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5 questions startups should consider before making their first marketing hire – TechCrunch


“Who should be my first rental marketing be?

This is (by far) the most common question I’ve received since starting out as a Fuel CMO, and for good reason. Your first marketer will have a disproportionate impact on team dynamics as well as the overall strategic direction of the brand, product and business.

The reality is that anyone who is good at all marketing functions is a unicorn and almost impossible to find.

The nature of the marketing function has grown considerably over the past two decades. So much so that when the founders ask this question, it immediately sparks several news: Should I hire a brand or a growth marketer? An offline or online marketer? A scientist or a creative marketer?

In the past, the number of marketing channels was quite limited, which meant that the function itself was part of a cleaner and narrower framework. The number of ways to reach customers has since grown exponentially, as has the scope of the marketing role. Today’s startups need at least four general functions under the umbrella of “marketing”, each with its own set of sub-functions.

Here is an example of the marketing functions of a typical startup:

Marketing of the brand: Brand strategy, positioning, naming, messaging, visual identity, experiential, events, community.

Marketing product: UX copy, website, email marketing, customer research and segmentation, pricing.

Communication: Public and media relations, content marketing, social media, thought leadership, influencer.

Growth Marketing: Acquisition paid by direct response, funnel optimization, retention, lifecycle, engagement, reporting and attribution, word of mouth, referral, referral, partnerships.


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As you can imagine, this is a lot to deal with for one person, let alone being an expert. Additionally, the skills and experience required to excel in growth marketing are very different from those required to be successful in brand marketing. The reality is that anyone who is good at all marketing functions is a unicorn and almost impossible to find.

So who do you hire first?

Unless you’re lucky enough to catch that unicorn, your first hire should be a generalist who can take care of the entire marketing function, learn what they don’t know, and roll up their sleeves to do get things done. Someone smart, knowledgeable, and super disjointed who knows how to experiment across all marketing channels until they find the right mix.



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