What's an appropriate approach to finding a Digital Marketing "shepherd"


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I'm the CTO of a SAAS startup oriented towards non-technical internet users in the 40-65 age demographic and we're preparing for our initial launch. Naturally, much of our conversation has shifted to customer acquisition (not that we weren't always discussing it). My team is comprised of two Business school students and myself. The product alpha is essentially done, we're all meshing well, we've won a few startup awards and the funding that comes with them, etc.

But, we're still very concerned about the asbsense of a marketing talent from our team. We're trying to decide what the best way to handle this is. We are all willing to work together to ensure a strong marketing presence, but clearly much value would be had by having an expert come in and guide us as we grow.

Here are a couple of ideas we had, I'd love to know if anyone has any suggestions or comments -:

  1. Offer a combination of cash(not a ton initially, but we can spend some) and 2-5% equity vested to bring on a digital marketing director that can get scrappy and make things happen. We're not terribly sure how to look for someone like this...
  2. Use a managed service like Hubspot or something similar.
  3. Take a shot at this ourselves. While this isn't out of the question, it's none of our core competencies, and we think it makes more sense to bring in a specialist of some kind.

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asked Mar 3 '13 at 07:29
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Grant H.
68 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • When you say "technical SAAS startup" do you mean the product is focused on a technical market OR the product is for a technical audience (aka developers) OR something else entirely? – Casey Software 7 years ago
  • Something else entirely :P I've updated the question, that wasn't a great way to describe it. – Grant H. 7 years ago

2 Answers


3

As background - I'm a 50/50 dev/ux, have started my own company a couple of times, and have worked with marketing folk and a non-trivial number of startups. So salt my feedback appropriately ;-)

I'll take your options in reverse order.

  • Do it yourself. This is doable. Especially as the advantage of really understanding your market and customers can give you a real leg up over bringing in somebody external. However - you've got to find somebody who actually wants to skill up in the marketing areas. If you have somebody like that - great. If you have somebody that's just going to step up because the job needs to be done - not so good. They're unlikely to bring the enthusiasm and attention to detail that the job needs. It's also a job. They'll not be doing what they're doing now - they'll be doing their new job. The company and the individual has to be preprepared for that.
  • I've not used, and don't know anybody who has used, a managed service as their sole marketing resource. They're backup, extra hands and tool providers. They aren't going to be able to do everything for you. You need boots on the ground.
  • Finding a marketing director. I'm not entirely sure if a marketing director is what you want - it's hard to say without knowing more about your company, product and goals. What you might be needing is a product team person with marketing knowledge and experience - the label "growth hacker" gets thrown about a lot these days. Google for it and have a read. As for finding them - two pieces of advice.

    • Don't look at larger established companies. By and large the process of marketing an established product with an established market is very different from marketing a startup where you've almost certainly going to have missed product/market fit on your initial launch.
    • Do look for companies that are in a similar stage to you, or a little bit further on. Either ask them for where they found people - or look to folk who are just getting out of the startup stage and are scaling. You can exploit the reverse of the problem in the previous point. Startup marketers skills don't apply as much when you have an established product & market - and they may be looking for greener pastures.
... and - as a separate point - if you've got to launch phase and haven't already been doing customer acquisition you're doing it to late! Start now! Today. This very second.
answered Mar 5 '13 at 20:59
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Adrian Howard
2,357 points

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Think of it... as a technical type, we bristle whenever one uses the term "do programming" - as if its that simple. Marketing is the same.

Winning some awards doesn't necessarily mean that the product will gain commercial traction either (speaking from experience here).

What you want is to validate that your product is something that people and / or companies want to use and would be willing to pay for. You have an idea, they have a need.. or more likely you have a hypothesis that they have a need.

Validating that need is what many call customer development. Marketing is taking what you have and increasing its visibility / optimizing conversions. Spending a whole lot of time & money on "professional" marketing is a waste if you haven't validated the need (and their propensity to pay).

Most Lean types would state that customer development cannot be outsourced - it needs to be done by a person in charge. Rationale: its too easy to fall in love with your idea and build something that only you will use. Using a business model canvas forces you to write down your idea, document your assumptions and then validate each one in a sprint like fashion - the results of which helps shape the product offering.

Treehouse (SaaS education) had a good post on getting started with customer development, complete with a bunch of good reference links.

Whether it is done by you, a staffer or an outsider, the biggest challenge is to accept the results which may invalidate your assumptions. Its too easy to simply dismiss it as "another opinion". That's why the results of the sprint(s) need to be as objective as possible and the methodology used in the sprint accepted by all prior to launch.

Yes, it is as hard as it sounds. But its a hell of a lot simpler than trying to sell something you already built that nobody wants.

Best of luck.

answered Mar 6 '13 at 00:50
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Jim Galley
9,952 points

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