How To Hire a Digital Marketing Superhero: Tips You Need

Melissa Fach

Feb 21, 20207 min read
Hire a Digital Marketing Superhero

Last week, we had a fantastic Twitter chat with John Doherty about hiring the right kind of marketer for your company. Our community discussed the types of skills marketers need today to build their reputation, ways a business can vet remote workers and consultants, why a company would choose a consultant over an agency, determining which level of marketer to hire, and which questions you should ask when hiring. 

The conversation offered so many ideas and insights; it would be hard for anyone to not learn something from the responses below. We carefully selected the answers we thought would offer you the most helpful information. Our guest John has so much experience in this area, and he is featured a lot.

He also provided two great resources in the chat that we want to share with you. One will help you determine what you could be paying to work with an established marketer, and the other will guide you through hiring an agency:

  1. The Digital Marketing Industry Pricing Survey from Credo
  2. The Busy Executive’s Guide to Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency

So please read the ideas our community shared and let us know which piece of advice you like the most.

How can digital marketers develop the skills they need to provide their clients or boss with valid recommendations?

Ryan Bennion — “A lot of digital marketers feel they have to get all these certifications/trainings. While those are helpful, on-the-job experience (whether paid or internship) that ties performance back to revenue/bottom line is more valuable than all of those certs.”

John Doherty — “Every marketer should have their own side projects that they work on to test new things. You'll never learn more than when you're accountable to doing everything — product, messaging, audience, etc.”

Lily Ray — “Get your hands dirty actually doing the marketing yourself. Build a website. Run the campaign. Implement the SEO recommendations. Do this for your family business or your friend’s online store. The more first-hand experience, the better.”

Brian Kato — “Put in the time to conduct your own experiments. Get a test website, watch YouTube videos and read up on industry blogs, learn how to rank a site. There's nothing like getting into the trenches and actually learning what works and what doesn't.”

Jacques Bouchard — “I read @Marie_Haynes's newsletter and pay to attend industry events — even when the cost hurts. Reading books seems old-fashioned, but can be foundational for knowledge. I also have talented friends for advice/lifelines. I wish there were good meetups nearby.”

Yosef Silver — “Be honest. Be kind. Be genuine. Know your expertise and know when to say no. And know the right people to refer things to when it's not your expertise.”

Christian Lowery — “Learn, learn, take online courses, attend conferences, listen to podcasts from industry leaders, learn some more, take another course, learn a little more. Resources for this: @LI_learning, @coursera, @udemy and @Kajabi.”


How should one go about vetting a remote digital marketing specialist?

Amy Middleton Hebdon — “Look for people with past experience working remotely. Lots of people like the idea of working from home but can't actually handle it when put in that situation.”

John Doherty — “First, culture. Do they have the same traits you value in your best employees? Are they collaborative, smart, empathetic, inquisitive, and enjoyable to be around? If not, don't hire them. Companies are destroyed by brilliant employees that no one likes.”

Sam McRoberts — “In addition to asking for case studies and/or references, I put them through a test. I observe over screenshare as they spend 10 minutes live auditing a site I’m familiar with. I learn their process, tools they know, how they think, what they prioritize, etc.”

Alexis Katherine — “Ask how they contribute to revenue and see if they can give you an answer. Everyone has case studies and quotes and nice graphs. The good ones know that the bottoms line is...the bottom line.”

Mark Gustafson — “THIS ISN’T DONE ENOUGH Use them as a consultant on a small project. You’ll get a lot of exposure to their actual skills. See if they can talk the talk but then see if they can do the work too.”

Yosef Silver — “This isn't scientific, but trust your gut... I'd rather hire the right fit in terms of personality getting the right vibe with the team. Skills can be taught, processes can be learned. Make sure you like and trust the person.”

What are the reasons someone should choose a solo consultant over an agency? (except for a money issue)

John Doherty — “First, ask yourself what team you have in place. Is the entity you hire meant to support someone you already have, or will the entity be fully owning that channel? Basically, ask if you need the strategy too or just execution.”

Corey Northcutt — “Point of contact at many large agencies is an intern/underqualified or a salesperson. This avoids that. Most requests I've seen for 'solo not agency', though, boil down to 'I want quality talent and I'm not willing to compensate it fairly' (unfortunately).”

Stevie Howard — “As weird as it sounds, I have always felt that solo consultants are able to give more attention and time to what needs to be done. They are very reliant on their clients so they put in the important work more often.”

David Cohen — “One significant reason to choose a consultant vs an agency is speed of execution. Agencies are often bloated and slow-movers. Too many calls and meetings. Too much 'strategy' and not enough performers that can produce business results.”

Predictable SEO — “Specialization. When you're looking for a specific result, hire only exactly what is needed. A solo consultant can put all their efforts on one thing, where an agency may not have the focus.”

Amy Middleton Hebdon — “Reduce the risk of getting sold by the A Team and having the B Team manage your accounts.”

John Doherty — “As a general rule of thumb, consultants = one channel and are best working on strategy and directing teams of doers. If you need services (code written, content created, outreach) then you're likely best off with an agency.”

How do you choose between hiring someone in-house vs. someone externally?

Predictable SEO — “It would depend on the project, as well as the end goal. > Broad: This hire has the potential to be a leader and train additional new hires, and can educate on all facets. > Niche: A current project needs execution.”

Brafton — “It really depends on your goals, and how much time you can allocate to their professional development. If you need a PPC specialist to generate website visits STAT, you might not want to wait for a generalist to double down on their paid search skills, for example.”

Lauren Osselton — “I'd recommend starting with a generalist as your in-house marketer, then hire consultants and specialists for the elements your generalist needs help with (i.e. SEO, PPC, etc.).”

John Doherty — “Too many companies hire marketers by asking about tactics. If this is your first marketing hire, they need to understand business (YOUR business especially!) and have succeeded with it before.”

Tamara — “It depends on your overall goals. Niche specialists are great at tackling specific projects. Broad specialists can expand on a wide array of areas and work their way up to manager/director positions — leading a team.”

What is the most important question you should ask a digital marketing candidate when you are considering hiring them?

Jacques Bouchard — “What will your long- and short-term plans be to tackle our site, and do we have the resources/staff on hand to make that work for you?”

Lead Forensics — “Always like the successes and failures question in terms of their portfolio, what were the successes and what they identify as a success, and the failings and how they overcame the obstacles, need to know they can pivot!”

Alizée Baudez — “Questions that can evaluate their curiosity, especially if you want to hire a junior candidate. I believe curiosity is the most important quality in this industry.”

Lauren Osselton — “I think it depends on what you're hiring them for. That said, when I've interviewed in the past, I've always been interested in their CREATIVITY — that's something you can't teach. Ask for a creative solution they found to a problem.”

Dan Willis — “Ask them the KPI's they would track. If they respond with vanity metrics...RUN!”

John Doherty — “The question I find most useful when hiring a digital marketer might surprise you, but when I've hired someone without asking this question it's not worked out nearly as well as when I did.” 

Thank You to All of Those That Participated

Each week, we monitor the Semrushchats looking for tweets that offer expert-level insights. Join us every Wednesday at 11 am ET/4 pm BST for #Semrushchat on Twitter and gain insights from some of the best marketers in the industry. 

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Melissa FachUS Personality of the Year 2017 Winner and die-hard Star Wars fan. Herder of cats. Non-cook. Find me on Twitter @SEOaware.
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