Working at an agency that focuses on growth – this is likely to be a pretty biased view! But, I’ll try to keep that to a minimum when talking about the differences between doing growth in-house & hiring out some or all of the processes.
First, I want to quickly cover all the needs of a strong growth team:
- Strategy & Ideation: the other items on this list won’t be very useful without a strong base of ideas and prioritization. The thrust of this is usually handled by a Growth Lead or Growth PM.
- Design: designing experiments, landing pages, and other assets to assist with growth. Depending on the designer’s skillsets, they can often help quite a lot with the experimentation and strategy as well.
- Engineering: bringing the designs to life. Here’s what to look for when hiring a growth engineer
- Analytics: analyzing the results of different growth tactics and helping to gauge winners & learnings. Depending on the size and needs of the team, this is sometimes handled by a Growth PM or a dedicated data scientist.
At a baseline, you’ll need all of the skills above covered, but I’ll cover three main ways of accomplishing all of them so you can find the best setup for your company. The three primary routes are: 1) building a team fully in-house, 2: working with an agency to lead it all, and 3: a hybrid approach.
#1) Fully In-House
This is the most difficult approach, in my view, but it does have some benefits.
In this case you will need to hire at least three positions, choose a growth toolset, and build the processes for the growth team. While that is a lot of work, it will give you a lot of flexibility to pivot and transition your growth team as needed.
#2) Fully Agency-Owned
Outsourcing growth completely to an agency is fairly uncommon, but it can allow you to start getting results quickly and lean on the agency’s expertise and prior knowledge.
Depending on the size of your team and product, this approach can make a lot of sense to start getting learnings & some quick wins. The agency you work with will have a toolset they can use straight away and can quickly onboard into your infrastructure to get experimentation going.
The downsides of this approach, are that you are conceding a decent amount of control over experimentation to an outside team, and productizing the following wins. If you’re considering this approach, make sure the agency you select has a clear onboarding process in place to understand and align with your existing design language and brand guidelines; you’ll be trusting them not only with product growth but with your brand presence as a whole.
The last option is hiring specific contributors internally, and working with an agency for the rest. Bias aside, I think this is the best option for most teams. It combines the speed and expertise of an agency with the internal knowledge & process of your team.
There are different ways to structure this relationship, but the dynamic that has been most successful for Niftic is:
- Keep / Hire These Positions In-House
- Growth Lead / Product Manager – by keeping the PM in-house you’ll be able to keep your team’s processes and have an owner to productize wins.
- Data Analyst – an in-house data analyst/scientist will be comfortable with your data warehouse. This is optional for smaller teams as it can initially be owned by the PM.
- Productization Engineering – development support to productize team wins.
- Work with an Agency
- Ideation Support – helps the PM with ideation using expertise from prior wins & best practices.
- Design – experienced growth designers can combine brand and growth objectives.
- Growth Engineering – dedicated growth engineers can build out experiments quickly, and have a lot of experience with growth tools & frameworks.