How to Hire Your First Startup Marketer

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Alexis Clarfield-Henry talks about what it's like to be the first marketer at a startup.

After a career in advertising, Alexis joined Unata, which built an e-commerce platform for the grocery business. 

Clarfield-Henry says one of the keys to success when hiring your first marketer is a willingness to think about of the box rather than someone who has done it before. 

“In terms of who they need to look for, that person needs to be flexible, able to roll with punches, willing to learn new things, willing to test and learn, and pivot." 

For more details about Alexis and the podcast, check out the show notes.

Hi, it's Mark Evans. Welcometo the marketing spark podcast, which features small doses of insight from marketers andentrepreneurs in the trenches. Now, by small doses it's fifteen minutes or lessof stories, tools and tips about marketing success, failures and lessons learned.On today's podcast I'm talking with Alexis cod field. Henry Alexis, it's aproduct marketer and writer who have small businesses carved out their position with strategic thoughtleadership content. In two thousand and fifteen. Alexis was the first marketer at innatic. While she was there in Nata group from nineteen to eighty five peoplebefore it was acquired by Instat car. You've been a startup marketer for quitea while. I've got great experience and one of the things that I'm curiousabout to get your perspective on is, if you're a start up, whatare the keys to hire in your first marketer? What do you need tolook for? Who Do you need to look for? I think first ofall, I think there's that that point in the journey of a start upwhere they realize, okay, they need to invest in marketing and to bringon that first marketer and I think for...

...for the company in terms of whothey need to look for that person is. He's going to need to be veryflexible, able to roll with the punches, willing to try a newthing, willing to test and learn and pivot. So I think there mightbe the attitude of having to find someone has done this before. I thinkthat companies should be willing to brought in there the scope of what that personcould look like in terms of their exact experience, and just make sure theirpersonality is personality traits of being open to explore, to try new things andto work fast and to work smart a really important personality traits for that firstmarketer. You're started that we're going to do this, we're going to hirea marketer, and you've been that person. When you were at Yanada, youwere the first marketer. Once you arrive, where you start, becausein many respects you're probably starting from scratch. There may not be a lot ofmarketing going on, if any at all. This is a good question, I think. I think it's really...

...exciting to be the first marketer,and it certainly was for me, and there's so much opportunity that comes alongthat you get to work alongside the exacting you get to actually have input intothe direction of the company and the product and there's an opportunity to build yourown team department and there's a there's going to be a lot of challenges.It's the first marketer challenges that you know come along with the team has probablybeen waiting for you for a while. Does take time for companies to makethat investment and make that higher and by the time they find you and youcome on board, there's going to be a long list of things they wantto do and the likely that list is comprised of things they've seen their competitorsdoing, things they seen their peers doing and not necessarily thought of part ofa holistic plan. I think coming into that scenario of a lot of expectationof doing things fast and all these things that they have lined up is goingto be a challenge and having, you know, a lot of different stakeholdersto balance who all have those ideas for...

...you and are coming to you directly, is going to be a challenge and I think working with probably a verysmall budget in most cases will be a challenge. Right. So, ifyou're, let's let's let's run with this dating versus marriage analogy. So whenyou first get into a relationship, both sides are really excited. The expectationsare sky high. which question is as an as the first market. Howdo you manage expectations? Because, as you say, they probably want youto do a lot and they want you to do it quickly. So whatare that to setting yourself up for success? I think it's really about a balanceof taking the time up front to learn as much as you can andto put together a plan, and I'll talk about that plan in a second, but taking that time up front and resisting the urge to just run withwhat all the ideas that everyone that everyone has, and reminding yourself that youknow, you are coming in as the marketing expert. So there is narritto putting that thought behind it and looking...

...at things holistically. But at thesame time I really recommend that you start putting work out, because people havebeen waiting for you and they want to see your work and they want tosee your value. So you could do things like start or pick up thecompany newsletter. That's, you know, going out to your prospects or yourcustomers every month, every every two weeks and start running with that, startgetting some blog posts out. These are easy wins that you know you canquickly pick up the where things are at with the product in the market andstart getting creative work out there, start getting the brand and best start gettingthe brand and the company out there, while buying yourself enough time to thinkstrategically about the whole picture and what marketing can look like over the next three, six, twelve months, given priorities of the business, given the factthat you're probably going to be the only marketing resource for a while and giventhe fact that you're going to have to do a strap. There's probably verylittle Budgett and so while everybody wants the...

...moon and the stars and Universe,you are going to have to prioritize. Given those constraints and your you wantto have the time to understand the market, the customer, the product in andout, so you and the goals of the company so that you canthoughtfully put that plan forward to the team. So what did you do, Younda? So you get there, you're the first mark like. How didyou prove or validate the fact that they made the right decision and what didyou do exactly to get some momentum. So I think it was a itwasn't the smoothest of starts for me. I think that I came in withbackground at advertising agency, so this was my first Tech Company and my firsttime moving from the agency side to the marketing side, or what we liketo call the client side. I did the sort of lessons I'm giving here, lessons definitely that I learned the hard way, and an example of thatis one of the things I walked into is everybody wanted social. They wantedto build our ships social channels up, they wanted to create presents on socialand coming from advertising in it, you...

...know, consumer facing world, Iwas I was on board. I love social. I'd seen quite a bitof impact that we've made on advertising side with social, so I ran withthat. I spent a lot of time building up our channels and building contentfor our channels to share and creating content and it was clear after a fewfew months that while this is, you know, maybe good in some ways, it wasn't resulting in new leads, it wasn't resulting a new customers,and so what we realized together is a team, is that our customers weren'tspending time on these channels in relation to finding an ECOMMERCE platform, e commerceprovider, and this isn't where they were going to be taking decisions on thatstuff. And even sometimes they don't end some of the channels. They don'teven want to see work related items in that way. So I think I'dfocused a lot of my plan on basic basing it on what some of thefolks internally thought they wanted rather than taking more of that holistic picture and thetime to plan and understand things. So...

...it was more in my like threeto six month mark, where I had had had more time to learn things, that I could prove myself a little bit better. Yeah, I thinkthose first three months were a little bit like I wouldn't have wanted them togo that way if I could do it again, but the team is supersupportive and I think one thing that kept them excited about me was the contentthat I was creating and aside from social we had a few thought leadership piecesand you know, I got my blog going, got their blog going.I think that really helped prove out my role for the time being, untiluntil I learned the landscape a little bit better. Does that makes sense?Yeah, makes sense, I mean, I mean the reality is is thatthey must have been just a must have been excited, but then to bedisappointed and but you know, when I think about it, that's pretty andpretty intimidating position to be in because you're the new hire. They were excitedabout you pursuing a particular marketing activity and and it's hard to say no.I mean it's hard to say to key...

...stakeholders, no, I think that'sthe wrong thing to do. We should do this instead. How would you'vedone things differently if you have to do all over again? I think thatif I could do it again, I probably wouldn't have said No. Ithink that there is I could have balanced my time a bit better, sotrying that out and at the same time trying a few other things out,and I did there. There were a couple of things happening at once,but I definitely over indexed on the social I think there's also a spirit inevery startup of test and learn. I was lucky at you know that.I think exact team had that spirit and it's you know, they were likewe're all trying things here. We're all trying things, so that's okay ifwe don't get it right the first time. And because they have that attitude,it wasn't it wasn't a huge disappointment. I think we're we really bonded asa team was the fact that we could all look at that together andsay, let's this is didn't work. You tried it, this is fine, let's trust anything else. And so I don't regret trying it. Idon't regret something that they really want, going for it and coming to thatdecision. That isn't the right avenue for...

...our customer. However, if Icould have spent a little less time on it, I think that would havebeen better for, you know, to kick off our marketing overall, ifI had more time for some other things. Yeah, I mean it's a greatexample of a lesson learned, and I think this is particularly relevant orless experience marketers who may not have the Gravitas or even the confidence to toengage in a discussion where they may not agree with with their boss. Theother thing you mentioned is is the combination of strategy and tactics. Because you'reone man band or one woman band, you've got to you've got to doboth. So how do you how do you balance? How do you balancebetween sort of setting the plan, putting everything in motion and then actually havingto tackle the insecuree it's not it's not that easy, but it's a messedthis balance and you can't over extend in one area or the other for toolong. So I think you know what I said a about, especially thebeginning, starting to get those small tactical...

...pieces out of front. Well,you take time at the strategy. So in that case, you know youwould you would want to lean more heavily into the strategy area front the startof every quarter and just make sure there's still work going out at the sametime, because the things just can't pause right. That's that's not okay.You've got to keep getting your brand out there and keep doing activities that aregoing to bring leads to your sales team and whatever your goals are. Butthere are times in the year that you are going to have to do morestrategy and less execution. At the very beginning I think it's those quick winsand then when you come to quarterly and annual planning, you want to setyourself up to have some things going out that don't need a lot of workfrom you. So that can be, you know, an email flow thatyou set up ahead of time, pree write a bunch of your news letters, pre write a bunch of your blogs and get them set up to goout on certain dates and so that you can carve out that space for thatstrategy work. And then there's going to be times where, you know,you take a break and you're really running...

...with your plan and just have tomake sure that you're measuring things and how they're going and stop look and measureand steer the steer the ship the other way if you have to. It'sjust a constant balance and you're going to lean to one or the other differenttimes. Just have to make sure you don't forget about one of the other. Let's talk money. I keep hard any relationship is money and hopefully youdon't disagree over money. But when you're a sort up marketer, obviously moneyis a big factor some startups, you know, especially for your venture back, you got you got lots of money from marketing and ministers have no moneyfrom marketing. So so how do you do different a budget and maybe topwalk through how you did that at you know, a how you figured outlike here's how much money I have, here's where we need to spend it, here's how I can prove them and spending my money in the right way. Budget is yeah, it's always a tricky one and there are definitely goingto be hard conversations around budget. My approach with budget at you know,I changed over over the years and I think that's natural. When I arrivedthere was budget earmarked for my role and...

...there were some ideas of where thatmoney should go already before I started. Even when you think you have alot of budget, when you actually figure out all the activities you want todo, it tends to disappear very quickly. One of the things that was yourmarks for the budget that was given to me were was conferences, attendingand having a booth at complences. So that budget disappears very quickly. That'svery expensive, isn't it? Very expensive? But this is one of those thingsthat, you know, the team had been very eager to try.They had been walking the floors at conferences for years and it's they were excitedto actually finally have a boose and have a present. So I was.I was keen to make that happen for them. This is something over theyears we actually we sort of stopped doing as much because there it wasn't provingits return on investment as much as the team had helped. You have tothat because are expensive. You have to see a lot of return coming fromthem, whether that's in the form of Leeds new customers, hopefully. Sothat was one thing, you know, we tried and over the years wesort of brought that cost down to and...

...attended fewer and fewer conferences. Yeah, and listen, they're not, it's not. It's still a good thingto be involved with. What we did is so conference is for us.Let's just talk about UNDIS example, our sales sake was very long, youknow, six to eighteen months. So we might have met a prospect ata conference that didn't turn into a customer for a year. So our conference, the way we would measure conferences, was really like at the start ofthe year, what happened last year? Which ones we go? Did wego to, and which events did we get customers from? And so ifwe went to six and we pinpointed, we only got customers for to thenext year, we just went to those two conferences. We were really,really leaning on the measurement of and for us, like our customers were,you have bigger our annual contract values are bigger than say, a regular SASScompany, because we were under price focus. So we could justify one customer fromone event and we we would cover a cost there and more. Sowe were in a position that that was very like one to one measurement.You can do that with cost per leads...

...and cost per customers. It justsometimes takes time to measure. Let's talk with the other other extreme, Europestortup marketer. You arrive at your new job and you've got very little budget. Essentially you got to build a marketing engine from scratch, but you reallyhaven't got out of the Bodycash to make that happen. What would you do, like what what kind of things would would you implement to actually get somemarketing momentum? You're going to have to do strap for a bit, andso, I mean I remember, you know, that I was writing andebooks and infographics and then designing them with pages. I'm not a designer,but we didn't have money yet for a designer. So there's there is anAmaga boot strapping that has to go on. But I highly recommend you figure out, as a first marketer, what can you do and what can youlearn and what can you not do and will not be able to do.So for me that was designing. That was okay, I could let's.I can figure this out for the first few but if we want to bea brand that looks bigger than we are, I ca can't be designing INFO graphics. So I recommend for the first...

...marketer figure what you can do,what you can learn to do in a reasonable amount of time and everything else. You really need to make the case. If that is if that's hiring afreelancer, if that's marketing tech that you need to use to get thejob done, got to make the case and break it down for your companybased on costperly, based on cost per customer. Thanks for listening to anotherepisode of marketing spark. If you have questions, feedback or like to suggesta guest, send an email to mark at Mark Evans Dots A. Seenext time.

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