Ask any founder of a startup about their entrepreneurial journeys and how they tried to scale, and they will share elaborate stories of their early days, some challenging, some outright humorous. Without a doubt, startups face many challenges when trying to scale, ranging from funding, to hiring and retaining a driven team, to working with limited resources.
However, in the midst of all the commotion, overcoming challenges, and getting operations up and running, startups may lose sight of their core goal – which is to scale, innovate and grow.
We sat with Malak Karajah (MK), Founder of Growth Lab, to discuss overcoming key challenges, why startups need Growth experts and why they should be customer-obsessed.
BDD: Let’s start with the challenges. From your experience, what are the main challenges that startups face when trying to scale?
MK: There is quite a few, but from my experience, these four challenges are the most common:
- Customer acquisition and retention:Acquiring customers at a larger scale requires effective marketing, product and sales strategies. Startups must invest in marketing channels, customer acquisition campaigns, and customer relationship management to reach and retain a growing customer base. Retaining existing customers while acquiring new ones becomes crucial for sustainable growth.
- Team, leadership & organizational structure:As a startup grows, the need for skilled employees increases. Finding the right people with the required skills and cultural fit becomes a critical challenge. Scaling a startup also requires strong leadership and effective organizational structure. Founders and leaders must adapt to new roles and responsibilities as the company grows. Scaling a cohesive and high-performing team becomes crucial, along with implementing effective communication channels and decision-making processes.
- Resource constraints:Startups often have limited financial resources, work force, and infrastructure. Scaling requires significant investments in hiring talent, expanding infrastructure, marketing, and product development. The inability to find, manage and allocate resources effectively becomes detrimental to growth.
- Operational scalability:Scaling a business requires building systems and processes that can handle increased demand efficiently. Startups must ensure their operations can scale without sacrificing quality, customer experience, or causing bottlenecks. This includes scaling production capacity, optimizing supply chains, and implementing robust internal workflows.
BDD: So where does your role as Chief Growth Officer come in?
MK: The CGO is a fractional role that I offer as a service. This service caters to startups that need a senior talent to regularly work with them on growth, without the hassle and the cost of a full-time hire. They would get regular access to my time and experience for the fraction of a full-timer’s salary.
After carefully studying their organizations, I extend my services in the following areas:
- Identifying growth blockers and opportunities through:
– Auditing business performance (metrics and KPIs), online presence & tech-stack (web, app, marketplace, analytics, tools..)
– Auditing acquisition, retention, and monetization (revenue growth) efforts
- Setting growth objectives, and creating growth strategies, experiments, frameworks & roadmaps
- Conversion rate optimization CRO):Mapping user journeys and funnels to find leaks and opportunities to increase conversion rates at every step
- Advising on growth/marketing team structure and needed skill sets, as well as defining KPIs of each role (no hiring)
The demand for these services is seen across the board, from seed and early stage, all the way to growth and expansion stages.
BDD: Are there any examples or tangible results you can share?
MK: Sure, I have supported startups to:
– Acquire millions of users on their platforms
– Decrease the cost of acquisition between 30% up to 80% in some cases
– Decrease cost per lead by 4x
– Increase monthly revenue by 6x
– Increase in the number of new user purchases per day by 35%
– Successfully enter and acquire users in new markets
– Build proper reporting and dashboards
– Launch new products/services
BDD: That’s impressive. Is there anything you hope to see more of in the realm of entrepreneurship?
MK: I do hope more entrepreneurs and more investors start shifting their mindset away from hacks and rapid growth towards sustainable growth. I see so many startups trying to scale at any cost, some succeeding in gaining short-term wins, but dampening their growth in the long run because they lose focus and compromise quality and customer experience.
I have actually made it my mission to advocate for sustainable growth strategies, simply because it increases the chances of survival for startups by at least 20%. You can survive on hacks for some time, but the cost of taking shortcuts is usually too high when you look at it long-term.
BDD: Are there any tips you can provide to startups that are scaling up?
MK: Here are four golden tips that may help founders and their teams with their startup:
- Just because it worked for another business, it doesn’t mean it will work for you.There is no one size fits all solution to any problem. Find and create solutions that would work best for your specific business.
- The only feedback or input that really matters is the one you get from your customers.Be customer-obsessed. Collect feedback, analyze their behavior, know their pains and their dreams and build your product/service accordingly. Your roadmap should be driven by insights you get from customers.
- If you lose more customers than you acquire, you will simply never grow.Retention is everything for startups… and retention isn’t about sending emails and launching retargeting campaigns, even though these help. Retention is about the user experience. When you meet and exceed customers’ expectations, they stick around. If you over-promise and under-deliver, it will not matter how much you spend on your campaigns or how good your marketing is… you’ll lose them.
- There is no shortcut to success or growth.There are no hacks. It’s an ongoing process of analyzing, planning, executing, testing and learning. It’s strategies, frameworks and experiments and it involves marketing, product, sales, tech and data, amongst others. It’s an entire process. But if you do it right, it pays off in big ways. Think long-term. Think sustainable scalable strategies.