To Get the Right People, You Have to Ask the Right Questions
To put these visions into practice these firms need marketing staff. They usually start out by hiring some energetic and smart marketing professionals with a few years of marketing experience under their belt. If they hire well, they find marketing professionals that are great at execution.
After a couple of years, they realize that they have a problem. While they have the vision and their marketing staff has the ability to execute, neither have the marketing experience needed to bridge the vision and the tactics. They need someone to manage marketing who can help make sure that the company is doing the right things right. (To paraphrase Tom Peters)
It's still a small(ish) company so this “someone” needs to be a player/manager. In other words, they need to be able to manage the team as well as roll up their sleeves and do some of the work. You don’t need CMO level talent, maybe not even VP level, but you do need someone who can be strategic as well as tactical.
Marketing budgets are tight and you can’t afford to make the wrong decision. There’s lots of talent on the market right now (a.k.a. marketing professionals looking for work), but how can you be sure that you are choosing the right professional if you aren’t a marketing professional yourself?
To get you started, here are a few questions that you may want to insert between the “Tell me about yourself” and “When can you start?” I’ve added my two cents on what you should be looking for.
How were you measured in your last role? Was it appropriate?
You want someone who is comfortable being measured. One of the key benefits of a manager at this level is to take you from just doing more marketing to doing the things that count. A manager at this level should be able to tell you exactly which metrics make sense for the role.
However, just because someone was measured via a certain metric, doesn’t mean that it was appropriate. For example, if they were measured on click-throughs, give them the opening to tell you why that measurement was irrelevant.
How did you collaborate with sales? Are there other ways that sales and marketing can work together to improve business performance?
The closer the role is to closing business e.g. demand creation or collateral development, the more collaboration the team needs to have with sales. You want a leader that sees the sales team as a partner in driving business.
How do you keep your skills fresh?
Marketing is a constantly changing profession. You want a leader who understands how to leverage all of the great educational opportunities, many of them free, on the web in order to keep their skills fresh. This will be especially important if the marketing leader needs to mentor other, less experienced professionals.
What new ideas have you tried lately?
You want marketers who aren’t afraid to try new things. If they are doing marketing the same way this year as they did last year, they’ve gone stale.
Have you experimented with any web-based techniques? What are you favorites?
For those of you with limited marketing budgets, you want someone who is capable of leveraging the web. Chances are social media techniques will play a part in their answer, but I’d give a marketer extra points for talking about what makes a good web website. You can take away a few points if all they talk about is SEO.
What tactics have you stopped using?
This is just as important as the new tactics that they’ve tried. If they keep doing the same things the same way chances are they are great at wasting money.
Tell me about your lead nurturing program that you ran in your last company.
Even if they didn’t have a good lead nurturing program at their last company, they ought to turn this into an opportunity to expound on how important it is and how they should have had one. Any marketer who gives you a blank look or tells you that they put their leads on a call back schedule is not a strategic thinker that you are looking for.
For those of you who are marketing managers or have hired at this level, please add to this list. Let’s see if we can’t help put the right people in the right places.
All the best!