This post is based on an episode of MarketerHire's marketing operations webinar, MarketerLive. Scroll to the bottom for the full webinar and the podcast version of the interview.
Casey Armstrong is no stranger to scaling businesses and hiring impactful marketing teams. From VP of Marketing at BigCommerce to CMO at end-to-end fulfillment company ShipBob, he knows a thing or two about leading teams and driving revenue.
We even worked together at BigCommerce, so I got to witness his ability to select, hire, and build high-performing teams firsthand.
Recently I connected with him over a live Zoom to ask him about his hiring strategy, how he thinks about marketing operations, and how he approaches scaling tech start-ups. Here’s what he had to say.
Find high-impact channels and prioritize them.
If you want to scale a marketing team quickly — one that drives millions in net annual recurring revenue — you have to accept you can’t do everything at once.
Focusing on the positives is a great place to start. At Shipbob, Armstrong started by figuring out what the team was doing well and where they could level up quickly.
“You need to be looking at the areas with the most impact,” he said. “Where are the high-performing marketers already on your team? What channels are moving the needle the most?”
“Where are the high-performing marketers already on your team? What channels are moving the needle the most?”
People often make the mistake of chasing “shiny pennies,” he said. But with revenue as the ultimate goal, marketers must first lean into the channels and functions that are making the biggest impact on the bottom line.
“There’s only so much you can do at a time,” said Armstrong. “Your job is to put your team members in a position to succeed.”
Exercise patience with your first hire.
As a new CMO, your first hire is one of the toughest.
When Armstrong was the new CMO at Shipbob, he needed someone who could get into the weeds of day-to-day operations. At the same time, they’d need to build out a team over time.
“You want someone who can come in and make an impact but you need to be patient with yourself on finding the right person,” said Armstrong.
“You want someone who can come in and make an impact.”
The way he puts it: the highest performing marketers are hungry. More than anything, he believes the first hire needs to be someone with something to prove, who’s willing to get their hands dirty.
Ask the right interview questions.
Being a high-performing, hungry marketer isn’t something you’ll find on someone’s resume. The truth comes out in conversation. In every interview, Armstrong asks candidates to share one of their favorite wins in the last six to 12 months.
“If they don’t immediately light up and have an example they’re very proud of — it’s not a deal killer — but I see it as a red flag.”
Anyone you’re thinking about taking on needs to have a success story to share.
Bring on freelancers to complement your full-time hires.
Scaling your marketing team is always a delicate balance between team bandwidth and profitability.
Sometimes, as you’re getting started, the best bet is to mix full-time hires, agencies and freelancers, then build from there.
Armstrong’s approach is to bring on team members who complement each other. After bringing in a full-time hire, you might complement them with an agency or freelancer. Then, when you bring on another full-timer, you might hire a freelancer to complement them.
These freelancers will typically be brought on by the full-time hire themselves, and typically focus on one or both of the following:
- Lower-priority tasks that still need to get done. For instance, one-off email marketing tasks can go to the freelancer, so your full-time employee can focus on building out full-blown campaigns — which take more time, and require more business knowledge and strategy.
- Tasks or tactics the FTE doesn’t have experience doing. For instance, maybe your new director of marketing has deep brand experience, but they also need to manage and oversee paid social media campaigns. Not a problem –– a freelancer can help, or an agency, and the FTE can focus on outcomes and KPIs.
Get new hires an immediate first win
Effective leaders help team members feel confident in themselves — and build trust with their colleagues. How? By giving new hires a quick win.
People naturally gravitate towards winners and go-getters. When a new hire comes onboard, Armstrong recommends focusing on the “first win timeline” to help your new hires feel like they’ve made their mark on the organization.
Instead of assigning a three-month project, “chunk up the project so there are things they can celebrate and deliver on faster” — or just start with a smaller deliverable.
“Chunk up the project so there are things they can celebrate and deliver on faster.”
Prioritizing the first win helps new hires find confidence in themselves. At the same time, a quick win helps the rest of the team know they can depend on new hires, accelerating trust and camaraderie.
Always be evaluating the team
Creating an effective marketing team involves hiring high performers you can depend on. With the right people, you know you can trust your team to get stuff done.
“You don’t want to work all night every night — you need to find people that can make your lives easier,” Armstrong said. “You’ll start hitting some ceiling or plateau if you don’t bring in the right people.”
“You’ll start hitting some ceiling or plateau if you don’t bring in the right people.”
And finally, when you get things setup and going well, Armstrong doesn’t think that is a good time to rest when it comes to hiring.
Instead, it’s time to consider: “How can we bring in someone who can disrupt this?” Armstrong said. “We’ve got to keep evolving.”
Listen to the podcast version of my conversation with ShipBob CMO Casey Armstrong here:
Watch the full video interview here:
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