How to Not Screw Up Your Growth Marketing Team (and Win)

· 3 min read >

Questions I’ve been asked are: How should I set up my growth marketing team? Who do I need? What skills should they have? Listen up and I’ll tell you.

Twenty-first Century Fox (now Disney) is one of my clients. A colleague there gave some pretty good advice at the App Growth Summit in Feb 2019.

Hey, I know professional conferences are not everyone’s idea of a wild time. Some people think they’re boring. (Not me.) I personally love a good conference. Open bar. Complimentary notebooks with a printed schedule in the pocket. Branded swag that’s perfect for regifting.

“For you honey…a necklace.” [Hold up lanyard.] “Happy Anniversary!”

But, just in case you missed it, here’s a recap:

How to Hire

Here’s the big picture…Firing people is a real bummer.

They feel bad. You feel bad. It’s super awkward, especially when it’s very much your fault, as the hiring manager. But sometimes you realize, about a year into a person’s employment, that you shouldn’t have staffed for that role in the first place.

Oops. Sorry I made you relocate. It’s not you, it’s me. I didn’t mean to lead you on. By the way, have you met Bob from Security and Mary from HR?

All this heartache and paperwork can be avoided. What if someone gave you the tools to staff your company with the types of people you’ll actually need in order to get user acquisition right? Cue the trumpets and fanfare. That’s exactly what I’m about to do.

I want to empower you to do hiring right:

  1. Know the job skills you or your growth marketers need
  2. Define the role Engineering and Analytics need to play
  3. Build the right team for your stage of growth

Let’s Cut to the Chase

Some hires are just plain more valuable than others when you work in this industry. So, who are the MVPs of the UA game?

Quick answer: Engineers and Data Scientists.

Wait. I can almost hear you complaining. We don’t have access to the engineering team. We can’t even get a pixel placed. Boo-hoo-hoo. Let me guess, your marketing requests have been sitting in the queue with Stan from IT since 1997? Meanwhile, he’s playing World of Warcraft at his desk and you’re losing money.

Stop your whining. You’re not alone. Most companies haven’t prioritized engineering resources for growth teams. And while Stan is upping his experience points with a spellcaster, you should do the same for your crew. Because you control the hiring for your team. Get it?

In order to have a winning growth marketing team, you’ll need to hire engineers and data scientists dedicated to growth. If you don’t, you‘ll have no one to blame but yourself. And, as fun as it is to hate on Stan for slow-downs and bad results, that excuse is starting to get a little old, no?

Here’s the problem. Digital marketing and user acquisition changes at breakneck speed. You need a staff with the skills to support what you’ll be doing tomorrow, not what you did last week. You wouldn’t hire an old-timey radio expert to run your next Instagram campaign, now, would you?

I mean, you could. And you could also hire an oil painter to run your next video shoot.

(Please don’t.)

Divest from buggy whips. It’s not too late.

How UA Has Changed

Let’s compare what Growth Marketers were doing in 2015 vs. what they should be doing in 2019. Mind you, we’re recommending pretty damn advanced stuff in 2019 – a lot of this assumes you have engineering & data science resources to help you. But, hey, this is also based on the assumption that you don’t want to get left behind like a tricycle in a Formula One race.

It’s your call.


  • 2015 – Marketers were manually calculating how much to spend, based on hunches at worst and Excel sheets at best.
  • 2019 – Marketers should not be making spend decisions. They should be accepting/denying recommendations based on Data Science.


  • 2015 – Marketers were building lots of granularly targeted campaigns by segment. Let’s go after women between 18 and 24 who like teletubbies and credit card spending. Sound familiar?
  • 2019 – Marketers should be building fewer campaigns targeting large audiences.


  • 2015 – Teams were developing creative for each specific audience. Because those Teletubby women probably want to click on something “sassy,” right?
  • 2019 – Marketers should be testing creative in bulk (e.g. Google UAC) and letting ad networks optimize based on optimization goals.


  • 2015 – Marketers were using Excel & pivot tables. Fingers crossed that your computer wouldn’t crash in the middle of running a formula!
  • 2019 – Marketers should be using reports that are automated and available remotely.


  • 2015 – Got a problem? Throw more marketers at it and see what sticks.
  • 2019 – Teams should be using business intelligence tools and engineering to solve problems.

Pretty different, right?

In 2019, the strongest teams look completely different than they did four years ago–they are far more tech-heavy because they’re building tools and integrating systems to automate UA.

Basically, the machines are taking over. You can either try wage war against them (armed with your dinky, little pivot tables) or you can harness their power.

Trust me. You want the machines on your side.

At my most sophisticated client, our ratio is 60/40 Tech to Non-Tech – and that 60% is growing.

See below for an example hiring progression from Startup to Mature company.

Do you see how clear that chart is? Hire more tech!

Even if you missed every single tech and marketing conference this year, you could still absolutely kill it in User Acquisition. Say goodbye to after-parties where Tony “the email guy” attempts to break-dance.

Here’s how:

  • Focus your Marketers’ time on higher value tasks that computers can’t do well (e.g. data analysis and creative production).
  • Automate 80-90% of low-level tasks with the help of your very own Data Scientists. Let Marketers handle strategy for edge cases (e.g. launch or new geo expansion).
  • Simplify your campaign structures & targeting.
  • Ban Excel. Invest in tools & services to automate reporting. There are a lot of good ones and they’re getting better.
  • Learn to become an expert in 1-2 creative formats.
  • Most importantly—hire dedicated engineers and data scientists/analysts.

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