The landscape that B2B companies have to navigate today has changed. As I've written in earlier posts about the new buyer and the radical sales shift, buyers make their decisions differently than they did a decade ago. By the time buyers engage any vendor now, they've typically completed at least half of their buying decision.
This is great news for some companies, and terrible for others, and it often comes down to marketing.
A lot of vendors no longer get the opportunity to mold a converation with prospects and present their products and services as a solution to the prospect's problem. The difference between who gets to connect with prospects and who doesn't is marketing. If a B2B company has great marketing, their company is known in the market and generates leads that get delivered to sales people. If a company doesn't have marketing, then the sales team has to do all the work of raising awareness in the market, generating leads, nurturing leads, and closing deals (and all the steps in between).
So, marketing can be the answer to the changing buyer landscape, especially for small and mid-size B2B companies. Which brings many companies to hiring a marketing manager.
Unfortunately, there isn't always a direct connection between hiring a marketing manager and having good marketing. I hear from too many small and mid-sized B2B companies that they've had a marketer in the past, but 'it didn't work out'.
Will hiring a marketing manager lead to Good marketing?
The challenge for small and mid-sized B2B companies is that hiring a marketing manager doesn't always lead to good marketing. There are relatively few B2B marketers who have the combination of skills and characteristics that lead to effective marketing for small and mid-sized B2B companies. If you're looking for a perfect marketing manager, you probably want someone who:
- thinks strategically and can align the marketing plan with the company's business goals
- has the tactical skills to execute an integrated marketing plan
- wants to work in a small or mid-sized B2B company and won't get bored once the initial challenge wears off
- can work with a limited budget
- truly understands how sales works in B2B and can effectively support the sales team
- has both creative and analytical skills in order to implement marketing initiatives, measure their results and report on the ROI of marketing investment.
- has salary expectations less than $75,000 per year.
- is a self-starter, emotionally independent and doesn't need any coaching or support.
Wow, that marketing manager sounds FANTASTIC!
But here's the reality: of the 1000+ marketers I've met in my career, I've met maybe 20 of those marketers. (If you are lucky enough to find one of those marketers, hire him or her NOW!! And do everything you can do keep them.)
For everyone else, there are options:
Hire A Marketer, Recognizing That There Will Be Gaps
While you want everything on the list above, you know that's not reality and you're ready to make trade-offs. The most common trade-off that small and mid-sized B2B companies make is the senior vs junior (aka costly vs cheap) trade-off.
Hiring a senior marketer means you're more likely to get strategic skills (although it's not guaranteed) and someone who doesn't need a lot of hand-holding. Unfortunately, they're also probably less likely to want to do the heavy lifting themselves, will frown at limited budgets, and they will need to be paid more.
A junior marketer, on the other hand, will be willing to do lots of hard work in the name of learning. They will cost less money. But they will need a lot of your time to guide and coach them, and they are less likely to have the ability to develop a strategic marketing plan that will deliver on your business goals.
Neither option is wrong, they're both a matter of understanding what you will get and what you won't get with your hire.
Assemble a Team of Freelance Specialists
If you don't want the gaps that are likely with a single hire, you can assemble a group of specialists to execute your marketing.
The simplest version of this is to engage a strategic marketing consultant to develop your marketing strategy and road map, and then retain a mid-level marketer to implement it. In this scenario, you'll need to allow some budget for your mid-level marketer to retain outside specialists in areas that they don't cover (this might be graphic design, copywriting, pay-per-click advertising or others).
In another version, you could have a strategic marketing consultant develop the plan, and then a team of specialist freelancers or agencies execute various components of it based on their skills. This will get you deep expertise in each tactical area, but it can be complex for you to manage all the players and ensure that all the different parts are integrated.
Engage a marketing agency
A third option is to work with a marketing agency. This will get you the combination of strategic marketing skills to develop a plan, and then a team of specialists to execute the plan. It will cost more than a single hire, but it will allow you to focus on other areas of your business. It also gives you flexible capacity as your marketing needs change over the course of a year or through various economic cyles.
Getting good marketing is a challenge for small and mid-sized B2B companies, but each year there are more options to help them get there.