By Sweta Patel

Are you sick of hiring marketers who just don’t seem to be a good fit for your company? During the last few months I’ve taken the time to really understand how business owners feel about marketers. Most of them feel repeatedly burned and jaded by the experience. They want to see growth in the next five, ten, 15 years, but they don’t want to waste money. Yes, hiring the wrong people can cost a lot in money and time. This is why I try to help my entrepreneur friends with their marketing hires. Here are the lessons I’ve learned:

The Question Game

Break the ice! Ask them out-of-the-box questions (like how the internet works) to find out where their head is. You should ask them a few questions about topics that most people don’t really think about. This will allow you to assess their “on-the-spot” thinking process. Then go even further to find out what they are most passionate about and what their strengths are. You have to take the time to learn about their past experiences, current projects — even if they aren’t work related — and their worst/best working experiences. If you are hiring for marketing, don’t forget to ask what their worst marketing experience was.

Best Practice: The new hire’s first 90 days should focus on workshops with the service/product department, creative department, customer service department, customer loyalty department, operations department, and sales teams. These workshops will allow the new director of marketing to understand these parts of the business and determine what is adding value and what needs to be changed. The new hire should assess all the current marketing programs, and develop a list based on ROI.

San Diego-based marketing entrepreneur Sweta Patel.

On-The-Spot Challenge

Sometimes we really have to put people to work to see how they perform. In this case, create a “hackathon” where you have the candidate perform a task in front of you. This way you can judge whether the person is the right fit for the job. This helps weed out those who come in with extensive experience but low performance. One time I interviewed someone who had 25 years of marketing experience. I asked about the applicant’s longest tenure with a client. The answer was two years, and the interview ended there.

I see too many entrepreneurs hiring for skill rather than overall “fit.” Smart people can be better but if they are always in search of the next best thing, then what’s the point? You want to hire someone who is going to be a team player, who is passionate about your values and culture, and who can provide a solution to the current marketing problems. Most of the time you can train people and mold them into your company, but if they don’t have the passion for it, then good luck! Smarts aren’t always best and neither is experience.

Best Practice: I once asked an applicant to create a one-week plan for me on the spot. This is exactly what he or she would do in the first week if I hired today. It’s also good to check phone and sales skills, so ask the applicant to make some calls while you listen.

The Right Marketing Hire

One marketer doesn’t fit all requirements. It is important to understand what is needed before you go on your search. For example, are you focused on B2B? Then find someone who knows how to keep the sales team in check, has skills that will help them close the deal, and knows how to nurture leads.

On the other hand if you are looking for a B2C marketer, then they will have a different focus. Their primary focus should be socializing with customers, winning their attention, and managing the marketing budget.

Best Practice: Ask them to figure out what the CPA (cost per acquisition) and LTV (lifetime value of the customer) are before you consider them. The best way is to have them create an estimate for you.

#FirstWorldProblems: Marketing Agencies

Where do I start with the agency mess? Most business owners I speak with feel they were cut short after they hired an agency to do the work for them. From experience on both ends of the spectrum I can tell you why most businesses prefer to have an in-house person or a freelancer. The agency has to put the businesses’ customers first. But the business needs to meet monthly quotas first, then focus on their customers’ objectives second. This is a mess waiting to happen. The agency tends to focus too much on acquiring and not on retaining. This is the nature of the business.

Best Practice: Partner with agencies and educate them about your businesses, and then take some time to learn about their business too. We know most marketers are given the carte blanche because “they must be experts at what they do.” Unfortunately most agencies have a broad focus, and most business owners have a narrow focus. This is why it is vital to create a tag team and help each other instead of relying on just the agency to help. The mess happens when you let the agency manage your results. Only you are responsible for your results, so take the time to manage the agency. The best way to keep an agency in check is to constantly ask them what their biggest challenges are and what programs are working. Take the time to learn from each other and improve.  

Now you know what I know about choosing marketing talent. Put your skills to the test.


Sweta Patel is a San Diego-based marketing entrepreneur whose company is Global Marketing Tactics.

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