Embarking on the thrilling journey of startup growth is like navigating a vast and complex landscape, filled with challenges, opportunities, and uncharted territories. At StepFWD, we understand that growth isn’t just about numbers; it’s a holistic process that encompasses everything from user acquisition to brand recognition and revenue expansion. In our commitment to providing invaluable guidance and expertise, we are thrilled to announce that Irina Scarlat, an accomplished entrepreneur, seasoned marketer, and visionary leader, will be leading a pivotal workshop on growth during Phase I – Learn and Connect of our program. With over a decade of experience, including seven years in tech, product marketing, and team management, Irina is uniquely positioned to unravel the mysteries of startup growth. Join us as we dive into the world of effective growth strategies, the art of measuring growth metrics, and the balance between rapid expansion and product quality. If you’re ready to elevate your startup’s growth potential, this workshop is your gateway to success.

What growth strategies do you believe are most effective for early-stage startups?

There’s no such thing as the most effective growth strategies for early-stage startups. Truth is, there is no playbook and no single strategy that works for early-stage startups in the same way. In order to put things in context here, I think we should take a step back and define what growth actually is and what a growth team actually does. In my definition, growth is delivering results all along the funnel, from top-of-the-funnel brand awareness and user acquisition, to conversion, engagement, retention and monetisation. A growth team acts like a problem-solving squad, which looks at the data, identifies the problems to solve, prioritises them, issues hypotheses, designs experiments, runs them and learns from them by scaling solutions and documenting failures. Growth is a trial and error, exploratory process and the most effective growth strategy for you is the strategy that actually solves the problems you have at the moment. This is why the first thing to do is to define the problems to solve / challenges you are currently facing and the best strategy is the one that solves those challenges.

How do you measure and track growth effectively?

That is a really good question – truth is any product metric can be a metric to track growth effectively, depending on the problem to solve. Normally, you could look at:
Brand metrics (if the goal is to increase customer love and build a brand): brand awareness (aided & unaided), brand consideration, brand preference
Top of the funnel metrics: signups, signups per channel, signups per OS
Conversion metrics: conversion from signup to active customer, from free to paid
Engagement metrics: MAU / WAU / DAU, NPS
Retention metrics: 1d/7d/30d retention
Monetisation metrics: ARPU, ARPPU, net revenue, CLV
Depending on the problem you are trying to solve, you are tracking a particular metric.

Can you share an unconventional growth tactic that yielded surprising results?

I always like to quote Seth Godin here with “dream big, focus small”. The most effective growth tactics are the ones that are very narrow: an experiment you run along your customer lifecycle journey, an A/B test in product. For example, at some point we changed the colour of a button and we saw a 20% increase in conversion to paid. The results were completely unexpected, at this scale, and statistically significant. It is the small things that, implemented with discipline, deliver the best results.

How do you balance between pursuing rapid growth and ensuring product quality?

You do not, product quality always comes first and I do not think it is a balance, nor a trade-off to be made here. If you don’t have a great product, everything you do on the growth side is useless. Product market fit and product quality comes first and sometimes this means that you need to slow down to speed up, fix the product issues, make sure you have product market fit, and then go full-speed ahead. Otherwise, it’s like having a leaky boat – rowing faster will only make you sink faster, you need to fix the leak first and then speed things up.

Irina Scarlat – Product Growth @ Mondly by Pearson

Growth in the startup world isn’t just about increasing numbers; it’s a multifaceted journey that encompasses user acquisition, brand recognition, revenue expansion, and more. While rapid growth is often celebrated, understanding its nuances and ensuring it’s sustainable is crucial for long-term success.

Effective Growth Strategies: There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to growth strategies for startups. Whether it’s leveraging digital marketing, forging strategic partnerships, or tapping into new markets, the most effective strategies often align closely with the startup’s core values and target audience. It’s about understanding where the most significant opportunities lie and harnessing them effectively.

Measuring Growth: In the age of data, startups have a plethora of metrics at their fingertips. But which ones truly matter? From Monthly Active Users (MAUs) and Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) to Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Lifetime Value (LTV), it’s essential to identify the metrics that align with the startup’s goals and provide actionable insights. These metrics serve as a compass, guiding the startup towards sustainable growth.

Thinking Outside the Box: Consider the tale of a startup that, instead of following traditional marketing routes, leveraged a community-driven approach, turning their users into brand ambassadors. This not only reduced their marketing spend but also resulted in more authentic and organic growth. Such stories underscore the importance of innovative thinking in the growth journey. Sometimes, the most impactful strategies are those that break the mold.

Balancing Growth and Quality: Rapid growth can be exhilarating, but it comes with its challenges. As startups scale, maintaining the quality of their product or service, ensuring customer satisfaction, and preserving company culture can become increasingly complex. It’s a delicate balance, ensuring that the pursuit of growth doesn’t compromise what made the startup unique and valuable in the first place.

Growth is more than just a metric; it’s a testament to a startup’s ability to resonate with its audience, adapt to challenges, and continuously innovate. While the journey is filled with hurdles, the rewards – expanded reach, increased impact, and the realization of a vision – make the challenges worth it.

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from Irina and supercharge your startup’s growth. Enroll in StepFWD Together today at www.stepfwd.today and secure your spot in this transformative workshop. Applications close on October 8th. Your startup’s growth journey awaits!