July 5, 2019

6 things you need to set up a high-impact growth team

At Deputy, our growth team consists of 4 squads, each responsible for specific business metrics: Search Engine Optimisation (responsible for organic prospects), Website (leads and signups), Conversion Rate Optimisation (signups), and Goldmine (signup-to-trial and trial-to-paid conversions).

I joined Deputy as Director of Growth about a year ago, and have spent much of that time with the Goldmine squad, doubling its headcount and lifting the impact each squad member has been able to make on trial volume and conversion rates. 

Optimizing signup-to-trial-to-paid conversion rates required a hand-picked team, a company culture that favoured healthy collaboration between its cross-functional disciplines, and a shared understanding about the importance of balancing quick, “hacky” experimentation with methodical, refined changes. 

My team and I have learned a lot about what it takes to form and operate a high-impact growth team—Goldmine is now one of the most impactful revenue generating squads at Deputy—and I want to share some of our learnings.

A graph that shows increasing app trials over time—from July 2017 to January 2019

If you’re looking to form, expand, or refine a growth team at your company, here are 6 things you’ll need: 

1. A north star value 

Define a value—whether it’s a mantra, metric, or business goal—that your team can rally behind and navigate toward together.

In the Goldmine pod, our value has been: speed of experimentation with quality implementation.

In other words, balance the desire to move fast and cut corners with a determination to provide our trial users with a polished, bug-free experience. We use this value to check ourselves. If we’re spending a lot of time on ideation, design, and beautiful code, we balance that with quick, scalable experiments focused on fast validation.

Your north star value may change over time—iteration is the key to perfection, after all—but that shouldn’t stop you from following the one you have now. It’s important to give your team a shared vision, so you can move quickly and confidently together. 

2. Experimental UX design

A great growth designer should be able to not only paint a blue-sky picture of a radically bold conceptual change but also to break that vision down and identify a minimum viable version that can be used to learn, fail, and iterate.

Sometimes this means letting the developers come up with the UI/UX solution and then making quick adjustments during the development cycle. Other times, an experiment requires design up front, in various forms of fidelity. 

Validation occurs through different methods, depending on the experiment, and may include leveraging qualitative and quantitative research, guerilla testing, and data analytics to better understand user intent and opportunities. 

Most importantly, growth designers need to be comfortable with breaking their ideas into actionable phases, rather than shipping a single, big change. 

3. Outcome-driven development

The roadmap for growth developers is vague, and the right people should embrace this uncertainty and enjoy leveraging learning from previous experiments. And context switching, while not ideal, is a common occurrence when you’re working on several experiments at once. Growth developers should be reasonably comfortable switching between initiatives. 

And since specifications for experiments are often minimal, developers on your growth team need to be excellent communicators throughout the development lifecycle.

Finally, development should be driven by outcomes, not outputs. Growth experiments don’t leave much room for emotional attachment to code—an experiment may only be exposed to 10% of users before being removed forever so having an experienced technical lead ensures that developers ship the minimum viable code required to learn and iterate. 

4. A culture of quality 

A high-cadence growth team always has need of manual testing and analysis. Having a test analyst who is a pro at juggling multiple unrelated branches of work is a must. 

But when your team is working at full speed, QA can quickly become a bottleneck. That’s why ‘quality’ should be a shared responsibility across your entire team. Rather than being the sole owner of the testing process, a growth analyst should evangelize a culture of quality within your team and the wider company. This way, you can be confident that a moving quickly won’t end up costing your user experience. 

5. A growth PM

A growth team should be underpinned by a product manager who comes to work every day, eager to reduce customer friction, surface value, and move quickly. 

While traditional product managers are guided by a relatively fixed product roadmap, growth PMs need to be both proactive and reactive. Growth product managers typically push for fast, incremental, iterative experimentation over big bets and high-investment changes and are not afraid to embrace some element of risk. They also need to be excellent at managing stakeholder interests and communicating with different departments about the experiment pipeline. 

A good growth PM should lend their data-driven approach to your team and help keep everybody hyper-focused on metrics, prioritization, and rapid iteration. On the Goldmine squad, our growth PM is ultimately accountable for the quality, cadence, and impact of the work we do. 

6. Speed and quality 

Newly formed growth pods often land some big initial wins. But as time goes on, your team may start to see more experiments fail to achieve the intended outcomes. To combat this, it’s essential that your team continues conducting a high volume of experiments.

The more well-crafted and targeted experiments you run, the more likely you are to find successes amongst the failures and continue to get wins on the board.

To this end, your growth PM should work to ensure that when it comes to deciding on minimum viable experiments, your team has both a healthy amount of creative tension and a strong collaborative process in place.

Next steps

Aligning ourselves around the idea of ‘speed of experimentation with quality implementation’ was a key moment in the evolution of the Goldmine team. It helped us assemble the right people (with the right mindset) and gave our squad the ability to execute on that ideal effectively. 

As a relatively new team, we still have a lot of improvements to make to the way we work and the results we produce. But in the last 12 months, we’ve managed to more than double the volume of mobile app trials, reduce dropoff across our desktop signup flow by over 15%, and have exceeded company targets for trial-to-paid conversion rates. We’re pretty proud of those achievements.

Of course, your own growth team will probably look a lot different than ours. It may not even be large enough to warrant segmenting into growth squads at all.

The most important thing to take away is that, at the end of the day, successful growth experimentation comes down to having the right people on your team—people who aren’t afraid of some risk and to take small, quick steps—as well as giving them a north star to navigate towards.

Currently at Deputy, Jordan Lewis has helped form and scale high-impact growth teams across Australia. Previously, he was the Growth Hacking Team Lead at Xero, and Senior Product Manager at Vend. A husband and father of 2, he spends his spare time with family and looking for new additions to his record collection.

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