Your marketing might be struggling, or perhaps it’s simply plateauing. It feels like you’ve gone through everything that could possibly be causing the issue, and the only answer is that you’re simply not producing enough content. But it feels like you’re already at capacity. There’s just no way you can handle increasing your workload.
That’s just one example of a way to arrive at this question: is it time to add to the marketing team?
The thing is, while it might be easy to spot the pain point, arriving at the proper conclusion is a bit trickier. You might feel crunched, but hiring a new marketer might not be the answer. Or maybe it’s actually time to grow your team, and you aren’t yet feeling that pain.
So how do you know when the time is right to add to your marketing team? And once you know, what’s the best way to go about making sure that you add the right person (or people)? Let’s get into it.
When should you add someone to your marketing team?
As you might guess, and as is often the case when it comes to answering a marketing question, the answer is really “it depends.” Helpful, right? But there really isn’t a single right answer—there isn’t one hard-and-fast rule or metric that says “now’s the time to hire a content specialist” that’s going to apply to every case in precisely the same way. It’s going to depend on your business’s specific situation.
So the better question to ask would be this: what are the things you should be looking for to identify whether or not you need to add to your team?
What is your team’s operating budget?
Hiring someone is a big decision, with far-reaching implications. Think about it: if you commit to a new hire, you’re paying them a yearly salary. That in and of itself is a major investment. Now consider benefits, training, development, and even things like increases in overhead that a growing staff might require.
Can you afford to pay for all of that?
There are, obviously, scenarios in which the investment is worth it. If you simply have to up your marketing game to bring in more business for your business to grow, that growth could pay for your new team member several times over. But if your marketing budget is low and there’s no room for it to grow, you’d probably be better off making improvements to your process and smaller investments in things like paid media.
Is your current situation permanent?
A heavy workload can feel like an emergency. And sometimes it is. Sometimes a major increase in the amount your marketing department has to deal with can be permanent, if your business is embarking on a major growth strategy or has taken the step from small business to beyond.
But it’s also possible that a sudden uptick in your workrate is temporary. It might last only a few days, making it obvious. But even if it’s several months, when that busy season ends, will you regret hiring a full-time employee to join your team? Will you have enough for them to do—and will you be able to afford to keep them employed?
Adding to your team cannot be a long-term solution to a short-term problem. You have to be able to assess whether or not your current situation will persist. You have to be planning for the long haul, rather than just overreacting to right now.
What are your goals and expectations?
What’s your marketing team supposed to be doing? Obviously one answer to this is “marketing,” but in a more precise way, what are your goals? What do the people who write the checks expect from you in terms of results? What are you measuring, and what benchmarks are you trying to hit?
These, of course, are questions you should already have answers to. But they’re a critical part of your decision-making process when it comes to adding to your team. If you’re already meeting your goals, or (more likely) there’s a way that you can step up to hit your KPIs without adding to your team, then it probably means you don’t need another team member. But if you’re truly floundering, or if it’s time to ratchet up your goals to achieve at the next level, then sure—it’s time to hire someone.
What will adding someone do to the rest of your team?
This is pretty simple—how would adding a member change the way your current team works? Bringing on a new hire might free up capacity for your existing team, allowing them to do better work and grow as people. Or it might stifle them, penning them into a restrictive box and forcing them to stagnate in their role—and, perhaps, one day leave to truly spread their wings. The only real guarantee is that things will change.
It’s impossible to change the makeup of your team without changing its chemistry. If you vet them well and find an awesome person, that change might be minimized as they fit right in, or it might even be a positive change that helps everyone do better work. But that isn’t a guarantee. It can feel like the solution to your problem is simply to hire someone but not only is that not always true, sometimes it can have the opposite effect. So think about your current team before you make a change, and don’t just think about it in terms of numbers. Think about the dynamics you’ll affect as well.
Can a hired gun do the job?
You might get through this thought experiment and realize that you don’t really have the need, or the budget, or the ability to bring on a full-time employee...but man, you really do need some help. Thankfully, one of my favorite things is available: a third option. A non-permanent hire, to put it simplistically.
In the most vanilla situations, you can simply hire a freelancer—a writer, designer, or other specialist who works alone and executes on behalf of clients like you. If you know what you want and you have an idea of what it will take to get it done, you should be well-equipped to find a freelancer who can help.
If you need a little more guidance, though, you’ll need someone with a defter touch. Depending on the size of the project, you have some options. If you’re looking for one-off support on something major like a new product release, you might simply need a consultant who can help you determine the best way to execute (which you can then either do yourself or take to one of those freelancers we were just talking about). But if you’re just nowhere and you need substantial marketing assistance—think “I need to hire a marketing department” rather than “I need to hire a marketer”—it’s probably time to start shopping for an agency partner. There’s a little more to it than that, but put simply, this is how you can choose a marketing partner.
These options may feel expensive, but trust us—they’re a lot less expensive than hiring a full-time employee you end up not having the budget for.
How do you identify the right person to add to your marketing team?
Deciding the time’s right to add to your team feels like a big move, but you’re really just getting started. If you don’t pick the right person to add, all that due diligence means nothing. Here’s what you should be thinking about when you’re vetting your candidates.
Every business is different. If you’ve worked more than one place, you know that. So it’s important to make sure that if you’re going to add someone to your team, they need to fit in in terms of their personality, their life and work goals, and a whole host of other ways. If you’re participating in the hiring process, it’s probably smart to make sure you have a good handle on exactly what your business’s culture is, rather than just a feel for it or even a guess. A person who isn’t a cultural fit might not work out in the long run, no matter what their qualifications or abilities.
The makeup of your team
We already touched on this, but if you’re adding a member to your marketing team, that person had better fit in and work well with the rest of your team. Who’s already there? How do you work together? Are there peculiarities that might throw off a newbie? It’s critical that you’re thinking through things like this during the hiring process.
One way you can check the fit before you hire is to make a group interview a part of it—in addition to your talent expert and your marketing chief, have the prospective employee “interview” with the rest of the team and see how they like each other.
Is whether your team likes the new hire the most important part of the hiring process? No, probably not. But if they can’t function together, the work will assuredly suffer.
Skills and abilities
Okay, so this is probably pretty obvious, but you’re going to want to hire someone who’s good at the things you want them to do. I’m not going to belabor this too much, but there are a few things that are important traits for basically every marketer to have, past the obvious of just “being a good writer” or “having a creative mind.”
Curiosity. Critical thinking skills. The ability to motivate oneself and work collaboratively. If the person you hire lacks some—or worse, all—of those skills, it’s probably not going to work out, even if they’re the best writer or artist in the world. They might be great in another capacity, but in marketing, these are simply traits you have to have.
If you’d like some more detail on this, we actually covered it at some length recently. It’s never going to be comprehensive, but this is a great start on figuring out what to look for in a marketer.
Assume nothing, investigate everything
There is often more than one way to solve a problem. When you experience a lack of capacity on your marketing team or a plateau in performance, it might feel like the only way forward is to hire someone. And sometimes that is the best option. But it’s not a conclusion you should jump to, and if it is the right move, it’s not a decision to make lightly or rush through.
Go through the process of interrogating whether or not you really need to add a full-time team member, and be honest with yourself about whether or not your problems could be solved with a freelance, consultancy, or agency hire or even simply by changing your process, strategy, or tactics a bit. And if you do hire, think through what you need and what your prospective hires provide. Do it right, and your marketing team will soar—no matter what decision you come to.
And to make sure you do come to the correct decision, we actually went into a lot more depth in our webinar Constructing Your Marketing Team for Success. There you can get advice from people who have built marketing teams that kick butt—our own Dustin Clark, alongside Kevin Bailey from Powderkeg and Conga’s Claire Couch. They talk about everything from building a smart strategy and measuring how it’s working to, of course, when and how to hire. You can download the recording today right here and get the full scoop.
Thomas fills a few roles at E3—writer, editor, and resident European soccer expert—but his chief responsibility is content creation. When he's not crafting thoughtful content for the Element Three blog, he's captaining our kickball team, watching the Mets, or talking up Indianapolis to anyone who will listen.
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