Hiring your first marketer at a start-up, scale-up or small business 

Author Emma Jerome
November 9, 2023

Why hire a marketer? 

Marketing professionals are a crucial resource for businesses of all shapes and sizes to achieve their goals and get them where they want to be. 

No business is the same and each requires something different from a marketing perspective. But having at least one good marketer can add a huge level of value through strategic insight, ideas, frameworks and execution. 

Where you are on your journey will define the type of marketing professional you need. You might be starting from scratch in the early days of your marketing activity, or you might have something in place and want to take your marketing efforts to the next level. 

This article covers: 

If you’re a start-up, scale-up or small business, how can your first marketing hire benefit your strategy? 

Hiring your first marketer is a major step in your growth trajectory. Here are some of the benefits of your first marketing hire: 

  • Strategy and development: A good marketer can build, prioritise, develop and deliver go-to-market strategies to support your business strategy and objectives. They can create this strategy specifically for your target audience by building personas and basing marketing decisions on their analysis of customer behaviour and trends in your market. They can identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses to enhance your business’s chances of success. They will understand what your customers want – and they’re able to show your potential customers what they didn’t know they needed, and how you can fill that gap 
  • Your time back: While it’s common for employees in start-ups, scale-ups and small businesses to wear multiple hats, there’s a cost to businesses when taking employees away from their core responsibilities. Hiring a dedicated marketing professional can give your employees their time back to focus more effectively on their own roles and other areas of the business 
  • Measurable results: To deliver an effective marketing strategy, a marketer can set clear marketing metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) against business objectives, monitoring and reporting on the success of marketing plans and activities against these. This helps you understand what you’re gaining from your marketing activities and where you can make changes if necessary 
  • Building your brand: You might already have a brand, but a marketer can help you fully develop your brand strategy – including creating your brand’s identity, personality, messaging and visual elements plus its purpose, mission and values. This increases your business’s profile and brand recognition in the market. Customers trust consistent and recognisable brands, which your first marketing hire can help you deliver and maintain 
  • Lead generation and customer nurturing: If acquisition is a key goal, many of the activities your first marketing hire can deliver will focus on increasing leads to pass through to the business or sales teams. This could come from personalised emails via marketing automation, targeted content, paid advertising, search engine optimisation (SEO) and more 

What are the first steps when looking for your first marketing hire? 

The first thing to consider with your first marketing hire is what your business wants to achieve. This will help define what type of marketing efforts will help you achieve those goals. 

  1. Clearly set out your businesses and marketing goals. With the help of your first marketing hire, you can build your marketing objectives based on these. What do you want to achieve from hiring a marketing professional? Do you need a marketer who is strategic, operational, or both? Is your business going to expand in the near future and therefore require someone to build a marketing team, or will you just need a standalone marketing professional?  
  1. Look at what you already have in place. What marketing efforts have you delivered so far and with what resources? Have they worked for you? What technology do you have? This will help you find where the gaps are in your strategy and guide you on the requirements, you’ll need from your first marketing hire 
  1. Do you have the budget? You will need to consider more than just salary and benefits for your first marketing hire. You’ll need to account for other associated costs such as investment in marketing technology, advertising, external support from agencies and vendors, and more. Read more about salaries here 
  1. The job description: Be sure to outline the responsibilities you’ll require from them, as well as the marketing skills, track record, marketing background, experience and/or qualifications you’ll expect. For example, they might hold a certificate from The Chartered Institute of Marketing or similar. Will this be a standalone role or is there someone already in the business they can work with? And where will your first marketing hire sit in the structure of the organisation in terms of team and reporting line? 

What skills does my first marketing hire need? 

As local and global marketplaces become more dynamic, marketing professionals are likely to offer an increasingly broad range of skillsets. Marketing professionals will typically operate either as “marketing generalists” or have a particular area of specialist expertise within the marketing field. The most important skills to look for in a marketer include: 

  • Their marketing toolkit: Marketing skills and experience can vary, including campaign management, content marketing (including video and podcast creation), digital marketing including search engine marketing (e.g., SEO) and social media. They could also include marketing automation, lead generation, account based marketing, performance marketing, brand strategy, event management, product marketing, public relations, market research, insight and more. Do you need someone who has a very operational skillset or will they be drawing on support from a marketing agency? If the former, will they need any particular tactical skills such as creative design skills or copywriting  
  • Flexibility: Do they need to be flexible, nimble and able to deal with change? This is often a key attribute required for marketing professionals joining a start-up, scale-up or smaller business  
  • Strategic ability: An experienced marketer, particularly if they are working independently as your marketing function, needs to be able to build and deliver against marketing plans that support your business’s objectives and strategies. This covers everything from market insight through to idea generation as well as overseeing the marketing deliverables across a set timeline (and how to report on their metrics). A combination of strategic and operational experience is key 
  • Excellent communication and stakeholder management skills: It’s crucial that a marketing professional is able to communicate effectively with different types and levels of stakeholders (including across key functions such as technology, legal and compliance) while building effective relationships with senior stakeholders up to and including the C-suite or ExCo. This is particularly true if they will be expected to manage their own team  
  • Digital marketing: Whether in a specialist digital or generalist marketing role, marketing professionals should understand digital marketing and marketing technology. This can include SEO, pay-per-click advertising (PPC), online content marketing, social media marketing and email marketing and automation. Knowledge of martech and the tech stack is likely to be helpful, which may also cover a range of marketing technology such as automation systems including Pardot and HubSpot, and analytics tools such as GA4 through to CRM (e.g., Salesforce or bespoke CRM systems) 
  • Budget management: As your business’s first marketing hire, it’s important they can efficiently and effectively manage the marketing budget allocated by the business, or help determine a suitable and realistic budget required for the business to achieve the objectives 
  • Data and return on investment (ROI): A seasoned marketing professional should also know how to use data and analytics to track and measure ROI from marketing efforts  
  • Growth marketing: This could be particularly important for a small business, start-up or scale-up as you’ll need to find cost-effective ways to grow your business. For example, you might need your first marketing hire to be skilled in using free marketing channels 

What experience does my first marketing hire need?  

Marketers often have a range of transferrable skills and expertise that can be applied across different sectors. But it’s worth considering if knowledge in a particular industry is required.  

You should also consider if you need someone who has experience from a larger company who can bring “best practice” and put processes in place. Or do you need someone who has a track record of working in a smaller or high-growth scale-up, for example where the ability to operate at pace and flexibility is evident? 

Do they need specific channel experience such as B2B and/or B2C experience? Marketing strategy and implementation can vary depending on these audiences. 

What level of seniority should your first marketing hire be? 

Hiring at the right level for your first marketing hire is key. This may be determined by the objectives the business is trying to achieve and realistic budget parameters. Do you only need someone to define your marketing strategy or do you need them to deliver it too? 

Senior-level: You might be looking for a first marketing hire who can develop new ideas while working with the senior management team to develop the marketing strategy in line with business objectives. If so, you should look to hire an experienced, senior-level marketing professional operating at a Head of Marketing, Marketing Director or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) level.  

To avoid “over-hiring” in the short term, it’s important to consider hiring an experienced marketing professional who can simultaneously operate in strategically and operationally. They can develop the marketing strategy while managing the tactical marketing implementation either themselves or via external agency support.  

Mid-level: Hiring a mid-level marketing candidate such as a Senior Marketing Manager, Marketing Manager or Marketing Associate is an option. At this level, you can expect more emphasis on tactical delivery but limited expertise in developing marketing strategy.  

It’s also important to consider the level of gravitas required to work with senior stakeholders. The less experienced marketing professionals may not necessarily have the skills or experience to work with and influence senior management.  

For marketing roles, including first-time marketing hires, salaries can vary significantly. This is particularly true for smaller businesses, start-ups and scale-ups. The size and scope of the role, seniority of the hire, location of the role, industry sector and required marketing skillsets are all factors in salary.  

It’s important to consider the total compensation. Within smaller businesses, start-ups and scale-ups, the benefits packages may not always be comparable or as attractive as larger or more established companies. So the potential of offering equity or stock options for example via the EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) can be an attractive option to attract marketing professionals. 

Salary can also change depending on whether a marketing hire will be expected to build and manage a team at some point.  

As a guide for smaller or scale-up firms, seasoned marketing professionals operating as Heads of Marketing can typically expect a base salary between £90,000 and £140,000 base while at a slightly higher level Marketing Directors and CMOs can earn from £140,000 to over £200,000 a year.  

A mid-level marketing professional (from Marketing Associate to Marketing Manager) can expect to earn between £40,000 to £60,000 while a Senior Marketing Manager’s salary can range on average between £60,000 and £90,000. 

Take a look at our salary benchmarking guide to find UK salary ranges for different levels of experience and industry sectors. 

Should your first marketing hire be permanent or interim? 

You should also consider whether you need a permanent full-time employee or an interim contractor – there are many benefits to hiring either. 

Permanent, full-time employees provide commitment and consistency to growing businesses. They’re a permanent member of the business and are likely to be committed to your long-term achievements and success. You’ll have continuous access to their marketing expertise while maintaining oversight of their strategy and deliverables. 

Interim marketers are cost-effective, especially for start-ups, scale-ups and small businesses. They’re hired on a short-term basis (which could range from weeks to years depending on your needs), usually for specific projects or to fill gaps in your business. This enables flexibility for both parties. Contractors can often offer specialised marketing skills, so you can access the right marketing expertise depending on what you’re trying to achieve. 

How will you find the right talent?  

You can also look at direct hiring through advertising or your own network, though it is worth noting the time and cost associated with a direct approach and a more limited pool of relevant contacts.  

Recruitment agencies such as Carter Murray can help you connect with marketing candidates. We give you access to an extensive network of high-calibre and experienced marketing professionals while supporting you at every step of the hiring process – from the interview process and offers through to onboarding.  

The Carter Murray team can provide additional benefits at zero cost, such as guidance around team structures, assistance with job descriptions, salary benchmark data, market intelligence and more. 

Complete our form to get in touch and find out more. 

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