Avoid These 4 Mistakes When Hiring A Growth & Acquisition Manager

by Amanda Oliver June 23, 2016
June 23, 2016

Social media spending is predicted to double in the next few years and make up an increasingly larger portion of marketing budgets.

As you expand your company’s user acquisition and retention strategy to include paid social, the person you have at the helm of those efforts will be required to have a diverse skill set and a wealth of experience to draw from in order to be successful.

Specific responsibilities will vary from company to company, but generally, the function of a growth and acquisition manager is to:

  • establish the company’s tactics to executive its growth plan
  • strategize around the right channels and allocation of budget
  • test results and optimize against hypotheses pertaining both to the advertising strategy itself and customers’ experience moving down the funnel.

Growth and acquisition managers undertake a massive task as they are typically responsible for the execution of paid search, paid social, organic, as well as word-of-mouth channels.

When you decide you’re going big on social in particular, here are the four mistakes to avoid when bringing a growth & acquisition manager on board.

Mistake #1 – Prioritizing Social Media Skills Over Analytical Skills

For direct response advertisers, the social interaction weaved throughout networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are really just skins covering a back-end advertising platform.

It’s obviously important that your candidate understands these platforms and how they function in terms of content and consumers.

A candidate with strong social media management chops can show you they have a firm grasp on the right message or engaging the right customer segment. However, if they don’t have the ability to chew through the numbers these platforms continually provide, you can’t be sure your message is getting out cost-effectively.

Facebook, in particular, provides the biggest and fastest feedback mechanism advertisers have ever seen, and – data being the lifeblood of any growth function – the people who can organize and analyze this plethora of data from campaign performance will provide the most value from your social media advertising.

What You Should Look For:

To improve advertising/channel performance: When you’re managing social advertising at scale, people in charge of acquisition need to be able to:

  • Review real-time performance information
  • Execute regular testing
  • Make the appropriate changes.

An example of this would be running A/B tests on a specific ad format or creative. Your candidate would need to be able to understand whether the results show that, after some statistical significance is reached, the specific ad with an image of the guy in a blue shirt performs better than the one with the guy in a red shirt.

You need your candidate to understand what metrics tell that story and what you should do with that information. Utilizing these metrics is what allows them to determine what kind of additional optimization is needed in real-time or for future campaigns.

For attribution purposes: A growth & acquisition manager with a track record of data analysis in previous marketing roles should be able to accurately inform each channel’s value within your attribution model.

To benefit the company at large: Your acquisition role should be filled by someone who can take the numbers and performance trends and articulate them back into your company in a way that can be used in product improvements, creative messaging, customer support, and funnel optimization.

Mistake #2 – Not Factoring In The Scale Of Their Previous Social Media Ad Management Experience

When you’re looking for the right growth and acquisition manager, you want someone who has experience managing social advertising campaigns with similar goals to yours, and with similar budgets.

This is not an automatic disqualifier, but it is something to consider when you are reviewing the candidates.

Small and large social advertising campaigns have very different executions on different platforms. Managing campaigns on Facebook with a $ 5k monthly budget vs. a $ 150k monthly budget require two very different approaches (the latter requiring help from a Facebook Marketing Partner – or, ahem, specialists that work with multiple FMPs – to be efficient).

What You Should Look For:

Take into consideration the size and scale of their previous social media advertising campaign management experience. The closer they align with your company’s budget and scale, the better suited that candidate is likely to be to jump in and create effective campaigns from the start.

Mistake #3 – Focusing On A Specific Degree Or Education

There’s no one correct degree or type of experience to look for since social advertising is constantly evolving and some skills may benefit one type of business over another.

Within our own company, we have people with everything from a criminal justice background to a finance one. If you use a degree or a specific educational institution as the deal breaker in your decision, you may be overlooking fantastic candidates.

That said, we have found that people who do well in this role typically have a degree in business, marketing, or statistics, with a background in quantitative analysis – either through math, economics, or data-driven digital advertising experience.

Basically, someone who lives and breathes spreadsheets.

However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule.

Media planners and buyers with backgrounds in mobile ad spend, display advertising, and search have enough of a foundation to build on that it makes them excellent cross-channel growth and acquisition managers.

What You Should Look For:

In a perfect world – and we’re getting greedy here – the ideal candidate would marry a strong foundation of exceptional analytical and business skills with strong creative ability in persuasive copywriting and/or marketing, but if they appear solid on the quantitative front, you can fill in the gaps in other ways.

Mistake #4 – Expecting Immediate Expertise Immediately

Legendary women’s NCAA basketball coach Pat Summitt said she recruited good, all-around athletes because she knew she could teach them to play basketball.

Likewise, you don’t need to necessarily hire a perfect expert to be your Growth and Acquisition Manager. You’ll still succeed if you find a good, all-around analyst with advertising experience who has the initiative to become an expert on the automated advertising platforms your company uses.

You want someone who is hungry to learn, loves getting their hands dirty, is comfortable with some level of uncertainty as they test different things, and thrives in being challenged as they stay up-to-date on the many changes and challenges acquisition channels can throw your way.

Hiring someone to manage all of this at scale can be challenging – made even more so if you’re not in New York, San Francisco, London, or some other big city.

What You Should Look For:

Hiring an experienced acquisition professional is often more of a challenge and less practical than hiring someone who is smart and ambitious, and checks off enough of the other boxes that they can be trained in the rest.


Whether you’re hiring someone who is experienced and strategic or eager and green, you must be dedicated to arming them with the tools and resources they need to continually learn, test intelligently, and truly reap the most out of your acquisition efforts.

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