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How to become (or hire) an effective growth product manager

Growth product managers (or growth PMs) are in demand, as more companies invest in a product-led approach to growth. 

In this guide, we break down what growth PMs do, the skills they need, and the impact they have on a business—so you can learn what it takes to be an effective growth product manager, and understand if hiring one is right for your team.

Last updated

5 Aug 2022

What is a growth product manager?

A growth product manager drives product growth by identifying and improving key metrics and balancing customer and business needs. 

The role of growth product manager sometimes goes by other job titles, including:

  • Product Manager, Growth

  • Product Growth Manager

  • Manager, Product Growth

  • Senior Growth Product Manager

  • Lead Product Manager, Growth

  • Senior Product Manager, Growth

#Same job, many names
Same job, many names

Essentially, these roles all share the same goal: growing usage and revenue by making incremental product updates.

Growth product managers use Hotjar

Hotjar Heatmaps, Recordings, Feedback, and Surveys give growth PMs the product data they need to grow.

The difference between Growth Product Managers and Product Managers

Growth product managers are specialist product managers: 

  • Product managers drive and prioritize the product roadmap by balancing business and customer needs in general, whereas

  • Growth product managers do the same, but focus on optimizing for product-led growth so that the product itself attracts and retains customers

Growth product managers measure success by tracking key product-led metrics like:

  • Time to value (TTV): how long it takes users to get value from a product

  • Customer retention: the rate at which customers continue to do business with a company over time

  • Free trial conversion rate: the number of users who become paying customers during a free trial period

  • Customer Effort Score (CES): the effort it takes users to complete an action, e.g. upgrading to a paid account

There’s still plenty of overlap in the daily responsibilities of traditional product managers and growth PMs, and the size of the company and team you work in will impact how narrow or broad the role of growth PM is. 

3 key responsibilities of growth product managers

Growth product managers have three core responsibilities:

  1. Understanding user behavior

  2. Optimizing the product for customer and business needs 

  3. Collaborating across teams to prioritize the product roadmap

1. Understanding user behavior

#Hotjar Recordings show you how users experience your onboarding process and product
Hotjar Recordings show you how users experience your onboarding process and product

A growth PM’s job starts with understanding users and customers. They keep a finger on the pulse on what’s happening in a product by looking at data from product growth tools, including:

  • Product analytics tools, like MixPanel or ChartMogul, to track quantitative product and business metrics like LTV (customer lifetime value) and churn rate

  • Product experience tools, like Hotjar Recordings or Hotjar Heatmaps, to spot problems, bugs, and user pain points

  • User research tools, like UserZoom or Hotjar Surveys, to collect product feedback from real users

We use Recordings to understand the behavior of our users, identify issues or bugs in our product flows, assess the UX of new product or feature launches, and compare different versions of a page or product area whenever we run any A/B tests.

Andrei Beno
Growth Product Manager @ Hotjar

 2. Optimize the product for customer and business needs

#Optimizely experiments dashboard
Optimizely experiments dashboard

By combining user research with business insights—from metrics like customer acquisition cost (CAC) and churn rate—growth PMs can move on to their next responsibility: identifying growth opportunities and creating hypotheses for optimization experiments.

Growth PMs use product experimentation tools, like Google Optimize and Optimizely, to A/B test changes and incrementally roll out product updates. Ideas for tests come from:

  • User feedback, which gives users and customers the chance to tell you what they love (and hate)

  • Funnel analysis, where growth PMs find points in the user journey with steep drop-offs 

  • Heatmaps, which show if key CTAs are getting clicked

  • Session recordings, which reveal the bugs and issues holding users bacK

See surveys in action: the HubSpot Academy team used Hotjar Surveys to add an exit intent survey when people left a course landing page. The survey responses highlighted three main issues users experienced when signing up. This insight gave the team the data they needed to create and A/B test a new page design, which resulted in a 10% increase in conversions.

“The changes made from the Hotjar survey gave us enough confidence to begin designing the new page template, which we then A/B tested to get to the final version.”

– Eric Peters, Senior Growth Product Manager at Hubspot

The simple Hotjar exit survey used by HubSpot Academy to increase conversions

3. Collaborating across teams to prioritize the product roadmap

My team’s responsible for growth and user acquisition, which means we need to collaborate closely with our marketing, content, sales, and other product teams.

Andrei Beno
Growth Product Manager @ Hotjar

Growth product managers have to collaborate with stakeholders from marketing, engineering, design, and leadership teams to get buy-in for, prioritize, and execute product updates. 

Product prioritization and management tools, like Productboard and Jira, help growth PMs plan, manage, and prioritize the product roadmap, and communicate strategy and outcomes across the org.

See it in action: when our growth PMs run an A/B test or experiment at Hotjar, they use our own Heatmaps and Recordings tools to identify issues and assess how a new feature variation is performing. Then they share relevant recordings and heatmaps with the team using Hotjar Highlights, and add comments to draw attention to what’s important.

Shareable Hotjar Highlights with comments, created by the team at Spotahome

Shareable Hotjar Highlights with comments, created by the team at Spotahome

And we’re not the only ones: the team at Spotahome, a mid- to long-term rental platform, uses Hotjar Highlights to get everyone together for session recording watch parties over Zoom. 🍿 Who says work can’t be fun?

3 core skills a growth PM needs to demonstrate

Most companies ask for three core skills from a growth product manager:

  1. Product management experience

  2. Data-driven and analytical mindset

  3. Strong communication skills

1. Product management experience

Most open growth PM roles require between 2 and 7 years of product management experience

If you’re new to product management, marketing experience is highly transferable, with lots of skill overlap (e.g. building roadmaps, cross-team collaboration, user research). Our own Associate Growth Product Manager, Laura Wong, successfully transitioned into product management from a career in social media marketing. 

An understanding of product design methodologies, like design thinking and agile product management, will also help you transition into a PM role. 

Most companies also like candidates to know the industry or sector they’ll be working in. For instance, if you’re looking to be a growth PM at Hotjar, experience at another B2B SaaS (software-as-a-service) company will be useful.

2. Data-driven and analytical mindset

Growth PMs have to be comfortable collecting, analyzing, and reporting on a lot of data, both quantitative and qualitative.

Rather than guessing what might be holding users back from converting, growth product managers will study user data and analyze funnels to find issues, A/B test solutions, and measure results using key metrics like free trial conversion rate and expansion MRR. 

Experience using popular product tools like Hotjar, Optimizely, and Jira is desirable. 

3. Strong communication skills

To be successful, growth product managers need strong communication skills to interact with teams, stakeholders, and users. Growth PMs need strong verbal (in meetings and presentations) and written (via reports, email, and async messages) communication skills, and the ability to use visual media like whiteboards, process flows, and sketches where necessary. 

If you’re becoming a growth PM in a fully-distributed or remote team, like we are here at Hotjar, strong communication skills are even more important to ensure your teammates are kept in the loop and know what's important, wherever in the world they might be.

See it in action: we use Hotjar’s Slack integration to get feedback alerts as soon as users submit comments using our Feedback widget. Having feedback in our Slack channels gives everyone visibility, so we can have meaningful conversations across teams around both the issues and opportunities that come from our users.

Hotjar feedback automatically shared in a Slack channel

Hotjar feedback automatically shared in a Slack channel

Why companies need growth PMs

The rise of growth product management has come with the popularity of product-led growth: as more companies pursue it, they realize that product managers have enough on their plates and shouldn’t have to be responsible for driving both product development and product demand.

Laura Wong
Associate Growth Product Manager @ Hotjar

By shifting growth away from sales and marketing and toward product teams, companies can benefit from a growth PM’s unique understanding of the product, business goals, and users: they are holistic product experts and therefore perfectly positioned to influence the product roadmap to achieve growth.

That’s why the role of growth product manager has become more popular in many sectors, including B2B, ecommerce, insurance, healthcare, subscription, and, most commonly, software, coinciding with an increase in product-led growth strategies.

#Search interest in the term “growth product manager” has grown quickly
Search interest in the term “growth product manager” has grown quickly

You only need to look at companies recently employing growth PMs (links go to relevant, archived job listings) to see how this role has started to become crucial for many business types:

Next steps for your product growth team

Adding a growth product manager to your team could really move the needle if you’re working on customer-facing challenges like acquisition, onboarding, engagement, and retention. Read more about what growth PMs can achieve in our guide to growth product management

And if you’re looking to get hired as a growth product manager, you can:

  • Start using Hotjar where you’re currently working, to collect insight and better understand user behavior 

  • Take a free Hotjar course, like this one on how to find patterns in Heatmaps, to level up your skills

  • See if we’re hiring for any growth product manager roles at Hotjar 😉

Growth product managers use Hotjar

Hotjar Heatmaps, Recordings, Feedback, and Surveys give growth PMs the product data they need to grow.

Growth product manager FAQs