5 things to check while hiring your first marketing person

Among the many challenges a startup encounters, staffing the company with a capable marketing person is a key one. There are many reasons why tech startups should outsource their marketing. However, there comes a time when the founders feel confident that it’s the right time to bring in a full time marketing resource.

No company can afford a mistake while hiring a key person and least of all, a startup. With marketing rests the startup’s dreams of communicating its unique promise to the right people in the most effective way. Hence, it is critical to know and understand the dynamics of hiring the right marketing person.

One tends to feel that even now there is a fair amount of confusion between marketing and sales, with a few of the founders I have met using the terms interchangeably. The role of marketing is to take the brand promise to the right target audience and make the brand desirable for use / purchase. Along the way, a good marketing strategy / execution ensures that the brand message and its personality are consistent across time and across mediums. Marketing should make a difference to the business metrics – most times related to sales – directly or indirectly.

The role of sales on the other hand is to have a direct conversation with potential customers with the ultimate goal of making the customer pay for the product / service / solution. It is therefore important for the founders to have the right expectations while hiring a marketing resource.

The only business where I have seen marketing and sales roles converging is where the entire sales cycle happens online. Here, very clearly, marketing brings visitations to the website (hopefully, the right kind) and leads the visitors to the ultimate action – click the ‘Buy Now’ button and pay online. A good Internet company will give its online marketing person sales responsibility as well, with performance based commissions as added compensation.  

So, what should you look for while hiring your first marketing person?

  1. Successful stint in a category that has many commonalities with your own
  • It would be wrong to say that only someone who has in-depth knowledge of your category will be the right fit for you. You have to define the critical elements of your category knowledge of which are essential for the job. For example, if your business is an online productivity tool for small and medium businesses, you would look for someone with excellent B2B advertising / marketing skills and someone who has worked with the SMB segment before.
  1. Customer centricity
  • A good marketing person always puts himself in the shoes of his / her customers. One who has the interests of one’s customers as a priority more often than not comes out with a better marketing strategy and better inputs for the business.
  1. Focus on the data
  • A true marketing person is heavily data driven because of his/her passion towards driving a high ROI for the marketing investment. Lack of data centricity in the candidate should raise a red flag in your mind.
  1. Creative instincts
  • Marketing is a creative field and cannot be templatized. Hence, you need a person who has hundred ideas in his/her mind that are waiting to get out. Your conversations with a marketing candidate should probe the creative instincts to know the dynamism of his/her mind. If the candidate is able to think in many different ways for the same problem, you are sitting with a person with the right marketing attitude.
  1. Personality traits
  • This one is purely anecdotal – in my over 25 years of work experience, most successful marketing people I have seen have displayed the following traits.
  1. curiosity of a child – the ‘what if’ and ‘why not’ attitude
  2. animated and impassioned while making a point
  3. ability to afford a sense of humour even in the middle of a serious huddle
  4. impatience to get to the finish line (most times, seen in swiftness of walk – always purposeful)

These are primarily guidelines for a marketing hiring – obviously, the biggest overlay for this checklist is the cultural fit of the candidate within the organisation.

We would like to hear about your experience in hiring marketing people. What made your hires click? And if you have made some bad hires, what were they due to?

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