How to Hire the First Marketer

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 7.45.23 PMThis is the 8th post of a 50 article series for beginners building marketing at B2B startups.

If you are the founder or COO of an early stage B2B startup, you’ll quickly realize that establishing the foundation of a marketing organization is a mandate for growth. Particularly once product-market fit is established, marketing is needed to:

  • create messaging, positioning and value props
  • establish infrastructure and tools needed to scale (e.g. CRM and marketing automation)
  • generate leads for the sales team

In the very beginning, often a non-marketing person needs to ramp up in these areas and start executing. However, building a marketing organization is a full time job. Let’s build a persona of who you need to get started:

1. The first marketing hire needs to be an architect

This person is highly entrepreneurial and used to building things from scratch. Not only do they need to define what types of marketing your company needs, but they need to “write the playbook” on your marketing strategy and then personally execute that playbook to accomplish the 3 objectives listed above. This is extremely important because if you hire someone that can only operate within someone else’s playbook instead of building the system themselves, they will flop.

2. The first marketing hire needs to be technical

Much of the initial architecture of a marketing organization, from determining an effective data model (i.e. what fields do we want to collect about our contacts) to integrating our marketing automation system with our CRM to editing HTML and CSS in email templates requires technical skills. We don’t need a full stack software engineer, but someone who knows their way around systems, code and data would be very helpful.

3. The first marketing hire needs to be creative

In addition to being technical and entrepreneurial, the first marketing hire also has to have a creative twist. Leading workshop meetings to narrow down messaging, guiding designers in creating collateral and developing the first 1-liners used to describe the company mandates creativity. Needless to say, identifying someone that can do this and the technical side can be a challenge.

4. The first marketing hire needs to be both strategic and tactical

In the beginning, the first marketer needs to constantly jump between defining the big picture strategy (i.e. writing the playbook) and executing day-to-day (e.g. creating the first email campaigns that drive actual leads). A catastrophic mistake would be to hire someone who is too senior and doesn’t want to roll up their sleeves and do everything themselves at first. You need an architect that is also a builder. While you may have budget to hire additional roles to help support the first marketer, it’s ideal to hire someone that can handle it all themselves at first.

5. The first marketing hire should be able to hire a team

In an ideal world, your first marketing hire is not only capable of architecting and building the initial marketing organization from scratch, but additionally can recruit a top tier team of “A” talent around them. As I mentioned in the last post, there are 4 core roles needed at the start of a high-performance B2B marketing team. Can this person bring those other 3 people to the table?

So tactically, what does this look like?

The first marketing hire is often the “lead” described here in the structure of a marketing team. Their title might be Director or Head or VP of Marketing. They should be a key member of the leadership team and willing to put in the extreme time and effort needed in the beginning to build from scratch. As such, their compensation should be a healthy mix of cash and equity.

This post is part of a 50 article series on startup marketing

Greg Skloot is a technology entrepreneur and marketer. He is currently VP Growth at Netpulse, the #1 provider of mobile apps for health clubs and a $40M VC backed software company in San Francisco. At Netpulse, he leads marketing, sales operations and strategic growth. Previously, Greg was CEO and Co-Founder of, where he built the initial product, raised $3M and hired a team of 30. Contact Greg at

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