Where Are You on the Growth Marketer's Hierarchy of Skills?


Scott Tousley is a Reforge Growth Series Alum and growth marketer who started working on HubSpot’s growth team in 2014.

There, he grew blog traffic by 271% in 8 months, and increased Hubspot CRM’s ARR by 157%.

Today, he's sharing the internal career progression framework he uses with his growth and marketing teams at HubSpot.

“How can I develop my career on this awesome company's Growth team?”

When I joined HubSpot’s growth team in 2014, led by Brian Balfour, I felt wildly unqualified. I had one skill. I (sort of) understood content marketing. That was it.

I couldn’t read a retention chart. I thought “copywriting” meant filing a trademark. And the countless acronyms (CPA, LTV, CPC, CAC, etc…) made the process seem even more complex.

I was squeezed between Harvard MBA graduates, innovative product managers, and entrepreneurs who sold previous companies for millions. So I asked myself a question:

“How can I develop my career on HubSpot’s Growth Team?”

Unfortunately, there was no clear answer. A “growth marketer” role had never existed at HubSpot previously, so there was no rubric. There was no career path, there was no framework. This was unexplored terrain.

Now, let’s fast-forward two years later. The problem still persists at HubSpot. I would argue it persists in the industry as a whole. There is still no clear framework or roadmap for career progression in growth marketing (other than Reforge).

That’s why, after many hours of deliberating this topic, and fine-tuning feedback from other intelligent growth marketers, I’m happy to share the internal career progression framework we use at HubSpot.

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The 4 tiers of the Growth Marketer's Hierarchy of Skills

The skills are split into into four major categories with various core skills included inside each category:

1. Foundational Skills - These foundational skills transcend all categories across product, acquisition, and monetization. The seven core skills include customer empathy, data analysis, experimental process, funnel optimization, copywriting, visual design, and basic development skills.

2. Product Skills - We all know retention is the lifeblood of growth. Acquiring new users is pointless if everyone churns. As a result, the four core skills in this bucket include retention, NUX (new user experience), product marketing, and measuring customer happiness through a tool such as NPS.

3. Acquisition Skills - As we’re working toward product-channel fit our focus is on user acquisition. The four core acquisition channels are content marketing, paid acquisition, virality, and SEO. This bucket focuses on developing skills needed to drive new users through those channels.

4. Monetization Skills - As we grow our user base the focus shifts to monetization. How can we generate revenue from new and/or existing users? The three core skills include pricing strategy, lead nurturing (for a sales team model), and touchless nurturing (for a non-sales team model).

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Rate yourself on the Growth Marketer's Scorecard

As you’re digging into a new growth role, how do you know which skills to develop and how to prioritize them?

At HubSpot, we use a scorecard to create a quantitative and objective framework for skill building. We call this our interactive Growth Marketer’s Hierarchy of Skills Scorecard. This system integrates all of the skills above into a gradable rubric.

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Click here to get the Growth Marketer’s Hierarchy of Skills Scorecard

Inside each category (ex. product) and core skill (ex. retention) is a blank cell where we input a score from 1 - 10. As we enter values into the spreadsheet, a score develops for each category, which is visualized in the pyramid. Here's a quick video tutorial and explanation.

The scorecard's rating system is split into two sections:

  1. Self Evaluation - Helps each person reflect on their own progress.
  2. Peer Evaluation - Provides checks and balances against self evaluation.

For example, I could score myself 8/10 in copywriting but another member of our growth team could score me 5/10. Or I could score myself 3/10 in customer empathy but someone else could score me 7/10. The 360-degree feedback is simple tool for keeping us honest.

How to use the hierarchy as a framework to prioritize your next skills

In his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation", Abraham Maslow proposed a system for classifying human needs that was based on the idea that foundational needs must be met before we can move on to more esoteric ones.

Likewise, growth marketers need to master foundational skills before moving on to more “esoteric” areas of growth. The way we think about about career progression at HubSpot is a similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

growth marketer

In Maslow’s Hierarchy we satisfy needs at the base of the pyramid (ex. safety and security) before we satisfy needs further up the pyramid (ex. self-actualization). The Growth Marketer’s Hierarchy of Skills works the same way.

We satisfy the 7 foundational skills — customer empathy, data analysis, experimental process, funnel optimization, copywriting, design, development — before we satisfy skills further up the pyramid. That prioritization continues as we move up; each level of skill relies on the levels proceeding it. 

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Here’s an example:

Foundational - If we lack customer empathy (foundational skill), or the ability to feel the pain our customers feel, we’ll struggle to build a product that solves a real problem.

Product - If we don’t understand our users, and build a product that doesn’t solve a problem, we cannot achieve great retention (product skill) and our users will churn.

Acquisition - If our users churn there is no point of thinking about SEO or content marketing (acquisition skill) because no one sticks around.

Monetization - If we don’t have new users, or happy existing users, it’s pointless building a lead nurturing strategy (monetization skill) to upsell freemium users.

We start at the base of the pyramid, then work our way toward the top. 

The process of developing well rounded marketers comes down to prioritizing the combination of skills that are most important to your organization.

The mental models we used to develop our hierarchy of skills at HubSpot can be applied to any organization with minimal modification. Applying this hierarchy of skills along with the scorecard gives marketers and managers a concise roadmap for professional development.

What skills do you believe are missing in the pyramid? In your opinion, how could the skills be categorized better?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and replies @sjtousley


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