Product manager, project manager, product growth manager—getting confused between the ample management roles is easy.
The roles and responsibilities undertaken by each title vary, as well as their primary focus in your organization. Previously coined Growth Hackers, product growth managers play a huge role in your business growth and success.
That’s why we’re here, let’s jump in.
What does a Product Growth Manager do? #
In smaller teams—startups and small businesses—a growth product manager will likely oversee the entire product growth process from start to finish. That spans from lead generation to customer retention. It’s no small task.
In bigger organizations—which have the resources to hone in on the specifics—the growth product manager improves a specific business metric or commercial goal. They do this with a variety of short-term growth experiments to improve and increase efficiencies across the organization.
Where does a growth PM fit into your team? #
The growth product manager role sits somewhere between your product team and your marketing team. The differences lie in the questions that these teams ask and answer.
Let’s consider an example to get to grips with this.
Let’s say we’re looking at a SaaS product that helps users manage their workflow. The product is a comprehensive suite of tools that enables users to visualize a project from start to finish. It operates a freemium model—users get a free plan with limited functionality in the hopes they’ll upgrade to a paid plan at some point.
The different teams in an organization focus on different aspects of the product roadmap and user journey.
A product manager focuses on improving the product and solving customer problems—both for existing and new customers. They engage with customer feedback to understand customer needs and inform the product team on what needs to be done—whether this is introducing new functionality or improving an existing one.
They’re looking to ensure a high-quality experience throughout the user lifecycle—paying or not—by asking questions like:
How can we improve the signup flow and onboarding experience?
How can we improve the in-product user experience?
Where can we provide more value to loyal customers?
A product marketing manager focuses on how they can best communicate the product’s core features. They also consider where is best to reach the target audience, and how to engage users at different stages of the marketing funnel. This could be with improved ad copy or via new channels in-product.
They’re primarily looking to answer product marketing questions like:
What platforms are best for product engagement?
How can we seamlessly guide users through the entire funnel?
How can we refine our product messaging to resonate with our ICPs?
Which ads are most effective for increasing average monthly interest in the product?
A product growth manager focuses on how to leverage the information from the PM and PMM to drive business growth. They’re focused on taking information from a variety of sources to develop a business growth plan.
They’re looking to hone in on a North Star metric and create growth opportunities by asking questions like:
How do we convert free users into paying customers?
How can we incentivize users to invite friends to sign-up for our product?
How can we use product experience to create more effective customer acquisition strategies?
How can we lean on the RARRA framework for more sustainable growth?
Previously, the role of product growth manager would be spread out amongst the product and marketing teams—including product leadership and product operations. Now, it’s a unique role standing on its own.
Having a growth product manager ensures growth doesn’t take a back seat—as we know it can when things get busy. Your product growth manager is always looking out for your business.
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Why you need a Product Growth Manager #
Now we’ve explained the role, let’s take a look at why you need a product growth manager at your organization. Let’s break the main reasons down.
Reason #1: To define an organization’s growth #
A product growth manager is responsible for identifying key growth areas in your business and developing a growth strategy. They do this through the lens of your business model—finding any promising areas that support the Product-Led Growth strategy and overall business.
Firstly, growth product managers analyze how the business is currently performing—they look at the relevant growth metrics and determine wins and losses. They undergo short-term growth experiments to evaluate viable options and ultimately make decisions that create the biggest impact on growth in the long term.
Whether they’re a general product growth manager or a product growth manager brought in to handle a specific business metric—the approach remains the same. Investigate, analyze, and test.
Reason #2: To expand into new markets #
Unsurprisingly, product growth managers are often brought in to support when entering new markets. They identify unique challenges and frequently focus on a single task—like customer acquisition.
Product growth managers know their way around growth, and they’re the best-suited individuals to help break into a key market.
Reason #3: To track and improve metrics #
A product growth manager is required to perform a deep dive into a specific metric or area of business. They use these metrics to identify the path to growth and track the progress by circling back to the same metric.
Now, you may be thinking that these three reasons for hiring a product growth manager could just be assigned to a product manager. They could be—but that’d be a mistake.
A product growth manager’s core consideration is the business, a product manager’s core consideration is the customer. The decisions they make based on the metrics in front of them differ because of this, so you want to ensure you’ve got someone looking out for your business.
What makes a successful Product Growth Manager? #
A successful product growth manager is:
A great communicator
An inquisitive thinker
A resourceful manager
A flexible learner
They ask innovative questions to find innovative solutions, and they can adapt to the twists and turns of business growth.
The route to product growth manager isn’t as clear-cut as some other professions. You want to work on the finance team? You’ll need an accounting degree. Want to run the social media accounts? You’ll need a background in marketing.
It’s not as simple as this when it comes to product growth management.
The role of product growth manager is relatively new—and it’s not something you can study or train for with a clear-cut career path. There are a couple of online courses available, but you’re mainly looking at one key qualification: experience.
The exact experience you need will become clearer as we define the roles and responsibilities of a product growth manager. We’ll also discuss the skills needed for day-to-day product growth management.
A Product Growth Manager’s roles and responsibilities #
A product growth manager’s main responsibilities are to:
Define growth goals and metrics
Analyze current company performance
Manage a product growth team
Report on product growth success
Of course, these responsibilities vary depending on the business model, product type, and industry. Here, we’ll focus on SaaS products and how to manage their growth.
Define growth goals and metrics
The first issue product growth managers focus on when joining a company are goals. More specifically, they outline the goals that they’ll spend the next few months or years working to achieve.
They’ll often do this by considering pirate metrics (AARRR or their revised version RARRA) and where they can best impact organizational growth. It’s essential to first establish a baseline to accurately measure progress. It’s also important to create a strategy and identify tasks that will help achieve the goals.
Analyze current performance
Another responsibility of product growth managers is to gather the necessary data to analyze current performance. Once the goals are defined, the path to growth becomes clearer.
For example, if looking to increase customer retention, this could include customer interviews and surveys. If it involves customer acquisition, they’ll be looking to deep-dive into the sales and marketing funnels.
Manage a product growth team
Product growth managers often manage a growth team to execute the strategies they develop. Product growth management involves lots of trial and error—this can move pretty slowly with only one pair of hands on deck.
Effectively managing a growth team is no small task—you want to look out for someone who has experience as a team leader. This ensures they can hit the ground running in your organization.
Report on product growth success
The product growth manager is responsible for tracking the key metrics and creating growth reports, sharing them with a wider team. These should include details on the established metrics and any further details that could interest stakeholders.
These reports will typically cover insights on specific business growth metrics, such as the cost of customer acquisition and lead conversion rates. These metrics need to be linked back to the product growth manager’s efforts with comprehensive attribution information.
Skills needed for effective product growth management #
Now, this is where product growth managers need to excel in order to successfully hit their goals. As we said, there are no qualifications needed for this position—it’s about experience and skills.
What to look for in a growth product manager? Let’s take a closer look at the skills and other important attributes.
Communication and diplomacy
These skills are listed in no particular order—but if they were, communication would still take the top spot. Product growth managers and their growth teams deal with a variety of teams across the organization, and coordinating efforts requires strong communication skills.
Communicating styles vary across teams and organizations, and it’s essential to find a product manager that can adapt to all of them. Effective collaboration with engineers, designers, marketers, and more requires great communication skills.
Product growth managers need to work in cross-functional teams in order to manage effective growth experiments.
The next skill that product growth managers must have is an analytics skillset and scientific outlook. A product growth manager needs a strong grasp of data analytics, and a talent for data visualization. You need someone who’s able to identify, track, and communicate key metrics to find answers to your growth questions.
This is another big one—you need someone who’ll use tools and resources in the most efficient way possible to understand and drive growth.
You’re looking for someone who’s going to look deeper than the numbers, someone who’s ready to question anything and everything to find potential what-ifs. If that means hundreds of short-term growth experiments to validate an idea—then so be it.
Growth managers are often brought in during key stages of business growth—that can mean very little resources to work with. A product growth manager needs to find ways to drive growth with the resources they have—regardless of whether that’s lots or little.
Product growth managers oversee a variety of projects at a time, so project management skills are a must.
Keeping track of all the moving parts requires organization and time-management skills alongside the ability to efficiently oversee a number of projects at a time.
You want to ensure your product growth manager is in-tune with the rest of your organization—they’ll likely be dealing with every team at one point or another.
Flexibility and agility
Finally, you want a product growth manager to be flexible and agile in the way they work and develop ideas. Think Spotify Squads—and their end-to-end responsibility for any product build. Although the streaming giant no longer uses this approach, it’s a great example of flexible and agile product growth management.
The first steps of any product growth management task typically involve a large amount of ambiguity—this can throw some people off. Growth PMs need to be able to roll with the wins and the losses, and adequately adapt to new and better ways of getting results. No growth product management task is the same—this is where skillset trumps experience.
Closing out on Product Growth Managers #
If you started this article as a product growth management skeptic, there’s no reason for you to end it that way. The benefits of adding a product growth manager to your team are clear—you always need someone who’s going to put your business first.
Finding that person means that you’re looking out for a particular mindset—analytical and scrappy. You want to ensure your product growth manager is also a good communicator and excellent listener, as they’ll be collaborating across teams in your organization.
Product-led companies have been managing the roles and responsibilities of a product growth manager for years—only now there’s an official job description. Don’t miss out on product growth opportunities because you think a product manager is enough—these are completely different ball games.
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