January 7, 2016

What does it mean to build a marketing team for your startup?

As an early or mid-stage startup, figuring out marketing (or growth1) is hard.

Marketing is changing faster than it ever has before2.

And so a good consultant can be useful.

Inevitably, startups begin to figure out what marketing activities drive growth.

Sooner or later, “figuring it out” isn’t enough of a plan.

This leads to the desire to build a team. Time to “get serious” about it.

Startups often think they don’t have enough knowledge of “what marketing is” to hire appropriately3.

And so a recruiter can be useful.

I’ve spent the last 10 years working in marketing and have done a lot of consulting over the years.

I’ve built a number of marketing teams from scratch, including hiring and training.

The most effective work I’ve done has been a combination of consulting and team building - figuring out the plan and then building a team to execute it.

Most recruiters4 focus specifically on sourcing candidates, but they are not skilled in the role they’re hiring for and so are poor at evaluating those candidates.

For startups who are looking to hire a senior role (e.g. VP of marketing), this is a problem because they are often also unable to adequately evaluate potential hires5.

My background and expertise in marketing, coupled with experience hiring and a strong network means I can be very effective at both sourcing and qualifying the right candidates.

But there’s value6 in caring about the bigger picture and being involved before, during and after hiring.

Which is what I’m going to be focusing on in 20167.

So, if you are an early or mid-stage startup looking to build or grow your marketing team and need help get in touch.

Or, if you’re working in marketing and want a job as VP marketing for an early or mid-stage startup I can help you find the right role.

[email protected]

  1. Startups like to talk about growth instead of marketing. It’s usually the same kind of thing - though there is a growing trend to uncouple the two in which case growth handles acquisition and marketing handles brand. Most of this is semantics, though you will always need to think team structure through carefully. 

  2. Initially I wrote this as “Marketing is the same, but the plan is always different”. That’s slightly less clear - what I mean is that, even though tactics are constantly evolving, the underlying principles of marketing are always the same. After all we’re all people! But the plan is always dependent on the individual market and crucially dependent on the resources available. 

  3. This tweet sums up the common wisdom well. I think it’s mostly true - though we should remember that startups have no idea what they’re doing most of the time by definition and that’s not a bad thing! 

  4. Recruiters have a poor reputation, just like marketers. But there are of course excellent recruiters out there. 

  5. Hiring is often a weak point for startups. It’s a skill that takes practice and emotional intelligence, something startups often lack. 

  6. Capturing some of this value is still a fuzzy concept for me right now. I’m planning on getting paid to do consulting and getting paid to recruit the right people. Easy wins include staying on as an advisor, helping with strategy, running marketing workshops and training. Over time I want to evolve this into an integrated package. 

  7. In case this comes across as overly aspirational and seems like a new years resolution, the work I did in the second half of 2015 closely matched up to this model - advising on marketing strategy and hiring marketing teams to help execute against the plan. That’s why this is so exciting - I’m building a little structure and starting to talk about it in 2016. 

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This post was written by Tom Critchlow - blogger and independent consultant. Subscribe to join my occassional newsletter: