How are DTC brands building their marketing teams?

Hiring is tough, especially when you’re in the early stages of building your company.

Tons of questions come up when planning for the future growth of your marketing team, like:

  • Who should you hire and when?
  • How much should you rely on external agencies?
  • What’s the best structure for your marketing team?
  • What roles will make the biggest difference in your growth?

So, we chatted with the marketing leaders at two companies early in their hiring stages, Suitshop (team of 1) and Huron (team of 5), to ask them these questions and more!

Keep reading to learn how Kristen Jones and Matt Mullenax are building their marketing teams internally, utilizing agencies, and what advice they have for DTC brands looking to grow. 👇

Here’s our convo:

💬 What does the structure of your Marketing Team currently look like?

🤵 Kristen Jones, Marketing Director @ SuitShop

“I am fortunate enough…to have the help of one of our customer support reps, that’s able to split her time between support and copywriting….Other than that, it's just me, the Marketing Director!”

🧼 Matt Mullenax, co-founder and CEO @ Huron:

“We're currently a team of 5. We recently hired a VP of Marketing, which took our team of 4 to 5 (25% growth!). In addition, we have a Director of Retention and CX, a rather unique and atypical role, but Jonny does a great job, and Annie is our Brand and Social Associate.”

💬 Who leads your Marketing Team, and what are they responsible for?

🤵 KJ

“Since I started with SuitShop, I've handled everything from paid social, organic social direction, photoshoot planning, partnerships and events, influencers, email marketing and automations, content strategy, budgets, and everything in between and beyond!”

🧼 MM

“Our VP of Marketing spearheads our marketing initiatives across brand and performance. Because we're a lean team, those responsibilities range from traditional paid channels (FB, Google), to owned media (email, SMS, web), to content direction.”

💬 Can you tell us about your experience working with external agencies?

🤵 KJ

“We currently have an SEO agency that [works on] CRO testing and SEO optimizations. We also have a publicist that helps with PR and the occasional influencer outreach.

We have an additional agency that handles paid search and social implementation and testing… that does full comprehensive breakdowns weekly and is always on top of everything.

We see a clear ROAS, get a rundown of all the data, and always know what they're doing. This form of communication is super important in building trust [with your agency].

🧼 MM

“We work with agencies for media buying purposes. When it comes to content and strategy, we're creating/determining in-house, which allows for greater control and consistency of voice and aesthetic across platform and channel.”

💬 What lessons have you learned about hiring?

🤵 KJ

“Finding the right agency partners has the potential to save a ton of money while initially scaling.

Some might argue that it's more valuable to have someone that knows the brand inside and out and is committed to its growth. However, a good agency should be able to fill that gap for you without needing salary, benefits, shares, etc.

🧼 MM

There's a stark contrast between filling seats and addressing needs. The former is relatively easy; the latter is more difficult with the same resources.

We spent months identifying and speaking with several candidates for our marketing role. But we wanted to find the right person for us. We weren't going to 'settle' on a key hire at this early growth stage.”

💬 What advice do you have for other DTC brands building their Marketing Teams this year?

🤵 KJ

“In my opinion, a generalist with an understanding of most channels is the best first-hire…someone that can optimize existing channels and implement what's missing. From there, they can help to assemble a team (of agencies and full-time hires) based on filling the gaps of their strengths and weaknesses.

If I were to hire anyone at this time, I would be looking into some form of a ‘community’ role that could help with engagement, social, and influencer management since we're always in need of content and enjoy building strong relationships amongst our customers.”

🧼 MM

“The classic boring example: it depends. Almost every business's needs are different. If wholesale is a critical component of your Revenue Mix, finding a well-versed marketer in TPR'ing and end caps is important… But if your focus is on DTC top-line growth, finding someone who understands paid channels and the full funnel (content creation, landing page, site mechanics/UI) is imperative.

At an early stage, it's best to map out underdeveloped business areas, identify holes in the org chart, and craft a [job description] around turning those areas of opportunity into strengths. But don't turn a blind eye to strong, generalist talent. “

Here’s a little recap of what we took away from these helpful insights! 👏

  • There’s no “perfect” Marketing Team structure or size. With the right skills and resources, you can succeed with a one-person team, a five-person team, or more!
  • Agencies can help fill gaps in your structure with highly specialized skills, such as paid ads/media buying, SEO, and PR. Just make sure you have clear communication with your agency and that they’re providing you with regular insights into data and results.
  • If you’re a small team, hire slow and intentionally, focusing on addressing needs, not “filling seats.”
  • Don’t underestimate the power of generalist talent, especially early on.

Anything we’ve missed? Reply to this email and let us know! 👍

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