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That Crazy Hard First Marketing Hire

marketing hireGiven our focus on helping with sales and marketing related challenges in our portfolio, we’ve been involved in about a dozen hiring processes over the past year that involved hiring that crazy hard first marketing hire – a growth hacker or a growth marketer. Most normal people know this as a marketing manager or a vp of marketing that has full stack marketing expertise. They can move in and out of channels quickly, test a tremendous amount, and are quantitative and understand formulas beyond basic math. It is a near impossible hire to make early on given that anyone that is amazing will not want to leave their current position and any CEO worth their weight will fight to the death to keep a great growth marketer. We’ve succeeded a number of times in the past with this hire and below are some key lessons and insights that I’ve found helping our portfolio companies.

(1) 10x-ers Versus 2x-ers – It is common to find a growth marketer who has increased their company’s revenues or customer base by 100% in 1 or 2 years – these people are 2x-ers. What I always look for in these hiring situations is a unicorn with a solid track record of growing revenues or customer base from zero who then joins a business and in 1 or 2 years increases their new company’s revenue by 5x-10x+ – these people are 10x-ers. It’s a different profile of a hire altogether. Finding someone like this is near impossible but if you do then do whatever you can to try and hire them immediately!

(2) Key In On Full Stack Experience Most of the time you will get a lot of resumes of people who came out of marketing a singular channel. You don’t want them. Some of the time you will get people who have spanned a number of channels. Focus on them. In particular, focus on their full-stack marketing experience: SEO, SEM, PR, content marketing, lead gen, marketing automation, optimization tools (Optimizely, Google Experiments, Kiss Metrics, etc), retargeting, branding, and so on. You can quickly understand how competent they are in each area depending on their depth of experience. Have them make an org chart style sheet that shows each channel they understand, the tools they use day to day in that channel, and one key insight from their experience in that channel. It is extremely difficult to find a growth marketer who is a 8 out of 10 in all of these areas but if you can find someone that has real working experience in most areas (60%+) then you have found someone solid.

(3) Use Forced Referrals – This is one of the hardest hires you will make so don’t expect that it will just fall in your lap. Sit on LinkedIn and sort by all of your employees and then their 1st degree connections. Keyword for marketing and if anyone comes up that fits this role email your employees directly and ask them to please make an introduction for you to that specific person. Note that we’ve found the best person here to look for is the first marketing manager at a Series A / Series B funded company or else someone that works for that person. Usually they are doing so much in an early stage environment that both personas have a lot of my #2 above. Related to your employee forced referral, you will either get a “totally!” or a reason why that person is not good for the job (aka you don’t want to meet them anyways). The proximity of this person to your employees will help in the convincing process and generally people are more receptive to hearing from someone they know. In two instances, we were also able to close the time to hire gap by focusing heavily on a forced referral model.

(4) Run A Serious Process & Fill The Top Of Funnel –  Many folks that ask for our help here are thinking about the open position over a long period of time. They take a lot of coffee meetings and BS a lot. This seems silly to me. Run a process if you are going to make the hire and make it a serious process. We think about it in two parts (timing is up to you). First, allow for an elongated period of resume ingestion, cultivation, and outreach or quick phone calls with folks to fill the top of the funnel. Don’t go past this phase if you aren’t happy with your candidates and go back to the beginning if so (i.e. outreach). If you are happy then move on. Second, bring a set group in over a week period, have them meet all the same people, and keep a central scoring system based on variables you care about. Cut out the bottom group and assign a weekend project that relates to your company for the remainder to do. Score again and then invite the remaining few back in for final round questions the following week and pick the best to make an offer to.

Michael Brown
Michael Brown

<p>Michael is the Managing Partner at Bowery Capital based in New York. Prior to Bowery Capital, Brown co-founded AOL Ventures and led investments in over 30 companies primarily focused around the next generation of CMO and CTO spend. Before AOL Ventures, Michael worked for the investment arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, helping to invest capital in early stage internet startups on behalf of the British entrepreneur. He began his career at Morgan Stanley. Outside of his professional life Brown serves on the Board of Directors of the National Forest Foundation and co-chairs the Columbia College Young Leaders Council. Michael holds an undergraduate degree from Columbia University.</p>