Key Things to Consider When Making Your First Marketing Hire

Founder of Orchid Agency
Mariya Finkelshteyn I
July 6, 2021

It can be hard to hire your first marketing role if you have no idea where to start. As an early stage startup, you have to build a team that will work together to prove product-market-fit, drive top-line growth while developing a brand identity and a repeatable playbook for go-to-market.  For your first marketing hire, what exactly are the qualifications that you should look for in a candidate? You want to hire for the long term thus it's important to look at the 4 things that a startup should consistently have and do long after a product has been launched.

1. Marketing Strategy & Plan


It is crucial to have a marketing strategy that is aligned with your business goals and sales motion. Marketing has a lot more impact when it's aligned to the sales motion. For example a few typical sales motions are:

  • Self serve - no touch required from sales typically in consumer market or in B2B SMB 
  • Sales assisted - sales plays a traditional role across:
  1. Upper SMB/Mid-market - work on inbound leads with some outbound activities
  2. Enterprise - land and expand or account-based sales motions

A foolproof marketing strategy helps you raise brand awareness, establish the differentiated value of your products, and reach your target audiences faster. Not having one can increase your burn rate, waste resources, and just won’t drive results most of the time. 

Investing in someone that has marketing expertise and understands the crucial need to align marketing strategy and plan to the sales motion is key!  Now you might be worried about overhead costs – which is a normal concern for startup founders, thus  partnering with a marketing advisor as opposed to a full-time hire can provide the deep expertise without the expensive price tag.


2. Product Marketing

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At an early stage, when you are trying to prove product-market fit, there is a huge need for a skilled product marketer, that focuses on these 3 areas:

1. Understand customers

  • Develop ideal customer profile (ICP)
  • Develop and update customer personas

2. Develop product positioning and key messages

  • Product value prop messaging
  • Develop sales enablement collateral
  • Win/Loss Interviews
  • Case Study Interview

3. Understand the market

  • Market research 
  • Competitive analysis

It's crucial to figure your target market and personas (which involves customer profiling), how you will reach and interact with them, which compelling messages you would say to them, and how are those messages different than anything else available on the market. Again, this is a conversation of tradeoffs and what’s right for your company. Typically a role like this requires a full-time investment as it involves working with customers, conducting market surveys, deep understanding of your product,  all of which are typically harder to outsource. 


3. Content Marketing

Once you figure out a strategy and your audience, then you will need a lot of content. Content for website, product description, emails, press releases, blogs, sales pitch decks, proposals and the list goes on and on.  Your content and messaging needs to be compelling, easy to navigate and digest, and most importantly drive engagement with your target audience. If there is a marketing plan with an outlined content calendar then a role like this could be outsourced to a couple of freelancers. 


4. Tracking and Tools

There are many ways you can promote your product or service – this includes paid advertising, events, targeted email marketing, digital channels such as social media platforms, and more. All promotions require marketing platforms and tools to be set up in order to acquire, activate and retain customers. However a mid-level marketing manager won’t have the expertise to set this up. Remember these tools need to align to your sales motion and prioritize the channels that will be the most effective with your target audience. Typically you’ll only need to stand up these tools once in the early stage of your startup thus outsourcing to an agency, or a skilled marketing advisor that has built systems from scratch could be a better use of your funds.

So how exactly do you hire 1 marketing FTE who meets each of the 4 bare-minimum requirements mentioned above?

Here are the key traits they should have.


1. An Effective Strategist


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For startups, it may not be advisable to hire a full-time marketing executive to help in the development and execution of marketing strategies, given the limited budget and resources. An average CMO comes with a hefty price tag ~$250K and for startups with revenues less than $5M per year, that amount could take up a large chunk of overhead expenses. It also doesn’t do your money justice to hire a CMO to execute on the plethora of low-value tasks like updating the website, posting on social media, and other day-to-day tasks. So what could be the solution to this problem? It’s simple – hire a marketing advisor instead. An advisor is more flexible; they have the marketing expertise to guide you in building and executing a relevant and effective strategy to drive revenue into your business, all for just a fraction of the cost.


2. An Ingenious Product Marketer


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Hiring an expert in product marketing should be high up on your priority list as a large part of proving your product-market-fit depends on this capability.  Typically a role like this requires a full-time investment as it involves working with customers, market surveys, deep understanding of your product,  all of which are typically harder to outsource. You would need someone with mid-level expertise and at least 5-7 years of product marketing experience, preferably with a similar sales motion, or better yet from the same industry. You want to make sure that whoever you bring on board has:

  • Proof of similar experience
  • Potential to grow into a senior role  i.e. Sr Manager, Head of PMM
  • Great communicator with internal leaders and customers
  • Right stage fit for your company


3. An Innovative Content Marketer

Once you launch campaigns, you will need a lot of content! Content for website, product description, emails, press releases, blogs, sales pitch decks, proposals and the list goes on and on.  Your content and messaging needs to be compelling, easy to navigate and digest, and most importantly, have a clear messaging that your target audiences can easily grasp within seconds. You will also need someone to execute the content across tools like your website, social media, in marketing tech stacks for emails, etc. Most content writers are great at writing, not executing content in tools. If there is a marketing plan with an outlined content calendar then a role like this could be outsourced to a couple of freelancers.

4. An Expert in Tools And Promotional Tactics

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To execute on your marketing plan you will need to run campaigns whether it's ads, emails, outbound calls to potential customers, etc. Depending on the stage of your startup you may not —you may not hire a sales development representative (SDR) or an account executive, until there is enough funding, thus founders typically take on the role of sales. But who will implement the email tools for you? Is Mailchimp and Sendgrid enough? Maybe to send the emails but can those tools provide accurate tracking, conversions and give you visibility into whats working and what’s not working? Probably not. Thus you need a marketing tech stack expert that can come in and set these up for you, along with a CRM, etc. to get you up and running for the first 2-3 years. This can definitely be outsourced to an agency or a skilled marketing advisor. 

Making your first marketing hire is one of most challenging decisions but with the right 1) marketing strategy and plan you can hire successfully 1 FTE and find ways to outsource other needs and capabilities while maintaining your burn rate.  Marketing is key, especially at the early stages to steering your startup to the right direction and accelerating growth. Building your dream marketing team is possible. Let us help you with that and talk to us today!

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