Tuesday Feb 21, 2012 by Dan Smith - VP Marketing, CampusLIVE
I’ve been getting this question often: “What positions do you fill first when building early stage marketing teams?”
Well. Here’s the deal. I’ve been fortunate enough to work at several early stage companies over the past few years. And I’ve done a ton of hiring. First as the Director of Online Marketing at BuyerZone, then as the VP of Marketing at Gazelle, and now as the VP of Marketing at CampusLIVE. I have a pretty good idea about the types of marketing skills needed at early stage companies, especially consumer focused ones.
Often times when you’re in the very early stages (less than 20 employees), the budget is small, so you can’t afford to hire people with tons of experience. In this situation, I look for young superstars in the making that may not have exactly the right experience, but have the right skills and the hunger to learn. Here are three jobs that I’ve hired for in the past. I’ve also included the skills that I hire for in each:
1. Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Manager
For this position, I look for a quantitative powerhouse first and foremost. You gotta have the analytical chops to pass the test, and if you can’t do math without a calculator, get learning. The great thing about paid online marketing channels (like Google Adwords) is that if you have an analytical and quant mind, you can learn it fast, and you’re gonna love it. So I don’t need you to have tons of experience, because I can train you quickly if you have the right mind. It’s not all quant fun and games though, you also have to be able to communicate and have at least some creativity, because you’re gonna be writing ad copy.
2. Marketing Manager/Marketing Associate/Marketing Coordinator
You need a creative and organized jack-of-all-trades in every start-up marketing group. Sometimes this is difficult to find, because creative people may not always be the most organized, and vice-versa. But I’ve been able to find a few right out of school. I look for someone who has extreme attention to detail, because they’re going to need to manage lots of projects, from producing postcards and posters to executing events. You need to be able to communicate well, because you’ll be dealing with vendors. And you need to be creative, because you’ll be writing lots of copy and working with designers. If you can’t describe projects you’ve managed soup-to-nuts, you’re not gonna cut it. And if you can’t come up with a few creative ideas on the spot, it’s not gonna work.
3. Community Manager/Social Media Manager
There’s no way around it these days, every company needs a presence on the social networks. And every company needs someone who fosters the community and looks out for the customers and users. I look for someone who cares about people first and foremost. You need to show how you can connect with people and understand their needs. You also need to be a genuine social media user (not someone who just signed up for twitter a few days before an interview). If you come in for an interview and talk the entire time, you’re not the guy for this position. The best candidates for this position spend way more time listening and probing for answers they believe can tell them more about the interviewer. These people genuinely love learning about other people. But you also have to be organized. There’s a lot of interaction to manage, and it can get out of hand quickly.
Besides the requirements above, there are 3 things I look for in anyone I hire:
1. Work ethic and drive – This is an obvious one, but at an early stage company, slackers won’t survive.
2. Proactive/taking initiative – I cannot stress how important this one is. I need people who will not wait around for direction, but instead will look for opportunities and seize them.
3. Project management – Executing flawlessly is critical, because there’s no time for a re-do. And if I have to micro-manage someone in order to get a project done right, I’ve just wasted a ton of time.
If you believe you fit into one of these three areas, my advice is to first go online and research up, down, left, and right as much as you possibly can about the positions. If you believe you have what it takes to be the best in the world at one of these, contact me: email@example.com. If we’re not hiring, I can still give you good advice to transform yourself into a monster beast.