What would it take to build a world-class growth machine? An overview of important points

June 30, 2021
4 min
Ido Wiesenberg

In today’s hyper-competitive business landscape, both B2B and B2C brands have realized that traditional product and marketing roles are just not enough anymore. 


A glance at Google trends over the last few years, specifically at the terms Growth Hacking and Growth Marketing, shows that growth marketing interests nearly doubled.


All savvy marketers and UA reps know that a great product with a steady rollout stream of new features doesn’t necessarily correlate with success. Apparently, ‘if you build it, they will come’ isn’t an axiom that holds true in real life for most products anymore. 


Not too long ago the growth executive role was born. Today, it is more than just a high-demand role, and far more than a one-man show. Growth executives (and the teams that execute their strategy) represent an entirely new take on how brands go about the business of marketing. This approach is quickly gaining steam as it elbows its way into the core DNA of nearly every company, disrupting traditional views and creating new KPIs in its wake. 


Try searching LinkedIn for “Growth Marketing Managers” or “Growth Managers”. At the moment, there are 123,626 open positions worldwide for the former and 240,065 for the latter (!!) Now that’s a clear picture.


So why has growth-marketing (and growth operations) become so important? In the mobile and digital era, there is clear and direct collaboration between the product itself and revenue generation streams (whether under marketing or sales teams). In order to ensure growth, one must take responsibility for the entire customer journey, from the very first moment, to maximum LTV generated by multiple touch points with the brand. But, who will it be? There is no traditional role to date encompassing such a cross functional scope. 


Hence, the rise of a new business unit is justified.   


Having said that, building a high performance, growth marketing operation, is easier said than done. There’s no clear recipe as to how it should be done. Still, there are some best-practices that I’ve found worth noting and sharing here.


As in all other cases, it first starts with defining the exact goals the growth unit should be measured upon. 


I believe that a growth team’s core functions should be broken down into three pillars; First, they’re key stakeholders in defining the company’s growth strategies and plans. Second, they are responsible for executing all of the company’s growth strategies, programs and initiatives from the previous pillar. Last but not least, the growth unit owns any part of the revenue funnel everlasting optimization. 


You’ll probably know you have set the correct growth goals when you can clearly answer the following two questions:

  • Which part(s) of your funnels are you focusing on to start with? For example, are you going to start with top of funnel user acquisition, or bottom of funnel retention campaigns to avoid churn? Are you going to start with maximizing the ROI of existing loyal users?
  • What are your exact growth KPIs? There are clear and numerical KPIs around acquisition, retention, ROAS, LTV, business revenues, profitability, virality, and more. 


Now that we’ve got the new landscape mapped and we’re all in agreement to the high demand and acute need of such a role, we’re ready to move on. 

The holy trinity of growth engines: data, analysis and predictive capabilities


Any experienced growth team knows that data is the first and main enabler of growth. High performance growth teams live for the data and data-analysis that drive their optimization decisions. Data enables the advanced optimization capabilities, from user-acquisition (like targeting, subsetting, predictive analytics, and personalization that makes digital ads so darn impactful) through product engagement, usage-behaviour, churn prevention and LTV maximization. 


Data helps growth teams reduce, and even eliminate objections and friction points that cause leakage in the optimal funnels.


Behind data extraction, analysis and predictions, stand growth-centric capabilities that you will have to acquire as part of building your growth unit, through external solutions, or internal engineering. 


Growth is led by technology, that is fed by data, that feeds ad-channels… 


The latest AI-driven technologies empower granular, user-level insights that leverage historical data to run advanced predictions, to feed user acquisition optimization and product improvements. 


High-powered predictive analytics solutions and tools, such as ours at Voyantis, offer extremely accurate predictions, based on the users’ preliminary actions, and based on historical data. Such insights are translated into tags (that represent the predicted potential of each new acquired user), these tags are then sent to the various media channels for optimization sake. 


So what’s the meaning of user-level data in this you may ask? Great question. Instead of analyzing users within a subset cluster or cohort, these new capabilities Enable building a “single user segment” and thus reach a different accuracy standard of user-level long term LTV - the holy grail of user acquisition optimization. 


Take the story of the latest iOS14 changes (I can’t stand these letters and numbers anymore), the hysterical seismic waves at Facebook as a response and the related push of their conversion API. How come iOS14 didn’t cause growth units to take to the streets and riot? Probably because User-level predictive signals that can be sent to the ad-channels, server to server, are offering an elegant alternative solution, and that keeps them busy.  

If data analytics is the engine, leadership is the fuel


Growth teams definitely have a complex set of skills to master. To name a few, statistical reasoning, designing effective experiments and working with multiple stakeholders, are all basic requirements. These, of course, are in addition to fluency in the full spectrum of paid acquisition channels. Including owned, paid and earned media, product UX, and a deep understanding of  revenue / pricing models . 


To succeed, growth teams must not only live and breathe data analysis, but must have at least a working understanding of the ‘oh so many’ tools of the growth trade. 


But we’ve just covered the left-side of the brain. High performing growth marketers also excel at activities more suited to their brain’s right side (my apologies to my left-brain friends). Functions including creativity, strategic thinking and leadership. Leadership is perhaps the most important trait mentioned here, as growth marketers are tasked with aligning all market-facing functions into one big shared growth objective. Oftentimes, they achieve this without direct authority, while cultivating personal relationships and team culture, suited to the challenging and experimental nature of their work. 


The growth team starting lineup


No matter how you build your growth team, eventually you’re going to end up with a mish-mash of more or less the same functions and roles. At the end of the day, titles won’t matter and the format is of little to no consequence. What is important is how you structure the roles within your team. What also matters, is that each individual on your team is well-versed regarding the latest growth tools and technologies that best support their goals.


Andrew Chen’s informative, highly detailed article, is a great starting point for anyone interested in learning how to build an awesome growth team. In it, he delves into the different functions he thinks should be on a growth team.   


  • Growth PM is responsible for thinking up new growth experiments and managing them in an experiment roadmap.
  • Growth Engineer takes part in technical decisions and implements growth experiments. 
  • Growth Marketer is a jack-of-all trades marketer who has developed specialized expertise in a specific acquisition channel like SEO, email marketing or paid media.
  • Growth Data is an analyst who creates insights regarding the user lifecycle and the growth experiments that you’re running.
  • Growth Designers are specialists in super fast turnarounds and are responsible for leading the UX process across the various customer touchpoints of your growth campaigns. 



Remember, when it comes to structuring your growth team, there is no right answer. Every approach has its own distinct pro’s and con’s that should be leveraged to further the growth goals you set for yourself at the get-go. If experiments are your priority, put the Growth PM on point. Same goes for data, if you are trying to create insights, put your Growth Data function at the top of the structure. 

Summary


What do Sean Ellis, Sujan Patel, Brian Balfour, Eric Siu, and David Cancel all have in common? That’s right, they were all leading growth marketing executives at high-growth companies, prior to becoming successful entrepreneurs! If their meteoric rise shows us anything, it’s that relentless focus, bold risk taking, and other entrepreneurial characteristics are key to growth marketing professionals. This is because growth teams are in essence, miniature versions of independent business units within the organization. 


Ido Wiesenberg
Co-Founder & CEO

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