What is a growth partner and what they are not

What is a growth partner and what they are not

Mike RozelleMike Rozelle

March 23, 2022

A growth partner is a lot of things, but mostly, it’s a person (or persons) who is there to work alongside you to grow your business. They take a long-term approach to your business, actively supporting both your planning and efforts. That being said, choosing a growth partner isn’t easy. People can make a lot of mistakes when it comes to growth partners, so if you’re looking for a partnership to help grow your business, there are a few things you’ll need to know. Here’s everything you need to know about the meaning of growth partner, choosing a growth partner, and what not to look for as you choose a beneficial partnership.

What a growth partner is not

The key term here is “partner.” Many people ask how to find equity partners, but we believe strategic growth partners have more to bring to the table than just an initial investment. Growth partners are not task rabbits who hop around setting up campaigns or writing copy for you. They aren't button pushers, attending to menial tasks with no further input. A growth partner is not someone to command, micromanage, and direct according to a prescribed agenda, without considering the valuable knowledge, experience, and insights they can bring to the table.

Contractors who provide this kind of service do give you and your business added bandwidth. However, they don't provide you with the experience and technical expertise that you need in a growth partner. Experience and technical expertise are critical to your business and to help you achieve your goals. Many businesses tend to go wrong by selecting a growth partner, but not treating them as such. There are a few hard truths, however, that if you can come to grips with them; will ensure a stronger partnership

Hard Truth 1: What got you here won’t get you there.

The reason many businesses are seeking a growth partner is that they are seeing stagnation in their growth. Their results have plateaued and the way forward is obscure. When looking for the right growth partner, keep in mind that what got you here will not get you there. What I mean by that is you need to find a partner that has the experience and technical skills to work with you and help navigate the way past that plateau you’ve hit, while mitigating risk in the process. You should leverage your growth partner’s experience to ensure that you reach your goals faster and more efficiently than you would without them. This allows you to free up your internal teams so they can focus on other areas of the business.

Many people think hiring a growth partner means that everything will be rainbows and butterflies; the contract is signed, they look at your account, flip a switch and performance improves like magic. While everyone involved would love that scenario, that's rarely how it actually happens. The growth partner is there to create change and that can be, in a word, uncomfortable. Be prepared to be somewhat uncomfortable when you hire a growth partner. They are there to help identify opportunities for growth that you haven't seen and to put in place a repeatable process to get you to the next level. This can involve simple changes, such as channel selection, content creation, or account structure. But it can also mean bigger changes, like creative development, user journey changes, and sales processes. Understandably, changing the way you’ve successfully done things in the past can make you a bit nervous, but without change, you're liable to continue getting the exact same results as before. Selecting the right growth partner is about exchanging the way you’ve done things to achieve good results, for strategies that will help you achieve great results.

Hard Truth 2: Tests Succeed. Tests Fail.

There are two truths in testing:

  • Never risk more than your business can sustain. No one bets the farm.
  • There will be a clear metric for what success and failure look like

Creative testing in marketing can be a scary concept, ultimately because there's an unknown in the equation. Everyone wants to see stunning success right out of the gate and that's completely natural. Anyone who's ever run a business , however, can tell you that hardly ever happens. The truth is, tests fail more than they succeed. Bumps and potholes in the road are part of the process toward reaching your goals.

Testing (strategically) provides you with the ability to efficiently handle those unexpected bumps in the road. You can learn from failures and find out if a test failed because of creativity, targeting, the concept, or because you hired a bad partner. The way your partner uses the information from a failed or successful test tells you whether or not you’ve hired the right one. A good partner will help you identify how to achieve your goals based on the test data, help mitigate risks wherever possible, and help you validate or invalidate concepts. Whether the test succeeded or not, you will learn more about your target audience and their journey through testing with a good partner.

Hard Truth 3: Outgrowing your Growth Partner

At some point, your growth partner must come to grips with the fact that you will outgrow them. You hired them because you needed a change, and somewhere down the road, your needs will change again to reach the next level. That change might involve internalizing your growth team or switching to a new growth partner with the specific skillsets you need to get past the next plateau. A good growth partner should know that their primary objective is to reach your business goals, not to set new records for their own LTV. If that means that the partnership comes to a positive end because your business is strong enough to internalize your marketing needs, that's a success for both parties.

How do I know I’ve found the right growth partner?

Every agency has a methodology, some more stringent and documented than others. Not every agency, though, is willing to share their methodology with you.

You can both be transparent with each other

The right growth partner will be transparent with you at each stage of the process and consistently work to ensure that the expectations for the success of your business are clear. As your goals change, and they will, even while working with the same partner, a good partner will connect, change, and realign their efforts to ensure they are always working toward meeting your business goals. This allows you, as a leader, to make better decisions. You, as the business owner, should be just as transparent with your growth partner to ensure that objectives actually match up to business goals instead of just performance goals.

Your success is their success

You may want to hire a new team, build a new team internally, seek funding rounds, or make an acquisition. A good growth partner can help you by building systems that your new team members or teams can step seamlessly into. They can help identify the skill sets you need on your team so you don't waste time, energy, and money hiring the wrong people. They can also help develop the kind of insights and reports that VCs will want to see as you go through your funding. Your success is their success. They have a stake in the game. The bottom line is a growth partner should complement your team’s skills and resources and build on what you already have internally as well as provide support in areas that you don't.

They utilize many different forms of help

In many cases, this help comes in the form of creative teams, such as design, copy, graphics, and video partners, and operational teams like paid search, paid social, SEO, content, mobile, and strategic planning. Utilizing the team resources of your growth partner can help you streamline production and iteration processes, reduce launch delays, and help you become more efficient much more quickly. Many times, the creative department is where you see skill overlaps between your teams and theirs. In our experience, by utilizing the resources of your growth partner in these cases, you can often reach your desired growth more efficiently in the short term, setting the stage for your own creative team to step in at a later date when everyone is aligned on new processes.

Your strategic growth partner fulfills your needs

In a nutshell, the right growth partner provides what your business needs, so you can obtain the goals you're aiming to achieve most efficiently. Growing your business can be difficult without the right team to help, which is why Ladder is here. Over 8 years, thousands of tests and millions of dollars in ad spend, our growth marketing agency has developed the strategic and tactical expertise to help break through plateaus and lay the foundations for long-term success.

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