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From seed to IPO: how to build a B2B marketing team that scales

September 14, 2021

From seed to scale up, everyone needs a marketing team.

The problem is not many B2B organisations know the best way to structure their hires for the best success.

Let’s end the confusion, shall we?

We’ve put together this helpful article all about building your ideal B2B marketing team with actionable insights from The DGMG Podcast with Dave Gerhardt.

If you’re looking to hire your first marketing role or you’re confused about where to go with your team, this one’s for you!

Here’s a quick summary of what we’ll discuss:

Choosing the right marketers for your business | Things to look for when hiring a marketer | The hiring process | How big does your marketing team need to be? | Changing structures as you scale | More ways to scale with Cognism

Click one of the headings ☝️ to jump to that section or scroll 👇 to start.

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Choosing the right marketers for your business ✅

Hiring for your marketing team can be overwhelming.

After all, there are so many different positions to fill, and depending on where you are in your business journey, you might think you have to hire them all.

The good news is that that's not the case.


When hiring for your business, you need to map out where you want to go and the type of customers you want to attract.

After that, it's as simple as hiring the right people for your team.

Dave Gerhardt, who is also the Chief Brand Officer at Drift, says:

“At Drift, we hired a bunch of generalists early on, but we also looked at what channels we wanted to use. We knew we wanted to do events, so our fourth hire was an events marketer - which not many companies would do so early.”

Here's a quick rundown of the average marketing team structure:

The great thing about marketing is you don’t need to adhere to this structure if you don’t want to.

You can create new roles, or you can pick and choose based on what your company needs.

 Or as Dave says:

“Your business is unique. You're allowed to make job titles up so you can hire the right people to fill your needs.”

But remember, you can't hire one marketer and expect them to be a unicorn - they’ll get overwhelmed.

Unless they genuinely are a unicorn marketer, in which case you’ve struck gold!

Instead, assign your team to one speciality. Their focus should be to do one thing well, rather than a million things badly.

Dave also believes that the average team structure is limiting.

It encourages your teams to work in silos, and you don't want that. He says:

“I wonder if you could be more effective with a single team that works like an agency: a writer, designer, paid, campaigns and product marketer all sitting around the same table (or Zoom), working together to solve the business problems at hand.”

Running a team like a media agency isn’t news to Chris Walker of Refine Labs, who has a unique hiring process.

He ensures he only hires marketers who understand their audience.

When you're looking for a demand generation leader, three out of a hundred have the skill I need for my business. So if you're a leader and you can't evaluate talent, you're at a huge risk of hiring someone for 200k a year or more that sucks.”

He suggests hiring based on roles that are important to your organisation, and for him, that would be:

  • Performance marketers
  • Content marketers
  • Product marketers

His rule is that anything that relates to the customer needs to be done in-house. You can outsource the rest.

Things to look for when hiring a marketer 🔎

The one mistake organisations make is hiring a marketing team based on their resumes, rather than who they are as individuals and what they can bring to your team.

Dave says:

“I try to think of who I was when I started when I look at resumes. I didn't have that. So instead of looking at people who have worked for big names, I look for people who show passion for marketing.”

Because you're going to start your next role with a clean slate, and you're going to have to prove yourself all over again:

“At Drift, no matter who you are and where you come from, you start at zero. No one's past results account for anything, even if you're an A player. It's about results. So if you aren't showing any within thirty days, you're going to be in trouble.”

Or in the words of Chris Walker:

What we don't want is someone who did something back in 2012, and it worked for them then, so they are going to do it forever continuously, and over time the effectiveness just gets worse and worse.”

So what to look for when hiring your marketing team?

You need to hire people you can trust to get important work done, which means you shouldn't be hiring to fill positions.

Instead, find people who are good at what you need them to do. Look for smart, responsible and hardworking people.

And when it comes to marketing leaders, look out for people who:

  • Show accountability to pipeline and revenue
  • Are quick to ditch old opportunities that aren't working anymore and move onto new ones
  • Get their team focused on the customer, not the process
  • Are confident in managing relationships with the rest of the executive team and the board

Most of all, keep in mind that marketers are creatives at heart.

You want people who show curiosity, who love creating things and have the perseverance to make them happen on time.  

And most importantly, the ability to connect dots, whether through stories or analytics, is vital.

The hiring process 💼

Once you know what roles you need to fill, you can start the hiring process.

Dave suggests posting jobs to find people, connecting on LinkedIn and having conversations with your colleagues, family, network and friends.

Chances are, the person you're looking for might come from a referral.

It's also a good idea to build strong relationships with connections on LinkedIn. Why? Because you might not realise what you're looking for until you see a connection to it. Then you can reach out and ask if they'd like an interview.

But remember:

“When you're starting a company, you need to take bigger chances on who you hire. People who have more experience don't want to leave their cushy jobs to come work for you, and you don't have that much to lose just yet.” - Dave

Once you know who you want to interview, establish a process. Dave's looks something like this:

  1. Phone screen
  2. Project
  3. Personality test
  4. In-person interview
  5. Final call with CEO

You don't want to have too many interviews because the person you're hiring probably already has a job and simply won't have that kind of time.

Dave says:

“You have to go through the process of hiring enough times to really understand if a person is good at interviewing but not at their job.”

That's why the personality test is key. Drift uses a company called The Predictive Index to make sure their hires fit in with the company.

You might be wondering how you can balance diversity with your hires. Here’s what Dave has to say:

“Build a culture around building diversity from the beginning, so you don't exclude certain people as you scale. If it doesn't happen at three or four, who is to say it will happen at 6 or 7? And then you'll find some really quality candidates who won't want to work with you because there's no one else like them at your company.”

Most importantly, when you find someone you want to hire, be honest with your other interviewees. Dave advises:

You can tell them that you think they're really good at x, but you interviewed someone the other day who is really good at x, and that's the direction you want to go in.”

How big does your marketing team need to be? 👔

Your marketing team should only be as big as you need it to be, as Dave explains:

“It's economy to scale, especially in SaaS sales. So the more sales reps you have, the bigger your marketing team needs to be. You can't have three marketers and a team of sixty sales reps unless you're outsourcing your marketing. There are too many things to do and not enough people to do them.”

Try to base your sales rep to marketer ratio as one marketer for every three reps to start.

You can always change this ratio as you scale to suit your specific business needs.

But whatever you do, don’t hire marketers for the sake of hiring them, just because you heard your competitor did that.

If your team can manage the workload well without skimping on quality, then don’t hire more marketers until you need to.

This way you can focus on getting quality work out, rather than a higher volume that’s not just underwhelming but doesn’t bring in the leads you need either.

Udi Ledergor, CMO at Gong says:

“I don’t hire anyone until I desperately need it. I look for every new hire to add a skill set that we don’t have on the team.”

Take a page out of his book and stick to hiring marketers for the roles you need when you need them.

Changing structures as you scale 📈

It makes sense that your team grows alongside your business.

But how do you develop the structure of your team to suit your changing needs?

By this point, you’ll likely have hired a small group of specialists led by a CMO or Head of Marketing.

This makes your marketing leader your number one hire or promotion because 👇

They’ll be in charge of developing strategy, hiring talent and managing their team for the best results.

However, your CMO might not turn out to be the person who has worked at your company the longest, as Dave explains:

“Just because someone has been with the company from the beginning doesn't mean they should be the top marketer in your team. They might not have the strengths or the know-how to take on a larger role, especially in startups. Sometimes the company grows faster than the person, which isn't a knock on them; it’s just if you want to get ahead, your team needs to grow with you even if that means hiring more experienced people as you get larger.”

You’ll find that your early-stage employees are your most entrepreneurial and ambitious, but if they don’t keep up with your company's growth, they won’t be able to move up in rank.

It’s a tricky situation to be in as a company leader, but unfortunately, you’ll need to have this conversation with your employees from the get-go.

Dave adds:

“I’ve been at Drift from the start, and now I’m managing a team of ten, and I know I don’t have the experience to take the company to the next level. Yes, I’ve grown with Drift to this point, but soon we’ll need someone who has experience in helping other companies grow so they can help us with the next step. It’s strange because it means soon I’ll be hiring my own boss!”

Closing thoughts 💭

With all this said, you should manage the hiring and scale of your marketing team in a way that works for your organisation.

There’s no winning structure to a great team.

So, don’t waste your time and money on hiring for the sake of hiring. Choose your team based on your needs at each point of your business journey and focus on quality rather than quantity for the best results.

More ways to scale with Cognism 🚀

If you’re looking for more ways to scale, you might find our Data-Driven Marketing guide to predictable growth helpful.

In it, you’ll discover a treasure trove of marketing secrets including how to implement a data-focused, strategic mindset.

Click 👇 to get your copy.

Data Driven Marketing