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. Welcome to the marketing spark podcast, which features small doses of insight from marketers and entrepreneurs in the trenches. Now, by small doses it's fifteen minutes or less of 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 a product marketer and writer who have small businesses carved out their position with strategic thought leadership 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 people before it was acquired by Instat car. You've been a startup marketer for quite a while. I've got great experience and one of the things that I'm curious about to get your perspective on is, if you're a start up, what are the keys to hire in your first marketer? What do you need to look for? Who Do you need to look for? I think first of all, I think there's that that point in the journey of a start up where they realize, okay, they need to invest in marketing and to bring on that first marketer and I think for...

...for the company in terms of who they need to look for that person is. He's going to need to be very flexible, able to roll with the punches, willing to try a new thing, willing to test and learn and pivot. So I think there might be the attitude of having to find someone has done this before. I think that companies should be willing to brought in there the scope of what that person could look like in terms of their exact experience, and just make sure their personality is personality traits of being open to explore, to try new things and to work fast and to work smart a really important personality traits for that first marketer. You're started that we're going to do this, we're going to hire a marketer, and you've been that person. When you were at Yanada, you were the first marketer. Once you arrive, where you start, because in many respects you're probably starting from scratch. There may not be a lot of marketing 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 along that you get to work alongside the exacting you get to actually have input into the direction of the company and the product and there's an opportunity to build your own 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 probably been waiting for you for a while. Does take time for companies to make that investment and make that higher and by the time they find you and you come on board, there's going to be a long list of things they want to do and the likely that list is comprised of things they've seen their competitors doing, things they seen their peers doing and not necessarily thought of part of a holistic plan. I think coming into that scenario of a lot of expectation of doing things fast and all these things that they have lined up is going to be a challenge and having, you know, a lot of different stakeholders to 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 very small budget in most cases will be a challenge. Right. So, if you're, let's let's let's run with this dating versus marriage analogy. So when you first get into a relationship, both sides are really excited. The expectations are sky high. which question is as an as the first market. How do you manage expectations? Because, as you say, they probably want you to do a lot and they want you to do it quickly. So what are that to setting yourself up for success? I think it's really about a balance of taking the time up front to learn as much as you can and to 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 with what all the ideas that everyone that everyone has, and reminding yourself that you know, you are coming in as the marketing expert. So there is narrit to putting that thought behind it and looking...

...at things holistically. But at the same time I really recommend that you start putting work out, because people have been waiting for you and they want to see your work and they want to see your value. So you could do things like start or pick up the company newsletter. That's, you know, going out to your prospects or your customers every month, every every two weeks and start running with that, start getting some blog posts out. These are easy wins that you know you can quickly pick up the where things are at with the product in the market and start getting creative work out there, start getting the brand and best start getting the brand and the company out there, while buying yourself enough time to think strategically about the whole picture and what marketing can look like over the next three, six, twelve months, given priorities of the business, given the fact that you're probably going to be the only marketing resource for a while and given the fact that you're going to have to do a strap. There's probably very little 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 want to have the time to understand the market, the customer, the product in and out, so you and the goals of the company so that you can thoughtfully put that plan forward to the team. So what did you do, Younda? So you get there, you're the first mark like. How did you prove or validate the fact that they made the right decision and what did you do exactly to get some momentum. So I think it was a it wasn't the smoothest of starts for me. I think that I came in with background at advertising agency, so this was my first Tech Company and my first time moving from the agency side to the marketing side, or what we like to 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 that is one of the things I walked into is everybody wanted social. They wanted to build our ships social channels up, they wanted to create presents on social and coming from advertising in it, you...

...know, consumer facing world, I was I was on board. I love social. I'd seen quite a bit of impact that we've made on advertising side with social, so I ran with that. I spent a lot of time building up our channels and building content for our channels to share and creating content and it was clear after a few few 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't spending time on these channels in relation to finding an ECOMMERCE platform, e commerce provider, and this isn't where they were going to be taking decisions on that stuff. And even sometimes they don't end some of the channels. They don't even want to see work related items in that way. So I think I'd focused a lot of my plan on basic basing it on what some of the folks internally thought they wanted rather than taking more of that holistic picture and the time to plan and understand things. So...

...it was more in my like three to six month mark, where I had had had more time to learn things, that I could prove myself a little bit better. Yeah, I think those first three months were a little bit like I wouldn't have wanted them to go that way if I could do it again, but the team is super supportive and I think one thing that kept them excited about me was the content that I was creating and aside from social we had a few thought leadership pieces and you know, I got my blog going, got their blog going. I think that really helped prove out my role for the time being, until until I learned the landscape a little bit better. Does that makes sense? Yeah, makes sense, I mean, I mean the reality is is that they must have been just a must have been excited, but then to be disappointed and but you know, when I think about it, that's pretty and pretty intimidating position to be in because you're the new hire. They were excited about 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's the wrong thing to do. We should do this instead. How would you've done things differently if you have to do all over again? I think that if I could do it again, I probably wouldn't have said No. I think that there is I could have balanced my time a bit better, so trying 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 in every 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 like we're all trying things here. We're all trying things, so that's okay if we 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 as a team was the fact that we could all look at that together and say, 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. I don't regret something that they really want, going for it and coming to that decision. That isn't the right avenue for...

...our customer. However, if I could have spent a little less time on it, I think that would have been better for, you know, to kick off our marketing overall, if I had more time for some other things. Yeah, I mean it's a great example of a lesson learned, and I think this is particularly relevant or less experience marketers who may not have the Gravitas or even the confidence to to engage in a discussion where they may not agree with with their boss. The other thing you mentioned is is the combination of strategy and tactics. Because you're one man band or one woman band, you've got to you've got to do both. So how do you how do you balance? How do you balance between sort of setting the plan, putting everything in motion and then actually having to tackle the insecuree it's not it's not that easy, but it's a messed this balance and you can't over extend in one area or the other for too long. So I think you know what I said a about, especially the beginning, starting to get those small tactical...

...pieces out of front. Well, you take time at the strategy. So in that case, you know you would you would want to lean more heavily into the strategy area front the start of every quarter and just make sure there's still work going out at the same time, 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 are going to bring leads to your sales team and whatever your goals are. But there are times in the year that you are going to have to do more strategy and less execution. At the very beginning I think it's those quick wins and then when you come to quarterly and annual planning, you want to set yourself up to have some things going out that don't need a lot of work from you. So that can be, you know, an email flow that you 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 go out on certain dates and so that you can carve out that space for that strategy 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 to make sure that you're measuring things and how they're going and stop look and measure and steer the steer the ship the other way if you have to. It's just a constant balance and you're going to lean to one or the other different times. 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 you don't disagree over money. But when you're a sort up marketer, obviously money is 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 money from marketing. So so how do you do different a budget and maybe top walk through how you did that at you know, a how you figured out like 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 going to 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 arrived there was budget earmarked for my role and...

...there were some ideas of where that money should go already before I started. Even when you think you have a lot of budget, when you actually figure out all the activities you want to do, it tends to disappear very quickly. One of the things that was your marks for the budget that was given to me were was conferences, attending and having a booth at complences. So that budget disappears very quickly. That's very expensive, isn't it? Very expensive? But this is one of those things that, 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 excited to 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 the years we actually we sort of stopped doing as much because there it wasn't proving its return on investment as much as the team had helped. You have to that because are expensive. You have to see a lot of return coming from them, whether that's in the form of Leeds new customers, hopefully. So that was one thing, you know, we tried and over the years we sort 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 thing to 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, you know, six to eighteen months. So we might have met a prospect at a 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 of the year, what happened last year? Which ones we go? Did we go to, and which events did we get customers from? And so if we went to six and we pinpointed, we only got customers for to the next 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 SASS company, because we were under price focus. So we could justify one customer from one event and we we would cover a cost there and more. So we 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 just sometimes takes time to measure. Let's talk with the other other extreme, Europe stortup 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 really haven'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 some marketing momentum? You're going to have to do strap for a bit, and so, I mean I remember, you know, that I was writing and ebooks 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 an Amaga 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 you learn 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 be a 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 a freelancer, if that's marketing tech that you need to use to get the job done, got to make the case and break it down for your company based on costperly, based on cost per customer. Thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you have questions, feedback or like to suggest a guest, send an email to mark at Mark Evans Dots A. See next time.

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