When You Should Build A Growth Team – Part 1

Do you know what you’re doing with your growth marketing?

Do you know the “How” and “When” of implementing growth marketing strategies and tactics?

If your work revolves around increasing leads and sales, the question is not “If” you should use high-growth marketing, but a little bit about the “How” and ALL about the “When.”

For many growth managers — whether you’re a CMO, VP of Marketing, director of growth, or marketer of any kind — the biggest challenge of achieving growth via marketing is understanding where you are right this moment…and acting accordingly.

So much of that involves having the right teams in place at the right time. Not just a marketing team, sales team, and product development team — but also a growth team to help them all work together more effectively and increase the rate of customer acquisition, monetization, and retention.

You might have an idea of when to pull together marketing, sales and product teams — but how do you know when it’s time to create a growth team to focus on growth hacking methods?

You have the resources (knowledge, how-to, team members, talent, experience, campaigns, etc.) —

But your burning question is: “When do we build a growth team?”

This is the most common struggle I see with clients at our growth marketing agency Stimulead — knowing when to pull the trigger.

In this article, Part 1 of our two-part guide to building a growth team, you’re going to learn exactly when you should build a growth team — no matter if you’re in startup phase or you’re already a large company.  

What’s Your Business State?

From 1962 to around 2006, “Business Lifecycle Stages” and “Stages of Growth” models were the most frequently used mental model for understanding your business state.

However, there’s a lack of consensus or empirical confirmations of these theories.

Many business owners dipping their toes into growth hacking make the mistake of thinking, “Those models look and sound true, so they must be true…right?”

Whether they are 100% accurate is beside the point. They’re mental models, and so only exist to make reality legible and understandable enough to guide decision-making.

Research actually shows that these classic business growth models fail to stand up — especially today — and a more “dynamic” approach for explanatory models will serve you better as you’re planning for growth.

I personally agree with a dynamic state framework and model, and use this in guiding our growth marketing clients.

This basic idea that your business finds itself in a general stage or phase of growth is tremendously valuable for plotting your next marketing move.

Where your business is, and where it intends to go, dictates not only your most viable growth marketing strategies, but your timing as well.

For example, it makes no sense for small startup (without, say, funding) to engage in corporate marketing (which is most often only about brand marketing).

As a startup, above all, you need traction and you need to find your product/market fit. Your growth hacking strategy should focus 100% on these things.

You don’t need to spend money running ads on TV.

Yes, Airbnb is now doing TV ads — but they’re way past the Startup, Traction, and Growth phases. They’re an established company.

You most likely don’t need t-shirts and pens with your logo on it.

And yet, plenty of founders or newly hired marketing managers do just that under the guise of “building brand awareness” and “establishing company culture.”

Stop. Just stop.

Before you go any further, do you even know what and where you are?

The Only Mental Model You Need to Map Where You Are and What to Do Next in Your Business

quick search will yield a virtual cornucopia of graphs, tables, and models for a “business lifecycle.”

There have been lots of chefs in the kitchen over the last century, and today we’ve got a messy soup because of it.

It’s easy to get confused.

So I’m going to make it simple for you.

I’ve distilled over 50+ business cycle graphs into 1 simple and universally applicable model.

This model works for B2B and B2C businesses, and takes into account your product type (product and/or service).

Especially if you’re in SaaS, B2B software or the tech industry in general, stop what you’re doing and look at this.

Here’s a key to understanding all this:

The “stages” and “phases” of a business are dynamic and fluid.

MBAs and classic business theories will protest, but after years of experience with marketing, you will not persuade me that a business grows in a clean and straight manner, from Seed/Startup to Build to Established to Mature.

Your business, and mainly your products, will be shifting in and out of these “states” throughout the life of your business.

You might be thinking, “But once we’ve achieved product/market fit, we move forward, right? We don’t need to establish product/market fit again.”

Actually, there’s a very high likelihood that you’ll cycle back again.

Here’s how this looks in reality:

Say you have an established product, but now you’re launching a new one.

You enter a state of Traction and the search for Product/Market Fit for the new product – and use the correlating marketing strategies accordingly to move that product forward through the lifecycle.

Each “state” represents your attempts to most effectively match internal capacity and process with external customer or market demand.

Think of Google, here. Every time they launch a new product, there is a period of time where they’re seeking product/market fit and trying to gain traction.

Sometimes the fit happens quickly, and they get a winning product like Gmail. Sometimes the fit happens, but then doesn’t stick, and the product needs reevaluation or reconfiguring — like what happened with Google Chat. Sometimes the fit never happens, and the product is abandoned or left unsupported — like Google+ (the social network, at least).

Even though Google is a very established company, they shift in and out of the states of business with each new product.

The important takeaway is this:

Your business, organization, and team need to be agile and be able to manage dynamic state changes.

So, what then is the 80/20, the simple list, of what you should be doing in each state? And how do you use this to figure out when to build a growth team?

Glad you asked…

What Growth Activities You Should Be Doing in Each State of Your Business

I’m going to answer this via the two questions that I run into most frequently:

“What marketing should I do in each state?”

“When should I build and use a growth team?”

Here is the (very simplified) plan of action that will answer both those questions:

When you’re in the Seed / Startup phase, you need Traction Marketing (a growth team consisting of 1-3 people + growth marketing strategies and tactics).

If you’re a startup that’s not yet reached sustainable product/market fit, you need to execute on growth marketing strategies and find traction. If you find and use a “growth hacker,” otherwise known as a growth marketer, this single person is often your entire team, along with any creative or data support contractors.

When you’ve found product/market fit and you’ve gained traction, you’re in the Growth / Build phase, and you need a full Growth Team + Marketing, while including more traditional marketing as you go. Focus on building a team and establishing processes. Often the growth marketer is the team lead, here, and you hire other team members for specific responsibilities and positions. Documentation of processes, setting up systems, etc. are imperative here.

This Growth / Build phase activity will bleed into the Build / Established phase, in which you need Brand Response Marketing. This is where you combine traditional marketing with a dedicated growth team for continuous experimentation and testing.

When you move into Expansion, you need another cycle of Growth Team + Marketing specific to the particular expansion.

When you reach the Maintain / Maturity phase, it’s time to double down on Brand Corporate Marketing.

Your next phase beyond that depends on where the company is going — you’ll either decline, divest, diversify, or exit.

In regard to preparing your team for growth at each step, you can read more about whether you should use a dedicated team-within-your-team, or roll out team-wide changes of rededicating your focus to growth process here.

Growth Marketing: The Next Step for Your Business

That’s the simplified version. In Part 2, we’ll get into the details of what exactly you should do when you’re in the Traction, Growth, Build, or Expansion states.

Before you move on, however, I want to leave you with a few critical observations:

  • The focal point and key to product/market fit, traction, and marketing throughout different states is always your buyer. Your buyer is the thread and anchor in a sea of change. Everything you do should revolve around aligning with your buyer.
  • As much as you’re managing internal state changes, once you realize that you’re also managing and influencing state changes with your buyer, new possibilities for creativity, ideas, and execution open up.
  • Your ability to beat the competition is relative to how well you stay agile and adjust to change.

We dig a little deeper into actual growth marketing strategies and growth team configurations in Part 2.