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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 a head of growth of their own. These superstar employees may be in short supply, but the results they bring to the table are increasingly valuable in our startup-driven world.

We’re going to look closer at heads of growth (aka the powerhouse of your marketing strategy) and how they significantly impact company success. 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, so their primary concerns are customer acquisition, activation, retention, and upsells.

Your head of growth will be interested 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 will be heavily involved in KPI measurement and other ROI metrics. They keep a finger on the pulse of what works and what doesn’t, and pivot your strategy to meet upcoming needs.
  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.

Characteristics Of A Head Of Growth

Not everyone is cut out to be a head of growth. These employees aren’t really a part of your marketing team, and they aren’t necessarily part of the product development team. In truth, they’re a hybrid; they have a foot in each department and understand the importance of both acquiring and retaining customers.

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.

These professionals are experts in acquisition opportunities for 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.

Let’s look at this from a different point of view. 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 as quickly as possible, and make sure teams incorporate the appropriate goals in their campaigns and strategies.

Your Head Of Growth And Customer Insights

The nature of growth is ever changing, which is why your head of growth must be tuned into customer insights at all times.

A good head of growth can quickly explain where retention rates stand, how they are moving, and where problems arise in their funnel and acquisition journey. Importantly, they need to be certain of how to improve negative growth. Heads of growth could be just about anyone with a scientific, analytical mind. Yet keep in mind that there is rarely any substitute for experience. Your head of growth will have a large say in campaigns that get launched, and need to have the seniority necessary to make changes as needed. Since they need to be so in-tune with customer insights, heads of growth are often plugged into audience listening tools like HootSuite, TweetDeck, and SocialMention.

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

Heads of growth are useful assets for anyone working in a startup or scaleup business. According to recent stats, the vast majority of all startups are within the tech industry. If you own and operate a startup company, chances are it will need a head of growth at some point.

The head of growth may be a relatively recent position, but companies have always needed help with handling the challenges of scaling. With only 10% of all startups succeeding every year, it’s clear why more and more companies are choosing to hire a full time expert of their own.

It’s important to manage the spread and consistency of startup growth over time. Tech-based startups may get more use out of heads of growth than other industries, especially since their fields often 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:

  • Brian Balfour (Hubspot)
  • Sean Ellis (Eventbrite)
  • Andrew Chen (Uber)

Tech-based startup founders sometimes feel they need a full-time head of growth right away. It’s true that young businesses need strong strategic vision to succeed, and volatile growth solutions that scale with their own growth. But young businesses also need time to become flexible, lean, and risk-averse during their first few years of life.

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 that focuses their channel growth and development. An example of inbound marketing includes content, 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?
  • 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.

If you’re looking to use a head of growth in the most effective way possible, it’s best to already have your first employees hired. These professionals do their best work while surrounded by a team of other experts who help identify KPIs, metrics, and current strategies, as well as execute campaigns. Here’s a list of marketing roles to help you decide whether you are at a point where a head of growth is needed. In other words, it’s best to hire a head of growth once your startup is more mature.

Are You Ready For What’s Coming?

Your company is preparing to hit a growth spurt. Your products have already hit the shelves, and they’re starting to flourish. Your services are starting to get great feedback from customers. Now it’s time to channel that growth internally and ride the wave that’s coming. That’s the ultimate purpose of your head of growth.

No matter what your industry is, you’ll find an increasing amount of value from hiring a full-time head of growth. The only question is: does it make sense right now?

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 more 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, and it might increase your ROI in a big way.

Curious? Let’s chat. Schedule a discovery call to learn how we could hack your growth strategy. Talk soon!

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.