnings
    • We’ll double-click on the learnings you sent us through Slack. (E.g, “You said none of the people you reached out to responded to your user interview email, tell us more about that.”)
  • Post-mortem-ing & debugging
    • We’ll post-mortem why any experiments were (or weren’t) run effectively and debug any blockers getting in your way.
  • Strategizing & prioritizing new experiments
    • After the first couple weeks, we should be running experiments that build on learnings. (E.g., ”The ‘7-day trial’ messaging is converting better on the pricing page, so lets A/B test it on the homepage too.”)
    • They should usually improve a growth loop — so the results compound over time. (E.g., ”Let’s add a popup after the magic moment to ask for a referral” is usually better than “Let’s do a PR push.”
    • Once we brainstorm experiments, we’ll prioritize experiments using RICE, learnings, and patterns we’ve seen across other companies.

S - Scale

This is the ultimate goal: to get you many, many more users — and know enough to be dangerous as you backfill your work with an agency or full-time employee.