Thank you to Lighter Capital for co-hosting our recent webinar. Dustin Bruzenak, Modern Logic CEO, served as a moderator for a panel of marketing experts: Carrie Waite, Assistant VP of Strategic Partnerships for Pets Best, with previous experience as a senior marketing manager; Eileen Hansen, Director in Digital Experience at Valera, with extensive experience in B2B technology marketing; and Nate Champion, Chief Growth Officer at Banner Commerce and the founder of LookBack. They provided their feedback on this scenario:

You’ve hit the ground running with your idea. You’re post revenue, pre-profit. You want to accelerate your growth through marketing. You know it all starts out with the right people. What’s next? Should you hire a team member or outsource to a firm?

Eileen Hansen: The answer largely depends on your go-to market. What I’ve seen is that your first hire should be in-house, someone who’s great at messaging, corralling founders and product leaders. It doesn’t make sense to hire an agency to do intensive branding until you know your stride with product market fit. So much may change. However, an SEO agency that treats SEO like a team sport will give you great value. I’d also like to make a plug for a good consultant, who can set up your market stack and also advise on any kind of governance, or buy-in with the team that you’re going to need to make it work.

Nate Champion: I actually hate agencies. I’m really the anti-agency agency! Certainly, you can’t go out and hire a full-time team unless you have crazy fundraising. You need a combination, to always be recruiting and always be looking for those people who can really add value in the early days. It’s usually a challenge because you don’t often have massive budgets for these hiring roles. I think the most important hire in the early days is someone scrappy, who has a point of view, the ability to figure out what’s going on, that holds others accountable for the performance, tries new things, and just moves quickly.

Once you’ve made that hire, then you can leverage agencies. The most important thing about agencies is having someone internally to manage them and hold them accountable. If they’re operating in silos things can get wacky really fast.

Your talent in the early days will have a massive impact on your growth.

Carrie Waite: The best agency relationships I’ve seen are where exactly that internal team continues to be the experts. They go to the agency and explain that they don’t have the capability or expertise to create this.

Nate Champion: Don’t underestimate the junior hire who’s really hungry and really comfortable working with data. On the growth side, that’s massively important. You’ll find them involved in growth marketing, living in Facebook and managing ads, or running paid search. Acquisition people can learn retention stuff, and retention people can learn acquisition stuff. It’s usually hard to find someone who’s done all of it that’s willing to come in and get scrappy. You’ll find them at the manager level, with a ton of potential, but probably not at a startup. They may want to get into that crazy startup world that we all seem to love for some reason.

Eileen Hansen: The best people, and the best interviews I’ve had, involved folks who can tell very clear stories about situations they were in, where they had to look at data and draw conclusions about some part of a journey that was broken and make recommendations to fix it.

Dustin Bruzenak: Bottom line, marketing is really just an amalgamation of a whole lot of different categories of tactical and strategic stuff. You’re looking for someone that can understand that at an affordable rate, so look for someone that can grow into that role. You’re also looking for someone that can empathize and understand your customer journey. They really need to understand the product and be excited about it. They can’t just be a random hire out of a big company. They’re not likely to have that skill set that you’re looking for.

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