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Hiring a SaaS marketer? Good luck with that.

Updated: 7 days ago


Hiring a SaaS marketer with Proxi UPSIDE

Hiring good SaaS marketers is hard.

Hiring good SaaS marketers in a crisis is even harder - and if you don’t think this is a crisis, you might want to look a little harder…

With no new talent coming into New Zealand, new startups springing up every day and VC money flowing into the country at unprecedented rates, the talent that does exist is under pressure. It’s a seller’s market; salaries are going up, time in roles is coming down and it’s getting harder and harder for companies to secure the talent they need.

Based on this excellent survey by Thomas Recruitment, and validated by our own experience in the local market, 50% of new marketing hires fail. If you’re a SaaS CEO, that means you’ve got a 50/50 chance of bagging some talent, getting them productive, and holding onto them for long enough for them to make a real difference to your business.

The odds are nothing short of terrifying and far worse than they should be. We’ve been working in this world for more than three years and seen it all. Here are our top five reasons why we see tech marketing hires fail to fire.

1. What organisations think they need (in terms of skills/capability and experience) and what they actually need are two different things.

The problem is, most organisations don’t know what their marketing problem is. You may know you’re not achieving the results you want, the board is probably telling you ‘your marketing sucks’ so you know you need a marketer…

In the same way, developers write in different languages, marketers have different areas of expertise. Given its scale, most tech marketers in NZ are generalists, which is useful in a Swiss Army knife kind-of-way. But until you’re clear on what problems you really need to solve, the odds of finding exactly the right marketer are increasingly stacked against you. Even Swiss Army knives come in a range of sizes and colours.

For example, if you’ve got all the marketing fundamentals in place, but you’re lacking leads - you need a growth marketer. But if your fundamentals aren’t in place, the growth marketer is likely heading for failure. And failure may not happen fast - your bright new ‘Swiss Army Knife’ looks to be doing the right things but slowly you realise they really aren’t cutting it.

To make the right hire, you’ve got to have a deep and thorough understanding of the problems you need to solve, scope the position description well and then find the right horse for the course.

2. Interviewing managers don’t know the right questions to ask to work out whether the person they’re interviewing is right for the role.

If you’re a CEO trying to hire a marketer, but you’ve never done any SaaS marketing yourself, how do you know the right questions to ask or whether the answers you are getting are credible? You don’t. In reality, you’re flying blind and you might as well just hire the third person through the door (assuming they seem like a decent cultural fit). You’re playing the lottery.

It takes a good marketer to figure out whether a marketer is any good at marketing. So, to stand any chance at making a decent hire, you need a good marketer on your hiring panel. But for that marketer’s opinion to be truly valuable - they need to have a reasonable understanding of your business - Catch-22 is calling.

3. The corporate strategy and the marketing strategy are misaligned, which means the marketing investment is unlikely to deliver useful outcomes.

For a marketer to succeed they need to understand exactly what the corporate strategy is. If the corporate strategy isn’t clear, isn’t documented, or is in any way ambiguous, the marketer will fail. Why? Because it’s impossible for them to determine what marketing success looks like.

We’re constantly amazed at how poor Kiwi SaaS organisations generally are at defining and documenting even the most basic elements of their business strategy. Very few have clear annualised, let alone quarterly, plans. For sure, organisations, particularly in their early stages, need to be fluid (and comfortable with the dreaded ‘pivot’ word) but that’s simply not an excuse for not planning and not being clear on what success looks like.

For a marketer to be successful, they need to know what the Marketing KPIs are. And unless those KPIs are derived from a clear company strategy they will fail. If the KPIs are clear then – and only then – can a marketer develop a marketing plan that will be aligned with the company strategy.

4. The positioning of the role inside the organisation structure and the KPIs associated with it are wrong and the candidate is set up to fail before they even start.

For a marketer to make a real impact on a business they need to have a seat at the table so they have much-needed oversight of everything happening across the business. They need to be able to influence strategy and steer the boat, however, more often than not they are put in a position where they can’t ‘do’ very much at all. They’re expected to pull rabbits out of hats, but don’t have any of the authority or leverage necessary to make a real difference.

We frequently see SaaS businesses hiring 25-year-old marketers with a reporting line into sales (or directly into the CEO) and flawed expectations of what success looks like. It just doesn’t work like that. If marketing is important then you need a marketing lead who sits at the top table. And if they can’t justify their seat then it’s the person that’s wrong – not the logic.

In a SaaS world, an experienced SaaS marketer should be worth their weight in subscriptions.

5. CEOs and marketers speak different languages which leads to communication blockages and challenges.

This is often when things come unstuck. Everyone sets off with the best of intentions, but it becomes very evident after a few weeks that the marketer and the CEO are on different wavelengths. The CEO needs the marketer to succeed in order for them to succeed, but they’re unable to find a way of communicating that works for both of them. Before you know it, they’ve stopped communicating altogether. And once the CEO and the marketer have stopped communicating then it’s all over... for the marketer.

CEOs need management data, they need summary information, they’re constantly assimilating information from all over the business to make important day-to-day decisions. Marketers often live in the weeds and don’t know what the CEO needs to know. To succeed they must get these details ironed out upfront and develop a working relationship that gives both of them what they need. This takes time, effort on both sides, and often some coaching from a third-party. It can be done and when the marketer and the CEO are on the same wavelength the magic can happen.

If you’re in the market for a SaaS marketer and any of these points resonate with you then get in touch and we’ll let you know how Proxi can radically improve your odds with our recruitment and coaching services, Proxi UPSIDE.


StretchSense CEO Ben O'Brien about Proxi UPSIDE