Harvest Guide to Growth Marketing

4. How Do You Build a Growth Marketing Team?

Learn all the different talent models to meet your growth marketing talent needs

Brenna Devlin, Growth Marketing Lead

An external growth marketing partner helps you compete more effectively in a competitive market and reduce overhead without compromising on the quality of marketing initiatives.


Learning Objectives
By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:
  1. Identify the gaps in your team’s growth marketing skills
  2. Understand different talent models to meet your growth marketing talent needs

What’s more important: the product team or the marketing team?

Most entrepreneurs would say the product team. You need a product to market, after all. But the reverse is also true: You need a market that wants your product.

Once you appreciate this synergistic relationship between product development and marketing, you’ll understand why it’s unhelpful to make a binary choice between a product development team and a marketing team. You’ll start asking better questions like: 

“How can I find the product and marketing talent I need, so these functions can build the business in tandem?”

This section will focus on finding your growth and digital marketing talent. 

We want to help you understand what skills you’re missing as an early-stage company and how to use different talent models to fill those gaps. 

Conducting a marketing skills gap analysis

A skills gap analysis compares the skills your business needs to the skills your workforce has. You can conduct a skills gap analysis at either the individual level or the company level. For early-stage companies, we recommend looking at the company or founding team level. 

  1. Start with your growth marketing strategy (e.g. Performance, Content, Virality)
  2. Identify the activities associated with that growth marketing strategy (e.g. social media listening and marketing)
  3. Catalogue the skills needed for those activities (e.g. campaign management, email automation, A/B testing, layout optimization, content creation, social media management)
  4. Assess whether you have the internal skills and time to perform these tasks yourself

Once you’ve conducted your skills gap analysis, you’ll have a list of potential positions you want to create. With the example above, you might decide you need a Demand Generation Specialist or Email Automation Specialist. You may also decide you need a Graphic Designer or Copywriter. Before you know it, you’re reviewing a list of a dozen marketing roles that you don’t have the funding to fill. 

Does this mean you scrap the idea of a marketing team? Absolutely not. You use a combination of talent strategies to meet your business needs.

Adopting a dynamic talent strategy

Suppose that by the end of your skills gap analysis, you’ve identified the following talent needs:

  1. Chief Marketing Officer
  2. Content Marketing Manager
  3. Social Media Specialist
  4. Demand Generation Specialist
  5. SEO Specialist
  6. Copywriter
  7. Graphic Designer

The bad news is that most early-stage startups wouldn’t be able to create full-time positions for all of these roles. The good news is full-time positions are not the only option. While hiring for full-time positions is an important talent strategy, it’s not the only strategy. 

Companies can work with freelancers, engage agencies, and even hire growth marketing partners for long-term engagements. 

Growth Marketing Talent Strategies for Early-Stage Companies

Full-Time Hiring Strategy
When is it suitable for early-stage companies?
Full-time employees should be used for roles with routine work and a heavy focus on developing and overseeing strategy.

Which roles usually fit into this talent strategy for early-stage companies?
  1. CMOs
  2. Directors
  3. Managers
Freelance Strategy
When is it suitable for early-stage companies?
Freelancers should be used for jobs with fluctuating demand where briefs and check-in calls are enough to convey the marketing campaign vision and strategy.

Which roles usually fit into this talent strategy for early-stage companies?
  1. Copywriters
  2. Graphic Designers
  3. Video Editors
Agency Strategy
When is it suitable for early-stage companies?
Agencies should be used for projects that require both a team effort and a niche skill set.

Which roles usually fit into this talent strategy for early-stage companies?
  1. Event planning
  2. Interactive 3D design
  3. Public relations
Growth Marketing Partner Strategy
When is it suitable for early-stage companies?
Companies should use a growth marketing partner when they have the funding for high-level marketing talent, but lack the brand recognition or industry connections to attract experienced candidates.

Which roles usually fit into this talent strategy for early-stage companies?
  1. CMOs
  2. VP Brand Marketing/Customer Research/Customer Activation
  3. Specialized marketing talent (paid media, content, etc.)

What should early-stage companies consider when choosing an external growth partner?

When it comes to entering into a long-term engagement with an external partner, like a growth marketing partner, how should early-stage companies evaluate their options?

  1. Depth of experience: Does the leadership team have a track record of building and scaling companies? How specific is this experience? Have they built companies in your target geography? In your industry?
  2. Range of services: Does this external partner only offer downstream marketing activities, such as social media marketing and email marketing, or do they also offer upstream marketing activities to support strategic planning, product-market fit, market research, product validation, pricing strategy development, messaging, and more?
  3. Flexibility: Are you required to lock into a minimum volume of work for an extended period of time, or can you scale your engagement up and down as needed?
  4. Pricing: Does this external partner offer different compensation models including fee-based and equity-based compensation?

How do you successfully work with external marketing partners?

External marketing partners present ample benefits. Freelancers and agencies provide access to niche talent without increasing headcount. Meanwhile, a growth marketing partner offers hard-to-recruit, high-level marketing talent and experience to help you stand out in a crowded marketplace. 

Ensure the success of your external marketing engagements with the following best practices:

  1. Clearly articulate specific goals and desired outcomes
  2. Agree on a process for new project requests, submissions, revision requests, and approvals
  3. Schedule regular check-in meetings to ensure projects stay on track and aligned with the larger strategy
  4. Share customer and campaign insights to ensure a consistent voice and messaging between your internal and external marketing activities, as well as mutual understanding of the business challenges, target audiences and competition
  5. Share success stories with your marketing partners, grant permission for case studies, and provide testimonials 

Why should you work with an external partner?

When you’re managing competing priorities and a limited budget, it’s tempting to in-source everything or split the responsibilities between the founding team. While this may save money in the short term, it can hamstring your business over the long run. An external growth marketing partner helps you compete more effectively in a competitive market and reduce overhead without compromising on the quality of marketing initiatives. It also gives you access to the talent and expertise needed to accelerate your business until you have the employer brand to attract that talent yourself. 

Key Takeaways
Recruitment is no longer a binary choice between full-time employees and no employees. You can embrace different talent models based on your business needs by conducting a skills gap analysis and filling those gaps with employees, freelancers, agencies, and growth marketing partners.
Brenna Devlin, Growth Marketing Lead
Chapter 5 - How Do You Translate Growth Marketing Success Into Investor KPIs?
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