This article is adapted from Axel Florence's talk at the Product-Led Summit, London 2019.
"Let's clarify the difference between traditional product management and growth product management, because it's not always clear.
Traditional product management is creating or improving value provided to users.
Growth product management is connecting more people to the existing value of the product.
From this definition, a growth product management team is not going to work on building the core product, but will be continually optimizing it and creating new distribution channels.
The job of a Growth Product Manager revolves around unlocking resources, finding opportunities, then launching and measuring the project.
To define or not to define?
Understanding the definitions of these two roles can be useful because you are able to grasp the differing aspects of the jobs.
But, the definitions are binary in nature. They are limited and not always practical either.
Imagine an early stage startup. You need to build your core product, but you also need to connect users to your product to create growth.
Aligning yourself with one role is just not going to work. You are going to be dipping into multiple tasks and responsibilities.
A more fluid way to look at the differences between the growth PM and the traditional PM is to plot the projects you might have in your company on two axes.
On one side, you have growth. This is related to bringing in more users to your product. Growth is very fast paced. You need to be experimenting and constantly reacting to trends in markets.
On the other axes, you have Maintenance/Infrastructure. These are typically more static. They are there for the long term.
On the extreme side of growth, with no maintenance infrastructure, you have 'top of the funnel' expansion. These are your marketing channels, your videos, your blogs or your SEO. Also, you have your conversion optimization.
On the extreme side of high infrastructure maintenance, and not really related to growth, you have production engineering, working on bugs, or redesigns.
So, you then draw a scope of what product management is doing in your company.
For most teams, it brings the realisation that you have to work on growth.
Why does growth prove so difficult to operate within?
It's usually easier for traditional Product Managers to build their team, get resources, and to define output and timelines.
When a company creates a product team, they have a feature that needs to be taken care of. You have a defined scope. When there is a new project, the team is given the mission to build this particular vision and this certain set of features. In six months, we need to be there.
For growth, it's much more blurry. You don't necessarily have a scope of features. You are often collaborating with other teams to implement something.
It becomes particularly difficult to define and to manage.
There are two main questions that Growth Product Managers are faced with and that prove difficult to answer.
1) How do we unlock resources and scale our team?
2) How do we define our output?
These two questions link back to the same problem:
If you want to get more resources, you have to show impact. You have to be able to demonstrate your potential output to your leadership.
But, this impact is very difficult to define.
It's not very actionable when you say 'I want to bring impact.' This is too vague.
How to solve this dilemma?
Take this formula:
Impact = T.A.X.S.
The goal of this formula is to split your impact into different components that are going to be more actionable and can be pitched to your leadership.
Team size and Impact:
This is up to you. You have to be able to say to your leadership,
‘Look, if you give me more resources, and if you add people to the team, this is what's going to happen. And this will be the bottom line impact.’
This needs to be specific. So, we move to the next part of the formula to gather some information.
This is the number of experiments you're going to be able to run, and the pace at which you're going to be able to do that. You can directly go to your team and say,
'If we want to have this impact this quarter, we need to roll out one experiment per week.'
This sets a productive environment. Your team knows exactly what they have to do.
This will hammer home how much impact those experiments are going to have.
How well are you crafting your hypothesis and your experiments? The Product Manager, your Designer, your Data Scientists, your Engineers, all have a direct impact on this.
Using this formula will help you to build a more definable and accurate version of the job at hand. As a result, you will be able to focus precisely and effectively on growth opportunities.
How to execute this
Now you've defined your potential, how do you accomplish these goals?
Start from the ground up
Think. What are the basic levers that, if they grow, your product will grow alongside them?
In product, if you add more supply, your marketplace grows bigger and you bring more traffic.
Take each of those levers and ask yourself, 'What can I do to grow the supply?' 'What can I do to grow the traffic?'
This is a collaborative process. You want to involve your stakeholders and your team in coming up with the ideas in this framework.
Traffic: go more granular
Focus on the marketing channels that are currently missing. Identify gaps that may not exist at this point in your marketing mix.
List current marketing campaigns or activities. This will give you ideas of experiments to run.
You end up with a large map of opportunities with a lot of experiments that you can trial. You can use this map to communicate with your leadership.
'Here's what we can do. 'What do you want us to focus on?'
The traditional product management way of prioritizing is effort versus impact. Whatever has the highest impact and the lowest effort goes first.
From here, the goal is to go and gather data evidence. Now, you can understand which opportunity to tackle. You'll have a backlog of ideas.
Choose your audience carefully
When you launch small feature projects, you'll want to optimize two things. Launching as fast as possible and measuring at a quick pace.
Very often, you're going to face some some objections on the way. Ensure that you define your target audience and you focus on them very precisely.
You want to make sure that when you launch experiments, you're not just blasting to everyone. If this is clearly defined and clearly targeted, you will launch faster.
If you can't target your audience, you may as well not run the experiment because the results are going be polluted.
Once you've succesfully targeted them, you want to ensure maximum exposure.
Is your feature visible? You can't afford to doubt whether the problem is that the users didn't like the it or it's because they just didn't see it.
If you're still getting poor results, it's because the feature is not good enough.
Track early indicators
If you run experiments, sometimes you won't see the results for weeks.
You'll need to know, ‘Is this working or not? Can I be excited?’, but will find yourself waiting for the answers longer than you can afford to.
So, track early indicators.
If you do session recordings, and you figure out that three or more users out of five are succeeding on the task that you define, that's a good sign.
On the contrary, if less than 10% of the target audience are actually using your feature, you should probably kill it straightaway.
f you have a very visible pop-up, I usually go for a rule of thumb of 50% click through rate.
If you have less than that, you're probably doing something wrong. If you have more, it's a positive sign that you can continue. Let the experiment run and then see your results on the dashboard.
Work at it
Maintaining high velocity when you are going through each of these processes before building any experiments is a difficult task. But, good Product Managers are able to drive the pace of work whilst not forgetting the importance of the basics.
They're able to keep a bird's eye view on the strategy, generate new ideas and grab the low hanging fruits.
And, I guess there's no tricks for that other than hard work and a lot of practice."
Axel Florence joined Shopify in September 2018 to build the Oberlo Growth Team. He acts as the RnD Product Manager for Oberlo, leading a cross-functional team of 8 to build and optimise growth features.