How to Hire a Great Marketer for Your Company

A lot of people have been asking me for help with hiring marketing people for their company. I keep repeating the same advice, so I thought I would lay it out here. 

My usual disclaimer: This advice is mostly targeted towards startups and lead gen companies who are interested in significantly increasing their traffic and conversions. In other words, performance marketing. If you’re more interested in branding or social media marketing (whatever that is), then this post probably isn’t for you.

There are five key questions you should ask yourself about any potential marketing hire.

Anyone with a good answer to all five is worth his weight in gold- hire him immediately. Hitting three or four of these points can make for a very good hire, as long as you have support staff in place and are willing to spend some time training and getting this person up to speed. And unless you already have a very strong marketing system in place and are bringing this person in at a junior level, I would be careful about expecting much out of someone possessing two or less of these qualities.

Does he have a strong track record of driving traffic?

This is probably the biggest predictor of success in internet marketing. If there’s any way for you to snag someone with deep operational experience, who has the experience of getting his hands dirty and actually building effective campaigns from the ground up, do it.

A low-level, detailed understanding of things like SEO factors and AdWords Quality Score means that you’ll be able to get properly structured campaigns up and running very quickly.

Ideally, your hire has experience driving traffic to his own startup or marketing business, or has managed campaigns for a large e-commerce advertiser.

Is he obsessive and meticulous about metrics?

Internet marketing in 2011 is a lot more about analytics than creativity. You can’t afford to hire someone who will be sloppy about metrics or optimization.

Ask your prospective hire to build a small sample campaign or marketing plan. Is he tracking everything throughout the funnel down to the specific traffic source or creative? Is he going to write four versions of every ad and landing page and split test relentlessly? 

Some of the most effective marketers I know are not Mad-Men style hustlers but rather quiet analytics nerds who love digging around in spreadsheets and building mathematical models.

Is he a strong and prolific communicator?

After targeting, the most important factor in any campaign’s success is the strength of the copy. A good writer, even without specific copywriting experience will eventually be able to produce good copy, but a great salesman who can’t write well will be bogged down by the process.

Your marketer is in charge of every point at which you interact with customers, from the headline on your landing page to registration emails. Someone who can quickly produce compelling and well-written content will have a direct and material impact on your conversion rate. 

A good proxy for identifying a good writer is finding a good reader. Ask everyone you interview about the last book they read.

Does he have experience managing both small and large budgets?

A small marketing budget demands certain constraints that a large budget does not. Specifically, every dollar has to return results, and you can’t afford to bid against large national or go on too many branding adventures.

“Scrappy” is the word that comes to mind here. Again, someone with experience spending his own money on marketing campaigns is most valuable here.

You should find someone who knows how to work within the constraints of a startup budget but also has experience quickly scaling campaigns once you find product-market fit.

Does he have the makings of a competent salesman?

Claude Hopkins famously said that marketing is salesmanship in print, and that couldn’t be more true today. Many sales tactics, like identifying a customer’s deepest needs and desires, addressing objections, and closing the sale are directly relevant for one-to-many marketing campaigns. 

Your marketing hire doesn’t necessarily need the same aggressive, outgoing personality as a top tier sales guy. But he should be able to develop a deep understanding of the customer and know how to build a relationship with customers.

I’ll admit I based this list at least in part on myself and successful marketers I know well, so it’s far from comprehensive. Are there any other qualities a great marketer possesses? Leave a comment!

By the way, we built MixRank to automate many of the research and analytics tasks you would need to hire a marketer for. We think anyone can use MixRank to build successful campaigns. Try it out today (we have a free version).

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  • walterjohnson2

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  • no

    Too male-centric. he he he. Could be a she!

  • Sarcasmatron

    @no. Thanks for sharing.

  • ericabiz

    I agree–too male-centric and heavy use of the words "he" and "guy".

  • Anonymous

    My apologies if the post seemed male-centric- I certainly had no intention of demonstrating any bias; some of the best marketers I know are women.I think using "they" in the singular is a clumsy abuse of proper grammar, so I use "he" as a generic pronoun as short for he/she. Don’t read into it as anything more than that :)

  • Joelle GK

    This is an interesting perspective – as a successful start-up marketing executive, I think you’ve identified the characteristics of a small team (or a collection of contractors). A marketing EXECUTIVE must be capable of understanding and asking questions on all five of these points, but most hiring managers get into trouble because they are looking for an executive to do the work of individual contributors in all capacities. For example, in my experience, truly great copywriters think considerably differently from people who love (and obsess) over analytics. The executive must bring these two disciplines together in respect and focus towards a clear goal. Same thing about driving traffic – the sort of low level information you recommend asking are great for the person who will manage SEM and SEO day to day (as well as retargeting and performance advertising) – but that person will not have the time to write, sell, and manage budgets. That person should be fantastic with analysis and love it. So – my advice to start-ups is to understand the level of person you need and the most important thing you need them to do. If driving traffic is #1, then hire an experienced performance marketing director or manager. If creating thought-leadership and unique copy is #1, then hire a great writer. Often, you can supplement your #1 priority with skilled (and cost effective) part-time contractors.

  • Chad B

    Great tips! Definitely useful when you are looking for a person to take charge of your marketing.

  • yes

    Dear "no",It is customary to set the pronoun as the gender of the author and therefor not sexist.

  • Alex Jouravlev

    Why I fully appreciate your point that experience of running own marketing campaign is invaluable, two thoughts are bugging me. If one was running a successful marketing campaign for own business, why is [s]he available for hire? I also treat with suspicion stories of great work ruined by other people. Otherwise, great list, thank you for posting.

  • George L.

    I like to see the ability to think outside of the box. Anybody with a verifiable and proven track record is probably capable enough to manage some ads and do a lot of social media management and promotion. I like to see how people think through a tough problem and connect unrelated bits of info to come up with genius bursts of inspiration and see problems in a new light. Also, understanding the internet and technology well enough to relate with developers and communicate with them competently is critical. If they don’t have the respect of the developers in an organization, they can’t provide real leadership that encourages quality problem solving. Also critical is understanding the ecosystem around each major social site (various Twitter tools that are available, stuff like http://www.buyfacebookfansreviews.com and the whole benefits and negatives that exist there, how Facebook works and knowing how to find a competent outsourced worker to build a Facebook page or whatever in a short bit of time). If they don’t truly live and breath and eat this stuff, its hard for them to have all of the data at their disposal to come up with genius ideas. PS: The constant "he" throughout the article was a bit offputting I agree, but I don’t think its sexist or anything. It’s a language problem. Writing "they" or "he or she" or randomly switching back and forth is really stylistically awkward. So is using "he" consistently. Not sure there’s a great answer other trying to write sentences in a way that avoids most of these pronouns – which can also be a bit awkward.

  • kjrocker

    @no nice share :)

  • Samrath Gupta

    This is totally what I was thinking of seriously !!Anyways this was really a very nice article ;) Keep on posting stuffs like these :)Regards~Sam~

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