Hiring your first marketer takes a lot of think-through. With resources from the Upekkha community, this blog will help you figure out your right marketer-fit and the process of hiring and training one.

SaaS marketing - selling to enterprises - is a very different ballgame from marketing directly to consumers. As a SaaS founder, after finding product-market fit you want to go full-throttle and scale up your marketing efforts so that your potential customers know your product has arrived.

You decide to hire a marketer. A lot of questions follow: Who should be my first marketer? What skills or MarTech stack should I look for? What marketing strategy should my marketer adopt? This blog will help you figure out the right marketer fit and the process of hiring one.

This article contains:

  • When to hire a marketer
  • The right marketer fit
  • Skills to look for
  • Questions you should ask during the interview
  • Ref checks & peer review of candidates
  • Resources to train marketing hire

When do you need to hire a marketer

We are assuming as a SaaS founder, you have already identified a high-value problem for your Ideal Customer Persona (ICP) and come up with a high-value solution. This should have taken hundreds of calls to your potential customers for you to have a deep understanding of the problem and your customer.

You have figured out the right positioning for your ICP and the right channel to get your first 10-30 customers. (If you haven’t solved these already, download the Upekkha ValueSaaS Playbook to learn more).

This is when you decide to hire the first marketer in your team. But hiring is a solution that raises a lot of difficult questions that can cloud your decision-making process.

The decision to hire your first marketer bubbles up a lot of questions

What is the right marketer fit for your startup

Before you answer this, have clarity on what your marketing objective is.  

Your marketing objective will determine your marketer’s role. But marketing is a vast ocean and you are looking for one unique fish that will spearhead all marketing strategies at your startup. There are numerous marketing roles that need specialized skills and tools. Consider the laundry list of marketing services:

A bird's eye view of marketing functions and associated skills

Please note: the skills mentioned in the illustration above are not definitive. The marketing spectrum has multiple hues and a multitude of their combinations. Even if you know your marketing objectives, deciding which marketing title you should look for could still remain ambiguous.

Most SaaS startups, after establishing product-market fit and gaining the first few customers, will have the following objectives:

  • Demand generation: Get more qualified leads that convert into clients
  • Content marketing: Create and distribute content about the problem you solve and the value you create for your customers
  • Word of mouth marketing: Make your customers beget you more customers by spreading the word about your product.
  • Product marketing and analytics: Have a deep understanding of the problem you solve, convert product features into customer values, and promote them among ideal customer segments. Collaborate with the customer success team to recognize dormant clients and create a strategy to re-engage and revive product usage.

These objectives should be in your job description. As you can see, you are searching for more than one skill set. If you are looking for a mid-senior level marketer who has mastered all the above skills, your search is an uphill task. You are going after no one.

Bynry and Almabase hiring process

Bynry, a Upekkha startup, provides utility software to clients across 11 countries. Bynry looked for a marketing hire with utility industry knowledge. Lead generation for them not only happens through typical digital marketing platforms but also through events and industry conferences.

So Bynry looked for event marketing experience along with content marketing, e-mail marketing, and PPC ads in its hire.

The candidate was required to draft a 90-day marketing plan, which was evaluated before making the hiring decision.

Upekkha startup Almabase has the vision to democratize education and looks for solid hires. Talent from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have left their jobs to join Almabase.

Almabase uses On the Job scenarios to screen marketing talent. The candidates need to listen to a sales call recording and prepare a sales deck addressing the requirements of the potential client in the call.

So in this case, experience in PowerPoint Presentation and the ability to present data and information in a visually pleasing manner is required.  

Partner at Upekkha, Rajan, writes about 3 Reasons Why SaaS Founders From Engineering Background Struggle With Marketing and How to Overcome Them

Your goal is to find a marketer who has top expertise in one area and has a strong understanding of the others. We at Upekkha recommend that our founders find a content marketer who has a fair understanding of demand generation and product marketing.

The recommended mix of marketing skills for your first hire

Having specialization in content marketing is not a hard and fast rule. But content marketers will help you tell your brand narrative to the world. How are you solving a high-value problem for your customer segment? How is your product making your customer's life easy and enabling them to earn more money?

In Value SaaS philosophy, the customer is at the center stage, and solving their problem is sacrosanct. So effectively telling your brand narrative will attract more potential customers.

Skills to look for

Strategic Thinking, Execution, Collaboration, Coachability

  • Strategy is critical. There are multiple marketing approaches to reach your goal. What works the best faster is one thing your marketer should know. During the interview process, you can ask for a 90-day marketing plan to understand how good the candidate is at creating marketing strategies. Ask for KPIs that will measure marketing success in the first 90 days.
  • Execution is not secondary. Given the early-stage nature of your startup, the marketing hire should be ready to roll up the sleeves and get her hands dirty by executing the strategies. Your marketer is expected to create content and even do some essential design work for social media at an early stage. Look for hands-on experience using marketing tools like Canva (design), WordPress (CMS), Hubspot (marketing automation), Freshworks, Zoho (CRM), etc.
  • Collaboration achieves more. Your marketer must collaborate with the product team to know about feature releases, product consumption analytics, and customer success team to understand customer pain points, feedback and get testimonials for marketing purposes. With the help of the customer success team, your product should aggregate positive reviews on platforms like G2 Crowd from happy customers. Learn how our startups have built their credibility online using their existing customers to find more customers
  • Coachability creates an all-rounder. We have already seen finding a talent that excels at all your requirements is almost impossible. The marketer should be coachable in other areas that they do not excel at while joining. For example, a marketer with expertise in content marketing and lead generation can receive training in product marketing.

In an interview, Almabase Founder Kalyan Varma shared the skills you should look for in a candidate to build a successful sales team. These can be good parameters for marketing hires as well. “Look for a hustle’ says Kalyan. If your candidate is there to just follow the process and leave the office or shut down the laptop sharply at 5 pm, they are not going to succeed. Do they have any hustling experience? Have they tried starting a business? Do they spend more time with the problem? Do they have the persistence to stay put and look ahead in the face of failures?

Some questions you should ask during the interview

  • Tell us an experience in which you collaborated with other functions in your organization that delighted your customers.
  • Do you have regular meetings (weekly/monthly) with the sales team, product team, customer success team? What is the agenda of the sessions?
  • What were your marketing OKRs? What KPIs did you use to measure marketing success?
  • Name a campaign that you managed from ideation to execution, and what are the results achieved
  • What is the martech stack you used in your previous assignment?

Get talent referrals and peer review candidature

Hiring your first marketer is a tough call. You shall be excited to get the hire onboard and kickstart to see the results soon. But hold your horses before taking the decision. Ask your industry peers to share candidate referrals and interview the candidate and take their opinion.

Our founders at Upekkha help each other in making critical decisions. They learn from other founders who have already been there and done that. Our founders also share talent referrals among themselves reducing the horsepower required to hire talent.

Upekkha Quarterly Review Meeting with community founders

Training your marketing hire

Upekkha founders have put together a list of resources to train marketing hires. You can find them below.

Learn how to get to your first 30 SaaS customers. Download the Upekkha ValueSaaS Basecamp Guide, a best-seller on Amazon.