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Pete Winter

Written by:

Pete Winter

Jul 21, 2021

9 Essential Skills for SaaS Growth Marketers


As product marketing grows and business needs evolve, companies are pursuing a new multiskilled breed: the growth marketer.

Marketers and the marketing skill set are always evolving as the business landscape changes, new technologies emerge, and customer expectations shift.

In the early days of modern marketing, highly artistic hand illustrators collaborated with wordsmiths to create beautiful magazine ads and memorable billboards.

The golden age of TV commercials saw massive budgets spent on highly polished campaigns, using scriptwriting and cinematic production to capture a mass audience.

With the arrival of the internet and social media, a whole new wave of digital skills came to the fore, including SEO, email marketing, and community management.

Today, the high availability of data and analytics, tough commercial competition, and rising customer experience expectations, are driving demand for growth marketing.

What is growth marketing?

Growth marketing is an approach that looks across the whole scope of business activities to identify ways of delivering significant KPI growth.

No longer limited to the traditional domain of marketing, e.g. content, SEO, PR and so on, growth marketers’ have a big-picture remit to consider all operations and find opportunities for breakthrough results.

Growth marketing is removing the boundaries of marketing to enable every aspect of the customer experience to focus on attracting more engaged customers.

Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola (former CEO of Hubspot)

Growth marketing aims to significantly boost a company’s key metrics, and calls for a combination of skills, which we will consider in more detail later. Broadly speaking, growth marketers are good at analytical thinking, experimentation, and creativity, as well as marketing.

Their key job is to look at every channel, every source, and even every step of the buyer journey or user acquisition funnel and look for areas to grow.

Craig Zingerline, Chief Product Officer, Sandboxx

Pinterest was among the earliest companies to put together a cross-functional growth team. One of their successes was to boost user activation by 20% through conversion experiments and optimization of the online user journey.

Another example of growth marketing comes from Facebook. By analyzing user retention data, growth marketers discovered a trend: users connecting with at least 10 friends in the first four days of registering tended to remain as engaged users. That insight led them to develop new features and notifications to grow that ‘10 in 4’ KPI, for higher retention rates.

What skills does an SaaS growth marketer need?

What skills does an SaaS growth marketer need?

Growth marketers cover every stage of user experience: from acquisition and activation, to retention and up-sell. They work with different functions including engineering, design, product management, and, of course, marketing.

Marketing

The foundational set of skills for an SaaS growth marketer is an understanding of marketing itself. Ideally they would have broad skills in several channels and in-depth specialization in one or two.

Data Analysis

Examining, interpreting, and actioning data is right at the heart of what growth marketers do. One example is analyzing the effectiveness of campaigns; another is pinpointing growth or fall trends and deciding how to address them.

Quantitative Modeling

Like data analysis but forward-facing, quantitative modeling uses historical data to build future projections. Growth marketers use this to answer questions such as, “If we do X activity, how many new users could this result in?” This helps to make clearer decisions on which activities to pursue.

Experimental Process

Testing and experimentation are central to this data-driven role. A/B and multivariate tests try out different variables (such as copy, design, format) and deliver data to help determine the optimal approach. But this data also has to be analyzed scientifically and documented carefully to justify decisions.

Front-End Development

A working knowledge of basic front-end coding is useful for moving quickly when it comes to adjusting user experience and running tests, for example on a website or other UI.

Engineering Awareness

Liaising with technical teams effectively is another crucial skill for growth marketers. That’s why a good understanding of the engineering and development process will help when planning projects and scoping technical requirements.

Product Management

Growth marketers have to have many of the skills that product managers need: knowing the product inside out, assigning priorities, scoping projects, and liaising with key stakeholders to communicate progress and maintain buy-in.

Customer Experience (CX)

A very broad remit, CX covers all interactions with customers, from website and emails to sales and the product itself. Growth marketers are responsible for identifying and coordinating changes to CX, which means lots of communication with different teams and with customers as well.

User Experience (UX)

Appreciating how customer behavior and interactions change in response to design and UX choices is important, as many growth marketing efforts will focus on these areas to drive better KPIs.

Summary and Key Takeaways

Growth marketing is an increasingly important role that goes beyond the limits of traditional marketing roles and looks at the whole of business operations for opportunities.

The goal of growth marketers is always to help the business achieve its KPIs, with much of the focus likely to fall on user acquisition and retention.

Both high growth start-ups and larger, more established SaaS companies are building their growth marketing teams to give them a competitive edge.

  • Strong marketing knowledge and experience form the foundation of a growth marketer’s skill set.
  • Growth marketing is a highly data-driven role that works on insights, so key capabilities include data analysis, quantitative modeling, and experimental process.
  • The technical and technical liaison aspects of the job often require a little front-end development knowledge and awareness of the engineering process.
  • Product management, customer experience and user experience must also be in any growth marketer’s wheelhouse, to ensure the product experience is continually optimized for success.

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