Hiring an Inside Profit Engineer
Written by: Ryan Flannagan
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Chapter 27: Hiring an Inside Profit Engineer

“You’ve made a good case for both sides, but I’m a bit of a control freak. I like my employees on site, where I can see that they’re not playing poker or watching cat videos on my dime,” Chuck said.

“Fair enough. Being a control freak is a pretty common trait among successful business folks. You need at least a little of that to even want the job.”

“Now comes the part where you try talking me out of it, right?”

“Nope.”

“Nope?”

“Yeah, nope. Now comes the part where I share with you everything I know about how to hire the best marketer you can.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Remember earlier when we talked about how a customer you don’t get, but who feels great about you and your company, can be more valuable than a sale to somebody who’s not really the right fit?”

“Yes.”

 “I’m okay if you’re that customer. So let’s talk about how, if you decide not to hire my firm, you can have success with the option that suits your needs.”

So, you’ve decided to hire a marketer, consultant or marketing agency, somebody to become part of your team and let everybody else see to their areas of expertise while the new hire bring in new business. This is a great move for a lot of companies, but only if you do it right.

Because doing it wrong can be a serious problem. Let’s look at the up-front costs of hiring a new employee at the level you would need even a junior marketing expert to operate from:

Best estimates from the MIT Sloan School of Management put training and recruiting costs alone for a new hire at just north of $9,000, plus the approximately $8,000 you’ll spend on a professional salary and wages during the average 10-week time between a new hire coming on and that new hire getting up to speed. Forty-six percent of newly hired employees fail within 18 months of being hired, and only 19% are fully realized successes. Putting those two numbers together shows that it will cost you nearly $20,000 to hire and train a marketer, with a 50/50 chance that they will fail before you recoup the cost.

Hiring right actually makes the cost of acquisition higher, but it can really improve those odds of success. Hiring right means asking candidates the best possible questions, and knowing which questions not to ask. Though every interview, interviewer, and interviewee is different, here’s a format for interviews that has worked well for us when we hire our team of marketing ninjas and inbound content whisperers.

Stage One: Getting To Know You

I like to start with simple questions whose answers I already got in the resume and cover letter. Things like:

  • Tell me about your favorite former client.
  • What did you do in your last position?
  • How many years have you worked in marketing?
  • When did you first start working in this industry?
  • What are your favorite marketing techniques?
  • Which marketing tools and platforms are your favorites?
  • What’s the difference between marketing and selling?

This works well for two reasons. First, it puts the candidate at ease because they’re easy questions. Relaxed candidates interview better, and I hate to miss out on a great marketer just because they’re also a terrible interviewee.

Second, it can weed out liars early. If the answers candidates give in the interview don’t match what they wrote on their application, it’s time to end the interview early and not waste anybody’s time.

Stage Two: The “What If” Game

Once we’re warmed up, I move on to questions about what the candidate does or might do in different situations. This explores how they think, and if their process and approach matches your team, product, and audience. Some examples I like include:

  • What resources do you use to stay up to date with trends and techniques?
  • What’s the coolest bit of marketing news you’ve heard about this quarter?
  • If I hire you, what subscription will you insist I buy?
  • A prospect is coming in one hour from now. What benefits of our product would you use to prep them for our sales team?
  • If I told you to redesign the company logo, what steps would you take?
  • What about joining our team would make you happy?

Stage Three: Problem Solving

The next set of questions looks at your candidate’s past behavior, with a strong eye toward how they’ll handle difficult circumstances in the future. Body language, facial expressions, and voice tone are important here since they’ll give you an eye into how the interviewee responds to good and bad situations.

  • What techniques do you use to work well with people who are very different from you?
  • How successful are you at completing work on time with multiple projects?
  • What project from the past are you most proud of?
  • Tell me about a time you really screwed up, and what you did to fix it.

Stage Four: Job-Related Questions

Going deeper, it’s time to assess how good the interviewee actually does marketing. You’ll ask a series of questions that are almost like an oral exam for a class. The goal here isn’t to trick somebody with a “Ha! Gotcha!” question, but to really understand what the candidate knows about their field, and what they think about key questions asked by most professional marketers.

  • What metrics do you look at to assess the success or failure of a marketing campaign?
  • Pick one of the metrics we talked about. Tell me what a failure by that metric might mean, and what steps you would take to improve performance.
  • What are the three different types of media?
  • What is your general philosophy of marketing? How would you apply it to selling our product?
  • There are a variety of models for the customer’s journey from stranger to a client, or a marketing campaign from creation to release. Choose your favorite and describe it in detail.

The Second Interview

A marketer is too important a member of your team to hire based on a single interview. Instead, set up an appointment in a week and assign the candidate homework to bring back and share. Some homework assignments that I’ve given in the past that helped me bring good people onto my team included:

  • A hypothetical marketing plan for our company
  • A marketing brief for a specific product, type of customer, or fictitious company
  • A sample of an advertisement, landing page and messaging for a fictitious company
  • An analysis of what our company could be doing better

For some companies, hiring an internal profit engineer is the best call. For others, hiring an external profit engineering agency is what’s best. I can’t tell you specifically which is the right call for your company.

But what I can tell you is that choosing to hire an internal profit engineer, and hiring the wrong person, is the worst possible outcome. Nuanced Media is a premier Phoenix marketing agency, and our experts are always willing to answer your questions about hiring a new member of your marketing team.

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