5 Traits to Look For When Hiring An Early Marketing Team For Your Startup

hiring-a startup-marketing-team

As the CRO at SaaStr, I am doing a lot of hiring these days! A lot. And that means spending countless hours skimming through resumes, taking phone screens, and meeting candidates in person.

Quick shameless plug–seriously, I am hiring for a lot of people, so if interested in working at SaaStr–check out our open jobs here.

Typically, when I go on a hiring spree, I spend at least 20% of my time screening and interviewing candidates–(if not more time TBH). Because the longer a position goes unfilled the more difficult it becomes to fill, and the more difficult my life becomes because I am trying to do all of these jobs myself. And if I am doing everyone else’s job, it is incredibly difficult to do my own job.

Since I do a lot of hiring, I am constantly re-inventing the list of attributes I look for in a new hire. Especially in a start-up environment, like SaaStr, it is important to have a framework for the kind of early marketing team hires that can thrive in your business.

Here are some of the traits that I look for when hiring a team of early stage marketers:

1. Marketing Specialists that Can Be a Generalists

When building out my marketing teams, I always hire specialists in certain areas–demand generation, events, content marketing, social media, etc. It is incredibly important as the marketing team scales that all of my players know their functional roles inside and out. However, since SaaStr is a startup, not only do I need marketing specialists who are rockstars in their particular roles, but I also need people who can venture outside of their functions when needed. This becomes an incredibly important skill that helps your team scale as your company grows.

For instance, while I have a demand generation manager that lives and breathes in Marketo, my content marketer knows how to go into Marketo and create her own content programs if needed. And my demand gen manager can easily roll up her sleeves to run event logistics when in a pinch. On my team, everyone knows each other’s role and shares in the responsibility of getting it done. So while I always look for experts, I always interview for a candidate’s ability to venture outside of their predefined role.

2. Marketers Who Can Moonlight as Sales

All marketers should know how to sell. Afterall, every marketing program, ad, ebook, and event, should have the goal of driving closed deals. However, I like my marketing team to take it one step further and embed themselves in the sales process itself. This means understanding lead handoff, opportunity stages, pipeline, forecasts, and more. This also means having basic (and not so basic) knowledge of how to build out reports and customizations in Salesforce. The closer your marketers are to the sales process, the better your sales and marketing alignment will be.

Additionally, I believe that a good marketer can be a pinch hitter during the sales process if a rep needs more fire power. We have a small sales team, so it is always helpful if one of my marketers can jump in and sell an event or booth sponsorship on the fly if needed.

3. Marketers Who Are Biased Toward Action

Especially in a smaller, growing organization, it is critical that your marketing team knows how to execute across multiple programs and are agile enough to make quick decisions where it counts. The more action-oriented your team, the more you can tackle and scale. While certainly executing recklessly can lead to mistakes, there is a subtle balance you can achieve through having the right approval processes in place.

You need your marketing team to keep pace with the growth of your organization, and that means handling multiple projects at once without being overwhelmed. We have a lot going on here at SaaStr, so I always try and test for bias towards action during the interview process.

4. Marketers Who Are Content Creators

Communication across a variety of mediums is incredibly important for a marketer, but you would be surprised how many marketers I meet that can’t write an email or conduct a live presentation. As an example, I have interviewed many demand generation marketers who live in Marketo running email campaigns but expect someone else to write their email copy.

On a small team, everyone needs to be content driven. That means everyone knows how to produce content–whether it is an email, blog post, live presentation, or a tweet. This increases self-sufficiency on the team, helps you fill in the content gaps if you have any, and it encourages the all-hands-on-deck mentality. Of course, not everyone is a natural writer, and that is OK. As a team leader and mentor, make sure to spend time to help your team develop that skill.

5. Marketers Who Are Humble

One of my old bosses had a rubric that he used for marketing hires, and an important element of the interview process was always assessing whether or not a candidate was humble. Since then, I have always included this assessment during my own hiring process. Basically, this translates to coachability, collaboration, and a “one team” mentality. Hiring a marketer in the Bay Area can be challenging for many reasons, and sometimes the most technically skilled marketers falter in showing that they are able to work as a team.

That “one team” mentality, while obviously critical for any size team, becomes even more important when hiring for a small team. You want your team to work together with a strong sense of fluidity and be able to lean on each other during the challenging times. If you have someone who is only looking out for themselves, you risk the cohesiveness of your team.

Marketers can be some of the most challenging hires that you have to make as a leader, and it is easy to get it wrong. However, by implementing a framework for candidate assessment, your interview process might start to get easier.

Published on April 9, 2018

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