Finding talent is really hard — it’s so competitive out there.
Sometimes you might have a friend or someone that you work with that you have great chemistry with. You trust them and you like their background. So if you happen upon somebody that you really like, even if it’s a little early, grab them. Otherwise, be patient. Be slow to hire and fast to fire.
In terms of what makes a successful CMO or VP of marketing, it’s about really understanding the customer and being deeply empathetic to them.
Don’t lose sight of that — especially as your teams grow, it’s easy to be in the executive boardroom and forget about that and talk about all kinds of existential problems instead. When is the best time to start building a marketing team? I think the best time to start building a marketing team is once you have the beginnings of product-market fit. That’s when you’re ready to find that growth marketer and figure out your tools, channels, budget, CAC, and all those things.
Sometimes people hire them too early and you just blow through your budget really fast. The right time for a growth marketer is probably once you’ve raised your series A round, when you’ve proven that you have some product-market fit and now you’re ready to scale. You really have to get the work right at the beginning. A lot of traditional CMOs, go to these companies and suddenly you need a whole team and a budget.
So as a company, you really should be at the series A or B stage. At the beginning, focus on getting the marketing basics right, and bring in a CMO later. The first hire I have a bias towards in early-stage companies is a great product marketing manager (PMM). A PMM is similar to a product manager — it’s someone who knows how to build, but who’s also great at detail, communication, and team coordination. It’s not easy to find someone who’s both quantitative and qualitative and has a really great instinct about the product. This is someone who pays a lot of attention to the customer: they know them inside and out, are empathetic to them, and spend a big portion of their day listening to customer feedback, watching customer meeting recordings, or talking to customers directly.
FInding a PMM is really, really important at the seed or series A stage. Try to get someone who has prior PMM experience, who is very well trained and has seen a lot. Sometimes you can get lucky with someone who doesn’t have that experience, but especially if the founders themselves don’t have any marketing or PMM experience, it’s useful to get someone who understands the best practices from the get-go.
In summary, when it comes to building a marketing team, it’s important to be patient and slow to hire, and to focus on getting the marketing basics right before bringing in more senior positions like a CMO. The first hire in early-stage companies should be a great product marketing manager who can pay attention to the customer, communicate well, and coordinate with the team. Brand marketers can come later once you’ve established your messaging, and communications should be considered between series A and B to ensure consistency in your company’s narrative. It’s also important to wait until you have the beginnings of product-market fit before hiring a growth marketer, typically after raising your series A round. Success for a CMO or VP of marketing comes from deeply understanding the customer and being empathetic to their needs, and not losing sight of this as your team grows.