Every growing business eventually needs a marketing function in order to continue that growth. But how do you make that first, crucial hire a success?
Marketing is a tricky function to get right in the SME. It requires strategic expertise and direction to succeed, but the person capable of providing that isn't usually able to perform all of the disciplines that are required for that success. After all, no one person can be a competent (and effective) strategist, writer, designer, developer, and more, all at the same time.
The reality therefore is that your first marketing hire should be a marketing manager who can direct your marketing strategy, execute in some areas, and manage external resources - like agencies and freelancers - while paving the way for the creation of a full in-house marketing function.
If you take the other approach and hire disciplinary specialists first, you will obtain the ability to execute at a high standard in some areas, but management of these resources will fall to someone without the right skills and experience to make them successful.
What skills should a marketing manager have?
Marketing management, like most management, is a nebulous task, changing daily with the evolving pressures, demands and opportunities. The common objective to it all, however, is the pursuit of growth. Therefore, marketing managers with proven track records of supporting growth are the most desirable hires.
Spending money on branding, awareness and print collateral is the essential but immeasurable part of B2B marketing. If you want to grow, the skill you should be looking for, in CVs, interviews and tests, is that of identifying, testing and proving the digital marketing channels and tactics that drive measurable growth at the current stage of company development.
Your marketing manager also needs to manage the budget you assign to marketing for the procurement of products and services required for the execution of the marketing plan. Budget control gives a marketing manager autonomy and decision making control, and gives the business objective measurability. Giving a marketing manager this responsibility and creating objectivity around a notoriously subjective area of business are key components in satisfaction, both for them and you.
Perhaps the most valuable skill in marketing management is saying no. There are now so many channels, platforms and tactics available to a marketing manager, and so many ways to spend (and waste) budget. Being an effective marketing manager is as much about identifying what you will not do at any moment in time as it is about what you will do. In addition, no matter what level a person is at in the marketing world, there is always someone who either knows better (while they do not) or feels its ok to blindside them with some high-risk, low-reliability tactical idea that they just heard about. Look for a marketing manager who is able to say what they will not do, and why - and don't be 'that' person.
It goes without saying that a strong marketing manager will need to be confident, an effective communicator at all levels, a good writer, have good numeracy skills and be competent in all the usual business IT tools - so I won't go in to those sorts of things here.
Writing the marketing manager job advert
Writing a good job ad can seem like an impossible task. Looking around you will see companies and recruiters writing ads that really overdo trying to be cool, edgy, exciting, and to avoid the fact that they are trying to fill a vacant position. The best job ads are the most genuine and truthful.
Be clear about the duties, responsibilities and authority you will place on your marketing manager, as this will set expectations for you and your chosen candidate.
Strong marketing managers tend to be ambitious, curious and adaptable individuals. To attract them to your company they need to understand the opportunity, the challenge and the culture. Make sure to indicate how you reward hard work with freedom, fun and relaxation. Work life balance is so important, and the nature of work has changed so much, that it's necessary to let team members blow off a little steam with their colleagues from time to time.
What length of experience and level of qualification to look for is very difficult to recommend. Extensive amounts of both can, but do not necessarily, correlate with high-calibre marketing managers. Meanwhile, there are plenty of great up and coming marketing managers out there who have simply learned how to be successful after a few years on the job and with no formal marketing education. More experience and qualification comes with a higher salary, of course, so it's probably best to be led by your hiring budget, based on some industry research, at this point.
Interviewing for the marketing manager position
Interviews are far from being a flawless way to assess a candidates strengths, but they are what we have so it pays to prepare to get the most out of them.
Given the range of possible experience and qualification among applicants, you really want to assess potential marketing managers on their achievements, and the clarity and specificity of their answers to your questions.
Look for a candidate who can talk comfortably about the measurable ways in which they have directed marketing before to support company growth. Look for unforced mentions of specific marketing channels (like search, email, social), key metrics (like traffic, leads, opportunities), and conversion rates. Listen for comments that speak to ROI, and sales and marketing alignment. These are the signs of a marketing manager competent in digital demand generation methods.
Look for curiosity. Asking lots of questions, both to clarify they questions you are asking and to learn more about the role and company, is a very positive sign. Asking questions indicates confidence, intelligence, passion, ambition and considerations - all great traits for an effective marketing manager. In fact, I would go as far to say that if no questions (or very few) come from the candidate, they are not the right person for the job, no matter how good the other signals may be.
Finally, be wary of overuse of the word 'campaigns'. It sounds impressive but doesn’t mean anything specific. It can be used to mask a lack of knowledge of what really works in B2B marketing. So always dig into exactly what any campaigns consisted of, how they were measured, how they worked and how repeatable or long lasting the outcomes were, if they are cited as example of success.