Tue 4 Sep, 2018

How to hire for marketing

There comes a very specific point for a startup where you find your product or service is a market fit, and your business suddenly begins to scale.

The momentum is great, and there’s now an urgency to get your company in front of as many new customers as possible. To do this, you need to know which channels are going to work and which strategies are going to drive the right leads for your business. You need to invest in marketing.

This next hire is pivotal to the ongoing success or failure of the business.

If you get it wrong, you’ll be left paying with lost time, a marketing budget that has gone to waste and potentially missing your opportunity to shine altogether as the competitors in your space begin to scale.

Getting it right is crucial; it will be one of the core components that drives your business forward and ensures it can scale further.

This doesn’t just mean hiring the right person for the job, but the specifics around the marketing role itself.

Firstly, your hire will depend on the skills base you’ve already congregated in your founding team. If one of you comes from a very strong marketing background then that person should naturally set out the strategy and direction for the business, and lead the new marketing team.

However, if you don’t already have a good marketer on your team then your first step is to bring in a Head of Marketing.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking you should just hire a low cost operator – it’s one of the most common mistakes companies make at this point.

This should be a strategic hire from the top down. Would you build up a company without a CEO or a Managing Director? No? So why would you start building a marketing department without a figurehead to guide it?

Your operational marketing employees (the Marketing Assistants, Executives and Managers) who will be running your campaigns on the ground everyday need strategy, guidance and management from a leader who knows what they’re talking about.

If you bring in these employees to run your marketing activities to tide you over they will seek direction and council from your founding team – and if none of you are marketers no one will know what they should be doing.

If you bring in a Head of Marketing after these hires, their first few months will be spent firefighting and navigating a way through the marketing mess that’s been created. This takes up a large amount of valuable time when they should be looking ahead and using your momentum to develop a strategy that will help your business to scale.

Your operational staff may also resent taking new orders from someone who has come in over their heads and is changing how things should run on what they will probably perceive as their turf – especially after being accustom to answering to someone on the founding team.

So, in short – start from the top. Hire your Head of Marketing first.   

The annual salary for this role is contingent on which industry you’re in, the size of your company and the rate at which you’re scaling. For a Head of Performance Marketing you should be expecting to shell out anything from £70k to £100k.

Yes, it’s an expensive first hire. However, you should be looking at it with the mindset that this person will be coming on board your management team to drive the marketing direction, and fill in the skills gap that’s currently present in your founding team. They will be directly responsible for delivering growth and scaling up the company, and will give back several times over in terms of ROI from increased revenue – which will far surpass their salary costs.

Make sure you hire someone who has the ability to be a coach and a player.

Startups require a huge amount of mucking in, so look for someone who isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and help out.

If your marketing activities have varied between being non-existent to fairly limited, you’re going to want to find someone who is still in the weeds of campaign management. This means they will not only be able to help kick-start and ramp up activities by running campaigns and understanding the different KPI’s for your key performance channels, but they will also be able to effectively hire and manage operational staff.

It’s also wise to try and hire a professional who has demonstrated that they can enter a new industry or channel, located and addressed their unique challenges, and then worked out solutions by using different strategies. It exhibits both adaptability and the skill of problem-solving – both of which are crucial for scaling companies.  

Once you’ve hired your Head of Marketing they can define your next steps.

When this new person has been installed on your management team, they will be able to assess your marketing needs and outline an appropriate course of action.

They will be able to analyse your growth trajectory against your business plan, and then make important decisions on how to go building out a robust marketing operation that can deliver against this plan – such as whether you should look to build a team in-house, outsource to an agency or mix together a combination of the two.

Finally, give it some thought.

Mistakes are often made because companies get excited by the prospect of scaling and dive feet first into hiring – without actually thinking about what kind of marketer they need.

Look at the evidence that dictates what type of marketing is going to work for your target audience, and from that you can assess the skills and experiences you’re going to need from a Head of Marketing.

A direct to consumer e-commerce startup is going to have very different marketing needs to a B2B SaaS business, and so finding the right person to drive a strategy that works for your specific company is key.

Whilst arguably extremely rare, a good recruitment agency should be able to act as consultants when it comes to finding your perfect fit, as they will have vast amounts of expertise in growing teams for different companies. They will be able to identify the skills your role will require to suit your company’s needs.

Equally, it’s often a good idea to start with a marketing contractor or an agency that offers incubator services. This means you will have the time and ability to evaluate and test which channels scale the most effectively for your company, and can then use that insight to shape the job description for your new Head of Marketing.

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