Rethink / People / A guide to hiring the first marketer for your startup

A guide to hiring the first marketer for your startup

Aviv Yonas February 22, 2022
rethink hiring the first marketer v2

In today’s information-overloaded world, marketing is an essential part of any strategic business plan. This is especially true for startups, at least for the startups in our stable. In parallel to educating industry stakeholders about their innovative products and services, startups need to fight for share of voice, cut through the noise, and quickly establish a strong brand presence in order to win over customers, investors and future employees.

For any founder, the first marketing hire is critical. This individual will play a major role in building out the internal marketing function, setting the tone for team dynamics and corporate identity. The remit of typical marketing roles in the digital era have expanded significantly in recent years, which means it’s essential that you’re onboarding a digital savvy market (and marketing) expert. When it comes to recruitment, it’s very important that the job description aligns closely with the strategic priorities of the startup. The job spec should also reflect the dynamic working environment of the startup, as well as the professional growth opportunities that come with joining – this will help attract high caliber, motivated candidates. Once priorities have been defined, it’s just a matter of finding a candidate with the right temperament, skill set and experience.

Remember, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to hiring the right marketer, each strategy will have to be carefully tailored to the individual startup. To help you establish your own best-in-class hiring framework for your startup’s first marketer, we’ve highlighted some key criteria to ruminate on. Let’s take a closer look.

Key fundamental skills to look for

The ideal first marketing hire will be an excellent communicator, well organized and motivated to get their hands dirty. They’ll need to demonstrate a creative flair, and be able to operate within the confines of a limited budget. Startups are often characterized by their agility, so the first marketing hire will need to be quick on their feet, and comfortable operating independently, and as part of a team. When it comes to everyday operations, they must be able to translate your startup’s vision into KPIs and measurables, and think outside the box in terms of maximizing the impact of marketing campaigns and building brand awareness.

From product fit, to person fit

When it comes to experience level, you don’t necessarily need to hire for seniority from the get-go. Instead, at seed funding stage, look for a good mid-level marketer who can grow into the role, with a view to hiring a VP of Marketing or CMO post-Series A funding. At any level, these marketers are highly sought after, so landing the right person is paramount.

The scope of marketing roles now covers a range of business strands: digital, operational, performance, product and content marketing. It is very difficult to find a candidate who excels across all these fields, so you need to decide which strands are ‘mission-critical’,  and let that guide your hiring strategy. The key here is onboarding someone who will fit into the startup’s culture. And of course, they need to have a firm understanding of the startup’s vision, and believe in it too. You can always leverage freelancers  to fill any capability gaps as you grow your marketing team. (Top tip: Team8 portfolio companies tap into our team of marketing experts before, during and after building their own marketing resources.)

Be quick to hire, and think geographically

Often, startups delay hiring for marketing positions, and by doing so, can miss out on opportunities for growth. It would be prudent to hire as soon as your POC is fleshed out, and certainly before you celebrate any important milestones like a product launch. This is especially true if your value proposition targets consumers directly.

A good rule of thumb is to hire marketing personnel that are close to your target demographic, geographically speaking. They need to fundamentally understand the customer journey, the market environment, and culture to be successful. If your startup’s target market is primarily outside your local country, it is essential to locate your marketing team in a strong central hub for that territory.

Use existing networks to locate talent

Referrals from existing networks can introduce you to strong candidates whose track records have already been validated. Our first port of call for candidates is our extensive and influential network. If you need to go wider, a network of executive search firms that can help pinpoint the right marketing people further afield.

Hiring a marketer is an art and a science, just as marketing today is both an art and a science. Careful planning and prioritizing will go a long way to ensuring your first marketing hire sets you on the path to growth and success. But it all starts with knowing your startup, and what its real marketing needs are. This is where Team8 portfolio companies have an unfair advantage. As mentioned, our in-house marketing team supports our foundry companies and startups with marketing activities while they build their teams. But we also help our startups figure out who to hire, based on their marketing priorities, and then help them find the best candidates.

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