This is a short write up from the talk Kieran Flanagan, VP Marketing/Growth at HubSpot, gave at SaaStock18. Aptly presented at the Growth stage. 

Every company hits growth ceilings. Scaling is about breaking through them. And it often comes down to the people on your team.

The people you hire matter a lot

As an individual marketer, Kieran thought his success depended upon himself, but now he realizes it depends on the people he hires and retains.

  • As a growth-minded leader, think of attracting candidates the way you attract users to your product. Show employees they can have an impact; that’s their “aha!” moment that convinces them to join the team.
  • Diverse teams are best. Different backgrounds bring different perspectives on how to solve problems
  • Find people with marketing channel expertise, who are curious about new growth levers.

But before you begin, be clear of what you’re looking for. At HubSpot, Kieran has scorecards for three areas of a candidate’s fit.

  • Team values: what fits with your culture
  • Core skills: attributes of the candidate
  • Technical skills: to Kieran, these matter the least because they are coachable.
How to hire growth-minded people

Tip #3: Use LinkedIn Recruiter. You can search by course completion, like tradecraft. See which people are actively pursuing their own professional development in the relevant area.

Tip #2: BuzzSumo. Identify people who create content or follow thought leaders.

Tip #1: Create a remote work culture. Provide work flexibility. Kieran says this helped, more than anything, to hire and retain the right people.

Set up your employees for success: shared goals

If you put ambitious people in an environment where they’re not in charge of their success — it will breed frustration. Many employees may complain that their performance is “dependent on other teams who don’t share the same metrics” and therefore measured unfairly.

True breakthrough growth only comes with inter-team collaboration. Create shared Key Results that every team can participate in and work toward.

“Think in terms of outcomes, not just outputs.”

Multiply what works

To increase one marketing channel, HubSpot dedicates someone from each functional team to explore it from every angle. For instance, to increase Search, they assembled a “full stack search team.” A full stack marketing team consists of an SEO specialist, content creator, data analyst, developer, and designer.

A scale-up company should consider this option. It’s not exactly viable for a startup whose resources are limited!

How do you prioritize?

Prioritization in a scale-up is HARD. Everything needs to scale, needs to transform for growth. Everything needs your attention. So how do you know what to focus on first?

Kieran suggests plotting every initiative on a graph of Effort by Return, which categorizes things into four quadrants.

Low effort, low impact = Incubator. These are new ideas that you can explore on a small scale, giving them just enough resources to discover if it’s worth scaling.
Low effort, high impact = The Gold. Finding Gold opportunities only really happens in the startup stage. You’ve likely found all of these by the time you scale.
High effort, low impact = The Black Hole. Here you’re just losing money. Run away fast.
High effort, high impact = Scalable Growth. This is where you want to spend most of your time!

Kieran’s approach is to find new ideas, start them in the Incubator phase, and drag them into Scalable Growth.

How do you divide time between what channels will grow and what won’t grow? How do you know?
  • Estimate your channel saturation. Try “burst tests,” which consist of saturating marketing channels with money and observing where the tipping point is.
  • Create features on our website that fill highly searched content. E.g.- Transferwise, a money exchange and transfer service, added relevant features and resources to their website, such as a currency exchange directory. Users searching for this information immediately found Transferwise’s website, which increased organic traffic.

A few extra resources

Check out Kieran’s GrowthTLDR podcast, too!

You can see Kieran Flanagan’s full talk, as well as 40 hours of actionable and tactical content we recorded at SaaStock18 by getting our On Demand pack.