Though it can be said that everyone within a company is responsible for growth, a designated growth team can be a vital lever for marketing, sales and product, ensuring that even more people experience the value of a product.
Who needs a growth team?
Most businesses don’t have the luxury of focusing on building features forever. At some point, they need to think about how they can ensure that more people are extracting value from their products.
Growth teams are becoming table stakes for businesses that have found product-market fit and want to shift their focus on accelerating, well, their growth! However, there’s still a lot of confusion about what exactly it is that growth teams do.
It’s not uncommon to hear questions like:
Are growth teams simply marketing teams with a different name? Who do they report to? And how do I know when I should build one?
To put it simply, growth teams use data and qualitative research to scale the usage of a product. While creating value lies with product teams, and communicating value is the responsibility of marketing teams, growth teams make sure that more people experience the existing value of a product that’s already been created.
As companies grow, it’s common practice for them to start investing in performance and brand marketing (e.g. via paid campaigns). But in their earlier stages, having a team focused on organic growth through product optimization can have an outsized impact. Because growth teams help users extract value from the product (for example, during onboarding), some of their work might also overlap with that of the product team. The structure of the team and where they sit matters less than the function they perform, and the problem they’re trying to solve.
What does a growth team do?
With a charter to move the needle on growth metrics, growth teams build a deep understanding of the customer journey, continually thinking through ways to optimize their experiences. Data-driven growth professionals will test and measure their hypotheses by conducting micro-experiments to improve components of the marketing or product funnel.
As Andrew Chen writes, “product growth is the discipline of applying the scientific method to business KPIs.”
The work of a growth team is both measurable with data (i.e. the exact impact of the changes made can be understood), and scalable (i.e. if they make a change that positively impacts business metrics, that change can be replicated for even greater impact in the long-term).
A growth team’s responsibilities might include things like:
- Conversion optimization i.e. upgrades, form fills, demo requests
- Product retention i.e. reducing friction that distracts from product value
- Search engine optimization i.e. SEO friendly content and landing pages
- Emails and notifications i.e. testing and personalization
- Pricing i.e. strategy and competitive differentiation
Members of a growth team
The structure of a growth team will look a little bit different for every business. But nearly every growth team has a dedicated engineer and designer, and some might even have product managers, data scientists, and data analysts.
Chief Growth Officers
Some organizations create an executive position to lead and build growth teams. The most common title for these professionals is chief growth officer, and they’re responsible for setting the team’s strategy, goals and tasks. Along with management experience, your chief growth officer should be deeply familiar with building a tech stack, marketing principles and data/quantitative analysis.
A growth team’s goals are often closely aligned with those of the product team. A designated product designer will tackle growth challenges from a designer’s perspective, identify new opportunities to reduce friction for the user, and help improve communication with the product design team.
Some growth teams are heavily focused on discovering new channels to reach customers and optimizing marketing funnels. In these instances, it can be highly beneficial to have a technical marketer on the team. Along with the ability to combine intuition and data, this person specializes in digital channels, and often, they’re familiar with back-end development, APIs, and script building.
Engineers who sit on the growth team should have the same technical aptitude as those on your product team. Engineers set up the infrastructure for gathering, translating, storing, and viewing data, and lay the groundwork for running experiments. They may also build front-end experiments that impact your product’s UX / UI, so understanding user experience best practices is a huge plus.
In larger growth organizations, data analysts will parse through the growth team’s data to identify trends, patterns and anomalies, identifying new opportunities for growth, and recommending what actions to take and experiments to run.
Responsible for driving the experimentation roadmap, a growth product manager can help keep teammates on track and on goal while also serving as a point of contact with other department heads.
Why growth teams thrive on agility
At the end of the day, agility is one of the most important traits of an effective growth organization. The best growth teams leverage real-time data and move quickly to run experimentation cycles, making adjustments and iterations that drive more users to the core product experience.
It’s a continual process of hypothesizing, prioritizing, experimenting, and analyzing (and doing it all over again).
Growth-minded companies know that building more features won’t magically result in more users. When combined with rigorous processes, business savvy, and goal-based prioritization, growth teams can be a vital contributor to a business’s long-term success.