As a startup, your primary goals most of the time are going to be seeing, creating and sustaining manageable growth. I.e. you’ll need to consider growth roles.
A growth manager is there to help you with that. Think of them as partial marketers, trying to expand your client base, and partially product developers. If it involves customer acquisition and retention, a growth manager should be involved and look at the situation to bring in initiatives to help growth. In this article, we’re going to use the term ‘growth managers’ but you may also see ‘marketers’ ‘hackers’ or similar terms.
A growth manager needs to be able to
More than anything else, a growth manager should understand Data. Without that, they won’t know where growth is possible, and won’t know how to develop beyond your current state, it’d be like driving a lorry while blindfolded.
So what are some important things to consider when looking for a growth manager?
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Growth Teams may have many different people on them, from engineers, to analysts to marketers, but a manager should be your first port of call.
Make sure you have a strong working definition of what a growth manager would be in your company, and find a way to convey that to potential hires succinctly. It’s vitally important that you are able to get across what you’re looking for. Even the best hire in the world will be no good if they don’t know what you hired them to do!
This is especially true while the role is quite young. In a decade or so, things might have settled more, but for now, be clear, and know what you want!
The most successful growth managers are those who understand data. They should be more analytical than creative, given a choice between the two (although creativity is important for thinking up new approaches). That aside, there’s some wriggle room as to what characteristics to look for. We’ve narrowed it down to four key areas.
Growth managers work best when they’re willing to experiment aggressively, constantly adapting to what market forces they can spot, and be ready to move forward quickly with an idea.
This cannot be overemphasised. Your manager should understand data, unpick what it tells them, and know how to move forward from that. This is a key part of growth management.
Working with a startup requires a passion for helping the company develop. They should care about the product you’re putting out and be able to sell it well.
Being adaptable and moving fast requires a sense of maturity. Your manager shouldn’t be a lone wolf who flies off on their own and comes up with the goods independently. They should be able to work as part of a team, accept feedback with good grace, and be able to switch an approach quickly if it’s not working.
So with traits in hand, what sort of backgrounds could your growth marketer come from?
If your growth manager needs to be analytical, they’ll need data to analyse.
Growth managers require good data, arguably more than any other role a startup might use. Why is this? Growth managers need analytics to understand your user base, your market, and predict what the next best course of action should be.
So if your growth manager needs to be analytical, you’re going to need to provide them with data to analyse. Tools like Google or Adobe Analytics, or optimisation tools like Optimizely are a good start. Work with your manager to get them integrated into your systems and you should see results soon. Long term, you may want to invest in bespoke data tools that fit your company’s needs, but when starting out these tools will help.
Sustainable growth requires self-knowledge and knowledge of where the company is at. Data will help with this. There should be periods where you lay the groundwork, build up your products, manage your team, and then periods of acquisition where you grab more customers and maintain a client team. These are the periods of growth, where you’ll want your growth manager in place and ready to go.
“Tempting as it may be to start looking for a whole team to kit yourself out with, with every specialty accounted for, over-complicating things is
going to involve you taking on more staff than you can manage.”
Better a jack of all trades than a master of one.
When you hire your first position for any role that will become a team, you should aim to get someone with a functional understanding of a wide range of aspects, rather than an exceptional understanding of one or two. This is especially true of growth managers. You will ideally want someone with a good understanding of the broad market, with one of two specialities.
Tempting as it may be to start looking for a whole team to kit yourself out with, with every speciality accounted for, over-complicating things is going to involve you taking on more staff than you can manage. Your manager should equally have the self-awareness to know what skills they can and can’t pick up when to start bringing in other people- and what those people need to be like to turn your growth manager into part of an effective growth team.
So what sort of people will be in that team? You need several pillars to maintain a structure.
A growth team will find themselves working with sales teams and product teams, in order to get a good understanding of the market and in order to mesh well with the rest of the company. In some ways, they can be seen as something of a liaison between the two. All your teams should answer to the CEO and directors, but points of contact between teams is always a good plan.
From outside the core growth team, you may need to bring in copywriters, product engineers and other specialised roles to brief and support the team where needed. These should come in from other areas of the business, as for the most part they are too specialised to be of much use in the growth team on a day-to-day basis.
Aside from that, these are the sort of roles you can look for to fill the team itself, once you’re ready to start expanding.
(Salaries based on Median PA from London- using Linkedin Salary Checker)
Each of these roles will have nuances and specialties, which you can narrow down as the need arises, but these are the sort of roles you should be filling out. For the most part a simple top down structure should suffice.
The purpose of a growth manager is not necessarily to grab you loads of different growth channels, but instead to develop a few into really strong revenue streams. Consistency will, by and large, get you better results long term than occasional larger payouts.
Come up with some metric goals for your growth team, with a decent mix of short and long term goals. These should be practical, with clear expected results spelled out. Ground ideas in reality, and you’ll see stronger growth
Some common growth metrics include:
Also known as CAC, this metric compares how much you’re spending on getting new customers (through marketing etc) with the actual results. Divide your spending on customer acquisition by the number of new customers acquired over a period.
Once you’ve acquired customers, for how long do they stick around? Remember, it costs more to acquire new customers than to maintain current ones, and your growth team’s job is to optimize revenue streams rather than have a load of weaker ones.
Simple enough, are you making money?
Analyse the process where a visitor to your site becomes a customer. If there’s a large discrepancy between site visitors and customers, there could be issues in the process. Maybe your layout is too confusing, for example.
But there may be more specialised ones to consider, depending on the nature of your business.
There’s no magic bullet answer as to when hiring a growth manager is the right choice for your company, but it’s a role that will almost certainly become essential for most startups within the next few years. They’ll be helping define how your company expands beyond your initial scope, so it’s important you get the right people for the job, and help build a team around them that really works.