What's the best way to find/evaluate a Marketing co-founder?


As a follow-on to my last question What is the ideal mix of founders for a SaaS startup? it seems that a Marketeer is important to a SaaS startup. I think it's fairly easy to find and evaluate developers and designers (developers tend to hang out at places like StackOverflow, designers like to publish their portfolios).

Marketeers seem harder to find (at least to me) - where would be a good place to find a potential marketing co-founder?

And then, once found, what is the best way to evaluate them? In the past, I've noticed that they tend to dramatically overstate their previous contributions to projects. Is there a litmus test for a good Marketeer?

Marketing Co-Founder Founder Saas

asked Jan 5 '10 at 23:46
Denis Hennessy
1,363 points
  • We are going through the same challenge right now. Thanks for this post – Ajay Garg 4 years ago
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5 Answers


I don't think there's a litmus test in the same sense as interviewing software development candidates.

However I agree with you that people overstate their own importance, either as a member of a team or in how much their own actions influenced what happened with the company.

So I would be looking for their attitude towards business in general. For example:

  • Frugal, or believe that spending money is required to make money?
  • Already hyper-engaged themselves in social media, or just giving lip service?
  • Knowledgable about your space? (This isn't a deal breaker if no, but if yes they're more likely to have an impact.)
  • Humble about what they don't know?
  • Believe that every product/company/market is different, or do they spew the tripe about "everything is just selling a widget?"
  • Believe in strategy sessions or A/B tests (you want the latter.)
  • Interested in measuring everything rather than relying on "feel?" Do they even believe marketing can be measured?
  • Talk about branding instead of getting customers? (You don't want branding yet)
answered Jan 6 '10 at 01:42
16,241 points
  • The one about "strategy sessions or A/B tests" made me laugh. I'll never get back the days I spent in strategy sessions where the VP Marketing 'represented the market' and therefore didn't need to involve any actual customers. – Denis Hennessy 8 years ago
  • +1 I forgot about Frugal and measurable. Joining forces would be grand. We just need to figure out what to build. Maybe we need a Marketeer :)! – Jarie Bolander 8 years ago
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Marketing is a fickle profession. You have to be part techie, part oracle, part sales and part cheerleader. I am not really sure where they hang out, so I can't help you there.

The best marketeers, at least in my mind, have the following characteristics:

  • Pragmatic: They understand the limitations of technology but still figure out ways to market around those limitations.
  • Don't always listen to customers: Customers are great sources of information but they don't always know what they want. A good marketeer will listen, take it all in and confirm with other sources of data.
  • Defines Core Features: A kitchen sink approach to products never works. The best marketeers know the customer pain and how to solve it with the minimum set of features. Beware the marketeer that just gives in to every customer demand.
  • Has solid data analysis skills: Understand the benefit of tops down and bottoms up analysis and uses both to justify market numbers and product pricing.
  • Respected by Developers and Engineers: Good marketeers are liked and respected by engineering and developers. This respect is critical to a productive working relationship.
  • Can communicate their vision: Communication (both written and verbal) is critical to a good marketeer. They need to make the fuzzy, less fuzzy and the requirement crystal clear.
  • Open to Criticism: Marketing is not an exact science. Mistakes will be made, products will flop. A good marketeer understands this and is will to accept constructive criticism to make better products.

Like any employee you hire (or found a company with), cultural fit is by far the most important. I always hire for culture first.

answered Jan 6 '10 at 01:37
Jarie Bolander
11,411 points
  • +1 your list is good too. Perhaps we should combine forces.... :-) – Jason 8 years ago
  • +1. Open to Criticism is a must ;) – Olivier Lalonde 8 years ago
  • +1. Both lists are really good and I think the real answer is the combination. However, I have to pick one and I like the analysis points in Jason's list. Thanks. – Denis Hennessy 8 years ago
  • Glad to help out Denis. Good luck in hiring someone. – Jarie Bolander 8 years ago
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Here's a quick excerpt from my recent book (Inbound Marketing ) which has a chapter on what to look for in marketing people:

1) Digital Citizen: Look for someone that is comfortable with the web and "lives it".

2) Analytical: They need to really be able to dig deep into the data. Marketing is becoming increasingly data driven.

3) Reach: Find someone that already has some reach online (via blogging, social media, etc.). This will come in very handy in terms of being able to get initial momentum.

4) Content Creator: You want someone that will be able to produce content that your target market will find useful and interesting.

Resist the temptation to hire for their resume (i.e. "Was VP of Marketing for IBM). You can't afford someone that's going to need a budget just to get going. You need someone scrappy that can do a lot with very little.

answered Jan 8 '10 at 17:17
Dharmesh Shah
2,860 points
  • +1 for the "resist the temptation to hire for their resume". Sometimes people look great on paper but have been working for "big iron" and can't get stuff done. – Jarie Bolander 8 years ago
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I think a marketeer should be laser focused on building a scalable customer acquisition model. That could mean leveraging social media, building out advertising campaigns, or combining both approaches. Whichever way you're growing the business, the marketeer should want to keep a close watch on the funnel, conversion rates, and ultimately the customer acquisition cost. If you're talking to someone who doesn't live and breathe measurement, run the other direction.

If you're going to care about what's on their resume look for someone who has had success building a marketing engine for a company at a similar stage to you. It takes VERY different skills sets to build a company from $0 to $500K in revenue and to grow from $1MM to $50MM.

answered Jun 3 '10 at 23:17
Chris Savage
209 points


With respect to everyone out here who have presented their views, my experience has been
1. If you are a startup with no funding and decent business plan or product, you will have to sell it to a marketing person to join your team.
2. If you have a small funding, the big shots like VP of big name company will not come to you.

I believe in all start ups the founder has to do some amount of marketing. I guess the first major paid customer has to come from your own efforts.

In the initial stages I think a company should have a person who is wearing the marketing hat, content creator and analytics as Dharmesh has pointed out.
The person should evolve with the company.
There is an excellent post of Mark Suster
Journeymen, Mavericks & Superstars: Understanding Salespeople at Startups


answered Jun 4 '10 at 06:07
344 points

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