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Key Skills for Growth Product Managers

Dana Calderone

The role of Growth Product Manager is increasing in popularity. So much so, in fact, there has been a 425% month-over-month increase in Google searches for “Growth Product Manager”, according to productled.org. That’s a lot.

Compared to “core” Product Managers, Growth PMs are typically driven by improving metrics. Their areas of responsibility often span across multiple products as they are tasked to optimize things like customer acquisition, customer experience, engagement, and retention based on customer needs.

A Growth Product Manager needs similar skill sets to the traditional Product Manager: prioritization, clear written and verbal communication skills, decision-making skills, strategic thinking, empathy for the user, and the know-how to collaborate with cross-functional teams.

However, Growth PMs also require expertise in a few more specific areas, which I’ll highlight below.

Important Key Skills for Growth Product Managers

1. A deep understanding of your funnel and conversion metrics

Growth Product Managers are usually tasked with improving specific company growth metrics based on the larger business goals and the company roadmap.

So, it’s not surprising that it is critical for the Growth PM to have a firm grasp on the KPIs for which they are responsible to help facilitate successful growth. What is the average conversion rate from a landing page hit to a completed purchase and activation?

What are the steps a user needs to take in order to complete that purchase (aka the steps in the “funnel”)?

What is the average conversion rate from step to step?

Do those metrics differ from the web to native mobile platforms?

These are some of the questions Growth Product Managers should be able to answer with ease.

2. Proficiency in testing methodologies

If the first part of Growth Product Management is knowing the key metrics in the customer journey. The second part of Growth Product Management is trying to understand the why behind those metrics. Growth PMs need to be experts in creating hypotheses and use problem-solving to make sense of the quantitative data.

For example, the data may show that there is a high drop-off point at a certain step in the conversion funnel.

Is this because the interface or something in the UX design or larger product design unclear?

Is the call-to-action not compelling enough?

It’s a key function of the Growth PM to be able to ideate experiments to help answer these questions to optimize the user experience and customer retention.

Additionally, Growth Product Managers need to know the fundamentals of how to run experiments. They should know how to design an experiment that isolates the change they are testing.

Growth PMs should also understand things like statistical significance, A/B testing versus multivariate, and the impact of running tests in parallel.

3. A grasp on the fundamentals of marketing and traffic attribution

Growth Product Managers are generally in tune with the efforts of the marketing team, growth marketing team, and/or product marketing team.

Alongside marketers, Growth PMs are highly invested in accurately tracking where their traffic is coming from. Growth PMs should be familiar with things like Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) sources, tracking pixels, and Google Analytics to deeply understand how their users are finding their product.

They should also be invested in following personas through the customer lifecycle. Customers from traffic source A convert better on our landing pages, but they don’t ultimately complete the signup process. What does this mean?

Did the ads they were shown not explain the specific product well enough?

Is there something about this cohort of potential new users that misses the mark on our target customer?

It’s the function of a Growth Product Manager to be able to ask and answer these questions through both quantitative and qualitative data.

4. A pulse on the marketplace and the competition

Growth product teams are predominantly working with new users. They need to not only understand the user’s product experience, but they also need to understand the holistic adoption journey via user research.

Are users comparing your tool to other tools? Is there something about a competitor's marketing voice that is more appealing?

Are there features that are critical to a purchasing decision for potential new users that isn't being highlighted on your landing page?

A critical piece of understanding user conversion is thinking about the user's expectations versus what their experience is when they begin using your product. And a great way to understand expectations is to look at comparative tools in your market - because that's often what your users are doing as well.

Additionally, competitive analysis is a great way to spur initiatives for how a PM's own product can be improved.

In closing, the Growth Product Management role is a subset of Product Management that is fast-moving and outcome-oriented. While this role does have its challenges, it also can be a very high-impact role in an organization, especially a startup. I would encourage anyone wanting to move into Growth Product Management to hone the skill sets mentioned above, along with traditional product management skills.

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