How to build a growth team 🚀
Hiring doctors to grow a startup
👋🏼 Hey friends, this post is part of a series on Growth as a Profession! I’ll try my best to give an inside look into what it’s like leading growth, building a team, and just working in this industry in general. Make sure to join the Discord. :)
Previous Post: What does a "Head of Growth" actually do? 🤷🏻♀️
Fun fact, on my growth team @ Rupa Health I have two incredibly talented doctors (shout out Dr. Jones & Dr. Greenan). Not only was hiring these two one of the best decisions I have made, but it also shows one of the coolest parts about growth teams.
The answer to “what is growth?” varies a lot between organizations, and so does the types of people doing the growth work.
Let’s consider a few types of companies for a second.
Rupa Health (health-tech SaaS)
Facebook (social media)
Rocket Mortgage (mortgage/finance)
The point of a growth team is to help a company grow, but what kinds of people are needed to do that work are going to vary drastically depending not only on what kind of product you are working on, but what kinds of channels you need to build for.
Rupa Health needs doctors, Facebook needs engineers and designers, Rocket Mortgage needs loan officers and sales people.
It’s not enough to just say “a growth team needs to be a cross functional mix of marketers, engineers, and designers”, we have to build out a full stack team that has unique experts to our products & channels.
Hiring doctors for growth
I like using this as an example because it highlights a unique yet critical aspect of growth teams that I see repeated between organizations.
You need people who are experts in the product and channels.
Sometimes these experts happen to be engineers and designers, sometimes these experts are mortgage loan officers and sales people, sometimes these experts are doctors.
When I first started at Rupa I had a really interesting problem.
I like to consider myself an expert in email marketing. I’ve been doing it for 10 years, I built this Substack doing it, I’ve worked on lists over 1,000,000+ people, blah blah blah. Yet when I started my job and wanted to start sending out emails, I couldn’t figure out exactly what to say.
I have literally no healthcare background. How exactly am I supposed to send out an email about a Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones?
I like to consider myself an expert in content marketing and SEO. Again, been doing it for 10 years, ran many successful blogs and magazines in my time.
But yet again, the last article on the Rupa Health magazine is A Functional Medicine Approach to POTS: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome by Dr. Jennifer L. Weinberg, MD MPH MBE.
You get the picture, without healthcare experts on my team my job growing users is almost impossible.
If you are a dev tool company, the #1 rule of marketing is to be a good developer.
If you are a healthcare company, the #1 rule of marketing is to be good at healthcare.
If you are a mortgage company, the #1 rule of marketing is to be good at mortgages.
In order to excel in your industry you have to be amazing at your domain, and the people on your growth team need to reflect that. The combination of your product and channels determine the unique mix of humans required to grow.
Hiring channel experts for growth
The next group of people you need on a growth team, are those who are experts in the channels that drive users for your product.
For almost all growth teams, owning demand generation and the channels of growth are one of the core responsibilities of the function. In order to be successful you need to identify your channels and then build out a team around them.
Facebook for example is driven by viral network effects, so their growth team consisted of engineers and designers who were able to work on these network effects, run experiments, and optimize for them.
Take that same growth team and apply it to Rocket Mortgage, and they probably aren’t going to be as effective.
Rocket Mortgage is driven by Google SEM & video ads. The virality of a mortgage product is extremely low. You’re going to need a team who can optimize landing pages and lead qualification forms, but bringing in experts who can build out product virality is going to be mostly wasted efforts.
The reverse applies for Facebook’s growth team, having SEM experts probably wont do you much good.
The trick is figuring out what are the main channels of growth for your product and then bringing in experts who can manage, experiment, and grow those channels.
Building a full stack team
This is probably the trickiest part of creating a growth team, especially at the start. Usually growth begins with a single person either a Head of Growth or a Growth Lead, and when the company is small you’re basically in a situation where “the entire company, is the growth team”.
This is one of the reasons why some of the best early stage growth hires are generalists. People who are able to do a lot of different things and are able to learn the things they don’t know how to do.
As you get bigger, you should be working to build out a full stack team that doesn’t rely on the rest of the organization.
Usually there are two different kinds of organization structures where either everyone reports to the Head of Growth, or they might have a different HR manager but “live” on the growth team.
Either way, doesn’t matter. Especially at scale it becomes increasingly important for the growth team to be able to execute and run experiments without having to constantly rely on the rest of the organization.
Constantly having to take people away from their day to day jobs or their core priorities to build out a new feature or try a new marketing campaign leads to slow experiment velocity.
Growth isn’t just a cross functional team, it’s a team that can for the most part operate independently to build out experiments and try new things. Just make sure to also communicate what you’re doing so people aren’t blind sided by the crazy experiment of the week. 🚀
Poll: I’m curious what your growth team looks like! Come join the Channels of Growth community on Discord and tell us. :)