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Where Are Canada’s Startup Marketers?

you need thisAt the risk of ruffling a few feathers, here’s a question: where are Canada’s startup marketers?

We’re teeming with developers but there appears to be a dearth of startup marketers who can help to nurture and grow viable businesses. As much as many startups may look at marketing as a necessary evil, marketing is a key ingredient for success. Without enough marketing talent, many startups may never realize their potential.

My thesis is based on a growing number of conversations with startups entrepreneurs who are finding it challenging, if not impossible, to find good marketing people.

One entrepreneur told me: “We have a big job and a big opportunity. Where’s the marketing talent?”. Another company is considering recruiting someone from the U.S. to fill a senior marketing position.

So, why the lack of marketing talent?

Does it have to do with the fact most startups are not created by marketing people? Is it the nascent nature of the startup community, which means there aren’t many marketers with solid startup experience? Or is there simply a lack of marketing talent overall in Canada?

Whatever the reason, it shouldn’t overshadow the reality that startups need good marketers, along with top-notch programmers, salespeople, designers, community managers and business developers.

Marketing helps to take your product to the next level, letting it and the brand establish a presence and connect with target audiences. Marketing lets you tell compelling stories in a way that is different or better than the competition.

One the realities for startup marketers is they need to be multi-faceted. They can’t just be good at one thing such as communications or lead generation. Instead, they need to be good, or at least competent, at many things. This could range from writing and SEO to AdWords, social media, strategic alliances and product marketing.

Finding someone with these skills can be a challenge because marketers tend to be specialized. They’re really good at a particular practice but they’re not “five tools” players to steal a baseball term. When you work for a startup, however, being able to multi-task is important, particularly within the world of lean.

One of the best insights into the role the startup marketer was provided recently by Marcelo Calbucci, who nailed it with this paragraph in a Geekwire column:

“You have to know (nearly) it all. You don’t have to be good at everything, but you have to have enough exposure and experience at all levels of the marketing “stack” to be able to make good calls on how to spend your time, money and other startups resources in order to maximize the value you bring to the table. It’s not enough to be a brilliant marketing strategist and not know how to execute those strategies. It’s not enough to have a bag full of tactical tricks if you can’t create cohesion for the company positioning. It’s not enough to be a master of Social Media and have no idea how SEO works.”

A couple of weeks ago, Neil Bhapkar, Uberflip’s director of marketing, wade into the conversation with a lengthy blog post, “The Truth About Startup Marketing” that outlined the different things he had done during his digital marketing career, and how he brings many things to the table to drive Uberflip’s marketing.

“I don’t spend my days thinking about our overall marketing strategy, but rather I spend my days executing, leading, and generally trying new things within the framework of our overall marketing strategy.”

To become a startup marketer, you need a mix of different experiences AND/OR you need to have an appetite to be a generalist rather than a specialist. Within a startup, the marketing needs and priorities evolve and change, sometimes abruptly. It means a startup marketer has to be flexible, agile and able to take on challenges as they emerge.

While it may not be possible to formally train startup marketers, the way to create them is to provide people with hands-on startup experience where they can learn, experiment and gain experience.

Given marketing is still plays a secondary role for many Canadian startups, it could take time to nurture lots of startup marketers but there’s no doubt we need more of them for the ecosystem to thrive.

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  • http://twitter.com/amritachandra Amrita Chandra

    Good question, Mark. A couple of points:

    1) For the longest time, it was more enticing for folks to work at big companies, so that’s where a lot of the talent went. My first job out of university (way back in the 90s) was working as a marketer at Nestle – it was super competitive to get in because that’s where everyone wanted to be. Big budgets, great pay, and marketing got a lot of respect. When I entered the tech industry in the late 90s, I moved to Boston because that’s where all the action was and they had a great software startup scene.

    Then over the last few years, with digital becoming a hot area of expertise, I saw a lot of smart marketers go the agency route or become digital strategists rather than marketers.

    I don’t know if the tide has turned yet – I’ve seen some startups that really value marketing and others that think of it as “fluff”. And so talent will follow suit accordingly.

    2) There are plenty of startup marketers in Canada that are off the radar because they work at companies that are not venture backed or don’t make a lot of noise in Canada (I speak from experience – when I ran marketing at Asigra, one of Canada’s fastest growing startups, not a lot of people knew who we were in Canada because we didn’t focus on the market here and I didn’t spend a lot of time at local startup events – my bad!).

    3) I agree we have a bigger problem at the senior talent level versus Junior-to-Director-level talent. I think more junior folks can be trained and ramped up quickly as you mention but the bigger problem will come when companies scale and need senior talent to take them further from that point.

    • http://www.markevans.ca/ Mark Evans

      Amitra: Thanks for the comment and insight. One entrepreneur suggested one reason for the lack of startup marketers is many multi-nationals moved marketing back to the U.S., which meant fewer Canadians got valuable marketing experience.

      I also agree with your thoughts about senior vs. junior talent. There are a lot of young people who are digitally savvy so they can handle tactics. It’s the strategic thinking that needs more people.

  • http://davidcrow.ca/ davidcrow

    We actually have a good number of B2B marketers. They are quite good at filling the qualified lead funnel for sales teams. The problem is that we don’t have enough of them.

    There are:

    * Brian Hartlen @bhartlen:twitter from Varicent
    * April Dunford @aprildunford:twitter with Janna, IBM, Huawei, startups plus more
    * Kristen Watson @kristenwatson:twitter at Kinaxis
    * Eloqua produced Joe Chernov @jchernov:twitter (ok, he’s from Rhode Island)
    * David Alston @davidalston:twitter of Radian6

    There are great experiential and word-of-mouth marketers like Saul Colt @saulcolt:twitter and Dave Olsen @daveohoots:twitter at Hootsuite.

    I think that successful companies will breed more successful diaspora, marketers included. I’m hoping that @tophatmonocle:twitter @desire2learn:twitter @hootsuite:twitter @shopify:twitter @frankandoak:twitter @waveaccounting:twitter @freshbooks:twitter @influitive:twitter @clearfit:twitter @vidyard:twitter @tribehr:twitter and others are starting to get to scale and should grow and develop marketing talent.

    But yes, there is a shortage of great marketing and product talent. But it can be fixed.

    • http://www.markevans.ca/ Mark Evans

      Thanks for putting the spotlight on some of the good startup marketers out there. I’m with you about the new crop of startups becoming a training ground for talent.

    • http://twitter.com/Renee_Warren Renée Warren

      Great list. Saul Colt is incredibly brilliant! He deserves his own category.

      • Jose Sanchez

        Like Mark suggested, I would add @NeilBhaps (Neil Bhapkar) to this list of awesome B2B marketers!

    • http://www.rocketwatcher.com/ April Dunford

      I’d add Mitch Solway (LavaLife, FreshBooks, Vidyard) and Kristina Cleary (Workbrain, Dayforce).

      • http://davidcrow.ca/ davidcrow

        I always forget great people.

        Mitch is awesome. And I’ve heard a certain founder talk about Kristina.

        My apologies to everyone that I forgot.

        • http://twitter.com/stuartma Stuart MacDonald

          I concur re: Saul and Mitch. But I’m just a teensy bit biased… :-)

    • http://communityinstinct.com David Alston

      This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I have been so fortunate to work with some amazing marketing talent in the past that now is out there in startup land spreading the good news. Guys like @jonmcginley at Blue Drop, @gregpoirier at TitanFile and Rob Begg at @Introhive, amongst many others. I am a big supporter of over-investing in marketing early on in a startup’s life cycle. Marketing plays a key role in setting the culture internally as well as with the startup’s community of potential supporters. It also provides necessary input to product development as often “marketing” needs to be built directly into the product. And I agree with the comments that a startup marketer is part strategist and part “get it done” tactician. Iterative is the way to go.

      I think we need to look for startup marketers in places we typically wouldn’t expect to find them. I started out as a hacker, then spent time in product roles before finally spending most of my time in marketing. It’s helped me appreciate the entire business. I’ve worked with engineers like @lebrun who have great marketing minds. I think it’s important to find people that appreciate all of the levers of business but also have a strong aptitude and appreciation for what marketing can bring. A lot of startup marketing is making do with very little so being creative on ways to get things done doesn’t hurt either.

      PS. David, thanks for the shout out. You and Mark belong on this list as well.

      • http://www.markevans.ca/ Mark Evans

        David: Thanks for your insight and adding to the conversation. If the proof is in the pudding, it’s what you, Amber, et al did at Radian6 through the power of marketing!

  • http://twitter.com/Renee_Warren Renée Warren

    I agree with your argument. Where are the startup marketers? The GOOD ones anyway?

    The way we have created (And evolved) the process of startup marketing at Onboardly is with the mindset of a startup. We are small, quick, lean and agile. Our focus – and core strength – is that we work with the startups closely to help them gain the visibility and traction they need to get noticed by customers, investors and even potential acquirers. We are metrics based, don’t believe in the quick wins, but rather a continuous relationship building process that involves content marketing, PR, social media, and the tiny things in between that make for a successful startup marketing engagement.

  • http://www.rocketwatcher.com/ April Dunford

    I’m going to echo Amrita’s point about her work at Asigra – there are great marketers around that are flying under the radar (startup marketing VP’s tend to be a busy bunch). We could certainly use more of them.
    I think we could do a better job sharing our knowledge and skills so that the more junior folks could mature. There aren’t a lot of great unbiased sources of information for full-stack marketers that goes beyond superficial “tips and tricks” or tactical “how to increase your blog traffic” execution stuff.
    The harder part of the VP Marketing job at a startup is around figuring out what the sustainable, scalable customer acquisition channels are (without assuming they are always the same, because they aren’t), and how best to organize and operate a high-growth marketing team. There isn’t much out there beyond grind-it-out experience in the trenches that’s helping startup marketing folks get to the next level. There should be imo.
    And then maybe if it weren’t so darn hard to get there, more folks would make it.
    April

  • http://twitter.com/stuartma Stuart MacDonald

    This whole topic just ticks me off frankly. There are some great names mentioned on here to be certain but the broader issue is that 99% of startups don’t know what marketing *is* so they don’t value it.

    Marketing is profitably solving customer problems. Full stop. It’s business. Product/Promotion/Place/Price. To the extent that a business – ANY business doesn’t operate in a manner consistent with having Marketing at it’s core – using my definition, which you can get out of any intro Marketing text book, by the way – and they’re making their lives more difficult than it needs to be.

    - Stuart

    • http://www.brainrider.com/ Nolin LeChasseur

      I’m with Stuart and Amrita. The startup culture in Canada has not understood the need for, and value of, marketing to the same extent their American (and international) counterparts have. If someone took the time to dig into funding data for Canadian startups, I suspect they would also find that most of the Canuck companies with strong marketing have substantial U.S. financial backing. There’s a pretty heavy emphasis on R&D in the Canadian startup scene.

      I’m similarly perturbed by the topic, too. Celebrating Canadian marketing “stars” does a disservice to all of the other strong B2B marketers (startup-employed or otherwise) who are working hard to deliver results for their companies that aren’t considered to be feathers in their personal brand caps. Maybe that’s a bit of cliche Canadian modesty at play.

      • http://www.markevans.ca/ Mark Evans

        Nolin, Stuart: You’re bang on about startups not embracing the role and value of marketing. I’ve run into a lot of situations where marketing was seen as something that has to be done, rather than something they want to do. Many of my clients come to me when they have a point of pain. Until then, marketing hasn’t been of much interest.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Saulcolt Saul Colt

      *Standing Ovation*

      • http://twitter.com/heatheranne Heather Anne Carson

        Can I stand on Saul’s shoulders while he’s giving a standing ovation so it’s a Cirque-du-Soleil-does-Marketing kind of scenario? A++.

  • http://www.facebook.com/theCraigHunter Craig Hunter

    I’d like to think that behind every single *successful* startup in Canada, you’ll find a top notch marketer.

    • http://twitter.com/stuartma Stuart MacDonald

      Which explains a lot, no?

  • http://twitter.com/rzive Ruth Zive

    Mark, I think that your most interesting point is the one about the need for generalists vs. specialists. Similarly, I think that there is some conflict between marketing strategy vs. implementation.

    Early stage startups, in particular, don’t always have budget or bandwidth to cover all of their marketing bases. They don’t have thousands of dollars (or tens of thousands) to spend on their monthly marketing effort. And even if they understand conceptually that it’s a critical part of what they must be doing (which most of our clients understand), it’s the implementation that’s the bugger.

    Do they focus on brand? Web presence? Content marketing? Social media? And if they are smart enough to focus on all of those things (ideally, within the context of a broader strategy), how do they ensure that they can implement on an ongoing basis?

    The marketing landscape has changed over the course of the last decade. These days, marketing (especially digital marketing) requires day-to-day nurturing. It’s not a build-it-and-they-will come environment. Startups need to churn out meaningful, dynamic content on an almost daily basis, and indeed…it’s challenging to find someone who can deliver…well.

    • http://www.markevans.ca/ Mark Evans

      You’re right; it’s the tactical execution that can be a challenge to startups on an ongoing basis. I think it comes down to having a solid marketing foundation, and then deciding the things they can do on a regular basis. It may mean doing less but doing it well, which is a pragmatic approach, and certainly better than not doing anything. Thanks for the comment.

      • http://twitter.com/rzive Ruth Zive

        Hey Mark – I reposted a reply cuz I didn’t see this one. Just delete if you’re able. Great post!

    • http://davidcrow.ca/ davidcrow

      A good marketer can help a startup inexpensive figure out where to focus. It’s partially a marketing question, partially a data question, partially an accretive milestone question, and partially a funding question. The notion that you have to spend a lot of money for good marketing isn’t what startups need.

      Building a solid foundation of data driven decision making, along with a process that allows for hypothesis formation and testing. These need to be integrated with a strong marketing plan and some good hunches about what will have the most impact at the current stage of development for the startup.

      It is not a one solution fits all.

      April has provided an interesting systems based approach that is a good starting point http://www.rocketwatcher.com/blog/2012/07/startup-marketing-a-systems-approach.html (it works really well for a B2B company).

      Startups need both the strategic and the tactical. And ideally the data to make informed decisions.

  • http://twitter.com/NeilBhaps Neil Bhapkar

    Great post, Mark. I always appreciate your willingness to bring start-up marketing in Canada to the forefront. I think the dialogue you’ve created has been great. Another thing we “start-up marketers” can improve on – especially B2B – is more collaboration and cross-promotion. No better way to make a broader dent than by working together and creating synergies that help all to expand reach and user base – what it’s all about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jabbs7 Jason Abbott

    Thank you for ‘ruffling the feathers’ Mark. As someone who’s been intimate with both the marketing and entrepreneurial scene in Canada for over a decade I am confident that we [Canada] have the marketing talent but, unfortunately, many of our start-up entrepreneurs, their investors and mentors don’t see the value of a professional marketer.

    This under appreciation by the c-suite for marketing is not isolated to start-ups. It is a common symptom affecting many of Canada’s companies and the result is we are losing the battle to our US counterparts.

    Canada’s start-ups don’t know what they don’t know. It’s upon us, the marketers, to raise our hand and educate Canada’s entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors about the value of marketing and more importantly the value of professional marketers.

    I’d be pleased to be part of a movement that strives to educate our Canadian entrepreneurs about the value of marketing – surely a group of marketers could figure this out! Pleased to discuss offline. jason@catapultgrp.ca, @catapultgrp

    • http://www.markevans.ca/ Mark Evans

      “They don’t know what they don’t know” is bang on. Not sure why marketing is sometimes treated as a second-class citizen. Let’s figure out how to get the ball rolling.

      • http://twitter.com/heatheranne Heather Anne Carson

        I remember attending SXSW 6 years ago when many early / original attendees were appalled by marketers attending ‘their’ conference. I somehow felt like my being there was ‘inappropriate.’ We’ve come a long way, but lots of room for improvement.

  • http://www.francis-moran.com Francis Moran

    I’m a bit late to this but am loving the debate and all the excellent points being raised.

    I do agree that the biggest problem with startup marketing is that too many startups don’t understand how marketing is mission critical. Enough has been said on this that I won’t further belabour it.

    Even those intelligent startups that do realise marketing is critical, however, are still faced with two unfortunate scenarios wherein they are obliged to choose between lousy sets of options.

    The first is that they know they need strategy; they just don’t need and can’t afford 40+ hours a week of it. So they do without.

    The second is that, whether they have acquired good strategic direction or not, they need to implement a bewildering array of tactical options, many of which require mutually exclusive skill sets. Some excellent arguments have been made here about the value of a marketer who is good at many things, but such a creature is a rare phenomenon indeed. So startups hire what they can afford, generally someone who is pretty good at one or two disciplines and a whole lot less good at everything else. It’s not a recipe for success.

    Many of us who have long worked with startups and love to do so have come to a different approach. Mark, you do it as part-time or short-term VP of marketing. April has been doing much the same for years and is trying to add some scale and refinement to the model with her new venture. It’s the model I adopted when I decided to move away from being an agency-structured speciality provider a few years ago in favour of trying to close these critical strategy and implementation gaps I was consistently seeing in startups.

    The model is a virtual CMO, or part-time VP of marketing, someone who can work intensively at the outset to develop the strategy and then stay in harness, but at a less intensive level, to manage the implementation of that strategy, bringing to the table the right amounts of the right skill sets at the right time.

    No compromises.

  • Albert S. Bitton

    An apropos topic. Here is a different angle on the situation. There are plenty of solid marketing executives in Canada. And there it is. They are already executives…. of a certain age with knowledge of marketing when marketing was actually marketing. The startup community across the country, however, is filled with technologists that seriously lack marketing, strategy, sales and business development skill. It gets worse. What some VP or director or manager of marketing does at a startup or small company is a far cry compared to what marketers did even a decade or 15 years ago. Today’s breed of marketers may have fancy titles, but many literally just manage a marketing budget to an SEO or PPC firm or service. Essentially, they are outsourcing “marketing” or lead generation to Google or another online lead generation service and calling themselves head of marketing. Discussions and strategies pertaining to marketing mix, strategic marketing partnerships, branding, PR, communications, and other key marketing disciplines are lost to todays PPC and SEO generation. Having a conversation with a mid 20 year old that has a title of VP of Marketing and trying to discuss strategic marketing partnerships or branding value is a very frustrating exercise. In addition, for the online business, Marketing has become and merged into Sales. Essentially the marketing department generates the online leads and the purchasing decision is done online with no interaction from anyone else. Thus, marketing and sales have morphed into one process. Further contributing to a lack of other marketing disciplines and techniques or strategies. So where are the good marketers in Canada? They are definitely available. But it depends on the industry and the type of business you have. Are you looking for Enterprise software marketing? Then don’t dare hire a startup marketer. You need experience. Someone of a certain age, network and know how. Are you an online business? Then online experience is what you need and there are plenty of those around. Are you a local merchant? Then you need a generalist that understand local marketing and online local marketing. This is where creative and aggressive hiring techniques come into play. You need to know how to hire and where to hire from. If I had to sum up all my conversations with marketers over the past few years in Canada within the startup community, I would say that their aggressiveness, their entrepreneurial spirit and gusto does not hide the fact that they are lacking in strategic thinking, branding, business development know how, management of staff and how best to link product development, marketing and sales. And are far too focused on PPC, SEO, CPA at the detriment of other key marketing strategies. So yes, there are great marketers available in Canada. One just needs to know how to find and hire them. One suggestion is to stop looking only in the startup or tech community.

    • http://davidcrow.ca/ davidcrow

      I’m not a fan of fancy titles. I’ve had them. Both deservedly and desired. But title creep is common in startups. It’s something that needs to stop.

      Focus on PPC, SEO, CPA, CPM, CPC, content marketing and other things are because they are inexpensive, measurable, immediate and changeable. Often as companies grow and scale their revenue and customer basis the are early large contributors to growth. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. But this is a new addition to the mix and often more effective early at delivering results. It doesn’t make the other irrelevant or ineffective, it just means that at at the early stages of corporate development startup marketers need to focus on things that drive immediate results. As a business grows and scales adding additional tactics to the mix makes more sense.

  • http://twitter.com/rzive Ruth Zive

    I think that the most interesting point here is the distinction between specialist and generalist. And I think that same conflict has implications relative to implementation vs. strategy.

    Our clients find that there are some great marketing minds with keen insights regarding strategy and best practice. But lean startups don’t typically have the bandwidth or resources to implement (effectively) – especially across a growing spectrum of marketing need (content marketing, branding, social media, video, SEO…all of the areas you’ve noted in your post). They may even been keen to embrace the critical importance of marketing, but it’s hard to prioritize, when time and money are so limited.

    I’m biased, since our model encourages startups to outsource their marketing (at least in the earlier stages), and we offer end-to-end support – from strategy to implementation. More often than not, we hear very deep sighs of relief.

  • http://clearfit.com Ben Baldwin | ClearFit

    Sorry that it’s taken me a while to jump on board with this discussion. I’m actually in SF, hosting a dinner tonight with this topic in mind.

    We’re on the hunt for great marketing leadership @ClearFit, because we want to build marketers – in Canada (gasp). Canada has all the raw goods (the people), but we have an attitude challenge (the culture). We’re leaving work at XXpm to be surrounded by lawyers, doctors, and bankers who wonder what we were doing all day if not making a decent salary. So we need some leaders to set an example of “thinking big”, also to nurture/manage young talent, to take advantage of it before it moves to the US.

    How do we provide more marketing leader immersion, so the “professionals” don’t run Canada’s future marketers out of town?

  • http://wmougayar.com/ William Mougayar

    The issue is not just Canada. It’s a common thing for many startups, especially before Product-Market fit where marketing doesn’t matter that much (yet).

    The other factor is that most startups are driven by product or technical founders who don’t value, appreciate or understand marketing, so it takes a back seat.

  • http://twitter.com/RobertLesser Robert Lesser

    Mark,

    My answer: start-up marketers are here but you need to look harder.

    With a much smaller tech market than our neighbours, our marketing community is proportionally even much smaller (more on that in a moment)

    The Darwinian effect in tech is that small tech is continually being gobbled up by big tech who are more often than not, headquartered in the US. Acquired Canadian firms may retain development here but marketing decisions and management will move south of the border.

    My unscientific factoid this morning is from LinkedIn Jobs: a search on mid to high level software marketing jobs in Canada yields 26 LinkedIn jobs. A similar search in the US nets 473 jobs – 20 X that of Canada.
    P.S. Thanks Mark for your comment on my blog post this week!

    Robert Lesser

  • Terry Donnelly

    I once had an engineer/CEO of struggling software company tell me, as he was briefing me on a search to find a VP marketing – and I quote – “we build the product, and then we call in the marketing guys with their crayons.” I wished him all the best, and told him I couldn’t help him. I think this is the prevailing attitude amongst most engineers or software developers, but more so engineers. They believe they are doing the “real work” and then the marketing and PR guys are supposed to do the brochure and generate some leads so sales can go sell a customer what they’ve built. I think that the engineers believe in their hearts that they know exactly and precisely that what they’ve built is what needed to be built, and everyone else who has a different opinion is wrong, uninformed, or more likely just stupid.

    Kudos to all here, but it seems like an entire list of marketers talking to other marketers about how important our work is. Can we all send this article and thread to ten engineers and Canadian VC’s who desperately need to read this?

  • http://twitter.com/bhartlen Brian Hartlen

    Well I see a lot of my favorite people have commented… so here is my two cents.
    I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in high-tech marketing in the US and in Canada. My opinion is that in the past 5 years we have seen an increased appreciation for ‘good marketing’ from investors and CEOs who are looking to accelerate growth. They get it. And there is talent – many of mentioned and contributing to this thread.

    The two challenges that I see are that
    1/ many of the investors/executives I talk to have a very different opinion of what marketing’s role is. We as marketers need to do a better job of advocating the role of marketing in high tech companies.

    2/ availability of talent @aprildunford- how available are you for new assignments? @davidcrow – do you have a lot of free time? Everytime I see some of the marketing ‘experts’ at any function we all talk about how busy we are…. Sounds like a shortage of talent to me. It’s not that we don’t have a lot of great talent here… it ‘s that we aren’t attracting and nurturing more.

  • http://www.vidyard.com/ Mitch Solway

    Great post Mark..great thread..oh, and thanks to all who said nice things about me!

    My head is really spinning at full speed on this one because there are so many topics and angles on marketing that have been covered. We could probably create 100 new blog posts from this one with some great learning on what it’s going to take to create some great start up marketing in Canada.

    I’m going to zoom in on the issue of where are our next great start up marketers going to come from. And here, I am with David. I believe they are going to need to come from those companies that are past the start up stage and can afford to invest in the creating the conditions for great start up marketers to emerge.

    Being in a start up might be one of the worst, or rather, toughest places to learn how to be a start up marketer. The very nature of being a start up marketer is one of figuring it all out…and, as has been discussed in this thread, you are often on your own. Even as a marketing leader in a start up there is little time to coach and teach – you need to hire people that can “get stuff done” and “figure stuff out” on their own.

    So, start ups can’t really afford to teach. But companies that have gone through the start up phase and are now in growth mode certainly can..and, in fact, they must start making investments in their infrastructure and people to continue growing.

    I learned how to be a start up marketer at Lavalife. Even though I was the first marketer there they were already making a ton of cash and had started investing in “learning how to grow”. And that meant the business AND the people and the infrastructure to support that. I was able to take on pieces of the business and act like an entrepreneur, but also get support from my manager and access to enough resources to make stuff happen. It was here that I learned how to “cut my teeth” with respect to moving a business forward with marketing.

    So, I think we need to look to our Canadian growth companies as the incubators for our future start up marketing leaders. And, it could just be that the number of growth companies in Canada right now is too small to support our start up needs.

    But, as David suggests, as our Canadian start ups shift to growth mode this can hopefully provide the genesis for the new breed of start up marketers.

    Mitch

  • http://www.facebook.com/jpschoolen Jill Schoolenberg

    What always amazes me in the discussion of “what makes a
    great marketer” is understanding the balance between art and science. I recall the President of a company that I worked for saying to me “ you guys (aka the marketing team) use numbers? I had no idea you used numbers?” Today’s young marketers usually understand the science behind only 1 or 2 marketing tactics like PPC and SEO. What they have little background is into marketing strategy, identifying their target audience, product positioning and using consumer insights to develop compelling
    customer campaigns. To get the full value of marketing, start-ups need to appreciate that marketing does not equate solely to lead generation and that Twitter is not a strategy – it’s an execution.

    The decline in Canadian marketing skills started when the big consumer goods companies moved their strategic marketing to the US. A number of the start-up marketers mentioned below either started their careers in big packaged goods companies when marketing was local or have spent time in large organizations. It’s the combination of training coupled with
    broad exposure and experience that enables those marketers to turn the science of marketing into an art. Start-ups need to consider hiring a senior generalist marketer to hone the marketing skills of their individual specialists in order to create a future pool of broad based start-up marketers and leaders.

  • Murray McKercher

    I am new to this discussion and congratulate Mark for opening this site.
    I feel there is a great creative talent pool in the University and College system just waiting to start full time work. Certainly at the Ryerson Digital Media Zone I have seen a great deal of talent. The model at DMZ encourages collaborative work between teams and academic silos at the University creating a great learning environment for students, professors, and entrepreneurs …including business and finance disciplines. Feel free to contact me if you are looking for fresh talent…happy to build the bridge to Ryerson. U.

  • http://www.socialnerdia.com/ Esteban Contreras

    I’m new to Canada. Originally from Guatemala, I led Social Media Marketing for Samsung USA in Ridgefield Park, NJ for 3 years before moving to New Westminster, BC. I know work with Sprinklr (based in NYC) and started my own digital consultancy (Social Nerdia Consulting). I may not be Canadian yet, but that’s the idea. I believe Vancouver has the potential to attract talent and become a major tech hub thanks to its location (bridge to Asia, same time zone as Silicon Valley, proximity to Seattle and Portland, improving weather).

    Some Canadian marketers I know and respect: David Alston, Saul Colt, Ben Watson.

  • Lyndon Johnson

    I’d argue that the problem goes beyond the startup community – there are very few good marketeers, and even fewer PR people, period.

  • http://twitter.com/ebernabei Emilio Bernabei

    In my view, Canada has a double-whammy issue. (1) We really do not value marketing and ‘hard core’ sales people in high-tech; not nearly as much as our friends south of 49. The difference in how the two cultures value these is astounding actually. (2) Supply and demand. There is demand for exciting, blue-chip startup experience, but I don’t see the supply of such companies in Canada. [insert dissertation on Canadian VC economy which is 75% gov't funded].

    “Chicken & egg” you say… and you would be correct. IMO we need to over-invest to reach escape velocity. We need a few massive “funds of funds” to emerge and pump the VC’s across Canada with _real_ money. Then we need to go for it — not blindly investing, but investing in high-risk entrepreneurs nonetheless. We all know the stats and we know Venture Finance is a stats game — there will be a few Nortel/RIM/SMART winners [referring to their better days obviously] and there will be a ton of losers.
    But hey, did I mention there will be winners?