This week our Friday Crib Sheet comes from an outfit we really respect - Atlanta Ventures. It's from 2018, but still absolutely relevant: How do you build a high-functioning marketing team in a startup environment? It's quite a huge subject; 'marketing' is such a huge subject. There are dozens of different elements, and quite frankly the marketing technology mosh pit of single-point solutions doesn't help. Where to start?
I'd suggest starting with this post, written by Jacey Cadet back in September 2018; there's loads of other great content and advice for startups on the Atlanta Ventures blog, so I'd suggest that you'll benefit from following them closely!
We’ve had quite a few conversations with entrepreneurs about the path to building a high-growth company. I thought it might be helpful to share a guide about the mechanics behind building a thriving marketing team in a startup. If you’ve been in the startup world for even a small amount of time, you’ll know that every company is different, markets differ from industry to industry, and marketing skills vary widely from person to person. This blog is an overall look at startup marketing team roles, responsibilities, hiring phases, and timelines. Use this guide as a baseline and customize as you see fit.
What needs to get done?
Some marketers may be thinking “What doesn’t need to get done!?” because so many tasks fall on a marketer’s plate. In order to combat that overwhelming feeling, here are nine areas to focus on in the early stages as you scale your team (and we’ll dive into more specifics later in the blog):
Branding and Logo
If you can bucket your time, plans, strategies, and metrics into these categories, it will help you focus on what is essential and not get bogged down in the marketing chaos.
Where Do You Start?
There are hundreds of areas of marketing and there's a temptation to jump head-first into all of them. Before you do that though, the first and most important thing to do is define your customer. Customer discovery is critical. Start here before anything else, including building your marketing team.
“Customer discovery is critical. Start here before anything else, including building your marketing team. ”
Research until you know your customer like the back of your hand. Knowing your market, who is in the space, and how they interact, will help your future team feel confident in the problem you’re solving and help establish your real value proposition. This solid understanding will help you discern how to talk to your customer and know what to say to them. Honing in on your Ideal Customer Profile takes time, but starting with an understanding is the best way to begin.
Who’s going to do it?
With the above areas of focus in mind, let’s dive into specific roles (and qualities) these marketing team members will have. Below is a collection of seven positions, and what they’ll be responsible for, listed in a suggested order of priority.
1. MARKETING LEADER
This guy/gal is your first hire and wears all the hats, i.e. they do it all. As the earliest hire, you can also think about grooming this person as the future CMO if they have the desire to manage a team and focus on strategy. You’re looking for someone who is scrappy but can also motivate the team and get people inspired. They’ll be responsible for doing all the marketing tasks initially, then transition to guiding future teammates in doing assignments after that. After these leaders have helped you hone in on the customer, they’ll be responsible for creating your brand.
As you catch your stride, trying to hone in on messaging, helping the sales team with demo materials, and updating the website, interns can be one of the MOST valuable assets. They really do work, and are a very affordable way to get your company traction in all marketing areas including content creation, social media, website and branding, the list goes on. It’s a bonus if they have graphic design skills which will cut down on the Marketing Leader’s workload tremendously.
3. SEO EXPERT
Search is king, optimize the bejeezus out of everything! Having someone who really knows how to get the most out of content and search will help scale your brand beyond your friends and family connections.
Content creation can be hard, hire people that do it well. There are many startups trying to put out content just to put out content. Make sure you’re publishing quality content, even if it’s less frequent. Don’t forget, a copywriter can make excellent content for your blog, and also help with site copy, investor decks, sales demo scripts, ad copy, etc. Get a good one. Remember that you’ll need to distribute that content as well. In our recent University class, Asia Matos taught us that 20% of time needs to be spent creating content and 80% needs to be spent distributing it.
If your product is good, it can sell itself, but a really great marketing site only furthers your mission and helps tell your product’s story (so your sales reps don’t have to waste precious time doing it). We’re in a research-before-you-buy era. Bring in a development/design wizard that makes the best marketing site you ever saw, so your customers don’t have any unanswered questions when they hop on the phone with their sales rep. This person will help lead the charge in developing a cohesive look and feel of your brand.
6. MARKETING OPS
Data doesn’t lie. Bring in a marketing professional that is data-driven and operations-focused. By the time you bring someone in with these specialized skills, you’ll be well into selling your amazing product, so we’ll need every ounce of data to piece together your next steps in the marketing plan. Where are your readers coming from? Who is clicking on what ads? What campaigns are bringing the most revenue? These questions will be some of the focus of your Marketing Ops guru.
7. PPC SPECIALIST
For this position, getting someone with a strong financial background who understand return on ad spend will be most beneficial. You already have a copywriter on your team, so this hire will help accelerate the results of the golden copy you have in place.
BONUS -- 8. CHIEF REVENUE OFFICER (CRO): FULL ALIGNMENT WITH SALES AND MARKETING TEAMS IS CRITICAL. BRINGING THOSE TEAMS UNDER ONE “ROOF” WILL ONLY CREATE MORE UNITY FOR YOUR COMPANY. YOU WANT TO CONTINUALLY TRACK HOW YOUR MARKETING EFFORTS AFFECT YOUR COMPANIES REVENUE AND FINDING A PERSON THAT CAN MANAGE THE SMALL AND LARGE THINGS WILL HELP.
When are they going to do it?
Now that you have a rundown of the type of people you’ll want to bring on to build a stellar marketing team, it’d be helpful to know what timeline you hire these people in. Don’t forget that industry and growth rates will vary from company to company, but use this as a starting block to get you started. Keep in mind this suggested timeline ultimately depends on traction within each of your companies.
First: (0-6 months)
1 Marketing Leader
They are responsible for branding, content creation, event marketing, inbound marketing, all of it. *Did I mention you really want to hone in on your idea customer profile during this phase?
Next: (6-12 months)
Interns (1-3 are a great start)
I’ve marketed every product we’ve ever built thus far with interns. This is the best phase to try anything and everything and see what works. Have them focus on content creation, content distribution, and any area that’s draining your Marketing Leader’s time.
Next: (12-24 months)
1 SEO expert + 1 Copywriter
Search is king, content is king, and getting it out there is ACE! Bring on this duo when you can so they can tag team the effort.
Begin to specialize
A modern marketing team needs developers, designers, data analysts, and digitally-savvy marketers. As your business scales, you get more customers, and get more revenue, you’ll be able to bring on those more specialized hires needed to have deeper understanding of niche marketing areas.
Keep in mind there’s always going to be “millions” of tasks to complete. Start with your customer, then focus on the 8 key areas and do only the essentials. Use this guide to build your marketing while keeping an eye on your traction. In the next post, we’ll discuss more about how to set up your initial marketing budgets and how to budget for those initial and future hires.