You have probably heard about the concept of “Growth team” before reaching out to this article. You may think it is just another buzzword that means the same as “marketing team”. But let me assure you that what you are about to read will completely change your mind, because “growth” isn’t just a rebranding to the word “marketing”.
While scrolling through Quora’s answers for the keyword “growth team” or “growth marketing”, it seems that the majority thinks that there’s nothing fundamentally different about a growth role and a marketing role, to which I completely disagree, given the fact that growth teams work across the boundaries of traditional organizations and rely on rapid experimentation and innovation instead of long-term planning. While marketing teams, on the other hand, serve as the face of a company, coordinating and producing all materials representing the business. It’s also about how much of the funnel the respective teams are responsible for. A growth team tends to be full funnel focused and more integrated into their approach. So there is clearly a difference.
Through this article, I will make sure you understand the following:
I- What “growth teams” are.
II- Why you need to build one for your company
III- How to build the perfect growth team
So let’s dive in?
I- What “growth teams” are:
Before I give in our own definition of “growth team”, I would want to highlight an equally interesting definition from Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown, authors of “Hacking Growth”:
And for us,
II- Why you need to build a Growth team for your company:
What is the role of a growth team?
The role of a growth team is to drive rapid testing to discover effective ways to grow the business, by running experimentation all the way through the funnel, from activation to retention to referral to revenue to resurrection. However, it is not just a team and certainly not just testing.
Let’s take Twitter as an example; Their growth team emerged from their motivation of getting more people to use Twitter every day and to fix the low activation rates for people who signed up. They started their first project with the intention to improve the NUX (new user experience), by testing some cross-functional products with other platforms. The team grew from 8 people to over 20 today and is still operating to improve the user experience and to maintain Twitter’s growth rate. So obviously, when you have 20 people working together as a growth team, the sky isn’t the limit (when it comes to testing).
Perks of having a growth team:
It Builds bridges instead of walls:
When having a growth team, the marketing department doesn’t have to beg engineers to get things done, and this will spare you a two-fold loss. In one hand, the marketing team won’t be sitting in the corner for days waiting to move on ideas that could improve growth right now. On the other hand, it is quite risky to interrupt engineers while they are focused on a task, a simple question like “did you receive my email?” on a random working hour can result in a tremendous effort for an engineer to get back on track. So, what a growth team does is: smooth that over.
It keeps you focused
More often than not, what we focus on is what grows faster. But it always requires the right amount and the right type of focus to move in the right direction.
Having an autonomous growth team with a clearly defined mission putting all their attention on a single metric allows everyone to contribute with valuable ideas, making execution and feedback fast and easy. Feedback either gives life to what deserves to stay or highlight flaws on what should vanish.
It Increases revenue
As long as the growth team is testing to find which tactics improve the performance of certain metrics, and choosing the most performant among them, the result will be, more often than not, increased revenue.
Now, after you understood what a “Growth team” is and why is it important to build one for your company, let me break down to you the process of building a performant Growth team. I chose to limit the process to 6 essential steps, as promised in the title. So here you go:
III- How to build the perfect growth team
step 1: Lay the right foundation.
Product market fit is the foundation of any company, if you don’t have it, you will have problems maintaining your business for the long term. Having a great product and the right market would make you way more successful than if you’ve got excellent execution on a not so great product or in a not so great market. Product- market fit is a must-have and the way to know if you reached it is by asking your customers “How would you feel if you can no longer use our product?”, if the answers tend more towards: “disappointed” rather than “indifferent”, you are already having the right foundation for growth.
Andy Johns (former Growth at Facebook, Twitter, and Quora) explains why establishing a growth team only after you’ve reached product/market fit is so important:
“When you focus on aggressive growth too early you generally fail more quickly, in particular when the product isn’t right. You’re basically acquiring many users at a high churn rate and low retention rates. When you do the opposite and build a great product first, then push to grow it aggressively after organic adoption, you expedite the path to success.”
Also, when laying the foundation for your growth team, there are some vital aspects to consider. These are your goals, your key metrics, and support from key stakeholders.
step 2: choose the growth team model
To make this more clear and easier for you to digest, I will state examples of successful companies for each model, but to start with, keep in mind that there are 2 popular and most-used models: an Independent growth team model a functional growth team model.
Uber for an Independent growth team model:
In this model, there is always a VP of Growth heading a team of product managers, engineers, designers, and data scientists on different phases of the funnel. A marketing role can be added to each phase of the funnel if the independent growth team model is organized by metrics.
Uber uses this model to build strong team DNA around speed and iteration. The company values speed and iteration because they enable the Growth team to build strong feedback loops into Uber’s product. The feedback loops I am referring to here are, for instance, riders who take their first ride based upon recommendations of existing riders (referrals), or again drivers who become uber drivers by clicking on “Drive with Uber” ads. Uber’s Growth team’s job is to make these feedback loops as powerful as possible in order to increase their multiplier effects and therefore the number of riders.
BitTorrent for a Functional growth team model:
This model also works well because each team gathers together people who have similar experience and will manage their own growth goals. The VP of product works with each functional head such as product managers and engineers. At BitTorrent, the head of product has to balance growth initiatives against non-growth initiatives and his teams have faith that he’s chosen the best plan because of his expertise. They expect that he’s measuring outcomes and adjusting as needed.
However, these models can’t be perfect and both have downsides to consider before you decide which one to choose.
step 3: Hire the right team
We’re shifting from a traditional marketing team to a Growth team and this means that Growth team should be looking at more than just top of the funnel, or brand mention or traffic. They are looking at retention and how the user can fall in love with your company. In an ideal world, there are 7 types of people you want to build your perfect growth team
1- Data analyst: He makes sure you’re monitoring the right numbers on your scalable marketing tactics as well as having the right metrics and goals for the ideas you’re bringing to the world.
2- VP marketing: who’s also a great leader: they have to have experience in running growth teams and to know how to work in collaboration with your product team, development team, engineering team and with the UX team. This is really crucial because marketing doesn’t end when you bring visitors in and neither does it end when a customer converts or if your customers had been with you for one year. The VP marketing is the one whose responsibility is to drive that ship forward.
3- Content marketer: Building content will help you build your brand and your audience because when you lead with value, people will always want to come back, learn more and buy more. The content actually converts for you, it sells for you.
4- Social media and community manager
5- A growth hacker: the person who’s doing things that don’t scale. Doing a lot of offbeat ideas and unpredictable moves. That’s why you need the data analyst to make sure that you are measuring the right objectives and tackling the right things. Most of the work of a growth hacker is going to fail but that’s totally okay. If they win once or twice during a year, they’re already worth it
6- Project manager: This person is in charge of your systems, your processes and making sure that the ideas, the tactics, the changes you’re doing, week to week, are meaningful. They work in coordination with the Data analyst and VP marketing to make sure things stack up nicely.
7- Front-end developer: or full stack developer, help you get ideas to life.
1-A growth product manager: Helps build the team and implement Growth inside the organization. The perfect profile would be someone combining the following set of skills:
-digital marketing background
-experience with Growth
-Data and process oriented
2-a growth engineer: a full-stack developer with a great ability to test new codes. A preferable mindset of a growth Engineer would be: building fast and fixing later by constantly using new tools and frameworks, but also being able to communicate with other team members.
3- a designer: serving as a bridge between the product and the users; It is essential that this person understands the product, the customer and the concept of Growth. A designer should have empathy towards customers to understand their psychological desires and the UX. Also, they should: execute fast, use conversion-centric design, avoid designs based on subjectivity, work closely with the developer and love data.
4- a Data analyst: This person is in charge of giving insights from small and large datasets. They have to be familiar with backend code and database lookup skills, to communicate with other team members about the data that can be collected and processed and to use machine learning resources.
The icing on the cake would be to have the whole team work toward one common KPI and not individual KPIs.
step 4: create a culture of growth
Implementing a culture of growth means you have a team that constantly asks the following question: how can we be more useful to our customers today?
This kind of culture doesn’t happen by command. It starts with small-scale testing on one or two spots, with changes made based on what the data shows. As testing proves itself, it tends to generate higher-level investments of support, talent, and resources. The manifestation of the results comes in form of more visitors, more sales and happier customers
step 5: Learn how to manage your teams.
The human behavior is predictably unpredictable, and running a team will always be a tough task, be it of 3, 10 or 100 people. A growth team has the particularity of regrouping folks who like to do things quickly and iterate fast, to which other teams within your company can resist.
You don’t want to create tension between different departments of your organization, so you have to make sure there is enough transparent communication between all your employees.
In fact, some of your employees outside the growth team can find this concept very exotic because let’s face it, Growth Marketing is less-than-a-decade old. So give your team enough resources and time to digest it.
step 6: Decide how you want to grow your team.
To do so, ask yourself: what are the functions, team members and structure required to take someone from non-user to user? And if you have a larger growth team, you should find ways to organize sub-teams and decide what areas should they tackle.
Actually, there is no magic number of members in a Growth team, no one can exactly tell you how many people you should hire. Some Growth teams can be independent enough with 3 people: a PM with a marketing bent, a full-stack engineer and front-end designer for implementation. Some need 10 to 20 members with a higher focus on analytics and experiment infrastructure, while some others (like Facebook) can gather over 50 team members.
Therefore, prior to growing your team, make sure you set the right foundation and underline your goals and vision.
Hope all this has been useful. If it has, go recruit some great people and start building something awesome with them.
We’re glad you made it to the end. Let us help you build your own Growth team!