We sit down with Tracey Wallace, the Director of Marketing at MarketerHire, and before that, she was the global Editor-in-Chief of BigCommerce.
Are growth marketers just modern marketing managers? We sit down with Tracey Wallace to discuss all things hiring, marketing trends, and what exactly a growth marketer is.
We dive into how to find the best social media manager. We get Traceys to find and hired a great SMM and the struggle many face trying to sources one.
Finally, we ask about the trends that she sees in brand hiring. A lot are going social first, but the number one asked for and placed, according to Tracey, is Growth Marketers, followed by email and content marketers.
Tracey Wallace 00:03
Welcome to the DTC Growth Show? My name is Roger and every episode I sit down with founders and leaders in e-commerce and talk about everything from starting launching and growing the brand. Today I am really excited I'm interviewing Tracy Wallace, who's the Director of Marketing at MarketingHire. She was the head of marketing at Eterneva, and the former editor in chief at BigCommerce, Tracy, thanks for taking the time to be here. Of course, thanks so much for having me. I'm excited. Yeah, me too. How are things going at MarketerHire? They're, they're going great. I mean, I started back in September, so only a couple months ago, this will, you know, be my first full quarter here. And I'm stoked. We've built a little marketing team, hiring a few others and moving and growing fast. It's exciting. And this is not the first time you take on the team. You've done this before. And I'd love to get your perspective on on how you go about building your team. Yeah, for sure. So the first time I built so this is my second time as head of marketing. So at Eterneva I was the head of marketing over there as well and built a team now a turn of a very different from marketer hire and that attorney has a ecommerce brand they like they sell products, and marketer hire is more of a technology company, where you know, we're we're matching companies to marketers, using an algorithm and also doing some hand matching, but I have gone in a variety of different ways and paths. In my career, I've worked in some ecommerce brands I've worked on, I started in journalism, so like, you know, l.com, Mashable kind of stuff back in the day. And then of course, really, I like to think came into my being at technology companies. But my, my first Head of Marketing role was at an e commerce company and over there, my first hire was a social media person, right? It was I need someone to come in and help me run the this Instagram channel, his Facebook channel, to help us you know, get launched on tik tok. That is not my expertise or my, like anything I'm good at at all. I come into leadership through a content marketing and SEO background. So that was my very first hire, in particular, was looking for someone who could do social media really well, in terms of like managing communities, engaging communities, but also somebody who was really good with brand, right. And I actually find that something, at least in my experience in the DTC space versus the technology space, it seems to be way more important in the DTC space, not that it shouldn't be as important in the technology space, but it's not at the forefront the same way that it was with when I was when I was an e commerce. And maybe that makes sense. But man, the people, the marketers who do marketing in e commerce, live and breathe brands, like everything runs through brand, they have these massive, beautiful brand books. I mean, that was one of the first things we did. We had calls regularly. with customers talking about our brand, everything ran through this compass doesn't match your brand, and tone and style and words like no matter what it was, it was amazing and exhausting. for all the right reasons. But yeah, so that was my first hire over there, which was hiring someone to manage Brandon social, and then bringing on a videographer. Because for a trnava a big part of what the tournament did was, you know, delivering home that product and seeing that emotional reaction. We talked we talked to quite a few agencies who one also wanted to do video, but they wanted to do the video in house and you know, and help set up you know, paid programs that way and we thought a lot about it was great, a great pitch, but ultimately decided you know what? We we want a videographer on staff who lives and breathes the brand and that we can send absolutely anywhere. And then of course on top of that someone who can like record tiktoks and stuff for a tournament is gone viral on tik tok multiple times like it's it's very impressive. The very first like couple times wasn't even like a marketing thing. Just like people talking about it on there, and it went viral. So yeah, so those those were my first two hires, and then that was pretty much it. What was the hardest part there about hiring maybe a social media manager? What were some of the things that you were looking for? Because a lot of people are looking for one right now to build community. What should a founder be looking for? What should someone be looking for? Oh, man, it it is it is tough. So the way I went about and this is generally the way I like to go about hiring. I heard someone on freelance for I put out a call, typically I don't put out, like, like actual jadis, I create a JD but and I don't usually put them like up on a website. Instead, I send it, post it on Twitter, put it on LinkedIn, send it around to a bunch of folks that I know there are a variety of different ways to find it. But I just find that I find candidates that way. And I'm not sifting through a whole bunch of stuff that I'm like, this just isn't a fit at all. For a trnava, I think there were maybe four or five different people we were talking to, one clearly stood out head and shoulders above, above the others. She had worked at the Museum of ice cream, and had done a bunch of really great social media work for them. Clearly very engaging stuff. And she was really passionate about the brand, what what it was that we were trying to do. And then really, I guess, like what nailed it for me was one, when she sent in, like she was interested, I was like, cool. This is part time. This is you know, the rate we're kind of looking for. The very first thing she asked for was the brand book. And then she sent the brand book back. So sent that to her, she sent it back with a bunch of edits, thoughts, ideas, and I was like, You are perfect. Yes, please. So that's, that's really how it started. And then and then yeah, she was part time for six months. And then past that point, her and I just, you know, had a very honest conversation as we did always about how, hey, we're hitting ours, every, every single week? Is this going to move full time? Is it not? Because because there's there's definitely more work to be done. And so then we brought her on full time. So it was essentially testing, right. And it's challenging to I mean, like I said, I'm not a social media expert, I am an expert at trying to avoid social media. That that is not my world at all. And it's hard to hire people when something isn't your expertise, right? Like I'm decent at hiring content, people I'm decent at hiring SEO people like I can tell like where the BS is versus where it isn't. For all of us. That's not true. And fields that we don't know very well, right. So for that reason, is typically why I like to start with freelance work, get a really good understanding of like, what it is they can do. And on top of that, how well they can manage up, aka how well they can manage me, which is how well can you explain what it is that you're doing? How well can you explain why you're going to measure this metric instead of this metric? Like how well can you put together a presentation that the CEO of the company is asking for in a way that like, you know, both of us can scramble and get it together and make it look great. And luckily for me that that in particular social media marketer could do that, like without even blinking. So it was it was a perfect match. How do you think your background in journalism influences now your approach as you're building teams, or as you're developing your marketing strategy? How does that background influence what you do? Yeah, I mean, I'm, I'm good at interviewing people, which helps. I'm good at interviewing people. I have a knack for understanding when things are boring. I don't know how to explain that. But I mean, for anybody listening, I mean, it's the moment you find yourself not paying attention to the way someone is answering something is the moment that like you should, you should ask better questions. Like, if it's not interesting for you, it's not going to be interesting for anybody else. It's not going to result in interesting work. But beyond that, one of the things that I learned really early on with journalism was, you know, when you're interviewing people, to always be on the lookout for, like listening for pain points. And if something sounds painful, and people typically say painful things really, really quickly, you know, and like, kind of, like, brushed it off, or, you know, you just like hear it a little bit, you know, that they're like, Oh, well, I mean, that was this, but it turned, you know, and ends up being sunny on the other side, you want to ask more questions about the painful stuff, you want to go down that route, you want to force people to pick the scab, because that's where the interesting stories are. That's where the lessons come from our memories naturally, you know, glaze over that. It's why it shows up in conversations and that way. And so from like a leadership perspective, hiring perspective, short, being good at interviewing helps, but from a leadership perspective, being good at asking the right questions, and then also having a really good ear for what's painful. Even when people aren't like trying to talk about what's painful and making sure that you're, you know, asking questions that can kind of uncover what it is that they're ultimately trying to get at. Because, because the last thing you want in a leadership position is for somebody to you know, surprise you with something That's like bad, right when you know you've been having regular one on ones with them and they didn't bring it up. And that's through no fault of employees. I don't think I'm a big believer. And that's that that's leadership's job to hear that to listen to that task about it.
Yeah. And how do you plan for the future when you when you joined Eternava, What's sort of your your, your approach to planning the next year to building the team to developing your strategy? How are you building it one and then two, communicating?
Tracey Wallace 10:30
Yeah, well, so man, it's it's tough with startups, right? Like it's, it's, it's tough, and it changes all the time. That was true at a turn of it's definitely true at marketer higher and that is something you have to look for and think about when you hire people. It's another good reason why starting with someone freelancing or contracting before pulling them off on full time can help it helps you understand what it is you're really looking for, helps them get better clarity about what the project is. The turnover was super stable in terms of social was huge for us, right. So we definitely needed that brand marketer, and that social media marketer, we definitely needed that videographer. Outside of that, we used agencies and freelancers to help with other things, right. And we would project ties things as they came up. You know, in terms of planning, it's, you make a plan for a quarter, you set the goals, you set the KPIs on how you're going to get going to hit those. I'm a, I'm a big believer in setting goals in that way, making them really, really clear to the CEO and others, I find this as it's normal, I think it's normal everywhere. But at those like larger tech companies, aka big commerce taught me this really, really well, which, when I first got there, I was like the scrappy old journalist that was like, I hate organization. And I left like being really good, that organization and it has turned out to be so helpful. But so setting those goals, setting those KPIs, making sure you have no more than two, three, like big meaty goals. That's super important for CEOs, I think, because every quarter, especially at startups, things are going to come up that seem like the most amazing opportunities. Sometimes they're shiny balls, sometimes they're like actual real great opportunities. And the first thing you have to say, right is okay, look, here's our current team here, the people we have full time here, the projects we agreed on, earlier this year, here's where we are in doing those. If we go after this, we can estimate that's going to take this amount of time out of out of the work, which means we need to reprioritize totally fair, but at the end of the day, it's the CEOs decision, it's my boss's decision, like, okay, we agreed that marketing was going to work on these things. If we need to change course, we absolutely can. But it's my job to bring up to CEO or to or to my boss, okay, look, these are the other things that are going to drop as a result. I have been burned out before. And God, it's the worst. And so I am very much a leader who is always thinking about how to best manage bandwidth, how to set people up for success, how to make sure that there's open honest dialogue and conversations with the teams, whether that's in one on ones or slack messages, email, like free, wherever, in terms of, you know, how much do you have on your plate? Are you able to get those things on your plate done? Do you need more thinking around this thing in order to get it done to the level we're expecting it to be done at? right because no good marketer wants something to be done halfway merely because you couldn't get some other things that seemed like priorities off the plate. Like that's, that's just bad management. It's just bad prioritization. So don't answer your question. I feel like I went down a lot. You definitely did it. When you're, you're placing a lot of marketing talent. In e commerce companies right now, you find that a lot of founders are going sort of social first. What trend or what patterns are you seeing in those first couple hires that brands are making? Yeah, so most brands come to market or hire looking for a growth marketer every single month, every single month. We look at you know, what's like, what are the top marketers that people are coming to look for? growth marketers, number one asked for number one placed every single month after that, paid social and email marketing kind of switch spots, depending on the month and then content marketing and SEO kind of switch spots, which which I find really interesting, but growth marketers are what people are looking for. And I think I think what that is, is, I think People are looking for a marketer to do everything. Like, like, I think they aren't sure what exactly they need, right? And so they're saying, Okay, well, like I'm, I'm a startup, I need some kind of marketer, but I don't know what kind. So all get a growth marketer that sounds like someone who can do everything and, and a lot of growth marketers can do bits of everything, they just aren't necessarily channel experts and everything great. So what is a growth marketer? Because you've written about this recently. So what did you come down? What's the conclusion that Tracy came through about a growth market? Ah, yeah, the conclusion I came to is that growth marketers are modern marketing managers just like the the people who will do and can do all the things. But like, that's, that's the conclusion I came to, but it's that article is very long. It weaves and goes around as as articles do, and you're trying to like, figure out this thing. So let's talk a little bit about the history of growth marketer, marketers, which began with growth hackers, which are developers, like they're their tech folks, right? Like they, they are the ones who can get a website up really quickly. And maybe they also have some design skills and some understanding of UX, you know, and so like, they're able to put to put things together fast and like mess with the tools or the technologies to somehow increase conversion as a result of putting a button in certain places, so on and so forth, that then moved, or I guess, graduated into growth marketing, which I firmly believe in think, though not everyone agrees with me, mostly, because nobody agrees on what growth marketers, I have some defined, but I think growth marketers have a like, very, like serious, like basis and conversion rate optimisation. I think that's I think that's a really important part of what they do. But yeah, so as growth hackers kind of turned into growth, marketers, I mean, some of those kind of former developers moved into more marketing roles, or marketing teams really started embracing them. But then, of course, you've also seen conversion rate optimisation, people move into growth, marketing roles, and kind of learn some of that, like tech dev side, right. And then marketing in general, as all of this is happening is just getting far more complicated. Anyway, with all of the different channels with, you know, all the different tools, I mean, marketers at this point, are starting to learn how to code half of the time, which is kind of required if you're going to even move into a growth role in any way, right. And if they aren't learning how to code, they're learning how to manage people who code at a turnover, I was the interim CTO for a few months and manage you know, a massive tech migration, not my background, but as a marketer over time, half the time you you learn how to do that. So, growth marketers are this kind of all around player, but the, the key there is that every single growth marketer is different, right? Like their experience is different. It isn't like a content marketer, where like content marketers, you know, like, are an SEO marketer, like typically do this, like specific thing, growth, marketers can kind of do anything. And if you're gonna hire on a growth marketer, you need to be really specific about what it is that you're looking for them to do. Otherwise, just like with any other role, you're setting them them up for failure. And by setting them up for failure, you're setting yourself and what you're paying them up for failure. You spoke a little earlier about sort of relying on freelancers quite a bit. And I understand a little about what would make a good Freelancer from a brand perspective or from from someone who's hiring but what would make a freelancer fire a brand would make a freelancer stop working with a brand? What would frustrate them? Oh, my goodness. Such a good question. And my answer is going to be like long winded again. And start with a story, which is I think every single marketer out there has experienced the scenario, whether it's an agency or a company, like wherever you are a client that asks you to, you know, in maybe they're hiring for marketing manager, and you're like, Okay, cool, like, I'll apply for this. And you talk to them, and they're like, cool, we need this role to write and send all of our emails and do the segmentation there. We also need them to post on social everyday, maybe Instagram and Facebook and probably Twitter, we really need that to grow by follower counts. And oh, if you can also put like money behind that and maybe begin to manage some like ads for some Facebook, that'd be great too. That is the worst case scenario for a marketer and it happens far too often. I have this theory That it started happening back when a lot of brands started becoming really successful with Facebook ads like early Facebook ads days. And marketing, I think got like devalued as as a profession at that time, because people were like, Oh, I can just go in and do it myself. And that was true for a very hot second on Facebook in particular often continues to be true on all of the new platforms if you want to go check that out. But But before they can become really big, but yeah, I think I think marketing just got devalued. And you saw that even in this like Rise of the growth hacker, right? Which was like, No, ignore the marketers use the developer to do the thing. Like, okay, great. And so now we're coming back to this world. It's like coming full circle where marketers are in high demand again, and it's hard to find good marketers. There's so many channels like, what do you prioritize? What do you focus on? What's your message on each one? Fun fact, for brands, though, companies have really irritated and burned out marketers, it's why so many of them are freelancing. Now, it's why so many of them don't want to work for for large brands, right. They're like, I've been there, I've done that. And I was held to impossible standards. So that that's what gets brands fired, right? Is, is expecting everything from a single human. It's part of why I even joined marketer higher, right, which is, you know, at big commerce. I, like so many marketers out there, like marketing for brands and companies that I have a personal connection with, or maybe a personal vendetta against which will or like, or for the audience, I suppose we'll talk about that one more with marketer higher, but with the commerce. It was, you know, my family, I come from a family that has a family on business, my grandfather started the business back in 19, the late 1950s cotton company, b2b, they do not have an online website, still, to this day, despite all my years of e commerce trying to convince them, but I was that big commerce, every single piece of content that I wrote, especially if we were targeting b2b, and we often were, was, would my mom would my aunt, would my brother be able to read this piece, understand what I'm saying and, and be able to take action on it, right. And I just like, just firmly believed that like, this was real, this was possible for people right, like, my grandfather started this random business picking up a broken down machine off the side of an East Texas highway, that ended up paying for my college and employing half of like, employing his daughters, you know, like providing a life for them. Like that's, that's a legacy a lot of people would love to leave, right. So that that was my mission and goal over at big commerce was being honest with people that it ain't easy all the time. And to trying to write things in a way that actually enabled them to take action on it on it. So at marketer hire, one of the things that really drew drew me to it was how I mean, they they vet on the freelancer site as well. But the process with the companies I think, is really fascinating, which is, company comes in, fills out a form and then talks to one of our growth managers and growth managers or salespeople for sure. But one of the one of the things they're trying to do is understand Okay, what is this project and or task that that you're looking to, like hire someone for? And then do you have the budget to hire one person, multiple people? And if you do only have budget to hire one person, or gmms talk people off the ledge, have I longer with Margaret, or do all of it like no, no, no. That's not how it works. like, Okay, sounds like maybe social might be the most important thing for you right now. So let's like, get you in touch with a social media marketer. And then Oh, hey, like, social media, marketers often work really well with content marketers who can then produce content on your site, maybe when you're ready, and when you have additional budget, like, you can then move into that. And then from there, you can have some work for email marketers, or whatever it might be, but our growth managers truly listen to what stage a brand is at, and then help them figure out like the cadence of the types of freelancers, they might be able to hire based on the budgets that they have. And that that's a huge selling point for freelancers, because we are not going to introduce a single one of our marketers to a company that is like, I need you to do everything like No way. We've talked them off that ledge long before that, they are coming to you and they are saying I need a social media marketer, I need a content marketer, I need this specific task, this specific thing done. And our freelancers seem to love that part of it. And for me, it's a it's a big plus because I have also been one of those marketers, again, all marketers I think have been that's been asked to do everything you you wear every hat you don't know what your day is going to be or become And I it's not good for career progression. It's it's a recipe for disaster, I think. What's something about building marketing teams that you believe today that maybe 2016 2017 Tracy would disagree with? How 2016 2017 Tracy thought you could teach people how to write. I don't think that anymore. And and then I was like, so passionate about that, too. And this, this is probably even something a bunch of people just would even disagree with me on. And I'm, and I will take you up on it, I won't disagree. I'll just say go practice writing and come back. And then maybe by then you've taught yourself, you can't teach others to write because people need to want to write themselves. That that is where that comes from. Writing is really important to marketing. Again, know that I come from a content and SEO background. So of course, I believe market writing is really important to marketing. But writing is so incredibly important because it clarifies your thinking. It helps you understand what you're thinking, why you're thinking it it is how you present arguments, it is how you get better at presenting arguments. It's what makes you maybe eventually interested in philosophy when you realize your arguments aren't working. Like whatever it might be. 2016 2017 Tracy thought, you know what? This person doesn't have a knack for writing. They're telling me they don't have a knack for writing. But like, I feel like I can hear it and see it in them. No, that's not true. If they if they do not, if they are verbally saying they do not write and are not good at writing, but are willing to try. I no longer believe that that is the right hire for me. I need people who are regular writers, they don't have to be the world's best writers. But I need them to be before having met me in their life, regular writers, whether that is for themselves, for newsletter for their own site for another site, what on social doesn't even have to be long form content, like are you posting on so whatever it might be a need a need for them to have figured out that writing helps them clarify their thoughts. And from there, I feel like I can better mold them. But that that's something I have learned I cannot make somebody desire if they do not already desire it. You've also spoken about it and you've written you've heard about this recently. As a brand, I have a couple options available to me, I can hire a freelancer, I can hire full time I can outsource to an agency. And depending on the stage and budget, I may go, I may pursue different options. So in your perspective, where are brands leaning to when they come to you? We move towards I'd love to hear a little bit about that. Yeah, well, so I mean, I think I think 2020 was it was a big tipping point. Right? For a lot of brands. The the beauty and freelancers is that it's flexible, right? Like you can scale them up, you can scale them down. There's typically no long term contracts, no cancellation fees. It's an honest conversation with somebody right? That that is the beauty and freelancers. Ai expert freelancers pre vetted freelancers to give marketer higher, shout out, like believe that for sure. But there's a million other reasons why why you might decide not to use freelancers, right? I mean, agencies are typically hive minds, right? They work with a bunch of different brands. And maybe you found an agency who works with a lot of brands in your particular vertical. And you're like cool, if I go work with them, then I'm going to get all the learnings that they already have about XYZ beauty brands or XYZ sports brands or whatever it might be. And that that could be a really good reason to go that route. I mean, I I've hired agencies and in my marketing career as well, at a turnover. We had a paid media agency because hiring paid media folks as freelancers was hard. We just didn't have luck and I didn't know marketer hire existed. We didn't have luck. And we had a lot more luck with with agencies that they were just on top of it right that we did have to let one agency go and then brought on another agency which is like a whole other part of it. Neither here nor there. But for that role in particular, we didn't bring someone on full time because we couldn't afford it. And we like we just couldn't and we weren't sure even if we could bring someone on full time. Like Okay, we need someone to be focused on Facebook and Instagram. We're doing the stuff on Tick Tock and like, like, is that one job? Is that two jobs do we need someone Junior Do we need someone senior so so we brought in an agency for that right? We we kind of figure it out ourselves. I stand by that and think that was was the right move? For full time, I think and so so with full time especially if you're a startup, I think it is helpful to hire and marketing at least one person full time. Likely somebody who has Some kind of management project management experience, because one marketer, as we've already talked about can't do everything. And they can help you organize, they can help you strategize, they can even execute on quite a few things. But you're still likely going to need some additional help, whether that is agencies or whether that is freelancers. And you need that marketer to be able to properly manage those organizations, they don't need to know how to do those things. They do need to know what success looks like, and what potential points of failure might be. So I've, I've been talking about this with a few other people, which is I think marketing, and maybe this has always been the case. And I'm just seeing it more clearly now. But marketing in my eyes is like really, in terms of careers for marketers is that there's one of two paths, there's the niche specialization path you can go that often leads you to being a very wealthy Freelancer and the creator economy. It's a great, it's a great time for you. Or there's there's the more leadership path, right. So those people typically are more generalists. Yes, they can execute on things, but they end up becoming really fascinated with how to manage creatives, right? Because marketers are a lot of them creatives are I guess, managing creatives and then the like data people because you need the marketing team. So, so for the brands that are coming to market or hire. Typically, that's that's one of the pieces of advice we're giving them. Like, for instance, you know, we have lambda school that's using us or in Ministry of Supply that's using us for multiple marketers, right, like they have multiple freelancers hired out I mean, I would say half of their marketing team is marketer hire marketers, but they still have a few in house people managing it. All right, like steering the ship. And I think that's, I think that's really important. So yeah, that I did that did that that might have been a very roundabout way of answering the question I but ultimately, you know, the way that you decide to go, whether it's full time agency, or Freelancer definitely has to do with your budget. But it also has to do with your needs. If something is project ties, if it's something that can be a project to give that to a freelancer, right, like, you don't need that in house. If you think that like, like a good example of that is maybe you're having like, maybe you want to get some email, nurture stream set up, right? And you're like, cool, like, I'm gonna bring in an email marketer, get these streams set up and write them out there and segment them and get them all up and clean it boop, boop, boop, boop, boop, cool. In three months, when that project is done, what is that marketer gonna do now? And if you don't have a good answer for that, If your answer is I'm not sure. I mean, like, you're gonna be facing potentially having to let someone go or having to have a hard conversation about like, Okay, well, we actually don't need email marketing anymore. Do you like social media? Is that something you might do? Right? So like, so put a little bit more thought into it? This is also gonna save you on social media as well, right? I mean, we live in a world in which anyone can get burned at any time. All you have to do is just be a little bit more thoughtful about what you're hiring, when, where and why. And, and the timeline for that, right. And if you aren't sure how long a certain project might take, come talk to market or hire, we can tell you talk to friends in the industry. Ask people on Twitter, go to different slack groups, Reddit man, Reddit and Cora will tell you there are so many threads on this stuff in there. Yeah, that's incredible. Interesting, before we get before we wrap up here, what's it? What's it? What's an e commerce brand? What's the brand that you're really excited about that people may not know? Oh, man, I have my eyes on this brand. So I've been tinkering with, you know, drinking less. I have like a glass of wine over here though. So like, I'm tinkering with it. It's not perfect yet. But one brand I'm really excited about. I've been showing their website to my wife. I'm like, I'm gearing up to order but I'm watching them everywhere. It's called aplos A PLOS non alcoholic hemp drink, I believe. So anyways, that I'm very excited about that one in general. I'm excited about all the like, non alcoholic things coming out. I've gotten really into non alcoholic IPAs. They're out there believe it. Yeah, absolutely amazing. Tracy, thank you so much for coming on the show today. Of course. Thank you so much for having me awesome to learn more about market or hire, go to market or hire calm and don't forget to sign up for raising bred their online publication. So that's market or higher.com. Thanks for listening. Thanks for joining this is the DTC growth show