After attending a great event at the Cambridge Innovation Center sponsored by NEVCA titled: Startup Myths: There Is No Great Startup Marketing Talent in Boston, I walked away with some solid insight into the state of hiring great marketers in Boston. The event was moderated and organized by Rob May, CEO of Backupify, and Sravish Sridhar, CEO of Kinvey. The panelists: Kent Bennett, Partner at Bessemer, and Dave Balter, CEO of BzzAgent and Head of Investments for Dunnhumby.
Both panelists provided some real contextual insight into hiring great marketers and how to prioritize your marketing hires.
Dave kicked off the discussion, talking about the two different types of profiles he sees for marketers. The first type is the very data-driven, quantitative analysis-type of marketer, “that is an incredible learner of tools.” “You don’t need someone who comes from an engineering background, but you do want someone who can be an incredible learner of tools,” Balter concluded. Bennett added that he really believes Facebook Ads and Pinterest are increasingly valuable tools to know and become an expert in. “There has been a lot of data recently talking about the increase in success rates for Facebook Ads,” Bennett said.
The second type of marketer is someone who defines what the customer wants and what the customer is. This type is more of a product marketer/product manager.
Questions from the audience moved the discussion towards figuring out how to prioritize the hiring within your marketing function. Specifically, who do you hire first and how senior do you need to hire?
Balter and Bennett both agreed that you need to get your messaging and product market fit down first before attracting tons and tons of customers to your funnel.
Some of the better takeaways from the event came in the form of advice from the panel. One member from the audience asked, “How can I break into B2B companies with a strong consumer background?”
Balter quickly responded, “Show companies how you can help them and tell them the ten different ways they can improve their marketing function. I guarantee this will work much better than telling them you can also be a B2B marketer.” Bennett added his own advice: “Offer your consulting services for free to help them in specific areas for a couple of weeks.” Bennett also said that when he interviews candidates for marketing roles, he looks for the “maniacal obsessive person” that tells me he/she has talked to thirty of my customers and has advice for what I need to do to help my business.
All in all, everyone walked away knowing what makes a good marketer and which types of profiles to hire for your startup, but I’m not sure we ever answered the question: Does Startup Marketing Talent exist in Boston?
After recruiting marketing and product talent for startups for the last fourteen years, here’s my take: Startup Marketing Talent does exist in Boston (at least mostly).
There is startup marketing talent here in Boston, although the volume isn’t what you’d find in Silicon Valley…yet.
There are several strong companies that have scaled and built out robust marketing functions and are grooming future marketing leaders. For example, on the consumer side you have TripAdvisor, Care.com, Vistaprint, Zipcar, Carbonite, Rue La La and many more. On the B2B side, you have Brightcove, Endeca (acq. by Oracle), HubSpot, Demandware, Constant Contact, Acquia, etc.
The other really good news for Boston is the amount of early stage funding that is going into the innovation ecosystem from firms like Atlas Venture, NextView Ventures, Matrix, et. al. This is definitely making an impact and allowing up-and-coming marketing talent to step up and take on leadership roles earlier in the game.
However, a potential weakness in the Boston market is the lack of content driven marketing strategies. Companies like Zillow, Houzz, or Mint.com that have a more editorial approach to their marketing strategy. It is tougher to find marketing talent in the Boston area that has the content/editorial type with experience at a significant scale.
So there’s my take…there is Startup Marketing Talent here in the hub, you may just need to look a little harder to find it.
Eric Trickett is a Strategist for VentureFizz and a Principal with Dissero. You can follow Eric on Twitter (@beantowntech) by clicking here.