How to grow your marketing team | B2B SaaS

A couple of years ago I was consulting for a B2B SaaS business who were a year into their Series A funding. My role was to help them operationalize their inbound demand generation programs, helping them to scale efficiently and meet the requirements of a Series B funding round.

At the end of the project the founder asked me if I’d consider joining them as CMO. I refused immediately.

Not because I didn’t believe in the company. They had great product market fit and a great team who I enjoyed working with enormously. I would have loved to continue working with them.

The reality was that at that point in their lifecycle, they would be far better hiring 2-3 marketing generalists than one CMO with a higher salary expectation. They’d get more done and do so without damaging their LTV/CAC ratio.

I told the founder this. He thanked me for my honesty and followed the advice. They continued to grow and a year later, they were acquired by the category leader for a handsome return.

For any start-up, hiring is tough. Knowing how to build a marketing team, and make the right hires, at the right time, is one of the most common challenges I’ve seen. So, here’s my short guide to scaling your marketing team effectively.

Before you go any further…understand the role of marketing in your business

It sounds obvious, but marketing’s role will differ between businesses. In this post we’ll cover the most common scenario for a B2B SaaS business, where marketing is principally responsible for creating a strong brand, building market demand and driving leads into the funnel. This is a framework only. Your own requirements may differ.

Seed Stage

Suggested marketing headcount: 1-2

Your goals

You’re looking to build the foundations of a profitable business, including finessing your business model. As such, it’s less about building highly scalable marketing engines and obsessing about rapid growth, and more about finding product market fit (PMF) and closing a handful of marquee reference customers. It’s unwise at this time to be spending huge amounts of budget on expensive marketing hires and automation systems – in fact your entire marketing spend is likely to be no more than 5% of your funding.

Key marketing objectives

  • Develop the brand message and understand common sales objections
  • Test lead acquisition channels
  • Start building communities and running drip email campaigns
  • Work with the founder to create a pitch deck and sales/marketing collaterals

What you need

Now is not the time to be hiring expensive, senior marketing resources. What you need are “scrappy generalists”. They will be able to hack together the marketing systems required with low / no-cost solutions, test messaging, and test your thesis and PMF using different acquisition channels.

Self-starter marketing generalist(s) will happily play in the weeds and get tactical; generating copy and setting up campaigns. A candidate with at least five years of experience will have had time to develop expertise in a few different areas of marketing but will still be happy to work more broadly.

Often, at this early stage, founders will benefit from working with more flexible resources – such as freelancers or agencies. These will bring immediate expertise and support without the long-term costs of a full time employee.

What to avoid

Expensive / seasoned marketing professionals who thrive when supported by a larger team and budget.


SERIES A

Suggested marketing headcount: 2-5

Your goals

You have product market fit and are building a credible user base. Series A funding often focusses on further development of the business case and go-to-market strategy. This might include scaling into a new market or better monetizing the existing offer.  Regardless, being able to demonstrate sustainable revenue growth and repeatable value is key.

Key marketing objectives

  • Build sustainable inbound channels
  • Optimize paid spend
  • Brand awareness

What you need

Now is the time to start investing in specialist disciplines that will help you to accelerate your plans. It takes time to hire the right people, so the structure may still look a little scrappy with reporting lines shared across other departments and leaders. Likewise, some responsibilities may still be shared with other functions – for example the product manager(s) can work with the marketing team on product marketing programs rather than a dedicated hire.

Depending on your go-to-market plan the roles you should be looking to hire might include:

  • Content writer: A candidate that’s flexible enough to build not only SEO-optimized assets (web copy, blog posts etc), but also support in the development of corporate communications and sales collaterals.
  • Performance / Paid Marketing: Responsible for the continued exploration and optimization of paid inbound channels.
  • Website / Programmer: A technical resource that takes ownership of the website and other web-assets. Responsible for conversion rate optimization and integration of systems to support the performance / inbound programs.

What to avoid

Don’t worry too much about team structure at this point. Your plans are still flexing as you finesse your strategy. This means your team structure may have to adapt on the fly. You’ll also find shared responsibilities between other departments to help fulfil your requirements (for example product teams running base level product marketing), so don’t rush to fill every perceived gap.


SERIES B

Suggested marketing headcount: 5-12

Your goals

By the time you reach Series B funding you have a good handle on what works, and what doesn’t. You have a sizeable user base and have proven to your investors that you can operate on a larger scale. Series B is all about demonstrating repeatability in your business model, so it’s at this stage that your businesses really starts to expand, both within its immediate market, but also through the exploration of new channels, industries and geographies. As such, now’s the time to really start ramping your marketing team and putting the final layer of structure and leadership in place.

Key marketing objectives

  • Identify new channels to market
  • Ramp user activity (MAU) and retention efforts
  • Work with market influencers (press and analysts) to shape market positioning
  • Expand inbound demand programs
  • Sales enablement
  • Product marketing

What you need

You already have the core marketing functions in place (i.e. demand generation), but your operations are now at a size where you can justify hiring dedicated experts. In addition to the existing team, you may look to hire:

  • Product Marketing Manager: Responsible for relating key product benefits to stakeholders (including users, and analyst and press communities). The Product Manager may also take ownership of sales enablement activities, including competitor analysis and sales training.
  • Marketing Communications Manager(s) (PR): Taking ownership of the wider brand message and working with media and analyst stakeholders to ensure your business is correctly positioned. Marketing Communications roles may also take ownership of offline demand generation programs, including offline advertising and events.
  • Marketing Operations: By this stage, it’s likely that your marketing efforts include industry events and conferences. Such activity can be a logistical challenge, so a Marketing Operations role becomes vital to offer the support you need.
  • Designer: You may have been outsourcing this role to a freelancer or agency, but with your efforts quickly scaling, it now makes sense to bring this role in-house, full time.
  • Automation Specialist: With scale and repeatability your number one objective, it’s time to put additional investment into the automation tools required to keep up with demand and manage your programs of prospect and user outreach. An Automation Specialist will take ownership of these systems, ensuring data is synchronized between systems, and that privacy requirements (for the retention of prospect and user data) are met. The role may also take ownership of the wider CRM.

It’s now also time to bring in a more structured approach to your team. In particular, you’ll want to consolidate your demand generation team (paid marketing, SEO, CRO), under a Head of Demand Generation. This ensures the ever-growing programs of paid activity are coordinated, and being continuously compared and measured for effectiveness.

It’s also time for an overall marketing leader in the shape of a VP Marketing. If your operations have also reached a certain size, you may even jump in and hire your first CMO. Regardless of the title, this leader is responsible for the driving engagement across all marketing activities, leading the communications strategy and pricing strategy. They will also be accountable for the marketing metrics (for example, revenue, ROI, CAC and LTV).

What to avoid

This is your biggest phase of marketing hiring. Reporting lines will change and more structure put in place. You need to be careful to retain the culture you’ve carefully curated over the years, and (where it makes sense) retain and reward the loyalty shown by your early hires.


SERIES C

Suggested marketing headcount: 12+

Your goals

By now, marketing is a hub of excellence for your business. Not only is it responsible for the careful curation of the brand, but it’s creating value and driving revenue growth. Series C will see you furthering your expansion efforts, perhaps into new markets through acquisition, or organically into new territories. Either way, it’s important that your foundations are solid, as your hiring plans for Series C will see you both bolster existing functions with additional resource, as well as invest in more dedicated resource and leadership.

Key marketing objectives

  • Identify new channels to market – including partners
  • International expansion
  • Support in meeting pre-IPO targets
  • Work with market influencers to shape market positioning
  • Expand inbound demand programs
  • Sales enablement & product marketing

What you need

Your expansion might include opening new geographies. If that’s the case, you likely have local sales teams and may now also want to look at hiring in-market resource to execute on local campaigns. This will be in the form of Country Marketing Managers, Operations, and Events.

Additional roles to consider at Series C include:

  • Head of Growth: A dedicated role that often sits between marketing and product. Growth leaders will look for growth opportunities that sit outside of the traditional marketing stack.
  • Program Manager(s): As you start to build more integrated campaigns, and build an Account Based Marketing approach, Program Managers will help to pull together the necessary resources from the wider marketing team.
  • Events Manager: Until now, your conferences and events have likely been managed by your Marketing Operations team member(s). As you start to invest more and fill the calendar with industry, partner and customer events, you’ll want to hire a dedicated events manager. Not only will the Events Manager be responsible for the logistics around an event, but they’ll ensure it delivers the required leads to meet the demand generation requirements.
  • Partner Manager: Expansion may involve opening partner channels (commercial and technology). This can be a time-consuming process involving sales training and co-marketing. A dedicated Partner Manager is a vital hire if this is an avenue being explored.
  • Country Marketing Manager: These team members are typically base in satellite sales offices, executing on local, in-market campaigns and supporting sales teams with their lead generation requirements.
  • CMO: If you haven’t already hired a CMO to oversee the entire strategic and tactical components of your marketing operation, now is the time.

What to avoid

While you’ll be scaling quickly, perhaps to meet the financial targets expected of an IPO-ready business, you need to keep a constant check on your metrics. In fact, you may even find additional pressure being placed on your bottom line, so keeping on top of LTV and CAC are more important than ever before.


SUMMARY

This approach is very much a framework and is not designed to be a fool-proof template for hiring a marketing team. Every business is different, and your needs will undoubtedly vary depending on the nature of your business, geography and rate of growth.

You may even go beyond Series C and run a few more funding rounds before an IPO or acquisition. Whatever your journey, it’s important to remember these fundamentals:

  • Don’t rush to hire a CMO in the early stages of your business. It’s expensive and damaging to your CAC metrics. Senior leaders may also expect large budgets and teams to make them successful and come with predefined structures and ways of working that may not suit.
  • Functional expertise can be supplemented with freelance and agency resource. It’s a great way to prove value before hiring a full-time role.
  • As you transition from Series A to Series B, you’ll find a need for more stability and structure in the team. Reporting lines may change as a result, creating an inflection point that if handled badly could result in unwanted employee attrition.
  • Have your marketing foundations in place by Series B – beyond this, you goal is to scale and grow on these basics.
  • Growth needs a supporting cast. Marketing Operations, Program Managers and Marketing Automation Specialists will become vital as you expand on your marketing activities. Without them, your efforts risk becoming uncoordinated, and more expensive marketing resource may become consumed running operational day-to-day activities, rather than focusing on growth.

Join the SaaS Toolkit Community

Get the latest news and resources sent directly to your inbox!

Inbound Demand Generation

An online course and downloadable planning tools to help you optimize your demand generation funnel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s