When did growth become a hack? Maybe we jumped a few time spheres but last we checked, driving growth used to be a result of efforts that were tested against use cases. The term “Growth Hacker” was first coined back in 2010 when it was featured in a blog post by Sean Ellis, the founder, and CEO of Qualaroo and Silicon Valley start-up investor.
Now, while I understand the main objective of growth hacking is to increase brand awareness, onboard new customers, and speed up revenue as quickly as possible, doesn’t “hacking” entails something that is short-term? And if the essence of growth hacking itself is flawed, how can businesses make it an ongoing process, considering that processes are built on fixed approaches?
A disagreement with the term growth hacking is what has always kept me very skeptical about the entire concept. Until I sat through Udayan Walvekar (or UD as everyone likes to call him) on what growth hacking is and how it should translate into a holistic growth strategy in a company.
The virtual session held on 18th December, in partnership with Onsurity, took the attendees – majorly made up of founders and team leads – through the process of building a growth team while busting several myths around the concept.
Now before I take you through the different facets of product growth team building, let me first introduce Udayan – the man who took us through the process of building a driven growth team.
Udayan Walvekar, the man working in product growth for the last 10 years (before growth was cool). He has extensive experience around building growth strategies that are often a merger of marketing, product, and engineering that has helped both early-age startups and enterprises that have raised Series D funding.
He was the one who built the growth team at both Razorpay and Sokrati and then went on to establish GrowthX, a social learning community of the top 1% growth leaders.
Udayan, partnered with Onsurity to host a session around building great product growth teams. The session (the synopsis of which we will see through the blog) revolved around these basic points:
1. Why has growth hacking become so popular?
2. How should you look at growth?
3. How to build a growth team?
4. How to structure a growth team?
5. How to operationalize a growth team?
Lessons to Learn from Udayan Around Product Growth
1. Growth “Hacking” is dead.
One of the primary examples of growth hacking that the business world saw came from Hotmail’s PS: I Love You. In 2009, Hotmail came with this idea to add ‘PS: I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail’ at the end of every email. The result? Hotmail was able to drive crazy engagement to their customer acquisition efforts, so much so that when Microsoft acquired them, 1/6th of the world population that was using the internet was their customer.
The next big example came in from Airbnb when they enabled the hosts to post their listings on the website and Craigslist through an open API. Now what these two events show us is that it only takes a few eureka moments for a brand to become famous. But the other side of the coin is that these events are very short-term in nature and are difficult to repeat. This is the number one reason why it is a lot easier to read/learn about growth hacking than apply it in real business cases.
2. Finding one growth hacker to scale your business to $$$ is like finding a unicorn
When you deep dive into the growth levers of a business, you see that it is an amalgamation of several things: acquisition, onboarding, engagement, retention & monetization. Things that one person or growth hacker just cannot execute.
Most companies have a structure where the marketing team works around acquisition, the product team works on onboarding and retention, sales team works on revenue, and the referral is managed by product and sometimes marketing.
Now the problem with this approach is that it creates silos, meaning growth is handled on a department level. The north star metrics chased by teams are different and sometimes even conflicting in nature. Example: Onboarding chasing conversions vs marketing chasing increase in TOFU growth.
One of the solutions that have worked for him is building a dedicated growth team.
3. Make a dedicated growth team with multi-disciplinary people
A growth team is like a startup within a startup. It constitutes folks from the product, marketing, design, engineering & analytics.
How does the growth team function? Focus on the biggest problem statement which unlocks growth for the north star metric the company is chasing.
Take feedback > Hypothesis > Implement the changes > Analyze and repeat.
Role-wise, the responsibility of taking feedback is across the team. Hypothesis and roadmap prioritization falls on the product manager growth, implementation is owned by designers, marketers, engineers engineer, or the product analyst, analysis is owned by the analyst, user researcher, etc.
4. Team size and structure varies according to the organization size
Just as org structures change at early-stage vs mature stage, growth teams structures also need to change.
A typical minimum viable growth team consists of a growth lead, engineer, and designer. Sometimes you could also see operations folks be involved in the business is like a Dunzo or an Uber.
This team here can keep adding folks as the scope of work and impact increase. Early-stage growth teams are between 3 to 15 folks.
Who do they report to? The ideal way is to have them all report to the CPO or a CEO. If this is not possible, UD recommends that it can be a hybrid model where the Growth Lead reports to the CXO and the rest of the team reports to their individual function heads. Important to note that they should report to the function heads and not a manager/senior manager.
Mature scaling stage:
Growth teams usually are of 15 to 100 folks now. The team works across different business lines and products, working across acquisition to monetization.
Who do they report to? Ideally, the VP Growth then reports to the CXO. Else the hybrid structure mentioned above works fine too.
Answering Your Burning Questions Around Building a Driven Product Growth Team
What are the basic qualifications required to become a growth expert?
There is no one fixed set of expertise required to become a growth expert. You need to have industry-focused macro and micro expertise. What you should aim to become is a T-marketer who has a working knowledge about marketing, tech, operations, etc. And deep expertise in 1 domain.
How do you build the growth team for an early-age startup?
When you are a part of an early-age startup, you should start with defining the input metrics around the number of hypotheses runs, experimentations performed, etc. – this as you get on the process of hiring a growth team. Once you have finalized what needs to be worked upon, try to nurture someone internally to own the role.
How do you prioritize growth when your engineer team works on a strict roadmap?
What you should do is allocate 1 person internally to work on an idea that is a bit of both marketing and engineering. Once that idea gives value, take a decision on where to build that expertise – should you hire more engineers or allocate more marketing people.
The idea here is to do micro integrations of growth-driven processes so that you get a buy-in from the management team, pushing them towards creating a growth team eventually.
Throughout the webinar, I learned a lot about how a business should look at growth. And what is the right mix of folks that make a growth team. A personal-level takeaway for me was that growth should not be seen as a short-term hack.
We should even stop calling it that as it instills a subconscious short-term fix mindset. Like every strong foundation process, it should also be built on well-strategized expectations and objectives and a skilled multi-disciplinary team that doesn’t work in silos.
A key thing to note here being everything – from what a product growth team looks like to what it is supposed to deliver – will vary greatly from one business sector to another.
What does this mean for a growth leader?
Bringing all the different information in an actionable format, Udayan proposed the creation of a Growth Vision Doc – something that he personally vouches for. This is the starting point for any growth leader. The document’s job to be done is to cover everything about the growth team- why is it needed, how will it work, why now, etc.
The structure is as follows:
- Background of the company – where it is today, where it is planning to go
- Problems that exist today keep businesses from reaching that 2.0 version of themselves
- Vision for the growth team: What’s the ultimate goal of this team?
- The north star metrics – is it revenue? Is it increasing the conversion rate? Is it increasing the customer retention rate?
- Growth vs Marketing/Product – Who owns what? How will they work together?
- A 2-year roadmap for the growth team- 2 is ideal but if you can’t ideate a 1-year roadmap as well you probably don’t need a growth team.
- A30-60-90 day deliverable plan for the growth team
This document structure was simply amazing, and I can see how it really helps operationalize the team as well as sets a very clear direction for it.
To get free access to these exclusive webinars, buy Onsurity membership for your team or refer us to your HR.