Building an in-house marketing team for your company is not easy, especially if you don’t have a background in marketing or design, so we put together this guide to help you hire your first marketing employee to form the foundation of your in-house marketing team.

You may have a VP of sales, but sales is just one part of the entire marketing engine. You need someone that understands how marketing works with sales and can implement a marketing strategy that empowers your sales team to close more leads ( funnels, retargeting, messaging ).

You should invest a good amount of time and resources to hire your first marketing employee. Even if their title is “graphic designer”, their responsibility by default as the first member of your marketing team will be much greater, and you need someone who is going to grow and manage your marketing team.

Don’t hire interns or recent graduates to form the foundation of your marketing team. You wouldn’t hire a new college grad to lead your sales right? Hire someone who is more knowledgeable about marketing and design than yourself so you don’t need to tell them what to do. They should be telling YOU what to do.

It’s tempting to hire interns and new grads, but they are going to require a lot of your time and training. School work and real work are very different. Don’t hire a marketing employee with little to no experience to give you advice.

You need a leader, and they will probably cost more than you think – more than you want. But it is a strategic step to take your company to the next level. You need to see the big picture if you want to grow big. You will need to invest at least half a million dollars ( if not more ) on marketing talent and marketing projects during the next 3 years if you want to see results. It’s a big decision with a long term payoff, but if you don’t hire the right people from the start, then you will waste a lot of money.

The right person for the job.

You have two options for your first marketing employee: ( 1 ) hire a senior graphic designer with marketing experience for about 75K who can later become your marketing director, or (2) hire a marketing director with professional graphic design skills for $100K.

If you’re lucky then your candidate might have experience at a similar company in your industry. At the very least they will have worked at a company that looks like what you want your company to become in the future.

Most important skills for your first marketing employee: design, writing, leadership

Many marketing skills that can be learned on the job ( social media, email marketing, press releases ), but you should seek to find someone with great design, writing, and leadership skills from the start. Design is only one aspect of marketing and many designers at the beginning of their career will focus too much on making their designs pretty and not enough on the purpose of the designs. You need someone who understands how design and marketing work together to achieve strategic business objectives. Without objectives you are not marketing– you are playing the lottery.

Design Programs

InDesign is the premier marketing document creation platform. They need to be experienced with InDesign because it is how all your booklets, business cards, sponsorship ads, and digital publications will be created. They must know how to layout multi-page documents for printing, import graphics, adjust typography, align elements, and export print-ready files.

They must know Adobe Illustrator for creating vector graphics such as icons, logos, and graphical elements to be placed into InDesign documents. They must know how to use the pen tool, pathfinder tool, align functions, type tool, save for web feature, and export function. They should be skilled at creating simple graphics and illustrations to visually support the text of marketing documents.

In the past, Photoshop was the primary tool for graphic design and web design before specialized vector design software was available ( illustrator, InDesign ). But now Photoshop lacks many features needed for Graphic Design and it is primarily used for photo editing. Do not hire someone who suggests that Photoshop is a good alternative to InDesign and Illustrator. Not only will simple tasks take five times longer, but they will be slowing down other marketing staff working with them.

These four Office programs are probably used daily by your other teams, so its important that your marketing team knows how to create, edit, and enhance Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Excel files.

Your marketing team should know how to use Word to remake business documents that need updating, such a proposals and letterheads.

They should know how to utilize Outlook rules to sort and track emails, and they should be familiar with creating custom email signatures within outlook.

They should know how to adjust the aspect ratio of PowerPoints for widescreen displays and how to design screens simple layouts using typography best-practices.

Your service team is probably using excel files for invoices and proposals, so your marketing team should understand how to edit these files and enhance them without breaking their formatting or formulas.

Marketing Programs

Ideally your first hire will know social media management and email marketing, but don’t stress it if they don’t because hopefully they will become your marketing director who will hire specialized experts in these areas. If they know Buffer, WordPress, and Mailchimp then great, but it’s more important that they be good leaders and have the ability to find and manage people who know how to use the latest marketing tools.


Your first marketing employee should have impressive graphic design skills and they probably will prefer to use a pen tablet. If they prefer a mouse, then that may be a sign that they are not be very good at graphic design. Working with a mouse is slower and less precise than working with a pen.

To create precise lines in illustrator with a mouse is more difficult than using a tablet pen. Even if it takes just 10 more seconds per minute to do the same task with a mouse, that adds up to be 48 minutes of extra time per day ( 4 hour per week ).

I have used all types of Wacom pen products from the digital screens to the large and expensive professional tablet models. Designers often work on computers for 6 hours a day, so using a pen on a digital screen where you need to hold your hand out in front of you is not a comfortable way to work.

A large “professional” tablet might seem like a better option, but those are a waste of money because most designers change the working area of the tablet to just a small fraction of the entire tablet area to reduce the distance they need to move their hand. It is tiresome to move your hand long distances ( 6 inches ) for extended periods of time. It’s a lot more comfortable to use even just a 2.5 inch wide rectangle to cover a dual wide screen setup.

All you need is a $60 -$80 Wacom CTL490 Tablet (old model ) or the CTL4100 ( New model ). This little tablet will fit in any backpack, but it’s still large enough for most people. Don’t waste your money on a $400 pro model. I’ve used the CTL 490 for 5 years and its been all I ever needed.

Purchase from Amazon: Wacom Intous Small ( CTL4100 )


To lead your marketing you will need someone who understands the complete marketing engine. This includes (1) lead generation tools such as advertising, blogs, and direct mail, (2) the process of marketing and moving leads through the various stages of a sales funnel, (3) cross-selling and up-selling clients, and (4) gathering client feedback ( testimonials ) about their experience with your agency to establish credibility.

They will need to be familiar with the fundamentals of design ( symmetry, balance, whitespace, typography, color theory ) to know whether a design is good or bad. Some designers have years of work experience but still only have average skills. You need AMAZING. You should look for someone who wows you with their portfolio. If they went to an art school ( Art Center, SVA, RISD, SCAD, CCAD, MICA) and their GPA was above 3.5, then that’s a good sign they are amazing.

Typography is the art of making text beautiful. You should find someone who understands how to use different type styles and sizes to make text more clear. The skill to properly select the right line height, sentence length, and typeface comes with experience. Typography often is the difference between good design and bad design.

There are many projects that your first marketing employee will be creating that are going to the printer, so its important that they understand how to layout documents and adjust documents to fit printing requirements like adding bleed, crop marks, and preparing colors to be correct for CMYK or spot color printing.


Writing is a huge part of graphic design and marketing. Your marketing team must write emails, content for materials, blogs, press releases, and advertisements. Plus writing marketing copy is different from normal writing because it requires writing text that fits within design limitations. A brochure can only feature so much text, so it is up to the designer to decide which text is most important and to simplify it to say the same thing using less words.

Graphic design is like a puzzle. Designers are constantly adjusting the design based on new information and writing materials so that every design element is in harmony to support the project’s primary objective.

The ability to rewrite information and to simplify paragraphs by removing non-essential information is important in the design process. Good design requires removing text and graphics until the essential information is clear. You want someone who is going to take 2 pages of information and rewrite it into 200 words.

The goal of a marketing is not to say everything. The goal is to convince your prospects to take action by calling, emailing, visiting, or purchasing from you. Every document you create should have one of these objectives at the core of the writing and design. An experienced marketer and designer will understand this.

Your first marketing employee will be the voice of your company and write all the text for your website and marketing materials. It’s very important that they are good at writing and that they can write in a voice and tone that matches your company culture.

A good writer and designer can learn as they go by asking questions and interviewing your team members. Try to find someone who is not afraid to ask questions and tell you that they don’t understand something.


If your serious about building an in-house marketing team and taking your company to the next level, then don’t settle for “good enough”. You need an amazing designer, a knowledgeable marketer, and a strong leader. Someone who every morning gets you excited about your business.

A strong leader will have charisma to rally your team together. They will have integrity and be someone that other team members look up to. They will be well spoken and confident at events and public speaking opportunities. You probably won’t be able to tell if they are the right person for the job just by looking at their resume, but you’ll know during an interview if they are the right person.

You might want someone who will do whatever you say, but that’s a bad idea. It’s not easy to tell your boss no or to turn down an idea, but that is one of the important roles of a leader. They should be able to explain why they don’t agree and feel confident to speak up when necessary for the success of the company. You need a leader who is going to enhance your business with knowledge and insights that you do not have. Find someone who is incredibly smart and trust them.


You should pay a salary of 75K to 120K depending on how experienced they are at design, marketing, and leadership. Ideally you’ll find someone amazing for around 100K who is going to be committed to staying with your company and building up your marketing department for at least the next 3 years. The talent you need will never accept anything like 50K because they are worth more, and even if you did hire them for that salary, they would almost certainly be planning their departure in the near future.

Building a marketing team requires a lot of skill and commitment. If the difference between 1 million in growth and 20 million in growth is just 50K, then pay extra to get the right person. Plus, there will be an incentive for other people to join your marketing team to learn from someone with more experience.

Wow, that was an epic post! I hope it was helpful. If you have any feedback, please send me an email.

And, if you need help building your in-house marketing team, please schedule a meeting with me and I can give you some more advice.


Chris, CEO of Start Some Marketing