Hiring is never easy. A kick-ass awesome marketing hire at your startup can be nearly impossible.
Yet, marketing is often one of the first areas of the business that founders look to outsource. Your startup’s growth is on the line, so making a great hire can be crucial to success.
Don’t screw it up!
Yet, too often, I talk to founders that have already made their first marketing hire and usually, things aren’t working. While the marketing is technically getting done, it isn’t creating the results that they were hoping for.
The unfortunate truth is that they hired a regular marketer. What they needed was a results-driven marketer.
Here’s the difference between the two, and the secret to making an awesome marketing hire at your startup the first time.
First, You Need To Know What Actually Works
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is hiring a marketer before you know what works. In the beginning, you will need to get all the different parts of your business work together. You will be developing your product, your sales process, and your marketing strategy all at once.
It’s one big machine.
At this stage, it is your job as a founder is to try things until you find a formula that works. Making a marketing hire before you know the formula (at least to a certain degree) virtually guarantees that you’ll be wasting time and money.
As Jason Lemkin from SaaStr puts it, “[you need to] learn something about marketing first before you hire someone to take it over.”
Before you make your first marketing hire, make sure that you’ve identified at least one channel or tactic that you know works. This could be content marketing, affiliate or referral marketing, or even paid ads. The tactic doesn’t really matter – just make sure you have one.
Once you have a formula that even mostly works, you can start looking to make your first awesome marketing hire at your startup.
Second, You Need To Understand the Difference Between a Generalists and a Specialist
Understanding the difference between and generalist and a specialist, and being able to recognize which one you need, is an important no matter what area of the business you are hiring for. It is even more important for marketing.
Here’s a hint, in the beginning, you probably need a generalist. Later on, you’ll need specialists, but for now, plan to paint with a broader brush.
The problem with hiring specialists too soon is that they’ve never been responsible for results outside of their specialty.
They won’t always know when they should change, and when they should do it.
Sure, they can execute within their specialty, but what if there are bigger growth opportunities that require completely new tactics? Will they have the wherewithal to try something new, or will they just plow ahead in the specialty they already know?
You don’t want to be stuck making a new hire every time your strategy changes.
Let’s say you hire a great content marketer, but after six months you haven’t converted a single customer from the blog and your traffic is flat. Will the content marketer realize that it’s a dead-end and adjust, or will they just continue executing a busted strategy?
Ideally, a good generalist marketer will recognize that you need to change strategies early on. A good generalist is usually someone who is more focused on the outcome (business growth) than the marketing tactic. That’s what you need to be looking for.
Third, You Need to Look for Candidates Who Can Talk About Growth
Unfortunately, most marketers have never been trained to produce results.
It’s not entirely their fault. The fact is that modern marketing is all about marketing tactics.
Tactics are about what marketers create. Social media, email marketing, and content marketing are all tactics.
Results are about creating growth.
The problem is that most marketing teams are built around the tactics they employ, not the results they produce. In the interview room, this means that conversations about what type of marketing they’ve done in the past will be easy.
The hard conversations will be about the results they produced.
Most won’t know. Many won’t even have bothered to measure.
You want to hear, “we were able to increase the number of leads each month for two quarters in a row,” and not “we created an eight-week digital campaign that our clients loved.”
You’ll find that most marketers have never experienced anything but tactic-driven work environments. If they are at least aware of this gap in their experience, then you can consider hiring them if no other candidates emerged
Otherwise, head the other direction.
Just because someone has done “award-winning” social management, doesn’t mean that they know how to use it to grow. Look for candidates who can talk about growth. The great ones always can.
Fourth, Find Yourself Someone Who Likes Data
In the beginning, data is king.
Someone who can think like a scientist or an engineer will not only help you get results quickly, but they will also help you build a platform that you can scale over the long term.
A data-nerd is a quick giveaway for a results-driven marketer.
You will know a data-nerd when you see one. They will talk about measurement, spreadsheets, and will be extremely proud of the data that they collected, and how they used it to reach a specific goal.
We’re talking conversions, leads, pipelines – the good stuff.
This will be the hardest thing on this list to find, so make sure your expectations meet your budget and do the best you can.
Even if the person you hire isn’t a data nerd on their own, prepare to hold them accountable. You should require your marketing hires to complete weekly KPI reporting and check-ins.
Constantly be asking them:
What are we going to do better it in the future?
If you can have a discussion around those three questions each week (and use data to back it all up) you will be miles ahead of most marketing teams right out of the gate, and you’ll have made your very first awesome marketing hire at your startup.