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March 21, 2017

How to Find and Interview a Growth Marketer

by Sujan Patel under Marketing

In 2016, Econsultancy conducted its Digital Marketing Trends survey, and asked companies to pinpoint what they saw as the biggest opportunity area for 2016.

It wasn’t content marketing (although you all know how I feel about that one).

It wasn’t mobile marketing, personalization or SEO.

In fact, it was customer experience that came out ahead.

We’re at a point where companies, looking forward, don’t see individual marketing channels as the future: they see comprehensive customer experiences as a driving force in business growth and success. Unsurprisingly, Gartner predicts that “by 2018, more than 50% of organizations will redirect their investments to customer experience innovations.”

Traditional marketers aren’t equipped to handle this multi-channel, multi-disciplinary approach, which is why I predict we’ll see a shift to growth teams – not marketing teams – over the next several years.

Recently, I shared my strategies for building a growth team made up of seven members: a data analyst, a VP of marketing, a content marketer, a social media and community manager, a growth hacker, a project manager and a full-stack developer.

But what if you can only hire one person? What if you have many of these resources in-house already, but want to bring someone on board who can transform their efforts into modern marketing strategies?

In these cases, you need a growth marketer.

What is a Growth Marketer?

People define growth marketing in different ways. Founder of growth hacking Sean Ellis shares his vision of a team centered on growth marketing with Optimizely’s Amanda Swan:

“You’d probably have a lot of the same types of roles you see in traditional teams. Those would include copywriters, analysts, designers, but you’d also want to add some development skills for deeper funnel optimization and growth (i.e. viral) feature development.”

SplashOPM’s Derric Haynie defines it differently:

“Growth marketing is when you focus all of your business efforts on growing an audience (or community) as fast as possible in an environment of extreme uncertainty, on a limited budget.”

Both of these definitions make important points, but for me, growth marketing is simply the marketing of the new age. Growth marketers are just the next evolution of the T-shaped marketer: they have skillsets in SEO, PPC and other disciplines, but they also know how to work with product and development in order to fully understand the growth funnel.

Essentially, they’re a combination of top-of-the-funnel, middle-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel. The understand and can work with data, they can interface with product and engineering teams, and they can drive traffic. They’re more than traditional marketers, even though there may be significant overlap in their skillsets.

Why Do You Need a Growth Marketer?

I hinted at this above, but we’re entering a new era of marketing – one where traditionally siloed channels are merging, and where best practices change more rapidly due to advances in research and technology. Several trends are driving this shift:

  • Web marketing channels are bleeding into each other. You can’t do content marketing effectively if your site has structural issues impeding its SEO. Similarly, more and more content marketers are turning to paid ads to capture attention for their content. It’s no longer enough to have a specialized SEO person, a specialized PPC person and so on. You need people on your team who “get it” and who can leverage all of these techniques simultaneously to drive your growth.
  • Endless options mean less loyalty for disengaged brands. If you disappoint your customers, they’ll leave for your competitors. That’s a given, but what isn’t is the fact that “67% of customers mention bad experiences as a reason for churn, but only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain.” If you can’t create a positive customer experience, you won’t know why you’re seeing excess churn – you’ll just see doors swinging behind customers on their way out. And speaking of creating a positive customer experience…
  • Customer experience matters above all else. According to Walker, by the year 2020, “customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.” You can’t impact customer experience through marketing alone. You need the investment of the product, design, engineering, development and customer service teams – and you need a growth marketer who’s comfortable working across these lines.

Dave Gerhardt, Director of Marketing at Drift, puts this shift into numbers:

“Successful marketing is no longer only about the top of the funnel and acquiring customers – it’s about acquiring customers that are going to stick around. Growth without retention isn’t growth after all. And growth is more important than ever: if a typical SaaS business loses 2-3% of their customers each month to churn, that means they must grow by at least 27%-43% annually to maintain the same revenue.”

Traditionally-trained marketers or those with decades of traditional marketing experience often don’t have the mindset to lead teams that focus on growth as a whole. That isn’t to say that they can’t adapt, but if you’re hiring a growth marketing role, you need to be especially conscious of what this new mindset requires.

Where Do You Find a Growth Marketer?

So, you’re convinced you need a growth marketer. Where do you go about finding this mythical unicorn who combines traditional marketing skills with a new-age focus on product development and customer experience?

I’ll give you a hint – it ain’t Craigslist.

Typically, when I’m hiring growth marketers, I like to look in three different places:

LinkedIn

I use LinkedIn to literally hunt down the right people. I’ll go there and find the top companies in my area, then I’ll look for the VP of Marketing, the Director of Marketing, or any type of “growth hackers” – basically, anyone who sounds like they might have the modern marketing skillset I’m looking for.

Then, I’ll reach out, saying, “Hey, do you know anybody who’s looking for a job?” or “Hey, I’m looking to hire a growth marketer – would you or anybody you know be interested?” This is typically what a recruiter does, but I like to do it firsthand so that I understand who I’m talking to. Once I get them to respond, I get them on the phone and go through my interview process.

Clarity.fm or Cloudpeeps

Clarity.fm and Cloudpeeps are services that are made up of real people – experts in their domains – sharing their skills with anybody who wants to schedule time with them. On their profiles, they’ve listed out their skillsets, and they have reviews, so you can see who’s really worth your time.

It’s also a great way to see if the marketer you’re talking to is hungry. People who are listed there are actively putting themselves out there and giving advice. You can pay for time with them, and essentially interview them on their skills, strategies and approaches before beginning a formal interview process.

Ask Influencers

Whatever industry you’re in or whatever city you work in, you’re going to have local and subject matter experts. Say there’s a Google office in your city. You could go ask the people working there if they have referrals for people you should talk to.

Whether or not I’m hiring, I like to research the top players and influencers in my area and build a connection with them – not just for recruiting purposes, but because, generally speaking, we level each other up. It’s great to get to know your area and who’s in it, because then you get inbound activity. Even when you aren’t hiring, you’ll still receive resumes from great applicants you can reach out to when you’re ready.

Interview Questions

Your interview questions may vary, depending on your needs, but when I’m interviewing growth marketers, I like to include the following questions:

What are your top 3 channels?

Basically, I’m asking, what are you good at? If you’re a company that’s growing off of SEO or PPC – maybe some conversion optimization or maybe virality – you want to make sure that the person you’re hiring can fit that skill set. Don’t hire somebody who can’t define a viral loop if you’re basing your growth plan on viral referral strategies.

Oftentimes, I find that this is the deciding factor in what makes someone a good marketer in general, versus someone who’s going to be a good marketer for your organization. You really have to have that alignment when you’re hiring a growth marketer.

What would you do in your first 90 days?

Here, you’re asking for a roadmap of what they’re going to do in their first 90 days: what type of marketing they’re going to do and what they can contribute to your company.

If they don’t have a good answer, ask them to go back and look at your website or app, and try to figure out what you’ve done to market the company. Then, ask them to come up with a plan again. If they still can’t do it, chances are they’re not going to succeed in the role.

Can you give me an example of a time you worked with product or engineering teams?

As I mentioned above, this new age of growth and growing a business doesn’t require just top-of-the-funnel marketing or CRO or email nurturing or copywriting skills. It requires working with other departments, like the product team, the design team and the development team.

If your candidate doesn’t have concrete examples of working with these teams, don’t hire them – they’re probably not a new age or growth marketer.

What are some of your wins, successes and numbers?

A good marketer can come up with great examples on the fly. I know my 4-5 big wins; for example, I could talk about the work I’ve done for Salesforce, LinkedIn and others. Even though I did these things years ago, they’re still on my mind because I’m always thinking about growth.

That’s what you want in a growth marketer: somebody who’s always thinking about it. Look out for examples, success stories and numbers when you’re interviewing. Ask for specifics, not just vague answers. The marketer you want to hire is the one who says “I used X, Y and Z tactics to decrease churn by 23%,” not “I helped retain customers.”

Andrianes Pinantoan of Canva describes this as the difference between doing and achieving:

“Having decades of experience doing stuff without a single achievement that can be directly attributed to you is a huge red flag for me  – I’d much prefer graduates right out of uni without all the professional baggage (I find it harder to untrain people of bad habits than it is to train people for new skills).

Doing stuff: “I have 10 years’ experience managing a team of 10 SEOs in a bank.” Achieving stuff is: “I grew SEO from 0 to 1 million visits in 12 months.”

What would others say about you?

Finally, ask your candidates to give you referrals on the spot. If they can’t do it, that means they haven’t built up their network – and if somebody’s not building up their network or networking outside of office hours, they’re not really that hungry.

Growth marketing is going to change faster and faster over the next decade. You need somebody who’s hungry, who’s connecting with people, and who’s always searching for the “latest and greatest.” Ask these questions, and you’ll wind up with a growth marketer who can help your company navigate these changes.

What other interview questions would you add to this list? Share these or any other tips on hiring growth marketers by leaving me a comment below:

Image: Pixabay

Sujan Patel

Sujan Patel

Co-Founder at Web Profits

Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits. He has over 13 years of internet marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Sales Force, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.

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