• Matthew Lerner

Growth Sprints vs. Product Sprints

After years of mentoring 5-10 companies a week, one thing still boggles my mind every time: I cannot fathom why companies don’t run an agile process for growth.

Product teams run agile sprints with carefully groomed backlogs, stories, acceptance criteria, etc. They’re fast, deliberate and reflective — work is prioritised meticulously.

But marketing? It just feels like trial-and-error: Should we rebrand? Try Facebook ads? Cold outreach? Tik Tok? Influencers? Anyone know a good SEO agency?

Given the entire success of your company will come down to customer acquisition, can we do better than trial-and-error? So what’s the right process?

Goals of the growth sprint process

  1. Prioritise the most impactful work

  2. Learn what works, including our best messages and channels, and isolating our ideal target customers

  3. Accelerate the pace and quality of learning across the company

How to run growth sprints (in 5 steps)

In our Coaching Programme, we teach companies to run growth sprints. It’s a simple, five-step mix of agile + the scientific method:

  1. Prioritise the most impactful work: Don’t spend too long building complicated I.C.E. frameworks. Just ask yourself “if this works, how big could it be?”

  2. Start with a well-formed hypothesis: “We believe ____. Therefore, we predict that if we do ____, then ____ metric will move from ____ to ____ in ____ amount of time. If we are right, then going forward we will do ____.” Take 10 minutes up-front to clarify your thinking with your team.

  3. Move quickly: We normally have companies run 1-2 week sprints so they learn quickly. If an idea takes more than 2 weeks to test, then identify the riskiest assumptions, and find a way to isolate and test only those pieces of the idea. (Gagan Biyani explains that process here)

  4. Don’t miss the lesson: Most marketing experiments will fail. (If not, try bolder stuff). Win or lose, always take time to learn from the outcome and document your learnings! Schedule 30 minutes to understand what happened. (Here’s my short video on how to “debug” a failed growth experiment).

  5. Repeat: Once you’ve documented the learning, use that new information to update your mental model and decide what to do next.



Two final thoughts

  1. Unlike product sprints, most growth experiments fail, and your primary outcome is learning, so always take the time to review the results and debrief with the team.

  2. This process is easy to understand but hard to master. Turning ideas into hypotheses takes a bit of mental gymnastics, as do designing minimum viable tests, and debugging a failed experiments. If you have any scientists or engineers on your team, ask them to help.

Your Simple Next Step

What’s your biggest growth idea you’ve been meaning to test? Write it up as a hypothesis using the language above, and design a minimum viable test to validate it in less than 2 weeks. Don’t forget to share your results and discuss learnings with the team!

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