With so many elements needed to start a business, in the past a marketing team could be seen as expendable or an afterthought. Fortunately businesses have now grasped how important a top marketing team is to longevity, and especially for startups.
It's no secret that startups have to watch their expenditure carefully as they try to grow their company, but marketing is not the place to be parsimonious. Alongside a great product that has a unique selling point and fills a gap in the market, marketing is the thing that determines whether a startup soars or sinks.
Now you know the lack of a well-rounded, experienced marketing team can spell disaster for your startup...So, to help your business on its marketing journey, we’ve written this guide to show you how to use your limited startup resources to the best of your advantage. We’ll detail which experts do what and how they can work together to create a marketing strategy that is effective, allowing you to achieve your business goals.
In-house vs. Freelance
At Passionfruit, we're passionate about matching expert marketing professionals to your startup, but there are pros and cons to both freelancers and in-house hires.
Freelancers are certainly the more cost-effective option, as you pay for their focused time. However, you will need to hire multiple freelancers to build an all-star marketing team.
A consideration when hiring freelancers is how precise you need to be when briefing them. If a freelancer has to spend time figuring out what you need them to do, you'll spend more money. Passionfruit works with you to craft a great brief that helps you to get the most out of your freelancer!
In-house marketing hires with experience, in comparison to a Passionfruit freelancer, will cost a huge amount, and their time could be taken up with general office happenings. As well as this, an in-house hire can take months to onboard - whereas our freelancers hit the ground running within days! Frustratingly an in-house hire can be risky as you could discover that they're not bringing everything to the table that you hoped they would. Our freelancers are pre-vetted and need to be good to a) get paid and b) maintain a reputation.
We’re seeing that many companies successfully opt for a mixture of in-house and freelance depending on their needs. This guide will help you think through all the options.
Sidenote: We've consolidated all the great things about working with freelancers in our article about the perks of working with freelance marketers.
Business owners or startup founders may 'stick to what they know' and lean towards full-time hires, but this can be a mistake. Don't compare costs of a base salary vs. the hourly rate of a freelancer as this isn't a true representation of the price difference. Full-time staff have many extra costs that freelancers don't too! According to Investopedia "it can take up to six months or more for a company to break even on its investment in a new hire", which could be an impossible economic challenge for fledgling startups.
Another common pitfall is failing to set a budget. As already discussed, your marketing team isn't the place to cut corners so a robust plan needs to be set. The advantage of adding freelancers to your marketing team is, you can clearly see how much they will cost over the term of each project as they are paid per hour, have no hidden costs and begin working straight away.
A great first full-time hire could be a Head of Marketing or a Head of Communications to spearhead marketing efforts. However, it's best not to rely on one generalist to explore different marketing channels or tools. Marketing is multi-faceted and will need people with different strengths and expertise as the business develops. Furthermore, as your startup grows you may discover the strategy is utilising different marketing channels or has different priorities; using freelancers means you can hire new specialisms as goals change.
Unlike permanent hires, freelancers are flexible and you can hire them per project and once the project is complete you can hire another freelancer to tackle something new. It's also important to build a marketing team experienced enough to take on the challenge of marketing a new startup.
Identifying your marketing channels
As described in our marketing for startups guide, you can decide upon your marketing channels using user personas, what kind of business you are (B2B or B2C for example) and market research. Also, it's a great idea to see which channels are leading to high engagement for your competitors! Whichever channels you pursue, you will need experienced marketers to cover each one.
You need to be operating within the channels, whether that be social media marketing or in-person trade shows, where your ideal customers spend their time. For example, if you have a B2B company you might choose to focus on LinkedIn where you'll find business owners. If you want to target Gen Z, you'll probably choose TikTok. And, if you have a physical product to sell, you’ll want to attend trade shows.
Perhaps you can find a marketing generalist who can set out the strategy and execute for multiple channels, but we strongly recommend hiring specialists when you know what is needed, so you're reaping as much reward as possible when getting a startup off the ground.
How do you know which specialists you need to hire? In the context of building a marketing team, progressive specialisation is when you begin with a general hire and then hire more specific marketing experts depending on proven success in a channel or area.
To do this you'd first hire a generalist Fractional CMO or Growth Strategist/Marketer. They would then test a few appropriate channels. If any of those channels seemed promising, a specialist in that area would be hired to consolidate the gains. If it sounds complicated don't worry, our team at Passionfruit can guide you through this process.
Building your core team
Your core team will vary depending on the product you offer, however any core marketing team should be able to create and distribute great content. Content is how you will shout about your offering and make waves in the industry you're breaking into.
A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) allows you to get all the benefits of a CMO, just part-time. Your company will benefit from a senior marketing leader without the risks associated with a full-time hire.
The importance of this role cannot be overstated. They will take the lead on your marketing strategy, with final say on channels, hires and everything marketing-related. They will also set up the reporting and analytics infrastructure.
Growth Marketing Manager / Marketing Director
A Growth Marketing Manager or Marketing Director won’t be involved in overall strategy, but will oversee a particular aspect of the marketing department.
This person needs experience and lots of it. They should know how to grow a company using marketing. They will have skills in data analysis and running A/B test programs, channel management and building referral programs.
Content Marketers use many types of content, like email, blog posts, case studies and social media posts to get consumer's eyes on a brand. They are also acutely aware of the buyer's journey and which piece of content would be most useful for a consumer at their particular stage.
For example, a consumer who hadn't heard of the company would be many touch points away from making a purchase, therefore they might need to stumble organically upon content that had been optimised for Google (SEO). Later on in the process, when the customer is considering their options, content will change and become more persuasive and educational.
Hiring a freelancer with experience can greatly improve sales as they focus on what the customer needs and when they might need it in order to actually buy.
There are many roles that fall under Content Marketer and they include Content Strategist, Organic Social Media Executive or Manager and Copywriter.
Creating content is great, but if the right people aren't seeing it then it's useless. Paid specialists get the right eyes on content and, therefore, the brand. This hire will allow your content to be seen by your target consumer in their natural digital habitat.
The key things that this marketing hire will do include running social ads, re-marketing, audience building and data analytics.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a system that monitors interactions between the company and its users. It allows you to analyse the value of conversion and understand, using data, which marketing activities are profitable. It is necessary to set up a CRM as a lot of marketing now depends on it.
Typically this is a one-off job to structure the CRM which can then be maintained by the full-time team. But it's important to have this set up in the early stages of your marketing efforts.
An SEO (search engine optimisation) specialist ensures your content ranks highly on (predominantly) Google. They drive traffic to the brand website by constantly testing and reviewing keywords that the people you need to target are using. This is a role that is needed consistently, but not necessarily full-time.
The skills involved in this role are keyword research, running PPC campaigns, monitoring analytics, SEO auditing, strategy, indexing and backlink monitoring.
Read our guide on hiring an SEO specialist >
PR Specialists can help your startup gain exposure in a short space of time, leading to referral traffic. They nurture relationships with relevant media professionals and outlets to gain organic traffic. They are particularly useful for a startup that needs to make an impact.
An experienced PR Specialist will bring a database of contacts that your startup can use for promotion on different media outlets. PR professionals who we vet have excellent communication, writing and organisational skills.
Visual communication is more important than ever and the best way to attract attention is often with an arresting image or video. Designers bring ideas to life visually. They can work on websites, social media posts and infographics. This is a role that works well as a freelance hire, who can come in when needed.
The skills needed in this role are creativity, using software like Photoshop and Illustrator and being able to ideate and execute designs. The more you spend, the more likely you are to work with a designer that can take the seed of an idea and run with it to make something dynamic and effective.
A product marketer will help create a marketing strategy that highlights the most valuable components of the product. They help to create messaging around the product’s unique offering to help drive demand and sales. They will focus on customer needs and monitor metrics to evaluate strategies and make changes as and when they are needed.
The person you hire for this role will need excellent communication and team working skills as they will collaborate with marketing, sales, leadership and even legal in their role. They will lead and manage product launches, develop positioning and messaging and undertaking research.
This role can be pivotal in any company, as they help to position your brand within the market. They can develop a long-term strategy based upon thorough research that allows your business to find a gap in the market and exploit it. They will work on messaging and branding, giving your entire company a direction.
Their skills are many, so you can expect to pay a lot for this freelancer. They can undertake research, interpret data, bring experience of strategizing for other brands, managing teams and working with leadership.
Where to find marketing talent
When beginning to form your marketing department, you might choose to make some full-time hires. There are so many options for this, like using social media. A great place to create a job post is on LinkedIn. There are also lots of marketing-specific jobs boards as well as the usual jobs boards (Reed, Monster, Guardian Jobs). Word of mouth can be useful, or your company could even offer a referral scheme.
You knew we'd say this, but many qualified candidates are freelancers! We've mentioned that your house team can be a mixture of freelancers and full-time hires, but where to find freelancers?
There are tons of freelancer sites (like Fiverr, for example), but these feature people of greatly varying quality. Freelancers on those kinds of sites work as sole-traders which could backfire when it comes to quality and payment. At Passionfruit we only work with industry-leading marketers who we support and work with every step of the way. We can guide you through creating the right brief and then offer you just one or two exceptional potential candidates, creating a stress-free hiring process.
What to look out for in a candidate
Obviously you know by now that when working with Passionfruit we will vet talent for you, but what are we looking out for?
Relevant experience in the marketing industry is key. We look out for many years' experience across a range of companies so they can bring a wide breadth of knowledge to each project. It's vital that they can demonstrate the skills needed in their work history as freelancers need to hit the ground running when they join a team. These can range from general skills like communication if they will be managing a team, to specific skills like managing and monitoring Google Ads.
How to define success
To keep track of your marketing staff's impact you should ensure there are some high value metrics that are specific and measurable that your team can focus on. For example, a certain number of email subscriptions or social media follows. Rather than trying to measure everything in marketing, decide upon a few key markers of growth.
When hiring people, taking the time to set out KPI's in the job brief will make keeping track of progress much easier, it means both the manager and the marketer know what to expect.
In terms of timelines, using quarterly and annual timeframes in conjunction work well for marketing. This way your hires have short-term goals that help the company to achieve its long-term goals.
A dynamic and effective marketing team is one of the best ways to give your startup a chance of success. Populating every role that is needed with full-time staff will be prohibitively expensive and could lead to your marketing department being stuck with bad hires. Hiring freelance marketing experts leads to having a wide range of industry experience in one team, as well as the ability to on board people with very specific skills.
Passionfruit will make creating your all-star marketing team less intimidating, with support on brief creation, what hires you really need and selecting candidates.
Imogen is a talented creative copywriter. In her own words, ‘I adore writing for a brief’, and she’s great at it.