Scale-up tip: how to grow your marketing team? First marketing hires

Scale-up tip: how to grow your marketing team? First marketing hires

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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Three technologies that will make screens disappear in five years

Three technologies that will make screens disappear in five years

In five years all glass screens should be gone. Admit it, nobody likes having big screens in their house and I’ve seen offices in which they ‘fight’ for the large screen on a skateboard, which people lock in their office because they need it the day after. Yes, it is time to move away from all those screens, keyboards, mouses and mobile phones. It is time to step back to beamers with motion sensors and to screens which are so thin that you can fold them. Luckily, these developments are progressing and are almost ready to swoop away our current static screens. Here are some cool technologies allowing us to do this:

Motion Sensors in Google Pixel 4

Don’t hold the phone is the slogan of the commercial for the Google Pixel 4. And while I don’t believe this device actually floats in the air (see video below), it does have motion sensors built in. That way you don’t have to touch the screen (remember, the static glass which will disappear in the coming years).

Now imagine this technology being integrated within a mini beamer or foldable screens. I see this as a technology which might replace the mouse or your touch. Combined with improved voice recognition you can also replace your keyboard and mouse.

The technology in Pixel 4 will be a perfect replacement for your finger and mouse.

A foldable screen in the Samsung Galaxy Fold

Another cool device which is expected is the Samsung Galaxy Fold. While I’m not convinced yet that their first version will change the smartphone market, it is a great step forward. This shows that companies are investing in foldable screens and that they are working to replace the static screens. 

And yes, the first mobile phone was big and didn’t fit in your pocket, but years later it got thinner and smaller. But now people want to have it bigger. If you have a foldable screen with motion sensors and speech recognition, why would you need a laptop, tablet or big static screen?

Virtual reality and Augmented reality

Two years ago I stepped in a Sensory Reality Pod from Sensiks. This was incredible. Your eyes and brains are tricked by virtual reality, walking through a forest. But they did more, they also play with your other senses. You could feel the wind blowing in your face and smell the woods. In that story the forest caught fire and you could feel the heat on your skin and smell burning woods. This is something you should experience yourself to be blown away, but keep in mind this is two years ago. Imagine what we can do in five or ten years if you combine these technologies with each other.

What technologies do you think will help replace the static screens?

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Hot or Not? Is your LinkedIn picture good enough?

Hot or Not? Is your LinkedIn picture good enough?

As you might know, I’m a big fan of LinkedIn for B2B relation building. The platform offers an amazing reach and allows you to differentiate yourself and to create a personal or company brand. And as I have a marketing background I think it’s important to measure your actions. That is why I always keep track of my stats (views, likes, comments, shares) on posts but I’ve now found a tool that allows me to do another great trick.

Measure your face

Yes, it might be a bit uneasy to start with. However, as LinkedIn is an important platform you should use it as seriously as possible. That includes getting feedback on your profile. The first tool which I’d like to share with you is Photofeeler.

Photofeeler is a tool allows you to get feedback on your profile picture(s).

Time to A/B test your looks

This reminds me of when I was younger, hot or not? You see a picture of someone of the opposite gender and decide if he/she is hot or not. We have all used it to discover what people think of us (or it might be my love for analyzing that I used it). This tool is comparable. It allows people to vote on how competent, likable and influential you come across on your picture.

Vote for a vote

To get votes, you should vote. It’s a fair system and it allows you to quickly gain enough votes to decide which profile picture works best for your audience. While it would be great to score above average on all features, it might differ which you need to get your message across. For example, a customer service employee might want to score above average on competency and likeability, while a Sales Manager wants to rank high on influence.

Photofeeler test by Mark Grasmayer from ENMA


My first tests

Here are my insights on my tests. While I thought that a close-up of my face would be quite impressing, the opposite is true (or is it too impressive? We’ll never know).  So, I decided to upload another picture and get new votes. And voila, the second picture scores way better and is now my LinkedIn profile picture. After that I ran a third test as I want to score higher on influence. Unfortanetly, I did not succeed. 

Testing your sales team

This might be an ethical dilemma which you might want to discuss with your co-workers. However, as LinkedIn can have a major impact on your B2B-sales it’s important to have your entire team looking as sharp as possible. That said, why don’t you throw in their pictures? The CEO of Workspace 365, Erik Nicolai, was kind enough to take the test. He is a firm believer of LinkedIn’s power. We both thought that he had a great LinkedIn profile, however, after running some test we managed to almost increase all of his scores with 20%! Imagine the impact this has on making the first connection with a potential business partner.

What are you waiting for? Give it a spin on Photofeeler. I’m very curious to your results.

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Will you choose privacy or discount? The Future of Privacy

Will you choose privacy or discount? The Future of Privacy

Would you give up access to your Google Fit account if a health insurance company would give you 20% discount? Today a Dutch drivers association and insurance company, ANWB, announced a new method of getting discounts. Members can order a stick which will be placed in their car that will measure the drivers performance. How do they steer? Do they brake a lot? Etc. etc. etc. If someone scores 80-100 on driving safety they will get a discount of 30%, the lower you score on driving safety, the lower your discount. 

So this made me think… Would I give up access to my Google Fit account if my insurance company would make me such an offer on life style?

At this moment, probably not. I work full-time & study on saturdays, so my average sit-ratio is about 16 hours a day. Luckily, I also walk to the water tap, fridge and my car, making my movement around the 7 hours a week -yikes-. I can’t imagine earning a discount with this sitting live style of mine.


The wonderful effect of working at home (and having a flu)

But what if they would give me a discount of 20%? Would this motivate me to move e.g. one hour a week extra? 

I don’t know yet. But I think it is time to have a good thought about this, as I can imagine that this will probably be introduced in the coming year.

DMUs in cloud sales are changing, is your sales force changing?

DMUs in cloud sales are changing, is your sales force changing?

From technical, to emotional; learn to speak their language

Business leaders (CEOs) are responsible for buying 75% of cloud products, and are in most cases technically illiterate (Osborne, 2015). This means that IT-solution providers are dealing with a new decision maker. Over the past years I have spoken to hundreds of IT-solution providers and I noticed a difference between the successful companies and the companies who might not be there in a couple of years.

The biggest difference is the way sales teams communicate. The successful companies focus their communication on the humans who have to work with it, as opposed to only speaking about technologies. The companies which are struggling to keep up often talk to customers in technical terms. As the decision unit is changing and there is more pressure from software vendors it is important for the sales force to learn more about their new target audience.

How to communicate with non-techies?

It will be important for the IT-providers sales team to change their game and communication style to level with the (technically illiterate) business leaders. The figure below shows the biggest differences between business leaders (e.g. CEOs) and technical leaders (e.g. IT managers or CTOs). Their interests differ and this is something to keep in mind during the entire sales process.

An advantage can be create when demonstrating cloud products to CEOs, as they tend to focus on productivity and innovation power for the short term. Demonstrating the solution while highlighting the short term benefits can influence their opinion. Whereas the technial leader is process driven and focuses on the technical aspects of the implementation and security of the solution. While demonstrating the cloud solution to technical leaders, they are more likely to discover pitfalls and raise questions about implementation and security. Therefore, you should be able to answer those questions as well. The key lesson is to focus on the end-users, which are humans who want to work easier.

Advantages of IT-providers compared to software vendors

In most cases business leaders can easily order cloud products at the software vendor or via an IT-provider. A good example is Office 365, which can be bought directly at Microsoft or via Microsoft’s cloud service partners, the IT-providers. So, why would a business leader order their solutions at an IT-provider instead of directly from Microsoft? According to Gartner’s Tiffani Bova, it is key to add value to the cloud products (Lee, 2012).

Many IT-providers claim to be the safest or offer the best service on Office 365

From my perspective, there are multiple ways to add value to cloud products. While many companies claim to be the safest Office 365 reseller or they offer the best customer support, their claim doesn’t really add value to the solution itself. To add value to a cloud product, it is important to show the customer that you know why, how and what cloud product is suitable to their business.

Ask yourself, why would you choose a particular IT-provider?

A cloud solution is often exactly the same at each IT-provider or vendor. So, when an IT-provider sends a sales person telling that they are safer or offer better customer support than competitors that does not differentiate them. That is why it is about adding value. So, as an IT-provider, it is highly important to use the Golden Circle of Simon Sinek (2009) to show why the customers should choose your company instead of the vendor.

Figure 2 – Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle (2009)

Illustration of the ‘Why, How, What’ sales principle.
This example shows how the principles could be used to determine the communication strategy for sales representatives in case of selling a cloud product to a health care organisation.

Why: We are an IT-provider specialized in health care because we want to make health care workers focus on their patients, without having to deal with frustrations with IT and the limited accessibility.

How: Since most care takers poses a mobile device, we can bring all the software directly to them, instead of having them to leave their patients to administrate their day on a desktop or laptop.

What: We can use our experience with CareInc, HealthCorp and Hospital Center, to set up Office 365 especially tailored to meet the needs of your care workers.

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