5 questions startups should consider before making their first marketing hire – ClearTips

“Who should be my first Marketing hire?”

This is (by far) the most common question I’ve had since starting as Fuel’s CMO, and with good reason. Your first marketer will have a major impact on the dynamics of the team as well as the brand, product, and overall strategic direction of the company.

The reality is that anyone who excels at all marketing tasks is a unicorn and is nearly impossible to find.

The nature of marketing function has expanded significantly in the last two decades. So much so that when founders ask this question, it immediately prompts many newcomers: Should I hire a brand or growth marketer? An offline or online marketer? A scientist or a creative marketer?

At one time, the number of marketing channels was limited, which meant that the function fit itself into a neat, rigid box. The number of ways to reach customers has grown exponentially, as has the scope of the marketing role. Today’s startups need to have at least four broad functions under the umbrella of “marketing”, each with its own sub-functions.

Here is a sample of marketing tasks in a typical early-stage startup:

brand marketing: Brand strategy, positioning, naming, messaging, visual identity, experiential, events, community.

product marketing: UX Copy, Website, Email Marketing, Customer Research & Segmentation, Pricing.

Communications: PR & Media Relations, Content Marketing, Social Media, Idea Leadership, Influencers.

Growth Marketing: Direct Response Paid Acquisition, Funnel Optimization, Retention, Lifecycle, Engagement, Reporting & Attribution, Word of Mouth, Referrals, SEO, Partnerships.


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As you can imagine, this is a lot for one person to manage, let alone an expert. Furthermore, the skill set and experience required to excel in development marketing is vastly different from the skill set required to be successful in brand marketing. The reality is that anyone who excels at all marketing tasks is a unicorn and is nearly impossible to find.

So who do you hire first?

Unless you’re lucky enough to catch that unicorn, your first hire should be a generalist who can learn the full stack of marketing functions, learn what they don’t know, and have their sleeves to work with. roll up. Someone smart, knowledgeable and super sneaky who understands how to experiment in marketing channels until they find the right mix.

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