Marketing is a thorn in your side. I get it.
It’s expensive. It’s risky. It’s filled with ambiguous words like “positioning,” “messaging,” and “brand.”
And at the end of the day, you could spend thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars on “marketing” that turned up nothing but a few flowery statements and a tolerable, albeit unexceptional website.
But here you are. It’s 2022. Your website is unassuming, and your social media presence is minimal. You can’t stomach the thought of spending another $50K on a trade show exhibit, and you keep hearing about how other companies use marketing to grow the business.
You’re not alone. And if you’re truly ready to start using marketing as your business growth lever, this article is for you.
First and foremost, when it comes to marketing, there’s only one person you need to channel: Jerry Maguire.
You know where I’m going with this: “Show me the money!”
Great marketing costs money. So, if you are not ready to spend $120,000, minimum, per year, you can’t afford great marketing… yet.
I can hear your protests already. You’re probably thinking something like:
“But Mary, I can hire a marketing specialist or manager for almost half that number.”
“Some of our sales reps don’t even make this much!”
“Agencies cost way less than this.”
All true. In marketing, as in most things, you get what you pay for. And these agencies or internal hires will turn up mediocre results.
You’re not reading this article for mediocre results.
So, let’s explore the marketing options at your disposal: building an internal marketing team or hiring an agency. Click below to choose your own adventure!
- I want to build out an internal marketing team
- I want to hire an agency
- I really don’t have $120K, but I want to invest in marketing. HELP!
I want to build out an internal marketing team
Whether you have $120K to spend on marketing or $5M, you need to start with a marketing leader.
If you have $120K and not a penny more, read on.
You will pay them the entire $120,000 per year budget. He or she will report to the CEO or to your product team. Under no circumstances will you force this person to report to a sales leader. Sales and marketing should work together on the same playing field.
Whether it’s obvious or not, forcing a marketing leader to report to sales will result in marketing/sales misalignment.
To quote 3-time VP of Marketing, MJ Peters, “It’s much harder for someone who is not an exec (VP+) to be seen as a leader across the whole business. When the leader of the function isn’t seen as a leader of the business, it can impact how people view that function.”
Forcing a great marketer to report to sales places marketing beneath sales. A great marketer will see this and will not pursue a position with your company.
Preferably, this person should be the VP of marketing, though Head of marketing also works. Note: if you have a VP of sales, you should have a VP of marketing. Again, this goes back to how you want marketing to be positioned and viewed in your company. A business leader is someone on the executive team. If your marketing leader is not on the executive team, marketing will not be seen as a function necessary to the business.
As far as what they’ll do, temper your expectations. They have zero marketing budget, so any efforts for the first 12 months will likely be laying a foundation for future success.
So, how will you vet this person?
In the job description and interview process, you need to be upfront.
*Sample Job Description*
VP of marketing needed at midsize B2B manufacturing company
This will be our first time hiring a marketing leader. Sales have remained steady (or stagnated) for the past three years. We know we could be doing more with marketing, so we need an ambitious, driven leader to help us pave the way.
What we need
The VP of marketing will be responsible for creating and executing a go-to-market framework for our product line that is scalable and measurable.
We need someone who can work collaboratively with our sales and product engineering teams to find opportunities for growth.
Revenue growth is your north star metric. If business grows, your team grows.
- We prefer someone with 3+ years of experience in a product marketing role
- OR the equivalent experience in helping grow a brand through marketing
- Experience in digital marketing and advertising is a must
*End of sample job description*
“But it’s so short?”
“We need someone with more experience.”
“What about their schooling?”
Nope. None of that. Open the door for folks who want to seize this opportunity. A very good, resourceful and ambitious marketer will see this job description, and it will make their heart race. That’s who you’re looking for.
In the interview process
Ask them go-to-market strategy questions.
- How have they built a product marketing process or framework?
- Red flag answer: “I haven’t.” Or, they can’t articulate it well.
- What would the process look like for your product?
- Red flag answer: anything incoherent or that does not match your product category. If you sell a commodity product, for example, mentioning trade shows, podcasts or high-lift efforts won’t make sense initially. If you sell a high price tag, specialty product that requires a lot of customer education, then mentioning Google Ads or SEO won’t work in the short term.
- What is their marketing philosophy?
- Make sure you have yours first. If there is a large gap between the two or you don’t agree, then this probably is not a good fit.
- How do they measure results?
- Red flag response: any measurement that does not tie back to business results, i.e. website traffic, follower count, video views, etc.
- Where do they see the greatest opportunity for brands in your category right now?
- Red flag response: they say nothing, or their suggestion doesn’t make sense. If they’re serious about this position, they’ve thought of at least one potential growth channel for your company.
- What are the biggest misses where companies are wasting marketing dollars?
- Red flag response: they don’t know. A great marketing leader has A LOT of ideas here.
- What would they do in the first 30, 60, 90 days?
- Red flag response: they aren’t sure or they don’t mention customer research.
You’ll soon find out why this person is worth the $120K.
Your new VP of marketing will hit the ground running.
They’ll start by building relationships with sales, product development and customer success while also conducting customer research. They will use insights from this to build a framework for how to reach your customers with the right messaging and how to measure results.
Within 18 months, you’ll be raising marketing budget and your new hire’s pay significantly. Then you can buy me a drink. I prefer red wine.
I have between $120-200K.
This is a fun budget. Hire a marketing leader for $120-150K and give her or him the remaining budget (if there is any). A little extra budget can go a long way, if you hired a good, scrappy marketing leader.
They’ll likely hire one or two freelancers and get your website up to par. The website is the most under-utilized, low-hanging fruit for most industrial companies. A great marketing leader will realize the potential impact here.
Read the above section for hiring tips, and let your new VP of marketing know they have some extra budget to play with.
I have more than $200K
First, you’ll hire a VP of marketing for $120-150K. If you have $225K or less total marketing budget, give the rest to your new VP. They’ll know what to do.
If you have more than $300K, you likely have room to hire both a VP of marketing and another marketer or agency. I would let the new VP select the kind of internal or agency support they need depending on the go-to-market framework they develop.
All in all, the secret to great marketing is to trust the leader you hire.
I want to hire an agency
This may be the best option if you’re a marketing leader looking to supplement your current program or if you’re a small company looking to test drive a marketing framework.
When vetting agencies, look for the following positive signals:
Positive signal #1: They work your niche.
If you’re a SaaS company, hire a SaaS agency. If you’re an industrial company, hire an industrial agency. There is no bigger red flag than an agency who works with clients from asynchronous markets. They are not an agency, they are a vendor. Big difference.
Positive signal #2: They want to dig into or help you build a CRM.
Bonus points if they ask to audit your CRM before engaging with you.
Positive signals #3: They want to know about your business fundamentals that tie back to marketing.
- Positioning: What do you do, who do you help and why are you the best option?
- Messaging: What content do you have now?
- Segmentation: Who are your best fit customers? They should ask about both company contacts and company firmographics:
- What are the job titles?
- What industries are they in?
- How big are these companies?
- Targeting: How are you reaching your best fit customers?
Positive signal #4: They want to know how you’ve done marketing in the past and how it performs.
Bonus points if they ask clarifying questions or offer other ways of doing said marketing tactic. It’ll be a red flag if they criticize or put down your past marketing efforts.
Positive signal #5: The plan or proposal they send is scalable.
Your goal with any agency should be to create a mutually beneficial relationship, rather than using them as a vendor for a one-off campaign or project.
If you find an agency like this (Gorilla 76 is one), you can pass off repeatable tasks like campaign management, CRM reports and content creation while you (the marketing or business leader) focus on strategy and future opportunities.
A full-service agency like this will be minimum $120,000 per year. Our average plan is closer to $200,000 per year, including media fees.
If you eventually want to create an in-house marketing team, this agency should be able to help point you in the right direction.
I really don’t have $120K, but I want to invest in marketing. HELP!
Have no fear! While you may not be able to invest in a full-stack marketing program, you can get started building a solid marketing foundation.
Since this budget is too small to hire a quality internal marketing leader, you’ll need to hire an agency or a consultant.
They should help you with the following, depending on your needs:
- Content creation
- Content distribution
Remember, your main goal should be to create a marketing framework that is scalable and measurable. This will give you the positive signals you need to get an increase in your marketing budget.
Not to toot our horn too much, but Gorilla 76 can also help with this.
One final thought on a smaller budget: curb your expectations. For the first 12-24 months, you will create the foundation for measurable, repeatable results from marketing efforts. After this, you should see increases in pipeline and/or revenue.
If you’ve read this whole article, you know what you need to do. You’ve got one of two options: