Welcome to this edition of The Operators, a recurring Extra Crunch column, podcast, and YouTube show that brings you insights and information from inside top tech companies. Our guests are execs with operational experience at fast-rising startups, like Brex, Calm, DocSend, and Zeus Living, and more established companies, like AirBnB, Facebook, Google, and Uber. Here, they share strategies and tactics for building your first company and charting your career in tech.
In this episode, we’re talking about growth. Growth means different things inside different organizations, but correctly identifying avenues for sustainable and scalable growth is a priority for almost all companies. We’ll cover:
- Defining growth and being good at it
- Managing growth without losing sight of the big picture
- How companies should approach growth
To learn more, we spoke with two experts:
Isaac Silverman began his career as an entrepreneur before joining Zynga to work on growth development. At Zynga, he focused on some of the most cutting-edge approaches to growth and development. He then moved to Postmates, where he focused on growth product and is now the head of rider growth at Uber.
Below is a summary of our conversation; check out The Operators for the full episode.
Defining growth and being good at it
Growth as a concept and discipline originates from the term “growth hacking.” It can be hard to grasp as distinct from functions and goals that usually sit with the marketing team or product development team and may be best thought of as a combination of both. We think of it as the domain responsible for designing, implementing, and measuring approaches to acquiring and retaining customers. It’s a mix of marketing and product, but also sales and data analytics, and sometimes even operations.
Great growth professionals can be successful with a wide variety of work or educational backgrounds, and are most often curious, persistent, and adept at thinking holistically, creatively, quantitatively, and interdisciplinarily.
“There’s definitely a lot of deep analysis and how all the pieces fit together and there’s a lot of product work, and there’s a lot of marketing work,” said Silverman. “I think part of what I find so deeply interesting and engaging about it is it brings together everything. It’s really the exercise we go through, and I don’t want to overstate our role, but the exercise we go through is, ‘let’s imagine that we’re the CEO and what are the things that we think are really important. Let’s see the whole picture and then figure out what are the areas that we should ultimately focus on within it.’ So that is ultimately deeply, deeply, stimulating and dynamic and changes on a day to day basis. And sometimes it’s more product manager-y, sometimes it’s more something else.”
Honorato said that to be a great growth professional, “you have to have a really good understanding of your business, what are your goals, how the product works, how their financial side of the business works.”
The responsibilities of growth teams range from simple tasks like split-testing marketing copy and landing pages to more complex strategies like enabling the integration of a file storage and management solution into workflow applications and then subsequently partnering with those workflow applications to acquire users and become a default solution. Being cross-functional in nature, growth initiatives often require resources and contributions from other teams like marketing, design, and engineering. This can create conflict due to resource constraints and company politics, regardless of how small or large a company is. These are meaningful challenges before even evaluating the effectiveness of growth initiatives! Great growth teams must know how to navigate these types of issues as well, making effective growth teams hard to build, but very valuable if you can build an effective one.
“I tend to believe teams exist on spectrum,” said Silverman. “You got that sort of optimizer or specific functionality or specific parts of the funnel or whatever growth themes and then in the spectrum you have, the entire purpose of the company after you’ve achieved product market fit is to grow. I tend to believe that a lot of companies think they need the former and actually need the latter… One thing that I want to make sure is absolutely clear, the growth at Uber is the product of a very high number of very, very competent people, very diligently thinking about their part of the business, and [growth is] a portion of that much, much larger equation.”
How to Cure “Lonely Marketer Syndrome”
If you feel lonely as a digital marketer, you are not alone.
According to an ongoing survey conducted by CareerExplorer, marketing managers rate their career happiness at 3.1 out of 5 stars, which puts them at the bottom 40% of careers.
Why would a job that involves the most entertaining and fun aspects of business, that being growth, change, and interaction between business and customer, lead to such an unsatisfactory rating?
Further, how could a job that is perfectly suited for remote working still rate so low?
Why Marketers Are Unhappy
There are lots of reasons why someone could be unhappy with their job, but for now, let’s focus on the five core factors that generated a 3.1 star rating for marketing management. We’ll expand it a bit to accommodate soloprenuers/consultants and marketing agency owners as well:
- Compensation & Revenue
- Personality Fit
- Work Environment
- Skill Utilization
Marketing Compensation & Revenue
Marketing Managers aren’t happy with their salary, even though they rate very high according to CareerExplorer’s survey. With an average of $135,000, marketing managers are the highest among similar careers like management consultants, investment fund managers, online merchants, operation managers, advertising managers, human resource managers, and project managers.
On the marketing business side, marketing agency revenue has continued to increase as well. According to Statista, digital advertising agency revenue grew from $5.69 billion in 2012 to $30.6 billion in 2022, an increase of 437% over 20 years (22% average annual increase).
Even so, they’re not happy!
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Do marketing managers find their work meaningful? Most of them don’t according to the survey. They ranked meaningfulness at 2.7 out of 5 stars.
How about the personality fit of people who are marketing managers? According to the survey, marketing managers rank fit as 3.8 out of 5 stars. Not bad considering! Still not great.
What about the work environment of marketing managers? That’s not bad as well, with a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. Even so, it could be better.
Finally, let’s talk about skill utilization. Do marketing managers feel that they’re using their skills to an adequate degree? They have skill utilization a 3.5 out of 5 stars. Again, not bad but not great either.
Overall, marketing professionals are missing on a lot of the key factors that lead to job and life satisfaction. Could there be a root cause for the disconnection?
Why the Marketing Profession is Awesome
We now have some insights into why the marketing profession may not be ideal, now let’s examine why it’s a really, really good job for some people. Let’s use those same survey factors to discuss.
Marketing Compensation & Revenue
Marketers make GOOD money. The survey by CareerExplorer said $135,000 average, which sounded high to me, however, Salary.com confirmed the range with the median being $113,582. No matter how you look at it, that is a great paycheck.
This is an abstract measure, but I think marketers have a huge opportunity to find meaning in marketing. Your job directly impacts the success of businesses. Businesses provide goods and services for their customers, while also providing paychecks for 47.5% of the population of the USA. What’s more meaningful than helping 58.9 million people to get paychecks?
The marketing profession is perfect for people who like networking, extroverts that like building relationships, number-heads who love analytics, creatives who like constantly creating new media, attention-seekers who love interacting with audiences, and business people who like money. If your personality fits into any of those groups, you can find a good fit with marketing.
Marketers to work pretty much anywhere, PLUS there are tons of networking groups, expos, masterminds, courses, and other events to attend all year long all over the planet. You can work from home, work at an office, travel to clients’ locations, or take your laptop to the beach. A marketer can create their own work environment if they want to!
Few professions utilize a more dynamic list of skills than marketing. From technical to analytical to creative to relational, marketing requires the utilization of vast, complex, and evolving skillsets. You will never get bored with a marketing career because you never know what you’re going to need to know next. Better yet, you have the opportunity to create entirely new skillsets that no one has even considered before!
Loneliness is Bad for Productivity
With all that said, why are marketers still unhappy? I believe that the majority of marketers are more socially-minded than your average person. They crave connection between people. That could be connection with other marketers, connection between companies and their customers, and connection between owners and marketing professionals.
Problem is that since marketers can work anywhere, they often default to working remotely. As of mid-2022, Linkedin reported that jobs offering “remote work” increased 457% year over year. Remote working for marketing roles working remotely increased 177% in just the first half of 2022.
What do you get when you have primarily “social” people working remotely? You get lonely, and loneliness hurts productivity, creativity, and health.
Research by Dr. Vivek Murthy showed that loneliness and depression cost employers $44 billion a year. A study of remote workers found that one in five said “loneliness” was their biggest struggle.
So, while marketers are generally well paid and provided with challenging work that engages their personalities, they are faced with loneliness which greatly impairs work satisfaction. How do we fix the issue?
How to Fix Lonely Marketer Syndrome
The fix may seem obvious, but it is usually missed or approached too casually in most cases. Marketers need to become part of marketing communities. Not just any communities however, the ones that will truly impact their business and mindset will have the following characteristics:
#1: Formal Education Systems
Ideally, your community should have a proven set of frameworks that other marketers (preferably hundreds or even thousands) have used to succeed.
#2: In-Person & Online Events
Online events are great, but if there is no planned in-person event, you’re going to be missing an important part of connecting with others: seeing them “for real.” Your new community should have plans for in-person meeting opportunities, even if it’s just once a year.
#3: Broad & Narrow Specialty Groups
If you can find a network with a significant amount of people in your specific marketing niche, great! Just note that they should also be connected to broader topics so that you can learn more about interacting with entire marketing teams, not just people do the exact same work as you do.
#4: An Established History
Brand new groups are great, but there’s nothing worse than committing to a brand and having it disappear on you. Ideally, look for marketer communities that have been around for at least 5 years, but preferably longer.
#5: A Hierarchy for Ascension
The best communities provide opportunities for their members to grow and contribute, with the possibility of becoming a thought-leader, teacher, or contributor to the knowledge contained within an organization. Look for groups that have positions, awards, and prizes for top community members.
Where to Find the Right Marketer Community
Lucky for you, you’re already on the right website! DigitalMarketer has been growing their marketer community since 2008. With over 120,000 marketers completing courses, thousands of contributors, and over 1 million email subscribers, DigitalMarketer is the community of choice for marketers in over 60 different countries.
Whether you’re a beginner looking for your first certification with a Lab Membership, an agency owner looking to scale with our Certified Partner network, or a successful business owner looking to scale with the M3 Mastermind, DigitalMarketer is the place to be.
Beat Lonely Marketer Syndrome and join us today!