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Growth Marketing

5 Signs You Need a Growth Marketing Manager

July 15, 2021
Kelsey Donk

Growth marketers with proven track records are more popular than ever before — at MarketerHire and in the marketing industry. We asked three experts when and how to hire one.

Table of Contents

You could say that growth marketing is trending. 

Ever since Facebook's growth team made the platform ubiquitous, “growth” has been a buzzword in business and digital marketing — and it's become a marketing specialty.

Source: MarketerHire

At MarketerHire, growth marketing is always the most in-demand marketing role in our monthly hiring trends report — and we’re not the only ones to observe the trend.

In 2019, a Singular survey of 700 companies revealed that 41% had a growth marketing manager on their marketing team (whether full-time or freelancers), and that number’s expected to rise. 

Why? As ad costs skyrocket and privacy-first iOS updates take hold, companies are working to diversify their marketing strategies.

Growth marketers can look through their current marketing mix and identify growth opportunities, said Matthew Mozzocchi, head of key accounts at MarketerHire. 

“They allow you to cast a wide net and try out multiple channels,” he explained.

Even more attractive to companies looking to make efficient hires — growth marketers aren’t above “rolling up their sleeves,” as Mozzochi put it, and running preliminary tests on promising new channels.

No wonder everyone wants a growth marketer. But how do you know you need one? And how should you approach the hiring process to find the ideal candidate for the role? We asked three experts in the field.

The experts

  • Ed Fu, the co-founder of Happy Masks and former CMO of ZipRecruiter.
  • Derin Oyekan, a growth marketing strategist and the founder of Reel Paper. 
  • Katelyn Glass, founder and managing partner of e-commerce and marketing agency Fifty Six, and former COO of Rowing Blazers.

Why (and when) it’s worth investing in a growth marketing expert

One great reason to hire a growth marketer — you basically can’t go wrong. The role is fluid and changes shape to meet a company’s needs. 

Here’s how we define the growth marketer role at MarketerHire: 

A growth marketer is someone who runs constant, iterative tests throughout the funnel, and uses the results to craft data-driven strategy updates that lift key performance metrics. Think of them as a CMO-lite, or a modernized marketing manager.

TL;DR: this role is really important to efficiently scaling your business. If you don’t hire a growth marketer, you might end up with a few classic business problems: 

  • A quick burst of growth on 1-2 channels followed by stagnation (and a drop in conversion rate throughout the marketing funnel)
  • Tons of ad spend but minimal return on ad spend
  • A half-hearted paid social media strategy that’s cut and paste – not tailored to each channel 

No founder — or investor — wants that.

So when should you hire a growth marketer? There’s no wrong time in a company’s lifecycle to do it.

  • Startups often use growth marketers to go from 0 to 1, develop a go-to-market strategy for new products and set up a pillar channel for connecting with audiences. 
  • Later-stage companies often use growth marketers to optimize performance on stagnant channels in the short-term, explore new channels and strategies, and manage marketing specialists or agencies.

In a few scenarios, though, growth marketers can make an especially major impact. 

Read on for more on when to hire growth marketers — and how to evaluate their skillsets. 

How to know you need an expert growth marketer 

We spoke to three experts to find out when it’s time for a company to start looking for a growth marketer.

Here’s when they say to start working on a job description. 

You are a start-up founder but have no marketing experience. 

Marketing isn’t something we recommend learning on the job, but that’s what a lot of founders end up doing out of necessity. 

That’s the position the founders of DTC brand Bottlecode found themselves in. An early-stage startup with no real marketing team, the company was cash-strapped and trying to maximize returns on early paid social campaigns. 

“It was really tough to be able to understand: Are we doing this right?” Bottlecode founder Drishay Menon told MarketerHire.

Pretty quickly, with minimal marketing skills, they needed to figure out what benchmarks to use to measure success. Did they need to be patient? Test out new channels? Rethink the customer experience? Revamp everything?

To figure it out, they hired a growth marketer — and if you’re struggling to answer these types of questions, a growth marketer can probably help you, too. 

“A growth marketer has to be proficient in a lot of — if not all — of the different digital tactics out there,” Oyekan said.

“A growth marketer has to be proficient in a lot of — if not all — of the different digital tactics out there.”

You’re driving a good bit of traffic, but growth on your pillar channel has stalled. 

If a channel was driving conversions and just … isn’t anymore, there’s no need to hit the panic button. 

Growth marketers can help in two different ways. They can…

  1. Figure out if you’re actually saturated on your pillar channel. Fu said growth marketers can answer questions like: “Is there more to do here? Are we just not exploring the channels thoroughly enough? Is it a spend problem or is it a product problem or is it a conversion problem?” 
  2. Find new channels to get your growth back on track. If you name some platforms you’re interested in and set a budget, growth marketers can stand up new channels and prove out their ROI (or lack thereof).

If you’re thinking about testing new marketing channels, don’t DIY it, Glass advised. “Just like you wouldn’t do home renos by yourself,” she said. “You’ll hire a contractor.” 

You have a new product to launch, but have no idea how to build a go-to-market strategy. 

Before you launch your new-product-rocketship, hit pause. Are you just expecting people to come running to your product or service? 

Oyekan has a cold, hard dash of truth sauce for you: “These things don't just miraculously happen.” 

“Any time you launch a new product, you really need a growth marketer to figure out how to find product-market fit, how to scale it,” Fu said.

“Any time you launch a new product, you really need a growth marketer to figure out how to find product-market fit, how to scale it.”

That’s true even if you’re a major brand. Bic is huge in lighters and pens — but Bic perfume never took off

You’ve found product-market fit, but your team is stretched too thin to explore new channels. 

If your startup has product-market fit, and people are actively seeking you out and telling their friends about you — congrats! That’s a big milestone.

And you probably still need a growth marketer. 

Finding product-market fit can strain even big marketing teams. You need to ramp up ad spend in a major (yet efficient!) way — but there are only so many hours in a day.

The typical thinking, according to Fu: “In-channel, we can [sell this product] profitably — now let's test seven other channels and figure out where else we can acquire customers profitably.” 

A new growth marketer can oversee that transition from early-stage growth to more mature, multi-channel optimization and growth.

You’re spending a lot on ads, but not getting a lot of ROI. 

Investing in paid ads and then not getting ROI can be a real head scratcher. 

Glass worked with a client in this position, and they were confused. “They’re like, ‘Why aren’t we growing? We have all this brand awareness.’” 

Well, the company had been focusing on impressions because the founder wanted people to see their stuff. 

To investors, though, conversion rate counts more than impressions, and Glass told them so. 

“It’s great to understand that over a million people saw your ad,” she said, “but what I really care about is how many people went to the site, how many people clicked, and how many people converted from that ad.” 

Glass slashed the company’s ad budget in half and updated their ad structure and targeting. It “completely flipped around the ROAS,” Glass said.

An expert growth marketer looking at your marketing campaigns with fresh eyes can identify ways you’re chasing vanity metrics — even when the problem’s subtle.

Expert tips on hiring a growth marketing manager

Our panel of experts gave us their top tips on hiring a growth manager. How do you know if your expectations are realistic? And how do you know if a candidate is up to snuff? 

Don’t expect a growth marketer to be a channel specialist. Expect them to manage specialists. 

A growth marketer doesn’t need to be an SEO specialist, an email marketing manager, or a content marketing expert. Those specialists have essential roles, but they’re also somewhat siloed in their specialties. 

“The growth marketer sits on top of all of that,” Oyekan said — ensuring your various specialists work towards the same big-picture goals. 

So a growth marketer doesn’t need to do it all, but they should know how to manage people. 

That’s why for growth roles, Fu often hires founders or people with early-stage startup experience. 

“That’s usually correlated with having ownership over bigger parts of the business,” he explained. 

Those candidates can see how different parts of your marketing team can come together to maximize impact. 

Give them a chance to think holistically about all your channels.. 

As you start talking to potential candidates, “get specific with your needs, and ask questions for existing problems you're trying to solve,” said Glass.

Even if the problems don’t seem connected, list them. An expert growth marketer understands how channels interact, and how tweaking your use of one channel might expand another. 

“They’re looking at the whole picture, and they’re not so focused on one specific tactic or channel,” Oyekan said.

“They’re looking at the whole picture, and they’re not so focused on one specific tactic or channel.”

They might be able to connect the dots and deliver a simple solution. 

If they can hypothesize about potential interchannel links in an interview, that’s a great sign.

Ask about testing.

The best growth marketers tend to have great instincts and killer experience, but they don’t just go with their gut.

The experts we spoke to test, test, and test some more — and they go beyond A/B testing. They often use A/B/C tests to get an even clearer picture of how subtle changes impact their tactics. 

In an interview, Oyekan recommends always asking, pretty simply, “How do you test your growth efforts?” 

Then sit back and listen. “I've interviewed hundreds of candidates,” said Fu. “If you let them talk, you'll quickly see the difference between surface level thinkers and deeper thinkers.” 

“I've interviewed hundreds of candidates. If you let them talk, you'll quickly see the difference between surface level thinkers and deeper thinkers.” 

Prepare for an audit. 

Growth marketers’ love of data isn’t limited to testing. Any growth marketer worth their salt will want to audit all your analytics – and look for opportunities to increase automation. 

And if you run a DTC or e-commerce business, one of the first things they’ll look at is the ratio between your average customer’s lifetime value (LTV) and your customer acquisition cost (CAC). 

(“If that ratio is less than 3-to-1, it’s probably not going to be good in the long term” without intervention from a growth marketer, Oyekan said.) 

At the interview stage, ask candidates which metrics they’d use to evaluate your brand’s growth. You might even give your top two prospects a chance to analyze a slice of your data and make recommendations. 

That way, you’ll get a sense of how they conduct an audit and report back on their findings. 

Make sure you respect their process. When the new hire comes on board, their audit will be key to setting your new growth strategy. 

Be flexible about strategy. 

You’ll be bringing a growth marketer on to help you rethink your growth strategy, so don’t be surprised when candidates suggest changes, big or small. 

If techniques they suggest feel unfamiliar, that’s the point. 

Experimental strategy pivots can lead to big payoffs. Just look at Ocean Spray, the cranberry-centric brand that leaned into TikTok in 2020. 

It all started when Nathan Apodaca — aka @420doggface208 — made a viral TikTok of himself drinking cran-raspberry Ocean Spray on a skateboard to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” 

It went viral — but at the time, Ocean Spray didn’t have a TikTok account. They could have sat back and watched the UGC roll in, but instead, they promptly launched one. 

At the time, embracing TikTok wasn’t a typical enterprise tactic – but it spurred major growth. The company’s CEO told Yahoo! Finance that cran-raspberry Ocean Spray was flying off retail shelves.

Not every growth marketing tactic will make this kind of splash, but they’ll often push you out of your comfort zone. Remember: It’s all experimental.

If something isn’t working, “you can change tactics based on what you’re seeing in the data,” Oyekan said. 

How to make your growth hire stick

Short answer: There are no guarantees. Growth marketers are hot commodities — and even if you have a growth marketer on your team, in today's employment market, they might quit.

To make sure you’re never without a growth marketing pro, hire through MarketerHire 

We can match you with a new or replacement growth marketer in as little as 48 hours, and we pre-vet the growth marketers on our platform, so you don’t have to. Try us today.


Kelsey Donk
about the author

Kelsey Donk is a writer at MarketerHire. Before joining MarketerHire full-time, Kelsey was a freelance writer and loved working with small businesses to level up their content. When she isn't writing, Kelsey can be found gardening or walking her dogs all around Minneapolis.

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