Your Start-Up Should Hire Fractional Growth Marketers If You Want To Scale Faster With Less Resources

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Start-ups are required to move fast and compete with much larger and more entrenched competitors while doing so with far less resources. Hiring fractional growth marketers is one of the best ways to do this and is a secret weapon for some of the best and fastest-growing companies in start-up centers around the world.  

First, some background

I have spent many years running venture capital-backed start-ups. Along with my co-founders, I have started and run companies funded by small, local venture firms as well as larger global blue-chip investors. Like many start-up founders, I have had both wins and losses and have learned a ton from both.

It’s no coincidence that I now help run Growth Collective, a talent collective of the world’s best freelance marketers. In fact, we launched Growth Collective because it’s what we have needed over the years of launching and scaling our various businesses. Growth Collective was launched by former Google marketers in Silicon Valley. It went through the famed startup accelerator Techstars.

Our first clients were start-ups and venture firms in the San Francisco Bay Area. And our first freelancers were top marketers from some of the biggest names in the Valley. So, we have walked in the shoes of all of those start-up founding teams that are out there trying to change the world and build something great.

Today, we work with a broad range of companies, but start-ups and venture firms continue to drive a large part of the business on the Growth Collective platform.  

What’s Unique About a Start-Up?

oung Asian business woman with graphic creative idea for startup business sketch plan

Nearly all start-ups are innovating something

While there are different degrees of innovation for every start-up, it’s fair to say that nearly all start-ups are looking to innovate something. This means that they have to have a unique approach or reason for being and have to have the hustle, smarts, and creative mindset to create something that is different from what already exists. 

Most have limited resources

While nearly all start-ups are innovating something, this innovation must happen with limited resources (money and people being the primary resources that start-ups need to leverage well). Even those companies that have raised significant capital are often required to compete against much larger and more entrenched companies.  

Because of this, start-ups must be driven by data and not waste cycles or money

Large companies shouldn’t waste money, but they often can afford to do so without it being a death sentence to the company. But start-ups are different. They simply can’t afford to waste cycles or lose money for long. If they do, they will run out of runway and, thus, out of time. This means that start-ups must be driven by data and not waste cycles or money. Every dollar counts, and so every dollar has to create an impact.  

Start-ups are in a race to prove their thesis

Established companies want to move fast, but they don’t have to do so to survive. But, start-ups have a very finite amount of time to prove their start-up thesis. This means that they are in a race to prove elements of their thesis every day, and speed is everything. Whereas many large companies have a few years to prove or disprove new ideas or opportunities, even larger start-ups don’t have more than 12-24 months at a time to prove their thesis enough to earn more capital and time.  

And, flexibility and agility are required to move quickly and chase opportunity

Given that start-ups can’t waste cycles, they have to remain incredibly flexible and agile. They have to track data, review that data on a regular basis, and adjust course quickly if that data shows that they should be investing their time, energy, and money elsewhere. The enemy of a start-up is time, and so start-ups have to be incredibly flexible and agile.  

Start-up leaders and their teams must have an appetite (and thick skin) to navigate the above while they try to change the world

While there is a romance about start-ups, most people simply can’t handle the turbulence of leading or working within a start-up. There are so many unknowns. Every day is different (in good ways and bad). There is always a ticking clock. And, with that excitement comes a great deal of stress and anxiety. 

Why These Unique Elements Require Similar Flexibility In Hiring

businessman and businesswoman shaking hands

Given these differences, start-ups must think about how to build up their teams in a much different fashion. There are a variety of reasons for this:

Hiring has to happen quickly

Hiring must happen very quickly within a start-up. In a company that has an indefinite or nearly infinite lifespan, taking 3-6 months to hire somebody is just fine. However, in a start-up that might only have 12-18 months to prove the next part of their thesis, every day means losing time in their race to validate their thesis. This means hiring has to happen quickly.  

Team members must get up to speed quickly

Just like hiring has to happen quickly, getting a team member up to speed quickly is required. Team members must be able to immediately come in and apply their skills but also have the spirit and personality to jump in and start making a contribution.  

Leaders must remain flexible with who they hire

Things change in a start-up from one week to the next. One week, you think that you need a person who has a certain background to prove something or move something forward. And, literally, a week later, you may realize that you need a person with a very different skill set. So, start-ups have to remain very flexible with who they hire.

Start-ups can’t sacrifice talent and quality as they move quickly

There is a saying in engineering that you can have quality or speed, but you can’t have both. Well, this simply isn’t the case when hiring for a start-up. Despite the need to hire quickly, start-ups need to have smart, experienced people because those people have to be able to make contributions immediately. Start-ups can’t afford months (or years) training people on new tools or new industries… they need people who can come in and immediately get to work.

Start-ups still have to do the required background checking and vetting

Again, start-ups must move quickly, but they also have to ensure that the people they are hiring are vetted. They have to be sure they have the experience to make an immediate contribution and have the skills needed for success.    

Leaders have to hire teams while doing 1,000 different other things

businessman working on computer at modern office

In large companies, there are often dedicated people who can recruit, vet, and onboard team members. But start-ups simply don’t have those resources (even if they do, these resources may be limited). Therefore, most start-up leaders have to hire while they do 1,000 other things to keep things moving forward. 

When start-ups hire engineering talent, the requirements are usually pretty fixed. This isn’t true when these same start-ups are hiring marketing talent

When a start-up hires engineering talent, it’s rare they will hire and then change the tech stack within a few months. Therefore, if a company hires for a certain language or framework, there is a high likelihood that those engineers won’t need to switch to other language frameworks. But, this is very different when it comes to marketing and marketing channels. Start-ups may have ideas for which channels they are going to tap into as they go to market. However, some of these channels may work while others don’t.  

Part of proving a thesis is proving there are customers that can be acquired in an ROI+ and scalable manner

If large companies spend a bit extra on acquiring a customer, they probably won’t go out of business. But, if start-ups can’t acquire customers in an ROI+ manner, their lifespan will diminish, and they will either need to raise more capital or go out of business. Therefore, start-ups don’t just need to prove that there is a market for their product or service - they must also prove that they can acquire customers in those markets at an ROI+ rate.  

Marketing today has a variety of possible online (and offline) channels - some will work, but many won’t

Finding channels that will work in driving ROI+ customers is difficult when there are a huge number of channels. Therefore, start-ups must hire within this reality. In order to find channels that work, a start-up must test a variety of channels and track the performance of those channels diligently.

Each channel requires an expert for start-ups to truly understand if a channel will work

Just like there is rarely a full-stack developer who is truly gifted at the full-stack, there is rarely a full-stack marketer who can be successful in a variety of channels. Each channel is simply too unique and requires too much focus to really understand and exploit.  

This means that a start-up must hire multiple experts if they really want to find channels that will enable them to prove their thesis

For the reasons above, start-ups must hire multiple experts to test channels. They may need a paid search expert, PR expert, organic social expert, and e-mail marketing expert. 

With limited resources, they can’t afford to hire all of those full-time

Again, start-ups have limited resources. Therefore, they can’t afford to hire full-time individuals across a large variety of channels. So, they have to think differently and figure out another way to leverage experts across multiple channels.  

Why Hiring Fractional Growth Marketing Experts Is The Secret Weapon Of Leading Start-Ups

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Some of the smartest start-ups in the world have embraced fractional growth experts to help them prove their thesis faster, more flexibly, and more affordable. This is true of top companies in Silicon Valley as well as top start-ups in leading start-up centers around the world. This trend has accelerated with the fast adoption of remote work culture and has been fueled by more and more top growth marketers choosing to work independently.  

Fractional Growth Marketing enables the flexibility to test channels

Instead of hiring growth marketers full-time and being stuck with those employees if the marketing channels those individuals know don’t work, hiring fractional growth marketers enables flexibility. Start-ups hire fractional experts in the channels that they want to test. For those channels that work, those companies can continue to work with those experts on a fractional basis or hire them full-time. For those channels that don’t work, start-ups can quickly and easily stop working with those experts and move on to other channels.  

Hiring Fractional Growth Marketers ends up being cheaper

When start-ups hire fractional growth marketing experts, the focus is on results rather than hours spent. Instead of hiring somebody for 40 hours per week, start-ups typically will work with experts for 10-30 hours per week on a very defined set of deliverables. This means that hiring fractional growth marketers ends up being more affordable for the start-up. 

Some of the best growth marketers are and want to be independent

Given a variety of factors, many of the best growth marketers today would rather work independently than work full-time for one individual company. This means that many top start-ups find that they must embrace fractional and freelance work arrangements to find experts who can move quickly and drive impact.  

Top start-ups partner with talent platforms that do the vetting of growth marketing talent and, therefore, get experts for their chosen marketing channels

While companies can hire on some of the big-box freelance platforms, top start-ups recognize the dangers and channels of doing so. The talent on these platforms is often not fully vetted. And, even when they are, it’s rare that they are vetted by marketers. These platforms aren’t sure what to look for and find it difficult to distinguish between what makes a great growth marketer and an average one. These platforms have relied on user reviews as a means of determining this, but: 1) These reviews are often gamed; 2) Most customers of these freelancers also don’t know how to distinguish between top experts and average marketers.  

Fractional Growth Marketing experts can make an immediate impact

These experts are used to jumping right in and making a contribution. They have experience doing so, and therefore, there are no wasted cycles.  

Tips For Start-Ups To Succeed In Hiring Freelance & Fractional Marketing Experts To Help Them Grow

A businessman choosing applicants

Here are some tips to help start-ups be successful in hiring freelance and fractional marketing experts to help them grow:

Start with a clear plan

When hiring freelance and fractional marketing experts, start with a clear plan. What are you trying to prove? How fast do you need to grow? How much do you have to spend to prove what you need to prove? What channels do you believe will give you the highest likelihood of proving what you need to prove within your budget? 

If you aren’t a growth marketer, get help from an experienced growth marketer to help you create your plan

If you don’t have experience as a growth marketer, it’s important that you find somebody who can help you create your testing plan. Most companies simply buy Facebook ads because other companies are doing so. This is not a strategy and is a surefire way to lose both money and time - two things that are very finite for every start-up. Therefore, you should consider engaging a freelance or fractional CMO to help you build up a plan.  

Test 2-4 channels at a time

You should test 2-4 channels at a time to find 2-3 channels that you can use to prove what you need to prove within your budget. The channels you choose should be based on benchmarks and research on where your target customers get their information and learn about products and services like yours.  

Adopt a testing culture in your growth marketing efforts

Be sure to adopt a testing culture throughout your company, including within your marketing efforts. The goal is to prove what channels will and won’t work. This means that you have to test, capture data, analyze that data, make decisions… and then repeat.  

Find a platform that you can work closely with

There are various ways to hire freelance and fractional growth marketing experts. However, we encourage you to find a platform that can help you hire these experts and work with you to engage and manage these experts. Most freelance platforms take a hands-off approach, but some, like Growth Collective, invest time and energy in working with you to ensure your success.  

Last Words

Lastly, be sure to stay focused on your prize. Your goal is to test your thesis so you can grow enough to live another day on your path to flourishing.

So, stay focused on your prize. Find the channels that work for you and your business to acquire customers in an ROI+ way. Scale up at an intentional rate so you can learn how those channels scale and so you don’t burn through too much money too quickly. Find a partner who can help you navigate this journey, is looking out for your interests, and knows marketing well enough to do so. 

At Growth Collective, we are a marketing talent platform built by marketers and start-up veterans. We love working with start-ups and are here to partner with ambitious companies of all sizes who are looking to grow and make an impact.   

Ryan Bettencourt
Former company
About Author
Ryan starts and grows things online. He currently does so as Co-Founder & CEO of Legion Works (, a company he co-founded to build a platform to help ambitious companies grow. The Legion platform includes Growth Collective, Hello Bar, Subscribers, and other growth products and services.
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