Sérgio Tavares, ph.D. // May 14 2018

Ideas on growth: how to start measuring the causes, not the effects of your idea’s success

By Sérgio Tavares, ph.D. and Lead Consumer Scientist at Digitalist Group.


There is a common misconception that if a manager hires enough people with different backgrounds, problems will be solved and ideas will grow into living projects. That’s rarely the case.

I have worked with a number of cross-functional teams, being part of both design teams, strategy teams and data teams myself . The magic happens when those teams need to find that rare common ground, located outside each one’s own comfort zone.

With data and insights this happens nearly as a default. Project owners hire designers and data analysts, yet they don’t communicate in order to dig out the gold. Instead, each of them is simply “doing their job”.

And they truly are doing their job. Except that alone cannot solve the problem of turning an idea into a desired product, a must-have feature, or a habit in the consumer’s routine.

The failure in turning ideas into life happens often when projects are assigned around skills, or assets, or tangible outcomes to be created. Projects built around goals tend to have higher chances of success.

Goals should immediately be translated into metrics to be achieved. Some metrics focus on the past, some on the desired states. That’s the key difference. The measurements that can help you to reach the desired state are the ones that are often overlooked.

For example, everybody measures revenue, but only a few managers are really interested in, first of all, finding out what brings the revenue — and which metrics to attach to that.


Growth is a love triangle:  relations between metrics, business and customers

The analysis of service and product performance falls short when companies try to make sense of data in a one-size-fits-all manner. I believe three main points are essential for getting started with your data-driven, customer-centric business:

  1. Growth metrics relate to the core of your business model

Is this conversion rate good? Is this bounce rate bad? Is this click-through rate optimal? Well, unless they are in some extreme, all those are relative. The important idea is to understand how these relations work in your business model.

The relations between metrics vary according to the very nature of your business. That helps to define which are the metrics that really matter. Companies often skip this step, because it’s so easy to hop into the reports from Google Analytics. But that creates confusion, not clarity.

  1. Growth metrics relate to one another

If you are launching an entirely new service, for example, you must understand what is the tipping point that gets customers to sign up, or to hit the purchase button, or to stay with you — those are not seen in numbers. The job is to translate those into numbers.

You will not find any meaningful business results after simply “increasing time on site”, or “increasing page views”. The trick is to understand how to relate a measurable thing to the core experience customers are looking for. That’s when you start leveraging the customer experience in your favour.

  1. Growth metrics relate to the kind of customers you have

Then compare the types of customers you are attracting (a monthly subscriber, a once-a-year buyer) to the effort it takes to get more of these customers (social media ads, referral programs, word of mouth).

Finally, what action to take upon which metrics — pick the one which will generate most impact.

While measurements are nearly an exact science, the relationship between data and business models is, by nature, full of uncertainty. The job is to make the most reliable system out of it.

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