A few months ago (more months than we’d like to admit), the idea of an eBook was conceived within the walls of the Geckoboard office. We wanted to bring together and, essentially, consolidate all the marketing and growth advice that’s floating around on the internet in one place.

Naturally, we also wanted to make sure this advice wasn’t just good advice, but great advice. Advice that came from experience (pain and heartache, if you will), hustle and perseverance. Advice that was raw and honest without any of the ‘bling’.

We wanted to make an eBook. An eBook packed with badass advice from the world’s top marketers.

So we got cracking.

The starting line

First of all, we partnered up with the lovely people at Mention, where we had the privilege of working with superwoman Shannon Byrne.

We came up with four questions we wanted answered. Four questions that we figured, if we wanted to know the answers to these, surely there must be other people out there asking the same things.

What were the four questions? Here you go:

  1. What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt as a marketer?
  2. What would you consider to be a marketer’s most important task today?
  3. What makes you excited about the future?
  4. Who do you admire that’s paving the way in marketing innovation?

We used Typeform to set up our survey and could then easily distribute the link to the marketers we wanted to take part. Between ourselves and Mention, we sent out 120 personalised emails inviting marketers to contribute to the eBook.

We were aiming to collect answers from 50 top marketers. We knew this was ambitious, but thanks to Sofia’s and Shannon’s hustle, we even exceeded our 50 person mark. The answers came rolling in, and people were excited to be a part of the project.

From black book to cookbook - Why we changed the concept at the 11th hour

After our spreadsheet, editing and proofreading parties, it was time for the next phase: Design. And of course, now the time had come to give the book a title. An exercise which can get ugly, quickly. Thankfully, no one on our team has ever been in dire need of an ego boost, and we reached a decision on the title in a democratic fashion that would make most of UN’s diplomats question their entire careers.

The title we all agreed on was The Little Black Book of Growth: Essential Advice from the World’s Top Marketers.

This is what the cover looked like:


We were almost ready to ship. But then something happened. A realisation, an epiphany, an aha moment. Call it what you want. We were no longer feeling excited about the project. And that’s never good news, right? Despite being so close to the finish line and things coming together like they were supposed to, we knew something was wrong. Something had to change. The concept. The darn concept just wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t fun.

So we went back to square one.

We believe that it’s important for a company to have the kind of culture that allows you to go back to square one sometimes. To reassess, to look at things with a fresh pair of eyes and sometimes - if necessary - start over. Because we must always remember the number one rule of content:

Don’t ship content that sucks.

So we started thinking. We thought about what would make a great concept, something that we would want to download, read, share and shout about on the internet. During the next couple of days metaphors, analogies and even latin phrases bounced around the office. (We kid you not.)

And then one day, Sofia took her eyes off her computer screen and somewhat cautiously turned around to face us. With a facial expression that signified a sense of childlike insecurity, yet with a glimpse of viral hope in her eyes, she said, ‘What do you think about the concept Food for Growth? (A growth marketer’s wordplay on the century old expression ‘food for thought’.)

And then it happened.

Our faces instantly lit up, we started imagining the retweets, the spike in shares, servers breaking, dollar signs in our eyes started to suddenly appear and… Well, we got excited about our newfound concept is what we’re trying to say.

Our designer, Oliver, was notified and as we once again sent him on a torturous hunt for stock photography that didn’t quite look like stock photography there were feelings of relief, accomplishment and satisfaction sweeping through the office. Aahh.

The introduction and summary were instantly repurposed to fit the new concept and as the photography, iconography and wordage came together, we had a brand new eBook on our hands.

Et voilà! Excellente.


An ALL CAPS dinosaur foreword

As the last pieces were coming together, we realised we needed one more thing. A foreword. And a badass foreword at that. And who better to ask than an internet phenomenon in the shape of a dinosaur robot? Yes, FAKEGRIMLOCK with his undeniable wisdom and ‘no bullshit’ approach to business seemed like the perfect candidate. He accepted. Once he had finished pounding out a dinosaur-esque foreword in his own distinctive style, we were finally ready for launch.

The dashboard: Monitoring activity

Naturally, having a dashboard for this project was a no-brainer. On the day of launch, the project’s very own dashboard was assembled so we could all stay on top of the activity around the eBook. We set a goal of 1000 downloads in the first week, a target we to our great joy exceeded within the span of 48 hours. Below is what our Food for Growth dashboard looks like.


The finish line: What we learned and what we could have done differently

We had a crazy few months together, during which we all learned some things, were reminded of other and surprised by few. Below are our biggest lessons:

  • Reminder: Collaboration is key, one person can’t do, see or master it all.
  • Lesson: Doing things that don’t scale can be just as important as those that do.
  • Surprise: Putting together an eBook of this size was way harder work than anticipated.

When we had finally put the finishing touches on the eBook, we were so proud of it and eager to tell the world about it that we forgot some of the most basic ‘launch rules’.

Mistakes were made.

Biggest mistake we made was to launch the eBook late on a Thursday, which meant we missed out on crucial days of promotion as the weekend was coming up. Our email promoting the eBook went out as an A/B test on that same day. This meant that only 20 percent of the segments received them, and the remaining 80 percent received the winning email the next day, 4pm PST on a Friday (late night or Saturday for the rest of the world). Not the best of timings.

How silly did we feel? Very. But feeling a bit silly sometimes comes with the job, it’s part of the learning curve. Embrace it! So when’s our next eBook coming out? Oh, it might be sooner than you think...

Until then, if you haven't already, download Food for Growth: 159 secret ingredients served up by the world's top marketers.