Advanced Installer is the product our team has been working for over 15 years. This article talks about how I built our first marketing team, in 2019. Enjoy 😉
As a developer, you invest months, if not years, in turning an idea into a reality. When the time to launch comes, you expect the customers’ reactions, you get excited when you hear about the first few customers who love it – and you get the drive to make it better.
Once success comes, you need to consider recruiting a team. The first question that comes to mind is “what kind of talent do you need?”
The answer depends on your priorities.
To be able to make the product more efficient, you will need another developer. Hiring another developer comes relatively natural to you as you know the skills first hand.
Next, as you continue to grow, you will have to serve your customers – that’s when hiring tech support colleagues is brought to the table. As this is another technical role – it doesn’t really go far from your knowledge as a developer, so you’re still within your comfort zone.
But what happens when you know there’s one step that you still need to take? Although things seem to be smooth sailing, you need to think about the future. It is time to invest and scale the product you worked so hard to build.
That’s when you realize that there is one key element missing from your business: the marketing team.
Here’s a look at my experience as a developer hiring a marketing team for a software company.
Do we really need a marketing team? Addressing the doubts
Often among bootstrapped software startups , the marketing team is the last one to be set up (I assume because there are no VCs to answer towards).
The comfort of being profitable even without a proper marketing team in place is one reason. And the dreaded thought of spending close to a year defining the needs and trying to fill the positions with the right candidates, could be part of why some founders tend to focus on what they already know how to do best, i.e. coding, instead of venturing to build a brand new team.
Note: I am excluding the lack of marketing experience from this equation – after all, going over uncharted territories is basically the norm for every entrepreneur and it should not be a problem.
Although some may think profitability is all that is needed and that you’ve basically “made it” – the truth is that incorporating a marketing team brings a lot of value and a whole new perspective, ideas, and actions to enhance the atmosphere and work on new growth tactics for your company. To answer the question, do we need a marketing team? Yes, when it’s time to build a reputation and take your business to a new level.
Now, how was I able to achieve that? Let me go through all the phases I went through during this process.
How I successfully built our Marketing Team
The Definition Phase
Going back to what I mentioned above, as a small software vendor, it is true that you can survive without a real marketing team – but it is very hard to grow without one.
I was highly inspired to move forward and take this route after reading Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses by Joe Pulizzi, this book motivated me and helped me believe it was possible – and to go even further, it kind of outlined the recipe to build the team for me.
When we were presented with the need and opportunity to escalate our efforts for growth, we went over various questions that we had to address:
- What should our marketing team look like?
- What kind of people do we need to recruit?
- Should we start by recruiting a senior leader to take care of actually building and recruiting the right talent?
- Or should we just start from finding the team members and recruit the leader last?
We also had to evaluate the challenges and opportunities that come from being a small company, and the special characteristics it brought to the table when dealing with this important new task for us.
Taking the leap
We started handling some marketing efforts at an ad hoc basis – usually in between development projects but with no real owner for these tasks. We made the decision that was best for us at the moment, recognizing the need to market our product, but considering our specific needs.
As VP of product, I started focusing on bringing value to our current and prospective readers, as well as introducing an inbound content marketing strategy to improve our Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Finding the right talent
In January of 2019, I first posted a job announcement looking for a specific type of content writer (more of a tech evangelist). Very quickly I realized our response rate was pretty low – and I attributed it to the lack of online recognition the company had at the moment.
That’s when I changed to a more active approach – finding them myself. Yes, I started to look and filter people on LinkedIn that fit the description of the job announcement and decided to make a list to approach them directly through inMail.
Sounds easy, right? Well, it’s definitely not. I contacted 70 possible candidates, spent over 30 hours in phone interviews with around a quarter of those 70, and ended up narrowing down our search to 4 candidates by March 2019.
Something to keep in mind, is that this process can be taxing. You deal both with the excitement of really good candidates but also with a bit of frustration at times when things don’t work out as expected.
Also, as we knew content was the way to generate a better reputation and recognition, we started by finding great engineers that wanted to take their career to the next level. Initially I introduced them to what it means to write technical content and share it with our customers. But, these writers didn’t really have marketing skills to develop and follow a strategy for growth.
Which brings us to a very important next step: Finding our VP of Marketing.
We had made some important moves towards our goal, but we still needed to complete some steps to reach our main goals.
The Result: A Truly Marketing-Focused Team
The idea was to begin producing good content and deliver it to build an audience and feed our sales funnel. And, we were doing that with our 3 technical writers. But you could say we were sort of shooting blanks in a sense – we needed more direction and a true owner of these efforts.
It was then, 6 months later, that we started conversations with 5 different marketing leaders that possessed extensive experience in B2B companies. One of those 5 was just the perfect fit, and I was happy to welcome Cristina Constantinescu as our VP of Marketing. With years of experience and the energy to help us grow, our team progressed quickly.
Some time later, we were joined by Alexandra Stoienescu, as a marketing intern who took over social media efforts, and the implementation of blog articles, as well as many operational and technical tasks within the team. And, recently, we incorporated Magda Torres as a proofreader and social media and content marketing consultant to help bring different perspectives and work on the quality of the content we were delivering.
As I look back, it took us 9-12 months to start producing content at the quality we initially planned. This doesn’t mean that in the first 9 months we didn’t deliver anything. We actually published content almost weekly. But raising the quality of that content and setting up processes in our team to allow us to thrive required a lot of time.
A quick outlook on numbers
To give a bit more of perspective, in the last year, we doubled the amount of articles we published on our website and we worked on a compelling content strategy which focused on delivering high-quality articles for our audience.
Diving into the analytics and how the integration of a marketing team affected our performance, here’s what we’ve seen:
- Our growth, when counting unique visitors, doubled and it is still going up.
For me personally and professionally, this change also brought some new opportunities my way – including having the time and the ability to center my attention in my family while welcoming my first child, and writing a book that we expect will be yet another asset to empower our customers.
Some final introspection
Ironically enough, by building a marketing team, we were preparing for what was to come.
Our marketing team was the first remote team within our company. This new way of working allowed us to learn and get used to what would become the norm during the unexpected pandemic and massive move to remote work during the lockdown this year (2020).
It is incredibly rewarding to look back and see where we are today, working hard daily to reach our goals, testing new tactics, measuring our efforts and moving forward.
I would love to learn about your experiences. Have you also gone into uncharted territory to build a new team? Leave a comment below.