The Difference Between Good and Bad Marketing

Marketing is such a misunderstood term because it can be defined so many different ways. Marketing can mean branding, PR, lead generation, inbound, advertising, SEO, Product Marketing and a dozen other things. In larger companies all of these functions are done by separate people in separate groups and when you split them all apart it can be easy to forget why the overall marketing plan existed in the first place. For startup marketers, the biggest problem is staying focused on the things that matter and forgetting about the million things you could be working on that don’t matter to the business. What is the difference between good and bad marketing? Good marketing drives revenue. That’s it. It’s as simple as that. You would think this is obvious to everyone, particularly cash-starved startups but I still see marketing plans going completely off the rails where marketers have lost sight of the real prize. Examples? I’ve seen marketing plans with a large amount of budget dedicated to participating in trade shows that have consistently produced few if any opportunities (“…but it will send a bad message if we don’t show up”). I’ve seen teams dedicate large amounts of time and effort into building social media followings without any plan to drive revenue from that (“…our competitors are doing it”). I’ve seen large amounts of money spent on PR that doesn’t reach the company’s target market (“…but all of our friends read TechCrunch”, “…my mom was so proud when I was in the newspaper”). I’ve found that focus on revenue is also a good benchmark to use when hiring marketing folks. When...
6 Skills That Will get you a Startup Marketing Job

6 Skills That Will get you a Startup Marketing Job

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...
Hiring Marketers for Cultural Fit

Hiring Marketers for Cultural Fit

Culture fit is always a big deal when you’re hiring but it’s particularly important for marketing jobs which are notoriously difficult positions to fill successfully at a startup. Marketers are also really hard to interview – their great communication, interpersonal and sales skills make them potentially full of bullcrap very difficult to read. I’ve been building a team where culture fit has been one of the biggest challenges. The folks I’m hiring not only need to deal with a TON of ambiguity (and a certain amount of chaos), they also have to be able to deal with a spectrum of language and culture issues in an environment where successful teamwork is critical to the job. Here are some things I am working into my interview technique to help me asses culture fit that I think would be useful for anyone hiring a marketer at a startup: Process-related questions – in general I like process-related questions when interviewing marketing folks because anyone can say they did things like “developed and drove programs” but it’s hard to figure out what the person’s exact contribution to the effort was (especially when there was outside help involved). Asking things like “Walk me through the process you used to build that” or “Describe the steps you took to get that project done” are usually good ones to get into the details of someone’s role. They also let you see how a person sees themselves in the context of their own team. Are they working with other folks or just doling out tasks? How are they interacting with their management team? How are they making decisions...
Does Your Startup Need a Rockstar Marketer or a B Player?

Does Your Startup Need a Rockstar Marketer or a B Player?

I read an interesting blog post last week called “The Curve of Talent” by Eric Paley. While I disagree with some parts of this post (his description of “big companies” doesn’t line up with my experiences), I believe his assessment of the gap between what startup folks think they are looking for and what the makeup of their team actually is (or indeed should be) is spot on. He defines a “A” player this way: …folks who can “write the book and not just read it.” These are an incredibly rare breed of people who not only have a clear idea how to competently accomplish their functional objectives, but actually lead the organization to innovate and be world class within their functional area. B players by contrast are the folks that can “execute well on what they are asked to do.” C players look at a lot like B’s but need coaching to get really get the job done well. The majority of folks are C’s. B’s are rare and A’s are super-rare. Given that, startups trying to hire only A players are probably kidding themselves. He says: Those who suggest that startups should only hire A players are grade inflators.  They’re calling B players A players.  The actual A players are too rare for this to be a practical hiring plan. I will go a step further and say that there is a time and place for an A player in a certain role but sometimes what you really want is a B.  Most startups like to think they always need rockstars (I translate this to A). If I had a dollar...

Why Your Startup Shouldn’t Hire a Marketer from Microsoft

I’ve heard tons of horror stories from startups that hired someone from a large company who was “very senior and qualified” but turned out to be horrible.  There are lots of talented marketers working at places like Mircosoft, IBM, and Apple.   The problem is that if that’s the ONLY place that person has ever worked, you might be in for big trouble.  Here’s why you shouldn’t hire a big company marketer for your startup: 1/ The big company marketing silo problem – Big company marketing groups are organized in a matrix. PR folks do PR, comms does comms, product marketing folks do product marketing.  Your startup needs someone that knows all of those things.  Sure, branding might be the big problem you have right now and a kick-ass person from a big company might be able to tackle that, but the minute you need them to work on lead generation you’re toast. Startup marketing folks have done it all – they write, do lead gen, talk to the press, do competitive intelligence and manage leadgen programs.  They might have no clue how to scale all of that to $100M in revenue but chances are your CEO doesn’t know how to run a $100M company either.  Hire the right person for the stage you are at right now and when (if!!) you make it to the next level you can figure out what do to then. 2/ They will never get over the fact that you have no budget – Big company marketing departments spend  huge amounts of energy fighting for budget.  In a more established market, the more...