Should startups seek a seasoned large company marketing executive to give them credibility with VCs and drive their company to greatness? Not necessarily.
Startup marketing leaders must be hands-on and dynamic. A marketing executive from a large company is likely accustomed to relying on functional experts from across a big marketing department. Their role is much more of a conductor than someone who actually executes marketing.
Additionally, the financial targets at a startup are initially much smaller than those at a large company. Startups must manage many micro campaigns while they struggle for traction, but large companies must evaluate every marketing campaign for its potential impact against enormous marketing targets. Small but profitable campaigns generally aren’t worth the time they take to manage.
Finally, startup marketers must approach their job with much more urgency than their counterparts at big companies. There is no momentum to carry them from quarter to quarter. While they are trying to discover marketing programs with a positive ROI, their company is burning precious cash on salaries and other fixed costs.
Finding a dynamic marketing leader for a startup is more difficult than it may seem. Startup marketers must have strengths in both the creative and analytical sides of their brain. They should possess the creative skills to know what to throw against the wall and the analytical skills to figure out what actually sticks. And they can’t just be thinkers. They must also be scrappy disciplined executers.
It is also important for startup marketers to be both conservative and aggressive. Initially they trickle in customers to optimize their business model and hone their value proposition. Once the business model has been refined and proven economically viable the marketer must switch into an aggressive mode to capture market share and quickly scale the business to cash-flow positive performance. Despite the need for aggressive growth, effective startup marketers must retain the discipline to follow a systematic testing process of measurable programs.
With the right startup marketer, a new venture dramatically improves its chances of success. Marketers coming from enterprises succeed despite their large company experience, not because of it.