When recently searching LinkedIn for “growth marketing” jobs in 2022, there were over 15,000 results. If we were to perform the same search on LinkedIn a few years ago, the total results would have been significantly lower.
This rapid expansion of the growth marketing industry has created a significant problem for startups looking to make their hire, due to the issue of undersupply. Every single startup, whether trying to find product market fit or an efficient way to deploy recent funding, is ultimately searching for a growth marketer.
Before diving into how hiring a growth marketing agency can potentially help your startup, it’s important to understand the type of marketers you’ll find there. There are three main criteria that will help filter out the best fit:
When assessing the skills of a growth marketer purely from their experience, examining the stage of the companies they’ve worked at, their previous growth focus areas, and verticals all become key.
As a startup founder, you want to have someone working on your growth team that has already experienced the scaling of a company from the ground up. This knowledge shows that your growth marketer is scrappy and knows how to go from zero to one. Conversely, if you’re a series-E company, you will probably be looking for someone who has experience squeezing out additional incremental volume from those efforts that are already running.
Having an idea on the growth channels and mediums that have been the focus for the growth marketer is crucial. You don’t want to have someone helping that’s an expert at LinkedIn when you’re a B2C startup looking to acquire users on Facebook and TikTok. It’s rare to find someone that has only focused on one channel, and I’d recommend working with someone that has shown an ability to scale up numerous channels. At an early-stage startup, having a generalist growth marketer is much better than a marketer who has only focused on one or two paid channels. The same goes for mediums (i.e., lifecycle, content, paid) in that you should make sure to bring someone on board who has experience in more than one area.
When filtering between growth agencies, they should be segmented by B2C and B2B focus. This aspect of the vertical criteria should be an absolute dividing line when deciding who to select. Speaking strictly from experience, I have seen growth marketing strategies vary widely between B2B and B2C startups. Everything else contained in the vertical bucket can be classified as ‘nice-to-have’, such as having someone help your startup that’s in the same space, but otherwise not essential to your startup’s needs.
The beauty of growth marketing is that you’ll find folks that are experts in so many disciplines and strategies. Above is an example of three growth marketers that all vary in their focus and company stage. The “Pre-seed” growth marketer is well versed across multiple growth channels/mediums while the “Uber” growth marketer could be an expert at advanced Google search acquisition strategies.
After reviewing the types of growth marketers at agencies, does it make sense to hire a growth marketing agency?
I’ve worked with various agencies to help supplement growth efforts while at Postmates, Uber, and Coinbase. I’ve seen different types of agreements, structures, and expertise areas but the most important one to consider is the fee structure. Below are the most common fee structures:
If you’re a startup just beginning to get off the ground, you probably won’t be offered a percentage of media spend deal as it won’t economically make sense for the growth agency. This means that monthly payment will either be hourly or at a fixed rate.
The advantage to working with an agency is that they’ll typically bring rigorous analyses and multiple experts onto your account. They’re able to quickly expand as your needs grow from one channel or medium to the next. This helps avoid any gaps in help that other types of growth help may have.
With those advantages come a few downsides, the most prominent one being that you won’t have someone 100% dedicated to your startup. Growth marketers at agencies are usually working with multiple startups and juggling many different channels, KPIs and goals. This is in contrast with having a dedicated growth marketer on your team or outside consultant who may just be dedicated to working with you.
Whether you go with a growth marketing agency or not, it’s imperative to ask and specify in your contract what dedicated help you’ll receive from them during this engagement. A few additional questions that you may want to considering asking are below:
If a growth marketing agency doesn’t sound appealing, there are other ways to gain this important knowledge, such as learning through courses on Reforge, working with a sole growth consultant, or even having regular 1:1 advisory call with growth experts. There isn’t any single silver bullet for ensuring your startup gets the timely growth help it needs, and hiring a growth marketing agency remains merely one of many options.
Regardless of the choice you finally make, always ask yourself which growth marketer you trust with scaling your business, whether they are from a growth marketing agency or not.
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