The essential guide to hiring a marketing specialist … when you’re not a marketing person!


By Debra Andrews, {grow} Community Member

This is a time of cataclysmic change for businesses — large and small. We have to adjust to the digital age and we have to adjust now, especially in our approach to marketing. How do you find the right person to lead this charge?

Unfortunately, the leadership of a small-to-medium-sized enterprise is typically not qualified to add new marketing professionals to their rosters.  Owners and senior leaders don’t usually have an understanding of the marketing profession and its complexity today.  They often have goals and objectives but don’t know how marketing can help drive their firms forward.  Without an understanding of what’s needed, the process of selecting the marketing “dream team” is fatally flawed.

Marketers come in all shapes and sizes with some being strategic and others being more tactical.  Many marketers today specialize in digital marketing and social media, while others only have experience with traditional methods and campaigns. Without a marketing background and experience, owners and senior leaders are often shooting in the dark when making a hiring decision.

Firms short on marketing knowledge may want to consider partnering with an experienced marketing consultant to help them select their new marketing leader.  If you’re not a marketing pro but need to hire a marketing pro, here are three key ideas to guide you:

1) Carefully Define the Position

The first and most important step in hiring a marketing professional is for business owners to determine the ideal experience level and skills needed to advance their companies.  They also need to develop a comprehensive list of functions to be performed and whether these duties are recurring, periodic, or one-time.   A very common recruiting mistake that non-marketing leaders make is assuming that one person is willing and able to do everything needed by the business.

If we use an American football analogy (my favorite professional sport), the skills and duties performed by a punter are quite different than a linebacker.  I cringe to think what would happen to a punter playing in a linebacker position!   I dare say that his career would be likely short-lived, and that is exactly what happens to marketers as well.

If your company has never embraced marketing and is seeking leadership and planning, it needs the skills of an experienced, strategic marketer at least initially.  Perhaps the business owner can hire a marketing consultant to develop the play book and then obtain a full-time, mid-level, tactical professional to actually run the plays and measure the results.  There are many ways to structure the marketing function but a having a “one-size-fits-all” mentality is probably going to fail.

In a Law.Com article entitled, “Going the Way of the Market,” Jeff Blumenthal wrote, “Large law firms seem to go through top marketing professionals like Donald Trump goes through apprentices. The high turnover is caused by a number of factors, most notably a lack of clearly defined expectations, job specifications and support from firm leadership.” 

2) Determine Eligibility 

Any marketer applying for a mid-level to senior position should be able to share a wide range of their work, including original copy, press releases, strategic plans, campaigns (from inception to completion), web sites and more.  But more important, they should be able to discuss how their work made a difference – where did it fit into the overall, integrated marketing plan, and what were the measureable outcomes?  This is similar to football players understanding how their actions work to advance their teams downfield.   It’s not about a single play – it’s about the touchdown and winning the game!

A word of caution: Most marketers are exceptional project managers; not all project managers are great marketers.  You’ll want to ensure that the professional you hire has knowledge of basic marketing concepts like positioning, segmentation, and differentiation.  This knowledge gives them the framework to perform their duties at a higher level now and in the future.  Ask them to explain the concepts in their own words and how they practiced these marketing principles in previous marketing positions. 

3) Building a competency

As you look to build your marketing starting line-up, here are some helpful guidelines to determine how to structure your position or team:

Duties   Type of MarketerExperience Level
PositioningStrategic10+ years
BrandingStrategic10+ years
PlanningStrategic7+ years
Social Media StrategyStrategic5+ years
Social Media ImplementationTactical3+ years
Content MappingStrategic7+ years
Content DevelopmentTactical5+ years
e-Mail CampaignsTactical3+ years
Event PlanningTactical / Administrative3+ years
Print DesignGraphic ArtistTBD by type of collateral
Web DesignWeb DesignerTBD by type of online collateral
Web UpdatesAdministrativeNo experience
Public RelationsTactical5+ years
Press ReleasesTactical3+ years
Database ManagementAdministrativeNo experience

I hope this blog post boosts your marketing recruiting efforts and helps to put your company in the best possible position to win market share, leads and new business! If you were advising a non-marketing professional on how to recruit for a marketing position, what would you add?

debra andrews marketriDebra Andrews is the Founder and Owner of Marketri LLC, a B2B marketing consulting firm specializing in the professional services market.

Illustration courtesy Toothpaste for Dinner.

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  • Hi Debra, you’ve done a great job here identifying the complexity of hiring a Marketer. And, it is complex and difficult! I believe your best advice was to hire a consultant to help you understand what you need first, lay out a plan / approach and then determine the type of person needed. Why a consultant? Because most small business people are too busy to know what they don’t know.

  • debraandrews

    Thanks Steve! I agree that it makes a lot of sense to bring in a consultant but for whatever the reason(s), many firms choose to do it in-house. I think it leads to a great deal of turnover in the marketing field and unhappy marketers and companies! Thanks for your comment!

  • MaureenMonte

    Hi Debra! Really enjoyed your analysis! So glad to see you guest blogging for Mark (we met at the Social Slam and we talked about Strengths. 🙂 You wrote: This is similar to football players understanding how their actions work
    to advance their teams downfield. It’s not about a single play – it’s
    about the touchdown and winning the game! – I love that remark upon the need for not being a one trick pony – indeed, multiple plays of all sorts are required by the team, with everyone doing their job (you miss a tackle and the play is ruined.) Sometimes we pass, sometimes we run, sometimes we play defense – even if we’re on the offensive team. Your table is very helpful – nice work. I’ll reach out to talk about strengths!

  • Claudia Licher

    Hi Debra, a friend of mine ran into #1 recently when her manager wanted to hire someone because she could see that person (just graduated) would be a great strategic marketer – in about 5 years…
    What they were actually trying to do was hire someone who could manage the database and do emailings I believe.
    Fortunately the candidate said no to the job.

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  • Debra,

    My advice is not to hire for position until you know something about it. If you don’t know or have done that work, you are taking a risk. I would start with contracting it out before hiring.

  • debraandrews

    Yes, meeting you was one of our highlights! There are so many misconceptions about what marketing is and isn’t and the role of the marketing professional. Thanks for commenting on the post and playing along with my football analogy!!

  • Sarath

    Hi Debra,

    A very well written and much needed article, for every
    business needs a real marketing specialist.

    Your article helps readers in 2 ways – understanding the necessity
    to have a marketing specialist and the way to identify the right one.

    In SME’s & traditional family run organizations,
    marketing often takes a back seat. Or in worst cases, it is done by someone in
    the company who has extra time but no marketing experience at all. This has
    always proven to be detrimental to businesses.

    Building brand equity & facilitating profits are two
    prime reasons why all businesses need marketing specialists. Once the
    specialist learns about the company and its customers, she brings together
    ideas to build a strong recall of the brand and products to the target group.

    Today, in this social age, more than ever businesses relying
    on marketing professionals are paying off.

    With due respect, I would like to differ from your
    eligibility criteria to consider a marketing specialist for a strategic role. In
    the era of 18 – year old CEO’s or 24 – year old CEO’s one mustn’t count on no. of years of experience
    required to get into a particular strategic role. Instead they can be judged by
    how up to date they are on trends in advertising, including hands-on-quality
    experience of social media. I would rather measure a candidate by how aware
    they are of current trends, their ability to strategize new ideas to promote
    the brand, their ability to use analytics and metrics to monitor and share
    results, community involvement via chosen social media channels, technical
    know-how and history of successful involvement online.

    Best Regards,


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  • thanks you for giving a insightful view for hiring a marketing specialist …Debra as the market is filled with so many professionals the guy whose credentials meets the requirement and can verify them without hesitation holds the key for success

  • Fiona Stewart

    Timely! I’m a UK-based marketing consultant (strategic and business thinker). I also have years of expertise in implementation, project managing multi-channel campaigns for a large blue-chip company. I’ve set up my company to work with small businesses in my local community and offering my “big company” expertise to “small companies”. The advice in your blog is invaluable to some of my current prospects – are you happy for me to share it on my website to help my clients decide what kind of marketing service they need? How do you feel about that? If you’d like to talk to me offline about this, please feel free to email me on [email protected]. Great blog and so relevant 🙂

  • Oscar

    Hi is there any advice you can tell me, so I can bring my product to the market

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  • Sary Mohammed

    Hi Debra, Thank you for the article.. i found it of much help. Do you think its possible to outsource marketing strategists ..How important is it for a marketing strategist to live or experience the market in which it will plan for. im a service startup agency in Saudi arabia looking to outsource a marketing strategist position in the agency. communication will be done through internet & tele-presence. such candidates are located in a different part of the world, including india, eastern Asia.

    Looking forward to your reply

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  • Sarah Gonnella

    Thanks for a great article. There was one item I would question and wanted to see which term you were meaning. Instead of “database management”, I’m wondering if you might mean “data entry”. I would caution people on hiring someone to manage their database with no experience. As you stated in your article, marketers should understand segmentation and much of database management is doing QA/QC on the data added. This can include knowing that new data values are warranted which can impact segmentation.

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