It’s rare to see a single “growth” role outside of early stage startups. Most businesses divide the various functions that contribute to growth into their traditional departments—marketing, sales, support, and increasingly customer success. Data analytics and finance play a part, too. And growth only happens when they all work together.
If you are in a growth role, however, you’ll wear all of these hats in the process of understanding and optimizing your funnel.
This may be the toughest hat you’ll wear in the early days (and if you’re in an established organization, take a moment to tip it to the people gone before). From an initial position with no credibility or visibility, you’re attempting to unlock at least one repeatable channel.
When you’re wearing your marketing hat, expect to spend a lot of time with prospective customers in and near your target market. If you can find the people who get it and ask questions until you understand why, you’ll have an inside track on reaching other people like them. This is especially true if you’re attempting to create a new market category: if you can’t identify the people who will be buying once the category exists, you’re going to have a tough time selling to anyone in the meantime.
Discovery and education are much more straightforward when the category already exists. Buying patterns are already “known” and entrenched competitors provide easy points of reference for would-be buyers. But with much bigger teams and larger budgets lined up against you, success or failure rests on your ability to make noise and differentiate—on functionality if you can, and on price if you must.
Depending on your business you may not be hitting the phones directly. Still, even in a fully product-led motion your sales hat will help structure the narrative through the acquisition and revenue stages in a familiar, proven way. Salespeople know, for instance, that:
- A qualified lead is worth a million passersby
- Customers rarely know what they want
- Sales reps probably don’t either, but they can ask good questions and listen
- Deep knowledge of the competitive landscape (hint: talk to your marketer) makes it much easier to position an offering appropriately
- A single thoughtful email can be the most valuable thing they write all day
- A defined buying process is the only way to keep initiative and build leverage during the deal cycle
These are all good things to keep in mind as you’re pressure-testing your funnel.
Putting on your customer success hat connects you directly to the deepest well of insight available to you: your customers themselves. Just as in product development this is both a blessing and a curse. There’s no better way to find out what your customers are thinking than to hear it from them directly. On the other hand, a less-than-calculated approach to feedback will lead to whoever’s talking loudest—whether it’s right for your business or not. The ability to listen, consider, and say no in a nice way is one of the most important skills in customer success, and especially in the early stages when their numbers are few and incredibly hard-won.
Winning at customer success means retaining and growing your base with the least direct interaction necessary. Self-serve resources, in-depth analytics, and increasingly-automated nudges will all come into play over time; early on simply minimizing the time spent on customer support may be good enough.
In the early days analytics are less a discrete function than an encompassing input into nearly every decision you’ll make. You don’t need a data warehouse or ETL pipeline to drive it, either: with relatively low volumes of data flowing, spreadsheets and no-code tools will be easier to stand up, faster to evolve, and just as capable as a fully-managed analytics solution.
Like data, finance is less a standalone hat you’ll wear than an omnipresent lens for making good growth decisions. Dollars and cents are the prime mover behind the growth funnel and consequently an important factor into any experiments you’ll run. Making cost a transparent factor early on will make it easier to make smart decisions later, as well as helping conserve a resource that’s only marginally less critical than time.
And don’t stop here! The Guide to Growth digs into the steps you can take to set each function up for success, as well as anti-patterns and warning signs to watch out for. It’s important stuff, totally free, and I hope you’ll check it out.