The Growth Product Manager is a role that’s really come into its own as more organizations adopt a product-led growth (PLG) strategy. These PMs differ from the more traditional product managers and are more focused on short-term outcomes, such as improving specific business metrics or commercial goals.
But how can you transition into the role of a Growth PM? What types of tools are the most valuable for the role? And how critical is having a data-driven mindset for a Growth PM?
Well, we got the chance to speak with Cassie Peretore, Growth Product Manager at Cleo, and former Growth PM at Momentive, for some answers.
Cassie offered her expert insights on the evolution of the role, the top tools being used, how Growth and core PMs are working together, the key metrics to drive growth, the future of the function, and more...
Q: In your opinion, how has the role of the Growth PM evolved in the last 12 months?
A: I think it’s just becoming more common. I don’t think the role itself, in terms of responsibilities, has changed much, at least in my experience. But there’s a spotlight on the role within the PM industry. It’s yet to be determined if the Growth PM is here to stay, or if PMs are going to evolve to take on growth responsibilities.
I think that is the big question. And I’d be curious in the next three years, what happens with that. But in the last 12 months, companies are starting to pick up on how helpful it is to have a Growth PM because they’re uniquely able to think about users and the business and also product execution.
Those are not commonly held skills among one person. So I’d say that it’s just becoming more popular, but for good reason, because they can be the growth engine of a company if it’s set up for success.
Q: Do you think more traditional PMs will merge into the role of a Growth PM in the near future?
A: I’m super curious about it, I’m not sure I can see a world where the Growth PM does merge, there’s always going to be different silos for example within the role because there’s just no one size fits all PM. So I think we were going to have the business-focused PMs and the product development-focused PMs. And that’s basically what it is right now.
However, you’ll start to see more mixing between the two and the one taking on some of the different responsibilities of the other. But you’re always going to need PMs who are business fluent, and also ones who are just incredible at building and scaling products. And those are just two pretty separate skill sets right now.
Q: What are the best ways to transition into the role of a Growth PM?
A: Of course, it depends on what you’re coming from but if you’re coming from a business or a product background, there’s a pretty seamless path. It’s just about how you market yourself and your past experience, and your willingness to learn what you don’t know. For example, I came from a growth operations role, with no product experience, and the company that hired me took a chance and saw the potential that I could learn what I didn’t know. They saw that I could bring a business perspective that the rest of the team didn’t have.
So it really comes down to how you market yourself and how you lean on your strengths. But be forthcoming about your weaknesses too. If you don’t have that product experience, or you don’t have that business experience yet, you’ll need to join a company that can coach you into it. I think that’s pretty important, to be genuine throughout the interview process. Be honest about what you do and don’t know, find a company that’s going to help invest in you for the things that you don’t know. And lean on those strengths.
For me, coming from a business background and being able to run operational experiments, customer segmentation and those kinds of things would be super useful in the role. I know that a lot of people will suggest business school as a path to becoming a Growth PM. And I’m neither for nor against it because I’ve seen it work plenty of times.
But I’d say it’s unnecessary. In some cases, it’s the right move when you’re coming from a completely different background. Let’s say you don’t have any product or business experience, it can be a good way to break in and build credibility. But if you do have product or business experience already, I’d say, it’s probably not worth the time or the money. There are other paths to making it possible.
I kind of see business school as more of a last resort unless people want the business school experience, in which case go for it. But it’s very expensive and time-consuming. So I would say lean on your past experiences and how you can market yourself before you go down that path.
Q: How do Growth PMs work with traditional PMs in your org? What results have been achieved?
A: I work with a core PM right now. Granted, he has a growth background, so maybe it’s just naturally a little easier than most, but I think it’s really important to build that relationship with core PMs.
If you think about the evolution of a product, and how different types of PMs will be part of that journey, the core PM builds it, launches it, and gets it into a mature enough stage that a growth PM can now come in and grow it. And so you have to have some sort of handoff or at least relevant relationship between those PMs to make that successful.
So, for example, when I work with a core PM who builds products that I then help improve adoption of on our site, it’s really helpful to have this core PM who’s deep on that product’s users and its value proposition, to help inform my experiments and what I do with the product when I’m running experiments, trying to market it better on the site, etc.
Having that person who’s just a total pro on the product and has that knowledge of the users is so valuable as a Growth PM. It’s really important to work together to seamlessly market the product by using the core PM’s knowledge there. I think that’s really helpful. I’d say it’s super important because as the product becomes ready for growth, you’re going to need to be able to work closely with a core PM to adequately grow it.
I think building relationships with them is important. Leaning on their knowledge and expertise of the product, its space, its users, its pain points. It’s key because it’s unlikely that the Growth PM will already have that context.
Q: What are the top tools you’d recommend for a Growth PM and why?
A: First and foremost is any kind of experimentation tool. And that’s always going to vary depending on which company or what your company has because it might be in-house, it might be bought, etc. Depending on the build there’s so many recommendations that somebody could make about which ones work best. But I would say a really good experimentation platform that enables quick and easy AV testing and cohorting, and all that important stuff that goes into running an experiment.
Having worked in growth operations before moving into product management, and not having access to those tools, it took all or most of my time to execute experiments. So for the sake of iteration and velocity, having a really good experimentation tool is table stakes, honestly, otherwise, you won’t be able to move quickly enough.
Other than that, it’s data analytics. It depends on what your product is. It might be Google Analytics, it might be Amplitude. But I think having the speed to insight is important. It’s great if Growth PMs are fluent in things like SQL. because the speed to insights part can suffer if not, and you have to spend a lot of time querying and figuring out how to wrangle the data. Having tools that can surface those insights, or just really quickly pull the metrics that you need, is important.
I’d also say having tools that are quick and easy to use is important because oftentimes the PM will not have a deep data pulling experience, and it’ll take them a really long time to learn that. So removing that need is very helpful. Beyond that, I would say collaboration tools. I’ve used a mixture of JIRA, and Asana. But having a good one that everyone’s bought in on is important.
Sometimes you’ll have teams that prefer one way or another team that prefers another, and then you end up having to duplicate tickets across all these different tools to keep everyone on the same page. It’s just a huge blocker. So having one collaboration tool that’s the source of truth for everybody will save you a ton of time and headaches. So focus on experimentation, data analytics, and collaboration tools.
Q: What key metrics do you enable to drive growth?
A: Revenue, for everybody. It may be a slightly different metric based on revenue, depending on the company and the context, but it’s revenue. That’s the core difference between a Growth PM and a core PM.
A core PM is going to be focused, their key metric is going to be something about delivering products, which is super important. You don’t have a company if you don’t deliver products after all. But Growth PMs are focused on revenue. I’ve usually focused on anything that’ll lead up to revenue.
For example, I’m looking at purchase conversion rates often because that ties to revenue, or if I’m leaning in on growth marketing type things I’m going to be looking at things like customer acquisition costs. But it always comes down to revenue and efficiency. Those are the two main types of metrics for Growth PMs.
Also, it depends on what stage of the funnel you’re focused on. But even if you’re focused on the earlier stages of the funnel, and your focus is on activation, and onboarding, it’s still in service of revenue. You wouldn’t be spending your time getting these folks on board if they’re not going to pay right?
Q: How important is it to have a data-driven mindset as a Growth PM?
A: I can’t think of any reasons why it’s not. Your intuition as a PM can be helpful, but easily wrong. That’s because we tend to be power users of our products, and know so much more about our products than any of our customers touching them do. So if we don’t rely on data, and we rely on only what we already know or feel, we’ll make decisions for users who already love and have adopted our product, and be blind to everything else.
I think you have to let the data speak for itself, especially in those earlier stages of the funnel, or you’ll miss everything. So I think intuition can be helpful when it comes to retention strategies or power user analysis, but even then, it’s so crucial to round it out with data, or you’ll miss it.
You have to lean on data to tell you what you don’t know. I’m also a big fan of using a blend of quantitative and qualitative data because I don’t think either of them can tell the full story on their own. Quantitative data tells you that there’s a problem and then qualitative data explains the emotion around that problem, and then you finally have your answer. Without both of those forms of research, you’re kind of shooting blind. So I’d say if you don’t use data, you’re likely solving the wrong problem and for the wrong person.
Q: What does the future hold for the role of the Growth PM?
A: I guess it goes back to the question of will the two PM roles blend. Beyond that, I think we’re going to see Growth PMs become more and more common across companies. And in doing that, companies are going to become more experimentation-focused than they were before.
Not that experimentation is anything brand new for companies, but I think how it’s done with Growth PMs is like running an agile roadmap of experimentation, that’s kind of new, because, with a lot of companies that I’ve worked for before, or have spoken to, experiments are more like one-offs. They’re curious about this one thing, and they’re going to run an experiment and see what happens. But I think building experimentation into the culture of a company is a product of having Growth PMs around.
I’d say the evolution of growth and experimentation becoming part of the culture at companies will be a result of the prevalence of Growth PMs. I also think PMs are just starting to be more holistic, and even generalists in a way. That’s kind of a new evolution for the Growth PM. For example, the job that I’m about to take, I’m going to be focused on every point of entry for the company, running experimentation to get more users into the product and return everything from conversion through to retention. And so that requires being a generalist, which is kind of new.
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