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Backblaze is looking to hire a VP of Marketing. I find that both exhilarating and frightening. Why frightening? Because I’ve played the role since the inception of the company, it would be our first non-founder executive hire, I really want to make sure that we hire that magical person who would be perfect for this role – and I know how hard that can be.
Are you that person? Or know someone who might be? Read on…
In 2007 after a friend’s computer crash caused her some suffering, we realized that – with every photo, video, song, and document going digital – everyone would eventually lose all of their information. Five of us quit our jobs to start a company with the goal of making it easy for people to back up their data.
Like many startups, for a while we worked out of a co-founder’s one-bedroom apartment. Unlike most startups, we made an explicit agreement not to raise funding during the first year. We would then touch base every six months and decide whether to raise funding or not. We wanted to focus on building the company and the product, not on pitching and slide decks. And critically, we wanted to build a culture that understood money comes from customers, not the magical VC giving tree. Over the course of 5 years we built a profitable, multi-million dollar revenue business – and only then did we raise a VC round.
Why tell you this? Because it helps to understand our approach to building the company, and as a result, to marketing. I believe in the value of marketing and the value of brand, but also, that a great brand is built through the overall experience the company provides and not a billboard or super bowl commercial. Investing in marketing (for our business) is critical, but outspending others is not the goal. I’m not afraid of spending money on marketing – but want to tie it to ROI as a result of scaling successful iterative experiments.
When we sat in that one-bedroom apartment we were building a service we thought customers would love – but with no customers, no web traffic, a brand no one had ever heard of and zero dollars to spend on marketing…it was not clear how we would let any of those potential customers know.
Today, our world looks different and you’ll have some fantastic assets to work with:
- A brand millions recognize for openness, ease-of-use, and affordability.
- A computer backup service that stores over 200 petabytes of data (about 1/4th as much Facebook), has recovered over 10 billion files for hundreds of thousands of paying customers – most of whom self-identify as being the people who find and recommend technology products to their friends.
- Our new B2 service that provides the lowest cost cloud storage on the planet – at 1/4th the price Amazon, Google or Microsoft offer. While new, it already has over 20,000 IT and developers signed up and an ecosystem building up around it.
- A blog that has been read by millions, a site that ranks well organically, a partner program with over 10,000 affiliates and resellers, a working refer-a-friend program and some ROI-positive paid advertising channels.
- A growing, profitable and cash-flow positive company.
- And last, but most definitely not least: a great marketing team and a budget.
You might be saying, “sounds like you’ve got this under control – why do you need me?” Don’t be misled. We need you. Here’s why:
- We have a great team of creative, smart, self-starters, but how do we make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction and at the same time?
- We have customers that love us and tell us “I tell everyone to use you!” If each customer referred just one person per year, we’d be growing over 100%. What can we do to make this happen?
- We have a very popular blog, but how many of the readers have ever tried our service?
- We do activities and the business grows – but which ones are the real drivers and how do we crank those up rather than doing more of everything?
- We have our new B2 service (which is at the startup phase where we are learning who the customers are, what do they most care about, how do we talk with them, etc.)…and our computer backup service which currently accounts for the majority of our revenue. How do we nurture one while growing the other?
I am looking for someone who will come in, ask these questions (and others we haven’t even thought to ask), help the team get answers and help us share what we and many of our customers believe to be invaluable services with more people and companies.
So that’s a bit about us. What are we looking for in you?
I don’t really care whether you have 3 PhD’s or never graduated college. But there are things that you’ll need in this role to succeed.
Digital marketing and direct response: You need to understand digital marketing at a granular level. We have done some print/radio/TV/billboard, but the majority of our marketing is online. Understanding SEO, SEM, affiliates, remarketing, email, conversion tracking, A/B tests and all of the respective analytics is key. We also work hard to create good content. Understanding the role of what is now called content marketing is also crucial. Since our approach is ROI-driven, a direct response background is helpful.
Leadership: We have an experienced team who’ve brought us to where we are today. You need to have the people and management skills to get them excited about working with you.
Data driven and creative: The data has to show something makes sense before we scale it up. However, without creativity, it’s easy to say “the data shows it’s impossible” or to find a local maximum. Whether it’s deciding to build our own storage, blogging about our pods and drive reliability, farming hard drives or sending carrier pigeons to deliver mail – we’ve seen a bit of creativity get us places a few extra dollars couldn’t.
Jive with our culture: Strong leaders affect culture and the person we hire for this role may well shape, not only fit into, ours. But to shape the culture you have to be accepted by the organism, which means a certain set of shared values. We default to openness with our team, our customers and everyone if possible. We love initiative – without arrogance or dictatorship. We work to create a place people enjoy showing up to work. That doesn’t mean ping-pong tables and foosball (though we do try to have perks & fun), but it means people are friendly, non-political, working to build a good service and a good place to work.
Do the work: Ideas and strategy are critical, but good execution makes them happen. I’m looking for someone who can help the team execute both from the perspective of being capable of guiding and organizing, but also someone who is hands-on themselves.
Think you want to join us on this adventure?
Send an email to email@example.com with the subject “vp of marketing”. (Principals only.) Include a resume and answer these two questions:
- How would you approach evaluating the current marketing and what is your process for developing a growth strategy?
- What are the goals you would set for yourself in the 3 month and 1-year timeframe?
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope that this sounds like the opportunity for which you’ve been waiting.