What skills are needed for top 1% growth roles? 🧠

March 6, 2023
Product & Growth

Every company needs to think about Growth roles. But have you ever thought about what are the qualities or skills needed for a Growth team in an organisation?

Let me give a glimpse of the skills required for a growth team and how they can operate effectively to achieve what they have been hired to do - i.e. achieve user growth. While there are a lot of skills that a growth hacker/marketer needs to have, I will discuss the key skills required. 

Courtesy: Dilbert comics

I believe that 5 key skills are required for a successful growth team. I say team because growth roles have such a vast scope that it is challenging to have all the skills required in just 1 person.

⚙️ Execution

This is the most critical factor for any Growth person. You might have 100 great ideas, but bringing the idea to reality and executing it well is the key to success. Good execution involves 2 things - knowledge and fluency of the craft & being organized and connecting the dots. An example: you are asked to get the first few users of a new product for marketers. You need to understand all the available channels - paid, organic, social etc and decide which are the good channels to create the effective loops for the product. Have a clear plan with the timelines.

How to improve execution 

  • Keep learning and be up to date with the latest trends in growth.
  • Document your learnings in each project with a clear retrospective on the wins and losses in execution.
  • Seek feedback from peers. 

🧠 Critical Thinking

Growth Marketers must have the right thinking chops to advance in their roles. There is a lot of uncertainty in growth hacking, and since it is a cross-functional role, data and ideas flow in from multiple people. Your job is to absorb everything and distil it into a clear plan for the way forward. Things will go wrong, and you need to be able to recover quickly. Better still, anticipate the failure points of the growth plan and prepare different contingency plans.

How to improve critical thinking: 

  • Learn the basics of mental models. Farnam street is an excellent blog to learn about these.
  • Break down your problem statement into smaller ones and try to solve them individually. Then combine the solutions.
  • Follow great growth leaders and understand how they think and respond to situations. 

🧐  Customer Understanding

At the end of the day, you have to engage with real users. Improper user understanding can cause a lot of harm. Learn how to study the different customer personas relevant to your product and think of the right positioning that will attract them to your product. User research and data analysis are key to a good customer understanding. 

How to improve customer understanding

  • Learn the basics of user psychology and user research
  • Talk to users regularly. Qualitative research augmented with data is a killer combination.
Courtesy: Marketoonist (Tom Fishburne)

😇 Experimentation

Growth roles are one of the most scientific roles out there. The best growth hacks worked because they were unique and out of the box. A little know fact is that 90 percent of the growth hacks fail, but the ones that work have outsized returns. Look at every growth campaign through an experimental lens. Find what works and double down on the same. You need an experimental mindset to be a good growth person.  

How to improve at experimentation:

  • Be hypothesis-driven. For every experiment, clearly define what you are trying to test and the success criteria. 
  • Learn the basics of effective experiment design and A/B testing.

🗣️ Communication

An underrated skill but extremely important. When you consider that a majority of experiments in growth can fail, it is important to communicate clearly the learnings to the stakeholders. Always back your findings with data. Verify your assumptions with the stakeholders before making the growth campaigns so everyone is on the same page. 

How to improve at communication:

  • Learn the basics of clear writing. Julian’s handbook on Writing well is a good start.  
  • Set a communication cadence and keep it brief with self-imposed word limit.

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