Founder Q&A Series: First Marketing Hire

Back in action.

It’s been a fast/productive start to the summer but I’m grateful to be able to find some time to sit down and write these again.

This week I wanted to kick off a new Founder Series that should be widely applicable for just about anyone in a GTM role.

At GTMfund, we have a Slack channel that’s humming all day long with questions from both our founders and our operators who are struggling with hyper specific GTM questions.

We’re often told by our founders that this is where they go to get “un-googleable” answers. You won’t find these answers in Chat GPT either, these answers are earned by years and years of experience, in the trenches, navigating these challenges daily.

What I like about these threads is that we often get 10-15 different perspectives from a wide variety of GTM leaders with unique lived experiences across different categories in technology.

If you’ve been in this game for awhile, you know that there’s rarely one single answer to a problem – it takes a village.

We’ll bring that village together to wrestle with some common questions we are hearing from our founders.

Let’s get into it

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“We’re ready to bring on our first product marketer/growth manager – where do we start?”

Udi Ledergor, Chief Evangelist at Gong:

“For PLG companies, you’ll want to start with a PLG growth person who can manage the entire funnel (working with Product & Engineering) to fill the funnel and increase conversion rates.

For Enterprise Sales Companies, 95% of the time you’ll want to start with a demand gen expert who was #1 or #2 in their previous demand gen org and understands what that involves. A common mistake I see is taking someone who’s managed a smaller function like content or social and expecting them to magically figure out the bigger picture. It rarely happens without the right mentoring/coaching and experience.

The other 5% for Enterprise Software are in cases where the product is highly technical (e.g., cybersecurity or engineering product) and then a strong Product Marketer is essential off the bat to articulate the story, the value, and the differentiation. But you’re still going to need strong demand gen from Day 1 so might as well go ahead and hire both those functions ASAP.

What you DON’T NEED on Day 1 is a brand marketer or corp. comms person who hasn’t managed either demand gen or product marketing. They are needed much later along the line and will not get you from zero to one.

As for evaluating PLG and demand gen candidates, I would ask them for a detailed funnel with metrics from their last job: how much came in, what was the conversion rate at each stage, what problems did they solve to increase conversion rates, what was their cost per qualified opp, etc. If they can’t answer this, they don’t have the right experience.

Final tip: consider paying an experienced CMO to interview finalists for these roles in case the founders don’t have the right experience. Getting the right person in the door will be worth 100X whatever they pay that CMO to interview them.”

Derek Osgood, Founder/CEO at Ignition (former Director of Product Marketing at Rippling):

“Agree with Udi’s take. Although I tend to bias to hiring PMMs who have demand gen experience first, since so much at this stage is about nailing positioning/messaging to lay a scalable foundation, and creating baseline content to fuel your demand gen engine — but, PMMs who fit this bill are exceptionally hard to find and often you’ll find them in the form of Growth PMs who made the leap over)

I would urge them to get clearer on the role they’re hiring for though — when I hear “product marketer or growth manager”, what I hear is “person who markets products”, when in reality those two roles are very specialized and specific titles.  Do they need top of funnel leads (demand gen)? Do they need better mid/downfunnel conversion and positioning (PMM)?  Do they need expansion or someone who can work on product (growth)?

Also avoid big co (even mid-size-co) marketers like the plague too — good brand does not equal good marketer.  They need to have been hands-on and built programs and teams from scratch because otherwise their only skill will be telling agencies/consultants what to do.  Evaluate hard skills really critically at this stage.”

Russel Scherwin, former CRO FPX, former CMO IMB Watson Commerce:

“Everything boils down to their revenue motion and where it needs fuel.
If they haven’t figured out their revenue motion to scale then they shouldn’t even be considering a product marketer as a FTE.”

Scott Brown, former CMO, Hum Capital & VP Marketing, Sapphire Ventures:

“My perspective is that they should first hire a GPM (general purpose marketer) with a bias toward product marketing.  In my experience, technical founders don’t spend a lot of time with messaging, customer experience/journey and content, which significantly limits the ability to scale growth/PLG efforts in the mid to long term. I second the notion that they may want to engage a more seasoned marketer to help them outline their approach and help screen that first hire.”

Sei Suriyakumar, Head of Marketing at Superhuman:

“I’d suggest they prioritize the full funnel growth marketer. You are looking for someone with exceptionally high aptitude that can be scrappy, identify critical breaks and opportunities, and fix them with duct tape / popsicle sticks.

Growth marketer — if they want someone diving into funnel metrics, conversion optimization, onboarding, etc.

Product marketer – if they want persona, messaging, launch and ICP support.

They are very different roles.”

👀 More for your eyeballs

Last week Capchase announced $100M in funding deployed to female & underrepresented founders 👏

👂 More for your eardrums

We skipped launching an episode this week on the GTM podcast… figured we may as well take a break with the rest of the world during the July 1st / July 4th holidays 🇨🇦🇺🇲

If you haven’t yet tuned into our latest episode with the CEO of Outreach, Manny Medina, definitely worth the listen…new episode dropping next Tues.

🚀 Start-ups to watch: 

Tactic recently partnered up with Ably, Check em out. Tactic is one to keep on your radar👇

🔥Hottest GTM job of the week: 

Head of Marketing at Closinglock, more details here.

See more top GTM jobs here

Let us know if you have any specific GTM challenges that you’re actively wrestling with and we may just make it the topic of a future newsletter.

Our village is your village.

Appreciate you following along and as always, if you’re getting value from these each week, please pass it along to a colleague or friend who you think may find it valuable as well.

A little teaser: we have a BIG announcement coming up in August that will take the media pillar of GTMfund to the next level – stay tuned 👀

Also how is it already the weekend?

Enjoy it!


Before helping found GTMfund, Scott spent 4 years at Outreach as Director of Strategic Engagement. He was in charge of aligning key relationships with VCs, BoDs, ecosystem partners and community members to drive revenue and strategic initiatives across Outreach. Scott initially ran revenue/partnerships for Sales Hacker (which was acquired by Outreach in 2018). Prior to Sales Hacker, he led and built outbound Business Development teams at Payfirma and MediaValet. Scott also advises for a number of high growth start-ups and is the host/author of The GTM Podcast and The GTM Newsletter. At GTMfund, Scott leads all fundraising efforts and runs the media arm of the firm. He’s also responsible for assessing investments, team management, LP/community relationships and GTM support for founders.

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