Growth hacking a business and optimizing it for conversions is a massive, complex job. Magical unicorn solutions, like the famous examples you often hear about (e.g. Dropbox, Airbnb), are rare exceptions. Most of what growth hackers do is not wizardry, but rather continuous ideation, testing, measuring, failing, learning, experimenting, iterating and optimizing.
In other words, a lot of hard work. And it can require a huge variety of skills.
Here’s a brief list of some of the areas of expertise growth hackers employ in their work (in no particular order):
|– A/B Testing
– UX & Design
– Data Analytics
– Creative Marketing
– Brand Positioning
– Product Management
– Behavioral Psychology
|– Funnel Marketing
– Online Advertising
– Social Marketing
– Business Development
– Platforms & APIs
And that’s just a partial list. It doesn’t even include all the specific skills and experience needed for the specialized tools they use. For most humans, being an expert in all of these areas is unrealistic. That’s why the “lone growth hacker”—no matter how well he or she hustles—will never, can never, be as effective as a well-rounded growth team.
But good teams are hard to put together. Finding people with the right experience is tough. Finding people with the right mindset can be even tougher.
We’ve all had our share of pain and frustration trying to manage difficult people and suboptimal teams. It’s not usually fun.
So what can you do to make sure your team is put together right? How can you ensure they are operating at peak efficiency and cover all the necessary areas of expertise? Do you know that bad teams are actually huge bottlenecks on your conversion rate?
The skillset of a typical growth hacker is usually in a T-shape. They have basic to moderate knowledge about a broad variety of related topics, while they specialize in just a few key areas.
The same is true of a growth team.
Just as individual skillsets gradually improve, over time your team’s T-shape should evolve into more of a U-shape (or maybe a fat T?) as it gains more experience, and as each member’s depth of knowledge increases in more areas.
Given enough time and experience, an individual growth hacker might transform into some kind of growth hacking Chuck Norris. (Chuck’s T-shape looks more like an underscore than a T).
But why wait for that?
With a team of growth hackers — each with their own unique T-shape and specializing in a different area — you get instant depth and breadth!
Having a solid team whose knowledge and skills cover all necessary areas, and that also knows how to leverage each member’s T-shape and personality type will give you the best chances of achieving your growth goals.
The discipline (or art, or field) of growth hacking has three primary areas of expertise that are essential, under which all the other skills fall.
1) Creative Marketing,
2) Software Programming & Automation, and
3) Data Analysis and Testing.
Growth hacking lies at the intersection of these three — and all are important for CRO.
Having these three bases covered ensures your growth team can do just about anything, whether it is basic online advertising, building landing pages, running A/B tests, or more complicated things like creating custom tools.
This combination of skillsets give growth teams a tremendous amount of freedom to explore and test various ideas and traction channels to improve conversion rates.
It allows them to do whatever it takes to achieve growth.
As mentioned above, there are a three standard functions that all of the most effective growth teams must have within their ranks.
Ideally, your marketers should have experience in both marketing and product development.
If their primary task is to achieve product market fit (the point where customers love your product enough to sell it for you), then it no longer makes sense to keep these functions separate.
PMF is only possible when the people working hard to understand the needs and desires of a market are also intimately involved the product’s continued development.Having PMF is essential to growth. If you don’t have a stellar product that your target audience is screaming for, then all your growth and conversion rate initiatives will be in vain.
All the traffic in the world, combined with the best CRO, won’t drive growth if you are offering a product for which there is no demand.
And so the creative marketer is responsible for far more than what a traditional marketing job description would specify. They use their marketing campaigns not only to sell, but also to collect data in order to constantly improve their products and product offerings. Most importantly, they know how to listen to their markets and then tailor their offerings to match exactly what their customers want.
Having competent data analysts to support your marketers and crunch the numbers is absolutely essential to achieving maximum growth. While every growth hacker should be fluent in the skills necessary to track and measure, the data analyst brings the deep knowledge to the table.
This is particularly important if your business is sizable and your data is overly complex. Having a dedicated data analyst will help to ensure accuracy and get the most out of your data.
While your creative marketers are experts at creating campaigns that both sell and collect data, the analysts are there to help them interpret that data and convert it into actionable insight. The information they produce will help marketers craft strategies for A/B testing, market research and the CRO process.
This synergy between marketers and data analysts will allow you to really understand what drives customer engagement as you continually test and optimize. Sometimes the customer insights they produce together will even result in brand new products your audiences have been waiting for without even knowing.
Quite often, optimizing online channels for conversions requires additional technical expertise. When a change requires something more complicated than building a landing page, you need people on your team that have access to all the code and can make ideas happen quickly.
Ideally, you will have programmers specifically dedicated to your growth team, ready to implement new, data driven ideas as they come.
Ignore this advice at your own peril! The lack of dedicated engineering support can be a huge bottleneck in growth teams. Growth hackers have lots of ideas, and the data is constantly suggesting new courses of action. If it’s difficult to implement ideas quickly because technical expertise is unavailable, the backlog will grow… and grow stale.
When your idea backlog becomes more of an “idea graveyard,” your growth team will become discouraged and eventually cease to think as creatively as they might otherwise. That means a lot of lost opportunity.
Dedicated programmers help keep the team’s creativity flowing and allows for the latest data-driven ideas to be tested rapidly. They also look at things from a different angle, and can provide valuable input.
Now that you have a team with a nice fat T-shape in place, you have to get them working together in a way that maximizes their individual talents and creates synergies within the team. In other words, you’re going to growth hack your growth hackers.
You can’t just put a bunch of awesome people in a room together and expect awesome results. It’s going to take some engineering. It’s important team members know each other person’s T-shape, working style and role in the team. And it’s very helpful if they invest time learning the basics of each other person’s function and skills.
Also, lots of these guys (and gals) are going to have overlapping skills and talents, and thus it is important that domains of responsibility are crystal clear. Systems and processes for every function and for every task should be well documented and easy to find. They should be thorough enough so that, even in the absence of a leader, nobody will ever be in doubt as to what to do next.
There must be clear processes for communication between team members, especially when someone needs something from someone else, and especially when it’s time sensitive.
Have regular team meetings to ensure that everyone is up to date with current projects, processes and tasks. Facilitate discussions where each member can bring up the obstacles and barriers they are facing. Make use of knowledge spillover effect.
Use these ideas to create a roadmap and then begin systematically testing them over time to see what works.
Having well-established procedures is important… Making sure everyone knows them and how they work is equally important.
In addition to this, understanding the personality and working style of each team member will help everyone maintain respect and understanding, avoiding potential conflicts during stressful times.
If you can pull together a group with these skills and talents, and if you can get them to work together in an efficient and effective manner, your growth potential will be limitless.
Regarding the latter, here are two really practical things you can already start doing to maximize your team’s output and get them excited for the coming three months.
a. Work the System by Sam Carpenter – This is a revelatory book that will get your whole team thinking about how to build stellar growth hacking processes and improve pretty much every internal system in your company.
b. The free ebooks from Copyhackers – This amazing material will help get everyone on your team thinking about conversions by learning how to write the best direct response copy.
c.Front-end development – It’s important that everyone has at least basic front-end skills. Get everyone on your team to create a teamtreehouse.com account and reimburse them when they meet monthly learning goals.
Chances are, your team is doing tons of amazing stuff already. But it’s likely that not everyone is aware of each other’s achievements.
At RockBoost, we constantly send internal emails highlighting the awesome achievements we’ve realized. Does that sound weird? Maybe it is. But it gives us the fuel we need to keep hustling and motivates us to see how successful every area of the business is.
And it’s infectious too. It spills over into client meetings where they sense our team’s enthusiasm, see more of the cool things we’re doing, and ultimately, become more likely to convert!
Chris is the co-founder and lead growth hacker at RockBoost. He combines practical consulting experience with the select theoretical treasures of 500+ books to effectively scale businesses fast.