When Should You Make Your First Marketing Hire?

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This is a podcast episode titled, When Should You Make Your First Marketing Hire?. The summary for this episode is: This episode of the Marketing Swipe File was inspired by a tweet our CEO David Cancel got tagged in recently. It hits on two big questions about growing a marketing team. Should you wait to hire a marketer until you've reached product-market fit? How do you know the right time to bring a marketer on board? So today DG is sharing the story of his marketing journey at Drift – including his first six months where there was no product for him to market and had to grow an audience from nothing. Want to find out what qualities DG says you should look for in your first marketing hire? Listen to the full episode.

Dave Gerhardt : Hey, it's DG. And I want to send you a ton of free marketing stuff right to your door or your inbox, whatever you want. I'm serious because look, we know how it is. One of my favorite things about doing marketing at Drift is that we are all marketers, just like you. So we're marketers doing marketing to marketers. It's crazy. And one thing we know that in the B2B world, there's so much content out there. It can be hard to figure out what to read and who to trust if you're looking to grow your business. And so we put together something that I call the ultimate conversational marketing starter kit. We asked our top customers, literally turned to them and said, what resources would you give to somebody new to Drift in conversational marketing. And we're packaging all of that up to send right to your door for the first time for free. So that means I will send you a copy of the book I wrote with my boss, our CEO, David Cancel on conversational marketing. This book was an instant number one new release on Amazon in three categories. And it's already sold 10,000 plus copies to date. I'll literally send you the actual 262 page hardcover book right to your door. Also, we'll send you This Won't Scale, a digital copy of our very popular book, This Won't Scale, which is a book we wrote as a marketing team about how we do marketing at Drift. It's 110 pages. It's only been available as a hard copy, but we're making it available digitally for the first time as part of this offer. We'll also send you The Modern Marketer's Playbook. You'll get a digital copy of our modern marketers playbook, which is a guide we wrote with strategic insights from 35 of today's most influential marketing leaders from companies like Slack, LinkedIn, Okta, Vimeo, and more. We'll also give you the conversational marketing blueprint, which is the best next step after you read the conversational marketing book. And it gives you a step- by- step guide for implementing and optimizing conversational marketing for your business. And it's not over. The conversational sales handbook. This is a guide you're going to need to give to your sales team to build your conversational sales strategy, AKA what you do after you take everything you've learned in the book and the blueprint. All you have to do is visit drift. com/ starter and grab all this stuff right now. That's starter, S- T- A- R- T- E- R. I tried to have no Boston accent on that. Drift. com/ starter. We'll send everything right to your door, or we'll literally just send an email if you'd prefer that. Okay. Drift. com/ starter. And I will see you hopefully there. Hey, what's up everybody it's DG. And on this episode of the Swipe File, I'm going to talk about when is the right time for you to start marketing at your company? All right. So I wanted to do an episode on this topic because this is something that comes up a lot. And I think people ask because in the early days of Drift, like Drift started off as nothing, very early stage company. And so I do a lot with startups, talk to a lot of startup early stage founders teams, companies, whatever. And it doesn't matter if I'm talking to a group of students at Harvard business school, or leaving a conference, or meeting somebody for coffee, like they all kind of have this one question when it comes to early stage marketing. And that is when is the right time to hire a marketing person? And I actually have always wanted to do a podcast on this topic, but a fellow named Alexander Torrenegra, which is Torrenegra, @ Torrenegra on Twitter. Tweeted at DC actually a couple of weeks ago and said, hi, David, I've been learning about your work recently. Congrats, quick question. I was told that you hired a marketing person before reaching product market fit. Is that right? Seems to be an uncommon approach. And DC's response back was I did. His name is @ DaveGerhardt. Check out his podcast, the Swipe File. And so that was like, oh, I should really talk about this on this episode. So let's talk about it. Let's talk about the right time to hire a marketing person. There's really actually a very quick answer to this. Where, to me, the right time to hire a marketing person is as soon as possible. And the reason why is because it's so hard today to get attention. And there's this belief, I think, especially among product lead founders and companies that, hey, if we build a great product, if we have great engineering, great design, we really solve a problem. This thing is going to take off and we don't need marketing. Right. And the problem is there's a bunch of examples of companies that have like, at least on paper, that's what it sounds like they've done, which is basically you make a great product and people found them. Look at Slack, right? They made a great product and they just blew up. They didn't hire a marketing person until whatever. I don't know if that's true or not, but there's a lot of examples like that. I think the problem is there's really only a handful of those examples in a sea of hundreds of thousands of failed companies. And so my belief is, I've learned this firsthand now through Drift is the value of hiring a marketing person in the really early stages of your company. Because think about it, right? Any industry today, there is so much noise, so much competition. You actually do have to do marketing. Right? I think a lot of people have this sense of marketing, especially founders that come from more of the design product background is marketing is like yucky, right? I don't actually want to go market. Right. I don't want to make people feel like I'm marketing to them. But my answer to that is okay, but if you spend all this time building your product, right, why would somebody just magically show up at your door one day and sign up? Right. It doesn't happen that way. Real life doesn't happen that way. Right. It's not like the movie Field of Dreams where you build it and they will come. It doesn't happen. Right. That's a dream. And so the earlier you can invest in marketing, the better chance you have at getting attention, building an audience, and winning customers. And so I'll talk about my experience at Drift, just to give you a real example of this. So when I joined Drift, there was maybe between, let's say between seven and 10 people at the company. And all of them were either, there was like one product manager, two designers, and then the rest were engineers. And so David and Elias, the founders of Drift. They hired me in the early days as a marketer. But my mission as a marketer was not actually to generate leads or to generate revenue. It was this one goal of building an audience. Because we didn't launch our product yet. Our product was in a private beta. So there were companies using it, but we were not promoting it. There was no way to sign up from our websites. So you couldn't go to drift. com Drift with two Ts back then. You could not go to drift. com and actually sign up for the product and get in and use it. You had to basically be let in by us. So we were not doing any public facing marketing that was like, here's what Drift is. People didn't even know what the company did, right? So there was no marketing that said, hey, here's what Drift is. Come to this link, sign up and go and check it out. And so when they hired me, the company, we were still like three, four, five months away from a public launch. And so what do you do, right? What the hell did I do at Drift for the first six months if we had no product to market? Well, there was really one mission that David and Elias gave me. And that was to build an audience. And build an audience, meaning build some community. Right. Usually starts with email addresses. Because that's kind of the currency of online communication today. Right. Build an audience of people that we can market to when we're actually ready when we have a product. And so the goal was okay, we knew we wanted to sell to marketers. And so how can we build an audience of marketers? So we started a blog, we started a podcast, we started a newsletter. I'm not going to get into the tactics of everything that we did back then. I want to talk about more so like in the value of that. We started to build this audience. And so what happened was over the course of, I joined in October. We didn't launch our product publicly until April. So that is what? Six months. Right? So over the course of that six months behind the scenes, we had built up hundreds and thousands of people who started to build a relationship with us. And they did that through content. They started to read our blog, and they started to get our newsletters, and they started to listen to our podcasts. And so by the time we were actually ready to launch, we then got to go email that group of people and say, hey, I know you've kind of been wondering what we've been doing. I know you've been digging our content, but you've been wondering about what we've been doing over here. Well, I'm finally ready to tell you, meet Drift. Drift is the world's firsts, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Right. Then we already had this built in audience. And so within days we literally had thousands of people sign up for our Drift product. I will always remember this moment because it was this amazing feeling. We set a goal that year. It was Q2, April, May, June. And we set a goal of when we launch our product on April 1st, we wanted 1000 people to sign up for it for free, right. That was the goal for Q2. So that's 300 in month one, 300 in month two, 300 in month three, whatever. We got a thousand people in the first month. So we smashed that goal in the third of the time. And the only reason we were able to do that is because we already had started marketing. People started to know who we are. Right. Think about how much friction there is in this process. Nobody knows you and you have a brand new product and you're just going to start going, hey, you have no idea who I am, but sign up for my thing. Right? That's never going to work. So building marketing in, in the early days is only going to help you reach your dream customers, reach your target customers. Right. And to actually get people in to your product. So I think it is absolutely crazy. And feel free to tweet at me @ DaveGerhardt. Right. If you don't agree with me. But I think that it's an absolutely crazy move to not start marketing the second that you know what your company is. And to the point now where like whatever happens, let's say, if I go start a company in the future, right, I'm going to start marketing for that company before I even know what we're building. Because as long as you have an audience, right, the rest of marketing is going to solve itself. Right. So build an audience first. And that is a number one piece of advice that I have for early stage companies. And really that was the bet that David and Elias made in hiring me at Drift was early days, hey, let's focus on building an audience. If we can build a community and audience of people, the rest of it's going to take care of itself. And by the way, even if you're not ready to share stuff publicly yet from a marketing perspective, marketing can sit right with your product team, and engineering team, and product managers, and really understand the market that you're going after. Right. If you're kind of still in stealth mode, right? You're still talking to customers, you're doing customer development, customer research. You're figuring out what to build, who to build it for. All of that stuff can be absolute gold for your early marketing content. Right. You're already doing the hard work. You're figuring out who you're building this thing for. So bring a marketer on and that person can then turn that into content that you can use to start to build your audience. So I'm sharing that because at one of the other objections is like, yeah, but what are we going to share? Right. We don't know anything yet. Well, yeah you do because you're obviously building. Right. You're building a product. So early days of marketing my take on it is there is no time too early to start marketing. So if you're thinking about it, if you're on the fence about hiring your first marketer, go and find someone. Right. The next question from there is okay, but who do you go find? For the first marketing person at your company, I think you always have to be biased towards somebody who can do a little bit of everything. I think the biggest mistake I've seen some companies make is hire somebody that is too specialized for the stage of your company. So if you have no marketing people and you hire one person and that person is a SEO expert. Right. And that's all they can do, you're going to have a tough time getting them to do anything else. So look for somebody who's more of a generalist and could do content, events, podcasts, video, blog, paid. You can basically have somebody that can learn all that stuff and then scale it or like try everything. Right. Have somebody that can do five, six, seven, 10 different things. And basically you figure out what's working through that person. And then you also figure out where to double down. So another example from the early days of Drift, were like I was our first events person at the company. We found out that events worked and they were a good channel for us. So the following year we made the decision, okay, we're going to double down on events and we're going to bring a full- time events person in house. So we had already proved out that playbook and that made it easy. We had already been doing content marketing. I just started blogging. Right. So a couple months in we realized that the blog was working. So we wanted to create more content. Boom, let's go hire a writer. And then over time, I did less and less of those things. So year two, three, et cetera, I'm not running events anymore. I'm not writing as much content anymore. And that's because we figured out that it worked. You hire somebody to replace you in that job. So I love the profile of somebody who can do a little bit of everything. You don't need to have the most experience in the world, but somebody that can do a little bit of everything with a bias towards writing. Right. If you can't write, it's going to be really tough. If you can write, you can do everything, email, blog, podcasts, video descriptions, scripts, all that stuff. So I hope this was helpful. A little quick episode, thanks to you, Alex, for this great question and DC for the shout out and push to do this post. But I'd love to get your feedback. Tweet at me @ DaveGerhardt. Let me know. Did you agree? Disagree? When is the right time to hire a marketer for your company? Otherwise, I'll catch you on the next episode of the Swipe File. Hey, thanks for listening to another episode of the Swipe File. I'm having a lot of fun doing this podcast. And so, because it's fun for me, I hope it's fun for you. And it would mean the world if you could leave a review. Reviews really help. And so go leave a review, go to Apple Podcasts, leave a review. Let me know what you'd like about the show. Didn't like. Want to hear more of. And also if you're not already subscribed, make sure you go subscribe on Apple Podcast, Spotify. The show is everywhere that you get your podcasts. Probably where you're listening right now. But if you want more content like this, if you want to go a layer deeper, join me on Drift insider. It's drift. com/ insider. We're teaching courses, we're sharing videos, and we have exclusive content for people just like you in marketing that we do not share publicly. So go and check it out. Drift. com/ insider.


This episode of the Marketing Swipe File was inspired by a tweet our CEO David Cancel got tagged in recently. It hits on two big questions about growing a marketing team. Should you wait to hire a marketer until you've reached product-market fit? How do you know the right time to bring a marketer on board? So today DG is sharing the story of his marketing journey at Drift – including his first six months where there was no product for him to market and had to grow an audience from nothing. Want to find out what qualities DG says you should look for in your first marketing hire? Listen to the full episode.