“Marketing is about values. It’s a complicated and noisy world, and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear about what we want them to know about us.”  – Steve Jobs

No matter how disruptive your startup is, how much investment you’ve bagged, or how much press coverage you’ve received – your team will always be your biggest competitive advantage in the business world. The concept of a team has evolved beyond the founder/ co-founders and a sales expert juggling the operations of the entire business. With growing emphasis on key business functions, such as Business Development and Marketing, founders have realized the importance of hiring experts in these areas who will be key to scaling the business.

Marketing in particular is generating a lot of buzz in the startup ecosystem these days. We’ve noticed the demand for Chief Marketing Officers, and other marketing related roles, has shot up drastically in the last year. Most of the startups we have spoken to, tech or otherwise, are keen to bring on a marketing specialist to perform a host of functions, ranging from generating leads to building a brand (depending on what stage the startup is at).

In one of our previous articles, Your startup Needs To Think about Marketing Now, we discussed the importance of having a marketing champion in your founding/early team who makes it their business, as part of their wider role, to identify the fundamental marketing activities (research, strategy and tactics) and action them. You need a person who will, at all times, encourage the team to think about who their desired customers are, how they will be attracted, and how the business will retain them.

Since it is established that a marketing specialist should be one of the first hires you make, it is important to know what process should be followed and the important aspects to keep in mind when making this key hire.

What kind of marketing specialist do you need?

First and foremost, your marketing champion does not necessarily have to be CMO. It entirely depends upon the startup’s stage, budget, industry and team composition. Hiring a CMO in the test and launch phase of your startup can turn out to be overkill in terms of budget and skills.

In the early stage, the responsibility of a marketing specialist is to find the product/market fit, create a marketing strategy and execute that strategy through various channels to generate initial demand, followed by regular testing and optimization of the demand channels.

A Marketing Director at this stage makes the perfect hire. According to Viviana Padilla Faga, author of  The Founder’s Guide to Hiring Your First Head of Marketing, this stage requires an up-and-comer who is hungry for experience and wants to build a category-defining company – someone who doesn’t need a CXO title and is excited for the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get busy.

A CMO should be hired at a later stage when the company has grown and requires a visionary and a strategic leader. The responsibility of the CMO at this stage is to strengthen your story and create brand awareness on a large scale. The CMO will own the demand generation funnel and create a multi-market strategy while managing the teams implementing each task.

According to Billy Cina, Co-Founder and CEO of B2B tech and startup marketing agency ‘Marketing Envy’, a CMO should be someone with significant international experience who is capable of presenting to the Board of Directors and managing large and diverse teams.

Once you have figured out the kind of marketing specialist you want to hire for your startup, how do you go about it?

Start building relationships

Scaling a startup requires extensive networking and relationship-building with fellow entrepreneurs, investors, professionals, and so on. Building relationships in the startup community today can land you your perfect CMO six months down the line.

You know that you will need a marketing champion, so it makes sense to be pro-active and start connecting with people ASAP. Keep up to date with the leading marketers – especially those who have helped successfully scale startups in the past. You can engage with them on LinkedIn and initiate conversations and discussion, not with the intention of recruiting them, (This is not a hard sell) but to expand your pool of good candidates who can be considered in the future.

As a result, you might come across someone who is a good fit and is actively looking for new opportunities, or if they’re  looking in the future they will remember you and come back.

Establish a strong Hiring Process

A marketing specialist (Marketing Manager, Marketing Director or CMO) is an important hire for your startup, so the recruitment process should not only be strategic, but also thoughtful, to ensure that the hire and the business are set up for success.

Our article, Four Interview tips for Creative Recruitment, discusses a different approach to recruitment – a far cry from the traditional approach,  and involves using more effective alternatives to standard interviews.

Candidates can be asked to complete problem-solving scenarios to evaluate certain technical skills involved in marketing functions, such as data analysis, paid lead generation, SEO, and much more. An improvised interview can be used to test certain softer skills – these are important as the nature of startup ecosystem requires certain social skills for a marketer to thrive in such a unique business environment. Defining a clear scope for your marketing role and achieving the same in the form of the right candidate through a strong hiring process will help you to move your business forward.

Partner with an experienced recruiting firm

Right now, the job market in the start-up sphere is dominated by candidates. Specialised skills, such as growth marketing, are in high demand, meaning such candidates have a variety of opportunities with great benefits and incentives to choose from. Partnering with a recruitment company will give you a competitive advantage as they can provide you with expertise and fast turnaround required to hire the best talent. A recruiter who specializes in marketing hires understands the specific skills and will quickly identify the right candidate to grow your team.

The marketing specialist is a valuable hire who has a crucial role to play in the development of your business.  It is important that you invest in the recruitment of such an individual because one bad hire can derail everything; it’s one of the most risky and costly mistakes you can make at start up stage.

If you’re an early stage business interested in securing the top talent to build your business or are interested in working in an exciting innovative business, let’s talk.