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Generating 9 growth ideas for a startup in just 3 days — a Growth Sprint case study

When Andrei and Lisa, founders of Cartloop, an SMS marketing app, first came to Durran, their struggles revolved around finding an efficient growth strategy for their startup. We ran a 3-day Growth Sprint workshop that generated 9 growth experiments and a fresh new vision by combining resources from two excellent books — Sprint and Hacking Growth. Read on for the entire process.

Dani Andor picture profile founder durran
Daniel Andor
28.6.2021

TL;DR

  • Outcome: Combining Growth Hacking with Design Sprint, Durran helped Cartloop find new ways to innovate in their market, attract new customers, and increase retention.
  • Format: 3 Cartloop members & 1 Durran facilitator. All online, using platforms such as Miro and Zoom.
  • Project duration: 3 days — from figuring out the product’s context, main pain points to delivering 9 growth experiments.

Project Background

Cartloop is a startup founded in 2020, in Romania, by two very ambitious minds: Andrei Negrau and Lisa Popovici. Like any other new business, especially one that launches during a worldwide pandemic, it has its struggles. When Lisa and Andrei first came to Durran, the entire discussion revolved around questions like How do we position ourselves in a unique way that’s different from the competition? and How do we create a growth strategy that works?

See how after just 3 days of Growth Sprint, the 3 Cartloop team members already had a clearer overview of what a growth strategy looks like and 9 brand new ideas, growth experiments ready to be conducted in the upcoming future.

What is Cartloop?

To better understand what Cartloop is about, we went straight to the source and asked Andrei, one of its founders. “To put it in simple words, Cartloop is an SMS marketing app that enables brands to build better customer relationships and increase sales through text-based conversations. Even though we launched a little over a year ago, Cartloop already serves over 400 brands based in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK.

We must admit, that’s quite impressive for a startup launched a year ago.

The Challenge

Cartloop gained traction when they won the How to Web’s “Startup Spotlight” 2020 competition and raised over $600,000. So, Lisa and Andrei knew that innovation is key to succeed in a competitive space like SMS marketing.

But, how do you do that with limited resources of time, budget, and a small team?

Based on our conversations, the analysis of the work done so far, Durran opted to lead a Growth Sprint, to help Lisa and Andrei:

  1. Clearly define user personas, customer journey, and competition
  2. Generate growth experiments to attract new leads
  3. Prioritize and use all their resources to the maximum

Especially in the startup world, growth hacking is seen as a magical solution to rapidly growing a company. But you see, there isn’t such a thing as a secret recipe that any company can apply and wake up in the morning to become the next unicorn. It just doesn’t work that way.

Sean Ellis, the author of “Hacking Growth”, states the same idea. He is a true believer that finding big breakthroughs is, in fact, just a sequence of small wins.

The biggest difference between companies that are growing or not is the ones that are running experiments tend to be growing.” — Sean Ellis

What is a Growth Sprint?

Here at Durran, we believe the same. Growth comes from a lot of experimenting.

Instead of focusing on a single big growth hack, the approach should be more systematic.

When it comes to product development initiatives and also for departments that focus heavily on growth, like product or marketing, constantly iterating and testing out new ideas should be an ongoing practice. We would go even further to say that these kinds of practices should be the core of any successful business.

And this is precisely where Growth Sprint comes in real handy. It’s a new type of workshop that was born out of mixing Design Sprint and Growth Hacking.

Design Sprint + Growth Hacking = ❤️

Growth Sprint empowers everyone in a team to come up with new ideas and work together with other team members across the company to generate several new experiments that can drive growth. We had heard about this concept a while ago from the Berlin-based product design agency AJ&Smart, and we were so excited to implement it for our clients.

The Growth Sprint workshop focuses on the 3 growth levers: acquisition, activation, and retention. So we thought it to be the perfect solution for Cartloop’s problems. Because we know how important time is, especially for a startup, we went for a 3-day process,

around 2 hours/day, as it would be more efficient for all parties involved.

We held the entire workshop online, using platforms such as Miro and Zoom.

Who participated?

Durran facilitated the Growth Sprint, with input from the Cartloop team:

  • CEO
  • COO
  • Marketing Manager

Day 1: Assessing the situation

Like most startups, Cartloop’s team is a relatively small one. And when you’re so focused on solving burning issues like fixing bugs, winning the trust of new customers, and keeping everyone in your team on the same page, you might find yourself no longer having that helicopter view that’s so important to move things forward.

Our first day of working together in this Growth Sprint was about finding the answers to questions like What do we eliminate or reduce for our customers? and What unique value do we create for our customers that’s not found anywhere else?

A crucial step to help us uncover the context in which the product exists.

Next, we thoroughly analyzed Cartloop’s competitors and made a positioning map to analyze competitive advantage on the market. And, to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, we moved onto the most important piece of the entire puzzle: Cartloop’s target audience.

We started by addressing Cartloop’s user persona and discussed the customer journey map to identify the most challenging parts of the entire process. Bringing in a constant flow of quality leads was the main pain point for Cartloop.

Having all this information clear in everyone’s minds really helped kickstart the entire Growth Sprint process.

Outcome day 1:

  1. A clear vision of what Cartloop is and its main competitors
  2. Clear information about the current customer journey through the platform
  3. A well-defined pain point: bringing in a constant flow of quality leads.

Day 2: Digging deep into the challenge

Everyone was so excited to see what’s next, now that we had discussed the context and clearly defined the main challenges. Armed with a lot more information and fresh perspectives, our next goal was to uncover what it is that’s moving Cartloop forward. Also, what are the main things holding them back from all the 3 growth levers’ perspectives: acquisition, activation, and retention.

The cool thing about organizing this type of workshop online is that by using tools such as Miro, everyone is empowered to tell their version of the story. In this case, through virtual sticky notes.

Now, it was time for every member of the Cartloop team to write down everything that was currently working well throughout the acquisition, activation, and retention journey. When they were done, we read them out loud and identified some efficient marketing initiatives, in the acquisition stage.

Having a good amount of positive reviews and a trial period is what helped them during the activation stage, all this concluded with the fact that they are actively listening to feedback from their customers, which helps in retaining them.

Starting with the more positive aspects was a great way to focus on the strengths, which worked great to boost morale.

But things got interesting and insightful when the Cartloop team had the challenging task of answering, “What is holding us back?”

Repeating the process, we soon had a list of all the initiatives that weren’t bringing in the expected results. We grouped the sticky notes and merged the duplicates, then every member of the team expressed his votes for what he considered to be the biggest obstacle.

Finding new perspectives through How might we questions.

The primary purpose of this entire Growth Sprint is to…well, spur growth. And here is where the “How might we” questions come into action to help us find new perspectives. A technique used as a starting point for brainstorming sessions.

A How might we question can generate lots of creative ideas and answers to more or less complicated problems.

We took the top-voted challenges list and rephrased them into How Might We questions.

Here are a few examples:

  • How might we build a partner program that people rave about and bring constant leads?
  • How might we build a sales engine that brings in qualified leads (that turn into customers) every month?

We drew a map for better visualization, as we did for the Design Sprint, but this time only focused on the 3 growth levers — acquisition, activation, and retention. We added the How might we questions in the specific categories and selected a target area for our Growth Sprint. Having the customer journey map from day 1 was a big help to fill it out fast.

By doing this, we were able to see the big picture and better understand how these challenges directly impact the product.

Finding new perspectives also comes from seeing how other products solved similar challenges. We asked the Cartloop team to work offline and gather ideas about how other companies address the same issues.

Through Lightning Demos, we created a shared space for inspiration, a board where every team member picked relevant examples from other companies, capturing new opportunities that might be interesting to explore on the last day of the Growth Sprint.

Outcome day 2:

1. Clear defined acquisition, activation and retention process: what goes well and what doesn’t.

2. Explored new directions through How might we questions

3. Through Lightning Demos, we created a shared space where the team explored how other products solved similar issues.

Day 3: Coming up with 9 growth experiments

Day 3 of the Growth Experiment is usually the most exciting one. Since we ended day 2 with offline work, uncovering all the challenges and looking for inspiration on how we could better solve them, we started the last day with a small presentation of the Lightning Demos to get inspiration. A recap 20-minute session of note-taking followed this; time spent reviewing all the information acquired so far about the Lightning Demos and the Map.

Next, each Cartloop team member had around 45 minutes to sketch an experiment and share it with everyone else.

As a general rule (for everyone interested in running Growth Experiments), every experiment should be structured like this:

  1. Experiment name
  2. Hypothesis
  3. Action Steps
  4. Success Criteria
  5. Experiment length.

When time ran out, the Cartloop team had already created 9 growth experiments.

Through a Straw Poll voting session, all team members took time to review the experiments. Everyone had to note down the one they thought was the best solution for the identified challenges, adding 3 reasons why they thought it was the best answer.

Then we moved on to each person presenting the reasoning behind his vote.

Now, here’s where the entire team got all excited about implementing the new experiments. But it would be impossible for such a small team to be running all of them as soon as the Growth Sprint ended.

So, we used the impact/effort scale to prioritize those that would have a more significant impact with less effort and assigned each experiment to a person who will be in charge of making it happen.

Growth Sprint: overall outcome

  • After only 3 days, we generated 9 different growth experiments. 9 experiments ready to be conducted to spur growth for a startup that’s ready to conquer the Shopify app store.
  • The Cartloop team selected 3 growth experiments they are currently working on with loads of enthusiasm.
  • 6 more experiments in backlog, ready to be revisited.
  • Learned a new method that will help with creating new growth experiments in the future.
“Andrei Negrau — Co-Founder: “Through this Growth Sprint, we discovered new precious insights that we would not have had otherwise. Working with Durran was great and Daniel is a brilliant product guy and a passionate designer.”

Toolset:

  • Miro — The entire Growth Sprint workshop used Miro as our whiteboard for writing on sticky notes, voting, presenting Lightning Demos, or showcasing our experiments. When the workshop was over, we exported the content as a PDF and emailed it to the Cartloop team as a resource.
  • Zoom — Probably the most used tool during the pandemic, Zoom was used here to facilitate the entire workshop to see each other, share screens, and explain the next steps.
  • Pen & Paper — The good old pen & paper was very helpful in summarizing the information from our Growth Sprint and creating the drafts for the experiments. You can’t go wrong with them.

There it is, the story of Durran’s first Growth Sprint workshop, a 3-day experience of working together with the Cartloop team to help them experiment more and achieve growth faster.

Want to run a Growth Sprint with your team? Download our step-by-step Durran Growth Sprint Workshop Guide with everything you need to get you covered along the way.

TAGS: 
Workshop, Growth Sprint
Dani Andor picture profile founder durran
Written by
Daniel Andor
Founder & Lead Product Designer @ Durran