What Is a Growth Product Manager (GPM)?
A growth product manager sometimes referred to as a “product growth manager,” focuses on improving a business metric or goal (e.g., acquisition, activation, retention, referral, or revenue) by removing barriers to value.
Like a traditional product manager, a growth product manager is concerned with solving customer problems but prioritizes initiatives that drive the most significant business outcome.
Ideally, a growth product manager has a dedicated team of engineers, analysts, and UX designers who work together to strategically prioritize initiatives, nail down experiments, and define measurements. This cross-functional team then connects with various other company resources depending on the current initiative. For those managers who have to operate without a dedicated team, making a solid business case for initiatives is critical to gaining access to company resources impacted by a prioritized initiative.
What’s Behind the Rise in Growth Product Managers?
In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the introduction of this role within startups and tech companies–particularly in organizations that have embraced a product-led growth (PLG) strategy.
Companies like Airbnb, Twilio, Segment, Noom, and Square have all recruited growth product managers within their organizations. Google Trends and LinkedIn data show remarkable increases in references to this emerging product role:
“A recent Google Trends analysis for ‘growth product manager’ shows a 425% increase in average monthly interest over the last 5 years. And a recent ‘People’ search on LinkedIn returns over 2,600 professionals with a title that contains the words ‘product’ and ‘growth.’”
Why Are Growth Product Managers Key to a Product-Led Growth Strategy?
Companies that have embraced the idea of product-led growth, a business strategy in which the product “sells itself” through experienced value, benefit most from having a growth product manager.
A growth product manager’s primary stakeholder is the business itself. Therefore, the focus is always on delivering measurable business outcomes via short-term improvements. Of course, these product managers need to deeply understand customer problems to prioritize initiatives that remove value barriers and deliver the organization’s greatest impact.
What Makes a GPM Successful?
To be effective, these product managers must successfully optimize an existing product for growth. A common refrain for someone in this role is: How can I drive more value from this product?
Because this is an emerging role, its description and interpretation can vary from organization to organization. There are, however, core attributes that every successful growth product manager possesses.
“Interviews with successful growth PMs revealed 3 key common traits. The first is a tendency to be skeptical, curious, and analytical in a word: scientific. …Good growth PMs also have a need for speed. …Finally, people who make successful growth PMs are adaptable and flexible.”
To excel in this role, you must have:
- Genuine curiosity to experiment and measure the impact
- An understanding of the initiatives that will drive the most significant business impact
- A willingness to fearlessly question assumptions and challenge the status quo
- The ability to identify and reduce friction in the user experience
- Strong analytical skills and be data-driven and methodical
- Diplomacy to successfully work with a cross-functional team and with different departments depending on the initiative
- Excellent communication skills to effectively make a compelling business case when prioritizing initiatives and developing experiments
- A deep knowledge of customers (e.g., Why do they use the product? What are their problems? What are the barriers to value?)
- A passionate commitment to moving the needle of product growth
Of course, all product managers should embody these essential skills for success.