In this blog post we will take a closer look at this elusive set of people we have at Advance B2B: Growth Marketing Strategists.
We will split this post into two parts. In the first part we will take a look at the growth marketing strategist role and what the responsibilities and typical skills look like.
In the second part we will discuss more our recruitment process and what we look for in the people who apply.
Spoiler alert 👇
A brilliant person in a team of brilliant people
We recently discussed in our Growth Marketing Strategist team and noticed that a lot of us sometimes experience this phenomenon called ‘imposter syndrome’.
According to the website verywellmind.com (no pun intended):
‘Imposter syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context’.
Now, this is not a scientific study, but throughout the years I’ve noticed that this imposter syndrome is somewhat prevalent in people who work in marketing.
One reason may be, that marketing is a function that is often questioned (and the first where budgets are cut) and that puts professionals around the world in a position of having to continuously proof their value.
Looking at our job description as Growth Marketing Strategist, a part of why so many of us experience some form of feeling inadequate is maybe because as growth marketing strategists we are a sort of jack of all trades but a master of none.
Here is a rough cross section of what the team of growth marketing strategists at Advance B2B see as their super power. All growth marketing strategist super heroes will need to have at least some of these skills:
🚀 Communication, internally but especially with our customers.
🚀 Seeing the big picture (such abstract, much business speak – we know but the big picture is crucial when working with several customers at once), what this big picture means would deserve a whole separate blog post.
🚀 Learning and the willingness to continuously learn more. Marketing is constantly evolving, businesses are constantly changing. Just think back to 20 years ago, would you have thought that a taxi company that doesn’t own any cars or drivers would ever reach a 78 billion USD valuation? I’mma uber outta here.
🚀 Project management and the ability to juggle a hundred balls in the air.
🚀 Familiarity with working as an in-house marketer. This is super important as it helps us understand and sometimes also foresee the challenges our customers face on their end.
🚀 Courage to challenge. This can go different ways but in our case it is often our customers that we challenge. After all, they don’t pay us to write x amount of blog posts for them, they pay us for our outside perspective on their business, our expertise in growth marketing and our experience in B2B SaaS. And if we as growth marketing strategists can’t challenge our customers then the customers are really not getting them moneyz worth.
🚀 Understanding of the SaaS business model, which metrics matter, what kind of strategies there are and the likes
At Advance B2B we want to make sure that we all develop ourselves but at the same time that nobody feels inadequate. By giving our people all the support they need. No matter if you feel lost, there’s always a colleague around who will be right there to support you and help you see the rockstar you truly are.
Strategist or specialist?
This is also why we have different roles within the growth marketing role. At Advance B2B you will find Growth Marketing Strategists and Growth Marketing Specialists.
Apart from the difference we list below, the main difference is maybe what is expected from you in the role. As a Growth Marketing Strategist you will be pretty independent with your customers (of course, you will get support in the beginning), while as a specialist we will pair you up with a strategist to work on your customers and guide you toward becoming a strategist.
At least in the beginning, over time while you develop you will get more and more responsibility with the customers and you will start to run the customer on your own, while getting still support but less on a day to day level.
On top of that, while it’s just a title a title is similar to positioning, it sets you up against certain expectations and, just like a B2B SaaS product, having the right positioning is crucial. In other words, while it’s just a title it may create certain expectations with your customers that can be difficult to fulfill if you have to stretch yourself too much.
One of the main reasons is that we know it can be difficult to carry the customer responsibility somewhat on your shoulders and we want to make sure people can grow into their role rather than break on their responsibilities.
That said, typically our specialists develop into strategists throughout the course of their time at Advance B2B and we have quite many colleagues, both on the content and growth marketing side, who started as specialists and then became strategists. No matter the title though, we will always help our colleagues grow and develop further.
What’s the difference you ask? We do wonder that sometimes too. But here’s our general benchmark:
As a growth marketing strategist you have:
🚀 More than 5 years of experience working in marketing at a B2B SaaS company or in an agency working with B2B SaaS customers
🚀 You’ve had a broader role where you could focus on the entire funnel from awareness over activation to retention and referral.
🚀 As part of your role you worked on shaping out the strategic outline for your marketing operations
🚀 You cooperated with other senior stakeholders in your company such as senior management or the final enemy: CFO
Now, some might say, what does the experience in years really matter, it’s so old fashioned to look at it. There’s a point to that but you gotta distinguish somewhere and the years of work usually correlate with what you’ve seen in business. You are more prone to read between the lines of the customer and it will be easier to identify growth bottlenecks and challenge the customer which is the big unwritten part of our growth marketing strategist job description.
As a growth marketing specialist on the other hand you have:
🚀 Less than 5 years of experience in marketing at a B2B SaaS company.
🚀 In your previous role you have focused more on one part of the funnel, such as lead generation or demand generation. Or you worked more with one specific part of marketing such as content or advertising.You worked mainly within your marketing team.
The world is not black and white and we do look at each application individually but those are about the things we look for. In general, it’s also much easier being in charge of running the customer relationship if you’ve been on the other side yourself or you have a long agency background.
What are the responsibilities of a growth marketing strategist?
The main responsibilities for a growth marketing strategist can be divided into four main areas:
(Sidenote: This show is the single greatest thing on MTV, proof me different)
Growth Marketing Strategy & Planning
In order to be successful at this you need to be able to dive deep into numbers and business KPIs, have a lot of curiosity and look for patterns in what you see. Once you have an oftentimes very detailed overview of the situation you need to be able to formulate this into a big picture thinking, we call this the growth marketing playbook. And you need to be able to confidently present this to your customers.
This presentation part is by the way an often overlooked thing when thinking about the role. You can be the smartest marketer in the room but working as a growth marketing strategist, you need to be able to present your ideas and convince the customers that these are the right ideas. Don’t underestimate the importance of presentation.
The main KPIs for this may be the results you receive for your customer. And this too is part of the strategy you need to work out. You need to set success criteria together with your customer to be able to show the impact their 10K EUR (give or take) with Advance B2B has on their business.
Ongoing service delivery
Another way to describe this would be to talk about managing the customer relationship.
As a growth marketing strategist you need to keep the sprints together and make sure they run as planned. This includes also making sure the customer delivers on their end. If things don’t go according to plan the world won’t end, at least not if you as Growth Marketing Strategist have made sure to communicate any road blocks, changes or obstacles proactively to your customer.
Marshall MacLuhan once said that you cannot not communicate and it’s unclear if he thought of the Growth Marketing Strategist role or not but it definitely applies. Communication skills are vital to have as a Growth Marketing Strategist.
You are also the first point of contact after sales for the customer and you will book all meetings: kick-offs, walkthroughs, sprint planning and retro sessions and the weekly scrums.
The main KPI for this part of the role is customer happiness and profitability. At each retro we ask our customers to rate the previous month and follow this closely.
Profitability is important as well. Without profitability we’d go out of business. And as a Growth Marketing Strategist you are responsible to do the incredible balancing act of keeping your customers delighted and happy and going the little extra mile while at the same time not spending more time than the customer pays us.
Growth Marketing operations
This typically starts already with the strategy. Sadly but true: everyone loves a strategic foundation but ain’t nobody got time for this. In other words, during the strategy phase you as growth marketing strategist are responsible to balance between long-term strategic deliverables and short term quick wins that already show our impact early on to help our customers be confident they made the right choice and to validate the retainer fee to Advance B2B internally.
Come to think of it, being a Growth Marketing Strategist is all about balancing:
🚀 Balancing workload within the team
🚀 Balancing going the extra mile for customers and profitability
🚀 Balancing short term quick wins and long term strategic objectives
It’s one hell of a tightrope exercise being a Growth Marketing Strategist.
And there is one really tricky thing about balance: equilibrium is unattainable. This means as a Growth Marketing Strategist you will always battle with inbalance as opposed to perfection and you need to have the nerves to be able to handle it.
🚀 The workload on the team might be heavier on one person, as Growth Marketing Strategist you need to make sure that’s ok for the person and you need to do your best to support (this means helping shape our deliverables, planning what needs to be done when and sometimes also quickly jumping in and helping to get a job done.
🚀 Sometimes your customers are incredibly unhappy and might terminate the contract. Not only do you need to read the signs when this might happen, you also need to course correct and know when it’s ok to sacrifice profitability to turn that frown of your customer upside down.
🚀 For the same reason you sometimes need to go against what you know is right for your customers and just push out activities that are designed to show quick wins. You need to know when to do this as opposed to when you need to stand your ground to the customer. The customer is not always right and it’s ok to tell them but sometimes the customer has to deal with internal stakeholders that they want to get off their backs and you need to help.
Among all the growth marketing, experimentation and whatchamacallit it’s easy to forget the other side of the growth marketing strategist role: admin.
You might feel with your other responsibilities like the 21st century’s Don Draper, working with your customers, wowing them with your ground breaking ideas and running experiments old Don could have only dreamt off. However you still need to:
🚀 Make sure your customer’s revenue is forecasted and invoiced correctly
🚀 Follow profitability
🚀 Manage our tools where we track what we do for how long for which customers, and ensure the entries represent a correct picture.
🚀 Run internal meetings when necessary
🚀 Document the customer in our internal wiki and keep that information up to date, for example when people leave on our or the customers side.
🚀 In the same way you need to take care of the onboarding for new team members.
🚀 Also it’s part of your role to identify upsell opportunities and execute them (all the way to managing the deals in Hubspot), with a little support from our sales team if you wish.
So, being a Growth Marketing Strategist is the worst job in the world?
In this blog we really want to share the ugly truth behind the shiny picture you might see on social media (because, you know for more realness and in this case, it’s written by a German person, we only see the bad in things, it’s our thing). However, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, being a Growth Marketing Strategist is an amazing job and you learn so much.
For once, we are a group of highly motivated marketers at Advance B2B and we openly share our learnings, how we figure out some bottlenecks and such. This means a lot of new viewpoints that challenge your way of thinking and help you to develop further.
In addition to learning from each other we also learn from our customers. Yes, they hire us to help them but when working together we learn a lot about their business, business models and what they are doing. I can honestly say, I’ve learned something from every customer I have worked with.
In addition to learning a lot, it’s also important to remember that even though the Growth Marketing Strategist is the one responsible for the customer, they are never alone. Sometimes when you work in-house for example you sometimes are all alone with marketing and need to figure out everything. As a strategist you are in a team and together you combine your powers to achieve results for your customers. The weight of the world is not on your shoulders alone.
There you have it. An overview of what a Growth Marketing Strategist role is all about, what makes this role challenging at times and what makes it fun as well. In the next post we will take a closer look at how we look for these things in job applications and how our recruitment process looks like in practice.