How to choose the right marketing leader for your startup


It’s that time! You’re ready to hire a marketing leader to set your strategy and steer the ship. Find out what you should be looking for when recruiting the head of your marketing department.

 Once you’ve got a few members of your marketing team on board, it’s time to start thinking about bringing in a strong leader who can guide the department and create a cohesive marketing strategy for your organization.
In this article, you’ll learn the key things to consider when you’re searching for the right marketing leader for your company—including why your marketing leader is a critical team member, and what to look for in a potential hire.

Why your marketing leader is a critical company role

Your marketing leader is going to be different from the individual contributors and managers on your team who implement strategies and execute planned tactics. Your marketing leader is the person who sets the strategy everyone is going to rally around.
Since the marketplace and customer needs constantly fluctuate, it’s important to have someone on the leadership team who is deep in the world of marketing—someone who understands the tools, tactics, and trends, and who can keep their eye on that space and free up the founding team to focus on areas they excel at.
Your marketing leader will not only set the course for your marketing team; they will ultimately affect how everyone in your company talks about your product.

What to look for in a marketing leader

While there are many qualifications to consider when you’re hiring a marketing leader, at Tango we found that a certain experience level and a willingness to experiment were the key criteria.

Extensive marketing experience—but still on the rise

Your new marketing leader certainly needs to have extensive experience. But just what kind of experience should you be looking for?
A marketing leader doesn’t need to know everything about every aspect of marketing—many have a T-shaped resume, with deep expertise in one particular area— but they should be reasonably competent in these core specialties:
●  Product marketing: Positioning your product and telling your company’s story in ways that lead to larger conversations
●  Omnichannel marketing: Using social and communications platforms to connect to your core audience
●  Lead generation: Driving a qualified pipeline of leads to your sales team
●  Systems and operations: Assembling a tech stack that measures results and gives managers the data they need to make sound decisions
●  Corporate marketing: Building your brand through public relationships and traditional marketing methods
For Tango, finding someone with great potential—someone on the rise—was more important than having a mastery of those specialties, though. We looked for someone who a lot of people were talking about, someone who other startup leaders believed would thrive in a leadership role if they were given the right scope.

Feels comfortable in the marketing laboratory

You don’t want a marketing leader who will use the same cookie-cutter approach they used in their last role. Every company and industry is different, so seek out leaders who come in with an experimental mindset and are ready to develop customized plans tailored to your situation and your needs as a company.
At Tango, we don't have infinite funding, so we looked for someone who would feel comfortable taking a highly experimental approach to marketing. We knew someone who just asked, “What's our ad budget?” and relied solely on advertising to bring in leads would not be a good fit for us.
Tango needed a marketing leader who could take an experimental learning approach to every channel where we were testing our messages, and get into the nitty-gritty of the campaigns. This person needed to really evaluate whether a particular message is working or not working, then double down on the successful experiments.
When searching for a marketing leader, look for a thought partner who can help you figure out a customized marketing strategy built around your specific needs.

Leading with clear sight of what’s happening downstream

Every marketing leader should also be able to think through how priorities and product updates will affect the downstream funnel.
At Tango, when we were ready to hire a head of marketing, our biggest priority was user growth. As a product-led company, that gave us chances to learn as we tried to convert more users to paid customers, and more opportunities into enterprise conversations. That sort of focus at the top of the funnel had a lot of downstream effects, so when we started the search for our marketing leader, we knew we needed someone who would be able to think through those effects and form a marketing strategy around them.
The person we eventually chose for the role played a large role in hiring the rest of the team. His hiring plan started with asking the questions, "How do we augment the current team?” and “How do we make sure we're moving quickly towards the priority of user growth?"

Get ready to find the right marketing leader

A smart marketing strategy is key to the growth of your startup, so choosing a marketing leader who can set the course for the team and the company is incredibly important. Your marketing leader will not only set the overall messaging direction for your entire company, but also oversee the implementation of the tactics that will help you rise above the competition.
To sum up, here’s a checklist for what to look for in a marketing leader:
●  Can set a solid marketing strategy your entire company can rally around
●  Has experience across multiple marketing competencies
●  Can consider the impact of your company’s priorities on downstream funnels
●  Will be flexible and willing to take an experimental approach to marketing

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