How do you decide your first marketing hires? Who should be in the marketing team of a start-up or scale-up? Five years ago I struggled with these questions. As with anything I turned to Google and asked advice from other marketing managers. Today I’d like to share how I finally came up with a plan and how you can decide who you should hire to grow your marketing team.

Your first marketing hire

Let’s say that you are the CEO of a start-up and you have enough budget to hire one person to support your marketing efforts. Chances are big that you haven’t yet reached the perfect product-market fit. That is why I would look for someone who has the four skills below:

  1. Eager to learn, not afraid to speak with customers
  2. Broad marketing knowledge and loves technology
  3. Proven experience of building an audience
  4. Open to change and willing to try new things

The founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, wrote a book called ‘Blitzscaling’. In this book he also describes that when your company is below 100 employees people should be flexiblists. Meaning that they should try to become an expert in their field, but not narrowing down to much like a specialist.

That is also why I think your first marketing hire should practice multiple fields in marketing (Storytelling, Design, SEO/SEA, Email marketing, etc.). It should be someone with hands-on experience to quickly adjust the marketing efforts based on new findings at customers. 

The seniority should definitely depend on your budget and go-to-market strategy. If you did manage to secure good funding and plan on setting up a huge marketing push I would recommend to hire someone who has done this before and ask during their interview what they did, how they did it and what they would now do differently.

Second marketing hire

If I’m correct, the person reading this paragraph is that rockstar-marketeer described above. Someone who is experienced in all fields of marketing.

For the second hire my recommendation would be to look for another person like yourself. If your organisation is still below 75 people I would recommend to hire someone who is great at creating content and eager to learn the other parts of marketing. This person should be able to completely replace you within a year. Why? Because if it all goes good, you’ll be very busy.

Before hiring person #3: learn to delegate and build templates

If your marketing budget allows it, experiment with delegating work to agencies and freelancers.

Work with agencies to scale up SEO & SEA efforts

You will need agencies to scale your digital marketing efforts as it makes no sense yet to spend days within your SEO/SEA tools. You probably did this for a while, but now the time has come to ‘buy’ expert knowledge from agencies. As you have done these tasks yourself for a while you know how to select agencies, although I will write an article on this as there are a lot of marketing cowboy agencies out there. 

Master hiring freelancers to improve processes or get the best experts

One of the coolest tricks in marketing is to build a great network of freelancers. On you will find a huge talent pool with writers, designers, voice-overs, animators, translators, and much more. If you work at an international start-up or scale-up and you need translations it makes no sense to do it inhouse. You can hire students to add subtitles to a video or translate an article of 1,000 words for just 15 euro.

Improve your hiring speed and focus on training

The first two people in your marketing team should be able to teach new colleagues about the organization’s mission, values and communication style. Therefore, it is key to have a solid structure in your document storage, making it easy for new people to find information. Next to this, you want to create templates to review the work of new colleagues. Or even better, templates and checklists that they can use to review themselves.

Case study: Hiring experts – great animators in India

A few years ago we wanted to reposition the Workspace 365 brand. We decided to create a new animation video and we wanted it to be perfect. So, we requested offers from a lot of animation companies within our home country (the Netherlands). Prices would range from 3.500 – 6.500 euro for a three minute video.

Luckily, we found a great animation studio (Geekfoxy) on fiverr that would create the video for just 750 euro. And after seeing the examples of the agencies that we contacted, I’m 100% sure that they also hired the same studio in India as we did. This saved us thousands of euros. 

Hiring person #3: create a plan and research others in your field

Now comes the hard part. You want to hire a third person. Chances are big that your company hit a scale-up stage and you need to level up your marketing. Ideally, you have a budget that allows you to create a mix of senior and junior marketing talents. At this time you will probably know your own expertise and that of your colleague. This allows you to add additional talents to your team. Here is what I did:

1. Understand your company and strategy

Before you hire another person it is extremely important to understand the overall strategy, planning and mission of the company.

  • What is the ambition of the CEO(s)?
  • Do they plan to scale-up in your current market or do they want to cross borders?
  • Do they want to add more industries?
  • Do they want to switch target groups or change the ideal customer size?

Answering these questions will help you to decide who to hire in your marketing team. 

2. Define your marketing organisation structure

Our organisation is a business-to-business software vendor. That is why I decided to study 20 org charts of similar companies. During this process I looked at similarities between our inbound and outbound methodology. I wrote down the things that I liked most about other org charts and which departments/hires would fit our companies strategy to scale globally.  

One of the org charts that I loved most was that of Hubspot. They had a similar approach to marketing and sales which made it logical to match their departments to our strategy. On the Modern Marketing Partners website is a great overview of 7 types of marketing organisation structures.

3. From flexiblists to experts?

At this point you will want to add some expertise to your team. To get a great marketing team you should now focus on diversifying talents across people. You should have the following people:

Master of Content and creative genius

Someone who is able to turn any boring slogan or dull image into a master piece. This person will be able to review any content that is produced and can offer advice on how to improve it.

Common function titles to search for candidates: Content creator, Storyteller, Content marketeer, Writer, Graphic designer, Brand manager, Content manager, Content strategist.

Digital and analytical lover

In your marketing team you should definitely add someone who loves to dive into digital marketing and analytics. Someone who isn’t afraid to experiment with technologies and to upgrade your marketing tech-stack. You want someone with hands-on experience but who is also able to delegate and manage tasks to external agencies.

Common function titles to search for candidates: Online marketing specialist, Digital marketing specialist, Growth hacker, Demand generator, Data marketing manager, SEO specialist, SEO manager, SEA specialist, SEA manager, Internet marketing specialist, Digital strategist.

Audience manager

Having someone who knows your audience and where they can reach them is very valuable. They will be able to use different organic and paid channels to reach your audience. Next to this, they will collaborate with your team to grow the audience.

Common function titles to search for candidates: Community manager, Engagement manager, Social media manager, Audience manager, Email marketing manager, . 

The goal of this article was to help you in setting up your marketing team. Hopefully, I helped you get a step in the right direction. As you can imagine, each organisation is unique. To give a full advice I would also dive into your organisation and industry. So, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

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