One of the top five determining factors of successful startups is mastery of the latest marketing tactics. Fliers and radio ads no longer cut it in a world dominated by search engine optimization, social media marketing and content campaigns. Startup success depends on visibility, powerful word-of-mouth referrals and connecting your product or service with the best potential customers. In other words, hiring the right marketing specialist.

While it’s obvious that marketing is essential, how do you make the best hire? Here are four questions to consider for for hiring a marketing specialist for your small business:

What Are My Marketing Goals?

Part of what you should include when writing your business plan is a market analysis, recommends the U.S. Small Business Administration. By examining who your potential competitors are and identifying their successful marketing strategies, you’ll have a clue about where you want to outshine them or areas they’re neglecting. If you’re a fashion boutique, for example, you might want to adopt the loyalty purchase rewards program of a comparable brand. Furthermore, if you notice that your top three competitors’ blog are lacking, you can focus on search-engine-friendly, helpful blogs that influencers will love to share.

Your plan should also flesh out marketing and sales strategies. The two departments’ performance will influence each other, so be prepared to have enough sales to support your stellar marketing efforts. A thorough marketing strategy should include sections covering:

  • Market penetration, or reaching new customers
  • Growth, which could include both expansion of product sales, as well as expansion of the business
  • Distribution channels, from selling services or products in-house, to using retailers and distributors
  • Communication, including public relations and digital channels

As a B2C startup, communication should be a major focus of your marketing strategy. Determine your top campaign priorities, your ideal marketing achievements and ways to measure those campaigns before you hire.

What Is My Marketing Budget?

If your marketing budget has not yet been set, determining your objectives in your business plan gives you and any funding stakeholders something tangible to work with when deciding on an amount to dedicate. Entrepreneur magazine recommends that startups that are one to five years old dedicate between 12 to 20 percent of projected revenue to marketing, since creating awareness is so vital in the early stages. A grand opening launch party for your restaurant, for example, will require a bigger budget early on.

After you’ve determined your magic marketing number, you’ll want to keep in mind what percentage of that total will go toward any paid media spending and what you’ll use on people power. A mix of both paid and organic outreach should be considered. In realms like content marketing and SEO, keep in mind that results take longer to cultivate but can have a greater pay off. While a paid Google ad will get eyeballs on your website right away, a blog post that gradually builds up readership over a year may turn into a top search result that consistently refers traffic to your site and that requires no further investment.

What Skills Are Desired when Hiring a Marketing Specialist?

Your marketing goals and the expertise you already have within your team will help to determine the skills you’ll need to fill in with your marketing department. Because global e-commerce sales are expected to experience double-digit growth through 2020, reaching $4 trillion, many of the marketing skills startups require today are digital-focused. Even if the focus of your startup is products sold at a brick-and-mortar location, your potential customers are looking for your services online.

April Dunford, a startup marketing and sales consultant, says the most common skills your competitors are likely seeking out from candidates include:

  • Content creation – including blogs, webinars, infographics and slideshows, plus public speaking presentations
  • Social media management – which involves working with customer service and quality assurance teams based on feedback
  • Data synthesis – including the ability to test, measure and optimize marketing initiatives, and clearly explain results to key stakeholders
  • Public relations skills – including the competency to conduct outreach to influencers within the startup’s industry and garner press, both print and digital
  • Email marketing – including copywriting, graphic design strategy, execution and measurement

Some marketing initiatives, like email marketing or paid Twitter ads, will require an additional budget for campaigns or software costs. If you have already decided on the marketing tools you want to use, such as Hootsuite for social media management or MailChimp for email marketing, you’ll want to find candidates who are already familiar with those systems.

Where Can I Find the Best Candidates?

Successful startups benefit from team members who are invested in the startup vision and who will work diligently to make it a reality. Hiring a full-time employee in-house means you’ll have someone who is steeped in the company culture and is aware of all developments as they’re taking place. Keep in mind that, when benefits and insurance are factored in, hiring a full-time employee can be more expensive than hiring a consultant, contractor or agency. Other times, having an agency’s full team of creatives working on your campaigns can be far more expensive than hiring an eager young full-time employee.

Whatever route your choose, finding candidates who are qualified is going to be your biggest challenge, even more so than salary or benefits demands, according to Inc. magazine’s 2017 State of Entrepreneurship annual report. Improve your likelihood for success when vetting marketing candidates for your startup by using these techniques:

  • Dig into your network – Talk to respected peers and businesses about your marketing needs, and ask for recommendations. If they’re bringing success to a like-minded business, they might be able to help you.
  • Consider their work – Often, marketing experts will have certain verticals they specialize in or types of startups they enjoy working with and have had success with. Look at campaigns they’ve worked on for other companies to see if they align with yours.
  • Regard how they market themselves – One way to gain insight into a marketing candidate’s skills is to examine how they market themselves. Do they have a professional website? Do they feature recommendations on their LinkedIn page? Is there anything offensive or that doesn’t align with your brand that is featured on their social networks? Does a Google search on their name display guest blog posts and media mentions, or does something negative pop up? A successful marketer or agency should have a pristine online reputation if they’re going to be working with your brand.

Consider the culture of your startup when hiring, too. If you’re a young, hip brand, hiring a marketing specialist could mean a part-time millennial employee to give you the opportunity to save on marketing budget while also offering the employee the chance to grow with your company in a full-time position. If you serve a high-end clientele, like luxury resort vacationers, investing in an experienced agency that specializes in hospitality can guarantee your marketing assets are classy and reach the customers you want.

To help increase the chance of success for your marketing team, it is vital to provide them with clear goals and benchmarks to work toward. It is wise not to enter long-term contracts with freelancers or agencies in case you discover their strategies are not working for your startup. Having an employee or employees who are agile and adaptable is an asset that can lead to a more stable and long-term relationship.

 

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