A great marketing team always evolves. It's a tough game. You need the right mix of specialists, technology, and adaptability to keep up with trends, software, new platforms, and the latest algorithm changes. But can old teams learn new tricks? Or does the latest wave of AI capabilities bring opportunities for businesses to build new marketing teams?
This article serves as a guide for startup and scale-up founders who are ready to take a new approach to building their marketing talent. We'll focus on nurturing fast-learning junior talent, leveraging the power of AI tools, and adding the cost efficiencies that come with employing a remote workforce.
We'll balance this against the challenges traditional marketers face, what benefits the unconventional path brings, and share some practical steps for building a high-performance culture of continuous improvement.
We aim to provide some prompts for reevaluating your marketing strategy or giving new players some pathways for getting your marketing moving. So let's dive in…
Talent wars and attrition
While the amount of available jobs ebbs and flows - the battle for top talent remains the same. Smart and capable hires will continually look for ways to grow and leapfrog their career. Within the confines of a scaling tech company - employees can burn out from the lack of support, the right levels of development and training, or lack of buy-in into the strategy from pushy sales teams or inexperienced founders.
Marketing Technology debt
Companies on a growth trajectory, or without a solid foundational understanding of the tools and what they do, can result in commitments to expensive software suites that aren't necessarily the right tools for the job. Comprehensive tools like Hubspot and Salesforce can create scalable marketing engines that help a business grow. Yet they can also become a nightmare if they're not the right fit for what your rapidly changing industry is doing.
Misaligned Expectations from Leadership
Because marketing is so visible, everyone thinks they're an expert. These visible elements can sometimes overshadow the invisible strategy. If a founding team doesn't take the time to buy into the strategy and understand it deeply, it can lead to misconceptions about the output of the team and what they're working on. I've worked with founders who think 70% of marketing is making press releases.
It's any wonder the industry averages for senior marketing roles fall around 18 months - juggling these challenges (and more) can be a thankless job.
But with challenges come opportunities, so let's look at the potential of hungry junior talent and AI's latest capabilities.
The case for junior talent and embracing AI tools
Junior talent usually has no hang-ups or deep specializations, and high adaptability and coachability. Many startups and scaleups have benefited from taking on those first speculative hires and watching them thrive. I used to work at a crowdfunding platform called Pozible. We were looking for marketing interns and came across Jack - who was managing a popular Facebook Pokemon fan page on the side. This page had over 100,000+ followers and became one of our first hires. His curiosity and energy were infectious and we learned as much from him as he did with us. Jack has gone on to become an award-winning strategist who now works for a top UK ad agency.
Fast learners now win even more
Fast learning has always been a valuable skill. Yet with the advent of new AI tools - the value of this skill has grown by orders of magnitude. The ability to learn, adapt, and apply new skills works well with the ever-increasing rate of change. Your business has realized it needs more video? Throw your young and curious talent into the pool of AI tools out there with a desired outcome and be impressed with what they come back with.
Another startup added an interactive purchasing layer to TikTok videos with their API technology. The founder was looking for someone good with TikTok. I put her in touch with Simon - a marketing graduate who had multiple viral videos out as the platform was exploding.
Simon's ability to embrace a new platform and make it sing was highly valued. So much so he later ended up moving to TikTok in the Creative Partnerships team.
Embracing the change and building a modern marketing team
So how might you engineer a team that's optimizing toward the capabilities of AI tools? A new team has the edge here due to the absence of legacy systems, processes, or outdated approaches. This edge could lead to fast movement and capturing share versus incumbent competitors. But - there are still some moves older teams can make to balance the ledger.
Options for existing marketing teams:
1. You could continue with your current processes and wait for market maturity to reach AI tools. Your existing teams were constructed for a reason, and you could simply rely on tried and true methods before changing anything too quickly.
2. Another approach could be taking on a fresh marketing manager and briefing them on embracing and integrating AI tools with existing processes and procedures. This way you get some of the benefits without reinventing the wheel. One callout - such a hire would need aircover and support from your marketing leader as the meeting of old and new approaches will likely create tension around the business.
The latter seems like a safe bet. The benefits you could potentially gain far outweigh the few months it would cost to trial something. Platforms like Athyna make it easy to identify the right fit for your business too.
Pathways for new marketing teams
A new marketing team can lean into the new capabilities. They can also gain efficiencies by employing the caliber of remote talent that Athyna has access to. Hiring a fractional CMO or growth marketing director with this focus would enable rapid testing, learning, and identifying fast ways to create a marketing engine powered by AI tools, produces superior output levels, and embraces all of the capabilities the latest tools enable.
1.Define your marketing goals
What are the outcomes you're after? What metrics need to shift for you to determine that marketing is doing what it needs to do? Understand that your metrics and goals will change over time. Also, be ready to consider the interdependencies that pop up in a scaling organization. How will Sales and Marketing interact? Do approvals and costs need to go through the Technology team? What involvement and reporting will go up to the Exec team?
2. Run mini-test campaigns
You don't need a team to embrace campaign creation and learn what works. Brief an external partner, or get the team to play with some of the available channels. Are ads doing nothing? What happens when you run a webinar? Are there any partners that complement your business well? The aim at this stage isn't to get a return on investment. It's to identify channels that have the highest potential to perform for you with the right leadership, team, and focus. The benefit of outsourcing this first means you can test the waters before making significant commitments.
3. Hire a senior marketer
Once you've identified what works and can see the results of your preliminary tests, it's time to identify a marketing leader and hand over the reins. An experienced marketer will be able to appreciate what you're trying to do from your existing efforts and will have ideas about how they can scale these into consistent and ever-improving outputs. Talk about your goals and campaigns as part of the recruitment process and be open about what you're willing to play with and invest in to make success happen.
4. Hire your new marketing team
Now this is where the rubber hits the road. Assemble your team of junior marketers composed of quick learners and "figure-it-outers". An easy way to screen for this is to ask talent what other projects they're working on and what they've learned playing with ChatGPT. It's far better to have people with curious mindsets that unpack and solve problems than established and credentialled heads with just one specialization.
5. Lead with a culture of continuous improvement
This needs to come from your leaders and be embraced from the start. Embrace a testing methodology and record what you're doing, allow enough time, and regroup with reviews of what is and isn't showing signs of promise and why. It's important to continue testing, adding, and discarding channels as you work towards the goals that have been set. Regular knowledge sharing with the business and other members of the team can also get everyone behind these new approaches.
Enjoy and document the journey
There's something special about working things out and helping a business thrive. It's important to capture the moments and the knowledge you unlock. Tools like Notion make documentation easier, and Loom is perfect for fast on-the-fly explainers and demonstrations. If you're looking for ready-made Standard Operating Procedures - you can grab a whole library to take and adapt for your processes through Clickminded.
There's never been a better time
Easier said than done right? Yet it's never been a better moment for a curious and hungry team to see what's out there, grab it and test it through the right processes, and set up an organization for success. Remote working, AI tools that help with SEO, Copy, Graphic Design, and web-building are all growing capabilities and at a team's fingertips.
We hope that this guide provided some prompts for thought (not for ChatGPT) and that you can now integrate this knowledge into your organization and start adjusting. Good luck and start building!