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Hiring a Marketing Person for a Software Company. Lessons Learned

Szymon Boniecki

January 11, 2017 | marketing

Have you started a software company with no professional marketing background? At some point realised your business finally needs a skilled and dedicated marketing person or even a team to grow? But quickly after you also realised you don't know how to properly find a good match for a brand that you've been so tirelessly looking after?

If this describes your situation, then this article is for you, we were in your shoes. We are sharing all the detailed steps that we took to succeed in recruiting a marketing person. We are also revealing the tasks we used to test the candidates. You can also find out which channels were used to acquire the applications, and how we evaluated them.

Does a Software Company Even Need a Marketer?

We had long withheld from delegating marketing tasks to anyone except the existing team itself.

After all, it's the founders who have a perfectly crafted projection of the company in their minds. Right? They're also the team that fully understands the ins and outs of what's at the core of what needs to be marketed. And what's going to be hot in technology tomorrow. Am I right?

This is contrary to anything you'll see in most business and management books.

So are they wrong, or are we?

By lacking a dedicated marketing person for a very long time, we had one thing that developed internally in a nice way: people throughout the team keep coming up with their own marketing initiatives.

However no matter how hard we have tried, it's been difficult to establish an effective process around that. After all, everyone has their main area of responsibility which is not marketing.

We understand that if we want to approach the most interesting clients and develop the most cutting-edge projects for them, then we need to work harder. We constantly improve our engineering, designing, and managing skills. It was high time to add a marketing expert to the team.

The process didn't stop even after we found our match. At some point the marketing team will hopefully grow with the organisation's needs.

And the best thing? They get full support from the whole team.

Hiring an Outside Consultant to Find a Marketer

It's very helpful for the company founders to understand aspects of all roles in an organization. It's tempting and fun. However, it eventually becomes nearly impossible.

We have a great track record with external consultants. To mention a few: we have had our recruitment process for hiring Project Managers perfectly tailored to the role thanks to outside help. We've used an outside consultant to find a great Talent Manager as well. This time we did the same.

Evaluation of the Marketing Skills

Monterail Team is not afraid to move fast and test things.

Our recruitment process was no exception here. We were improving it on the fly.

Even though we have previous experience with B2B marketing activities, we were not sure how to evaluate the candidates and their skills. This is the most important input that Marta - our outside consultant - had on our recruitment process.

Hiring developers appears to be a relatively easier task. You can evaluate the tasks they were assigned with, see their code or organise pair programming. It is more of a binary process.

On the other hand, marketing skills for us are definitely much harder to evaluate. From our experience it seems like it's sometimes pretty easy to pretend you are a great marketer, even though your achievements aren't that impressive. It may be easier to cover up your lack of experience with an eloquent speech and a few buzzwords. We really wanted to avoid this kind of trap. This is why we decided to work with an experienced marketing person and rely on her when it came to the evaluation of the marketing skills.

Hiring a Marketing Person - the Step-by-Step Guide

Below you will find the full list of all the steps we took during the recruitment process, including the tasks we used to test the candidates. It took us a few weeks to finish the recruitment process, but with this list you should be prepared to move faster.

Developing marketing team in a software house

1. Decide on the range of tasks

It may be a tricky one, especially if you don't happen to have any marketing experience. This may be the moment to consider hiring a consultant or running in-depth research on your own.

No matter which way you choose, you should be able to come up with a list of top marketing priorities for your company. Working on this list will let you realise which skill set you are looking for. Depending on the priorities that you decide to focus on, you will also understand what kind of experience a marketing person should have.

If you're not completely sure about the main priorities for the marketing person at your company, try to analyse what your competitors do. You probably have some benchmarks – the companies that impress you with their development and strategy. Do your research and try to come up with as many insights as possible.

Use tools like SEMrush, SimilarWeb, and Ahrefs to find out what your competitors are doing. Then decide which ones are the most important and the most relevant to your company.

In our case we decided to create two lists of tasks. One was for the person with more experience, so called "Marketing Manager". The other one addressed people without extensive experience ("Junior Marketing Specialist"), but aspire to gain it quickly.

Since we didn't want to decide in advance who should join the team as the first hire, we agreed to publish both job ads. It allowed us to be more agile with the whole process and attract a wider candidate base.

2. Prepare the tasks you will include within a job ad

Based on your priority list you should be able to write an inspiring job ad that will speak to your future applicants.

It is pretty hard to evaluate one's application only after looking at their CV and cover letter (and to be honest we really do hate the latter). This is why you shouldn't rely on them exclusively.

Be smarter and come up with 1-3 simple, though relevant tasks to be included in your job ad.

Benefits?

  • You will receive fewer applications, and the quality will be higher. Most job searchers won't even bother replying to your tasks.
  • You will be able to evaluate the applications more thoroughly. The tasks should be relevant to the priority list you created, therefore you will see how well the candidates have managed to cope with these.
  • It will be easier for the candidates to imagine their daily duties for this position.
  • The call with the candidates you decide to talk with will be less generic, since you will already have some material to discuss further with them.

In our case, we gave the candidates two tasks:

  1. First, we decided to ask the candidates about their favourite newsletters. Preparing several newsletters will be one of the tasks of this position, so it was crucial for us to find out how well the candidates are prepared for it. We were interested not only in the list of newsletters they find inspiring, but also in the reasons behind those choices.
  2. Secondly, we asked them to describe an app or some software they enjoyed using lately. We were curious about how up-to-date these choices would be as well as the motivations to use them.

The tasks worked really nicely, providing us with many additional details about the candidates and their knowledge of the software world. We were definitely looking for the early adopters, though some of the replies that caught our eyes weren't necessarily about some hot releases.

3. Promote your job ad widely

So you crafted a perfect job ad containing many details and relevant tasks. You even uploaded it on your website, maybe even shared it with your network using social media. Perfect!

However, if you expect to attract the best candidates, you can't expect them to arrive on your website out of the blue. You should be prepared to work on it as well.

Please bear in mind that we’re describing the experience we had when recruiting a marketing person in the Polish market. When you decide to recruit in your country, you may want to use a different strategy. It may be that recruitment agencies dominate the market and you decide to work with them. Maybe some website with job ads is so popular that you’d prefer to use it instead. Whatever works, as long as you are sure that you choose the channel that is the most appealing for your candidates.

However, let us reveal how we promoted our job ad:

  • Blog post - adding a little bit of storytelling to a job ad never hurt anyone
  • Facebook post - it brought us at least 40 shares, a pretty decent number

marketing experts for software company Facebook ad

  • Facebook ads - we targeted young people from our city, who appear to be interested in marketing. This channel brought us the largest number (70+) of the applications
  • Facebook groups - since Facebook is still massively used by young people in Poland, we also decided to post our ads to the relevant groups. We chose groups that are focused on job searchers who live in (or around) Wrocław, the city our office is located in.

We'd definitely advise you to truly focus on promoting your job ad. You should treat it as any other campaign you run. Treat it as serious as if you were searching for the most important customer for your business. Don't neglect it, since a successful recruitment process can have a huge impact on your business.

4. Reach out to the candidates on your own

Even though the channels we were using brought us over 100 job applications, we decided to reach out to certain candidates on our own.

The most experienced candidates usually don't reply to the job ads. As a matter of fact they don't search actively for the job. They already have the one they are rather satisfied with. However, this doesn't mean they are not open for change when offered an ambitious challenge.

We ran a search on LinkedIn to find all the B2B marketers in our area and focused on the ones who already had experience in the IT industry.

Szymon was responsible for reaching out to them with an introduction of Monterail and the job ad. Obviously, most of them weren't interested in our offer. However, we managed to talk with a few candidates. This allowed us to extend the pool of candidates with diversified levels of experience.

5. Evaluate the applications

Each application was evaluated by us using the same checklist. We were focused on:

  • Former experience in the IT industry - since it really makes the tasks easier when you are familiar with the environment you operate in
  • An experience with writing the content - we decided in advance that content marketing would be one of the most crucial tasks of this position
  • Analytical approach - there is no marketing without evaluating your results, iterating the strategy and thinking about KPIs; the marketer we searched for should not only be able to write a nice piece of content, but should also plan and calculate everything using spreadsheets
  • Fluency in English - Monterail works with customers from all over the world; what's more, English is the "official" team language
  • The answers to our tasks - the most thorough replies were the ones we were hoping for
  • Interpersonal skills - being a marketing person in a software house demands talking and working closely with many different team members: developers, designers, co-founders; it is crucial for the person in this position to enjoy working with people and to be a really effective team player
  • Culture fit - do we see the candidate working with the Monterail team? Would they fit in and improve it or would it be hard for them to adjust to a flat structure, openness, and the transparency that we cultivate?

6. Organise a quick call

Once the application was evaluated, we decided to move to the next stage - Szymon reached out to the candidate inviting them for the 20 minute call.

During the call, we introduced the candidates to the role, provided more details about the position itself and the Monterail team in general, and answered any questions they had.

We were also asking the candidates to elaborate on their marketing experience, focusing especially on B2B.

The call was also an opportunity for us to check the candidates’ English fluency. Asking a simple question in English: "Why would you like to work at Monterail?" helped us to understand the candidates better and to evaluate their language knowledge.

Finally, we agreed on the next steps, so the candidates would know what and when to expect from us.

7. Provide feedback after the calls

After each call we discussed the candidate once again, searching for the strong and weak points in the applications.

Each applicant was provided with feedback after the call. If they were rejected and had more questions about our decision, we replied to them as well.

8. Organise f2f meetings with chosen candidates

The candidates who were invited to the next stage of the recruitment process received an additional task from us. They were supposed to think about Monterail's profile on Clutch.co, a website with B2B research and reviews. Currently we don't have one, but we are willing to join the website as soon as the marketing person joins our team.

We were curious how the candidates would approach this task. Clutch is also a really great source of knowledge about our competitors, so we were hoping they would use this in their research.

Apart from this task, we also talked about the candidate’s marketing experience. I asked them many detailed questions, hoping to understand what their tasks exactly were, what they were responsible for, and how they evaluated their results. If you're looking for some more inspiration, read this blog post by Sujan Patel.

We also discussed the tasks the candidates were given when applying for this position. We asked for their reasons to investigate how thorough their choices were.

The meetings allowed us to reply to the candidates' questions as well. We were able to share with them more of the details about Monterail's previous approach, and share with them the vision of the marketing team.

Inviting the candidates to the Monterail office was also crucial, since this space really reflects the spirit of our company. It is designed according to the team needs and even partially built by its members. We wanted the candidates to see how the team works, how the space serves them, and what kind of relations they could expect in this work environment.

9. Provide feedback and make an offer

Similarly to follow-ups after the phone calls, we also sent feedback to all candidates. Since all of them were truly engaging throughout the process, we wanted to share our thoughts, and even suggest what they could improve upon.

Once we made our decision about the candidate whom we wanted to join the Monterail team, Szymon came up with the offer. It was presented to her during a phone call, with an e-mail follow-up.

Luckily, the candidate had agreed to accept the offer and we are truly happy that she joined the Monterail team this November. We are convinced that she is a really great fit to the team, and we look forward to sharing with you with the first results of our marketing efforts.

We are happy to introduce you to Karolina, who supports the whole Monterail team with her wide marketing experience.

We were curious about how the recruitment process looked from Karolina’s perspective, so we asked her to add her point of view to this piece.

The Recruitment Process in the Candidate's Eyes

Bring attention...

Seriously, it was hard to walk past job ad published by our Team (I can totally say that now, right?). I had seen it a number of times before I eventually clicked it. You may think that there is no point in displaying the same ad again and again to the same person, but...

This is wrong.

It is a lead-nurturing-like job. It is a demanding process as one needs more than a day to convert (or apply for a job if you prefer). If you target experienced, tech-savvy marketers, they probably have a lot on their minds and it may take a while to gain their attention. All in all, it is not only about reaching the greatest number of people possible, but also about frequency.

To be honest, seeing over 40 social shares of the blog post promoting the marketing job offers along with the extensive social advertising campaign was deflating at first. I was aware that there would be some real competition and I needed to be prepared. And I mean prepared.

All in all, it is great to advertise your marketing job opportunity high and low. You get more high-quality CVs, and get the attention of busy marketers who require more time to attract.

...captivate...

There's one thing that scares the hell out of a marketer during the recruitment process. An employer who tells you how your job should look. Especially when you're supposed to be the very first marketing fella on the team.

My advice here is to stress the impact an individual will have on your company. Especially if you want to hire a young specialist from Milenials generation.

If you've managed to run a successful business for a few years, you may think you know what a marketing job looks like. I am sure you only know some part of the story.

There is always something you don't know. Period.

What captivated me during both the phone call and the f2f conversation we had was the awareness of the problem of not having a marketing specialist. Our discussions were not about my boss-to-be outlining me my future responsibilities. It was more about what, in my opinion, can be done to improve the overall marketing performance.

You don’t want your new employee to just take over some stuff you’ve been working on. You want her to develop the marketing position accordingly to your business needs. During my job interview, both sides agreed that this was not the right time to talk about the evaluation of my work. Assure your candidate that you will have some time to elaborate on the right KPIs. Realistic ones. Don't expect your sales to grow about 50% a month after hiring a marketing person.

...hire!

I was thrilled when I got the offer from Monterail. I felt confident knowing that there was an understanding of the marketing role and therefore I would be able to test, learn and develop my ideas to bring new value to the organization.

My last word of advice: Be open and listen to what your marketing candidate has to say. Don't hesitate to outline your expectations and let the other side confront them.

As for me, I'm convinced it's going to be a fulfilling, long-term relationship. 

Coming soon, you may expect more great content, new ideas and who knows! Make sure to keep up-to-date with our newsletter and stick around.

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