This post was inspired by a question from a reader of this blog:
“What gets my attention is the part you explain how you search for a growth marketer. You said you didn't want an inbound/content marketer (I assume you already had one), what exactly you were searching for in term of this position? My question might seem weird, but growth marketing can be an obscure word. I'm curious to know who you hired and what kind of stuff he did.”
Great question, and by the way, we love getting questions that we can turn into blog posts, so keep’ em coming.
When you first start your company, whether it’s a startup, marketing agency, or really any business, you need to wear many hats, including performing every sales and marketing task to the best of your ability. As Greg Poirier of CloudKettle said on our Proposify Biz Chat podcast interview:
“The founder should handle sales for as long as possible until they’re ready to hire a team. This allows you to gain a deep and fundamental understanding of your sales cycle, your customer base, your value prop, and your product market fit.”
But eventually, you will need to hire specialists to come in and take the reins. Experts who can do what you could do x10 and free you up to focus on other important tasks of leading the company.
Where do I start?
Marketing is a very broad term that means different things to different people. The skill set of a marketer and their job description can also vary from person to person and company to company.
Someone who heads up marketing at a non-profit government agency is usually going to look very different from the head of marketing for a B2C clothing company.
For agencies and startups, I think the classic “marketer” with a capital M, someone with a communications, public relations, or business degree, is not who you want when you’re first hiring your marketing team.
Usually, these people know how to perform market research and write a press release, but don’t necessarily understand analytics or how to grow a blog audience.
The best marketers I know are self-taught. They didn’t attend college or university to get a business degree with a major in marketing. They learned by doing, working for clients, making mistakes, reading, and getting better over time. They could out perform any fresh-off-the-podium MBA graduate any day of the week.
I believe the best marketing team is made up of a balance of a left brain marketer and a right brain marketer.
Left brain and right brain marketers
If your agency’s primary service offering is on the analytical side, like managing paid media spend, conversion optimization, funnels, etc., then you need a good left brain marketer.
The left brain marketer specializes in data: how to drive traffic into a funnel, nurture it towards a sale, and analyzes numbers and customer behaviour patterns to inform tactics.
If you run an inbound or branding agency, you need a right brain marketer. This role is primarily one of a copywriter who understands branding, advertising, consumer psychology, and how to create compelling content that connects with your target audience and inspires them to action.
An agency owner friend recently asked me, “Do you know of anyone who can write really well AND knows Google Adwords/Analytics like the back of their hand?”
Ummmm, can you find me Bigfoot?
You can’t expect a right brain marketer to do the job of the left brain, or vice versa. They should understand and value the expertise they each bring to the table, but they are fundamentally different mindsets that complement the work of the other.
The left brain marketer analyzes data and concludes that a particular online headline isn’t converting. The right brain marketer writes ten different headline ideas that the left brain can test.
The left brain marketer uncovers an SEO opportunity to rank for a targeted keyword, and the right brain marketer writes landing page copy that ranks for that keyword while still resonating with the target audience.
The left brain marketer creates a Facebook campaign to retarget leads in a particular segment, while the right brain marketer develops the ad creative to convert.
Start on the right
If you run a software startup and can only afford to hire one marketer to kick things off, my advice would be to hire a right brain marketer. Here at Proposify, we hired Jennifer Faulkner as our first in-house marketer.
Jen had worked in marketing agencies and nonprofits organizations for many years; she ran a freelance copywriting and branding consulting business for five years, and even bought her own side hustle.
She has a passion for branding and copywriting, and it’s come about through her own practice and experience. She’s constantly consuming books and articles about branding and the written word, taking workshops, and trying anything that makes her better at her craft.
Jen and I worked together in various capacities over the years before Proposify, so I knew her sensibilities and skills as a right brain marketer were what we needed.
Jen was the perfect marketer as Proposify’s first hire because she could take what I, as the founder, had initiated with the brand and inbound strategy, and magnify it.
Not long after Jen started with Proposify, she embarked on an in-depth branding project and the results of that project act as the foundation of everything we put out into the world. She also writes the majority of our copy - from any messaging while you’re using Proposify, to customers communications, social media, online ads, blog posts, updates, and pretty much anything anywhere you’re hearing from us.
But Jen will be the first to admit that she’s not a numbers gal.
CRO, retargeting, funnels, analytics, and SEO are not her strong suits. And frankly, it would be unrealistic of me to expect that anyone can excel at all those things, plus the things she’s already good at and that I need her to focus on.
So in the beginning, I mostly worked on the analytical side of our marketing (BTW, I’m not much of a numbers guy, either) and we outsourced our paid spend to a PPC agency
As time went on, I began to realize that I was wearing too many other hats as the founder to effectively manage the analytical side of our marketing strategy and we were missing out on growth opportunities.
Time for a left brain marketer
I explained our hiring strategy for this marketing position in another post. At the time, I didn’t quite know what to call this person when we published the job ad, so I used the title, 'growth hacker'.
I know “growth hacker” is bit silly and jargon-y, but I wanted to attract the right candidates and syphon out all the capital ‘M’ marketers I referred to earlier. (And yes, we still got a tonne of those applying). I wanted someone who understood the reference of ‘growth hacker’ and knew what I was looking for behind the trend title.
Enter Patrick Edmonds.
Patrick took marketing, finance, and computer science in university. (Hello, triple threat?) And Patrick most definitely is a numbers guy.
But more importantly, unlike traditional marketers, most of his knowledge and expertise comes from practical hands-on experience and learning, not from college textbooks.
Patrick didn’t apply for the growth hacker position from a big name company based in San Francisco. (We did interview one of those people, but he wanted more money than our entire year’s revenue.) Patrick lives in the small city of Halifax where Proposify is based, here on the east coast Canada, and he worked for a media buying agency.
He couldn’t be rightly called a “growth hacker” based on his experience because he was never fully given those reins. But Patrick had the right mindset in how he approached growth, he specialized in paid media, and he was hungry to tackle all the other responsibilities we were ready to throw at him.
Bit by bit, Patrick took over management of our paid spend, our analytics, and SEO. He develops growth tests, pulls together data into monthly reports we can all understand, and provides the data we need and crave to help shape our marketing activities, product development, and sales initiatives.
We all love Patrick just as much as Jen, but for gloriously different reasons. Patrick brings focus for Jen’s writing, and Jen breathes life into his tactics. They are two complementary peas in a marketing pod.
A marketing dream team
For larger startups with bigger budgets, you can break those positions down into even more granular specialities, like having a social media team separate from a group that works the bottom of the funnel. But essentially you’re still looking at right and left brain mindsets.
If you run an agency, this formula can help inform your marketing hires:
- Left brain agencies should have 80% left brain marketers and 20% right brain.
- Right brain agencies should flip it the other way around - 80% right brain and 20% left brain.
For example, a right brain agency might specialize in inbound marketing. To execute for clients, they need a lot of content producers on staff. But they’ll still need a lefty to help measure the content they are producing and find untapped opportunities.
A left brain marketing agency that mostly handles PPC management will want a right brain copywriter and brand manager on staff to help massage the Adwords and landing page copy so that it resonates with a flesh-and-blood human being.
Here at Proposify, once Jen and Patrick started working together it was like Sonny and Cher, Bonnie and Clyde, Frost and Pegg. They each bring the perfect mix of skills that complement each other to the benefit of Proposify.
Then we added our own in-house designer, Steve Huntington, and to me, the four of us together are like the frickin’ Beatles, AND THAT IS NO EXAGGERATION WHATSOEVER.
In the last six months, we pumped out a rebrand, website re-design, new blog, new podcast, and a video series, amongst the other 1.5 million small day-to-day marketing tactics and deliverables we have on the go.
Most impressively, our month-over-month growth has continued at a solid 7-8% for the last year without any increase in our advertising budget.
So yes, our marketing mix is working and firing on all cylinders.
I think this could only have happened by getting the appropriate people in place and recognizing the unique contribution that right brains and left brains can make in a marketing team.
Meet our left and right brain marketers
Watch our Proposify Biz Chat video above to hear directly from me, Patrick, and Jen about working together as right and left brain marketers. We also share some tips on how to find your own marketing dream team candidates.