Why Your Start-up Business Needs a T-shaped Marketer

According to Campaign Monitor, customer acquisition is a top marketing challenge for start-ups, followed by lead generation:

smb-guide-ranked-biggest-marketing-challengesSurprisingly enough, the majority of start-ups dedicate only two hours or less weekly on marketing activities:

Time spent on marketing efforts

To get more clients, you need to be serious about your marketing strategy and hire a top tech marketer or a digital marketing agency to help your business grow.

As a founder, you have a few challenges when hiring for a marketing role or outsourcing marketing, such as:

  • You can’t hire a full marketing team
  • You need to look for a person wearing many hats
  • You don’t have an endless budget
  • You want to generate more leads online
  • You need to make a direct impact on revenue, not just brand awareness

In this article, you will find out what to pay attention to when choosing both marketing consultants and agencies to work on growing your tech business. Most importantly, you will learn why T-shaped marketers are the best fit for your start-up now.

Kim Cooper
Director of Marketing, Amazon Alexa

Single Grain enables us to increase our impact without increasing our headcount

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What Is a T-shaped Marketer?

There are plenty of specializations in marketing. You might have heard of Inbound, Brand, Social Media, and Content Marketers. The list can go on and on.

Managing marketing at a start-up often equates to wearing many hats. That is why you should be looking to hire a marketing professional who can cover all these areas of marketing – a T-shaped marketer.

A T-shaped marketer is someone who has broad marketing experience in multiple domains (SEO, copywriting, social media management, PPC ads, SMS marketing, analytics), but specializes in just one or two domains.

For example, two of these domains could be content marketing and SEO:

Zrzut ekranu 2020 08 22 o 14.03.02

Why You Need a T-shaped Marketer

You need to have a marketer who will not only be able to create a strategy, but also be responsible for its execution. For example, creating newsletter design, setting up pop-ups on landing pages or tracking customer experience with usability tests.

That doesn’t mean this person works solo all the time. T-shaped marketers also outsource some work to other specialists – for example, design, PPC ads or social media management. They should also be able to keep track of marketing goals and KPIs while utilizing external help to achieve them.

Having some knowledge of all marketing domains helps to better coordinate the work with other specialists.

Whether you are working with a marketing consultant who represents a boutique marketing agency or is a lone wolf, they’ll be able to get work done either with their own resources – designers and copywriters from their network – or by finding someone through recommendations.

Dive Deeper:
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What to Expect from a T-shaped Marketer

Before we dive deeper into the characteristics of an effective marketing consultant, let’s take a look at the requirements for senior marketing positions among some tech companies.

Here is a job advertisement from Angel List for the position of a Growth Manager in a San Francisco-based health tech startup:

Growth Manager

As you can see, this job advertisement requires an array of skills, such as sales automation, managing social media channels and third-party SaaS tools, taking care of SEO strategy, email marketing, and many other responsibilities involving more than one specialization.

The description above is exactly what you should be looking for when hiring your external marketing consultant and a T-shaped marketer.

Here is another marketing job advertisement that focuses mostly on strategic and analytical skills:

Strategy and analytic skills

So let’s break down these characteristics into more digestible elements.

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Who Make the Best T-shaped Marketers?

1) Data-Drivers/Analysts

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. When looking for a consultant or growth marketer for your tech business, the ability to track efficiency should be your top requirement.

Data-driven marketing impacts ROI: Marketers who leverage data-driven personalization usually achieve 5-8x ROI for their campaign spend:

Data-driven personalization

Look for a candidate who can establish the right metrics for a campaign, keep track of them during the execution stage, and clearly report to you on the progress. Setting up goals, milestones and success criteria for the campaign should be the core of the strategy.

How do you find out if your campaign has succeeded without crunching numbers? Ask your candidate a few questions to understand if they are analytical in their work.

Here is your starting point on interview questions to check on analytical skills:

  • What metrics are you setting up for this campaign? Why are these metrics, not the others, important?
  • How are we going to track them?
  • What defines the success of the campaign? And failure?
  • Show me how you will track it in Analytics.

2) Strategic Thinkers

Your marketing agency or solo consultant should be able to set long-term goals and view a bigger picture of all marketing activities. If your candidate starts an interview by talking about marketing tactics and giving ready-made solutions, it should raise red flags.

Your ideal candidate should start a conversation by asking questions about goals and the challenges that your company is facing. They should then listen carefully before giving suggestions.

They need to understand what your goal is in terms of specific metrics. Goals can differ – some companies struggle with churn, while others struggle with getting more traffic on the page and lead generation. These different goals require different strategies to achieve them. A good strategist also plans for different scenarios – both more and less optimistic.

There is no secret recipe for success in marketing. A marketer has to make predictions for each individual case. Success is not guaranteed and a lot of A/B testing is done before a marketer succeeds with achieving a goal.

The more well-planned and calculated the strategy, the bigger the chance of success of the marketing strategy.

Dive Deeper:
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* Why Affiliate Marketing Is a Great Option for Startups

3) Previous Experience

In 2023, having 15 years’ of experience in marketing should not be the main requirement – what was effective 10 years ago is no longer applicable and won’t help you generate revenue. Instead of choosing to work with a person whose whole career was only with one company, choose to work with a person who has worked on multiple projects.

Hire someone who has had experience working with companies of a similar industry and customer profile as yours. To learn about your candidate’s experience, ask for their portfolio. Here is how I usually approach sharing my portfolio:

5. copywriter portfolio

If you are a SaaS business, you would be looking for a marketer who has worked for other SaaS companies, not a marketer who has worked for the beauty sector. Again, pay the most attention to the parts of their portfolio that shows their experience in your industry.

4) Proficient with Your Tools

Find out if your candidates can handle the tools you are using in your organization – for example, marketing and team collaboration tools. This can be Mixpanel for SaaS, but also Salesforce, Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, a keyword research tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush, Facebook Ads, A/B testing tools, and more.

Dive Deeper:
* 44 Must-Have Marketing Tools for any Business in 2023
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* 17 Best Free SEO Tools to Improve Your Ranking

5) Go Getters

Speed is critical for start-ups and in marketing as well. Choose to work with a lean consultant or agency that implements campaigns relatively fast and tests assumptions right away.

There are marketers with a great vision and strategy who never move forward with implementation. When they don’t have a team to work on the campaign implementation, they can fail in their role. Instead of working with people who are great at “preaching,” choose those who work hard to practice what they preach.

6) Learners

A good learner is someone who keeps up with the latest trends, continues to take courses to expand or update their skills, and can easily adjust to new technological advancements. Marketing books are not the only source of knowledge for them, since books get outdated very fast. The main source of inspiration and learning for the best marketing consultants is a community.

The best marketing consultants follow other marketing practitioners, Facebook groups (such as the SaaS Growth Hacks Facebook Group), run a SaaS podcast, and, as a result, are deeply emerged in their industry.

screenshot group

Here are some great groups for people tracking new growth trends:

7) Great Communicators

Communication is an invisible part of your working relationship with a remote marketing consultant or agency that you may only notice when it is gone!

It’s really easy to get off track with your goals and keeping up with milestones. Regular calls and updates help keep both sides accountable to shared growth objectives and and help nurture morale.

The marketer you choose to work with should be familiar with tools such as Zoom, Whereby, Slack, Twist and other video, text and audio communication and project management tools.

Doist communication tools


A small disclaimer: Don’t overwhelm your marketing expert with unplanned calls and urgent meetings! You shouldn’t expect them to answer in the late evening or during weekends. Having weekly pre-scheduled calls should definitely be sufficient. The rest can be covered with communication on Slack or business email.

8) Passion, not Work

The best marketers don’t treat marketing as a job, but rather as a passionate, life-long hobby. Moreover, they probably went into their current profession out of pure curiosity while writing a blog or trying to develop a side project.

For example, my career in marketing started with interviewing marketing leaders in Poland and co-organizing the first podcasting event:

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Working with marketing enthusiasts who are passionate about their work is nowhere near the same as working with bored, burned out people who just need to earn a buck.

Those who have their own podcast, blog or other side marketing business tend to voluntarily test and learn many more things than the professionals who start their work at 9 and finish at 5.

Getting to this position requires a lot of sacrifices, takes spare time on weekends and after work, but that is really what defines a top marketer. Indeed, some scientists claim that one should work for 10,000 hours to achieve excellence and become a pro.

Look for T-shaped marketers who, apart from skills, shine as individuals – they will be more interested in driving your growth when aiming to excel as the best in their trade.

Dive Deeper:
* 7 Questions to Make Sure Your Next Marketing Hire Is a Slam Dunk
* How to Find and Hire a VP of Growth for Your Business
* How to Conduct Effective Interviews to Get the Best Hire

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Growth Hacker?

There is a big difference between rates of a marketing agency in L.A. and a boutique agency from Central or Eastern Europe. There is also a big difference between working with solo consultants and hiring someone full-time.

Let’s compare the costs of working with a growth hacker, a.k.a. a T-shaped marketer (a consultant or hired in-house) and a boutique marketing agency.

Per Project (Fixed Rate)

In this case, you agree on what needs to be done and your T-shaped marketer makes a proposal for a set amount of work. This method of payment is best for projects that are definite and finite, like building a website (as opposed to something less finite, like getting a client’s site to rank on page one of the SERPs).

Sometimes, it is hard to agree on a fixed price because it’s almost impossible to calculate how much time the project will take before starting working on it. Unexpected tasks almost always pop up along the way. With fixed-price agencies, you should account for some “buffer hours” that will likely get added to the bill. This is a precaution in case the project takes longer than estimated.

So how do agencies calculate a per project rate? Start by breaking down the entire project into bite-sized pieces, then work out how many hours you think each task will take, and multiply that by your hourly rate. Add any associated costs, like software, plus a reasonable number of buffer hours for unexpected work, and add it all up. That’s your project rate.

If you’ve never completed a project like the one you’re about to embark upon, it’s a good idea to talk to others who have or do a little research to learn all the tasks involved. For example, Konigi provides a “Schedule and Cost Summary” worksheet for a web design project: 

Unfortunately, there are also agencies that are not guided by this data-driven approach and significantly overprice their projects, just to earn more money with clients who are not well-versed with the average market rates.

That’s why you should always compare several proposals before choosing the agency you want to start working with.

Dive Deeper:
* How to Charge Clients: For Freelancers and Agencies
* 5 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Content Marketing Agency
* How to Choose the Best Digital Marketing Agency for Your Business in 2023

Per Hour

An hour of a boutique agency or consultant’s time here in Europe would range between $30-$200 (in U.S. dollars). Their rates are not set in stone and can differ depending on multiple factors, such as experience or difficulty of the work.

This seems to be the most reasonable form of payment because you pay for the exact number of hours worked on your project. You might hire a person or work on a B2B contract where your company is invoiced within certain periods of time, in installments or after the project is finished.

You should go for a fixed price when you have a clear-cut project. If you have a project that is likely to have some additional work come up, the per-hour basis works best.

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No matter who you choose to work with – a marketing consultant, a solo growth marketer or a boutique marketing agency – you should be looking for specific skills that can be beneficial for your start-up.

Look for a T-shaped marketer who wears many hats and has one or two strong specializations – these marketers are always ready to engage external resources to speed up implementation when needed.

Choose to work with strategic and analytical professionals who are planning ahead and can report effortlessly on your key metrics. They will prove their value over time.

I hope this will help you make the right decision about your marketing partner!

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