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What is a Head of Growth?

Have you considered hiring a head of growth? This relatively new role is in high demand, even within mega-corporations like Uber, Dropbox, and Google.

Startup founders from all tech-related verticals should be paying attention and, if it makes sense, consider hiring one. These superstar employees may be in short supply, but the results they bring to the table are increasingly valuable (especially in our startup-driven world).

A graph showing a Head of Growth search term

We’re going to look closer at heads of growth so you can decide if it’s right for your team. 

Let’s consider:

  • What a head of growth is
  • Characteristics of a head of growth
  • Your head of growth and customer insights
  • What type of companies need to have a head of growth
  • When to consider hiring a head of growth
  • Are you ready for what’s coming?

What Is A Head Of Growth?

A head of growth is focused on growth and growth alone.

Their unique role sits at the intersection of marketing and product development, which varies from company to company. Their sole focus is to hit growth targets, meaning their primary concerns are customer acquisition, activation, retention, and upsells.

Your head of growth should have key responsibilities in three main areas of work: growth hacking, growth management, and growth nurturing.

  1. Growth hacking refers to strategies regarding the reach of your company. It may involve new marketing initiatives, A/B testing, or experimental trials to discover what works and what doesn’t. In this role, your head of growth is focused on scaling your company as quickly and sustainably as possible.
  2. Growth management is a twofold term. On one hand, your head of growth may be responsible for managing other marketers, freelancers, or strategic planners. On the other hand, they may be heavily involved in KPI measurement and other ROI metrics. They keep a finger on the pulse of what works (and what doesn’t) so they can pivot your strategy for lead generation.
  3. Growth nurturing refers to the use of new or existing strategies that retain current customers. This task may be shared with other members of your marketing department.

Your head of growth may also manage a growth team.

Let’s take a look at what this means below.

What is a Growth Team?

Illustration of a growth marketing team

A growth team refers to a group of growth marketers using data and statistics to solve problems with scaling. They’re typically comprised of four or more experts who have sales, marketing, or product backgrounds.

Growth teams aren’t the same as sales, marketing, or product teams. Their one and only goal is to develop, test, and measure solutions — they’re not focused on anything other than growth.

That’s why you should expect the following from a growth marketing team:

  • The execution of growth strategies such as landing page, CTA, or video testing.
  • A strong focus on lead generation by solving customer-related obstacles (such as a confusing UI, for example).
  • Either diving into one part of the sales funnel or all parts at once. This broad yet deep expertise is a major part of the growth marketing role.

As powerful as a growth marketing team can be, it’s not the right fit for every business.

Could it be the right move for you? You can check the criteria at the bottom of this guide.

Head of Growth vs Growth Manager vs Chief Growth Officer

A head of growth can go by many names — growth hacker, technical marketer, and director of growth are some of the most common.

However, a head of growth is not the same as a growth manager or Chief Growth Officer.

Let’s break it down into smaller pieces:

  • Chief Growth Officer (CGO): This is typically a member of the C-Suite tasked with finding opportunities for growth, revenue, and market presence. It’s currently the fastest-growing role in the US, which only reinforces the importance of acquiring a growth expert for your team.
  • Growth manager: A growth expert in charge of a growth team (which we covered above). They may be considered a head of growth on their own, or work alongside one while managing a department.
  • Head of growth: A role that falls between the C-suite and team director position. 

To summarize: a head of growth can work inside or outside the C-suite. A CGO is an established executive, and a growth manager focuses on team management slightly more than task management.

It’s a good idea to evaluate your company and determine which role makes the most sense for you.

Characteristics Of A Head Of Growth

A table of head of growth characteristics

Not everyone is cut out to be a head of growth. They aren’t really a part of your marketing team, after all, and they aren’t necessarily part of the product development team. In truth, they’re a hybrid — they have a foot in each department.

Before hiring a head of marketing, consider some of the elements needed in a potential candidate. 

  • Heads of growth are extremely creative, and partner their natural talents with data and analytics. 
  • They also choose their tech stack carefully. After all, they need particular tools to perform their research tasks, which range from split tests to KPI reporting.
  • The head of growth is an expert in finding acquisition opportunities (think owned media, earned media, and paid media). 
  • They offer superior management and leadership skills that ensure your team is pulling in the same direction. 
  • As your company’s growth objective evolves, your head of growth will communicate changing parameters to their team, internal audience, and all industry partners.

In the early days, your company’s objective may be user onboarding and outreach. A few years later, it may be time to switch focus to user retention. The goal of your head of growth will be to mark the right time to make the switch, create strategies focused on pivoting, and ensure teams incorporate the appropriate goals in their campaigns and strategies.

Your Head Of Growth And Customer Insights

The nature of growth is always changing, which is why your head of growth must be tuned into customer insights at all times. The should be somewhat familiar with audience listening tools like HootSuite, TweetDeck, and SocialMention.

A good head of growth also has a working knowledge of your retention rates, knows where they’re going, and can identify problems in the funnel. They should also know how to improve negative growth and turn the ship around if needed.

Heads of growth could be just about anyone with a scientific, analytical mind. Yet keep in mind there’s no substitute for experience. Your head of growth will have a large say in campaigns that get launched, so they need to have the seniority necessary to make changes as needed.

What Type Of Companies Need To Have A Head Of Growth?

The head of growth may be a relatively recent position, but companies have always needed help with handling the challenges of scaling. 

Startups and scaleups almost always require heads of growth. Because when (not if) your business hits a snag, you need a professional to help find your footing.

Only 10% of all startups succeed every year, and a lot of that has to do with market differentiation. This is where your head of growth comes in — they know exactly how to put your brand in the spotlight.

Tech-based startups may get more use out of heads of growth than other industries, especially since their fields typically involve complicated jargon that doesn’t always connect with consumers. In this case, heads of growth create new campaigns that help leads understand company offerings. Tech-based industries like SaaS businesses and app-heavy programs benefit the most from this strategy. There are several heads of growth popularized in these industries, including:

Some startup founders feel they need a head of growth straight away. And sure, young businesses do need a strong strategic vision to succeed. But they also need time to be flexible, lean, and risk-averse — then leverage volatile solutions that scale with their own growth.

Professional marketers recommend younger businesses wait a while before hiring full-time heads of growth. While they mature, they can start to develop an inbound marketing strategy. This focuses their channels on growth and development. 

An example of inbound marketing includes content writing, which Draft.dev specializes in. Our team helps startups find freelance content writers to create content for software devs and technical audiences.

When To Consider Hiring A Head Of Growth

If you can’t retain a head of growth right away, when is the best time to hire? There are a few benchmarks you may want to hit first:

  • Do you already have a marketing or sales team in place? A head of growth without a marketing team will be limited in what they can achieve. If you don’t have something set in stone, it will be important to flesh out your departments first.
  • Do you have enough funds for a head of growth to work with? This applies to your department budget, salary qualifications, and current tech stack.
  • Are there in-house teams currently executing (and struggling to maintain) the role of a growth hacker? If so, hiring another full-time professional could be an expensive redundancy for your business.
  • How good is the communication between your marketing team and sales team? If it’s not the well-oiled machine you wish it could be, a growth hacker may be able to help. The ultimate goal of your head of growth isn’t to play middleman between different teams, but their presence may kill two birds with one stone.
  • Are you lacking a ‘T’ shaped marketing professional? ‘T’ shaped experts are described as being knowledgeable in many fields, but deeply skilled in just one. For example, your head of growth will be familiar with many assets of marketing, but extremely skilled in growth and retention.

T-shaped marketing professional characteristics

How can you leverage a head of growth in the most effective possible way?

It’s best to hire other sales and marketing employees first. 

Heads of growth do their best work surrounded by a team of experts. These pros can help them identify KPIs and execute on existing campaigns. 

Said differently: it’s best to hire a head of growth once your startup is more mature.

Here’s a list of marketing roles so you can see if you’re ready for a head of growth.

Are You Ready For What’s Coming?

No matter what industry you’re in, you’ll find a wealth of value in hiring a full-time head of growth. The only question is: does it make sense right now?

That depends on where your business is at.

If you aren’t in a position to spend money on a full-time worker, or if you’re not ready to springboard into heavy growth initiatives, it might make sense to take a step back. There are many ways to develop a winning growth strategy, particularly with content and inbound marketing. Freelance writers are a great way to do this without the cost, commitment, or management.

Draft.dev can help with technical content and video tutorials so you can spend more time focusing on growing your brand.

Curious to learn more? Just schedule a discovery call. We’d love to learn more about how we could hack your growth strategy.

Meagan Shelley

By Meagan Shelley

Meagan is a professional writer in VA that specializes in content marketing, research, and SEO. If she's not helping people craft their own stories, she's working on some of her own. When she takes time to step away from the laptop, she enjoys hiking, farmer's markets, and occasional thru-hikes.