Let’s Talk About Growth, Baby!

The term “Growth” is thrown around in the Silicon Valley like it’s going out of style — and frankly some people say Growth and don’t even know what it means. Admittedly, I didn’t when I started working my first Growth role, but after having placed several Growth executives I’ve learned some important things.

1. Growth is a mindset. It needs to be a living part of the company culture. Like every other company value, your team members need to understand how initiatives they are working on tie back to Growth. Because it is a living part of the culture, and because you are a startup, things can change! I often walk into client meetings where the startup’s founder initially says “okay, I need a Head of Growth who can do X.” However, after we talk about the organization, current metrics, roadmap, and who they want to hire, we find out they need something completely different! By integrating the Growth mindset across each vertical of your company, it acts as your North Star and makes sure you always know where you’re headed even if you have to change your path.

2. Metrics are key. Measure everything! When I first learned about Growth, I did not know exactly how heavily it was tied to metrics. It sounds obvious now, but having key metrics based on your product is the only way to track growth. For consumer mobile companies this key metric is engagement or retention (MAU, DAU, MAU/DAU, etc) instead of pure downloads. Downloads actually can mean very little! In addition, Growth teams often own the customer and product growth funnels. A lot of the Growth role is looking at the metrics and understanding where in the funnel core users drop off, or where in the funnel there are holes.

3. The myth of the “Growth Hacker.” Hacking is, by nature, sloppy. I don’t think it’s a fair representation of what skills these highly sought-after brains bring to the table. This “growth hacking” is in fact an incredibly challenging, calculated optimization of the means and mechanisms for users to discover, use and return to your product. Instead try the term Growth Analyst. These folks can have statistics backgrounds, and an eye for data, testing, and building systems based on experiments. Your Growth Analyst will work hand-in-hand with your product managers on tracking and instrumentation to ultimately make data more accessible and actionable.

4. Growth is cross-functional. I’ve learned that growth ties into many areas such as Marketing, Analytics, Product, and even Community, and often the lines are blurred. The most common question I get is “Does this Growth person sit in my Marketing group? Or Product? Or Data Science and Analytics?” Well yes, yes, and yes. If Growth is a mindset and every employee is driving toward a common goal, your Growth team should sit across all of those areas.

5. The Growth function evolves as your company grows. A Seed stage company with 1,000 users needs someone to drive top of the funnel growth by focusing on user acquisition (winning leads, driving adoption, etc). Later stage companies may need a core product Growth executive who is going to help build out core features for different cohorts and regions as they pertain to the consumer.

6. Hiring Growth executives is hard! Because Growth means something different for each company, you need to know what growth means to you in order to hire the right person. And the great Growth folks on the Product/Analytics side are tough to find. They are often needles in the haystack. In my next post, I’ll give you some tips for hiring Growth executives and some questions to ask both yourself and the candidates during the process.

Please feel free to email me with questions! alesandra@swingtalent.com

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