Jeff Perkins has worked with all kinds of marketing teams — big teams at enterprise companies and small, scrappy teams. He built the marketing team from scratch at QASymphony, which makes software tools for agile testing teams. Now he’s building a team at Parkmobile, an app that helps people pay for parking from a smartphone. He went from being the “young” exec on the team to being the oldest guy in the room, and from big budgets to much smaller ones.

I saw Jeff speak at Digital Summit Atlanta. Here’s my favorite tip Jeff shared: Instead of focusing so much on your marketing stack (all of the shiny technology and tools), think first about your people stack. Without the right people, software won’t work. Jeff built the right people stack at QASymphony and turned the company’s marketing from a headache into something awesome.

I interviewed Jeff to find out how he has seen marketing change, how he has built his people stack and what’s working for his team now.

I loved your advice to start with the people stack first. What’s your advice for hiring great marketers?

I approach recruiting almost like I do sales — I’m hunting for the right prospect. I don’t do old-school recruiting where you post on a job board and see what you get.

The modern way to hire is to figure out what you want, then go find that person. For a recent role I needed to fill I used LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It’s built to prospect inside companies, but I used it to build a profile of who I wanted, then get a list of 500 marketers in Atlanta who matched that profile. I went through the list, sorted it and sent personal notes to people. It worked, and I would do it again.

Generally I try to hire someone who’s a marketing athlete. They might have one area they’re specialized in (marketing automation or email, for example), but they can stretch to manage more on our small team.

How have you seen marketing change over your career?

My first job out of college was at a big ad agency that made expensive TV commercials. Now everything has changed so much. The landscape for marketers is vastly different today than it was 20 years ago.

Marketers today have to deal with rapidly changing technology. We have to learn what works, but also dip our toes in new technology. It’s literally impossible to stay on top of it all. No one has it all figured out, so everyone’s relying on a combination of vendors, agencies and peers. I’ve learned that others can point you in the right direction, but you have to figure out for yourself what works for your business.

What’s the secret to building an audience?

As a marketer, you have to get smart on your industry and category. Who are the influencers? What sites are people visiting?

What I learned about our category and our audience is that it’s actually very underserved in terms of content. So we’ve spent a lot of time focused on our blog, e-books and webinar series, and we’ve been really impressed by the results.

When we hosted our first webinar, we had 3,400 people register and 40 percent actually attend, with a lot of continued on-demand viewers. That was a good indicator for me that there’s not enough content in this space.

We’re also having a lot of success around what I call “watering holes” — figuring out where people are when they’re not doing work. What are they reading? We found a few websites that are very popular in the software development and testing world. We went to the watering holes, and that strategy has been really good for us.

What’s your favorite marketing tech tool right now?

It’s one thing to use all these marketing tactics, but the other part is understanding what’s bringing in the best leads. Having really good attribution tracking on the back end ties it all together. We use Bizible to understand the quality of leads and see clear attribution right inside Salesforce. That helps us make informed investment decisions. For example, we learned that the more well-known “premium” sites were bringing lower-quality leads. The more targeted niche sites are where the real buyers are. It’s helped us optimize spend.

When you’re looking for inspiration, where do you turn?

I use Twitter to see what thought leaders are saying, but I mostly try to stay really connected with the peers in my market. There are a lot of great CMOs and VPs of marketing in Atlanta, and that’s been really helpful to me. My peers are great resources because we’re all trying to do the same thing, figure out the same things, in different companies.

Having that real-world network of people who are practitioners is a very valuable resource. If you’re not doing that, you’re probably missing out on a lot of valuable insights on new, emerging trends. You could spend all day reading thought leaders’ blogs, but I look more to the practitioners, spending time building that peer network.

What’s your advice for marketers who are just starting out? What do you wish you’d known as a new college grad?

Everyone wants to work for a startup, but there’s something to be said about companies that have been around a long time, doing things the right way.

I was fortunate to start my career working for an ad agency on the P&G account. Starting in advertising, everyone wants to work on a beer or a car, but I was working on laundry detergent. But I was working for the best marketing company in the world. P&G is a textbook marketing organization. For me, starting out working for a company that was so structured and methodical was very helpful. I learned how to do marketing the right way.

Marketing has changed a lot since then, but a lot of the core fundamentals haven’t: understanding your target market and knowing how to write messaging that appeals to them. Beyond the new tech and trends, getting those fundamentals right is really important.