How to build a growth team

 |  Sujan Patel - Get more articles like this sent to your email here

I’ve worked in marketing for the last 10+ years, and one of the most fascinating trends for me to watch has been the shift from the importance of a marketing team to the need for a growth team.

We’re really in a whole new age of marketing. Growth, these days, is about more than top-of-the-funnel traffic, brand mentions and even conversions – all cornerstones of traditional marketing. Now, marketing is all about retention, about making users fall in love with your company, about the interplay between UI, UX and customer experience – and about everything in between.

I’m not the only one who’s seen the shift. In its Marketing Trends 2017 report, Walker Sands Communications notes:

“With all the new innovations in marketing over the last several years, organizations have been busy bees, bolting on new functions, hiring new staff and engaging new agencies. The result has been the institutionalization of dysfunctional marketing, with poor internal communication and meek attempts at integrated marketing. In 2017, expect many marketers to break down the silos and dramatically improve results through “big idea” integrated marketing campaigns that don’t miss a beat.”

How can you carry your team into this new marketing era? First, be sure you have the right people on the bus.

The 7 Key Members of a Growth Team

We’re moving past a time when highly-individualized marketing workers – your SEO specialist, your PPC specialist, etc – are relevant. The future of marketing demands a team that gets the broader picture of growth.

The following seven roles all need to be accounted for, though in some organizations, individuals may cover multiple spots, while others will have several people devoted to each function.

1. Data Analyst

This recommendation shouldn’t come as a surprise. Growth marketing relies on metrics, so you need somebody who’s looking at the numbers. It’s up to your data analyst to make sure you’re measuring the right numbers for both your proven, scalable marketing tactics and for those goals you’re currently throwing out and testing.

Dan McKinley, former Principal Engineer for Etsy, makes the case for why data matters in a presentation titled “Design for Continuous Experimentation.” Back in 2012, the team experimented with adding infinite scroll to Etsy, which – in their words – was “so hot right now.” They assumed that seeing more items faster would make people happier, but in fact, the scroll’s results were worse on every metric measured.

Visitors clicked fewer results:

They saved fewer items as favorites:

And they purchased fewer items from search (though total purchases did not decline):

Their ultimate conclusion was that infinite scroll wasn’t right for the website. My conclusion? You need someone who can crunch the data on your growth team.

2. VP of Marketing

Marketing and growth teams need leaders, and in this case, it’s your VP of Marketing. You need someone in the marketing lead role who has experience working across growth teams, product engineering teams, development teams, UX teams and others – and who has the vision needed to drive the shift of depth required as you progress from a marketing focus to a growth focus.

Remember, marketing doesn’t end when you bring a visitor in or when a customer converts – even when a customer’s been with you for over a year. As a VP of marketing, you need to be involved on both a broader and deeper level. Joanna Lord, CMO of ClassPass, sums this up really well:

“If you want to be a CMO someday, you have to think outside the proverbial marketing box. It’s not just about growing acquisition, engagement and retention — it’s about “growing whatever needs to grow.” This could be expanding into a new demographic market, building out an internal data house, or perhaps growing your mobile presence. CMOs need to be asking themselves, “What project will have the biggest impact for the business’s bottom line?” — and then they need to chase that beast down.”

3. Content Marketer

Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to build a brand and an audience because you’re leading with value. And when you lead with value, people will come back to you and buy from you – no sales or conversion efforts required. Your content and the value you provide can convert for you – as long as you have a good content marketer on your team.

Basically, you’re looking for someone who can help build all the content for your brand, which could include press releases, website copy, email copy, landing page copy, blog posts and more. Finding a single writer with all these skills can be a challenge; don’t be afraid to invest in training opportunities if you find a strong writer who’s open to learning different styles.

4. Social Media & Community Manager

Building a social ecosystem that gets your prospects and customers together to talk to each other is tough but possible with the right social media and community manager.

The “right” person for your company will vary, based on your social objectives. Are you running a company Facebook Group? Building community through an email list? Or even emailing all of your customers in a given area and getting them together at a local pub? Find someone who’s enthusiastic and willing to “lean in” to grow your community.

5. Growth Hacker

Your growth hacker is someone who’s going to be implementing offbeat ideas and unpredictable things – few of which will be able to scale (the question of scaling is part of what your data person is around for). They’re going to be throwing things at the wall and testing out new channels – and, to be honest, most of their work is going to fail.

That’s ok, though. A good growth hacker really only needs 1-2 big wins in a year to make their efforts worthwhile. But what does a good growth hacker look like? The following are a few suggestions from industry leaders:

  • Good growth hackers should be open-minded, with the ability to listen to ideas and gather inspiration from others (from Jean-Luc Brisebois of Tropical)
  • Growth hackers must be creative, with the ability to look past distribution tactics in order to create a self-perpetuating marketing machine (from Aaron Ginn)
  • Effective growth hackers are agnostic, knowing that disallowing certain growth channels based on emotion greatly diminishes their chances of reaching scale (from Bronson Taylor, on Kissmetrics)

6. Project Manager

To bring all these different roles and responsibilities together, you need a project manager – someone who’s in charge of making sure your systems, your processes and your tactics – the ideas and strategies you’re doing week to week – are meaningful.

Your project manager will coordinate with your data person and your VP of marketing to keep campaigns moving forward. In my work, I’ve seen a surprising number of marketing teams that are doing things that just don’t work. Even if they’re executing well, their tactics aren’t meaningful enough. They don’t move the needle. You need a project manager to come in and make sure you’re not doing a slew of different things – and instead, that you’re doing a handful of things that work well.

Think of it this way: a good project manager makes sure you’re focusing on strategies that are going to drive thousands, tens of thousands or even millions of visitors, rather than overinvesting in tactics that’ll lead to five, ten, or 20 customers.

7. Full Stack Developer

The last person you need on your growth team is a front-end developer or a full-stack developer – not to work on your product, but to help implement your marketing campaigns. In this modern-day growth team, you’re going to want to build stuff. You’re going to want to build tools and microsites, and maybe even go out and build your content into its own ecosystem.

Imagine how much easier it’ll be to launch marketing strategies based on these assets if you have a developer dedicated to your growth needs.

Jeremy Smith reinforces this idea in a MarketingLand article:

“You will eventually want to do something with your site that they are not set up to do. You need a developer who can write and tweak code and create workarounds and solutions from whole cloth. A good developer also understands and cares about creating good UX.”

Don’t just look for a developer with good technical chops. Hire someone who gets how development fits into the marketing stack and contributes to the growth of your company.

Key Growth Team Considerations

As you’re building out your growth team, there are a few key distinctions you’ll want to keep in mind:

Get over your siloed past

These days, it’s not uncommon to send PPC spend to your organic content. You might use your microsite or a tool you’ve built as part of your paid search and social media campaigns.

As a result, siloed doesn’t work anymore. First, you need walls to come down between marketing channels and the depth of your investment in each. But you also need to smash the silos that have traditionally existed between marketing, product and development. Your designers, UX team and project managers are all key people in the evolution of your product. They can have just as big an impact on your growth plan.

Forget about growth through marketing alone

In my time working in marketing, some of the biggest, most impactful changes I’ve made haven’t been campaigns I’ve launched – they’ve been changes I’ve made to the product and its supporting services after working closely with sales teams, support teams and product teams. I’ve driven more traffic making small product improvements or improving customer support and onboarding processes than I ever have with traditional marketing.

You can too.

Pamela Vaughan, writing for Hubspot, shares the results of a fascinating study by Booz & Company. According to their data:

  • “75% of marketers using social media identify customer service as a primary use of their social media platform.”
  • “Only 26% of respondents describe customer service as a department responsible for contributing leadership to social media strategies.”

Do you see the disconnect? Even your customers think of your marketing campaigns as a customer service tool. Luke Dully, Walker and Hunt co-founder believes that if you don’t incorporate the insight of your forward-facing customer service reps into your marketing strategy, you’re missing out on major opportunities to drive huge marketing wins.

Throw things at the wall…in a concentrated way

I mentioned “throwing things at the wall” earlier, and I should clarify. Yes, you need to be experimenting and thinking outside the box, but you need to do it in a focused way.

Your whole team shouldn’t drop what they’re doing to test new ideas, but you should have a small group (or an individual) leading the charge to test small, unscalable, unprovable ideas that you can test, measure, and – potentially – incorporate back into your overall systems and processes.

These changes aren’t going away; you’re going to see them continuing in the future. Look around you. Do you have a marketing team or a growth team? Are you struggling to move the needle through siloed channels, or are you looking at marketing more as a holistic function of growth than as a single piece of the puzzle?

Your answers to these questions could mean the difference between success and failure in 2017.


What’s up everybody? Sujan Patel here. Today we’re going to talk about how to build a growth team.

We’re in this new age of marketing where we’re shifting from a traditional marketing team to a growth team. And what that really means is the growth team is looking at more than just top of the funnel.

They’re looking at more than just brand mentions, and traffic, and conversions. They’re looking at retention. They’re looking at how the user can fall in love with your company. The UX, the user experience, customer experience, and everything in between.

And there are 7 key people you want on your modern day growth team.

First and foremost is a Data Analyst or somebody looking at the analytics. You need to make sure you’re monitoring the right numbers on your scalable marketing tactics as well as have the right metrics in place and goals for those ideas you’re throwing out, and just testing. And you’re going to need to do both to compete in this very, very competitive market.

Number 2 is you need a great leader, you need a VP of Marketing. And the VP of marketing is that new CMO They need to have experience in running growth teams, working with the – the biggest thing is working with the product engineering team, development team, and working with the UX teams.

This is very, very important because marketing doesn’t end when you bring a visitor in. marketing doesn’t end when you bring – when a customer converts marketing doesn’t end when a customer has been with you for a year. It’s all now – the depth of marketing has grown and this VP of Marketing is that leader that helps drive that ship and drive that car forward.

The third person that you need is a Content Marketer. Now a Content Marketer is going to be – can double as a writer as well. They could write your press releases, website copy, your email copy, landing page copy, but they’re also going to be in charge of the blog and building content to help you build your brand.

Content Marketing is one of the most effective ways to build your brand and an audience of people because you’re leading with value and when you lead with value people want – continue to come back, and they’re going to come back and want to buy something from you, meaning you don’t have to sell, you don’t have to convert.
The content converts for you, that value converts for you.

The next person you want is somebody who can handle social media and community. Community is where you get your customers together or your potential customers together and get them to talk to each other. It’s hard to build this ecosystem and it usually starts with social media.

So that’s why you want somebody on social media who can lead into community. And don’t worry, community can be as simple as a Facebook group, an email list, maybe even emailing all of your customers in an area and getting them all together at the local pub.

The next person you want is a Growth Hacker. This is somebody who is going to be doing things that don’t scale. This person hopefully is going to be doing a lot of off beat ideas, and unpredictable things. That’s why you want that data person to make sure that you are measuring the right objectives, and goals, and that you’re tackling the right things.

Don’t worry, this is the person who is going to be proving out new channels, throwing stuff at the wall, and most of their work is going to fail. But that’s okay. You only really need one or two big wins in a year from this person to make it really, really worth it. Then when things work from this Growth Hacker, you can apply it to your marketing team, and the rest of your team can kind of build and scale that process.

And that’s why the next position is very, very important. This is team member number 6, which is a Project Manager. This person is in charge of your systems, your processes, and making sure your ideas, the tactics, the strategies you are doing week to week, are meaningful. They are going to coordinate with the data person and the VP of Marketing
to make sure that things stack up nicely.

What I find too often with modern day or past teams is that they’re doing things that just don’t work. Even if they were executed to the T and provided the best results possible, it’s not meaningful enough, or doesn’t move the needle. And so the Project Manager, their job is to coordinate and organize to make sure you’re not doing a slew of things or a bunch of things, you’re doing a handful of things that work well.

Now remember, if it doesn’t work well or doesn’t stack up that’s the Growth Hacker’s job, but don’t over-invest into things that are going to drive 5, 10 visitors, or 5, 10, 100 customers. Go for the thousands, tens of thousands, and millions of visitors.

The last person is a Front-end Developer or a Full Stack Developer because in this modern day growth team you’re going to want to build stuff, you’re going to want to build tools, microsites, all sorts of things, maybe even go and take your content and kind of build it out into its own kind of ecosystem.

You really don’t know where things are going to go here, but a developer dedicates your team is going to help you get those ideas to life.

Now, let me talk about a – really quickly – about what are some key differences in this modern day growth team. First and foremost, gone are the walls between channels, as well as depth, meaning there is no longer a SEO person, a PPC person, a Social Media person, no. And it’s not siloed, it’s all one thing.

And frankly, you can use your content marketing for paid search. You can use your microsite, or your tool for paid search, and social media, and community, and whatnot.

So those walls need to come down. The same walls between departments also need to come down, meaning product, development, and product usually consists of a designers, UX people, Product Managers, or Project Managers that are looking to what’s going to happen in the product.

These are very key people to make sure growth comes into here. So as long as you work together it’s going to be very, very impactful. And the VP of Marketing, remember the leader of this group needs to be able to work cross-departmental, and meet with people regularly.

I found in my 10 years of marketing – or in the last 10 years of marketing – the most successful things I’ve done has been working with the Sales team, the Support team, the Product team.

Not top of the funnel.

I’ve driven more traffic making small product improvements, and more traffic making changes to the customer support or on-boarding than I have driving mass amount of traffic. And you’re going to see those trends continue going in the future.

And the last thing is to remember this Growth Hacker or just the mentality of throwing things at the wall, but in a concentrated effort, meaning your whole team shouldn’t drop what they’re going to test new ideas, but there should be a small group or individual leading a testable, un-scalable, unproven ideas, so that you can then figure out, measure those. If some portion of those work, put them back into the systems and processes.

Alright, well that’s it take care and be sure to look out for the next Webprofits TV, more on Growth Marketing.

About the show

Webprofits is a full service online marketing agency with over 80 data-driven specialists. Built on a culture of innovative, strategic and intuitive thinking, Webprofits focuses on achieving successful, performance-based results online.

Webprofits TV is our way of helping business owners, C-level executives and marketing professionals grow a business using online marketing, with a particular focus on social media, online advertising, content marketing and conversion rate optimisation. You can use this information to implement the strategies yourself or to help you know what to expect from anyone you hire to do it for you.

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How does your team stack up? I’d love to hear where on the spectrum of marketing to growth you are, so leave me a note in the comments below.

Sujan Patel

Sujan Patel

Co-Founder at Webprofits
Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Webprofits. He has over 13 years of internet marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Sales Force, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.

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