A growth manager who focuses on making your product more successful is a role that’s becoming increasingly important for B2B tech companies, especially as business models continue shifting to prioritise self-service for customers.
But ‘growth’ in this context should not be confused with growth marketing, nor can the two roles be combined or shoe-horned together, despite what many people assume.
In this episode, Andrew Capland explains exactly what it means to be responsible for product-focused growth today and also talks us through the steps you need to take to build a successful growth team in your company.
Who they are: Andrew Capland, Founder of Delivering Value former growth lead at Postscript, Wistia and HubSpot.
A bit of background: Andrew has spent the last 13 years helping B2B SaaS start-ups achieve growth and success. While the first half of his career was focused on marketing, the second half has been spent working in growth teams. He now runs his own coaching business, dedicated to teaching businesses how to achieve product-led growth as well as helping professionals in growth roles.
Where you can find him:
Here you’ll find some of the best advice from the podcast that you can easily digest and learn from.
Terms like ‘growth marketing’ and ‘growth hacking’ are thrown around a lot these days, which can make it a bit confusing when the concept of actual ‘growth’ comes up for a B2B tech company.
There are lots of similarities between growth marketing and more product-focused growth, so that confusion is understandable. However, as this week’s guest pointed out, there are some important distinctions between the two.
Growth marketers are folks who, at the core, are responsible for driving acquisition of audiences, driving traffic, and driving actions like sign-ups. Even in a product-led environment, in companies that scale without really using sales quite as much, those people are a big piece of the puzzle. Typically, growth marketers are driving quality traffic, usually on the website and through other channels, but they’re not usually inside the product.
A growth manager is someone who uses the product as their main tool. Those people are typically responsible for driving activated accounts and customer conversions. They do this using the product itself, not using the website or other acquisition channels.
Of course, both roles should work together and help each other achieve their shared goal for the business.
Andrew said, “The two support each other. You learn something in the product that you can apply to the marketing to acquire better users. And, on the flip side, you might learn something on the marketing side that helps you improve the product experience.”
So, beyond that purpose of the role, what might cause a company to put a growth manager or growth team in place right now?
Andrew explained, “In most companies, it comes down to two things. One is that they want to disrupt themselves. They want to have a team that’s constantly questioning the way things are done. Growth teams, from an operational stand-point, typically break through plateaus by questioning a lot of assumptions, and usually they’re running a lot of experiments. I think, culturally, folks want it for that reason.”
“And then, in terms of business model, Airbnb is a great example (on the B2C side) where you’ve got a business that’s really doing a lot of volume, but there’s no sales team. That’s really what growth, in my opinion, has emerged out of. Now, with the emergence of product-led growth, you have all these B2B companies doing very similar things, like Slacks and Zoom. These companies have a really small sales team, and a ton of customers.”
“Someone who works on a growth team is typically working on commercialising the traffic and turning them into customers, without leaning on the one-to-one interactions from a typical sales team.”
With the experience and proven success in B2B growth that Andrew has, he’s a great authority on what it takes to make it as a growth manager.
He had plenty of recommendations for the types of traits and skills requires to be a growth manager today. These will be equally useful for you if you’re currently hiring for a growth role, or if you’re considering moving into this discipline:
Andrew said, “In my mind, at its core, growth is about understanding what’s valuable to real people, your customers, and then finding ways to give them value on their terms. That’s what we’re doing in the growth space. We’re finding out what’s valuable to people, then we’re helping them realise that value either on the website, inside the product, or through other means. But, essentially, if you can deliver value, you can feel pretty confident.”
“In this space, what you learn is that your personal opinions end up being wrong,” said Andrew. “So, rather than get folks who are dead-set on thinking they know the right answer, I look for people who are just excited to figure out what works and move quickly.”
Andrew said, “I feel like the quantitative data gets over-indexed in the growth space, because everybody’s talking about spreadsheets, conversion rates, and cohort maturity. All that’s good to spot opportunities, but I feel like the qualitative data leads to just as many breakthroughs. It fills in all the colour.”
“So, people that are obsessed with getting information. Not just data and spreadsheets, but also talking to people, user interviews, and doing user research sessions. All those things are just as valuable in my mind.”
As for some of the more specific skills Andrew suggested he looks for in someone when he’s hiring for a growth role, these would include:
Again, Andrew’s experience will be valuable for anyone starting out in a growth role. He was also able to share some advice that will be useful if your business is creating a growth position for the first time.
He said, “To help folks be successful, in my opinion, it’s about two things. One is they really need to be skilled at zooming out, revealing the model to find opportunities, and then ruthlessly prioritising and saying no to basically everything else that’s a distraction.”
A common trap or pitfall that’s easy to slip into when hired as the first growth person is being overwhelmed with ideas and conflicting tasks or projects. It’s crucial to be able to see the big picture and manage your priorities well to be successful in any product-focused role.
Andrew continued, “It happens all the time. People get swept up in the moment, without really taking a step back and figuring out what’s the one or two things they need to focus on to really be successful growing this business. I think you need to ruthlessly prioritise.”
“Next, I feel like you need to be really skilled at understanding what level of investment to make in these projects,” said Andrew.
“Let’s say you zoom out, you look at your company’s model, you understand maybe the two levers you want to pull on the most. Then, within those two levers, you need to understand what to do and how much effort to invest.”
Finally, Andrew added, “Another booby-trap is that you always need to be explaining to other folks what growth is, what you’re focused on, and why. It’s the number one thing outside of figuring out what you should focus on. Make sure you tell everybody else what you’re doing in growth, because everybody has a different definition of what growth is and what growth should do.”
“If you’re not communicating, you risk being mis-aligned and bumping into other teams. Ultimately, I think those are some of the challenges that, if you haven’t been in this type of role before, you might not know about.”
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