As a marketer in the 21st century, you’ve likely come across the term “growth marketing” before. While it’s gotten a lot of buzz, not many people actually take the time to break it down or understand what it means and compare it to related areas like product growth.
This is why we’re excited to welcome Maria Cuasay to The Advocacy Channel. Maria has over 10 years of experience working on growth and customer marketing programs, and is currently the Principal Product Manager of growth at Ancestry.
Tune in as Maria and host Will Fraser discuss how growth marketers can best work with product teams, and even make the switch from marketing to product growth. Maria shares what she’s learned from navigating between marketing and product, and gives valuable advice for running a successful referral program based on her time at top ride-sharing app Lyft.
Check out the full episode below, or keep reading for our favorite discussions from the episode.
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Growth Marketing vs. Product Growth
Understanding how growth marketing and product growth work together starts with understanding what these two roles have in common, and where they are unique. Maria shares her definitions of where these two areas start and end, and how the skill requirements are more similar than the two groups might assume, with one key difference that sets them apart.
I think growth marketing and product growth are very similar, but very different roles, and I’d love to get your definition of what they are and what the difference is between those two roles.
It really differs from company to company, but my definition of growth marketing is a group of people working on growth marketing channels. So whether it’s Facebook, Google Search, affiliates, etc, it’s using another platform to create and bring traffic to the website.
Where product growth comes in is when the user gets to the product post-landing page. But that part can get really controversial or murky depending on which company you’re in, so my definition is anything from the paid channels to the landing page should be growth marketing’s turf, and then anything else after the landing page should be product growth. Sometimes it can change, but at the end of the day, the teams have the same goal.
As you said, these two teams have the same goal, but what skills might they have in common, and what skills do you think are different between the roles?
I would say the skill sets between a growth marketer and a product growth person are almost all the same, except for one which is that product growth people have dedicated engineering resources, so they have a deeper experience working with engineering teams and that is a skill in itself. I remember when I started to work on my first product it went so bad – it should have taken only a few days, but I think it took a couple of weeks just because I wasn’t working with the engineering team very well, and wasn’t really thinking through all of the requirements and whatnot.
And with marketers, they don’t necessarily have the dedicated engineering resources, whether you’re in a small company or in a big company, so that is a skill set that they don’t have. But other than that, all of the skill sets are pretty similar. For example, a growth marketer is building an ad, but they’re thinking about “Okay, What is the user thinking?” and then the product person is doing the exact same thing, and then they’re coming up with ideas and opportunities in the product. It’s just the difference is working with engineering.
Do you find these teams are collaborating, or maybe operating on their own in silos, and aren’t even aware of how similar they are?
I’ve seen them mostly in silos. I remember when I was at Lyft, even in the pod environment, I don’t think there was a mutual understanding that the skill sets are very similar. I think maybe it’s just because of perception. If you’re in the valley, when you’re a marketer you’re a marketer, and when you’re a product person you’re a product person, but I don’t think anyone really has told them. It’s like you guys are doing exactly the same thing. You’re using the same skill sets like analytics, user psychology, design, thinking, it’s just that one has more engineering resources than the other.
When setting product requirements, consider the happy and the non-happy paths
Every product or service has an ideal path that they want users to follow to get the “best” experience, but it’s not uncommon for users to take a completely different route. When setting product requirements, it’s important to understand what percentage of people are going through that “happy path” and what percentage of people are going through other paths as well, and really consider the product experience for people who are not necessarily going through that happy path.
You mention the happy path and then these other paths. Maybe you could dive in a little bit more to what the happy path is, and some of these other things that might emerge.
That’s a really good question because a lot of people actually forget about the non-happy paths. So when you’re building out a product, you’re always thinking of the ideal flow. So you’re thinking of a user, if they make it here, then they’ll make it here, then they’ll get to the part of the product that we want them to. But most of the time users don’t go through that happy path.
I’ll give an Ancestry example. What the users do is they get to Ancestry, and then they start to build a family tree, and if we can find records about their ancestors, then we show the records. But a lot of our records are here in the United States. So for example, for me, I’ve lived in so many other parts of the world, and so I don’t have a lot of records here in the States. And so the happy path for users here at Ancestry is, if your family has lived here for years, then we would be able to show you a bunch of records about your family. But for me, I actually won’t go through the happy path. I won’t see any records. And so what should I end up seeing? Those are the types of paths that people should really think about.
And also you should work closely with your analyst to see what percentage of people are going through that happy path and what percentage of people are going through other paths as well, and then really think about the product experience for people who are not going through that happy path. Because even though you can’t serve them, maybe there are other ways that you could serve them or other things you can show them, and that’s where product thinking comes to play.
And I think that’s a great point. Especially coming from growth marketing on to the product side, because quite often, we’re forcing someone through a squeeze page where we are running an ad that really only has click or no-click options, or basically only two paths. It can be quite a different view of the world to remember that there are potentially thousands of paths that someone could go down.
How can marketing and product work together successfully?
If you’re a marketer working with the product team, you don’t want things to get lost in translation. When you need help from the product or engineering teams, it’s important to first educate them on the marketing channel you’re working on and show them the user experience, and then get really specific on where you need help.
When you’re on that product growth side, or you’re a growth marketer who’s being asked to support in product, you’re more likely to be interacting with a product manager and those engineering teams. Are there any challenges that you found that the product managers and engineering teams might have with understanding what you’re asking? Maybe there’s a terminology barrier or a process barrier there.
There may be a couple of things. Number one, product managers and engineers don’t really have a good sense of marketing. I don’t mean that in a demeaning way, but for the most part, if people come just from an engineering background, they’re really thinking from an engineering background. Let’s say someone started off as an associate product manager at Facebook, then they’re always thinking about the product domain. It’s actually very rare to find people who really think about the entire user journey from brand marketing to paid marketing to product. So product people may not completely understand what marketers are trying to do. So for example, if you’re working on a Facebook channel and there is a specific requirement that you need, then you probably need to educate the product manager a little bit on what exactly is happening. Maybe walk them through the user experience: The ad that you’re showing on Facebook, the user flow, and the help that you need from them. They definitely need a bit of education on some of the marketing channels because they’ve never touched it before.
So that would be number one. The second point is being a lot clearer in the engineering needs. Engineers always tend to ask us things like “What exactly is the specific thing that you need?” or “Is this going to take like five minutes? Or is this going to take two weeks?” Because if you’re not a product manager, then they want to help you, but they also know that they have a sprint and the product manager owns that sprint, and so they need to balance their priorities.
So it’s those two things – really educating the product manager and engineer on the marketing channel that you’re working on and showing them the user experience, and then being really specific on the things that you want the product manager or the engineering manager to do.
Both of those are great points. I think that many of us can shy away from that second point, almost feeling like we’re sharing too much or giving too much detail too early. But these product teams and engineering teams are just trying to estimate so they can actually figure out if they can do it. They’re always trying to help, but they just need to know more information or different information than you originally thought.
Bonus: Best tips for starting a customer referral program
With experience running the referral program at top ride-sharing company Lyft, we had to ask Maria her best tips for running a successful program. She shares where to start, and the most impactful thing you can do to gain program traction.
You ran one heck of a referral program over at Lyft. If someone now, whether they’re on the growth marketing side or the product growth side has been asked to start a referral program for their company, do you have a series of best tips you’d give them?
Yeah, the first thing that you need to do is build out a model. What I mean by that is to figure out what your traffic is and then calculate how many referrals could come out of your current existing traffic. It’s actually easier said than done, and it’s basically a matter of setting the right expectations. So when you’re setting the expectation, you can start to compare how large or how small referrals are compared to your other growth marketing channels like a Facebook or a Google search.
So that’s number one, set the right expectations, and then number two… What you will discover in your model is that top-of-funnel tactics are going to perform the best. So you need as many entry points to the referral program as possible. And by this I mean put it everywhere in your product. I remember at Lyft, we would show referrals when users create their account, before they take their first ride, during their ride, after their ride, before the second ride, after they tip – we put it everywhere. That would be the most impactful thing that you could do when it comes to referrals. And it sounds really easy, but that’s really all you do.
One other tip when it comes to adding entry points is to put your entry points at the beginning of the user experience. This sounds really counterintuitive. People always think that users need to experience the product first, and then be shown a referral prompt. No – when they create their account, show them a referral prompt right away. That is the entry point that will generate the most referrals. It seems really counterintuitive, but it’s true – just trust me on that. I’ve already tested this a number of times.
Another tactic is optimizing those entry points. For example, test out the different copy, different rewards, different share mediums, and start optimizing those entry points. There are just so many things that you can do with entry points, so it sounds really silly, or it sounds really small, but it’s going to be the most impactful part of referrals that you could do.
Want to know more? To hear even more insights from Maria, check out the full episode anywhere you listen to podcasts. Special thanks to Maria for being on the show!
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