While there is no single playbook for building out the marketing org of a B2B SaaS startup, at RevelOne, we’ve seen some key patterns and considerations in our work hiring for hundreds of high-growth, successful SaaS clients. 

This guide covers how to prioritize key marketing functions in a B2B SaaS startup with a predominantly “marketing-led” motion and not a “sales-led” motion. Software products that can be sold either “self-serve” or with very light sales support given their low price or simple entry point. In these models, marketing plays a primary role across the entire motion from lead acquisition through nurture and conversion. This is in contrast to a B2B Enterprise business, where five to six-figure deals and long, complex sales cycles require that new client acquisition is driven by a sales organization targeting large prospects, with marketing in more of a supporting role. (See our article on The First Marketing Hires for Early-Stage B2B Enterprise Companies for advice on developing an enterprise org.)

These SaaS businesses can range from mid-market and small business products that may require lightweight sales support to engage and close clients, to lower cost, simple-to-onboard, higher-velocity products (think Slack, Zoom, Twilio) that behave almost more like B2C using a direct, or un-assisted self-service sales model. 

The key is to understand the nuances of your target customer and how they adopt your product adoption, and then design the marketing organization and talent to match.

Before Your First Hire

While B2B Enterprise companies usually build their sales teams first, a SaaS product often finds early momentum “selling itself” through optimized marketing funnels and organic/viral growth. That said, some sales capability on the team can be important. While we don’t recommend building out a sales team in a SaaS organization ahead of your first marketers, it’s important to have at least one person who can close “big deals” as they come along. This might be the CEO or another leadership team member who can sell the product effectively and close more complex, large-scale deals for big-ticket clients. 

The First Hire – A Director of Acquisition/Growth

You’ve determined your business model calls for a more lightweight or no-sales approach, and you’ve got your ‘big deal’ closer on standby for any huge clients that may come your way.  Now, it’s time to start driving new prospects at scale. Because this SaaS business model targets more mid-market or small business clients at a lower price point, a structured program to drive new leads at meaningful volume is key.

Hiring an Acquisition Lead first to build the foundation for this volume can bring early wins and a steady flow of customers and revenue. An Acquisition lead will launch initial marketing acquisition programs focused on finding your target clients via relevant marketing channels, and driving them to your site at scale to iterate on converting them. These efforts should drive an initial pool of your most relevant clients, allowing you to quickly learn more about who they are (and who they are not), and what motivates their behavior.  

Their key metric will be Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) or Cost per Lead (CPL) as they optimize by channel, segment, and program. Your Acquisition Lead should at least be at the director level, with a strong grasp on conversion so they can help direct product development and engineering on how best to convert the leads they bring in through an intuitive website experience and effective conversion funnel.

The Second Hire – A Product Marketing Pro

This hire’s role is to develop (or refine) how you position your product and bring it to market. They will work closely with product, sales, customer success, and others to connect the value of the product to its customers by identifying key target segments and personas, knowing their pain points, how your product solves them, and how it compares to alternatives and your competition. They will use these insights to identify competitive advantages, develop effective product packaging (even pricing), and craft clear and effective messaging that every department can use in their role to help close the sale. 

We recommend someone at the director level as they need to be strategic enough to develop the above insights and strategies autonomously. (As the product marketing team grows, there’s more room for doers who will need more direction). This role complements the Acquisition Lead by using customer and market insights to help them refine and optimize their efforts. In turn, the initial volume of new clients the acquisition lead drives can garner data and learnings for your product marketing pro to then build on. Together these two roles can turbocharge your sales funnel.

The Third Hire – an Engagement Lead

As your company begins to rev its acquisition engine and sharpen its positioning, the next key competence is understanding the value of your customers and how to retain and grow them. 

An engagement lead (sometimes called “retention” or “lifecycle”) is responsible for the customer lifetime value (LTV) metric. Understanding retention dynamics is critical as no company wants to have a “leaky bucket” in which dollars and effort are spent to acquire customers who churn out quickly. 

Given that almost all light SaaS businesses today have subscription pricing models, the engagement lead needs to develop monthly/annual lifecycle and cohort analyses to connect customer activity to ongoing economic value. It’s their job to develop metrics and understanding around the customer lifecycle and cohorts (e.g., what behaviors in month 1 or 2 are good/bad signals for customer retention, what signals in month 6 are warning lights for churn). This person typically works closely with product and engineering teams to connect customer lifecycle and churn learnings to product use and metrics. In products with free trials or freemium pricing models, they work closely with acquisition teams to develop a full-funnel from initial conversion to the next purchase or acquisition step. 

The Fourth Hire – An Ops/Analytics Expert

With a steady stream of incoming leads, a streamlined product offering, and a SaaS funnel firing on all cylinders, the business will be hungry for metrics, data, and insights. As programs, data sources, and components of your MarTech stack proliferate, there will be operational challenges to pulling together your data as well. 

This is where a Marketing Operations expert can help provide key metrics and iron out kinks to ensure your marketing operations are running effectively.  This person will focus on providing insight into the impact each marketing channel and program is having.  This may include identifying and implementing data and analytics tools and developing reporting dashboards, or providing regular reporting and insights based on the data they are seeing.  This person may also be responsible for adding to the overall marketing tech stack as well as adding tools to help streamline various workflows.  

Later on, as the business grows, robust Marketing Operations, Analytics, and even Data Science will be developed, but early on, a more tactical jack-of-all-trades player can provide the foundation for what marketing needs. This person’s background will differ from a similar role at a sales-driven Enterprise business in that this ops hire should know how to effectively measure the funnel all the way through to an onsite purchase or product registration. In addition, the lower price point means that there will be a higher volume of traffic and more granularity to your metrics and more expertise in website analytics and attribution comes into play. For these reasons, someone from B2C or ecommerce experience can be a fit given the volume and complexity they will have encountered.

The Fifth Hire – A Content Marketing Lead

With the marketing machine churning, you’ll find that the company’s appetite for content will grow continuously. In a low touch, self-service motion, prospects are doing more of their own research and your touchpoints with them are mostly “digital” (emails, website copy, case studies, videos). So as your product marketing becomes more sophisticated, and you’ve scaled and proliferated the segments and programs you are running, you’ll have a greater need for content than the existing team can supply. 

Your content marketing person will take pressure off your product marketer so they focus on staying close to the market and developing customer insights rather than writing docs and content. The Content Lead will double down on developing better marketing ads, white papers, customer success stories, website content, and better support the rest of the organization with an extended and diversified content library.

Bonus:  Next Hires


It’s after the first 5-6 hires where we see the hiring patterns for B2B SaaS companies really start to diverge.   For example, if you haven’t brought in any sales headcount yet or your founders can no longer play the role as “Chief Sales Officer” as the scope of their responsibilities grows, bringing in a salesperson or two can be critical in supporting larger ticket sales. Even low touch, low price SaaS products will have an enterprise sales-motion alongside their marketing-driven core as larger organizations seek to buy hundreds or thousands of units at a time. 

Digital Marketing

If your acquisition engine is driving a tidal wave of leads to your website and conversion funnel with strong CAC economics and headspace to grow, then a Digital Marketing hire can help effectively manage this increased volume.  While your Acquisition, Conversion, and Content leads can take some of these increased responsibilities on, a Digital Marketing hire is someone who can serve as a generalist across all three areas, adding value and expertise to the overall marketing engine. This person will take on management of key digital channels, ensure accurate targeting and optimization, and live and breathe your website and landing pages to make sure no conversion or optimization opportunity is missed.

Conversion Lead 

Alongside traction and volume in your acquisition program, you may want to invest in a specialist to manage the onsite conversion. This person specializes in “conversion rate optimization” (CRO) and can experiment, iterate, and optimize at a granular level by segment and program. They can tune copy, landing pages, and enhance the lower funnel metrics stack. 

Final Thought

Within the above patterns, candidates for each role can vary with regards to their mix of skill sets. For example, one Director of Growth candidate may bring with them a skillset of finding growth opportunities through partnerships and SEO, while another may focus solely on paid marketing efforts to drive lead volume.  For each role, it’s critical to align your hire’s experience to the business model, product vertical, and stage of growth of your own company.  It’s also critical to align their core strengths with what you believe to be your company’s biggest growth opportunities.  The various skill sets of your first hires can then influence the sequencing and priority to follow.

At RevelOne, we do hundreds of marketing searches from CMO down to manager level every year, and we have developed our own role scoping frameworks to make sure each candidate and role is aligned to the needs of the business.  If you are looking for help in this area or to gut-check your own instincts on the type of marketer you are looking for, you can review our Frameworks for Scoping Marketing Roles in the resource section of our site.

Want to see what we think a SaaS Marketing team looks like from top to bottom? Head over to our B2B SaaS organization chart now.

If you have any questions or want RevelOne to help you find the right talent to fill out your own team structure, reach out to us here.

About RevelOne

RevelOne is a leading marketing advisory and recruiting firm.  We do 300+ searches a year in Marketing and Go-to-Market roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech.  For custom org design, role scoping, and retained search, contact us.

At RevelOne, we’ve placed more than a thousand marketers at some of the world’s most exciting startups. For high-growth companies who are building out their teams, when to hire each role can be as important as who to hire. Org design and the sequence of hiring are crucial for success.

In this guide, we’ll break down the first five hires — plus a bonus hire — you should be making if you’re a B2B enterprise startup. For the purposes of this discussion, we’re defining “B2B Enterprise” as companies that sell products or services at price points and complexity where a salesperson ultimately closes the deal and there is NOT a self-serve, unassisted transaction.

Before Your First Marketing Hire

In B2B enterprise, a marketing team isn’t actually the first box to check when building your organization. In the first stages of finding product-market fit and developing your GTM motion, person-to-person, direct sales and lead nurturing are your bread and butter. You might even have key leaders like company founders or heads of product in the mix alongside early sales leaders having direct engagement with the market. So, whether you’re selling a high ACV SaaS offering, enterprise software, or a suite of services, you’ll need a lean, focused sales organization first, before you should start doubling down on broader marketing.

First Hire – A Product Marketing Lead

Once you’ve got a good read on how your sales team operates and you’ve gained some traction in the market, a Product Marketing Lead can add ammunition to their pitches and refine your unique company positioning. This person can begin to add value if you already have salespeople in-market and have an initial understanding of your product-market fit. Your PM Lead can then take the tactical info on customer needs and product insights that your sales team is bringing in and shape them into a larger overarching go-to-market strategy.

A Product Marketing Lead will focus on defining and refining your offering in a few distinct ways:

Ideally, your first Product Marketing Lead will be a director-level candidate because they’ll need to make high-level decisions, but also be able to execute as an IC.  Their contributions will support the larger go-to-market strategy, as well as in real, tangible materials and actionable tactics and results. Depending on how specialized or technical your vertical is, you may want this person to have experience in your space so they don’t have to go up that customer and product learning curve. Later, with a larger product marketing group, you have more flexibility to hire people with more functional strength in product marketing processes.

Second Hire – A Head of Demand Generation

If your Product Marketing lead is focused on the quality and consistency of how your offering is taken to market, the next hire, a Head of Demand Gen, should be focused on driving more high-quality leads into the funnel. This person will act as a peer to the PM Lead and drive outreach at a high level.

The Head of Demand Gen will give your business quick ROI in a few key ways:

 They will leverage the learnings and messaging that the Product Marketing lead has developed, which is why you don’t want to invest too much in demand gen programs until you have laid this foundation.

Similar to the Product Marketing Lead, the Head of Demand Gen will best serve your startup if they are a director-level candidate that has previous experience at the same stage as your organization. They will likely need to hire some of the roles in the remainder of this article, so they will be a player-coach, able to execute themselves, and comfortable building and managing a small team. It’s less important that the demand gen person come from your vertical. You are more looking for someone with strong demand gen process competencies who has operated in a similar sales cycle with regards to cycle times and contract value. 

Third Hire – A Marketing Automation and Channel Specialist 

As you get into the third and fourth hires, the order can vary depending on your business’s goals and resident skill sets. In general, you’ll tend to find more actionable, measurable success by hiring a Marketing Automation and Channel Specialist at the Senior Manager level. This person will report to the Head of Demand Gen and help better operationalize all aspects of marketing effectiveness.  They will lead channel execution, marketing automation and some aspects of lead gen strategy.

This person should ideally have a strong tactical background in email, channel marketing, social media marketing, and marketing automation. Beyond that, they should also possess a keen analytical background, allowing them to gather the right data, analyze the results, and then adjust, optimize, and ultimately deliver on your business’s KPIs.

Fourth Hire – Head of Content

Once the demand gen program is established, an excellent addition to the team is a Head of Content. (they could even come before the marketing automation person if your Head of Demand Gen is comfortable with those executional elements) This person will handle all things content, including whitepapers, thought leadership pieces, landing pages, emails, lead gen ads, and even creative content like videos and infographics. B2B enterprise sales are increasingly reliant on more expert, credible content that is oriented to education rather than selling, so a sharp content leader can be key in driving thought leadership and IP that can be leveraged across multiple areas of the go-to-market.

While you can expect that the Content Lead can produce meaningful content on their own at this stage, depending on your budget, this person may want to gain leverage by contracting out some production needs.  They may bring a network of writers, producers, and designers they can tap to create the full suite of sales, website, and thought leadership content, as well as ad creative and materials needed for demand gen.

Fifth Hire – A Field Marketer or a Brand Manager

The fifth hire really depends on where your company’s needs are strongest. If your sales team is firing on all cylinders, and they’re taking to heart the strategy and materials provided by the Heads of Demand Gen and Product Marketing, perhaps a Field Marketer, who can help amplify their in-market efforts would make the biggest impact. Field Marketers excel at putting together hyper-specific sales tools and setting up dinners and client events, and they’ll work closely with your sales team.

If the market you compete in is either very saturated or complex and new, or you have a long sales cycle, then a Brand Marketing Manager can help to craft and establish your company’s identity and create cohesive and compelling brand awareness for “air cover” throughout the sales cycle. This person will work closely with the Content and Product Marketing leads to ensure prospective customers (and clients) understand who you are and what you represent, telling an exciting and compelling story that gives you the edge over your competition. 

Bonus:  Sixth Hire – A VP of Marketing

Up until this point, we’ve built a clear hierarchy around your first few marketing hires, ensuring a bottom-upapproach and filling out functional “doers” to dig in and actually get the work done. But if you’ve hired the five roles above (perhaps even multiple headcounts under each discipline), then your organization is starting to need some high-level direction that founders often don’t have the time to provide. Enter: A VP of Marketing.

This person will bring a long-term, cohesive vision for your marketing efforts, and the marketing roadmap to help you achieve your goals.  They will align all marketing efforts towards a shared business and marketing goal, and they’ll help the Heads of Product Marketing and Lead Gen focus their efforts where needed, and to delegate to the tactical hires below them when required. They can also interact with the heads of other functions in the organization as well as external constituents to communicate what marketing is doing and understand how it can help serve the needs of the company. This hire should be a senior marketer who has a deep background in early-stage B2B startups. While VPs at large corporations have a lot to offer, the “many hats’ mentality and the necessity to turn on a dime is a muscle best developed at a startup.  So, focusing on this background when hiring your VP will typically yield the best results.

Final Thought

Some organizations are tempted at this point to hire a CMO vs a VP of Marketing – but these are indeed two different roles.  Our article on hiring and assessing a CMO vs a VP of marketing gives good context into the difference between them.  We recommend gaining a deeper understanding of these similar but distinct roles, before determining which one your company needs.

Want to see the full typical B2B Enterprise marketing organization from top to bottom? Head over to our B2B Enterprise Marketing Org Chart in the Resources section of our site

If you have any questions or want RevelOne to help you find the perfect talent to fill out your own team structure, reach out to us here.


About RevelOne

RevelOne is a leading marketing advisory and recruiting firm.  We do 300+ searches a year in Marketing and Go-to-Market roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech.  For custom org design, role scoping, and retained search, contact us.

At RevelOne, we help our clients identify and hire the right Marketing talent to drive growth. A common question among our early-stage clients is: Who should we hire first?  While every organization is unique and their marketing needs are different, after placing close to 1,000 Marketing and GTM roles at the fastest growing companies in the country, we’ve noticed some key patterns. 

In this article, we focus on direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecommerce organizations.  We offer guidelines for initial hires, areas to focus, and additional insights to support you as you navigate early hiring decisions. Use this marketing org chart to navigate the first marketing hires for your B2C E-commerce startup.

First Hire – A Head of Ecommerce

If you’re like most DTC ecommerce companies, you live and die based on your site functioning seamlessly and intuitively so visitors successfully convert into paying customers (ideally with high AOVs).

Your Head of Ecommerce will be focused solely on creating the best possible online shopping experience for customers and motivating them to purchase… and then purchase more.  To do this, they will first need to define and activate the foundational elements of your ecommerce strategy.  This includes:

Your Head of Ecommerce will use research and customer insights to develop the user experience, content, and storytelling to create an intuitive and compelling shopping experience.  They will introduce incentives and motivators for customers to purchase, such as on-site merchandising and promotional strategies. They will continue to iterate and test changes to the user flow and site experience, using data and analytics to identify new and incremental opportunities.  The more business-focused ecommerce leader will also bring with them a GM mentality.  They will keep company financials and profitability at the core of every decision, and even introduce additional growth opportunities, for example, expanded payment methods. 

While this individual will likely support early customer acquisition and focus on ongoing improvement, you will soon need to turn your sights to the next key hire. 

Second Hire – Performance Marketing Lead

With your ecommerce foundation established, you now need to accelerate the volume of users coming to your site. Performance marketing is a critical component of driving sustainable growth in any ecommerce company and when done well, can be a source of competitive advantage.  While we often see companies at this stage make the mistake of hiring a general marketing leader such as a VP of Marketing, what they really need is an experienced and knowledgeable expert in customer acquisition.

Your second hire, a Performance Marketing lead, will be hyper-focused on driving potential customers to your site through key channels such as Google search (SEM), paid social, re-targeting, and even Influencers and Direct mail.  They will be focused on filling the “top of the funnel” so your Head of Ecommerce can convert them into sales.

It’s important to target candidates with a proven track record of selling a similar type of product at a similar growth stage company. The following are a few dimensions to consider when scoping this position and its level:

The answers to these questions will impact the types of customers you are targeting and inform the specific acquisition strategy your company needs. Make sure you are hiring someone who knows your target market

We are often asked by clients whether a Head of Ecommerce and a Performance Marketing Lead can be combined into a single role. While we see many companies do this, the skillsets for each are unique and the roles are distinct. Because these two functions are so central to the success of an ecommerce company, it is critical to hire someone with the depth of expertise needed for each function and the time to focus on it.  Therefore, we advise our early-stage clients to regard them as two distinct positions. 

Third Hire – A Functional Expert 

As direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecommerce companies are ready to expand beyond the above two key hires, we find their next hiring needs diverge.   These are the typical next marketing hires, listed in the order we have seen most effective for many DTC ecommerce companies, but consider them based on your highest-priority needs.

Final Thought: Avoid a Common Mistake

While it is alluring to hire individuals with experience from prestigious large corporations, the nature of a startup is different. At this stage, everyone at the company needs to be a “doer” and know how to excel with limited resources.  Whether hiring your Head of Ecommerce, your Performance Marketing Lead, or your more junior functional experts, we see the best results when clients hire individuals who have already demonstrated success at a similar stage startup. 

In summary, hiring for a marketing function is not a “one size fits all” type activity. But from our experience, the roles, sequencing and considerations above have proven successful for our clients.

We have published an example Org Chart for First Marketing Hires at Early-Stage B2C E-Commerce Companies, a fully built-out marketing org chart for an ecommerce company in the Resources section of our website, and we have role scoping frameworks there for many of the most common marketing roles.   If you need additional support as you define your own approach, RevelOne is here to help.


About RevelOne

RevelOne is a leading marketing advisory and recruiting firm.  We do 300+ searches a year in Marketing and Go-to-Market roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech.  For custom org design, role scoping, and retained search, contact us.