Marketing has changed more in the last three years than in the last 30. At a very high level, the concept of marketing is still the same - to generate demand for the products and services your company sells, and raise awareness of your company’s brand - but the way you go about that has changed significantly.
This requires us to rethink the marketing team and what the core elements of the organisation look like in a modern world. First, what does that modern world look like? It’s important to understand this before we think about the skills we need in our team.
The permission economy
Before the Internet went mainstream, consumers were barraged by companies all vying for their attention. Think about it for a moment: broadcasters showed adverts to us when they wanted to; magazine publishers placed editorial content around a glut of advertisements and product catalogues; commercial radio stations played between 5 and 10 minutes per hour of adverts, and we’d sit through 30 minutes of adverts before watching a movie at the cinema. Even hotels and taxis would play ads as you entered your room or ride for the first time.
Nowadays, we can watch TV on demand — with or without ads — using services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video; read highly tailored, high-quality content on the Internet — with or without ads (more on this in another post); discover music we love on services like Spotify without ever having to listen to ads; watch movies at home on Netflix; and stay almost anywhere in the world using AirBnb and get there using Uber.
In this new world, consumers and business buyers choose when, where — and how — they’re marketed to. It’s almost entirely their choice. I call this the Permission Economy.
Rethinking marketing in a digital world
As a result, we have to be smarter about how we market to both individuals and businesses. For starters, there’s simply too much noise and businesses need to find a way to cut through that - you can’t do that by shouting louder. This is especially true in highly competitive markets and industries where there are almost unlimited venture capital funds, where there will always be someone with deeper pockets. So we have to think deeper about how our product delivers value and how we market that value from the moment of first contact, which in a digital world, could be well away from owned properties.
With this in mind, the marketing organisation needs to adapt to this new world that is dominated by technology. I’m a big believer in using technology and data to enable marketers to be better at their jobs because now, more than ever, the marketing team needs to demonstrate return on investment and build confidence with the executive suite, board of directors and shareholders.
I’ll start with a one-person team and then build out from there, but first it’s worth thinking about what a basic marketing funnel looks like:
I’ll cover the marketing funnel in more detail in a separate post, as it’s changed significantly for digital-native businesses.
The start-up marketing team
This is the simplest of all teams as it starts with a single marketer who is responsible for developing the brand, creating buyer personas, planning the go-to-market and executing campaigns. It’s the starting point for a young business or start-up, where the head of marketing is responsible for planning and execution at all stages of the marketing funnel — from drawing people to the brand, converting them into leads and finally pulling qualified leads into a sales cycle.
What’s the second marketing hire?
Many of the articles I’ve read on this topic suggest that the second marketing hire should be another generalist who can work across the funnel, but I’m not convinced that’s the best route forwards. Let me explain why.
Most businesses in the early stages or those trying to build brand awareness all face similar challenges - that’s generally at the top of the funnel. Not enough people know about your brand; awareness and mindshare are low.
Thus, your first hire is perhaps the most obvious one: hire a highly creative individual - a Content Marketing Manager - at the top of funnel (ToFu) who can create engaging content that draws your buyer personas to your brand through blogging, social media and traditional paid advertising.
This will enable you to focus more of your time on converting and closing once prospects enter your funnel. This comes from understanding your current customers, your audience and combining the two to enhance Product Market Fit.
It also enables you to focus more time on supporting the sales process, feeding customer needs back into the top of funnel. You’re the data analyst at this point and you’re using data to drive decisions to optimise the product, sales tools and marketing materials you’re using to pull prospects through the funnel.
You’ve started to build out your marketing funnel and fill up the sales team’s pipeline. It’s time to start growing the marketing team. The third and fourth marketing hires are a Web Developer/Designer, thus enabling product and web development to fork, and a mid-funnel (MoFu) Marketing Manager focused on conversion and nurturing. In which order you hire these two key roles depends on other capabilities across the business.
The web developer/designer’s role is self-explanatory. The mid-funnel Marketing Manager’s role is to support the Content Marketing Manager at the top of funnel by focusing on conversion paths and conversion rates, building email marketing campaigns and landing pages, which help with the nurturing process and get them to give you permission to move forwards. This person needs to be data-driven but is able to put that data to creative use. They also help to keep the brand at the top of mind for prospects who haven’t given us permission to step up our marketing effort with them.
The fifth role is at the top of funnel again, supporting the Content Marketing Manager to create more materials and assets that drive brand awareness, working across both owned and third party properties (for example, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups and other unowned social channels), filling the top of funnel with more relevant prospects. This role also helps the mid-funnel marketer to execute and positively impact conversion rate to turn those prospects into leads.
Finally, the sixth role is at the bottom of funnel with a Product Marketing Manager. The Product Marketing Manager’s focus is on using data to drive the product and proposition forwards while bolstering existing sales enablement tools. They’re thinking about the things that made your biggest or fastest growing clients successful, and finding ways to integrate those things into either the product, proposition or toolkit to enable future success. It’s the last piece of the puzzle that enables you, as the department head, to step backwards to focus on the bigger picture and add value where it’s needed most at any given moment.
Strategies for building beyond the core team
If you’re already at this stage, and you’re figuring out where your next hire should be, I’ll be covering that in more detail in future posts. Until your marketing organisation reaches a certain size - well above 30 employees - your first point of focus will always be the top of funnel. I suggest at least two (if not three) heads at the top of funnel for every head in either middle or bottom of funnel - and I’d hire mid-funnel before bottom of funnel.
If the top of funnel is over-subscribed with prospects, you simply add resources lower down the funnel to move prospects along the buying process. That’s the beauty of having a top-heavy funnel - you can switch on more revenue by optimising your conversion rate or conversion paths.
How have you built your own marketing organisation? If you had a blank sheet of paper, how would you change your hiring policy? It’d be great to hear your thoughts.