When it comes to the long-term success of a business, growth is going to be at the center of its rise to stardom. More than anything else, growth is going to determine how a company fares, and whether it will stick around for a while or fizzle out into obscurity.

For the most part, startups realize that growth hacking is an essential part of the building process to go from idea to reality. However, while growth is critical, it’s necessary to not only hack your way to more users but to utilize growth leadership as well.

Today we’re going to take a hard look at what growth leaders are, what they should be doing, and how they can build a dedicated team that will propel a business to succeed. This is the future of growth hacking.

What is a Growth Leader?

Although growth is the goal, there are many different nuances to the position that has to be addressed for a growth leader to be effective. More than anything else, this position demands a comprehensive understanding of all levels of growth, from conception to customer retention and acquisition.

When you break it down, a growth leader needs to know how to do the following things.

  • Collect and Analyze Data
  • Understand Customer Perceptions
  • Define an Overarching Growth Objective
  • Work With Various Teams (i.e., marketing and engineering) to Achieve Growth Objective
  • Build a Growth Team For Testing New Ideas

Although this is not a complete list of everything a growth leader should know how to do, it’s an excellent foundation. If a growth manager only focuses on a single aspect (i.e., customer insights), then that will limit the company’s ability to grow as efficiently as possible.

To help understand each component of what a growth leader does, let’s take a closer look at each of these elements.

Data Infrastructure

If you’re trying to grow a business, then you need to have an intimate understanding of where it is and where it’s trying to go. If you don’t know things like the number of new users per month, the number of downloads per day (or week, or month), or the churn rate, then how you can make a growth strategy that works?

More than anything else, a growth leader has to be able to collect and interpret data at every level so that he or she can make adjustments to reach the growth objective. However, collecting data is easy; analyzing it is where things get a little tricky.

Fortunately, there are plenty of programs that can help analyze data from various sources, but a growth manager needs to know which key performance indicators (KPIs) are the most valuable for the company. In many cases, vanity metrics can seem appealing, but they ultimately don’t translate to sales, so a growth manager needs to understand that.

Customer Insights

Although this information should be an integral part of data analysis, it requires much more insight than simply reading statistics and understanding what they mean. For example, if you have an unusually high churn rate, you need to know what’s driving that. Overall, answering the whys is what makes an excellent growth leader. These whys can include (but are not limited to)

  • Why are customers leaving the app after signing up?
  • Why are users dropping out during the signup process?
  • Why are customers not responding to special offers?
  • Why are signup numbers stagnant or dropping?

A growth manager must also be able to answer why people are signing up and using the product, as it will illustrate what’s working and what isn’t. If a growth manager can’t explain “why do people love our product?” without any certainty, then it shows that he or she doesn’t have a solid grasp on either the brand or the product’s benefits.

Because these insights require more than just looking at numbers, a growth leader needs to be able to reach out to users to find out more about their experience with the product. Being able to communicate with customers to discover potential pain points and solutions are going to be integral in both developing and executing a growth plan.

Developing a Growth Objective

There’s a reason that we put data infrastructure and customer insight before this. While a growth plan may seem like the first step in building a business, it requires data and insight to ensure that it’s both realistic and achievable. For example, a growth leader could create a plan to increase a company’s user base by 50% a month for the next six months, but without understanding why people use or want the product, that plan is going to fail miserably.

When crafting a growth objective, a growth leader needs to incorporate a variety of people and departments to make sure that everyone is working towards the same goal. If engineering doesn’t understand what users want, then how can they make the product more enticing for both current and new customers? It’s the growth manager’s job to make sure that everyone is on the same page so that each piece fits together cohesively.

The other side of developing a growth strategy is to utilize data and KPIs to make adjustments as necessary. Things change, including the needs and desires of your customer base, so you have to be able to adapt with them. If not, then you risk falling behind the competition, and that can curtail growth faster than anything else.

Another part of the growth objective is knowing what to prioritize. Again, this is where customer insight and data will play a crucial role. For example, if there are some elements of your app or product that aren’t getting used, it may be best to cut them out entirely. Barring that, the company shouldn’t continue putting time and resources into those components because they aren’t yielding the desired results.

An effective growth leader can see things from a broader perspective and assign weight to various elements of the product line to maximize growth and its impact. If resources need to be shifted or moved, a growth manager can not only make that happen but understand why it needs to occur as well.

Building a Growth Team

Although a growth leader can work with various departments to achieve the company’s objective, it’s usually better to create a dedicated growth team so that everything can run smoother and more efficiently. A growth manager can’t do everything single-handedly, so it’s imperative to have the right people around to implement changes and strategies at every level.

Here are some ways that a growth leader can craft an excellent team.

Good Chemistry

Just because someone has the technical skills and experience necessary for a position doesn’t mean that he or she is the best fit for the company. There can be tons of qualified applicants, but if they don’t get along with the manager or the rest of the team, all of their experience will count for nothing, since their personality can cause slowdowns and delays.

Thus, when building a good growth team, a leader needs to find people who can work closely together without causing tension. The better everyone gets along, the easier it will be to get work done.

Diverse Membership

If you have a growth team comprised solely of developers and programmers, then they will be great about adding or adjusting a product from the back end, but not so much on how to market it or how to make it easier for users.

Instead, it’s much better to build a growth team that has a variety of disciplines working together. Remember, an effective growth leader can take a comprehensive view of the product and how people use it, so having this kind of diversity will yield much better insights than if everyone did the same job.

While the exact positions can vary based on the product line, it’s best to have people who represent each aspect of the product. Engineers, developers, marketers, and salespeople are going to help a growth team see things from all perspectives and ensure that each change and development will have beneficial results for everyone involved, including the customer.

Growth-Oriented

When crafting a growth team, a manager needs to make sure that everyone is on board with the same objective: acquiring and retaining new users. All too often, people get wrapped up in the specifics of the job (i.e., coding) to understand the impact it will have on the product as a whole.

Thus, each member of the growth team needs to embrace the idea that growth is the primary objective and that all of the work is designed to further that objective. Making sure that everyone has the same mindset will create a more cohesive team that can work more efficiently.

Bottom Line — Growth Leadership is Comprehensive

As more and more companies rely on growth hacking to succeed, the role of a growth leader will only become more valuable. As we’ve discussed, these leaders need to have a comprehensive understanding of a variety of elements, lest they become too narrowly focused and limit the company’s potential.

That being said, being a growth leader doesn’t mean that you have to be a jack-of-all-trades. Instead, it means that you understand how each component should work together to achieve a singular objective, and you know how to manage people within your team to get the necessary results.

Simply put, a growth manager can take the idea of growing a business and translate it into clear, actionable steps that will achieve results.

Strategist entrepreneur & innovator in space tech, government, & health/wellness. Has raised $20m directly /+$100m indirectly for startups. www.nadersabry.com

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