With it, early-stage startups can identify and attract a great first growth hire. Great marketers are often founders One interesting way to find great marketers is to look for great potential founders. Because great founders and great growth marketers are often one and the same. (How do you identify which ad channels are most likely to work for your company? Hire candidates from top growth marketing schools. Vetting growth marketers If you don’t yet have a growth candidate to vet, you can stop reading here. Level 2: Capabilities A level higher, we use these projects to assess their ability to contribute to the company: Do they have a process for generating and prioritizing good ideas? I’m looking for a candidate that has a process for identifying, evaluating and prioritizing growth opportunities. I don’t expect anyone to be an expert in all channels, but deep knowledge of at least a couple of channels is key for an early-stage startup making their first growth hire. If you don’t have the in-house expertise to assess their growth skills, you can pay an experienced marketer to assess their work.
Editors Note: This article is part of a series that explores the world of growth marketing for founders. If you’ve worked with an amazing growth marketing agency, nominate them to be featured in our shortlist of top growth marketing agencies in tech.
Startups often set themselves back a year by hiring the wrong growth marketer.
This post shares a framework my marketing agency uses to source and vet high-potential growth candidates.
With it, early-stage startups can identify and attract a great first growth hire.
It’ll also help you avoid unintentionally hiring candidates who lack broad competency. Some marketers master 1-2 channels, but aren’t experts at much else. When hiring your first growth marketer, you should aim for a generalist.
This post covers two key areas:
- How I find growth candidates.
- How I identify which candidates are legitimately talented.
Great marketers are often founders
One interesting way to find great marketers is to look for great potential founders.
Let me explain. Privately, most great marketers admit that their motive for getting hired was to gain a couple years’ experience they could use to start their own company.
Don’t let that scare you. Leverage it: You can sidestep the competitive landscape for marketing talent by recruiting past founders whose startups have recently failed.
Why do this? Because great founders and great growth marketers are often one and the same. They’re multi-disciplinary executors, they take ownership and they’re passionate about product.
You see, a marketing role with sufficient autonomy mimics the role of a founder: In both, you hustle to acquire users and optimize your product to retain them. You’re working across growth, brand, product and data.
As a result, struggling founders wanting a break from the startup roller coaster often find transitioning to a growth marketing role to be a natural segue.
How do we find these high-potential candidates?
To find past founders, you could theoretically monitor the alumni lists of incubators like Y Combinator and Techstars to see which companies never succeeded. Then you can reach out to their first-time founders.
There are thousands of promising founders who’ve left a mark on the web. Their failure is not necessarily indicative of incompetence. My agency’s co-founders and directors, including myself, all failed at founding past companies.
How do I attract candidates?
To get potential founders interested in the day-to-day of your marketing role, offer them both breadth and autonomy:
- Let them be involved in many things.
- Let them be fully in charge of a few things.
Remember, recreate the experience of being a founder.
Further, vet their enthusiasm for your product, market and its product-channel fit:
- Product and market: Do their interests line up with how your product impacts its users? For example, do they care more about connecting people through social networks, or about solving productivity problems through SaaS? And which does your product line up with?
- Product-channel fit: Are they excited to run the acquisition channels that typically succeed in your market?
The latter is a little-understood but critically important requirement: Hire marketers who are interested in the channels your company actually needs.
Let’s illustrate this with a comparison between two hypothetical companies:
- A B2B enterprise SaaS app.
- An e-commerce company that sells mattresses.
Broadly speaking, the enterprise app will most likely succeed through the following customer acquisition channels: sales, offline networking, Facebook desktop ads and Google Search.
In contrast, the e-commerce…