What to Look for when Hiring a Head of Growth
When hiring a Head of Growth, a Growth Leader or Growth Manager, prioritise candidates who have a well-rounded skill set, a track record of success, and who align with your company's culture, values, and team dynamic. Optimising for these factors will ensure that the new hire is happy, motivated, and productive, and can contribute to your company's success.
What is a Head of Growth?
A Head of Growth is a leadership role that is often found in startups and scale-ups, and is responsible for driving the growth of the business. This role combines elements of marketing and growth hacking, and is focused on identifying and pursuing opportunities for growth through a variety of channels and tactics.
A Head of Growth is typically hired after a business has received significant investment and is preparing to scale rapidly, either domestically or globally.
The role is different from a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Head of Marketing because a Head of Growth is responsible for managing marketing activities and leading a team to drive growth, but they must do so with constantly evolving targets, including increasing headcount, budgets, and marketing footprint.
This can be challenging because the business is growing rapidly and resources may be limited. In contrast, a typical CMO is used to managing and optimising large budgets that change relatively little over time. A Head of Growth must be able to adapt and scale the team quickly in order to meet the needs of the growing business.
The difference between a Head of Growth and a Growth Hacker
The key difference between a Head of Growth and a typical Growth Hacker, Growth PM or Growth Marketer is that a Head of Growth is responsible for leading and managing a team, whereas a growth hacker typically operates as an individual contributor. This means that a Head of Growth has access to more resources and can consider a wider range of growth hacking strategies, rather than just focusing on a single approach. A Head of Growth is also responsible for managing the growth hacking efforts of the team, which requires a deep understanding of the business and its complexities. In contrast, a growth hacker tends to focus on finding and testing individual tactics and strategies to drive growth, rather than overseeing the broader growth efforts of the business. A Head of Growth must also have strong management skills and the ability to understand and operate in a complex business environment, which sets them apart from a typical growth hacker.
Hire a Head of Growth aligned with the Current Growth Stage of Your Startup
Are you in a very early product discovery phase, pre-seed and have not yet found product market fit (PMF)? Or are you post PMF and ready to scale? Or are you at a later stage and ready to expand internationally?
The stage your company is in, will determine the role-profile you should be searching for. Defining your needs is the first step.
“In the end, the “Head of Growth” title is probably too vague. Each of these stages requires such different skills and are judged so differently that a single title feels like it doesn’t capture the nuance.
Instead, founders to incorporate the context of their startup — what stage are they in? How much conviction do they have on their growth channels?” — Andrew Chen.
Avoid hiring a talent with a strong sales background when you are or plan to be a product-led company, and avoid hiring a big tech executive to kick-off a new growth team with no resources.
When creating a growth job description for a Head of Growth Marketing, it is important to focus on the specific skills and knowledge that are most relevant for the current stage of the business, rather than listing all potential knowledge and skills.
For example, if the business is in the early stages of developing a Minimum Viable Product or is struggling to find Product/Market Fit, it may be more useful to hire a Head of Growth, a Growth Marketing Manager or Growth PM with a strong background in Product Development, a former Growth Product Manager or a validation expert to help identify the right fit.
On the other hand, if the business has identified the channels and markets it wants to target, but has not yet achieved Channel/Market Fit, it may be more beneficial to hire a Growth Consultant or Interim Head of Growth to help define the right channels.
As the business begins to scale, it may be useful to hire a Head of Growth with experience in one or two key growth channels and strong strategic skills to build out the growth model further.
When the business is experiencing high growth, it may be necessary to hire a Head of Growth Marketing with more management experience and people skills to effectively lead a larger team. At this stage, it may also be necessary to divide growth into multiple Head of Growths or Growth Leads, structured either by phase (e.g. activation, retention, …).
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Traits of a successful Head of Growth
When creating a job description for a Head of Growth, you need to know the characteristics and traits a successful Heads of Growth posses.
A successful growth manager should have a broad understanding of various marketing topics, including SEO, paid advertising, Google Analytics, and landing page design. This "T-shaped" knowledge allows them to have a well-rounded understanding of many areas while also having a deep expertise in one or two specific areas. This broad knowledge is essential for driving growth and developing effective marketing strategies
An experimental mindset is essential for growth management. To foster this mindset, it is important to encourage engineers, designers, and product marketing professionals to embrace the opportunity to test hypotheses and learn from the results of experiments. This enthusiasm for experimentation should be a driving force within the organization.
A strong understanding of product management is important for a growth manager. Knowing how users interact with the product is a key aspect of the role, as it helps to inform growth strategies and identify areas for improvement. By having a deep understanding of the product and its users, a growth manager can effectively drive growth and ensure the product is meeting the needs of its audience
The ability to act on data is essential for a growth lead's success. Data is a critical resource for driving a company's growth, and being able to interpret and understand its meaning is crucial. A growth manager who is skilled in using data to inform their actions will be well-equipped to drive the company forward.
The ability to handle failure. It is important to understand that not all experiments will yield the desired results, but that even unsuccessful experiments can provide valuable insights and experiences. A growth manager who is able to approach failures with a positive attitude and use them as opportunities for learning and improvement will be better equipped to drive growth for the company.
Having the capability of creating processes and organised systems. The final goal for each experiment is to create a new, scaleable strategy for growth.
A growth marketing leader should have experience in working with cross-functional teams. The success of growth initiatives often requires the involvement and collaboration of individuals with diverse expertise and skills. Therefore, it is important to understand how to bring these different perspectives together and coordinate efforts.
Experience in project management is essential. Leading a growth strategy often involves managing multiple initiatives at once, and the ability to effectively coordinate and oversee these projects is key to success.
To effectively assess and pursue growth opportunities within a startup, growth leaders need a well-rounded understanding of all various functions and departments within startups. This holistic business knowledge allows them to consider opportunities for growth from a holistic perspective, rather than just focusing on a single area or department.
A growth manager should have the ability to move quickly and efficiently. In many cases, it is better to quickly implement an MVP (minimum viable product) that is not perfect, rather than taking a lot of time and resources to try to perfect a hypothesis.
Demonstrated leadership skills. It is essential for the potential hire to have a successful background in directing the tasks of others and lead a group of growth marketers.
Consider Culture and Value Fit
Culture and value fit are important factors to consider when hiring new employees because they can significantly impact the overall success of the company. A company's culture is the set of shared beliefs, values, and behaviours that shape the way employees work and interact with one another. When hiring, it's important to look for candidates who share the same values and beliefs as the company, as this will help them feel more connected and engaged with the organisation.
Having a growth marketing team that shares the same values and culture can also improve team cohesion and productivity. When everyone is aligned in terms of their values and beliefs, it can lead to better communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. This can ultimately lead to a more positive and productive work environment, which can contribute to the overall success of the company.
Therefore, when hiring a head of growth, it's important to prioritise candidates who align with the company's culture and values. This will help ensure that they are happy and motivated in their role, which can lead to better performance and a positive impact on the company's success.
Hire Growth Talent with a Growth Mindset
You can not hire a Head of Growth with a fixed mindset. You may ask, what is a fixed mindset?
"A fixed mindset is the belief that a person's abilities, intelligence, and character traits are fixed and cannot be changed. People with a fixed mindset tend to view challenges and failures as indicative of their limitations, rather than opportunities for growth and learning. They may be less likely to take risks or try new things, as they fear failure and are more concerned with maintaining their current level of ability."
That's definitely not what we want.
On the other hand, a growth mindset is the belief that a person's abilities and intelligence can be developed and improved through effort, learning, and practice. People with a growth mindset tend to view challenges and failures as opportunities to learn and grow, and they are more open to taking risks and trying new things. They are more likely to persevere in the face of setbacks and to embrace opportunities for learning and personal development.
“Hire someone who can do 50% of what you need, and can figure out the other 90%.” — Matt Lerner.
That's want we want.
Defining the Job Description for a Head of Growth
When writing a job description for a Head of Growth, it is important to consider the growth stage your startup is in, the industry, as well as all the skills & traits that are needed.
You should include following in a job ad:
- Responsibilities: Clearly define the responsibilities of the head of growth, including specific tasks and projects they will be responsible for overseeing. This could include areas such as market research, customer acquisition, product development, and data analysis.
- Skills and qualifications: Outline the specific skills and qualifications that are necessary for the role, such as a strong understanding of data analysis, marketing, and customer acquisition strategies.
- Experience: Specify the level of experience that is required for the role, such as the number of years of relevant work experience or specific industry experience.
- Company culture: Explain the company's culture and values, and how the head of growth will fit into and contribute to this culture.
- Goals and objectives: Clearly articulate the goals and objectives of the head of growth role, and how success in the role will be measured.
- Compensation and benefits: Detail the compensation and benefits package for the role, including salary, bonuses, and any other perks or benefits.
- Location: Specify the location (or if remote) of the role and any required travel.
Startups should think carefully about whether they are already ready to hire a Head of Growth or rather hire a Growth Marketer, Growth Hacker
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Alternative: Kick of your Growth Marketing Team with External Help
To speed things up, a common approach is to kick-off your efforts internally with your existing team under the supervision of one expert growth consultant, advisor or interim growth leader.
This person can analyse the current stage, create frameworks and processes, educate the team and start first growth efforts. This way to start with a senior expert, don’t waste time and in parallel can search for your full time head of growth.
Alternatively you can hire a growth marketing agency. This offers a number of advantages for early stage startups looking to grow and expand. Some of the main benefits include:
- Expertise: Growth marketing agencies are typically staffed by experienced professionals who have a deep understanding of marketing and growth strategies. This expertise can help businesses implement effective growth tactics and achieve better results.
- Specialised focus: Growth marketing agencies are focused specifically on driving growth, so they can provide a more targeted and specialized approach to marketing than a general marketing agency
- Access to resources and tools: Growth marketing agencies often have access to a range of resources and tools that can help businesses optimize their growth efforts. These may include analytics platforms, marketing automation tools, and other specialised software.
- Cost-effective: Working with a growth marketing agency can be more cost-effective than hiring in-house marketing staff, as it allows businesses to tap into specialised expertise without the associated costs of hiring and training employees.
Overall, a growth marketing agency can quickly help a startup to kick-of growth initiatives without losing time and with very low risk.
When hiring your first Head of Growth, prioritise candidates who have a well-rounded skill set, a track record of success, and who align with your company's culture, values, and team dynamic. Optimising for these factors will ensure that the new hire is happy, motivated, and productive, and can contribute to your company's success. It's also important to consider the stage of your startup and avoid hiring for a role that doesn't align with your current goals and needs. Starting with an external expert or consultant can also help kick-off your growth efforts before hiring a full-time team member.