Before setting up a marketing team, startup founders or executives need to consider key questions, not only for Day One but for one to two years down the road. It is crucial to understand your team needs, who you should hire first, whether you need full-time staff or an external partner, and what mistakes to avoid in the hiring process.
First, how do you define the marketing team? Map out what you need today and what you will need over the next 18-24 months. Then consider the skills you need. Who will manage this person? What will they do? How will their work be measured? The No. 1 aim with a startup is driving sales, with branding a close second. What will be the expected ratio in your first hire’s overall workload?
Consider the size of your marketing team for each stage of your journey. As a rule of thumb, the seed stage (less than $1 million in annual recurring revenue) needs work either fully outsourced or a combination of one employee and outside help. Series A/B requires two to 10 marketing employees, depending on your ARR (annual recurring revenue). Once you are mid-market/enterprise, your team should include 15-20 people depending on ARR of up to $100 million. If you start hiring without a plan, as I have seen many companies do, you are starting out with a shaky foundation.
Assess channel marketing early on. I have seen agencies try to sell too many marketing channels without understanding the startup’s target audience. You never want to be in that situation. Your marketing partner should constantly be reminding everyone at your company where the target audience lives. What do they do? Where do they read? What conferences do they go to? What other brands are they connecting with?
Target customer persona work is a big part of determining that target audience, and one you don’t want to push to the back burner or you will waste a lot of time and money. Consider using an outside agency to work on branding.
So, who should be your first hire? At the top of the funnel is an incredible content writer who can talk about your target audience’s pain points and tell stories about how your company can resolve those struggles. If you are an e-commerce company, you will need a great writer who knows SEO and who understands and can use Shopify. If you are a company that doesn’t update its website often, you won’t need as much content. The mix is different for different companies, but having a great writer is always important.
In the middle of the funnel, you layer education and intrigue through product reviews, how-to videos and expert interviews. You might need to hire additional support, either internally or externally. The bottom of the funnel is the action space where your audience has engaged with your brand enough that they are interested in pricing comparisons, discount codes, third-party reviews and possibly a webinar.
When you start hiring, think methodically about how and whom you hire and understand this won’t be the only cost. Your marketing team will likely need more money for outside help in several areas. Regardless of the hire, getting the best people early sets the stage for who will be attracted to your team later. Be wary of the following mistakes:
• Hiring someone too senior: You might see someone you want who is available and bring them in but not have the money to build a real team. A senior employee will expect proper support.
• Hiring someone too junior: They will need too much of your time or just not have the necessary skills. They will be looking for a mentor, while you are hoping for someone who is going to save the day.
• Showing favoritism to friends and relatives: I can’t tell you how many times we see a new company that had a relative create its website, thinking they are ready to go. And we have to tell them the writing is terrible. It isn’t really differentiating you. And it isn’t going to scale. Hire the right people who understand your industry.
• Hiring before you have a marketing strategy: It is your responsibility to set that strategy and have someone come in and really kick the tires on it, do a competitive analysis, and understand who your target audience is. Too often, I see startups say their target audience is everyone, but they don’t have the budget for everyone. I ask them to dig deeper to figure out how to use their budget effectively. Don’t try to boil the ocean. That will not get you where you want to be, and it’s highly expensive.
• Forecasting trends: It isn’t helpful to look ahead of what’s going on right now in your industry and what’s going on with your competition.
• Underestimating the cost of brand-building: Sometimes companies think they can find a cheap designer for their website even though they are an e-commerce company. Understand what your competition is doing and what is going to stand out in the market. It may be someone you hire internally as well as external agency support. You are not beholden to be in those relationships forever. You have to have the right mix of the right people at the right time.
Whether you are putting together a startup that is just getting off the ground or you are blazing ahead to new audiences and growing your existing business, having a rock-solid marketing plan will always be a key to success. Not only will you attract talent and customers, but investors, too.
This content was originally published here.