When to hire your first growth marketer?

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Erwan Derlyn - when to hire your first growth marketer

For the short answer, watch this video:

There are many variables to consider when deciding whether or not you need to hire a growth marketer so now for the long answer. 

Why the hype? 

As a starting point, it is important to consider what the term ‘growth marketing’ means.

According to stats from LinkedIn Sales Navigator, there are now more than 200,000 growth marketing professionals around the world. 

Hard to believe when you consider that just a few years ago, the term didn’t exist. 

Sean Ellis coined the term “growth hacker” in 2010. In their book Hacking Growth, Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown define growth hacking as “a rigorous approach to fueling rapid market growth through high-speed, cross-functional experimentation”.

The 3 main differences with traditional marketing are:

  • Growth marketing is a cross-functional effort. Growth marketers and growth teams work at the intersection of marketing, data science, and product engineering. It abolishes the traditional silos within an organization for more effective collaboration. 
  • Growth marketers consider the entire customer journey instead of mostly focusing on awareness and acquisition tactics. 
  • Growth marketing is an iterative process of trial and error. Growth marketers work towards small incremental improvements that can compound over time instead of big one-off campaigns.

The simultaneous rise of the internet, smartphones, and platforms created massive opportunities for startups in the 2010s. To fuel these innovations, investments from venture capital firms skyrocketed during the period which increased significantly the level of competition. To stand out in this crowded business environment, startups had to find novel growth strategies to effectively attract and retain customers. Silicon Valley startups like Dropbox, Facebook, or Uber successfully and famously pioneered the concept of growth teams which led to the democratization of the practice worldwide.

Are you ready for growth?  

Most founders want their business to grow as fast as possible. But aiming for growth too early can cause serious growing pains and actually harm your business.

The main job of any founder is to sell their vision. In the early days of a startup, it is crucial that the founders lead sales & marketing (do things that don’t scale) in order to gain as much direct customer feedback as possible and shorten the feedback loop for product improvements. Get help from people in your network and advisors but hiring a full-time growth marketer should wait until after you’ve gotten some market validation for your product. 

A good time to hire a growth marketer is when your startup has reached product-market fit. At that point, you have validated the need for your product within the target audience and it’s now time to build a solid team to work with experiments and scalable growth strategies. 

No hacks! 

Growth marketing is not some kind of magic wand which will turn everything around.

“If the starting point of the conversation is about a person and not a team, it’s a set up for failure. One person just can’t do that much. Ultimately at the end of the day, you need this hybrid of skillsets to truly move the needle, and so that’s probably one of the top three most common things that we see people set up for failure. The conversation has to be around a team, and not a person, otherwise, it’s most likely gonna tank.” warns Brian Balfour, Founder and CEO of Reforge

While hiring your first growth marketer is an important milestone, growth is above all the result of company-wide growth habits and culture. 

I hope this has been helpful! If you have any further questions for me, please feel free to ask.


Erwan Derlyn
Erwan Derlyn

Erwan Derlyn is an independent consultant helping startups with go-to-market plans and growth strategies. He is also an operating partner at Luminar Ventures and course director at Berghs. Previously, he was part of building the growth organizations at iZettle and Hem. 

He will be one of the instructors of the Desifer Growth Lab

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