Don’t Hire a Marketing Director Before You Read This

Founders: before you hire your first marketing director, please read Allan Dib’s classic, no shiny objects allowed, book on marketing planning. Like me, he is an experimentalist. All successful pros are experimenting with their consumer communications. It’s effortless to waste money on campaigns. So be very focused, with concrete objectives, and spend small before you spend big. You should be testing attribute-outcome messaging and various ways to communicate your brand’s critical attribute-outcome signal, including the messy, emotional reality of that outcome. You want to explore this yourself as a small team before bringing anyone on with a title like Marketing Director.


You need to control the business strategy for the company. This is a competitive positioning analysis you, the owner(s) have to own and drive through the whole org. Marketing Directors who are otherwise very good at pushing the production of good creative that gets results are NOT strategists. They will often pretend to be good strategists. But they’re resume is all about execution. Tactics. ROI. These are essential things, but a smart competitive strategy is not one of them. Even if they are smart enough to do this thinking, it HAS to be your strategy as the organizational leader from the perspective of your unit economics and financial goals. When you hire a marketing director, they’re never going to have the total company vision driving their day-to-day behavior. Not unless you make them an equal business partner, which you probably won’t do.

Ultimately, founders forget often that to hire a specialist, you at least have to have an intermediate grasp of the function you’re hiring for. The best way to get that intermediate grasp is…yes…to do it yourself in the early years. Whether writing your own social media posts, managing your e-mail list, conducting your store demos or own field events, being involved in virtually all execution at the beginning (rather than hiding behind one P and avoiding the others) will lend you the experience necessary to a) accept you’re not the expert in a lot of these executional functions and b) to vet a tactical expert properly you bring in later.

It’s very hard to vet someone for a role you haven’t done yourself. Not without significant management experience. So know what a marketing director does before you hire one. Do it yourself in the early years.

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Dr. James Richardson

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