I get about 4 calls a week from people looking to hire a startup marketer. The skills startups are looking for in a marketing hire are remarkably consistent. These are the skills I hear about the most and how you might easily get them.
Here’s what startups are looking for in a marketing hire:
- Content creation – Folks that can create engaging, relevant content are in short supply. Most are looking for writing skills but being able to create video, build infographics and create presentations are desirable skills too. Bonus points if you are a decent public speaker and can represent the company well on video (and face to face).
- Community management – Great social media marketing programs require folks that can work with the community to help build an engaged audience. Social media skills are important here but equally important are good people skills, especially around relationship building.
- Analytic skills - Companies are getting better at tracking their marketing efforts through clicks, conversions, impressions, keywords, links, mentions, along with more traditional pipeline stage tracking measurements. Being able to not just gather data but make sense of it is a skill startups are looking for.
- PR contacts – Later-stage startups might use outside PR help but most are getting the word out to blogs and news outlets on their own. Having a set of relationships with key influencers in a particular market makes you very valuable to a startup.
- E-mail marketing – Still the cornerstone of most digital marketing programs, email programs are getting smarter and more sophisticated. Marketing automation tools from simple things like MailChimp through to more feature-rich tools like Eloqua and Marketo are now widely used. Knowing your way around those tools and having some experience in multi-stage email marketing is a rare and valuable skill.
- Salesforce.com – Many startups are using Salesforce as their CRM system and although it’s easy enough to get started using the tool, using it to it’s full potential isn’t, particularly when it comes to tracking and analytics. There are also loads of tricks to learn around account visibility, pipeline staging and customer segmentation that aren’t intuitively obvious unless you’ve got some time with Salesforce under your belt.
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to pick up many of these skills right now regardless of whether you currently hold a startup marketing job. Any one of these would get you skills that would make you hireable:
- Start blogging and creating stuff – I don’t think anything teaches you more about what works in a blog better than blogging and the more you write the better you get at it. It also gives you a place to experiment with other media. I’ve done a bunch of video, podcasts and graphic content in this blog and unlike my regular work I get to experiment a lot to see what works.
- Get active in your community – Being an organizer for a group or project can teach you a lot about what makes communities tick and what it takes to get them engaged and motivated. These groups are always looking to help out and getting involved is usually as easy as raising your hand.
- Track yourself (and learn some SEO) – This goes along with #1 but if you have an online presence, set goals and learn how to track them. There are loads of great SEO blogs out there. My two favorites for practical advice are SEOmoz and Portent (formerly Conversation Marketing). Runing experiments to put what you have learned into practice is probably the best way to build skills in this area and having specific example to share with potential employers will help you prove that.
- Make friends with bloggers/journalists – I think networking is the best thing that anyone at any stage in their career can do. If you have a set of relationships with folks in the media, journalists or bloggers that are influential in a particular space, those are very valuable to a startup that doesn’t have them.
- Learn how to manage a mailing list – Much like the point on SEO, this is an area where there are a ton of amazing resources available online to help you get smart about this topic really fast. For email marketing stuff I like the Mailchimp blog. Although the topics they cover are much broader than just email the Eloqua, Marketo and Pardot blogs are also great sources of information. There are also some low-end tools that you can use for free that can help you fool around with some of the technology in the space to learn it. As I mentioned in the above point on community management skills, community groups are always looking for help. Being the person that manages email lists can help you get smart on this and provide you a theatre to run experiments and learn about tracking, analytics and what works.
- Play around with Salesforce (or some other CRM) – Sure not everyone uses it but lots of startups do and the principles that you will learn from fooling around with Salesforce are pretty applicable to other CRM systems. If you have access to SalesForce where you work try creating a set of dashboards or reports that are useful to you. If you don’t have access, you can play around with one of the free CRM tools (ZohoCRM is the one I hear about the most). CRM tools are all different but the underlying principles of managing accounts, tracking pipeline, capturing and managing activities, creating reports and dashboards are all pretty similar across tools.