You’ve grown your B2B company to exceed a million in annual revenue, congratulations! Chances are, you have achieved this milestone through individual contributor effort with the CEO handling large sales, maybe an outside marketing consultant or internal coordinator assisting and a sales rep beating on customer doors.  Depending on various financial variables, it may be at this junction where you need to start considering how to build out your B2B marketing team.

On the other hand, maybe you’re a newly minted Director of Marketing dropping into a new role of a fast-growth B2B company. In this role, you need to plan your organizational vision and the structure to support it.

In either case, here is how I would envision my first three marketing hires in priority order. If you have the budget, I would hire all three in quick order. Let’s walk through each one and why.

But first, let’s define your role (since you’re going to be a “working manager”) especially if you are the Director of Marketing (or in a similar capacity).

Hire #0 = Your Marketing Role:

Of course, you don’t get to kick back and watch the action from the sidelines just because you finally get to hire some staff and step into management. Nope, nada. Your life is going to get more hectic now because not only do you need to continue as an individual performer but you also need to develop new skills as a world-class manager and leader. This transition from individual producer to manager (and even more so, a leader) has derailed many so expect to be mentally challenged. I’ll write a future post or two about how to work through this transition. It can be a tough one!

For your ongoing role, you are going to have a few focuses and fill in the gaps as your team ramps up. Your focuses should include: (1) processes, (2) policies, (3) infrastructure and (4) relationships.

  • Processes: as you bring on team members it becomes increasingly important to have processes in place to gain consistency. Trust me – as you scale up it becomes more difficult to re-work activities if they don’t follow a standard process. For example, where do you store brand identity and messaging platform information so it’s easily accessible by the team and remains consistent in use? How do you apply creative to your website, landing pages and emails so when it needs an update, it requires a single change versus a manual one to each individual element?
  • Policies/Procedures: if you define your processes, then the procedures fall in place. Maybe this is better defined as a “marketing culture” – how we do things in the marketing department. As a marketer, you’re the interface with the customer so relatively small things like grammar and spelling errors in content or creative falls on you to correct (or gate-keep before it is exposed to the market.)  Therefore, one policy is that nothing leaves the door until it is thoroughly reviewed and approved by at least two people.  You also need to own email policy ensuring CAN-SPAM and CASL requirements and other privacy and cookie policies are defined and followed. In addition, public/media/analyst relations and branding policies all fall under this category.
  • Infrastructure: this is broken into two parts: (a) individual and team performance and (b) marketing technology and systems.
    • Individual and team performance: This ranges from implementing a management system including dashboards, individual performance goals that align with the department goals and up through the company goals, management system (I recommend Manager Tools’ trinity: feedback, delegation, coaching and one-and-ones – I’ll have multiple posts about this management system in the future) and applying company-wide structures (performance reviews, compensation, performance bonuses, etc.)
    • Marketing Technology and Systems: at this point and through your individual contributor efforts, a majority of your marketing technology and systems infrastructure is probably in place including your email marketing solution (MailChimp, Salesforce.com), marketing automation/CRM (DRIP, Hubspot, InfusonSoft), social media platform (like Buffer or HooteSuite) and content management system (CMS like WordPress for your website.) If this is an accurate assumption, then the difference now is how you define ownership and collaboration across this technology.  You must assign an owner, even if it’s you, who ensures process consistency and appropriate work flows as well as training and new release communications with your cross-functional team.  The owner also has to make sure that company policy aligns with the marketing infrastructure requirements and features.  For example, if an email service provider has a strict opt-in only policy yet your company is fine with opt-out then you have a conflict to resolve to stay compliant.
  • Relationships: You are the central figure of the marketing department so it’s 100% on your shoulders to own the relationship with your sales, product, IT/development, customer success/account management, finance and HR counterparts. Grant it, in a small company, many of these functions will be handled by the same individual so your efforts are more concentrated on a hand full of people. In high growth environments, there is enough inherent stress on each department; therefore, it is your pivotal role to build strong, professional relationships with each department lead. In addition, you have to have a transparent, no surprises line of communication with your CEO. Externally, you need to own the relationships with your marketing technology vendors (not the support relationship which the “owner” as stated above should take on) but the account management one. You also need to own lines into media/analysts/key influencers. In time, some of these relationships can be handed off to your first hire, a product marketing manager. And with this, let’s move on to your first hire!

B2B Marketing Hire #1:

Product marketing manager

The title may be misleading but the skill set is the focus. Right out of the gate I would hire an individual who can dig into your target audience, industry and competition beyond what you have done already and get immersed in qualitative and quantitative data. This individual must be a strong content producer and ideally have a market researcher’s mindset (e.g. curiosity and data-orientation). While you maintain strategy, this individual is cranking out high value content that connects with the target audience and leads prospects through your marketing funnel. This is an articulate individual who understands testing, measuring and analyzing. I don’t want to paint a unicorn picture here though. You may struggle to find this skill set so prioritize the new hire’s major strengths against your lessor ones and plan to fill the gaps yourself until, through coaching, you can help develop her or his skill set. Always hire for attitude too. You’re still a small company and you’re developing a new marketing culture. You need a solid first hire.

The product marketing manager will take on the following roles:

  • Social media
  • Database segmentation and data management
  • Content planning and production
  • DRIP/nurturing campaign optimization; email marketing
  • Landing page optimization
  • Website conversion optimization (lead forms and website conversion paths)
  • Market research: customer interviews and testimonial/ case study development
  • Dashboard Reporting
  • Testing, measuring, and analyzing (this is how I define “optimization”)

The right individual in this role will do two things extremely well: (1) get the right things done to accelerate the rate of optimization and (2) raise the ideation bar through you and him or her collaborating on new messaging, new channels, new headlines, etc.

B2B Marketing Hire #2:

Designer/Front-end developer

This is absolutely a critical one for marketing because it adds velocity to an agile marketing system. I believe it’s a huge mistake for a designer/front-end developer to sit within a shared services or IT department. Everything marketing does in some way, shape or form touches on design or front-end development. Even with outstanding self-serve tools like Unbounce.com, InstaPages, LeadPages, Canva and countless others, you still need a designer to create visuals that drive attention, interest, desire and action.   Whether designing content packaging, sales enablement materials, PowerPoint (or Keynote) decks, interactive tools, banner creative, landing pages, trade show booths, email templates, social media images, videos, you name it, this role will accelerate the effectiveness of the marketing team.  Like I mentioned above, hire for attitude but also a solid skill set. This individual must be a strong collaborator and work effectively with a marketer. In the end, the output needs to generate business outcomes (not win design awards unless they’re aligned.) You also need the skill set range that can jump on and successfully design a multitude of media types with consistency and high quality.

B2B Marketing Hire #3:

SEO/SEM Manager (or specialist)

Your product marketing manager is cranking out high quality content and is working with your designer/front-end developer to build a persuasive and highly engaging website, landing pages and email templates. You have high quality content downloads for lead generation. Now it’s really time to get serious about accelerating your organic search growth and scaling your paid campaigns.  Hopefully up to this point, you have firmly implemented sound search engine optimization practices into your CMS (WordPress website.)  You may have already started some tests in Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other paid channels like re-targeting or audience targeting. Great job if you have but now it’s time to double down to get explosive growth.

Yes – you could outsource this role and there are clearly benefits to doing so. If you haven’t started prior to this point doing any search engine optimization, if you haven’t even considered how SEO should be embedded into your CMS or if you haven’t even tested any paid campaigns, then I would find a great consultant and get started NOW.  BUT – learn as much as you can first so you know how to hire a trust-worthy and skilled consultant. SEO is an always-changing game especially with Google. Too often, the unknowing hire consultants and waste money on outdated SEO strategies that are no longer effective or worse, hire one focused on short-term, fast growth that ultimately leads to long-term crash and burn.

If you have some SEO education specifically on what newer Google algorithms favor, then at least you can avoid worse case scenarios.  Until you really know the consultant, I would also recommend not giving them full access to your CMS. Have them develop a SEO strategy supported by detailed data analysis first with a list of improvements and next-steps, have them define the “why” and what expected measurable outcomes does each item (or group of items) intend to target and then work with the consultant to prioritize implementation over time.  I would even take this same approach with your in-house SEO.

That’s Three Hires…what about next one?

Aren’t you ever satisfied? LOL.  The next hire really will depend on how your company evolves and where you start finding your greatest successes with generating more, higher quality leads. As well as what other responsibilities your CEO pours on you as your management and leadership skills grow and your accomplishments from your first three hires materialize. But, I’m energized now, so let’s consider the next hire.

At this point, hopefully you are kicking butt with lead volume and quality. You have grown a solid foundational base of excellent content for funnel growth, sales enablement and awareness building and your sales team is pleased (they’re never really excited, because hey, we can always sell more!) You’re gaining organic search traffic and you’re converting your paid campaigns at a target ROI while you continue to test, measure and analyze new channels. You’ve been A/B testing landing pages and the effectiveness of your DRIP/nurturing campaigns to drive up visitor to lead, lead to MQL and MQL to SQL conversions. Great work! Seriously, that is a ton of hard work and tremendous effort. But, if you haven’t figured it out yet, B2B lead generation is a marathon not a sprint. And, by the way, success breeds higher annual goals! So what’s your next step to continue scaling up?

Frist, you have to think critically about that question, “what’s your next step to continue scaling up?”

  • Where are the weak points within your funnel?
  • Where is sales struggling to close more deals?
  • Have you implemented lead scoring or do you still need to do further data analysis to determine better qualification criteria?
  • Has the market changed or is there a new market segment or buyer persona that has emerged through new experiences?

As the marketing leader, you must be scanning the environment, talking with your cross-functional team leads, envisioning your scale up plan and assessing your team competencies. This is a constant process and an important one before you can make additional hires.  Depending on the outcome of this hard mental work, you may decide to go in one or more of the following directions on your next hire…

B2B Marketing Hire #4 (pick and choose):

  • Content editor/social media/PR
  • Data manager
  • Marketing coordinator
  • Inside sales

In part, your decision may weigh on your organizational structure. The sales team may manage inside sales reps instead of marketing.  A full-time data manager may not fit the budget therefore you’re better to hire a marketing coordinator with data management skills who also will assist with social and content. Hence, it’s really important at this stage to assess the gaps on your team against your department and corporate goals. What competencies do you need to either build or buy to ensure the next level of success as your organization takes its next leap?

This topic is full of twists and turn so what about you – what does your first few hires look like?

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