Mentioned resource: Guide to hiring a marketing firm

Overview and transcript

Hey there I’m John Doherty and I’m the founder and CEO of Credo where we help great companies get introduced fast to the best pre-vetted digital marketing firms. 

Be sure to stay to the end where I’ll tell you where you can go to download our free guide to hiring a digital marketing firm.

Today we’re going to talk about how to hire a marketing team when you haven’t done it before. 

Maybe you’re the new marketing leader at a company and you’ve been tasked with hiring a team to get all the things done. There’s too much going on for you to handle on your own, so it’s time to build a team. But how do you do it well, and how do you figure out who to hire when and whether you should even hire in-house or an agency? Doing it wrong is expensive and you can sacrifice a lot of potential growth with the wrong hires.


In this video I’m going to share with you my own experience with hiring a marketing team when I was in-house with Zillow, and also some major lessons I’ve learned over the last few years watching thousands of companies who are investigating hiring  a marketing firm.

If you do it right, you’ll have a rockstar team around you executing at a high level.

If you do it wrong, you’ll still be stuck doing most of the things with an expensive payroll of underperformers to boot.

When I went in-house with Zillow in 2013 to build out the marketing function at their rentals brand HotPads (like the things you use to get hot things out of your oven), it was my first time being tasked with building a whole function from scratch. I knew that I could do it, but had a lot to learn.

The biggest challenge I faced was which roles to hire and when. I had a direct line to the top of Zillow, since I reported to the CMO, and so I could open up whatever headcount I needed. I actually remember we were talking about hiring a few software engineers to take the growth/marketing development load off the product development team. I asked for two, and she said “why not get 4?”

I laughed, and we opened up 4 roles and hired them all.

Now even if, and maybe even especially if, you don’t have this sort of budget or buy-in, you  need to think strategically about your hires. As I’ve been building Credo and the team overall, including our marketing function, I’ve learned a five point framework that has helped me hire more effectively  and see results.

Here we go.

5 steps to building a marketing team from scratch

  1. Prove the channel before you hire
    • Do it yourself to get it started, maybe leaning on experts to help you out with knowledge that you don’t yet have.
  2. Establish a benchmark and have set metrics to be accountable for before hiring
    • If you’re hiring an expert, either internally or externally, you need to know where you are starting from so that you can see the improvement. Nothing improves without added effort or changes.
  3. Hire the right number of people
    • One of the most common mistakes I see companies make is hiring the wrong number of persons for a role. I see a lot of companies trying to hire one person to do a lot of things. Even at small companies where people wear a lot of hats, multiple channels is going to be too much for just one person, even a rockstar digital marketing manager. If you have multiple channels you are trying to staff, it’s probably best to have a marketing manager internally who is working with experts or a true full service agency to get it done.
    • Here’s the myth – companies usually assume agencies are super expensive. The reality though is that they’re often a lot cheaper because you can often get a full marketing team for the price of one full time hire.
  4. Hold them accountable
    • Since you started proving out the channel yourself before you hired anyone, you should have projections on the growth you need to hit and then what numbers you need to hit each month. I like to hold people accountable on both a weekly and a monthly basis. This is so that you can identify issues early on and course correct so that you don’t end up a month or more down the line and nothing has moved.
  5. Commit
    • And finally, you need to commit. You need to commit to the strategy/channel for at least 6 months to really know how it will perform and to give yourself time to adjust where adjustments are needed. Nothing is ever perfect out of the gate, and if you need to see a return straight away then you should  not be looking at that channel.

So to recap, if you want to hire a marketing team effectively:

  1. Prove out the channel yourself first, maybe with the help of experts, before you hire someone full time inhouse
  2. Establish a benchmark off of which  to measure results
  3. Hire the right number of people – a single person or an agency
  4. Hold them accountable to their numbers as you march towards your goals
  5. Commit to at least 6 months before you say it’s not working.

If this was helpful to you, download our executive’s guide to hiring a marketing firm.