Growth teams have been only a big company strategy. It’s the magic bullet they pull out to overcome barriers, push out new products and seize new opportunities. While big companies can reach into their large staff pool to assemble a team, small and medium-sized businesses and even nonprofits can take advantage of this strategy if they understand how it works.
While everyone in your company should be focused on growth, a growth team is how you take it up to the next level. Unlike your marketing or sales teams, a growth team is assembled for the specific purpose of helping foster growth.
A growth team is a special, data-driven team dedicated to driving business growth. They identify growth blockers and obstacles that hinder a company’s growth, and then analyze and experiment to solve those problems.
How could growth team help you?
Here are some of the key times when a growth team can be the right choice for your company or nonprofit:
- Seizing new opportunities. When you've identified a new opportunity, a pivot, or want to add new product or service lines, a growth team can help push these projects forward. In most companies the sales and marketing functions are fully occupied with the maintenance and regular operation of the company. It can be very difficult to find margin within these teams to dedicate to watching, expanding or taking hold of new opportunities.
- Breaking through plateaus. When your company reaches a growth plateau, a growth team can be one of the most effective ways to break through. Other options, such as purchasing leads, increasing ad spends, and building partnerships can certainly work, too. A growth team approach to plateaus will bring fresh insights and practices based upon the data, processes, and realities that are keeping you from growing.
- Making a pivot. Growth teams are a significant resource when you are making a pivot in your approach to business. Whether that's a result of market disruption, the evolution of your competition, or other market forces, having the agility to focus on growth and change intentionally is a powerful tool.
The challenge of moving internal talent into growth team operations
In large companies with a significant headcount there are a greater number of team members that can be reassigned for a 12 to 24 month period to focus on a growth project.
However, in smaller companies, it can be very difficult to transition work activities from the ongoing efforts required to sustain and operate into growth projects. One reason for this is the fact that the training and rhythms of highly effective employees require a great deal of investment. Once employees are functioning in that rhythm, disrupting them can result in unlearning the habits and patterns that actually make them effective.
Additionally, critical operations that are required for the company to sustain itself while preparing for growth can be disrupted. An effective alternative is a use of an outsourced growth team.
How outsourced growth teams work
While I can't speak about how every outsourced growth team operates, I can speak to outsourced growth teams that focus on marketing and sales enablement. This is not only the service that Story Collaborative provides, it is a practice that we share with other agencies in our collaborative group.
An effective outsourced growth team will first align with you on your specific growth goals. For sales and marketing these goals will be converted into the marketing outcomes required to reach those goals.
Additionally, the growth team will help by defining the way in which your company will approach the market so that it is differentiated and can effectively win new customers.
During this process, benchmarking will occur to identify and evaluate your current marketing assets, engagement with the current market, and opportunities for growth. That will include understanding how your digital presence is working and whether or not it is effective, plus whether or not it will be support the growth you have planned.
If you are simply trying to break through a plateau, then this process will interject new vitality into everything else that is happening within the company especially related to marketing and sales. Since it is your internal team that will probably take the marketing and sales efforts down the road, it is the growth team's responsibility to identify the blockers, create the fix and then begin the process of testing and implementation.
If you are launching in a new service line or a pivot, the growth team will build from your current assets by adding additional resources followed by testing and execution.
The launch and test cycle
One of the biggest myths of marketing and sales today is that a website or campaign can be launched at its highest possible effectiveness. That's why you see people selling templates and funnels and campaign plans.
All of these, even the best of them, are nothing more than educated guesses.
Once launched, every sales and marketing effort will have to go through the process of being field-tested, evaluated based on customer response, and then modified. This cycle will continue until the campaign or assets have been fully optimized and are producing a valuable result.
Outsourced growth teams that work in marketing and sales have to be experts at this process. They have the tools, the experience, and the data to make informed decisions that concretely improve outcomes.
The cycle of improvement, should be constant. Businesses make a big mistake when they launch a marketing asset like a website, and then allow it to sit for multiple years without optimization. The problem with this approach is that the marketing asset never improves beyond launch day. Because it never improves, a big percentage of the growth opportunity is lost.
In most cases, the work that a growth team plans they will also execute. They are most often a complete package that includes strategy, execution, evaluation and improvement. This is very different than a consulting approach (which a growth team could also provide) in which the strategy is provided and coaching is offered as your team completes the work.
How outsourced growth teams interact with internal talent
An outsourced growth team should work collaboratively with your internal talent. If you have available resources, they can complete some of the elements required for growth, and the team can work with them to get the right work completed.
It's important to note, however, that the focus of the growth team will be on growth. Sometimes internal teams want to pull the growth team into regular activity, which can dilute the growth outcomes. That doesn't mean that new assets and activities won't benefit existing efforts or be used by the internal team, because they will. But it does mean you should treat your outsourced growth team like a high-performing asset whose efforts should not be pulled off course.
Another reality is that many outsourced growth teams work using agile management processes. That means if they are operating in focused, time-limited blocks called sprints, and that their work is extremely targeted. This can be a great value add if you want your team to learn about agile. But it becomes a challenge when your team expects that the growth team can be disrupted or have its focus adjusted frequently. The outsourced growth team's approach will be to adjust their efforts based upon performance data as your marketing and sales interact with customers, but rarely in the middle of their focused sprint.
How long would you retain an outsourced growth team?
The answer, of course, varies based on the project. In most cases this is a minimum of 12 months and may range up to 36 months.
It is common for growth team to begin at some fraction of their capacity with their work increasing as a project ramps up and then decreasing near the end as they are training and passing off skills to your internal team. In some cases, you may wish to retain the growth team for the long-term so that you continue to reap the benefits of the cycle of evaluation and improvement. You may also wish to bring some of the work inside while leaving other elements to the external team. In either case, the growth team approach is highly cost effective because you are able to access a blend of skills without having to hire each skillset internally.
How much does it cost to use an outsourced growth team?
The best way to understand the costs related to outsourced growth activities is to line them up against the specific skill sets required to complete the work. In most cases when it comes to marketing and sales this will involve a list of tasks that cannot be completed by a single person. It may involve
- web design,
- web development,
- marketing strategy,
- as well as other tasks like the creation of email, social media, and advertising.
The cost of bringing these resources in-house is often two or more times the cost of using a growth team. For Story Collaborative growth team services range between $3000 and $12,000 per month, and this number often varies over the life of the project. If you compare this to hiring multiple people, it is cost effective.
How to get started with an outsourced growth team
When talking with an outsourced growth team, the most important outcome is alignment. Your goals should align with the growth team's expertise and experience. You should ask about how they would approach a project like yours as well as other projects that have similar elements. It is not necessary for the growth team to be industry-specific, one benefit of multi-industry experience is fresh thinking and broader strategic insights. The role of the team is to package your services and expertise. They are not providing subject matter knowledge because that is your job.
You should also expect to see some projected outcomes from the activity based on their evaluation of your data. You'll need to share some of your marketing or sales data with them for this purpose.