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Hiring Your First Marketer? Here’s What You Need To Know

Morgan Lichtenstein
7 min read

If you’re a startup founder and looking to hire your first ever marketer, congratulations!

You’ve now got a significant challenge on your hands. Because most marketers come from traditional agencies or corporations, they might not be used to working in the volatile world of the startup where everything can change in a nanosecond.

However, if you know what you’re doing, it can and should be done. Although most founders recognize that marketing plays an integral role in a startup's success, many struggle with whether they should do the marketing themselves or seek outside help.

In this article, we’ll go over these three points:  

  • The eight skills every startup marketer should have
  • Hiring an in-house marketer
  • Hiring an agency

Reasons for hiring a marketer for your startup

As the owner of a busy startup, it's tough to find even a minute for yourself—let alone write a blog post. Hiring a marketer will free up much-needed time you can use to grow your business.

Without a well-thought-out marketing plan, a startup is dead in the water. A marketer can work with you to create one, which will boost your lead generation efforts.

The 8 skills every startup marketer should have

1. Knows how to improve user experience

One of the most essential skills in any marketer's toolbox is knowing how to improve the user experience.

The better the experience consumers have with your product or service, the more likely it is they'll buy it.

2. Needs to be creative

Your ideal marketer should be able to come up with fantastic campaigns that stun you with their originality.

Without this ability, you won’t “wow” potential customers, and your marketing will fall flat.

3. Skilled at social media

 A marketer needs to be conversant in the language of social media.

This means knowing the ins and outs of all the major social media platforms, including the types of content posted to each channel. A marketer will grow your social media following on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

However, they should not only know how to build a following on social network platforms but also how to move casual visitors to company landing pages and websites.

4. Adept at paid marketing

A marketer should know how to run a paid marketing campaign. This means targeting your ideal customers through a pay-per-click model such as Facebook and Google Ads.

Organic marketing campaigns can drive traffic, but they take time. If you need more immediate results, a paid marketing strategy can do the trick.

5. Experience with content marketing

 A good content marketer will have experience creating content that engages with your audience. The content can include blog articles and social media posts.

Find someone who’s interesting, engaging, and writes in a powerful and authoritative voice. The content needs to be captivating because it's what draws a reader and makes them want to keep reading.

6. Proficiency at email marketing

Email marketing can be highly profitable for your startup. It can generate an average return on investment of $42 for every buck you spend.

As far as marketing channels go, many consumers prefer email. Since most startups have limited marketing budgets, they can’t afford to waste time with marketing strategies that won’t get them the results they want. 

A talented marketer can create engaging email content and effectively manage your company’s email marketing campaigns.

7. Exceptional with search engine optimization

By effectively using SEO, your startup can capture the attention of customers faster than ever before.

A marketer adept in this skill possesses the keen knowledge to boost your website in the search engine rankings. They use strategies such as on-page optimization, technical analysis, and keyword research to make that happen.

8. Trained in web analytics

A marketer should have expertise in web analytics.

This is the collection, reporting, and analysis of website data to boost business performance. You can collect a lot of usable data on the way visitors use your site. Some of the things a marketer will track are the pages users spend the most time on, overall visits, which websites led them to you, and so much more.

Having a wealth of data at your fingertips helps grow your business faster.

Hiring an in-house marketer

Successful digital marketers possess a multitude of skills.

However, it’s almost impossible for one person to have every skill set you’ll need. Find someone who has a diverse background in lots of different areas but has expertise in the areas your startup needs most.

When hiring an in-house marketer, hone in on the skillset that'll have the most significant impact on your startup.

Keep in mind that content creation is quickly becoming the cornerstone of every marketing department. Content creation is such an incredibly vital digital marketing strategy because it’s one of the best ways to increase conversions. It also improves your company’s prominence and visibility in the eyes of Google.

Marketers who create highly informative and original content will attract inbound links in droves. These inbound links are the single most significant factor in determining your Google rank.

Conduct a three-step interview

When you’ve narrowed down your possibilities to just a few candidates, conduct a three-stage interview.

The phone screen

Have candidates apply on your website, so their details can be pulled through your tracking system. Your candidate will then receive an automated email from your email address.

The email will tell the person all about the process and ask them if they have any questions. For candidates that sound particularly promising, arrange a phone call.

The call shouldn’t be longer than 15 minutes. Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • What marketing campaigns have you participated in?
  • How will you approach marketing for my startup?
  • What are your recommendations for my company?
  • What projects are you working on right now?
  • Why are you interested in the job?
  • What unique ideas could you bring to the startup?
  • What’s your availability?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

The candidates with the most potential will convey why they’re excited to work for you, provide evidence that they’ve researched your company, and will ask some good questions.

Face-to-face interview

This interview should last anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes.

Make it as informal as possible. This is an opportunity to not only find out if they'd be a great fit but also to sell your startup to those candidates you're considering hiring. Ask questions that revolve around four main themes:

  • Motivation for wanting to join the company
  • How creative they are
  • How good they are at delivering solid results
  • Analytical skills

Give each candidate a score to make comparing easier—even if there are more subjective than objective questions.  At the end of the interview, give your prospective employee a whirlwind tour of your office to give them a tantalizing taste of your workplace culture.

Secondary interview

Conduct a secondary interview for candidates who survive the initial interview.

Before this interview, ask them to prepare a project based on a hypothetical scenario. Bring in two members of your team and have everyone talk about the task. Give the candidate time to talk about what they did and why they did it. 

Then, ask questions. The whole thing should take around 45 minutes.

Assess what it would be like to have this person on your team full time. The best prospects will not only deliver a brilliantly executed task but will also give you a sense of how well they’d work on your team.

Don’t just ask for references—call them

Companies might ask for references, but many fail to follow through.

Don’t make this mistake—talk to former and current clients about the results the candidate was able to achieve, how well they communicated, and whether they were easy to get along with.

How do I find an in-house marketing person? By hiring a marketing agency

If you don't have money in the budget for a full-timer, consider hiring a marketing agency.

The advantages of hiring an agency

The extensive exposure to a wide variety of industries and brands gives an agency a wealth of marketing experience you can tap into to accelerate your startup’s success.

Marketing agencies have years of experience in diversifying the marketing mix to reach different customer segments—which can be a time-consuming and complex process. You can gain access to experienced marketers through an agency at a cheaper rate than if you hired your in-person marketer.

The disadvantages of hiring an agency

Agency prices vary wildly. Some of them can be outrageously expensive, so do some research before you make your decision.

You’ll be sharing your agency team with other clients, so don’t expect it to give you its undivided attention. Be aware that an agency that isn't part of your team won't have the same brand ownership that an employee would.

What should you look for when hiring a marketing agency?

To prevent being taken advantage of, you’re going to need to have some goals in mind.

This will help to weed out unethical firms who only want to take your money. Show up to the initial meeting with a crystal-clear idea of what you want from the relationship, whether that’s more sales, more leads, or a better website.

Also, learn about all the services the agency provides. Is the firm a one-stop for all your needs, or do they only specialize in a single service?

For some services (pay-per-click comes to mind), you might want a dedicated expert because doing them well involves a high skill level and a singular focus.

Hiring a freelance marketer

If you don’t have enough money to hire a full-time marketer, hiring a freelancer is the next best option.

The advantages of hiring a freelance marketer

Freelancers usually work on a per-project basis and are paid a fixed amount for each project completed.

Because they’re contractors, you’re not required to pay them vacation time or other benefits. This is a more affordable option than hiring an in-house employee or an agency.

Tips for hiring a freelance marketer

Before interviewing a freelancer, prepare your questions ahead of time. If you don’t do this, you might forget to ask your most important questions.

Ask to see their portfolio to get a sense of their skill level. Request referrals or testimonials from prior clients so you can find out if they can produce solid results. Always interview more than one freelancer. Compare multiple candidates not only for skills and experience but also for the budget. 

If you're doing more than one interview, it can be challenging to accurately remember each candidate's details. Take notes so you don't have this problem.

Hiring an entry-level freelancer

If you need someone to do a relatively simple task, hire an entry-level freelancer.

This job won’t require much previous experience, and you’ll get the cheapest rates.

Hiring an intermediate freelancer

An intermediate freelancer has more experience and skills than an entry-level freelancer.

At this level, you can focus more on previous work and its quality. The freelancer should be able to show you examples of previous work.

Hiring an expert level freelancer

At this level, instead of you telling the freelancer what to do, the freelancer can tell you how the project should be completed. An expert-level freelancer will have years of experience under their belt. Because you’re paying more for this experience, your expectations should be higher.

For example, an expert-level content writer will not only be able to competently write an article but also understand what type of content should be written.

They’ll also be proficient in using on-page SEO, adept at keyword research, and know-how to break up text with engaging visuals.

Freelancer turnaround

Since you may not be the only client a freelancer has, it's essential to understand their frequency of communication and project turnaround time.

Properly managing expectations is the first step to a successful freelance relationship.

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