One Book A Day

Explosive Growth by Cliff Lerner: Summary and Notes 

One sentence summary: Explosive Growth by Cliff Lerner is an excellent handbook that teaches readers how to navigate the challenges of creating an online business that gets to the top and stays there.

One Paragraph summary: Calling a business book entertaining may sound like an oxymoron to some, but Explosive Growth y Cliff Lerner is precisely that. Cliff narrates the journey of creating what has come to be one of the largest dating sites in America. His book is full of life lessons and practical business tips that are insightful and fun to read.

Favorite quote from the author:

“When an industry leader takes a shot at you in the press, you know you’ve arrived. However, when a company says they’re fully determined to take you down, that’s an indicator that you’ve not only arrived, but you’ve also shown up in a chauffeur-driven limousine, and you’ve been greeted by the paparazzi snapping pics to sell to the nearest tabloid for a front page story.”

If there is something that I really liked about Explosive Growth it is what Cliff calls #ExplosiveGrowthTips, which are practical business tips that have shaped his journey. Take the following for example: .

# EXPLOSIVEGROWTHTIP 4“: First -mover advantage is useless if the timing isn’t right. Have you thought about ideas, products, or features that failed in the past—simply due to being too early—that may work now?” .

Clever right? You will find similar shareable tips throughout the book — I tell you, speaking them aloud makes you feel smarter. #EXPLOSIVEGROWTHTIPS are numerous, and I encourage you to read the book to learn more about them.

What else makes the book outstanding? Cliff is a clever and creative writer. At some point, you will forget that you are reading a business book that’s supposed to be boring and serious and lose yourself in the pages. It is so well written that I dare compare it to the E-Myth Revisited , another of my favorites.

Main Takeaways From Explosive Growth by Cliff Lerner

Here is a list of the main lessons that I extracted from Explosive Growth for you guys

  1. Find things done by people inefficiently and create efficient solutions for them

  2. Validate your business idea using the least time and resources possible

  3. Be honest with yourself

  4. Measure your successes

  5. Having great company growth is more important than having a great product

  6. Your customers need to care about your product

  7. When they copy you, congratulations! You’re officially a big deal

Lesson 1: Find things done by people inefficiently and create efficient solutions for them

Cliff’s lightbulb moment happened after witnessing two of his female colleagues go through a tedious and time-consuming process of finding dates online. Here lies an opportunity, he said, and soon, he created a dating site that became an instant hit in professional circles.

Cliff explored challenges that plagued the online dating industry in the early 2000s. For example, he introduced the concept of ‘the wingman’ where daters on his site were allowed to enlist their friends to accompany them on their dates. This strategy worked because it made people feel safe, and it gave him an edge in the dating industry. And that’s the first point he puts across — if you can do something that other people do inefficiently, you will take over the market.

Lesson 2:Validate your business idea using the least time and resources possible

Cliff says he spent $50,000 marketing his site with little to show for it. The experience proved to be an important turning point in his life as an entrepreneur because it taught him the value of using few resources to test the sellability of his ideas.

Where have I heard a similar story before? All the books in our growth and scaling series say the same thing. They ask that you run small experiments before going on all in with your business idea.

Growth and scaling series titles:

Lesson 3: Be honest with yourself

Cliff values self-criticism and was always asking himself hard questions like why he was able to to consistently get the attention of the press but not could not retain all the people that curiously visited his site

These questions made him learn a few things, like he had to make his site many times better than those of his competitors and that he had to evaluate how passionate he was about the problem he was trying to solve. He also had to find ways of expanding his site’s reach outside his professional and social circles. Eventually, he decided to shut down the site ( and move his business to the then recently created Facebook. Here, he created a test app called Meet New People (MNP) which helped him learn more about emerging trends in the online dating scene. This pro move led him to develop a brand new site, (AYI).

But don’t forget, it all happened because he was willing to ask himself hard questions and follow through with solutions, and he advises entrepreneurs to do the same.

Lesson 4: Measure your successes

Cliff and his team quickly learned the importance of running tests on their users to know what works and what doesn’t in the shortest time possible. One of the strategies they used is selling the benefits of their site more than selling the site itself. They learned that people took more action when they felt the emotional benefit of giving their site a try.

They also learned that having a good product wouldn’t be effective if they didn’t grow their market. A great way to market products is by increasing one’s market share by leveraging the power of known and highly visible platforms.

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth, by Gabriel Weinberg says that startups can leverage the power of existing platforms like Facebook or app stores like Google Play to achieve massive growth. This can be done relatively inexpensively or by running tests on these platforms. It seems by choosing Facebook, Cliff was onto something.

Lesson 5: Master your content

Having great company growth is more important than having a great product

As mentioned in the previous lesson, many businesses make the mistake of believing that a unique product is all it takes to guarantee them outstanding success. This is not true. It is important to constantly find creative ways to reach more people and explore new markets.

Targeting partnerships with established organizations is a great way to explore new markets because it involves leveraging your partner’s existing audience. At the same time, you’ve got to test your product in the market first. Validating your business ideas through constant testing is covered in great detail in the Lean Startup.

The Lean Startup process of validating business ideas:

Lesson 6: Your customers need to care about your product

Customer feedback is a good indication that people care about your product enough to comment on it. This also means that receiving complaints is great for business because honest and constructive feedback is a sign that your customers are emotionally invested in your product to desire changes that would give them a better consumer experience. On the other hand, malicious complaints indicate that you are causing enough waves in your industry to be considered a threat.

While hate for your product means that people care about it enough to complain, it is important to look out for customers who let you know how much they love your product. Cliff says that developing the habit of reading customer emails every week can lead to valuable information that can help you know what to do more of, and what to change about your operations to retain current customers and pull in new and lasting ones.

Having strong customer relations can give a company the advantage of adding high-value features to its product. When customers are emotionally invested in the benefits a product offers, they are often willing to pay to receive high-value features because they trust the company to deliver the best.

Cliff recommends hiring employees who can use your product to give you employee’s services and the customer’s perspective at the same time. He also recommends having the rest of the employees spend more time with customer service representatives in a company. Customer service reps have the greatest awareness of customer needs because it is their job to interact with them. With this knowledge, Cliff stepped up further and decided to hold regular brainstorming sessions with all employees, inviting them to offer any ideas that could make their product more sellable.

Lesson 7: When they copy you, congratulations! You’re officially a big deal

Cliff’s business got to a point where his competitors were bent on imitating the most viral features of his widely popular and successful dating site. In true Cliff fashion, he never retaliated by being one of the bad guys. He always made sure that he and his staff stuck to the goal of providing their services ethically and honestly while finding creative ways to outwit his competitors. The point? Don’t lose focus on the bigger picture.

Wrap Up

A successful business begins by identifying a need or identifying problems that are not being appropriately met and offering excellent solutions to fill the gap. Though having a unique product is a perfect starting point, it is ruthless marketing that will continually take your business to the next level.

Exploring different markets and industries and piggybacking on the success of other top companies can bring great traffic your way. Once you have the traffic down, be sure to regularly test out all the elements of your product to find out what works for your customers. Keep being creative and innovative to keep your business fresh to loyal customers and attractive to new customers.

Finally, always pay attention to what your customers are saying. Feedback is the fuel of your business. Listening to their complaints and compliments will put you steps ahead of your competition because you will always be able to meet your customers’ practical and emotional needs.

Who Would I recommend the Book To?

You will consider this book a great read if you like inspiring ‘started from the bottom’ stories that are educative and engaging.


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