Mallory is a Growth Marketer at Lean Labs, working with brands to ignite their growth engine through conceptualizing, implementing, and optimizing growth marketing strategies.
Growth Team 101: Should You Hire or Build One?
Is your business nimble enough to keep up with changes in the marketplace and keep meeting sales quotas?
If you’re not using a growth team to manage and develop your organizational growth strategy framework, you might not like the answer.
Many companies approach their growth the way many college students approach group projects: Divvying up the work early on, then just hoping everyone does their part and that it all fits together in the end. When each team within your organization is working toward their vision of “growth,” you’re missing out on crucial opportunities that can help you reach—no, make that crush—your growth goals.
Using a growth team can help you take advantage of those opportunities.
Consider this post your growth team boot camp.💪 We’ll go over the key concepts connected to growth teams and a growth mindset. Then, we’ll help you decide which is better for your business: Building your team in-house or hiring an outsourced team.
Growth Team 101: What Growth Teams Do
You can’t decide to hire or build a growth team until you understand what growth teams do. Let’s nail down that base knowledge before getting into the six classes that make up the Lean Labs Growth Team 101.
What is a growth team? A growth team is a cross-functional team that exerts focused energy to improve performance at every level of the customer acquisition funnel.
Whether you decide to build a team or hire one, when you choose to invest in a new growth team, you’re investing in the success of your business as a whole. Growth teams take the scientific, data-driven approach of engineering and apply it to your marketing and product development efforts.
Collaboration i is the number one thing that makes a growth team a growth team. Say goodbye to operational siloes: A growth team involves your marketing, product, and sales teams working together toward strategic, specific goals.
Related Read: Horizontal vs. Vertical Growth Strategy: Which is Best?
Growth teams require your organization to adopt a culture of experimentation and continuous improvement. Your team will systematize your processes and optimize your efforts. However, to do this effectively, they need to rapidly implement and test the results of new tactics and solutions. If you aren’t ready to change your processes and improve your products to adapt to the changing market, you’re not ready to work with a growth team.
Lean Labs has helped dozens of brands and startup founders achieve massive growth with our hybrid growth team. When you’re deciding whether to hire a growth marketing team or build one in-house, you’ll need to consider all the things growth teams do. Are you prepared to tackle those challenges yourself, or would you prefer to call on seasoned experts for assistance? By the time you finish reading this post, you should have all the information you need to answer that question.
This post will cover the following information:
- Growth Team Origins: How long have companies been using growth teams? What notable companies have found success using this method?
- Benefits of Growth Teams: How can a growth team help your business? What wins can you expect to see when working with or building a growth team?
- Growth Team Structure: What roles make up a growth team? Learn how a growth team should be structured for optimum efficiency.
- How Growth Teams Work: We’ll take a look at the working methods of top growth teams.
- How to Build a Growth Team: What does it take to build a growth team in–house? We’ll go over the ins and outs of how to form a growth team of your own.
- When to Hire a Growth Team: Building a team isn’t always the best bet—we’ll discuss the rule of thumb for when to hire an outsourced or hybrid team instead.
Lesson 1: Growth Team Origins
Let’s start our Growth Team 101 class with a history lesson: Where did the idea of a growth team come from in the first place? To answer that question, we first need to establish the market conditions that gave birth to the concept of the growth team.
Marketing success comes down to product-market fit. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong.
Take a crowded market chock-full of competition and add a sprinkle of constantly changing customer expectations. Suddenly that “simple” concept of product-market fit becomes a moving target that can feel impossible to hit.
Like many things, the growth team originated in Silicon Valley. Facebook’s Chamath Palihapitiya piloted the first official growth team. Instead of siloing the efforts of the product, sales, and marketing teams, he proposed the formation of a new team that straddled all three departments. This team worked together in Facebook’s infancy to help user acquisition efforts, aiming to get each user to a minimum of seven friends within their first ten days on the platform.
Spoiler alert: It was a massive success. Other Silicon Valley staples like Uber, Airbnb, and Pinterest have since followed suit, putting their own spin on the concept of the growth team and riding the success of those efforts to massive growth.
Lesson 2: Benefits of Growth Teams
The benefit of a growth team is that it helps your organization overcome customer acquisition challenges and achieve sustainable, scalable growth.
But what are the more specific benefits you can expect to see when you implement a growth team in your organization?
Firstly, a growth team will help you keep up momentum related to organizational growth. If you’ve spent longer than a few months in the business world, I’m sure this scenario will sound familiar:
A VP or C-level executive starts a new initiative. This new initiative is Priority Number One, all hands on deck, the most important initiative this organization has ever seen… for a few months. Then, the marketing team is waiting on the product team for something, or the sales team needs data from the marketing team to move forward. One target is missed, then another. Then, new marching orders come down the pipeline, and the original initiative is all but abandoned.
When you have a dedicated team committed to growing your organization, it’s easier to keep the momentum going once a project is kicked off.
Growth teams also make it easier to set meaningful marketing goals and build momentum in the first place. Did you see where things fell off track in the scenario above? No, I don’t mean which team is to blame: I mean the fact that we had three distinct teams in the first place.
Communication and coordination issues hamstring your organizational efforts—and your growth. Implementing a growth team helps bypass those silo-related issues, making your efforts more streamlined and efficient.
Lastly, a growth team benefits your organization by making you more nimble. As we mentioned in Lesson One; change is the only constant in today’s market. For your business to weather the storm and achieve massive growth, you’ll need to be ready to adapt to those changing conditions.
The cultural change you’ll see in your organization will help you remain versatile and resilient. Growth teams encourage a culture of continuous improvement, a customer-centric mindset, and a focus on achievable, incremental goals.
Lesson 3: Growth Team Structure
Let’s talk structure. What does a growth team look like?
The size and structure of your team will depend on the size and structure of your business. For startup founders or those operating a small business, your team will be smaller and more targeted than it will be if you’re running an enterprise business. At a minimum, your team will need five to ten players.
Any growth team needs the following five players. As your business grows, your team will need to grow alongside it and you’ll have multiple team members in each of these categories, but to start you’ll need at least one of each.
- Growth Marketer: Growth marketers are often described as full-funnel marketers. This team member will handle creative marketing elements like copywriting and work to lay out marketing strategies, campaigns, and more.
- Data Analyst: Data is at the heart of any growth strategy. That means you’re going to need a numbers gal (or guy) to keep track of your progress and help you draw actionable insights from those figures.
- Developer: You'll need a full-stack developer who can move fast and think creatively. Remember the “rapid experimentation” part of growth team practices? The right developer will help you with a big piece of that pie.
- Designer: Creativity central! Numbers and data are great, but they’re not always pretty. Your customers will need to see your brand packaged in an effective way for any growth to take root. Designers will steer that ship for your team.
- Head of Growth: Every circus needs a ringleader! Your head of growth works to make sure the team is progressing toward goals, communicating, and working together. This team member is more than just a manager: They need to analyze data and jump into the thick of things where needed.
Growth Team Models for Enterprise
This team structure will be sufficient for most small businesses and startups. But, as your business grows, you’ll need to make a plan for scaling your team, so it’s advantageous to start thinking about how you’d structure a larger team sooner rather than later.
You can pursue one of two different growth team models at the enterprise level. Both models have the same basic team players we just discussed, but as you grow your team, without restructuring, you can find yourself in a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation on your growth team.
- Independent Model:
Contrary to how the name sounds, an independent growth team model doesn’t abandon the cross-functional concept. Instead, it means that each level of the acquisition funnel operates with its own independent team.
In other words, you’ll have one growth team for awareness, another for acquisition, and so forth. All six teams report to a single VP of growth, who coordinates the overall growth strategy of your organization.
- Functional Model:
Like the independent model, your growth team is split into sub-teams. However, in a functional model, your teams are structured around specific goals or campaigns. The growth team establishes quarterly goals and builds campaigns around those goals.
The team then divides, allocating team members to each campaign. Each sub-team focuses on the entire funnel for their specific campaign. Again, a single VP of growth coordinates all your teams' efforts.
Lesson 4: How Growth Teams Work
We talked a little bit about what growth teams do and how they can benefit growth-minded companies. Lesson four is where we’re going to give you the answer to the riddle: How we do it.
Related Read: Marketing Growth Strategies: 3 Common (and Avoidable) Problems
Growth teams work in four main ways: Experimentation, iteration, optimization, and working in sprints. Let’s look at each in more detail.
Experimentation is vital to any growth team undertaking. After all, you can’t get new outcomes—or new company growth—by continuing to do the same old things.
Eventually, you need to try something new!
Growth teams use preliminary data, marketing research, and experience to hypothesize an effort that might help your organization achieve massive growth. That’s right—I said might. The only way to know whether or not something will work for sure is to pull the trigger.
Implementation is one of the principles of growth marketing. Experimentation without iteration isn’t growth marketing: It’s guessing.
After each experiment, your growth team will compile the new data and ask a few questions. What worked? What didn’t work? Why did the things that worked work, and vice versa?
Once your team has the answers to those questions, they’ll set a new hypothesis, then run a new experiment that builds on the results of the first.
Once you have an experiment that’s delivering solid results, you’re done, right? Not if you’re working with a growth team! Remember what we said about continuous improvement?
We meant it.
Optimization involves taking efforts that are working well and making them work incredibly well. Your growth team will work to. identify any remaining friction points in your sales and marketing funnel, then work to grease those sticking points.
Working in Sprints
If you’ve never worked with a growth team before, the three processes I’ve just outlined probably sound incredibly overwhelming. I’ve worked in non-growth team environments before, too: Where every implementation takes months if you’re lucky and years if you aren’t.
The secret to growth teams is working in sprints. These sprints tend to be monthly or quarterly, allowing the team to make rapid changes, test the results, then make different rapid changes if needed in the next sprint.
Let’s say you need to launch a new website for your organization. When working with a growth team, your team will gather baseline data and work with you to establish goals surrounding the standard marketing funnel metrics.
Then, instead of waiting until the entire site is updated to launch any pages, your growth team may decide to crank things up a notch by launching web pages in batches. They’ll tackle key pages first, experimenting with copy and design they believe will work based on the data. They’ll do the same for the rest of your pages, launching them in future sprints.
But your growth team won’t just “set it and forget it” when it comes to your site: This is where iteration and optimization come into the picture. Each sprint, your team will review the performance of the launched pages, making changes as needed.
In other words, instead of letting an outdated website sit for another nine months while the new site is built, a growth team can start getting you results now, optimizing and maximizing those results with updated website design as time goes on.
Lesson 5: How To Build a Growth Team
Say you want to build a growth team in-house. How can you build your own team successfully?
Before you can begin building your team, you’ll need to establish your baselines. One way to determine whether you’re ready for massive growth is to check in on your processes and distribution channels. Ask yourself these questions:
- What stage is your business in?
- Are you ready to scale?
- Will they buckle if you 10X your growth in the next two years?
You will also want to take this opportunity to establish your KPIs and your baseline data on those metrics. This step will help you measure the success of your in-house growth team’s efforts down the line.
Next, you’ll need to get aligned on your organizational goals. Establish ultimate, endgame goals, but also start to shift your focus toward incremental, achievable goals. You’ll also want to take this opportunity to get buy-in from key stakeholders.
Related Read: How Much Do Tech and SaaS Growth Strategies Cost?
Once you have that buy-in, you’re ready to hire your team! Identify talent gaps on your current team and make plans to hire to fill those gaps. You’ll need to work fast and cultivate a culture of company growth from day one with these new team members. You can accomplish this by encouraging creativity and innovation and rewarding experimentation.
Lesson 6: When To Hire a Growth Team
Let’s take a look at the other side of the coin: How do you know when it’s time to hire an outsourced growth team?
The best candidates for outsourced growth teams are startups, scale-ups, and small businesses. Most enterprise businesses develop teams in-house but may benefit from consulting with an outsourced team when initially implementing their growth team strategy.
If you run a startup, a business in the process of scaling up, or an established small business, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the following triggers, which can mean it’s time to hire an outsourced team to support your growth efforts.
- Your growth goals far outweigh your organization’s current growth efforts.
- You’re heavily outmanned by your competitors when it comes to growth.
- You have talent gaps in-house and don’t have the payroll budget to hire a full-time team.
- You’re ready to 10X your traffic and leads within the next 36 months.
If you’re experiencing any of these triggers in your small business or startup, you may want to consider partnering with an outsourced team to maximize your growth.
Growth Team 101 Review: Build or Hire?
Armed with six lessons worth of information about growth teams, you undoubtedly see the value a growth team can bring to your business. Now, you’re finally ready to make your decision: Should you hire an outsourced team or build a team in-house?
In-House Team: Benefits & Downsides
With an in-house team, you’ll have more control over the decision-making process. An outsourced team will consult with you on major decisions, but you can see every granular part of the process with an in-house team.
Additionally, you’ll have more control over the people working on your brand. When you’re hiring your own team, you get to choose them! When you work with an outsourced team, your partner organization will assign its own staff to your account.
Lastly, an in-house team is a more efficient and better long-term solution than hiring an outsourced team. The ultimate goal of hiring an outsourced team is to outgrow them eventually. If you’re already at that point, hiring your own team from the get-go may better serve you.
The first significant downside of hiring your own team is the upfront cost. Hiring an outsourced team may give you sticker-shock initially, but compared with the payroll and benefits costs of hiring a full-service team in-house, an outsourced team can be a downright bargain.
Additionally, when hiring your own team, you’re working with a new team of disparate professionals. No matter how experienced each new team member is, the fact is, they haven’t worked together before. Imagine a basketball team made up of superstars who have never played together before. They’ll probably crush the competition eventually… but there will be some growing pains. It will be the same with your fledgling team.
Lastly, you’ll have a slower ramp-up when building your own team. Partly because the team needs to get aligned first and partly because you need to wade through the hiring process to build the team in the first place.
Outsourced Team: Benefits & Downsides
The main benefit of hiring an outsourced team is that it’s similar to hiring a full-service growth team part-time. While you may have difficulty finding five to ten highly skilled professionals willing to work a part-time schedule, you can still get that benefit if you work with an outsourced team.
Not only do you get a full-service team, but you get an experienced team that is already aligned and used to working together. They’ll need to learn your organization, processes, and goals, but they won’t need to work to align with one another, allowing them to hit the ground running.
Lastly, when you hire an outsourced team, you’re hiring people who have done this before and done it successfully. Outsourced teams tend to have a repeatable process for creating sustainable growth: That’s why they already have wins under their belt!
The main downside of hiring an outsourced teams a temporary relationship. The good news is, if you’ve outgrown your outsourced team, it means your growth efforts were successful!
The bad news is that once you stop employing your outsourced growth team, their knowledge goes with them. You may experience a lapse in growth while your new, in-house team takes over, gets their feet wet, and figures out their processes.
Clearly, both in-house and outsourced growth teams have their plusses and minuses… but luckily for you, there is a third path you can take: Work with a hybrid growth team.
A hybrid growth team delivers the expertise and experience of an outsourced growth team while still involving your in-house team in parts of the process. This format lets your team learn the ropes while the outsourced part of your growth team kicks your brand into high gear.
Lean Labs offers a hybrid growth solution. When you partner with our team, you’ll get our experience and efforts, but we’ll give you a peek behind the curtain as we work. Your team will have the opportunity to test the waters with their own contributions to your growth campaigns, making for a smoother, easier hand-off when you outgrow us. Schedule a call to find out more about how we work if you’re interested in learning how our hybrid growth solution can work for your organization.
You can also steal some of our tricks—that’s right, we’ll give them away for free, just because we like you. Check out our Growth Marketing Strategy Kit to start growing your brand the Lean Labs way.
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