What I learned from interviewing 50 marketers

If you’re a product / biz founder, in house recruiter, or first time VP Marketing, chances are I’ve felt your pain over the last few months while trying to find the first marketer for Drafted. Here are some of the mistakes that I made and things I learned.

Mistake #1 — not defining the marketer I wanted

Just like a marketer who starts spending money on ads without defining an audience, I initially started pounding the pavement for marketers without really understanding the persona I was looking for. Because of this, I met a couple of really great people that I still feel bad about turning down, simply because I didn’t clearly define what I wanted. I went back and forth between “maybe I need someone who is a VP level to set strategy” or “maybe I just need someone junior who can roll up their sleeves and be more tactical”

Mistake #2 — over defining the marketer I wanted

After interviewing a few completely different types of marketers I got a much better understanding of the landscape. But now my definition included every possible thing, and I was looking for someone that didn’t exist.

“Someone who has growth marketing experience, can write some interesting blog posts, manage social media, experiment with paid advertising, think about brand, use our email marketing tools, own top of the funnel leadgen, shoot a scrappy product marketing video, and maybe let’s do a podcast too. They should be good at analyzing data and maybe even know SQL, and also be a great write that can write engaging content. Maybe a former journalist.

In addition, hopefully they can start out with their sleeves rolled up, and then grow to manage and lead a team of marketers at the company. So someone with the right attitude and leadership potential.”

Mistake #3 — looking in the wrong places

Marketing is a huge field. Different companies define the role of marketers in their company differently. This means that someone whose title is “Director of Marketing” at a consumer focused company might be doing something completely different than someone whose title is “Director of Marketing” at a PR agency. Another example is that retail marketing managers tend to have very different skills than enterprise product marketing managers.

Lesson #1 — do the job first

While I was searching, we couldn’t just sit around, we had to ABM (always be marketing). So I made a list of channels to try and some strategies to think about, and defined a few different personas that we wanted to attract. I read a bunch of marketing and sales books and blogs. I tried to become the marketer I wanted to hire.

Even though this wasn’t the most efficient use of my time as a founder,

  1. I actually became better at marketing
  2. I had fun
  3. I became better at interviewing marketers because I had more empathy

Lesson #2 — surround yourself with great marketers

Both literally and virtually. I tried to meet with every awesome marketer in Boston even if they were unattainable / happy where they were, and asked them what I should learn, what books I should read, and how they would market Drafted if they were in my shoes. I even signed one of them to be an advisor for Drafted (announcement coming soon). This also helped me develop the persona — I now had a better idea of what good marketers smelled like, what they dressed like, and what kind of coffee they liked.

Online, I followed all the good marketers and studied the content they created, the way they tweeted, who they followed, what they thought was important, and how they won at life.

Lesson #3 —great questions to ask marketing candidates

Here are some of the best questions to figure out if you’re speaking with your first ever marketing hire. If you have been doing the job for a little bit, they should be at least as good as you at all of these things.

  1. Why did you decide to be a marketer? What is your marketing philosophy?
    (there’s no right answer, but you’ll be able to tell if they really care about their craft. Just like great coders love coding, great marketers love marketing.)
  2. What has been your biggest marketing win? Can you quantify it in terms of business impact?
    (a great answer here would be substantiated with metrics based goals e.g “our goal was to increase email subscription by 10% and I got a month over month increase of 20% for 6 months by experimenting with short-form-blog content as a channel, and also sending less frequent email to reduce churn.)
  3. Can you define some marketing goals for your future job and an execution strategy to hit those goals?
    (they should ask you clarifying questions and hopefully do a good job at creating goals that align with your business)
  4. Create a piece of content related to my company. Define a persona for targeting the content to, and create a headline, email subject line, Tweet, Facebook post, etc. for maximum impact.
    (this shouldn’t take more than an hour or two, and would be homework after a first conversation)
  5. What is your tool belt and what are the cool new marketing tools you are excited about?
    (if you end up telling them about a new tool during this question, that’s not a good sign)

Source: Vinayak Ranade – CEO & Bartender at Drafted



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