Have you ever said any of the following?
“We have a great product. We just need someone to market it.”
“If we hire a growth hacker, they’ll shake up this place!”
“We don’t want a traditional marketer. They just don’t get it.”
The explosive hype around growth hacking could lead any human to believe that one magical unicorn marketer could provide everything your company needs to be successful. What you don’t hear in the news are the stories of hires gone wrong.
Hiring the wrong marketer can set your company back months, and in a startup can cost you precious runway that is the difference between surviving and bankruptcy.
On top of that, on LinkedIn alone there are at least 7 open positions for every self-identified growth hacker. You’ll see lots of people putting that title on their resume without knowing what it means. There’s no certifying body for growth hacking, no diploma or test one must pass to use the term.
I’ve been one of those bad hires, and as a result I’m passionate about helping founders learn how to hire and work with people like me.
Based on my thirteen plus years’ experience as a growth hacker and marketing executive in technology companies of all sizes, I’ve put together a 6 step process to help every company to find-and retain-great marketers. No matter your size or growth prospects, you can benefit from the skill sets of Silicon Valley marketers, who are often called growth hackers.
Here’s a summary. I’ll share more details in this free webinar on Friday November 6, 2015
Step 1: Who are you?
Hiring a great growth hacker starts with YOU. The more you understand your working style and your company’s needs, the more specific your job description will be; and the less time you’ll spend weeding through candidates who aren’t a fit.
Ask yourself these questions:
What must happen in the first 90 days after hire for me to believe this person is going to be successful?
Consider business objectives, tests run, channels explored as options for evaluating success. Where possible, put metrics on this. Good growth hackers like to see metrics, and in the beginning you’ll be a better judge of what’s realistic and what isn’t.
Tip: If you don’t know what needs to be done, consider working with a temporary CMO or your advisors to craft a marketing strategy first.
What must happen in the next six months?
By this point your new hire should be starting to add real value. What happens then? Are they hiring more people? Finished installing a critical tool like Optimizely or KissMetrics or Sprinklr?
Tip: can’t see 6-12 months ahead? Consider temporary tactical help while you test channels and determine the exact skill set you need to hire. Prove the ROI of a marketer to yourself. If you are not at product market fit, be extra careful in committing to a full time marketing hire, especially if you don’t anticipate allowing them to work on the product. A marketer cannot save a bad product and you cannot growth-hack your way into product-market fit.
What kind of person am I?
For example, if you’re a linear thinker, you have to consider the pros and cons of working with people like you and not like you. Who is going to drive you mad? What are your must haves in your marketer? Detail orientation? creative ideas? A writer? A numbers maven? Focus on your MUST Haves.
Tip: Ask your colleagues to help you understand what you’re like to work with and their opinions of the type of person you work best with. Their answers may surprise you!
If I’m part of an established company, what is my culture like?
Are you linear, fact based, methodical? Take care when hiring too far outside your company’s culture. One person can’t change that, and may be frustrated within it. Acknowledge to yourself what your company’s challenges are.
Step 2: Who are They?
You wouldn’t hire an engineer without knowing whether they code in Java or Python, would you? So it goes with marketers and growth hackers. They aren’t interchangeable any more than a front end engineer is with a back end engineer, even though they’re both called engineers.
When it comes to growth hacking, there are at least two types based on mindset. Of course not everyone fits neatly into boxes, but it can be useful to think of them in two buckets to start.
Often with a sales background or mindset, prospectors have a “hustler” quality to them. You’ll find them relentless, unstoppable, able to deal with failure and hearing no, trying again, and again and again to find exactly the right channels. They’ll remind you of a shark, always on the move, hungry, and eager to try a thousand things. They love to solve problems like “What’s a cheap way to get people to buy our product?” They prefer to try 10 things and see which works, instead of planning-usually because there is little data at this stage to go on.
Prospectors are best for companies still in early stages, or who have the culture to support the marketer’s desire to try new things. In these early stages where the marketing channels are still being tested, the prospector excels at finding exactly where the gold is, based on data and results. Within large companies prospectors can become frustrated with politics and risk aversion unless shielded by their managers.
Often with a mathematics or professorial quality to them, miners extract growth, and tons of it, from the areas of opportunity defined, especially on top of fast moving, large companies. They can identify those opportunities within giant data sets, but are less effective when it comes to an open field and no data.
Prospectors like to solve problems that are clearly defined, for example: improve conversion rates by 100%. They prefer to analyze, then act, measure, and act again. They will bring discipline, focus, and rigorous execution to your growth operations, and love to be in cultures where the data makes the decision, not the highest paid person in the room. They tend to be more patient and better suited to complex cultures that move a bit slower than the average startup.
What happens when you put the wrong person into the wrong job? Here’s an example:
Step 3: Crafting a Job Description
By now it should be clear that just copying and pasting someone else’s job description isn’t the best way to find the right growth hacker for your company. Make this job description uniquely yours. Tip: Ask questions that candidates must answer in their cover letter so they aren’t tempted to reply with a form letter.
Step 4: Begin Search
In addition to posting on linkedin, and your own website, you should post on angel.co, growthhackers.com, and watch the hashtag #growthhacker #socialmedia, #CRM, etc. for candidates who might be good fits.
Tip: If you are in need of someone to manage social media, observe the person’s feeds to discover who they are. Marketers can’t hide their personalities, so if you see someone isn’t on social media, you’ll want to dig deeper in an interview before assuming they can handle it.
Step 5: Screening Resumes and Doing Interviews
If you’ve done your homework and written a specific, intriguing job description, you’ll find that you have fewer, but more interesting candidates. People who do not answer your questions or address your specific needs are likely not serious candidates. But you can also start to look at resumes to see exactly what type of results the person is proud of. Are they good at overcoming adversity? Specific in the numbers they hit? Show a sense of humor or culture awareness? Focus on those folks, and ignore anyone who doesn’t make you excited to meet them. After all, if a marketer can’t market themselves, how well can they market your company?
Everyone is on their best behavior in interviews. The key is to be able to cut past that into who the person really is. In this webinar we will talk about this more deeply, but it starts with you being vulnerable about yourself, which encourages candidates to do the same. The smarter the candidate, the more polished they’ll come across in interviews, and cracking that facade is a key way to find the right person for you.
Step 6: Enabling Success
Congratulations! You’ve hired someone amazing. How do you keep them around? Hopefully you’ve done your homework in the interview process to understand what makes this person tick. But if not, especially if your company is growing fast, you’ll need to stay connected to your new hire.
Because of the demand for quality growth marketing professionals, if you aren’t nurturing this person’s career, they have options to go elsewhere. This doesn’t mean bowing to their every whim, but making sure you’ve done your best to remove obstacles to their career growth and to get their job done. Help your growth marketer navigate inter-departmental politics, smooth the road with senior managers; and acknowledging their successes while encouraging risk taking; all contribute to a growth hacker being happy for a long time.