Agile Marketing


My quest to find the best formula for online businesses

My name is Gordon Gustafson, but call me Gus. I am a  data-driven, growth-hacking,  agile marketing entrepreneur.

To clarify, this means I am a project leader, agile digital marketer, web engineer, social psychologist, sales manager, product manager, data analyst, designer, artist, collaborator, scrum master and finally, a web entrepreneur.

In the last decade, I have created and managed dozeImage result for growth hackerns of web businesses including e-commerce shopping sites, service sites, and corporate properties. I have made many mistakes. In fact, I’ve made all the mistakes found in all of the “Open your own web business” books. But with each project iteration the ideas get better, marketing gets more effective, profit gets bigger and mistakes get cheaper.  This site is my business journal of the lessons I’ve learned in the hyper-competitive, overwhelming yet intoxicating world known as online business.

Like most, I had more ideas than execution. My recent successes have inspired me to humbly share what I believe is the simplest formula to planning, building, and running a web business selling digital or physical goods. But first, here are the most common reasons startups fail.

Eight Reasons Small Startups Fail:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Never formally plan
  3. Never commit
  4. Procrastination
  5. Lose motivation
  6. Over-complicate
  7. Bad idea
  8. Lose to competition

Notice that all but the last reason are internal. In today’s e-commerce friendly environment with cheaper platforms, freelance agents and niche markets, creating a successful online business has never been easier.  At no other time in the history of free market capitalism has the playing field been so leveled. Today, anyone with a little market savvy, money, and persistence can compete with even the biggest companies online. All it takes is an idea, some money, alot of time and of course, “The Webpreneur’s Cookbook”.

What can the this site do for you?
  • Take your idea and turn it into a business plan
  • Create an doable project plan with goals and quick successes
  • Set up bite-sized milestones and monitor your success
  • Simplify the many technologies on a need-to-know basis
  • Survey and choose the necessary pieces to your business
  • Pick the right web development including:
    – Brand and Market Research
    – Site Design
    – E-commerce platform
    – Web Copy-writing
    – Search Engine Optimization
    – Pay Per Click Campaign
    – Social Media Campaign
    – Video Marketing Campaign
    – Link Building
    – Blogging and Article Submission
    – Email Marketing
    – Web Analytics
  • Find the right fulfillment or drop-ship solution
  • Choose the right accounting and customer tracking solution
  • Find the most cost-effective local, national or outsource solutions
  • Wash, Rinse and Repeat


How to Become a Data-Driven, Lean Marketing, Growth Hacking, Entrepreneur

Growth hacking is both a skill set and a mindset. Here we define the mindset of a growth hacker.

Responsible for driving superior growth through the clever use of marketing and technology, growth hackers are often described as a rare breed with an unlikely combination of a multitude of personal qualities such as passion for growth, resourcefulness, competitive mentality, boldness, and leadership and communication skills, among others.

While all of the above are certainly desirable characteristics of a growth hacker, or any startup founder or employee for that matter, these are mostly nice to have qualities whose sheer number and variety make it impracticable to use them as guideposts for personal development by aspiring growth hackers or as criteria for selecting the right growth hackers by employers.

Here I attempt to distill these characteristics into five core traits that define a successful growth hacker. Here they are.

What makes a growth hacker

What makes a growth hacker?

1. Strategic Thinking

First of all, effective growth hackers define, focus on, and benchmark themselves against their primary objective – growth.

Even with a clear objective in place, there is often a great deal of debate or uncertainty concerning the nature of a growth experiment. You have to quickly define and/or reach consensus about the areas that will be investigated and those that will remain off limits as well as about the experimental approaches used.

In order to take smart risks, growth hackers must be able to accurately assess situations, including the risks and opportunities involved.

That’s why good growth hackers not only try to think outside the box; they begin by understanding the box better. They consider the situation they are facing as an integrated whole at the outset of a growth experiment rather than a series of impediments they encounter throughout.

Each component can be tested by itself, but it is testing the whole that enables them to determine whether they are moving the needle in a meaningful way.

Often, growth hackers have the mistaken notion that they should go with their first hunches.

The reality is that a first idea to test has nothing more going for it than the fact that it was the first idea. It is no better than a first draft. Taking the time to consider other options to reach the strategic goals will usually lead to the best solution.

Rich Horwath Keynote Speech on Strategic Thinking

2. Process Mentality

All growth hackers face an endless stream of ambiguous opportunities and problems that they don’t have nearly enough time, resources, or process know-how to sort through and address. Although most of them are perfectly able to understand situations, seize opportunities, and solve problems, their techniques often are inefficient.

Expert growth hackers, in contrast, are masters of process, and their process know-how – their ability to assess an opportunity, conduct an analysis, develop airtight logic, and design a creative solution – is a large part of why they are expert.

If you do not have to revisit how to move forward every time you start an experiment, you can spend more time concentrating on the problem or opportunity itself.

While some growth hackers would have you believe that they have unique and superior approaches, at the process level, most expert growth hackers tackle issues and design solutions in roughly the same manner.

The process by which growth occurs is one of constant testing and analysis. Tests and optimizations resulting in performance improvements lead to more tests and further brainstorming.

In order to be able to methodically scale a business to greater heights, growth hackers follow a rigorous process by breaking problems down and solving them via a highly organized system of controlled experimentation.

The approach that helps growth hackers cope with uncertainty is a derivative of a classical scientific method universally used for problem solving. Therefore, a growth hacker needs to understand what world-class problem solving entails.

Growth hacking needs to be treated as a process, not as a secret cookbook of ideas. Growth hackers should be able to understand the situation and objectives, define the scope of experiments to be conducted, construct a hypothesis combining the best aspects of deductive and inductive reasoning, plan the effort, develop a series of tests to prove or disprove their initial point of view, analyze the results, iterate when necessary, and systemize and scale the solutions that work.

Also, by making their logic transparent, they open their potential conclusions and solutions to legitimate debate based on facts and capabilities rather than intuition and politics.


3. Creativity

Besides being masters of process, growth hackers are also innovative problem solvers. While you can easily find lists of popular growth hacks on the internet, these can be used as a point of reference at best.

The truth is that each business situation is unique and requires growth hackers to come up with own creative solutions for acquiring and looping in users.

Ryan Holiday: The Growth Hacking Mindset

In a startup environment, being creative also means being scrappy, resourceful and bold, while understanding how to take calculated risks.

Most importantly, a growth hacker must have a “what if” mindset. The “what if” mindset is one of the best ways to discover growth ideas that work.

Neil Patel provides the following examples of “what if” questions a growth hacker might pose:

“What would happen if we made our entire product invite only, and not just for the beta period?”
“What if we made our entire homepage homage to the heroes of our industry on the 1st of every month, and we made it easy to share with friends?”
“What if customer support requests triggered a drip email campaign of hilarious videos from YouTube pertaining to their problem?”
And the list goes on…

What would you need to do (or what would have to change) in order to have a good outcome? Figure out the answers – or get help doing so – and then start making the changes needed to get there.

4. Analytical Mindset

Numbers don’t lie. Data and metrics are paramount to the scientific way a growth hacker discovers a path to growth.

However, there are a lot more data about any problem or opportunity than you will ever have time to collect and analyze. The sooner you can determine what is relevant, the sooner you will reach a conclusion and be able to implement a solution.

That’s why growth hackers need to be comfortable with data in order to identify big and small trends and patterns and translate them into actionable insights in near real time.

Analytics, data, pivot tables, and user satisfaction surveys should always guide strategy and trump gut assumptions. 22 Resources To Help You Master Growth Hacking Analytics by Kissmetrics is an excellent place to start.

5. Curiosity

Naturally, growth hackers must have enough knowledge in each growth-related field in order to design and run experiments without having to constantly rely on the ‘specialist’ in a particular area to support them.

There are so many levers, so many tools, so many different aspects of a single product that it takes a highly curious mind to be able to grasp enough of it to produce working growth hacks.

At larger companies, members of the growth team tend to have more narrowly defined roles given the scale of the business, yet they must maintain a firm grasp of the big picture in order to be effective.

It takes an inquisitive mind and cross-disciplinary outlook in order to be able to pose the right questions, pull best practices from other domains, and make sense out of large amounts of data and information.

In addition, a successful growth hacker should be a voracious learner with an open mind to constantly learn and draw inspiration from others. Best growth hackers stay on top of the latest tools and frameworks through Product Hunt, blogs, and multitude of other resources available out there.

These are personality traits characteristic of expert growth hackers, as they serve as a foundation for other derivative qualities and skills required to drive superior growth efficiently.

Which one of these characteristics you need to improve? Would you add another characteristic to this list? Let me know in the comments below.

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