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:
- They’ll lead the charge on specific, diversified customer segmentation, develop value props and talking points for each client persona’s biggest pain points and motivators, and they’ll wrap this all neatly together in well-crafted sales collateral and best practice guides.
- They’ll help your offering remain competitive and relevant by keeping a pulse on competitors and overall market intelligence and feeding that to the product team. They will understand where you excel in relation to your competition, where you fall short, and where you may need to go next to be a market leader.
- They will improve your new client win/loss ratio as they work closely with sales to constantly analyze your sales pitch and approach. They will adjust messaging, positioning, even pricing and packaging to close more deals, and as well as provide additional training for sales as needed.
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’ll be in charge of paid advertising, ensuring that the right messaging is going out to the right target customers, on the right channels. They will be focused on channel optimization, constantly testing new tactics and approaches, and pivoting when needed.
- They will have a strong grasp on optimal messaging. They will know how best to execute it in different channels and throughout the conversion funnel, from ads to landing pages, and across the website.
- They will be quantitatively oriented and able to take a first pass at establishing key metrics, dashboards, and ops/automation processes.
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.
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.
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.