In 2017, two friends and I hiked and flew paragliders across the Pyrenees. From sea to summit, and then back to sea… completing the crossing powered by the elements! Here’s a sneak peak into day 9–where we flew 137km–cutting out over 240km of trail hiking in one giant 7 hour of flight. Epic!

Years of running off mountains turns out to have been perfect training for high stakes decision making in situations of high uncertainty.

My interest in startups, small businesses, and scaleups, though, isn’t about risk taking. It’s about quantifying it with data analytics, then helping teams dial in a winning strategy through insights and programmatic capabilities.

I really enjoy working through the many challenges that come with bringing products to market, and it’s always exciting to see how things take off when you get the data part right.

How data-driven growth started

It all started back at University. I challenged myself to sell something via social media to validate the channel. This was back when FB had just opened pages, so it was very much a big fat ? on many marketers minds.

Having attended a total of one marketing lecture, I really had no idea what I was doing… but was eager to learn! I proceeded to create +20 Facebook pages all positioned slightly differently to promote all sorts of products via affiliate links. One of them ended up selling a premium $125 Iphone case in the first week. My reward being $25. Sales!

Happy with the early win, but uninspired by the project overall, I scheduled a bunch of posts and moved on. But then started receiving a few more conversion notifications, and then some more… lots of them! Day and night. Over the following months, the page went on to sell tens of thousands worth of product… taking another few months before I finally figured out what had actually worked. The page had ranked for a high purchase intent search phrase.

[{brand} + discount]

Since I didn’t get paid unless people clicked on my link, you can be sure that I was paying close attention to the analytics. However, the level of granularity available through the affiliate partner was frustratingly low… so you can imagine what I felt when discovering tools like Google Analytics for the first time. Wow, look at all this data!

I later learned that measuring too much can be a bad thing. Especially when reports get flooded with vanity metrics. Zero learning happens. Which brings me to my biggest challenge.

F*cking HIPPO culture

The biggest challenge I have had to face, is confronting HIPPO culture. Highest paid person’s opinion. When people put nonsense conclusions before validated learning. Honestly, I have to fight the urge not to lose my s**t. Every. Single. Time.

Why does HIPPO culture bother me so?

Because it gets in the way of the lean startup, kills innovation, and from what I’m seeing, is a growing challenge for organisations slipping into irrelevance. Without a proper learning culture critical decision making is fundamentally broken. Resources get wasted. Things never improve. Why? Because HIPPO orgs would rather listen to whoever makes the most money over who brings the facts to the table. No bueno amigo!

You see, I am passionate about innovation and watching teams do better. So it’s painful to see the HIPPO-type promoting the status quo, and slowing progress toward performance capabilities where the good kind of metrics can track North!

A Closer Look

Ultimately I want the people and teams I meet to succeed. So it’s natural for me to pay attention to why HIPPO culture happens. The reasons why a proper learning culture can’t thrive are many. From fear of accountability to straightforward theft, and many things in between…

Not all cases were interesting to me though, so I started looking closer, and that’s when something stood out. There were a bunch of companies trying to be lean. Trying to be data-driven. Trying to pivot their way to product success… but were not quite taking off.

It was slow learning at first, but eventually, the insights built up and shone light on what was going wrong. Nobody owned analytics. And nobody took data governance seriously.

This lead to broken data flooding downstream tools with chaos. Data was siloed. Analysts could not do a proper job. Teams were trusting their data less and less until finally, they stopped looking at it all together. From then on a whole world of bad happens.

  • Development time is wasted
  • Marketing can’t optimise the use journey
  • Insights are limited
  • Customer experience becomes disjointed

Aha moment – Starting Unvanity

The thing about studying mistakes of others, is that it leads to insights that give you an edge. An edge you can pass along to those who do listen. That’s why I started Unvanity. That’s why we take the foundational approach to growth!

Customer-first companies need customer data infrastructure (CDI) and programmatic capabilities. So you can be sure we bake it into our process and templates, ready to take flight from the get-go. No more chaos. No more vanity swamped reporting. Just data-driven growth and smart tech stacks. Yum.

In fact, since focusing on the fundamentals and helping others with this… things have really started taking off. Before I had to fight for leads. Even harder for deals. These days we even get investment directors peaking at our CDI planning sheets, and asking us why their startups never get to the point where they can do proper CPA analysis… It’s an industry challenge!

Today introductions happen daily, we’re busy supporting a number of very cool scaleups, consulting a number of startups, and I’ve totally spotted a bunch of growth agencies that have pivoted and have began following our lead.

But what does the foundational approach mean, exactly?

Getting analytics right!

Analytics is ultimately about winning, but since winners rarely begin their journey on top, we are really talking about the ability to learn how to win. So analytics at its core is about learning, which can’t happen without good clean accessible data.

Rhys Fisher - Data-Driven Growth Advisor and Author of this Post :)

So getting analytics right starts with solid tracking and instrumentation… which often goes wrong due to poor planning, outdated strategy, or unqualified builders. If you’re new to growth & analytics, TAKE MY ADVICE and hire professionals! Ideally ones who have the end use in mind. Not just your customer, but your growth team too!

Why spend money outsourcing this? Because getting this step wrong will break your data and prevent learning. People will stop looking at the data and start making decisions as if they were at the casino. Or worse. Make decisions on broken data… like a crooked dealer. Resources get wasted. You won’t find the winning strategies or make consistent progress with your growth model. Pivots will take a lot longer. Maybe you don’t get a chance to pivot. Your company will slowly but surely slip into irrelevance. You deserve better!

Just the beginning

The great thing about taking a foundational approach to analytics is your data then becomes reliable and actionable. This is so critical I’ll repeat myself… your data becomes reliable and actionable.

And since everything is mapped with good data governance, growth ideas from your strategy workshops can now get acted on right away without a bunch of back and forth confusion. I’m talking about avoiding those pesky questions like; how did we name that event? Where is that customer data? How do we send it here? Do we have an integration?

Compound effect of a mentor

Have you ever heard the expression that over fifty percent of marketing is waste… but the problem is knowing which fifty percent? What about asking how many more leads you could get for your investments if you could optimise the wasted resources… and instead double down into the efforts moving the needle. Month after month. We ask this a lot!

That’s why growth mentor calls are so useful. Because you get to discuss strategy, sprints, and ideas before being too deep into work streams… with the pros who have done it before! This lets us mentors flag challenges and common pitfalls, so we can help you plan for what you wouldn’t have expected otherwise.

This is why every call with a mentor is potentially one or more breakthrough insights that will help you deploy your resources–time as well as money–into the things that deserve attention. This has a compound effect!

The Paragliding Way!

When flying non-powered paragliders for hundreds of kilometres, it comes down to a game of making good flight path decisions over many hours. You make a wrong call and it’s likely you will land. Like running out of cash, it’s game over!

So we train ourselves to make an ideal flight plan that maximises chances of intercepting thermals (lift). It’s a dynamic plan in the sense that it’s being updated continuously. Kind of like the lean startup and finding product market fit. You need to top-up on altitude just how you do cash in the bank.

We use a bunch of sensors to dashboard our progress via a flight instrument, which helps us build a better model of what is happening around us so we can adjust the flight plan. A vario alone doesn’t make a good pilot, though. You need experience and an understanding of what to look for… just how understanding human behavior, value transfer, and the customer journey lets you spot the next likely source of new growth opportunity.

So I’ll leave you with a few paragliding questions to spark some new ideas.

  • How high are you from the ground?
  • Do you need to top up on altitude before making your next move? If so, are there any clear signals of rising air? Birds in the sky? Other Pilots?
  • Are there any likely thermal triggers you can reach on glide? Is the trigger receiving sun light? What is the wind doing at different altitudes? Where will the thermals drift? How will you adjust your plan to try an intercept?
  • Where will you fly to after topping up?
  • What do you need to consider before crossing the point-of-no-return… like are there safe landing options past this point?

If you’d like to bring these questions back down to a business level and talk growth, come and book a call with me and let’s chat.

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