After slogging through the early startup phase and acquiring the first handful of customers through relationships, sheer selling tenacity and perseverance, many founding CEOs at B2B ventures ask me:
“To scale my company, I know I need a marketing team. But I don’t know where to start and what path to follow. Can you help?”
Since there are several valid approaches to building a marketing team from scratch, I encourage CEOs to thoroughly explore this foundational topic.
Let me share my insights, acquired over the course of nearly two decades of marketing and consulting experience. If you’re a B2B business leader ready to build your first marketing team, I propose that we tackle the topic by exploring an important question. Additional questions will be answered in my next post.
After managing your marketing function as a collection of part-time roles, including a handful of contractors and—perhaps—a small agency executing project work, you may be ready to formalize and bring in-house key elements of the marketing function.
The sequence below represents the order in which essential marketing sub-functions can be established at a B2B venture as it transitions from early startup to emerging growth.
What - This role typically provides field support, coordinates events and plans, manages, and measures basic outbound campaigns.
When - As you begin building your sales organization, orchestrating field programs and tactics that enhance sales productivity becomes a priority. Managing each event as an end-to-end campaign—with a planning, execution and follow-up stage—is essential for repeatable success.
Who - Your first field marketing / programs manager should be a strong project manager with well-honed planning and event promotion skills, great attention to detail and the temperament to collaborate effectively with an expanding field organization.
What - Today, all growth ventures greatly benefit from a professionally managed digital presence. This is where all constituencies—investors, prospects, customers, partners, potential recruits, etc.—will first learn about what you do and why it matters.
When - Establishing this role in-house early on—even if the scope of the role includes managing external agencies and/or contractors—will pay dividends.
Who - A digital marketing manager becomes the “owner” and hub of your company’s digital presence, including website, social media, blogging, email campaigns and content syndication across digital channels.
What - Developing and managing a content strategy has become increasingly important, as the level of “noise” pushed around through digital channels has increased exponentially.
When - To distinguish themselves, early stage ventures need to tell memorable stories that define who they are, why they matter and how they’re going to help customers solve problems.
Who - An experienced content marketing professional will develop your content marketing strategy, which includes the creation of all content assets, as well as the optimal distribution of those assets through a variety of channels.
What - If you offer a product (or a “repeatable” service), packaging and positioning your offering in a differentiated way is critical. While this is more easily said than done, here’s a proven process to accomplish the essentials:
When – Once growing the business relies on a team of professionals in sales and/or channel roles, packaging, positioning and differentiating the offering becomes critical.
The growing sales team needs to learn how to articulate a clear, consistent and differentiated description of what the company offers and how it delivers value uniquely; this “documented story” is what product marketing delivers.
Who - Someone in your marketing team needs to “own” these activities. Enter the product marketing manager. Note that product marketing is an “outbound” role, focused on outward facing messaging, positioning, content development, evangelism and customer advocacy. This is different from product management, which is an “inbound” role, focused on driving product development and release management.
What - While traditional PR and media coverage may still be a part of your program, today’s environment requires you to focus on leveraging social media to amplify your message, engage with influencers and shape the dialogue in your marketplace. Managing industry analyst relations, on the other hand, still requires “old school” planning and tactics.
When - If media influencers and industry analysts influence how your target buyers think about solution providers, dedicating a resource to plan and manage media and analyst relations becomes essential.
Who – The marketing professional focusing on media and analyst relations needs experience in several key areas. They will develop and orchestrate an ongoing (persistent) program to influence media outlets and analysts and, in doing so, drive the desired exposure and coverage.
What - The proliferation of “front office” productivity tools and applications (e.g., CRM, marketing automation, content management, analytics, social media monitoring, etc.) can be overwhelming, especially for small companies. Some of the frequently asked questions that I explore with CEOs…
As modern marketers, just staying current is not enough.
When - Once your venture begins to scale its sales and multi-channel marketing programs, having a dedicated resource to be the steward of front office processes, tools/applications and best practices becomes necessary.
Who - A dedicated marketing and sales operations professional will help your business establish, manage and enhance the infrastructure to scale. Specifically, they will help to:
These infrastructure components will help executive management, marketing and sales optimize their efforts going forward.
What - I have chosen the term tele-prospecting deliberately. This function, also known as inside sales, tele-marketing or business development, should focus on qualifying marketing-generated leads before they are handed off to sales.
The person (or team) in this role may also spend some of their time cold calling to uncover new opportunities, driving registrations at company sponsored/ hosted events (e.g., webinars) and cleaning up/augmenting contact lists.
When - If outside sales bandwidth, skills or costs are getting in the way of qualifying opportunities prior to dedicated pursuit, a tele-prospecting resource (or team) may be a wise investment. The nature of your offering and the scope of your sales team’s responsibilities should also be considered.
Who - Many small ventures work with an external firm, which gives them on-demand bandwidth flexibility. Others build a team in-house, giving them more control to drive predictable outcomes.
What - The depth and breadth of your marketing talent abroad will depend on the extent to which your positioning, messaging and packaging need to be tailored to the needs and expectations of those overseas markets.
When – As your venture begins pursuing opportunities beyond your home market, it becomes essential to deploy a marketing presence to support field teams in those international geographies.
Who - Hiring a local marketing “generalist,” with skills that include field/programs management, content marketing and PR, would be a logical, cost-effective starting point to help establish a beachhead in a new market.
As a B2B CEO or business owner, you are now equipped with a roadmap to build your first marketing team. The sequence and steps outlined above can be adapted to almost any B2B venture. In my next post, I will explore important hiring, outsourcing and leadership considerations for optimizing the marketing organization.