Your first growth hack - One Metric That Matters

“The most important step of all is the first step. Start something.” - Steve Backley A question that I receive from many (potential) clients who want to exponentially grow their business is: Where should we begin when it comes to growth hacking?

Chris Out

Chris Out

Managing Partner

There are so many possibilities. For example, you could choose out of:

  • SEO - Search Engine Optimisation
  • SEA - Search Engine Advertising
  • PR - Public Relations
  • Analytics
  • Conversion Optimisation

Fear strikes…

  • What if I begin with the wrong one?
  • What if I only realise after 3 months of growth hacking that I am doing it completely wrong?
  • What if I spend too much money on it?

It isn’t possible to make a “wrong” beginning when it comes to growth hacking and I will share with you the first possible step to growth hacking in this article.

One metric that matters - The crucial growth hack you can't live without 

The most successful companies from Silicon Valley all have one thing in common:

> They focus on 1 metric that they want to achieve

They ask themselves the following:

  1. What is our end goal?
  2. What should we focus all our energy on?

The well-known incubator from Silicon Valley, Y Combinator, gives their startups the following goal:

“Every week your company should grow at least 7%”

Paul Graham, one of the founders of Y Combinator, suggested that this one metric should either focus on revenue or number of users. These are the metrics that show a company is highly focused on something that people actually want.

A famous founder of a Y Combinator startup One Month is Mattan Griffel. In his company a number of focuses exist that are in accordance with the YC methodology:

  • Extreme focus on the company’s growth.
  • The whole company is held accountable for the objectives and metrics set.
  • Every time they ask themselves: Will what we are doing help us grow 7% this week?

The one metric that matters methodology is different compared to regular goal setting. In regular goal setting it is common to set multiple goals. However with the one metric that matters mentality, the focus is obsessively on achieving that one metric.

But it is not only these Y Combinator startups that have this mindset. There are countless other examples of companies who have successfully used this methodology.

What drove the growth of Facebook?

Facebook is one of the Silicon Valley companies that is used the OMTM method. From the beginning, Mark Zuckerberg has pushed his growth teams on the following metric: “grow faster than yesterday”

Every new idea was challenged on the added value to this metric. This resilient focus made it much easier to keep everybody in the company aligned.

After reaching 1 million users.they realised that using the same strategy was no longer possible. Hence they decided to focus on a higher goal and the growth teams of Facebook are continuously coming up with new strategies to ensure that their one metric is reached.

How to get one billion page views in one year: the SumoMe case

The CEO of SumoMeNoah Kagan, was one of the first product managers of Facebook and is one of the best known growth hackers worldwide. When he started SumoMe in 2014 (a company that provides analytics tools) he focused his strategy based on what he learnt whilst at Facebook. The One Metric That Matters that Noah Kagan introduces was to get one billion page views on SumoMe in 2014.

2014 Growth curve of SumoMe going from 0 to over 1 million unique visitors

Source: SumoMe

With every step Noah Kagan and his coworkers asked themselves: “will this step bring us closer to one billion views?” I bet you are thinking: this goal is practically impossible. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. On the 30th of December 2014, the page view of the website surpassed the 1 billion mark. Hence, in less than a year Noah Kagan and his team reached their goal. Halfway through 2015 SumoMe had reached more than 5 billion views. Noah shared at Digital Elite Camp that his one metric that matters for 2015 was generating $1M dollar in revenues from SumoMe products. Though the efforts of Noah Kagan and his team at SumoMe are remarkable, these did not come easy and require continual learning through failure. In a presentation Noah shared that 84% of their marketing efforts fail, but it's the 16% that do move the needle.

What is this “One Metric That Matters” all about?

The concept of One Metric That Matters is explained in the book Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Ben Yoskovitz. In this book, they refine the focus of a company on One Metric That Matters. They suggest that whilst this is not the only metric you measure, it is the most important. The ‘remaining metrics’ need to be in line with your overall goal; in other words, they should contribute to you reaching your goal.

At the beginning of this article I suggested that you should choose between the two, but which will you choose? The authors of Lean Analytics suggest your most important metric depends on three factors:

  • The type of company you have
  • The phase your company is in?
  • Your audience/target market?

These factors decide whether you should choose a growth ratio or if it is better to focus on a revenue target.

The next step is that the whole structure of the organisation should be set up based on this One Metric That Matters. Sean Ellis, the man who introduced the term growth hacking, makes his team members write down 3 points where they can positively contribute to achieving the one metric that matters. Through this, everyone puts in their best effort with a strong focus on growing the firm.

Now I bet you’re thinking: my organisation is way too big and complicated for this. How can I implement this in a simple way step by step?

How do I implement the One Metric That Matters? A step-by-step guide:

  1. Choose a small project
  2. Decide for this project the One Metric That Matters that should be reached by a certain date
  3. Let every team member write about how he/she will contribute to achieving this goal
  4. Keep a simple dashboard (Google spreadsheet) where you can track your position relative to your goal, this should be visible to your whole team
  5. Talk about it every day, what you plan to do to push towards this metric:
    - What works and what should we pursue more aggressively?
    - What doesn’t work and we should stop doing?
    - What if we only had 1 day left to achieve this goal, what would we do to give it the last push?

If the above worked for the small project then it’s time to choose a bigger project. This should be repeated until the top-down management is able to lead the whole company following this principle.

This is the beginning of growth hacking.

By having a clear goal in mind, your whole company is also focused on ensuring that you can begin with growth hacking. Every time, you need to figure out what the weak points are in your growth system in order to “hack” your growth. Growth hacking does not work if you don’t have a One Metric That Matters. 

The startups and corporations I have guided and coached all began with the implementation of the OMTM. This focus immediately ensured them a higher growth rate. They stopped doing many things that didn’t help with the growth. The focus was shifted to the things that truly helped with their growth.

One Metric That Matters is your first growth hack. Get over the fear of growth hacking, start with it today and reap the rewards tomorrow.

What is your one metric that matters?

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Chris Out

Chris Out

Managing Partner

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