This post is part of our Hiring series. Check out our previous posts here:
Congrats! You’re ready to build out your first marketing team. But hold on: Make sure you know the answers to these fundamental questions before rushing to post job descriptions.
How many people should be on the team?
What should each be doing?
In what order should you hire them?
What can you outsource to an agency?
Read on for our take on these questions, and others.
We already covered how to make your first marketing hire — the one who’ll take you from zero to one. In this post, we cover the next phase: building out a “real,” full-fledged marketing team, with specialized experts in various marketing domains.
When is the right time to build out such a team?
When you need to scale growth beyond the output of your single-member marketing “team.” Often this coincides with raising a funding round and aiming to accelerate growth by investing in sales and marketing. You also need to make sure you’re ready in terms of budget and organizational readiness (there should be someone who can hire and manage this team).
What are the typical goals of such a team?
Demand generation: planning and executing marketing campaigns across channels to generate sales pipeline and support your growth and revenue goals
Defining and winning your product category: articulating your product positioning and competitive differentiation and effectively communicating them to your stakeholders (employees, investors, clients, prospects).
How many people should be on the team?
We recommend planning for 3-5 people to begin with. Below we outline five roles, but they can be hired gradually, and initially a single person may perform multiple roles.
What should each be doing?
Demand Generation – This person owns planning, execution, and optimization of marketing campaigns across channels in order to draw in prospects and create new sales conversations.
This position can start as one person, but quickly scales as the company grows, with team members specializing by channel, region, or market segment. Initially, if you’re only hiring one person for this role, you’ll want a generalist who can experiment with multiple channels. Once she figures out which channel is working, she can double down by hiring experts for that channel.
A common mistake when hiring for this position is trying to find one person who’s an expert in all channels (e.g. online advertising, content, conferences, and webinars). Such a person doesn’t exist, and even if they do, they won’t have time to do all that – running a full-blown demand generation program is more than one person’s job.
A better way to go about it is to find someone who knows what they don’t know (or what they’re not good at), and can complement their own capabilities by hiring (in-house or agencies) around or under them.
Our recommendation for this initial hire would be to look for someone who can create content reasonably well (as we don’t believe in outsourcing content), and own email marketing and list building / ABM. These channels are the most effective ones to start with for enterprise B2B startups. Alternatively, if you already know which channels work well for you, consider hiring a specialist to double down on them. For example, if conferences have been a productive channel, hire a field marketing manager so you can participate in more conferences, and even produce your own events.
Marketing Operations – This person provides a data-driven answer to the question “what’s working in marketing?”. It’s a critical role that owns the marketing tech stack, and the entire marketing tracking and reporting infrastructure. This includes everything from building and maintaining the marketing database, setting up marketing platforms like Hubspot/Marketo and their numerous integrations, creating analytics and reporting, and liaising with the sales team to define the sales & marketing funnel and its associated workflows.
Product Marketing – This person owns defining your product’s value proposition and differentiators, and communicating them to clients and prospects. They work with sales, product, customer success, and the company’s leadership to define your product category, craft your messaging, and create sales enablement collateral. Early-stage founders sometimes find this role nebulous (“marketing fluff”), but over time they realize product marketing can make or break their company.
Brand & Communications – An umbrella for various brand- and communication-related tasks, like PR, swag, website creation and maintenance, and graphic design.
Talent Brand / Recruitment Marketing – This is a relatively new addition to the list, and entails working with the People/HR team to define your employer value proposition, create an excellent candidate experience, and generate a strong pipeline of candidates. This role has become absolutely essential in today’s insanely competitive hiring environment.
Should you hire all of these roles, or can you outsource some to an agency or freelancers?
See more about the trade-offs between hiring your early stage marketing employees in-house vs working with a marketing agency here.
For the five roles we outlined, there are “full-stack” marketing agencies that can provide all of these services, essentially functioning as an “out of the box” marketing team (Blue Seedling is one of them).
Startups often have a mix of in-house employees and agencies/freelancers:
Product Marketing – eventually hire in-house, as companies prefer to own positioning strategy internally. Initially this may be outsourced, as it can take a long time to find a strong product marketer.
Marketing Operations – hire in-house, may outsource some of the infrastructure and maintenance work (e.g. work with a Salesforce or Hubspot partner to set up the initial tech stack and provide ongoing support)
Demand generation – outsource some portions (typically online advertising / PPC, SEO) but not others (content, field marketing / events)
Brand & Communications – typically work with agencies or freelancers on graphic design, website development, and PR
Talent brand – we’ve seen both in-house employees and agencies succeed in this role.
In which order should you hire?
One approach is to solve for the current bottleneck in your pipeline. What’s currently limiting your growth? For example, if it’s the top of the funnel (i.e. not enough new sales opportunities), hire a demand generation marketer. If it’s losing opportunities to competition, hire a product marketer. And if your bottleneck is that you can’t hire fast enough, bolstering your recruiting marketing will help.
Demand generation is the primary need once you start focusing on scaling sales. And shortly after starting demand generation activities, especially those involving substantial spend (e.g. conferences, advertising, sponsorships), you need an Operations person to help you figure out what’s working.
Product marketing is fundamental, but a one-time messaging and positioning exercise can be good enough to carry you through for a while, without the need to hire a full-time person. Also, a strong leader outside of marketing, like the CEO, VP Sales, or VP Marketing can take the lead on product marketing before making this hire.
The bottom line
Growing your marketing team is an exciting milestone. It can jumpstart accelerated growth and a winning brand. If you have good answers to the questions in this post, you’re well on your way to hiring the right people for the task at hand.
The hiring order we generally recommend is Demand Generation, Marketing Operations, Product Marketing, Brand & Communications, and Talent Brand.