How to Build a Growth Team to Scale Your Business
Stefan Bardega is Traktion’s Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer. Here, he explains the key considerations of building a growth marketing team.
There are many in-depth articles about how (and who) to hire for growth teams — like this one by Mari Luukkainen or this one by Anu Hariharan.
However, many founders find themselves under such immense pressure to drive growth that they rush into hiring without understanding the growth process. This can lead to wasted time, budget, resources and ultimately slower more inefficient growth.
In this article, I’ll expand on the growth process and help you lay the foundations for a flexible and adaptable growth marketing team.
If you’re looking to hire pre-vetted freelance growth talent, you can do it for free using Traktion. Connect with the world’s best and brightest marketers through our easy-to-use platform.
First thing’s first: what is a growth team?
A growth team’s job is to efficiently grow the value of — and customer base for — a product or service. A good growth team does this via carefully considered strategies, tactics, and experiments, each heavily underpinned by data.
This experimental data-driven approach is important to note because the term “growth marketing” is sometimes used as a loose synonym for online marketing. They should not be confused. Online marketing does not necessarily need to be data driven or experimental. Growth marketing does.
Let’s clarify why you need a specific team to scale your business.
Why build a team for growth?
In Andrew Chen’s influential article “How to build a growth team – lessons from Uber, Hubspot, and others” he explains that many of the key skills required to increase growth can often sit outside the wheelhouse of existing teams.
That’s why, to support and drive growth, you need to bring in a multi-disciplinary group of experts with a clear remit to enhance a product’s value and user base.
However, many startups are blind to this need. This sees them make the same mistake in pursuit of growth, rushing headlong into paid media, hiring people to run ads and chase new customers without a plan — or even a vague idea of what they hope to achieve.
So, before you hire anyone, you first have to understand the growth process.
The growth process — it’s a cycle, not a straight line
In his article, Andrew Chen highlights the cyclical nature of this process, which begins with understanding the available data (whether that’s first, second, or third party data), before creating hypotheses around certain marketing channels. Here are a few examples:
- Example #1 - Based on a high bounce rate and low conversions, you hypothesise that your paid search landing page is too long. You decide you want to split test the existing page against a shorter version.
- Example #2 - Based on customer surveys and share of search analysis, you discover consideration of your product is low. You decide you want to increase consideration among the key target audience through content marketing.
What follows is the prioritisation of those tests in terms of budget, time, and audience; experimentation (testing your message, creative, or offer, for example), and analysis to learn and improve for next time.
Key to the process? Your customer
To identify which channels and tactics are going to be your priority it is always wise to start with the customer experience, building your testing plan from the customer out.
As a founder, you should know your product, target market and personas. Using this knowledge as a jumping-off point, you can identify the most efficient way to grow, matching your audience profile, behaviour and needs to those channels and experiments therein.
For instance, if search is super critical to your audience journey — and prospects already understand your category or product (i.e you don’t need to educate them) — you may want to prioritise search. Within search you will then need to balance paid search experiments alongside search engine optimisation tests.
Conversely, if you’re in an emerging category, you may need to raise awareness and educate your audience. That requires a higher investment in content and reach based ads, before capturing interest with search and other discovery strategies.
So, now you’re ready to hire growth talent, right? Not quite
With a rough idea of the channels you want to target, you might be tempted to push ahead and hire for each one individually. But that would be a mistake. This could lead to individuals working in silos without any cohesion or direction.
Instead, you need to figure out the prioritisation of your channels by determining, among other things, how competitive the channel is and how long it will take to deliver results. And to do this effectively, you need a growth marketing plan — and someone to help drive it.
How to build a growth marketing team: leadership + structure
You can take it as read that, as a founder, you have to wear all sorts of hats at any given time. But identifying marketing hypotheses, testing them, and analysing the results is a time-intensive and detail-oriented process. You need to relinquish that hat to someone with the expertise to develop and oversee your growth activities.
You need a Head of Growth.
Often T-shaped, creative, and analytical, this is the person you’ll want by your side to build out your plan and source and manage each of the disciplines and specialisms you need to hire.
It’s only once you’ve gone through that planning exercise with your Head of Growth, and you understand the relative cost and speed of these channels, that you’ll arrive at a growth strategy.
Then (and only then) should you hire, based on the strategy.
Your Head of Growth (sometimes referred to as a “Growth Lead”) will also be responsible for leading your growth team, setting the metrics, and monitoring performance. They are, by their nature, outcome-focused rather than channel-focused and will help you steer clear of putting all of your eggs in a single channel, for example.
Unfortunately, most people don’t do this. They assume they need channel X and immediately hire for that channel without considering cost, time, performance and resource.
How to structure your growth team
With your Head of Growth in place, you can now begin to build specialist capabilities and organise the team around those capabilities. Each business is different but the majority will need a combination of the following 4 skills and functions to drive growth.
- Data underpins every decision in your growth team so you need to make sure you have the right data capabilities. There may be a data function/person you can tap into or you may have to build a capability from scratch. Either way, to run experiments you will need marketing performance data so make sure you have access to the right people to help you understand what’s working and what isn’t, across all channels, tests and experiments.
- Acquisition marketing experts are responsible for bringing new prospects to your site or app. They will normally include specialist expertise in paid social ads, paid search, search engine optimisation, programmatic. This capability should be focused on driving new people into the business at an efficient return on investment.
- Activation is focused on the creation and distribution of content that engages people who visit your owned and operated channels. This function will be responsible for blogs, social content, community management, whitepapers, email content, pretty much anything that helps engage people with your brand.
- Retention is the capability that will ensure your customers become repeat customers and that their value increases over time. This should include CRM expertise who can segment and mobilise first party customer data to build relevant propositions that re engage over time.
Let’s recap. Many founders and startups are making the same mistake, conflating growth marketing with more Facebook ads or increasing their PPC spend. This can lead to a rush on hiring without first understanding the growth process.
Before hiring a team of specialists start with a head of growth. Find yourself someone who is channel agnostic, can build you a growth plan, and can manage a team of specialists.
Make sure you have data sat at the centre of your growth team. Every decision, test or conversation, should be rooted in data.
Organise expertise based on acquisition, activation, retention to ensure that your growth team is generating maximum value across the entire user journey.
Ready to hire pre-vetted freelance growth talent? Go to Traktion.