How To Hire Marketers For Startups

A few years ago, I interviewed with a company that builds slack apps for others businesses. As a whiteboard exercise, the founders asked me to prepare a marketing plan.

I pulled together everything that I thought would help the app to grow and acquire customers. Within an hour, the whiteboard was full of ideas. However, while presenting, a critical observation struck me. I noticed the way I was explaining everything.

I realized every idea, channel, or resource I recommended in the plan — reflected my dominant experience. Things that I didn’t understand but thought might work were listed as experiments on the board.

Do you see?

You don’t just hire a marketer. You hire their experience, their play. Your first marketer is your marketing plan. Their dominant experience is the first order of play.

By the end of this post, we’ll address challenges like how to:

  • Source great marketing candidates organically
  • Set two-way expectations with your first marketer
  • Evaluate candidates for ownership and fitment

So, let’s dive in.

We all play by our strength — marketers arent’ different. So, when you’re hiring your first marketer or expanding the team, what you’re doing is setting the tone on how you’ll grow.

Plus, marketing is hard! It can be even more challenging if you’re in a competitive market. To understand the challenge — First, understand how easy or difficult it is to market in your industry. Find answers to question like:

  1. Where do my ideal customers live? Where can I reach them?
  2. How are my competitors finding customers? Which all places they or their marketing campaigns are showing up?
  3. Who identifies themselves as marketers of your competitors? What are their designations?

Answering these questions will give you a fair idea about the playing field. Offer you some insight into the expertise you must seek in your early marketer or the team you’re setting up.

If you’re looking to raise a world-class marketing team, then understand that such units are structured to run like a business in itself.

Where :

  1. Some leaders or strategists write the specification of how their business creates and communicates its value.
  2. There are artists who either charm with wordplay or communicate through design.
  3. Some executioners prepare, manage and cast their spells onto the world.
  4. And last but not least, some analysts identify opportunities and measure the team’s efforts.

Once you understand the challenges of marketing your business, you can jump on to the next hurdle — i.e., to find the right people for the job.

If your startup is funded, you already know finding candidates isn’t a problem. Your investors and PR reach are already doing a number in the talent market.

What you’re looking for is a marketer who aligns with your idea of growth.

So, in your pursuit of finding your marketer, You can:

You can: Attend conferences on growth, marketing, and community building to meet and connect with marketers who’re already aware of the industry at large.

You can: Use platforms like lunch club to find and meet marketers in your region or worldwide. Some people I met there even referred me to their peers. So, they can introduce you to a high-value network.

Another way is to reach out to marketers is by finding those folks who regularly present, organize or attend local marketing boot camps. I met the growth marketing leader of BCG Ventures while attending a conference in San Francisco. He was looking to hire marketers and scale his team in California.

So, you never know your next marketer might be at these places.

Now, if you’re bootstrapped and starting, hiring early marketers will be a time-intensive exercise. Plus, every marketer you hire in the early days might feel like adding extra calories to your diet. Yes, marketers are like calories to your business.

It’s on you to decide whether you’re gaining muscle or getting lean.

If you’re not the corner bakery selling hot cakes in a broadway market, then your business needs a marketer. Precisely, as badly as every other bakery in that broadway. You get the point.

If you’re on a budget, you can start by hiring interns from tier 2 B-schools. They’re actively looking out for opportunities to work with intelligent teams.

Check platforms like Internshala or search for the keyword — “MBA candidate” on LinkedIn. You’ll see many professionals who’ll soon be starting their journey. You can quickly get them onboard for a quarter.

If you have the budget, then there are two ways to go about it. You can either:

Start by hiring a senior marketing leader first. This person will know what kind of team they need. Finding someone who can build from the ground up, in their vision, could make this an enticing opportunity.

Otherwise, start with a well-rounded generalist, someone who can begin executing practical work while figuring out what’s needed to take things to the next level.

Either approach can be effective starting points.

Some characteristics I look at when hiring marketers for my team are:

  1. Generalists to the core — Have a knack for learning the nuances of the field.
  2. Uphold, honesty at all times — Isn’t sneaky or into black hat marketing practices.
  3. Know-how and when to sell — Spend time on understanding customer pain points
  4. Think about solving problems at scale — Navigate challenges on their own
  5. Super collaborators — Respectful towards their teammates and add value to everyone.

By the way, the ultimate way to source fantastic marketing talent is by being a great marketer yourself.

That’s the most magnetic thing about a startup founder or its leader. Trust me. I am not making this up. You see, it all boils down to marketing to a marketer. If you get that right, you have our attention.

Also, tech buzz founders are overrated! No offense. We aren’t attracted to you if you don’t get it.

Dave Gerhart, CMO of Privy, recently posted — “Life is too short to work for founders who don’t understand marketing.”

If you’re a founder, learning the craft will open more doors, as it will become a lot easier for you to manage and brainstorm with your marketing team. This understanding will ultimately transcend into aligning marketing with your idea of growth. Setting up expectations will get easier from here.

This entire process of hiring your first marketing or setting up the team will help you set the tone for how you wish to grow your business.

And That’s all in this episode. Let me know your thoughts on this subject or what you think about this episode.

In the next article, I’ll discuss how you’ll shape your first marketing plan. What things it should cover, and how will you prioritize which problems to solve first.

Utkarsh works at the intersection of Sales, Marketing, and Product teams. He has spent the last 7 years helping SaaS startups to scale. Leads PMM @ Airmeet.