The First Marketing Hire – Who You Gonna Call?

So, you’ve done it.  You’ve started your business.  You’ve got a fantastic product or solution.  You’ve done the research and you know there’s an ideal product-market fit. 

You’ve found some backers, or you know, maybe you just sold your car, but you’re ready and you’re looking for the marketer of your dreams to help you spread the good word.  

And suddenly you’re hit with a conundrum. 

Who should your first marketing hire be? Or as Ray Parker Jr. so aptly put it all the way back in 1984 – who you gonna call?

The first marketing hire 

Want the good news?  If you’re in the unenviable position of trying to figure out who your first marketing hire should be, you’re not alone.

Here at Vehicle Media, we run into this problem all the time.  You’re a slim organization, and you know you need to invest in marketing, but even the biggest rockstar in the world, simply can’t do everything that you need.

The field is just too big and too diverse, and to be quite honest, if you come across someone who says they know it all, you’ve found your first red flag just there. 

So how to narrow things down, to at least start to get a sense of what you need?  In most cases, rather than looking outwards, the answer you’re looking for can be found from within (we went there).   

What is the core element of marketing that will help your business grow your revenue stream(s) most efficiently in the quickest way possible? 

Find the answer to that question – and you’re suddenly on much firmer grounds for making your first marketing hire.  

Why does marketing exist? (what you need to think about before you think about the first marketing hire)

When you start to break it down, the amount of functions that are grouped under the term marketing is really quite mind-boggling.   Former CMO of Drift, Dave Gerhardt, provides a comprehensive breakdown of some of the fields that modern marketing teams are tasked with ownership of today:

Dave Gerhardt’s ‘How to Structure and Manage a Marketing Team’ 

While it would clearly be impossible for a single individual to hold expertise in every single one of these functions, the list here gives you some idea of the breadth of fields that many marketers are expected to at least know of if not be chapter and verse voices of authority.  

So rather than trying to look for someone who can do everything listed above, for those considering the first marketing hire, the onus should be on which area of marketing do you need to deliver on first, to help your business, in many instances, just survive. 

We all get carried away and dream of $$$ signs in the future, but as the old saying goes, before you can run, you’ve gotta learn to walk. 

The three types of marketer (narrowing the search for the first marketing hire) 

For Gerhardt – there are three types of marketers you can broadly bucket folks into when considering the core competencies of marketing. 

Now you might be thinking to yourself – hang on, I need someone who can do all of these things, but once again, we’d suggest you turn that wandering eye inwards.  Which of these functions is most important to your needs right now.  Which of the dark arts of marketing, will help you pay the bills, so you can – hopefully – start to see those revenue numbers incrementally begin to stack up. 

The first marketing hire – finding someone who can grow into their own shoes… 

When new parents shop for clothes for a kid, there’s often a tendency to buy a few sizes up, to accommodate for the little angels’ growth spurts.  In some ways, looking for your starter marketer requires a similar mindset. 

While identifying a core skill set, and the type of marketer, who will help you achieve your most immediate goals from Day 1 is vital.  When considering the first marketing hire, it’s critically important, and often overlooked, to keep an eye out for someone who can grow and develop with your business

You need to be thinking a few steps ahead.  Perhaps the person you’re looking for is not yet a fully-fledged content machine, but do they have the willingness to learn and flexibility of mindset, to one day grow into and help own that business requirement? 

“You need someone with deep intellectual curiosity, incredible work ethic, the ability to think from first principles, loves problem-solving, and thrives in a fast-paced/changing work environment” – wrote one commentator in a forum on this topic.  

While skills can be learned, attitude is something that tends to be much more inherent in an individual from the start – are you cultivating the kind of environment that will attract this kind of individual?  Have you built an organization that is exciting enough to attract the dream first marketing hire?

Bringing it all back home to the first marketing hire

So, there you have it – if not a completely definitive answer to your problems hopefully in the above we’ve at least given you some good cud for the chewin’.  

And to bring it back to our original point – the question at hand here is not an easy one.  Businesses of all sizes – from the leanest of start-ups to multinational giants – are, more often than not, in a constant dialogue with themselves around how to most efficiently structure their marketing operations.  

We’re not here to tell you that there is a definitive way to do things – but we are here to offer a helping hand, and if needed a sympathetic ear.  At Vehicle Media, we’re lucky enough to have access to a pool of talent with expertise across the various fields of marketing and business strategy.  United we stand, and well, together we deliver some good shit. 

Perhaps a quick conversation with us can help you get a little bit closer to understanding what your marketing needs might be.  Who knows, perhaps we can even help you deliver on them? 

What You Can Learn About Modern Marketing From the Grateful Dead

With so many musicians and music-lovers here at VM, it’s due time that we acknowledge and discuss one of the most iconic bands of all time. Yes folks, we’re talking about one of the world’s most famous cult-favorite bands – the Grateful Dead – and how they impacted the marketing industry for years to come. Many, many people have pointed out parallels between the Dead’s practices and today’s marketing world, but we’ve taken some of our favorites and highlighted why they worked for the Dead and how you can apply them to business today.

Sell Experiences


Tickets saved from Dead shows in the 1980’s – setlist from one of said shows. Special thanks to the Farley family for the photos!

The Dead:

When you think about the Dead, what first comes to mind is likely a bunch of music-loving hippies following their favorite band across the country in retro VW vans. While this isn’t super far off from the truth, it’s easy to have some questions about the phenomenon that is the Grateful Dead. What’s so special about this bunch of scraggly looking dudes? Why is this song 18 minutes long? What’s the hype?

The answers to these questions are the exact reason why the Dead is so special. They did something no band up until that point had done – they created an amazingly unique experience for their fans. The way the music industry worked in the ‘60s (and largely today) was to work with a record label, record an album, and tour to promote the album. The Dead didn’t do this. They toured year-round, made setlists up as they went, and dressed and acted as they pleased. This unique and carefree aura, paired with their novel sound, created a very large and loyal following that has continued to trickle down from generation to generation.

In Marketing:

The best way to explain experiential marketing in today’s world is to look at a tried and true example of good customer service – The Ritz Carlton. There are many luxury resorts, but what sets every one of the 91 Ritz Carltons apart is the outstanding customer service. Their “Three Steps of Service” and “12 Service Values” are placed very clearly on their site and for employees, these rules are more than just an intro packet when they start – they are regularly enforced! No matter which resort you’re staying at, you can expect the same exceptional customer service – in fact you’ll hear many of the same phrases, such as “my pleasure” and “right away” used at each location. The same principle was used by the Dead. Create an exceptionally unique experience for your audience, and people will keep coming back for more.

Experiment, and Experiment Some More

The band in 1970.

The Dead:

One of the most alluring things about the Dead’s shows is that no two were alike and each included a large amount of improvisational playing. In fact, Jerry Garcia himself said that 80% of each show was made up as the band played. Though many bands have followed suit, (hence “jam bands”) this was an extremely unusual concept compared to other bands of the time. Because there was so much experimentation at each show, the Dead frequently messed up while playing – and fans were okay with that! Some shows were duds, while others were bangers— and the bangers, that’s where the magic happened!

In Marketing:

The takeaway from this nugget is to take risks and experiment! Let your team try out new tools, softwares and ideas. Let your marketers be creative and collaborate. Do things differently than every other company out there. It’s true that sometimes things won’t work and you’ll have to go back to the drawing board, but genuinely thinking outside the box (vs. just saying you do) might be the push you need to stand out.

Distributing Free Content

Tapers Section in the 1980’s;  photo via Reddit

The Dead: 

Unlike other bands, the Dead encouraged people to tape their performances, trade show tapes and distribute their music to others (as long as it wasn’t for commercial purposes!). Since the real magic of the Grateful Dead was in their live performances, the tapes allowed for the band to gain a ton of exposure and attracted hundreds of new fans. Concerts swelled with new faces wanting to experience the shows for themselves. Does this type of influx sound familiar? Maybe kind of like a *cough* viral post in today’s world? Bingo! By making themselves “spreadable,” each tape recorded and traded acted as a type of free marketing for the band.

In Marketing:

One of the main aspects of inbound marketing involves producing quality content to draw people to you vs. heavily advertising yourself. Make your fans want to come to you. Many brands still think that giving away free content will harm their business, but in actuality, quite the opposite happens. If you’re producing content that your customer actually wants to see and finds useful, you set yourself up to be seen as a trusted leader in the space. People will share your content, which will, in turn, lead to new business.

Tip: Consider gating your content. Ask for a customer to submit their email address in exchange for access to your content. This collects and creates a marketing database of people interested in your brand that will be likely to engage in the future.


Photo via Vice

The Dead:

The fans of the Grateful Dead traveled to many, many shows – often following the band all over the country. As time progressed and the “Deadhead” community grew, vendors started popping up in a specific parking lot or field surrounding the venue before the show. This still exists at every Dead (now known as Dead & Company) show and is truly part of the overall experience. The Grateful Dead’s two most common logos- “Steal Your Face” and “Dancing Bears” – can be found on a wide assortment of things, including posters, clothes, hats, shirts and more at a row of tents named after the song “Shakedown Street.” Rather than banning artists from using their logos, the Dead licensed it out – allowing for other entrepreneurs and fans to create unique dead merch. More branded merchandise = more exposure!

In Marketing: 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that influencers partner with brands to promote products and services in an authentic way. Influencer marketing is extremely effective for growing awareness, creating new fans, and making your brand relatable and trustworthy. The influencers of Instagram today parallel the way the lot dwelling vendors did (and still do) for the Dead. Working with people that want to sing the praises of your work or product will always benefit business.

Exclusivity & Loyalty 

Insert urging fans to the Dead’s Fan Club. Photo via “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead” Webinar

The Dead:

As the band’s popularity grew, the Dead hired someone to manage their blossoming fanbase and make sure their experience was always stellar. One of the things that their program manager was in charge of was heading up the Fan Club. In each of their albums, they placed their “Dead Freaks Unite” notice, which encouraged fans to sign up for their mailing list. Once signed up, fans would receive exclusive content, like art and band updates. This “exclusive” content made fans feel special, thus further promoting people’s deep ties to the band.

In Marketing:

In efforts to connect with their community, the Dead created what would turn into modern-day email marketing and loyalty programs. Offering up the most quality content and deals to fans can make that customer a fan for life. For example, Nordstrom’s “Nordy Club” gives members early access to sales, free shipping, unlimited returns and more when you sign up. For the consumer, this gives an extra incentive for shoppers to buy from Nordstrom vs. similar stores.

This concept also applies to agencies, firms and other service-based companies— pay close attention to your existing client base! Offering tips, tricks, and insider info to your clients for free will further their positive experience with you and your brand. It’s easy to get bogged down chasing new clients, but making sure your current “fan base” is happy should always be at the forefront.

From their style of music to the way they promoted themselves, everything the Grateful Dead did was the type of innovation that was bound to leave a lasting impact. As Dead fans ourselves, we’ve highly enjoyed researching the parallels between one of our favorite bands and our line of expertise. If you’re interested in learning more about the marketing aspect of the Dead, this wonderful book by HubSpot founder Brian Halligan and marketing guru David Meerman Scott dives a bit deeper. If you’re interested in how the Dead can bless your ears and soul, there’s many a playlist on Spotify – or even better, check for a stop on the Dead & Co Tour near you to experience the magic yourself.

How to Make Account Based Marketing Work for B2B

What is Account Based Marketing (ABM)?

Account Based Marketing, or ABM, uses all of the traditional methods of a sophisticated CRM-driven digital marketing strategy to target ideal, specific accounts as valuable potential clients. It’s an attractive solution for B2B-focused companies who may have struggled with making lead nurture email campaigns, SEM campaigns, and cross-platform retargeting work in a way that supports their actual sales cycle. These types of campaigns may require more upfront work and team collaboration than your team may be used to, but the investment is likely to result in higher ROI for B2B.

So what are the steps to starting your first ABM campaign?

Get Your Sales Team Onboard

For an ABM strategy to work smoothly, your sales and marketing teams can’t keep to separate silos. The information you’ll need to create your list of account targets should come directly from your sales and operations teams. Sit down for a meeting of the minds and ask yourselves, what are the highest value accounts out of your current customers? You can use these accounts as a model to create a profile of an ideal target account. Determine what industries, company sizes, and budgets you’re looking for, and generate a list of known prospect accounts that fit your criteria with your sales team. Chances are they’ll already have a few white whales they’d like to suggest. Aim for a list of 10 to start.

From there, it’s the job of the marketing team to identify pain points specific to each of the account targets and develop content designed to be useful to them. B2B sales cycles tend to be longer and involve more touch points than B2C, which means that building trust and reputation with valuable content is useful for lead nurture campaigns that keep your company top of mind when the account is in a position to hire.

Stakeholders and Decision-Makers

Next, you’ll need to define what positions at each company to target with your content. What roles are most likely to be involved in making a recommendation to consider your product or services? Who is likely to get the final say? In some cases, depending on your ability to research the specific companies on your list, you might even narrow this down to names at each target company. This can really help to dial in what kind of content might be seen as most relevant to the stakeholders you want to reach.

B2B Personalization

Develop your content and marketing campaigns to address the pain points and day-to-day concerns most relevant to your target’s industry and role. From here, developing an account based marketing campaign is virtually identical to an inbound marketing strategy, except that here you’re targeting a company as a whole instead of a single customer on a buyer’s journey. A display ad campaign aimed at the prospect account’s C-suite employees can be part of the same marketing strategy that’s deploying educational emails to the inboxes of lower-level stakeholders with the power to recommend your product to upper management. How-to blogs may be optimized for easy onboarding with any prospect account’s implementation team, and from there you may look at customer engagement campaigns for continued success. Consider which platforms will work best to reach each stakeholder in your target market and let that drive your ad placement choices.

Scale Coordinated Digital Campaigns

Because ABM strategy focuses in so tightly on covering specific accounts from multiple angles, you’re probably going to want to make sure you have a robust CRM or other marketing automation software suite to support your efforts. These can best help you build and easily automate complex, personalized campaigns with timely actions and predictable workflow with cross-team visibility. Your marketing campaigns should be supporting your sales team each time they reach out to a target account, and sales should have visibility into the most engaged accounts from a marketing perspective. This can quickly become tough to manage without some automation of tasks, so make sure you’re setting your team up for success with the right tools.

You’ll also need to make sure your team is prepared to implement digital advertising that works across multiple platforms and meets targets at multiple points along the sales cycle. Does your team have the ability to execute complex digital advertising across multiple channels in-house? Who will be responsible for tracking conversions and reporting campaign analytics? These are the types of considerations you’ll want to address before you launch an ABM lead generation strategy.

This new way to target B2B accounts does require cross-team buy-in and more collaboration than some teams may be used to. It may take longer to develop an ABM strategy that both works and is workable for your team, but the long-term benefits of putting most of your marketing power behind these white whale accounts can prove to be a B2B game-changer. Want to implement ACM strategies for your business but don’t know where to start? Contact us and we can help you get started.


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