Jim Huffman is the CEO of GrowthHit, a growth marketing consultancy that's generated over $250M in sales for clients. Jim is also the Co-founder of One Day Design, a boutique web design company, and Handsome Chaos, a retailer that sells hair products for men, as well as the author of the Amazon best seller, The Growth Marketer's Playbook. On this episode, we talk about his brands, setting realistic goals, web design, his podcast, "If I Was Starting Today Podcast", and much more.
Growth Hit and their "5 Step Growth Process"
Jim Huffman: The accidental agency owner. Right? So Growth Hit is a growth marketing agency. We're a boutique firm. We're like 30 plus people, where we love working with e-commerce companies that are post-product market fit, but really want to go grow from selling hundreds of products to thousands of products.
So we do growth strategy, we do ads, we do convers rate optimization, email marketing. Trying to be that plug and play growth team. And we've set up growth programs now for like 150 companies.
Alex Bond: That's impressive. So, you know, at Growth hit, I saw that you have what you call a five step growth process to essentially maximize a brand's potential. Can you tell us a bit about what that process looks like?
Jim Huffman: Yeah, absolutely. So it's interesting, we've seen some great successes. We've had three companies get acquired by private equity. This year we've had four raise over 50 million bucks. But on the flip side, we've seen companies epicly fail, and so we're like, okay, what's the difference between the ones that go up into the right versus the ones that just flatline.
So we're data nerds. We got into the data and after like synthesising it, we saw some things where we could connect the dots and the five things that these companies had in common was around, first they were laser focused on their North Star metric. Like focus is the hardest thing in business.
So like, all right, let's build the wait. Let's get new customers, let's get retention, let's get C at this level. So first is that North star metric. The second is they are customer obsess. Unless you are creating an own your own category, a lot of times you're entering into a crowded market. So that means you need to do a bottoms up approach and find that early adopter where you speak their exact language.
And you're better for them than anybody else. So that's second is customer obsessed. The third thing that we're looking at is, it's the most overused phrase in marketing, which is data driven. We think it, it should be more research driven because everyone talks about it, but they're not really doing it.
To be data driven, you need to be research driven where you're like, okay, here are the numbers we need to move. Let's look at the quantitative and qualitative analysis. And all that means is understand what's happening and why it's happening. So we have like 14. Kind of frameworks and exercises we do around research. So that's the third thing.
Alex Bond: If I may, Jim, you rather do the research to determine what's good data and bad data.
Jim Huffman: Right. Exactly. And to give like a very simple example, like you're an e-commerce site, and like the question is, what's your conversion rate? Say it's 2%. That means that 98% of your site visitors come to your website and they're like, no thanks. They're not purchasing. So the question you should be asking is why.
So we do the research cause with any commerce funnel, it's actually really simple. There's three to seven reasons why they're not converting. It could be trust, it could be value, it could be confusion, it could be urgency. And once you can like really figure out, wow, people don't trust our site, or they don't think the quality's there.
That should drive all your experiments. We were talking about quality and trust. That's something that we do. We like trying to simplify, like research and demystifying it. It's about answering those questions around your customers. The fourth thing that we have is ROI focused experiments, because as a founder, your two most precious resources are time and money.
We need to use those wisely. So every experiment we do needs to have an impact that you as a business owner are like awesome revenue's going up. So when we have a pipeline, every experiment and we have a projection of revenue. And then the final one, it's not sexy at all, but it's the most important thing.
And then it's an iterative growth process where we're doing weekly experiments cuz we think the process leads to the progress if we can. Build that muscle of always running experiments, the the wins will eventually follow. So if we can do those five things, we feel like we are set up for success in a partnership. As long as the company has product market fit and they have a, a product people actually want.
Alex Bond: And those are two good qualifiers at the same time. You know, my follow up is, can a smaller brand say one on a bit of a tighter budget, run that sort of a, aocess without having to, you know, spend thousands of dollars?
Jim Huffman: Yeah, they absolutely can. Smaller brands, there's like a pro and con to it where the pro is to grow by 10 or even 50%. The actual numbers to get there aren't as big as like a eight figure brand. And so some of the winds you have, can be profound and transform your marketing strategy. The big issue though is one person or a half person and yourself.
So you really need to focus on, okay, what are the things we're gonna do over this timeframe to move the needle and almost ignore everything else? Because we've seen companies go from a C round of funding to an A round of funding. On the back of one channel or one tactic, but you've gotta be focused on it.
Alex Bond: And you know, with the smaller size, you have a little more freedom of like, mobility, if that makes any sense. Where you can kind of pivot a little quicker. It just takes less moves to kind of like turn the whole ship, if you will.
Jim Huffman: Oh yeah. You don't have to get buy-in from a million stakeholders or whatever. Because it's just you and a few other people in the room. Like, all right, we're trying short form video content on TikTok this week, let's go.
Overcoming the challenges of growing their own company
Alex Bond: And speaking of kind of like all those steps that it takes, you know, with Growth Hit, you doubled your revenue from two years ago and you doubled your staff from last year. And it really sounds like you are leading by example when it comes to growing a company.
I imagine that if people wanna trust, you know, using growth hit to grow their business, they gotta see you guys growing at the same time. So I commend you for that. Did you have any sort of growing pains during that process? And if so, how did you deal with them?
Jim Huffman: Oh my gosh. Yeah. So many growing pains. And one thing that I'm sure we'll talk about is how we build in public and the stuff we're doing there. But for our own agency with growing pains, there's this concept called the black hole of businesses, and it's where a lot of companies go to die or where they go to stagnate and not grow at all.
And that phase is in one of two categories. When you're between one and 5 million in sales or two, you're over 20 people. So we hit both of those. And the reason why it's such a tough time is you desperately need layers of management. You desperately need more process and systems.
But you can barely afford it. So if there's any downturn it can really flip you upside down. It's funny, we're growth hit, we have growth in our name, but the way we grow is in a very cautious manner where we want to have enough cash in the bank. We want to have a strong pipeline before we're over hiring and so.
Yeah, well, we definitely had some issues where you're like, hey, do you hire into growth or do you exhaust your staff before and hire too late? That was one thing. Another is, as a CEO, like what task should I continue to do versus where do I fire myself and then find someone better than me to do that.
And so those are tough decisions to try and try and make. And, you know, people are the hardest thing to get.
So it's like, how can you find these talented people that'll choose you over the million options they have? Because if they're an a plus player, they've got a lot of options. So, yeah, those are a bunch of different things that we've kind of struggled with as we try and grow.
Alex Bond: And I can imagine that, you know, with labor being the highest cost that you want to wear as many hats as possible so you don't have to hire another person, but at some point you're kind of like depreciating your own value when it's taking you twice as long to do this project compared to, or, you know, perform this role when you could be paying someone to do it, who'd be doing it at twice the speed at which you're doing.
Jim Huffman: Totally, and it's all about, as a business owner, you know, there's a negative connotation with this idea of lifestyle design. It's like, oh, that means you don't want to grow. You just wanna like be working from a beach or like take Fridays off. I'm like, absolutely, I'd love to do that. But it's also, the way I think about it is, what task do you do?
They give you energy versus a task that suck energy out of you. Because the tasks that suck energy out of you, if that sales or finance and accounting, there's people where it's the opposite and they love it. So you need to be very intentional with like, what do you enjoy to do? One and two, what are the goals of the business and how aggressive you want to be with growth?
And that's something that myself and my co-founder, we had to be very intentional in because two years ago, our margins were insanely good. But I was exhausted. I was doing everything. I was sales, I was the janitor, I was leading accounts, and I was like, I don't like this. You're building your own prison.
So you wanna be very thoughtful and proactive with, okay, these are the things I like doing and I'm uniquely positioned to do, versus, okay, there's people significantly better at, you know, being the CFO than me. Let's find the right person there.
One Day Design
Alex Bond: I think that's extremely insightful. So, you know, switching gears, you're also the co-founder of a web design company called One Day Design. Can you give us the background on that idea and a little more insight on the business model there?
Jim Huffman: Yeah. It was really spun out of Growth Hit cause one of our core offer offerings is conversion rate optimization. And we would get a lot of people that would come to me and I'd just would really feel for them and I'd be bummed out cuz they'd come to me.
Like Jim, I launched the e-commerce website, I spent 50k, it took five months, two months longer than I wanted. We went live with it and we have zero sales and they've used all their money on it. And I'm just like, man, you almost couldn't help them. So what we did is like, what if we could help people launch a website with essentially in a day, in a cost effective way?
And so we're obsessed with. You know, really good offers, which is a whole nother conversation, like seven minute abs or eight minute abs. I forget what minute we're at. You know, Domino's Pizza, you get your pizza for free if it's delivered in over 30 minutes. And so we're like, what if we could take that and combine it with our design skills?
So we launched one Day Design where. We can design a webpage, landing page for you. Within 24 hours we can also do the dev. It's fun because it gets you to that magic moment, whether you have an idea or you have an existing website you did yourself, but you want it to feel like a VC back brand. You're like, let me test these guys.
And so we launched that middle of last year. We've since grown it. . I think we just hit 140,000 in revenue, so we're just getting started. But it's been fun. We've been able to be kind of, design and dev agency for people. But yeah, that's been super interesting. But it's all because we have the reps of working with different e-commerce clients through the agency and knowing, okay, they just want a good webpage that converts. We can do that.
Alex Bond: Have you found like the crossover in terms of people who are working with growth hit and then they find out that you run this other company and they're like, oh, I also need my webpage designer, or vice versa, where people just want their webpage designed and then they're like, oh, you could actually help grow my brand at the same time. Have you found a lot of crossover that way?
Jim Huffman: Yeah. We've also put ourselves out of business a little bit with Growth Hit where I'll be talking to them and I believe that growth hit like a premium agency doing CRO and then and I'll just be kinda like, oh, we have one day design.
They like, actually I just need that. So we go from at like a big retainer to doing that. But to be honest, it's all about playing the long game. But what's nice is it's all the same persona that we're talking to. It's just phases of their growth journey. Like one day design can help them in the early days or can help them if they just need designer dev help.
But if you're like really looking to scale, then the growth team could help cause it's all about, you know, how can we help this founder, this brand along their growth journey.
The 3 million challenge
Alex Bond: Absolutely. So, you know, only nine months in to the lifecycle of one design. How have you grown and do you consider its growth better or worse than you expected?
Jim Huffman: Yeah. With One Day Design, we have grown just, we have our own email list and we have a podcast. If I was starting today where we. We, I'm a big fan of building in public.
We have the 3 million challenge where if we're such a good growth agency, can we grow our own stuff. So with one day design, we publish the financials, we publish what we're doing. And so like most business owners, I'm very impatient and I have much bigger goals and aspirations for it. I mean I'm very happy and proud that we've hit six figures, but I wish I had more time in the day to dedicate to it.
So what has been a success for us is we've gotten business naturally from growth hit where we can downsell growth hit. The second is by building in public where we post on LinkedIn, Twitter. Indie Hackers talking on podcasts, talking about it. We've recently just spun up Google Ads, which can be a little bit of a knife fight in the design and dev space, but we're trying to play with some low volume, but high intent search queries.
And then we're about to launch more of a content marketing strategy where we're leading with our product, where we're showcasing like before and afters of designs that were done. But as we make more money from it, I'm trying to take the profits from that to pour in into growth.
Alex Bond: Just to double back, what exactly is the 3 million challenge?
Jim Huffman: Yeah. So our goal as a agency isn't to be some thousand person agency that actually sounds quite miserable of like the people management space.
Our goal is to always have a rockstar growth team, but eventually every company we're working on is a company we own or a joint venture in. And so essentially having a startup studio model. So to kick off this idea of a startup studio, we launched a 3 million challenge. We're like, all right, if we're such a good growth team, let's try and grow our own companies.
So we did the agency, we've obviously launched growth at to over seven figures. We have one day design where we're trying to get that to seven figures. We're launching our own e-commerce brand called Handsome Chaos that we'll be launching in a month and that we're looking to get to seven figures.
And so every month we talk about what we're doing, what worked, what epically failed and what, you know, what we're thinking through along the way. And so that, that's been really fun. And the, I feel like the teams kind of rallied around that, cause what's cool about having your own brands is it's your kind of playground to test all the different things you'd maybe wanna client, but you don't wanna do it with their money or without their buy-in. So that's been pretty fun.
Alex Bond: You can be a little bit more dangerous if you will, you know, where you can take big risks and not have to look someone in the face and be like, you know, feel kind of guilty about it.
Jim Huffman: Yeah, exactly. Like what we're working on this, we're gonna do this really big giveaway for one day design called the Startup Giveaway. Where we have a bunch of half baked startup ideas that we're actually gonna launch as websites and just give them to people and be like, take it and run with it, just to kind of prove like, hey, we can design and dev stuff really quickly, but and that could be a horrible idea.
We could be wasting a lot of money on dev and design, or it could be something that, that puts us on the map. But my goal is, and for a lot of, you know, e-commerce companies listening to this, as I look at the most impressive teams or founders, they're the ones that. Noise on a regular basis. Like, all right, it's February.
What are we doing to be in the headlines or to get the attention of people, whether it's scalable things or non-scalable things. So we're trying to kind of drink our own Kool-aid of the, the advice we give by making noise ourselves with different tactics or ideas.
Alex Bond: I think posting your financials is pretty transparent too. I like the idea of doing your business in public. I think there's a lot of value there. So, you know, I've been told that good goals have to be smart. You know the acronym specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
In my opinion, the most difficult parameter in that stack is realistic because if I'm achieving all of my goals, then maybe I'm setting the bar too low, and if not, then maybe I'm setting the bar too high. So how did you set realistic goals for your $3 million challenge and and how can another company do something similar?
Jim Huffman: Oh man, that is such a good question. We obviously just chose the million dollar number cause it's a really fun milestone to hit. And as far as how we get there, whenever we're setting goals, it's definitely good to have the 1 million number that people can rally around, but it's a little bit more of a vanity metric.
The metrics that really matter are the ones around inputs, and so we've really kind of figured out, okay, with one day design, the average price is 1299 a month, or it could be five grand per month based on, based on an average order value. How much business do we need each month? Okay, so how many like leads based on a close rate?
How many meetings booked? So we start setting KPIs with this bottoms up approach so we know exactly, okay, how much traffic, how many leads we need to hopefully hit that goal. And then the other big thing is, You can't have more than one person own it or nobody owns it. So trying to give every person in the company one number that they own.
Peter Teal had this idea where he would take the smartest people and he would have them own one number, but then nothing else, and everybody knew what that number was. So if you bump 'em in into the hallways, you know, what they were focused on. And if you can have really smart people all focused on these one things that kind of roll up to that kind of smart goal that you're talking about, the impact can be huge. So that's something where we're trying to pull off as well.
The value of speed
Alex Bond: No, that's cool. Cool Advice from Peter Teal or you know, a good, a sound concept if you will. I've also noticed kind of a running theme in terms of both of both of these businesses, growth hit and one design. It seems like you value speed. So, you know, one day design is just that, you know, it's essentially we will give you a webpage in 24 hours.
You even offer like a refund money back guarantee on your website that if it's not in one day, it's not a one day design. And I kind of see something similar with growth hit is that you like to, teams of people on you, you definitely value having a team of people working on a project compared to one person, so people can start to grow as quick as possible.
Is that something you found from your personal experience, the, the value of speed or is that something I'm overreading.
Jim Huffman: Yeah, no, it's everything. And we see it. If we've learned anything from the rise of Amazon, it's, it's the power of speed with next day delivery has transformed how e-commerce companies even operate.
And people will pay more money for speed rather than waiting to pay less. And in most cases, the other thing that we found is when you're launching something, if you really wanna win over an early adopter to become an evangelist, you need to wow them. You need to delight them. And it's creating that magical moment.
So how do you create a magical moment? It's through time, money, or experience. So if you can over-deliver, deliver something and do it extremely fast, they're just like, wow, this, this is insane. And so one thing, whenever we were looking at a growth hit in making a productized service, like one day design.
We tried to look at what are our strengths? Okay. We know we're good at design and development. We're actually really good at processing systems, by the way. There's a lot of things we're bad at. We can't build software and do a lot of other things, but we kind of took the things we're strong at, and then we paired that with, there's a really cool formula from Alex, this irresistible offer around like your dream state, likelihood of success, time, delay, gratification, ease or sacrifice to pull it off.
And with those four things in mind, we came up with this concept for one day design and we're not the best at naming things. So we're like, oh, we'll just put the offer in the name one day design. But it's been helpful cause it makes it somewhat memorable.
Alex Bond: Yeah, I mean, it definitely sells itself in that regard. I love the name. I was like, oh, that's all right. And then I looked into it and was like, oh no, it's telling me everything that it is. I mean, honestly, like on paper, Best Buy isn't the best name, but the more I think about it, the more I'm like, we're the best. You know? I think there's kind of like a bit of elegance in the simplicity there, you know?
Jim Huffman: Right. It's so funny. It's like I go back and forth. Sometimes names do matter and sometimes they don't matter. Like Google, Lululemon, like, what do those even mean? You're totally right. Yeah. But then Micro Acquire, just acquire, just got the domain name, acquire.com.
The value of that is insane, like having diapers.com. If you can own like the mindspace and the actual name of a category, then it's, it's next level. So it totally depends. You can argue for and against it, but there's times where it really pays off.
Importance of re-designing and optimizing your website
Alex Bond: And kind of speaking of naming, you also did kind of like a rebrand last year. Is that correct? Where you kind of redesigned your website? Was that kind of like a big overhaul for growth hit? What was kind of the process there like?
Jim Huffman: Yeah, so it's funny, when we launched Growth hit, like people went to the way back machine. Our first website was so ugly, it was all my fault. And then I think in like 2018, 19, we were starting to work with some legit clients and our websitedid not reflect.
And people would even come to our website, be like, wait, are you guys a legit agency? And I was like, all right, that's it. We've gotta like really have our stuff be reflected. And so we made that investment at the time, which was significant for us, and it really moved the needle on how we could talk to clients on our close rate.
But even then we're, it's like 20 22, 20 23, I'm like, We need to do that again. We can do this on a three year cadence, and there are so much more that we're doing and wanting to offer. And what's nice is our, our design skills and team are even better now. So we, we did it all in-house. I was probably a very high maintenance client as I kind of managed it, but it's.
It's been pretty fun. And again, with in the spirit of making noise, after we did it, we like made a bunch of noise around it. Cause we launched a new different products and services around it. So that was kind of fun, you know, make some noise with the new website.
Alex Bond: Is that a advice you would give to other people is about every three years? Why every three years?
Jim Huffman: Yeah. I mean, it definitely depends. I mean, an example, a case against that is amazon.com. They've never really had to do a rebrand or an update. And the reason for that is impressive. It's because Amazon and even Google are the absolute best at AB testing and they are always optimizing.
So if your site's always optimized, you don't have to do some extreme rebrand or, or design. And so if you wanna be innovative, if you wanna be cutting edge, you want your kind of external marketing assets to reflect that. So it's something that you want to think through. But it's funny, sometimes people will do big rebrands or designs redesigns, and then their conversion rate will drop.
Oh no. Because they didn't realize the lightning in a bottle they had with an additional initial designer setup. So you always want to be cautious of that. But yeah, I think you know, three to four years at a minimum is what you'd wanna be thinking through.
Alex Bond: I think that some people overcomplicate it where their website is full of all of this knowledge and information.
It's like they want to dump their entire brain onto this webpage so other people can have, you know, more knowledge is more power. And that shows them that I'm more experienced when from a user's perspective. I want like, as little as possible, if you can show me that you can really concisely articulate what you could do for me in a, in a really elegant way that is much more impactful to someone like me.
And I think a lot of e-commerce people would agree. Because time is money. I don't want to have to go through 20 different webpages to figure out how long you've been in business. You know?
Jim Huffman: Exactly. And especially with e-commerce companies listening, you know, there's this idea of an attention ratio where you land on your website, ask yourself how many buttons or call to actions do you have where you're directing people what to do.
Cause the site could look beautiful. But if you're overwhelming them with like, oh, take this quiz, subscribe here. Oh, here's our flagship product. Oh, did you see the latest blog post? Oh, and here's the sale. You're like I don't know what to do. Like some of my favorite sites are really flat and focused in their funnel, where it's like, Hey, take this quiz to get the personalized product for you.
Similar to what ThirdLove is doing with their Fit Finder quiz to take down Victoria's Secret for bras and undergarments, or. If you have, you know, 200 plus skews on your website, maybe it's about having a really slick navigation and user experience. So power shoppers can get in and out of things. Or if you're doing fast fashion or doing lots of drops, you need to hold someone's hand and tell them what's cool with like, hey, here's what's new.
Here's what's trending, here's what's best sellers. Or even like, you could be like spanks, where they got to be an eight figure brand on the back of one. So you're always making something old filled new. As you're introducing a category like shape wear. So it's cool to have pretty designs, but you've gotta know the end goal of, okay, what do people need to know to make a buying decision, and how do we remove everything else that's in the way of that to push them down that path?