3 Essential Marketing Skillsets to Look For in Early-Stage Startups

Lena Shaw, Director of Growth & Marketing at LeadGenius, moves quickly. Her pace comes with the territory. Not that there’s a problem with that. Speed was needed to scale the growth marketing team at LeadGenius from the ground up in less than two years.

In this interview, Lena Shaw shares the most effective way to build a team from one to many, while focusing on (and never losing sight of) three key skillsets along the way.

lena shaw, director of marketing and growth, leadgenius


First, let’s get one thing straight about hiring.

To Shaw, when it comes to building a marketing team, there are too many templated job roles that are all buzz and no real meaning. “Because there’s so much weight on certain roles in the industry—marketing manager, digital strategist, and demand generation manager, to name a few—most people assume that’s where you’ve got to put your time and effort when looking for candidates, says Shaw.

Rather than this hit-and-hope strategy, Shaw prefers a more deliberate  approach.


Focus on the need.

“It’s definitely tempting to follow the noise and look for your perfect candidate by role or title, but often, that won’t get you what you want, and more importantly, what you need.”

To find that need, Shaw suggests answering simple, direct questions: What skill will show the most immediate impact?  How will this skill help support a successful marketing strategy? These challenges boil down to three basic areas. For Lena, it starts with content.


1. Find a good writer, not a good content marketer

Like her marketing compatriots, Shaw understands the potential of inbound  in this tech-infused age. “It’s the age of the educated-buyer,” she says. “People are looking to inform themselves.” You don’t have to be in tech to understand. The buying decisions we make every day are directly impacted by what we know, or don’t know, about a given product or service.

B2B, Shaw says, is no different. “People will look for your content whether you want them to or not. If you can figure out a way to address these people, gain traction and attract highly qualified leads, then that’s more than half the battle right there.”

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Know when (and when not) to outsource efficiently.

Outsourcing, to an extent, can get you ahead of the game, says Shaw.

“Early on, you’ll need to show value in content so that leadership will even consider a potential full-time role.  Freelancers will help you show this value. They can cover a lot more material than you yourself have time for, and they’re cost-effective.”

“But over time, freelancers can be a burden, especially if you’re growing quickly. You can lose your voice. With freelancers, it’ll happen more than you think.”

Once you’ve identified which types of content are getting traction, Shaw notes to bring the writing skill in-house. “Though it might be beneficial to keep freelancing for certain projects, you’ll need that person, and you’ll need them to be immediately at capacity.”

And Shaw likes to point out, “The skill is writing, not marketing. Find that writer who has compelling ideas and can tell stories. If they can do those things, they’ll be able take on the voice of the company and connect with your audience.”

writing and creative skills - leadgenius


2. Invest early in the technical side of marketing

“Technical” is an important term to associate with marketing. When Shaw uses it, she’s referring to all aspects of engagement with marketing prospects: she calls these areas the mechanics of marketing. “Operational workflows, marketing automation, landing pages, forms, email drips, anything that will help you track who is reading what, and the conversions associated.”

If you look at your marketing team like an engine, (and Shaw looks at hers like one), she notes, “It’s essential to have someone who can assess the engine, and fix it or fine-tune it wherever necessary.”


Think gateway not gatekeeper.

Shaw is quick to explain this technical skillset can be found in a lot of different roles, so cutting through the noise is key: “Ideally, you find that person who thinks mechanically, and who knows marketing automation and CRM inside and out.”

Marketing workflows naturally move into your sales cycle, so this person is, as Shaw describes, the gateway to your sales team. “The more communication they have with sales,” she says, “the more they work as a revenue team together. But it starts with a gateway.”


3. Put value on shepherding prospects through the funnel

Just as Shaw puts weight on the movement from marketing to sales, she’s adamant when it comes to shepherding prospects to relevant content. This is the final piece of the engine. “All our prospects are going to arrive at the same place. But what’s more interesting to me is where [they’re] coming from, and how they’re getting here.”

“Having someone who can drive people and move prospects through the funnel, while also assessing the best channels to work with, the most effective call-to-actions (CTAs),  the best keywords, the best practices, really. That’s the skill you’re looking for,” Shaw explains.

Though Shaw acknowledges AdWords can get immediate results,  to her it’s a small piece of the advertising pie. “It’s not the whole picture. You have to consider creative ads (both design and copy) as a huge part of driving people, too.”

Having effective creative material requires steady and constant maintenance. “Every ad needs to speak to that piece of content, and needs to cause an action at different stages of the funnel.”

paid advertising funnel

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To Takeaway

  • When building a team, observe your immediate needs first. Find skillsets that answer these needs. Then, find a role based on that skillset. Never vice versa.
  • For Shaw, these needs boiled down to writing, technical-mechanics and creatives.
  • Address these needs by outsourcing to your advantage, especially when it comes to content.
  • Embrace the gateway between sales and marketing. Look at the two as one team with different strategies that meet the same goal.


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