Strategy & Planning

BSMS 12: Who should your first marketing hire be?


The answer is a good copywriter. But it doesn't stop there. There's five skill groups that need to be fulfilled.

  1. It starts with the copywriter because they will take care of the most primordial aspect of marketing: addressing your audience's pain.
  2. Then comes the growth hacker, the automation specialist.
  3. Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand and that's where your product evangelist shines.
  4. Number 3 is often confused with product marketing, which will be the fourth gap you'll try to fill. Potentially your first MBA hire, this person is all about the 5 Ps (and more).
  5. Finally, the team leader. This one's last because oftentimes one of the previous four will organically grow into this position and you can find a new hire to fill their previous position.



Hello, and welcome to episode 12. If you are new to the show, welcome, we're happy to have you here. This is a show that is dedicated to us answering the questions that we get asked most frequently as a Fractional Marketing Agency, specifically for business to business, software or SaaS Companies. If you get value from this, we would appreciate it so much if you're able to share it with your colleagues, your friends, and if you listen on Apple Podcasts, we would really appreciate a review with your feedback. We'd love to hear that and then also, if you're interested in having us answer one of your questions, feel free to shoot it to and we'll see if we can fit it into the content schedule.

In this episode, we are talking about hiring your first marketing team. This is a really big, hairy question and it's one that we get asked most often, probably from our prospects and our clients alike. It's tough because it really, the answer to it depends on so many different variables. It's really hard, especially if you're a leader of a company and you don't have a marketing background to understand the skill set that you need to hire for in your marketing team. So when you make that first hire, how do you know you're hiring the right person? Should it be a product marketer? Should it be someone who's more oriented towards copywriting? Should it be someone who is strong with demand gen and paid search and social ads and things like that. Those are all the questions that you have to answer and so much of it depends on a lot of variables within your company.

So a few examples, for instance, the maturity of your sales function, right? Like, do you have an outbound function? Does your marketing person need to have experience with ABM and setting up ABM campaigns and sizing the market and doing all of those items, right? Or can that wait a little bit longer for a marketing leader to step in? The stage of your sales team, the stage of your product, the stage of your company, the channels that are most effective for you, for instance, if you are selling into a market that is unaware that they even have a problem, let's say you're creating a new category in a sense, you're kind of entering a space where there aren't any incumbent products, you have to focus more on educating the market, which is very different from differentiating from an already accepted product, right.

If there are already competitors in the market, it's a defined category, it's a defined space and people are searching for it because they know that they have a problem and they're trying to solve it with a product like yours, they may be searching for it, so focusing on capturing that demand instead of creating the demand, those are two different skillsets and they come at different stages for your company. The answer in true consultant fashion is it depends. Now that said, I know Stijn, you have a kind of framework for how you think about who to hire for your marketing team, if you're starting from scratch and I was wondering if you could maybe talk a little bit about how you think about the skill groups and the skill sets you should include on your first marketing team and specifically ignoring all the variables that I mentioned earlier.


Yeah Mike, when you wonder what roles to hire in your team, it's interesting to, of course start with what you are already doing really well. What are the missing pieces? If you're a business leader, you're founder, who's comfortable writing, for example, maybe you don't hire a writer early or hire someone who could help you with marketing automation or someone who's more of an artist, can help you with branding, with design, et cetera. So of course it starts with what you do best yourself, but if you're making your first marketing hire and you're planning to have a small team, this is a sort of the list of roles that I will think about and then I have my order of priority, if you have nothing to start with, but of course the order can change a little bit based on your own super powers or maybe some other people in the team who are not dedicated marketers, but what they can do.

Maybe you have your product team, for example, helping you with the website. The five roles are a copywriter or a writer, a growth hacker/ digital marketer, a product evangelist, product marketing, which I think is something different and then at some point you need to hire a full-time team leader. This is sort of the sequence that I typically use and any of these could start as marketing interns. I think the marketing profession is so, it's so diverse and there's so much talent, but it's also relatively easy to level up fast, so you have to plan for losing your marketing talent as well. If they get really good, they might leave your company and of course you'll try to keep them by giving them more opportunity and maybe becoming a team leader. But the reality is you only need so many people in leadership roles, so you have to be ready for the leveling up of marketing team members really quickly and also some of them leaving fast.

That's why interns are also a big part of building your first marketing team. I always like to have a marketing intern, basically some college graduate or someone who's still in college that wants to work on the side. Let's go through these five roles.

The first one, the copywriter, this is someone who's really versatile can help you with content on the website, on the messaging, the positioning of the company, maybe even work with you on that, of course, very closely as the founder, they understand your audience to get really intimate with your customers. They understand what their pains are, what they stand to gain from using your product. You want to look for writers who like to write well and choose quality over quantity.

I'm not a big fan of people who push out high volumes of blog articles, for example, for SEO purposes, I think SEO is important, but it's not necessarily about volume or trickery anymore these days, Google is just too smart for that. You need to find someone who's a quality writer. I think quality writing is not necessarily about style or grammar or structure, those are the things of course you need to be able to do, you know how to speak, you learn in high school, but it's more about how do you write valuable content, write content that actually really answers questions. Almost take a journalistic approach, right? Going to the topics behind the topic, why do people care about something?

Ideally you have someone who also understands marketing, right? Who has a good feel for moving people through their journey, their decision-making journey, the buyer's journey and marketing is all about influencing people's behavior, making people believe something, change something, do something. So a writer who understands how to pull people into that journey and to keep them moving along, I think that's important. A writer has to be able to work closely with your sales team, with your executive team, supporting them with materials. Writing an email is a very important skill. Having some basic SEO knowledge is important too, right? SEO is important, but not necessarily to trick Google into trying to rank higher, but more in the Google actually understands all the crawlers in general, what you're writing about, that they can find you, that they actually can crawl your website correctly, right? You have to write metadata that describes what an image for example is about. That's the type of SEO I think, is crucial knowledge. That will be the first role, to hire a copywriter.

The second role would be someone who sort of—I call this the growth hacker— who sort of lives in the digital realm, from marketing automation to always being excited about trying new tools, to improve efficiency, not tools for the sake of tools by the way, but understanding that marketing is all about technology these days and there's a lot of tools out there that you can use to do things better, faster, more efficiently, understanding how to do analytics, how to interpret data, do something with data, run A/B tests, do experiments. Ideally this role is able to do some web development, maybe not very deep, but you want someone who's able to do some front end development, who gets CSS and scripts, et cetera. This personable of course, owns your marketing automation, knowledge of tools like HubSpot, Marketo, Mailchimp even is absolutely a good skill set. That will be the second role to hire after you have a writer, because you need to be able to write something good and have good content, then the growth hacker sort of to automate everything and to work with data would be the second role.

The third role, because marketing and sales are so intertwined is someone who's actually able to speak with your customers. I call this the product evangelist who is able to do demos, webinars, to present at a trade show, to be on sales calls with the sales team and be able to do, sort of present the product, do demos, create videos, train the rest of the organization into some of what the product does. This product evangelist role is often mixed with product marketing.

I like to keep them separate, so product marketing for me is sort of the fourth role. This is more about the five Ps of marketing, right? Owning the real core positioning of the company versus the competition, doing competitive research, making sure you have great market insights and do voice-of-customer research, turn it into customer testimonials, help your product team with the product roadmap based on those market insights, understand sort of how to promote the product, right? What are the right ways to get people to see it, to like it, to use it, usage of the product itself, user engagement, pricing strategy, pricing positioning, being able to do campaigns when it comes to price changes, really intimate with sort of those four or five Ps of marketing. This could be your first MBA hire basically, so that's your product marketer.

This person would also own a product launch and work with maybe analyst relationships, if you're starting to pitch Forrester or Gartner to get the right profiles on the tools like Capterra, so there's your product marketing manager. The product evangelist and the product marketing manager could be combined, but if you have the luxury of four people actually splitting those two roles where the product evangelist is really focused on great sales materials and sort of the bottom and the middle of the funnel, converting people and helping sales to do so, enabling the BDR and SDR teams with the right content and the product marketing manager being more sort of top of funnel, driving awareness, driving sort of coverage by influencers and working with your product team on pricing strategy, positioning strategy. I would split those roles if you have the luxury to have four people on your team.

The fifth person would be the leader of a team, once you get to that critical mass of four, you've hired four marketers, now the fifth I think needs to be someone who can lead the team and is also very hands-on, right? This is the person who will manage other agency relationships, who will have the ownership of things like a dashboard, planning, budgets, sponsorships. Usually it's one of those four roles who becomes the natural leader of the team, you sort of let that person level up and then you hire someone to backfill that position.

That will be sort of the team of five, Mike, that I would build starting with a writer, adding a digital growth hacker, digital expert, digital marketer and then the product evangelist, very close to sales, building all your sales materials, getting the sophisticated product marketing manager and then adding a team lead. While you do all this, it's great to also have a marketing intern who is a great way to actually hire for these other positions as well. It's a great way to sort of do an extra long job interview to have a couple of months of an internship. That's how I think about your first marketing team, Mike.


Awesome, and just to add on two more points here, if you go on-to Kalungi's blog, so, and you search the word hire, you'll find, I think Stijn some of this has been summarized in a couple of your articles and then I also have one as well that breaks down some of the responsibilities in more detail and then it has kind of a how to, if you're in the scenario where you're a CEO and you're trying to hire your first marketing leader, how to step out of doing the marketing role on the side of your desk and build the function in-house and take the stress away from relying on freelancers and agencies and moving those roles internal. Yeah, hopefully that gives you a little bit more information about how to approach hiring your first marketing team for your B2B software company. Thanks so much for spending the time with us and we'll see you next time.

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