Why Every Product Team Needs a Growth Manager

Written by Michael Catford

April 17, 2018

Growth Hacker
Growth Hacker

As we’ve discussed before, the nature of business growth is evolving. Steadily building a company from the ground up is so yesterday, replaced with hyper-fast business progression built on funding rounds, expert coaching and vision that is truly global.

The tech space is where the most hyper of hyper-fast growth is found. For those developing a tech product, business and product growth are now seen as so vital that they are beginning to be left in the hands of someone who can direct their entire focus to the task.

Who best to manage growth? Why, a growth manager of course.

There is an argument to say that every tech product team should now have a full-time growth hacker on board. The position has quickly gone from fashionable to fundamental, off the back of the incredible successes that growth managers have recently achieved.

So what exactly is a growth manager? Why should every product team employ one? And what does the position ask of those who fill it?

What is a growth manager?

Growth was, for the longest time, the most general of business goals. In fact, so obvious was this aim that it was simply implied that every employee held some form of responsibility for it. Sure, the company director or CEO might have the ultimate say on the bigger decisions, but growth remained, for them, just one of many responsibilities.

The role of growth manager was borne out of the need for someone to be solely responsible for growth – a leader who can focus exclusively on it without being distracted by the myriad of other business concerns faced by those at the top. The role is also not to be confused with that of the product manager, who guides the development and growth of a product, but not of the entire organisation. “Confusion around the roles typically stems from lot of similar roles used interchangeably in the industry or within organisation,” says Imran Chowdhury, Product Manager/Owner at Deputy, who finds himself responsible for more specific, but nonetheless important, aspects of growth.

“The primary accountability and focus for a growth manager at Telstra is to ensure that we are ‘Winning in Market’” says Aaliah Eggins-Bryson, GM of Product Experience and Operations at Telstra. “The more customers we can both acquire and retain, the better our customer growth position. ‘Winning in Market’ is also measured relative to our competition.”

For most tech businesses, the growth manager role sits at the meeting point of product development and marketing. As is the case with Telstra, customer acquisition, retention and upselling are the main KPIs of the role.

How does a growth manager fit into the broader team?

Growth management is one of the most collaborative roles in a modern day tech organisation. Growth initiatives are driven by the growth manager working with teams across the business, such as product management, design, engineering, analytics and marketing, to get the arrow on the graph pointing skyward.

“At Canva, like most companies, it takes a huge cross functional effort to ship anything significant” confirms David Burson, the company’s Senior Product Manager.

Within Telstra, Eggins-Bryson describes the day-to-day responsibilities of the growth manager:

  • Monitoring and responding to market changes (e.g. a competitor launches a new plan, and they respond by launching an offer to address the target market).
  • Developing new products and pricing to ensure that the business remains competitive and market leading. This involves business case development to ensure profitability, and launching to market. These are often the biggest launches the product team will do in any given 12-month period.
  • Managing the ongoing lifecycle of our existing customers to retain them (e.g. contacting them with a new product/offer).
  • Developing and interlocking sales targets with sales and retention channels. It’s critical that the growth manager maintains a close relationship with the sales channels to ensure that the product/offer we have in market is relevant and will either build or continue momentum within these channels.

In reality, a growth manager doesn’t fit into the broader business team – they instead serve to connect the entire team together under a uniform goal of growth.

How are growth managers key to driving product growth?

Growth managers aren’t capable of incredible feats that remain a mystery to the mere mortals of the C-suite, and will largely utilise the same strategies that have proven successful for tech teams for years. What sets them apart, however, is their singular focus on growth, and the subsequent time and resources that they can then spend on this pursuit.

“Simply put,” notes Eggins-Bryson, “the most effective lever to drive growth is to increase revenue by increasing the number of customers we have. Growth managers live and breathe this every day.”

The perks of employing growth managers and teams have been demonstrated by more and more companies over the last few years. One of the earliest large scale adopters of growth-focused staff was Pinterest, whose growth team managed to increase new user activation by 20%, mainly through improving the website’s flow.

The Facebook growth team, on the other hand, discovered that a key driver of retention was ensuring that a new user connected with at least 10 friends within the first fortnight. This insight drove Facebook to engineer features that served up suggested friends, allowing for new users’ networks to be built more rapidly.

What does it take to be a growth hacker?

With responsibilities of defining, coordinating and executing a company’s growth plan, then working to optimise the revenue, the role of growth manager is one of the more multi-faceted positions in modern day tech.

Eggins-Bryson describes the following skills of a growth hacker:

  • Commercial: A growth manager needs to understand the financial fundamentals and commercial success criteria for running a profitable business, and make financially sound and responsible decisions.
  • Leadership: Leadership in a growth manager role is primarily in the form of indirect leadership of cross-functional teams. Often growth managers are trying to influence teams and people to do/accept something – a new offer, for example – when it may not be the teams’ priority or indeed even in their roadmap. Strong people skills with an ability to influence and initiate change are required.
  • Effective communication: A growth manager must craft, reframe and deliver compelling messages. They may need to sell the ‘hard story’ – one that requires significant investment, risk or innovation – to all stakeholders.
  • General: A growth manager must possess good knowledge of just about everything that relates to the core product. From its most technical aspects, through to its marketing channels and how/when/why it’s sold. Often a growth manager will need to roll up their sleeves and fill a gap, particularly when there are time and resource sensitivities.

The role of growth manager is growing just as fast as the products and businesses they steer. As more and more companies (both within the tech sphere and outside of it) realise the benefits of having individuals and teams committed to growth hacking, capable talent will be seen as ever more valuable.

As such, prospective growth hackers would be smart to get in on the ground floor; to mould the above skills and abilities, and prepare to grow into the dynamic field of growth.

Top companies need top growth managers. Are you one of them? Find your next opportunity in our job listings.

Written by Michael Catford

April 17, 2018

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