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).