by Phil Reiter

Growth is marketing, Philip La explains, but it’s “more about process” than the direct sell. And, Philip, as the User Growth Manager at figure1 – effectively Facebook or Instagram for healthcare professionals –, knows more than a thing or two about Growth.

Speaking before an at-capacity crowd at Bitmaker Labs’ mad coder lair – disguised as a bright, spacious office loft at the center of Toronto’s Entertainment District (attend a talk, get a drink – it’s a tough life…) –, Philip does not have a quota to register more figure1 users before his “Hacking Growth” class (as many in the audience – yours truly not exempted – do get a schooling) is through. After all, figure1 bills itself as a “medical social network” aimed at doctors and healthcare professionals, and I suspect few attending this Bitmaker Labs workshop have taken the Hippocratic Oath. Instead, Philip presents Growth theory and its applications in social marketing today. By the end of the session, though, everyone leaves with a better understanding of figure1 and can confidentially talk about the company to their friends – who may be in the healthcare industry. With that, perhaps more than anything presented, Philip shows Growth magic.

Unsurprisingly, Philip knows his audience of startup, as well as potential startup, entrepreneurs very well. He commences by stressing one of the tenets of product viability in the market, Product Market Fit (PMF). Sounds fancy, but it boils down to understanding your consumers and if they would be willing to purchase your product or subscribe to your service. A handy measure of PMF that Philip describes is the “40% Very Disappointed Test,” which espouses that one has a good PMF if 40% or more of those who would buy a product or use a service in question would be very disappointed if it was no longer available. Neat trick.

From there, Philip reiterates Growth’s focus on process, and emphasizes the “Fail Fast. Succeed Faster” motto of PMF testing before jumping into Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): In layman terms, how can one maximize turning individuals interested in a service or product into users or customers. At this point, things started to get heavy in the theory department. Thankfully, Philip had set aside time for a hands-on with Optimizely, a web-based tool popular for trial-and-error testing of what works, and what doesn’t, online. Pass your website through Optimizely, and it will enable you to rearrange content and layout, publish them for the world, and then collect metrics on how effective these revisions are. Cool stuff, just don’t change too much all at once, since then you won’t know what really brought in the increased traffic (or, glass-half-empty, drove them all away).

Ever wondered how Facebook ads work? Well, Philip broke it down for his, at this point, captivated audience, and lets us create our own ads for the stratospherically popular social network. It provided for an excellent opportunity to understand the differences between banner ads, which reside outside of a Facebook user's activity feed, and native ads, which are embedded in the news stream. We were also able to gauge the cost of running said ads, targeted them to our intended user-base, and optimized our cost-per-action (CPA) – for us still learning the marketing ropes, best bang-for-buck.

By the time Philip got to the still very pioneer-like landscape of mobile app marketing and how Growth can be used in that space, I, along with my fellow Bitmakers, were sold on the prospect of interweaving what we had learned into our startup dreams.

Turns out that Philip actually trained as chemical engineer. But, with a staggering social enterprise pedigree that includes stints at Microsoft, Facebook and Kobo, he’s definitely now far from the chemicals and cooking up Growth of a different kind – one that will attract, retain and motivate users online.

More Money, Less Problems

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