I see this a lot.
A small but growing tech company wants to start executing on some marketing ideas but they don’t have the internal people to do the work. They start talking about hiring an intern or a part-timer to assist them in getting some of the work done. They describe this position as low skill, low priority and low cost. They start asking great questions like: What skills should we be looking for? Where do we find someone? What are the pitfalls to avoid?
I happen to have lots of experience and opinion on this subject so I thought I would share in hopes that it might help others.
Where to start
Start by taking a step back and challenging the assumptions you’ve made about where this position fits into your organization and the problem(s) you are REALLY trying to solve. Chances are the problems may seem small now but they aren’t temporary and they certainly aren’t going to stay small for long. After all, they are a result of your business growing and becoming more successful, so you need to be thinking ahead.
By saying this first hire is not a demanding position and low priority you are setting yourself up for lots of hand-holding and babysitting down the road. If you decide to hire a junior person because that is all you can afford, then at the very least you need to find an amazing person with lots of potential. Anything less will probably be a net negative because it will consume much of your time managing the person (trying to figure out what to have them do, dealing with petty issues, etc.) If you hire someone with amazing potential then you have not only solved today’s problem you may have solved tomorrows as well. Many of my best marketing managers and specialists started out as interns.
How do you find one?
1. Re-frame your thinking about the position to “something that will be part time to start but has the potential to grow into something more substantial and influential down the road”.
2. Identify the duties you want the person to perform – in the future. If you are like a lot of small tech companies you need someone to compliment your current product management and development responsibilities. Someone who is capable of translating your ideas into pretty things like messaging and visuals that can be delivered through a variety of mediums, or possibly conducting direct customer research to help you make decisions about prioritizing features, or maybe developing some materials for the sales team to use on sales calls. Sound like stuff you might need now or in the future? If so, you are looking for a future product marketing manager.
3. Identify the characteristics of a future product marketing manager. Here are the top things I look for:
- -Strategic thinker. Ability to see the big picture and visualize more than one solution.
- -Ability to translate geek speak into benefit statements (without going overboard and sounding cheesy)
- -Ability to generate fresh ideas that solve real problems. Being good with Twitter is not enough. They need to be able to solve real problems.
- -Confidence and outspokenness. They need to be able to stand up to technical people who think they are always right.
- -Appreciation of smallness. Small companies are awesome. For the right people. If the person’s dream is to work in a big agency or big company after graduation then they probably aren’t a good fit.
All of these characteristics can be found in interns and part-timers. You don’t have to have a lot of experience to have these skills. It is more about attitude than anything else.
Get the word out! Contact local universities and explain that you are seeking only the best candidates with the above characteristics. Put the word out through your regular networks and enlist the help of a trusted adviser with marketing management experience in the interviewing process. Have a real job description on hand and keep your expectations high!
Hope this is helpful. Let me know.