The crucial building blocks of growth product management

Growth / Product
Three essential blocks for growth product work
Photo by Ryan Lau on Unsplash

Product management comes in many flavours, and the tools to succeed are endless. Still, for the specific work of growth product management, there are three essential building blocks of insights, data and experimentation that you cannot go around.

What is growth product management?

First, let’s shortly discuss and define what growth product management is. Most product managers should be thinking about growth, but for those in “growth product management”, this is their specific focus.

Keya Patel and Adam Fishman wrote an excellent article on the different types of product work and the increasing specialisation of product management. The Four Types of Product Work
The Four Types of Product Work

In that article, they define “Growth Work” as the function that “creates and captures value by capturing more of the existing market”, which means that the growth product tries to expose as many customers as possible to the core value. But how can we do that?

A growth product manager focuses on the entire user journey from acquisition through retention to the user’s lifetime value. This goes hand in hand with the core product managers that take care of single features or areas within a product.

We can connect the two types of product work with the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework. While core product work handles the single steps that define the job as a whole, growth work overlooks the job or problem the user wants to solve.

Why is data so necessary for growth?

As we mentioned above, growth work looks at the user’s entire journey. It starts with the user’s first interaction with your product and all the following touchpoints over time. Data is essential to that work – it allows you to understand your users and what they do and helps you optimise your product and get more out of it. Without data, you do not know where your users came from and what parts of the product enabled them to solve their problems.

As Elena Verna puts it in one of her posts on LinkedIn, “Growth before data […] will not be a scientific, data-driven discovery of the growth model.” That’s precisely the crux. Without the data, you do not even bet. You gamble with your resources and your users. Instead of rolling the dice, you want to build knowledge on how your business can grow. Data helps you create the basis for your decision-making.

What metrics should you be tracking?

Metrics are highly dependent on the product you are working on. When it comes to growth work, there are a few areas that you should be paying extra attention to.

  • Acquisition: The number of new users using your product and where they are coming from.
  • Activation: The percentage of new users becoming “regulars”.
  • Engagement: This is the depth or intensity with that your users interact with your product.
  • Retention: This is the percentage of users returning to your product regularly over a certain period.
  • Revenue: This is the money you bring in through your product.

The goal of the growth product manager has to identify the correct metrics for two purposes. One, they should inform you how your users solve their problems best with your product. Two, those metrics help you build the growth model, which enables you to prioritise and monitor your initiatives.

Metrics and data can be overwhelming at some point for the product manager. Please read up on my post about why we need more product analysts.

How do we keep the balance between qualitative and quantitative data?

Let’s be honest here – you’re not going to get all the data you need for your growth work from what you track. While you’re looking to get as much quantitative data as possible to answer the question on your growth model, you also need to remember that numbers tell only half of the story. That’s why you need to keep the balance between qualitative and quantitative data.

When it comes to qualitative data, you need to pay attention to people’s emotions while using your product and why they use it. Collecting feedback on your product and interviewing users helps to learn more about them and their motivation. Such user insights can spark ideas in many areas. For example, what landing pages do you need to create to acquire new users better? Direct user feedback can also help to understand what hinders users from being more engaged.

Mastering both types of data insights will give you a complete picture of your users and the product’s potential.

Closing the knowledge gap with Experimentation

The better you understand your users and their behaviour, the better you can serve them and grow your product. One crucial element of growth work is experimentation, and it’s the one where you’ll get the most value from data and insights. With experiments, you validate whether your ideas work, measure their impact, and iterate based on that data.

If you want to see results, you have to test and iterate. We all have ideas, but only some of them are worth pursuing. When you have an idea, start with small experiments to validate it and make sure it’s something that your customers want. This will help you avoid wasting time and effort on something that will never work. Running experiments doesn’t mean that the idea is terrible or you are not confident. It means closing the knowledge gap and being mindful of your business impact and resources.

No data, no growth?

You can’t be an effective growth product manager without data available to you and your team. But that doesn’t mean you cannot start your work as a growth product manager.

If you start from scratch, you have to build knowledge first. Talk to your users to find out who they are. Run interviews in your company to understand how you grow and where the challenges are. Look at the available data, identify gaps, and work with your team to close them. And finally, start to run experiments, try even to change the slightest thing to understand how your users react to change and how to build successful experiments.

Growth product management is exciting as it combines marketing with the product. It means understanding your users deeply and building vast knowledge by being able to read the data.

Over time you will base your growth product work on three pillars:

  1. Insights: Do your user research and refine the company’s use cases based on the user problems you identify.
  2. Data: Define, collect and analyse the data points you need to understand your users’ journey and how your business grows.
  3. Experimentation: Create initiatives based on the data and insights and build ways to validate your assumptions.