HubSpot, Uber, Facebook, Airbnb, and countless other companies have built growth teams to solve challenges and promote the long-term success of their businesses.
Many people have the wrong idea about what a growth team is. They think it refers to everyone at a company who focuses on growth – everyone in sales, marketing, and product development.
But that’s not the case. A true growth team is its own distinct unit – a select group of people with several different areas of expertise.
What is a growth team, and what are the roles of the people on it? What tasks do growth teams complete, and how is their success measured? We’ll answer all these questions and more in this growth marketing guide.
What is a growth team?
A growth team is a distinct, data-driven team of employees dedicated to driving business growth. They identify problems and obstacles that hinder a company’s growth, and then analyze and experiment to solve those problems.
- A growth team is not the same as sales, marketing, or product teams. Rather, it’s a team of its own that works alongside all of those departments, fills in the gaps, and helps all other teams work in greater unison. The growth team will work to improve the processes of these other teams through their problem solving.
- A growth team should be diverse. It’s a hybrid team made up of people with different backgrounds, such as engineers, product designers, marketers, data analysts, developers, and UX/UI specialists. This diversity is key, since a growth team must examine ways to drive growth in all departments of a business.
What does a growth team do?
The main role of a growth team is to perform growth experiments, or tests to find solutions to a company’s problems in a given part of the buyer’s funnel. They perform these experiments by temporarily altering the processes of other teams, like the sales team or the marketing team.
- Growth teams constantly look for possible experiments to perform. What problems is a company facing with moving customers through the funnel? How can existing processes of other teams be improved?
- Growth experiments usually involve changes to processes. They are conducted with a specific, measurable goal in mind, to see if they’ll help achieve that goal. Measurable goals could include increases in conversions, email signups, email opens, retention rates, referral rates, and more. Teams will usually run multiple experiments at once, each directed at its own goal
- Although many of these experiments are executed quickly, experiments often vary in length. An experiment could take days, weeks, or months.
- A growth team usually aims for incredible results. But they often come up with smaller incremental solutions that work together to achieve those results. It’s not always about making one big sweeping change.
What parts of the funnel does a growth team focus on?
A growth team either focuses on improving all parts of the funnel (AARRR metrics: acquisition, activation, revenue, retention, and referral), or takes a deep-dive into one funnel part at a time (according to Alistair Croll’s notion of the One Metric That Matters).
What roles make up the ideal growth team?
The ideal growth team will have members in at least these 4 roles: a growth head, a product developer, a customer/user experience pro, and a data analyst. The team might also have a fifth member who specializes in creative copy and design. Let’s dive into the responsibilities each person will take on:
The head of the growth team must be a jack-of-all-trades: a T-Shaped growth marketer. Their skills will include everything from copywriting to coding, data mining to full-stack development, and UX to experimentation.
You might have heard the term “growth engineer,” a methodical experimenter who designs growth solutions based on data, or a “mature” version of a growth hacker. Well, the head of a growth team is essentially a growth engineer on steroids.
The growth head must be willing to take risks, be a master of analysis, and be a creative thinker. They’re the one who leads the team in generating and implementing strategies, and capturing insights from each growth experiment. They’re the charismatic mastermind who keeps everything on track, and who keeps the team moving through growth experiments at a fast pace.
This full-stack developer is all about delivering potential solutions quickly – their motto is “develop fast, fix later.” They don’t care about failure, as long as they can learn from what doesn’t work and apply their learning in the future. And like the growth head, they’re a creative thinker who loves applying data.
Customer/user experience (UX) pro
The UX pro is committed to delivering what the customer wants and optimizing the customer experience. They’re always empathetic to customers’ needs, and they’re a behavioral psychology expert. They make sure the rest of the team keeps the customer’s perspective in mind as the team generates and tests experiments. They’re also data-driven and fast-acting, with no fear of failure, and they ascribe to the “release fast, fix later” mentality. (Notice a pattern?)
The data analyst is the master of deciphering both the hard data and the “why” behind a set of data, and drawing actionable insights from that data. The data they mine and translate will help the team learn more about customers, which experiments might work best, how successful current experiments are, and what insights should be applied to make future experiments more successful. Ideally, they are also a whiz at back-end development, so they can pull data out from anywhere they need to (including databases).
Creative growth marketer (possible fifth role)
A growth marketer who specializes in delivering creative copy, stellar layout, and compelling images might fill a fifth role and supplement the growth head’s marketing expertise. Or, if they’re also a master of customer-centric design, they might occupy the UX pro role.
Should you have more than one growth team?
Smaller businesses that implement the growth team model will have a single growth team with at least the first four roles described above. Very small startups might start with a single growth hacker, before assembling a whole growth team as the company increases in size.
In a larger business, though, you may have multiple growth teams that focus on more specific sets of goals. For example, one team might focus on the activation part of the funnel, and another team might focus on retention. Each team will have its own head and its own specialists in product design, user experience, and data analysis. Commonly, if a business has multiple growth teams, each team will permanently specialize in a single part of the funnel.
Example processes of a growth team
What processes does a growth team follow when designing and executing a growth experiment? Here’s an overview of proven growth team processes, based on the ones Uber’s growth team uses:
- Establish the funnel part you want to focus on, specific metrics you want to improve, and qualitative goals you want to accomplish.
- Brainstorm solutions that you think will best achieve these goals, based on the existing data you have.
- Choose a solution to be your experiment, and design the experiment in detail.
- Test the design, either roll it out to all of your users or a portion of your users.
- See how your users respond to the experiment, and carefully track the key metrics you established.
- If your experiment is successful, apply the design as a long-term change to your company’s processes.
- If your experiment doesn’t achieve the results you want, think about what insights you can take away from the process, and apply those insights to future experiments. Don’t fear failure, learn from it!
- Always use proven data from past experiments to make decisions in future experiments.
And here are some process tips based on Uber’s methods:
- Consider running A/B testing to try different variations on a solution at once. Keep elements of the stronger solution as you go, and continue to refine your solution with the data you collect. Don’t stop with just one test!
- Stay efficient: look for simple and small solutions that will deliver a large impact, as opposed to sweeping overhauls. A simple wording or formatting change can often deliver significant results.
- Move through processes as quickly as you can, so you can gather insights rapidly. But carefully analyze the data you collect, and refine processes deliberately and based on data. Always think deeply, even at the rapid pace!
Examples of growth experiments
Now that we’ve gone through example processes of a growth team, let’s break down some examples of growth experiments that growth teams have performed.
A/B testing of landing pages
This is one of the most popular growth experiments.
A growth team might simultaneously test two different landing pages, each with their own distinct layout, to see which one drives more conversions. They might trim down the length of one lead form, to see if the shorter one results in more conversions. Or, they might try two different freebies as lead magnets.
CTA button testing
A growth team might test out new wording on a call-to-action button, to see if they can increase the number of customers who perform a desired action.
Uber’s growth team tried an experiment like this: they changed their referral CTA to read “get free rides.” The experiment was deemed successful based on the significant increase in referrals, so the “get free rides” wording was retained as a long-term change. As a member of the growth team that instituted this change explains, “Shifting from describing the action to describing the value of the feature significantly increased the number of people who invited friends.”
Video testing for onboarding, to increase activation
Andrew Capland, growth head at Wistia, saw how many people played the video Wistia first fed to new users – an on-brand, fun video, but one that didn’t give much useful information for onboarding. His growth team decided to change the video they use during onboarding to one that educated users about the product, to see if they could increase customers’ activation rate. They tried several video variations. The one that generated the most success was warm, inspirational, and informational. It showed users how to use Wistia, step by step. Wistia found that after watching the video the whole way through, users went through the process step-by-step, following right along with the video. The video increased activation rate by over 15%, and became a more permanent part of the onboarding process.
Video testing to increase consultation conversion rate
Eric Siu describes a growth experiment that his team recently ran: “We just came up with a new video where visitors opt in for a lead magnet, like a checklist or an e-book. And as soon as they opt in, they’re taken to a video that tells them, “Hey, before you go, we’re offering a 15-minute call.” They can take us up on that offer and sign up for a call by filling out a quick questionnaire to see if they’re qualified or not. We’re trying this out because we think it will increase our free consultation conversion rate.”
How is the success of growth teams measured?
A growth team aims to deliver speed, quality, and impact with its experiments. In other words, it tries for fast solutions to problems. But, it would rather find a lasting solution, or one that causes significant increases, even if it takes longer to find.
As mentioned above, a growth team sets and tracks measurable goals, such as increasing conversions, referrals, or email signups, to determine if an experiment is successful. The team measures its own success based on those goals. But equally as important is that the business’ other teams keep the growth team accountable.
Holding growth teams accountable
Since growth teams work to improve processes in other departments, and operate using bold experiments, expectations need to be set between the growth team and the departments. Usually, this is done with an informal internal contract or SLA (service-level agreement).
This way, the growth team doesn’t derail the success and solid processes of another team, but they are still granted the freedom to experiment and improve processes.
- The growth team should outline each experiment they will conduct and the measurable goals they have, to keep the departments informed.
- The departments must be willing to let the growth team change their processes in the long term if an experiment is deemed successful.
- But if an experiment is not successful, the growth team must agree to reset the changed processes back to where they were.
- Even if a growth team is allowed to experiment with any department’s processes and change anything they want, there needs to be checks and balances like these so they don’t plunge another team into chaos.
Wrapping things up
Even though growth teams started in the software sector and with B2Bs, more and more brands in all niches are establishing growth teams as the overall climate gets more competitive. A growth team could easily become your secret weapon in driving exponential growth, and in overtaking your competition, especially if they take deep dives into improving the processes and metrics that matter most to your business. The possibilities are endless, so don’t be afraid to let a growth team shake things up and offer a new perspective!