“Open Sourced” Job Spec

Posted on November 27, 2009. Filed under: JumpPost, startups, Uncategorized, venture capital | Tags: , , , |

On November 5th, almost exactly 3 weeks ago, 253 people read my first blog post.  On November 25, 2 days ago, 4,730 people showed up.  While I am excited by the growth, I am still searching for better ways to harness the collective knowledge within this new community.    Despite more than 5,000 people reading the last post, only 8 decided to comment and continue the line of thinking.  Less than 2/10 of a percent participation is not very good.

Today, I want to experiment with a new concept.  I’d like to take a page from the open source software movement, and apply that spirit to the creation of a VP of Marketing Job Spec.  For those not familiar, the theory behind open source software development is that much of the coding effort required to carry out development of a project overlaps with the effort required to build other similar (or not so similar) products.  By openly sharing a body of code with everyone in a given community, all members within it are able to leverage what has already been accomplished/created, instead of reinventing the wheel from scratch.  So if I’m building an e-commerce site and I want to include a shopping cart function, I could spend hours developing my own from scratch, or I could just plug in an open source module that another developer wrote, knowing that his code will do the trick.  With the time I saved, maybe I will figure out how to build a feature on top of his code that reduces drop off, and then, if I’m cool, I’ll publish the code behind my enhancement back to the community (open source developers, if I butchered this, please chime in).

So now that I have all of you smart people reading this blog, I figured we could draw on some of your collective knowledge in an effort to create the ideal Job Spec.  Whatever we create here, will hopefully be the result of years of experience and lessons learned by those who have hired well (and not so well).  My hope is that the document we create will enhance our hiring at JumpPost, but also that it will serve as a template from which any startup recruiting a VP of Marketing can build.

I will start with a brief description of what JumpPost is, and then work into what I think we need:

JumpPost is somewhere between an online classifieds site and a low cost online real estate broker.  So, if Craigslist and Redfin had a baby, it might look something like JumpPost.  From a customer acquisition perspective, we are focused on general population consumers who are psyched about saving/making money during a change of residence.  We’re not interested in reaching home owners (at least for now), and folks who live in cities are more exciting than suburbanites and rural dwellers.  It’s a pretty wide net we can cast, and some of our value propositions are unique (read: won’t be competitive to acquire certain types of users), while others are highly competitive.  In a VP of Marketing, we are looking for someone who has a play book for building a liquid online community through a series of paid and non-paid customer acquisition strategies.

I’d like to collect contributions to three lenses through which we can identify a star VP of Marketing:

1) General Personality traits: What type of person makes a great online/consumer marketer? ideas that might be right or wrong include:

– data driven thinker

– addiction to analytics

– detail oriented

– quantitative bent

– understanding of relationship between product development and marketing efforts

– what else?  What personality traits do the best marketers you know exhibit?  Any surprising ones? Any huge red flags that your bad marketing hires displayed?

2) Specific marketing skills and experience requirements:

A) What unique skills should this person possess? ideas include:

– fluency in Google Analytics

– proficiency with SEM keyword tools/models (i.e. Clickable)

– what else? (I actually don’t know what are best in class skills here)

B) What experiences and backgrounds best prepare someone for this type of gig? Ideas include:

– comes from an analogous market acquiring similar demo of user (in our case: online travel, online classifieds, online real estate, online jobs, marketplaces, etc…)

– managed SEM campaign of $XX million budget with XX level of success (what are the metrics to judge success here? What’s a good baseline to measure outperformance vs. underperformance?)

– designed and executed successful referral program alla Gilt.com, Jetsetter.com, etc…(again, what’s a good baseline for measuring outperformance vs. underperformance?)

–  fluency acquiring customers from within larger platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc…

– took an online consumer facing site from xx users to yy users in xx months (what’s best in class here, and how do we separate out the candidate’s contribution to that growth from all other efforts that played a hand?)

3) General traits and skills necessary for an early stage startup team member: What are the must haves and red flags when determining if a hire for any early role will be able to hack it in the beginning stages of  a company’s development? Ideas include:

– previous experience growing a company from alpha product to exit

– effusive and clear communicator

– “roll up your sleeves” attitude, no job is too small (not going to try to hire service providers to do all the work)

– comfort with a lack of structure and ability to create and execute own initiatives

– what else?  what are the best predictors that an early hire will be a star team member?

So, my suggestions are in no way exhaustive.  Please, those who have successfully and unsuccessfully hired an online VP of Marketing, rip this apart and share your experience in the comments of this post.  Where am I right on? What is way off?  Let’s try to fill these three buckets and I’ll publish a composite spec for all to build off of going forward.

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4 Responses to ““Open Sourced” Job Spec”

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Hey Jordan, I *highly* recommend integrating Disqus onto this blog; that will definitely increase the number of comments you get for your quality posts. Simply install the plug-in, just check it out here: http://disqus.com

One thing that hits me is whether you really need a “VP of Marketing”? I just re-read your “Michael Jackson: VP of Product” post and to me, that responsibility seems to be more of a burden for the founders or the CEO of the company – the guy(s) with the vision. Just think of Facebook, Twitter, Mint, or any other highly successful consumer-facing venture.

One start-up that I’m a big fan of is Stocktwits. They never had any marketing guys in place and never will. They just built something so awesome that it sells itself because of the sheer value it delivers. They have become their own marketing gurus whenever they use their own product and push it out to everyone. Their product has become a core part of their lives.

Of course, stuff like SEO, analytics, A/B testing, etc are critical, but I think you’re better of handling this on a consulting-basis rather than actually getting someone fully on board (especially this early on). Same for viral or social media marketing too. Vayner Media, Mark Hughes, KISSmetrics, and others are great options for this.

But ultimately, YOU (and anyone else who’s one of the core founders) are the real “VP of Marketing” and always will be, I think.

Couldn’t agree with you more…secretly whoever comes on I will consider a founder…the skills outlined in both this and the product spec are sort of “kickers” to a more fundamental role that early additions to the team will play. It’s not really that we lack the capacity to execute on these fronts through the first year of the company, but more that it would be nice for early team members to scale into what will become larger roles in the future. Thanks for all the links/resources.

The key to building out your job spec is to tie to what the goal is for the organization. You state in a comment that you will consider this person a founder, so that is much more comprehensive than a typical VP of Marketing. Actually, it is merely a title, a holder for the total compilation of skills that will be required. I am a head of marketing for a tech start-up in NYC, but I am also a founder and my activities include business development, fund raising, product management, finance, etc. We also happen to need marketing, so I am the focal point and owner for our marketing activities, which we as founders all have a stake in.

As for your blog, it is a good start, but to build it into a real community will take time. The key is consistency, great content, and a willingness to engage your audience with posts that seek their guidance (like this one).

Thanks Mark. Agreed…there just isn’t a good title for this hire. Incorporating new DNA into a founding team is less about specific domain expertise, and more about introducing new types of thinking into the mix…the goal of this spec is to identify a certain type of thinker that may also be on the lookout for more traditional VP Marketing gigs…then the question is, can they also wear 8 other hats in the early days of development…

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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