A lot of ink is spilled over what you should look for in your first sales hire. But the first marketing hire for a startup is also a crucial role. This person lives on the front lines. Done correctly, this person can jumpstart your brand and set you on a path to market relevancy. Done wrong and you can alienate your customers. No pressure. So what should you look for in your first marketing hire?
Does this person embody what you want people to think of your company? Their job is going to be driving your brand through multiple channels and responding to inbound activities. They’ll talk with customers, prospects, the media and the community – all of your various constituencies. They must represent the very best your company has to offer.
Marketing also has an important relationship with product and sales. The cultural fit must extend beyond organizations. Startups are too small to have silos and in-fighting. Your first marketing hire sets the tone as you build out the rest of the team.
This is too big of a hire for you to hand hold. This person needs to operate autonomously. The front lines of marketing – talking to customers, doing media interviews and sharing on social – happen in real time. Speed can be the difference between success and failure. You need to trust them to make quick and decisive decisions.
Your company’s brand is accessible 24/7/365 on the Web. Someone who is looking for a straight 9-5 won’t be able to be truly successful in this role. In addition, when a crisis happens (and a crisis will happen or at least something will happen that seems like a crisis at the moment), will this person be available at dinner time or on the weekend to do what needs to get done?
Can this person see months and years out? Can they paint a picture bigger than the reality you know today? Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, can they execute on that vision? The first marketing hire is a difficult one because not everyone can be a player coach. This person needs to come up with the plan but they also need to do a lot of tactical execution. Finding someone who can do both isn’t easy but if you can you’re setting your company up for tremendous growth possibilities.
This hire needs to be able to make friends inside the company and out. The first marketing hire is working closely with sales and product internally. Externally, they’re probably working the booth at trade shows, talking to the media when possible, interviewing customers for case studies. In the early days of a startup, before they’ve built a strong brand, personal relationships and connections are everything. The faster they’re able to make friends and build strong relationships the more quickly your company benefits from that.
Clear, concise, and efficient. This is even more important if the startup is founded by a technical engineer. The technology may be great but if a prospect can’t derive value within the first 30 seconds of landing on your website or listening to a presentation then you’ve lost them. The ability to cut through the noise and be heard has never been more difficult so the ability to do that has never been more important. That’s why the most important skill is the ability to process information, dissect it internally and then articulate it clearly externally.
Of course there are more than just the above six traits to look for in your first marketing hire. But these are a great start and if you find a candidate that checks all these boxes hire him or her… Immediately!