Org Series

How to Build Out a Marketing Team

By: 
Megan Hemmings

Welcome to Part 4 of our Organizational Structure series. In this post, we’ll be focusing on how to build and structure your Marketing team.‍

Why Should You Hire a Marketing Team?

In order to grow a company, you need to attract, retain, grow and renew customers and tell people why they should choose you over similar offerings. You also need to feed sales with qualified leads for them to close.To achieve this, you’re going to need a well functioning Marketing department.

The Marketing department serves as the nexus connecting sales, prospects and customers. Everything from defining your brand and building awareness to promoting the benefits of your products and services to driving top of funnel leads and delivering helpful content all falls under their purview. 

Many founders attempt to tackle some of these responsibilities themselves based on their own perception of Marketing’s most valuable aspects (e.g., they could focus their time on branding or design rather than SEO growth) and pass off, or neglect entirely, other critical Marketing areas that require investment. However, if you want to be sure you’re developing a tight and cohesive marketing experience you’ll need to truly invest in the function holistically so that everyone from employees to prospects to customers to influencers to current and prospective investors understand the value of your company. Doing so will not only create a cohesive message, it will cost effectively increase the number of leads you generate and close, driving your cost to acquire and churn rates down In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute, marketing generates more than three times as many leads as outbound outreach and costs 62 percent less. 

How is the Marketing Team Changing?

Beyond crafting a compelling brand message, Marketing is an integral part of a company’s growth strategy. A 2019 survey found that “83 percent of global CEOs said they look to marketing to be a major driver for most or all of a company’s growth agenda.” Additionally, high-growth companies were found to be seven times more likely to have a Head of Marketing who values cross-functional collaboration and building partnerships throughout leadership. To foster these relationships, many companies are shifting towards engaging the entire company in Marketing projects - from encouraging employees to share company news on social media to ensuring everyone aligns on messaging and outcomes.

In addition to this internal shift, the way marketing work is done is shifting as well. Marketing teams are now finding themselves more focused on data and analytics than ever before. Rather than simply looking to the past to see how something performed, Marketing is becoming more agile in order to quickly, and inexpensively, test new ideas. The discipline of Marketing Operations has quickly become a core specialty within the modern Marketing organization, tasked with ensuring spend, technology and processes all align to deliver maximum impact for the company. Across industries, companies that have implemented marketing operations have seen a 15 - 20 percent improvement in return on investment and customer engagement metrics.

When to Begin Hiring a Marketing Team

While stealth mode startups tend to  focus  on establishing market fit and sales potential for your product, it’s important to start thinking about messaging and product positioning early on to ensure you attract the right customers. This is where Marketing comes in. Most experts recommend bringing on the first Marketing hire around employee 20-30 to set the stage for sales expansion, though TruePlan data shows the first Marketing hire is often actually made around the 50-75 employee mark.

At this point, most companies look for a product marketer who will ultimately be able to scale to become the Head of Marketing. This person will able to articulate your value proposition and help position your company within the market. As Karyn Scott, a marketing advisor and former Chief Marketing Officer at Kloudspot and Flexport, explained, “You want to have somebody with a strong product marketing background who can really understand the competitive differentiation and how to message and position your offering relative to competitors and prospect need, and also to arm the sales organization with material that can help them persuade and inform.”

While product marketing can be the most difficult role to hire for, it is worth starting your Marketing team here due to the immediate value this role provides. Ideally, you want someone with about 5-8 years of experience in product marketing who is comfortable running cross-functional projects and has a basic understanding of business analytics. This hire is going to need to be willing to be very hands-on with a desire to grow into management.

While many companies want to jump right into content marketing, in the early days, all marketing is product marketing. At this stage, your company needs to be properly positioned within the market and you need succinct and differentiated messaging to drive leads. Creating this messaging, and ensuring all channels reflect it, attracts the right customers, which in turn helps cement your market standing. Until you can clearly articulate your value proposition, all other areas of marketing can be left on the back burner.

Jo Ann Sanders, Vice President of Marketing at Honeycomb.io, explains, “Before you try to do any PR or before you start running demand gen campaigns or build sales slides or anything like that, you really need to understand your core value. How do you create messaging that creates an emotional connection with your audience? How do you make sure that that messaging is differentiated? If you try to build up the rest of marketing without having that core foundation, you present yourself inconsistently in the market.”

When to Scale Your Marketing Team

Once you start seeing some traction within the market such as an increase in inbound leads and/or web traffic, it’s time to bring on a second Marketing hire. 

As Scott says, “A key signal that I look for is increased interest in learning about your space. When there are signals in the marketplace - ‘digital breadcrumbs’ so to speak, with data showing interest, dwell time, downloads for your content or interest in attending webinars or wanting to learn more about a particular thing. That's when you know there's an opportunity to very quickly bring on somebody who will demonstrate ROI by converting that interest into real sales qualified opportunities.”

This should roughly coincide with when you start expanding your sales team or around employee 75 - 100. At this point, you are looking for a demand generation marketer. This person will be able to take the foundation that was laid by the Product Marketer and turn it into programs that can open the floodgates to bring in leads.

Sanders states, “Get your inbound demand gen engine solidified - whether it's webinars or content marketing, experiment with what engages people to come in organically, work out lead flow to the sales team, and then pour gas on the fire with paid, PR and AR.” (this is known as Paid, Earned and Owned)

How to Structure a Full Scale Marketing Team

Once your initial Marketing hires are in place, you’ll want to keep an eye on metrics to determine when it’s time to scale the team. As Scott explained, “It's really all about your CAC (cost to acquire) analysis. What is the cost to acquire a new client? What is the cost to expand that business? What does it cost to mitigate churn? The cost to run a competitive take-out and steal customers over from competitors? And then, you have to look at your metrics dashboard and say, ‘all right, a dollar spent on a marketing person is going to deliver this much in revenue.’ It’s really a math equation at this point.”

Keep in mind that it is worth considering more than just revenue at this point - metrics such as user acquisition and active use can be leading indicators that help determine where marketing efforts should be placed. Sanders points out, “If you are generating inbound interest and excitement in the market for what you’re doing, it makes sense to add team members who can experiment with turning that momentum into revenue.” 

When it comes time to build out your Marketing department further, the four main areas to consider are product marketing, revenue/demand generation, public relations/communications, and marketing operations. Each of these can have multiple functions under them. For example, demand generation can include content marketing, events, and business development reps, while communications can include public relations, internal communications, social media, investor relations and more. While you’ll want to build out a foundation in each of the four areas, the timing of when to focus on each will be determined by your overall goals.

Since most companies have product marketing and demand generation covered with their fist and second hires, for the third Marketing hire, they look for someone who specializes in communications to take the messaging and positioning and craft your story - the story sales will tell prospects and the CEO will tell investors. From there, paths diverge to bring on either a designer, digital marketer or events specialist, depending on your strategy. 

TruePlan data shows the typical Marketing structure at a 150-person company looks something like this:

Marketing Hire Number 1 2 3 4
Company Hire Number 50 - 75 75 - 100 90 - 110 125 - 150
Role / Title Director or
Head of Marketing
Growth Marketing Manager or
Lead
Senior Marketing Manager or
Content Manager
Marketing Manager or
Associate
Timing (Yrs) 2.9 4.0 4.4 4.8

Typical marketing team structure at a 150 person company

 

For initial hires, it is expected that everyone will be able to handle some level of marketing operations. However, with the changes in the way Marketing operates mentioned above, it has become best practice to bring on a marketing operations specialist as soon as the second marketing hire to help inform the overall marketing strategy, maximize ROI of efforts and advocate for Marketing needs. 

As Scott explained, “Before Demand Gen you need Marketing Ops - you MUST build the machine - the tech stack, the automation for qualification and nurture - before you open the floodgates. Otherwise the data and the propensity to buy/convert metrics are off. Then when the pipes are in, you drive demand.”

Closing

While every company is different and your specific needs will determine the exact timing and pace to build out a Marketing department, it’s important to set expectations at every step of the way. As Sanders explains, “Marketing is such public work - everything we do is so public and everybody’s an armchair marketer - so there will be a ton of requests coming in. Be really clear about what is in scope and out of scope for the team and set expectations. Otherwise your new people will just get buried and burned out.” 

Scott expanded, “I think the biggest mistake a marketing leader can make – and this leads to the 12-18 month churn with CMOs - is not defining metrics and accountability really early on. Agree on what marketing will do, what it will cost and how to measure. Otherwise, and we’ve all seen this too often, when a bump in the road or the revenue flow hits, marketing looks like an expense or cost center vs a revenue generator. Set the standard early so there’s no confusion.”

Be on the lookout for our next Organization Structure series post where we’ll focus on how to build out another business function. 

If your team is growing, TruePlan can help. Book a 15 minute demo to learn how.

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