Ten things to consider when building a marketing team from scratch in 2021

When working with rapid growth start-ups, a common question is how and when to build the marketing team. Forming a team from scratch can be quite a daunting task, especially in the new virtual world that we have found ourselves in. Where to start? What role is most important? Should I hire specialists vs generalists? And are agencies always a more costly option?

Whilst there is certainly not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, if you are contemplating the next step in your hiring roadmap, these tips should offer some food for thought.

1. Join up your plans

Marketing spans and interacts with pretty much every area of the business. Talk with your peers and create a joined up plan. Even in small organisations, it’s amazing how often an unplanned overlap (or gap) in roles can occur. This is inefficient and can be frustrating and confusing for the people in those roles. Whether you decide on a traditional or more modern matrix style structure, the key is to ensure you are lined up with the rest of the business.

2. Have a clear leader

A person of many hats leading the marketing function is crucial as the glue to form a joined up and engaged a team of marketers. Head of Marketing, Digital Marketing Director, CMO, what they are called doesn’t really matter, but what does matter is this person is self-aware, inspiring and has the ability to hire skills and styles that would complement them.

3. Consider agency support for some areas for day one

When you mention agency support, most start-ups run a mile through fear of the expense, but it can in fact be quite the opposite when it comes to return on investment. There are a number of benefits to using agency support to supplement your team to get you off the ground. A good agency can act as an extension to your team to offer both depth and breadth of knowledge providing your with the knowledge from multiple subject matter experts, as and when you need them.

4. Think about the long-term

Where do you plan to be as a business in one, three or five years time? Are you building sensible foundations to support that plan? It seems the norm these days for people to move roles more frequently, so keep that in mind and create future proof roles and structures that are robust and not built around select individuals.

5. Be lean

If you aren’t clear where to focus your resource then go back to your profit model and understand where  the biggest difference can be made from day one. Look at analytics, where are you seeing the most value? What are your customers doing? What are their preferred comms channels? When making big changes, such as new communications systems, use seasoned subject matter experts on a temporary basis to do the heavy lifting and knowledge transfer for you. You can then hire the right long-term person for the ongoing management of things.

6. Get with the virtual

In the last 12 months, organisations have been forced to turn on a sixpence to embrace virtual working. With a shake up to the way in which we all work, virtual teams and hiring is ‘normal’ rather than pre 2020 when it was almost seen as the subpar option. Put the work in now to save time later. Interview materials, contracts and new starter documents should be prepared to be fit for purpose in the new virtual world.

7. Engage your existing team

Make your existing employees feel involved and empowered. Humans fear change, so take your team on the journey with you. Discuss plans, gather knowledge from different points of view, let employees be heard and make educated changes with the team feeling part of the journey. Don’t cater to every whim, but do listen. If you are lucky, they may even be keen to excel at something new and be able to fill some of your resource gaps.

8. Marketing comes in many shapes and forms

Understand the difference between brand, product, acquisition, partnerships, existing customer marketing, tech and analytics. They each play a crucial part in successful marketing. It doesn’t mean you necessarily have to create separate roles for each area from day one, but you do need to make sure you have addressed each of the areas, to a greater or lesser extent depending on your business and model.

9. Reputation of your brand is everything

So make sure you have the right skills to be able to uphold this. Contrary to the above there is a safety blanket that is too often forgotten because it’s difficult to directly measure and attribute to ROI. That is the brand reputation. Branding, PR, and ethics of a company are every increasingly under the scrutinising eye of consumers. Think of all other marketing activity as a leaky bucket of cash, if you don’t get this one right, you risk wasting all important budget.

10. Protect the perks

Don’t forget the little perks to welcome new, and reward existing, team members. There are plenty of options for at home rewards from a simple thank you card and gift voucher for a local takeaway, to letterbox facials and virtual wine tastings. A little thought can go a long way.