Why Your Startup Needs to Market Today and Who to Hire

written by bethburgee on December 20, 2012 in Guest Blog and Startups with 2 comments
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Guest Blog Post by Derek Singleton

How did Pinterest grow from 3,000 users to 25.3 million monthly unique visitors? According to Pinterest’s CEO, Ben Silbermann, it was mostly marketing. Rather than focusing on the technological capabilities of Pinterest, Silbermann went out and connected with community, mainly to bloggers to start spreading the word on the Web. The strategy paid off in a big way.

Marketing’s role in Pinterest’s explosive growth highlights the importance of hiring a marketing person for your startup early on. However, many startups (especially tech startups) tend to focus on developing the product during the early stages and plan to focus on marketing later. This is a mistake.

Even if you build something truly great, it does you no good if you don’t go out and tell the world about it in a meaningful way. Most great products don’t just get discovered because the technology is impressive or it looks really cool. You need people out there saying that it looks cool and convincing you to buy. Instead of saving marketing for later, you need a marketing person early on to:

  • Position the product
  • Define your target market
  • Develop a product roadmap
  • Help build your brand
  • Get you noticed by analysts and the press
  • Generate leads to acquire customers

Most founders don’t come from the marketing world, and trying to manage marketing can be difficult and overwhelming. If you want to start off on the right foot and position yourself for growth it’s important to bring on the right marketing person at the beginning of your startup venture.

To help startups figure out how they should hire for their marketing function, I recently caught up with a few venture capitalist (VC) contacts that are versed in building out the marketing team for startup and expansion-stage companies.

According to Greg Goldfarb, Managing Director at Summit Partners, startups should primarily consider hiring for the Director of Marketing position. In his view, this role is ideal for companies with less than $10M in revenue that operate via a single marketing channel–such as online marketing. In these types of companies, VCs look for three specific traits in a startup’s marketing leader.

They’re Execution Oriented: Bob Gilbreath, Executive at seed investment firm CincyTech, says “you need an individual that is execution-oriented…someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves and go figure out Google AdWords, Google Analytics, search engine optimization (SEO) etc. In short, you need a one-man show who’s always out there doing something rather than planning something.
They Understand Sales: Tom Kuhr, who worked as Director of Marketing at two VC-funded startups (Preventsys and Truviso), believe you should also seek a hire who “knows how to sell, knows how to set appointments and can connect your company with industry relations.” Basically, you want someone who understands how to fill the pipeline with marketing-qualified leads in a short time frame because sales are what VCs expect.
They’re Numbers People: VC’s want to that a Director of Marketing is comfortable working with metrics. Phil Dur, Managing Director at Investor Growth Capital, says that he likes to see candidates that can demonstrate an appreciation for a return on invested capital. That means being able to talk about the impact marketing spend has on the conversion rate and the number of marketing-qualified leads. This is important because it shows they’re in tune with marketing’s contribution to top-line growth.

While these three points aren’t an exhaustive list of the qualities VCs look for in a Director of Marketing, they’re some of the most important attributes VCs take into consideration. And understanding this dynamic will help you bring the right marketing hire on board at your startup.

For more information, we recommend the following resources:
Reading Tom Kurh’s marketing-savvy blog
Following Bob Gilbreath on twitter
Gaining insights from Danielle Morrill’s website


Author bio: Derek Singleton works for Software Advice, an Austin, Texas based company that reports on technologies topics and trends related to marketing and CRM software. Derek joined Software Advice after graduating Occidental College and covers the B2B marketing industry where he discusses marketing skills, career development, lead generation strategies and more. His writing has appeared in numerous tech publications such as Sys-Con, Sandhill and ZDNet.