EP20: Hiring a Marketing Team
Hey founders 👋
Today I’m writing about the most common question that I get asked!
How do I build my marketing team?
It’s so common that we’ve actually built documentation around this and we’re starting to share it with clients. It’s a very understandable question, and not a lot of founders know what their options are when it comes to building a marketing team.
So today, we’re going to break down your four options:
- Agencies and consultancies
- Full-time or part-time employees
- DIYing it by learning marketing and growth yourself
One of the big questions that I get all the time is how do I source folks? Where do I find marketing talent? How do I know who is the right fit? For this last question, the main factor is honestly your budget. The other factor is based on what makes sense for the business and what it needs.
Something that I’ve noticed is that there really isn’t a wrong answer. The only wrong answer is the one that seriously does not agree with your energy and also puts you out of business. The only way to do this wrong is to violate both of those two things!
Let’s think about the iron triangle: scope, time, and budget. Technically, you could get to your goal extremely fast if you had an endless budget. But typically, there are restraints.
I’ve worked with dozens of SaaS companies and startups (both bootstrapped and funded). And I’ve seen a lot of different models for building marketing teams. Here’s what I’ve noticed:
Rule of thumb for hiring
If you have less than 10k MRR, then usually hiring contractors is a better bet for you. You might be able to afford some agency or consulting help, but it depends.
If you’re making more than 10k MRR, then you might be able to start considering your first full-time hire. Some folks recommend waiting to hire full-time once you get to 50k MRR. It depends on your growth trajectory.
It also might depend on your leadership style and how you want to manage talent.
Below I’ll get into more detail for what it’s like to work with each of these different types of hires.
Contractors are typically what I most often recommend to founders. They’re typically freelance workers who are paid either per hour, month, or deliverable.
Some contractors are marketing generalists and others are highly specialized where they focus on one particular talent, skill, or expertise. In general, I recommend working with contractors who are at least a little bit specialized so you know they have concentrated knowledge in a particular area.
Something I love about working with contractors is that it’s pretty low risk and you can usually find solid talent. While you need to create a hiring funnel and vet talent effectively, it’s overall not too challenging to accomplish.
The only caveat with contractors is that you end up managing the talent. The tasks typically involve:
- Providing guidance and leadership
- Communicating the big picture strategy to your team of contractors
- Providing feedback
- Reviewing deliverables for quality control
These are tasks that you’ll have to get comfortable doing no matter what type of talent you hire (contractor, full-time, etc). In many ways, getting started learning your leadership skills and style with a team of contractors might be a low risk way to get started and learn.
Personally, I love working with contractors and freelancers. It’s absolutely amazing. I truly enjoy managing and leading. So if that’s interesting to you, too, then contractors might be a great place to start.
Agencies and consultancies
Agencies and consultancies tend to have higher price tags. For a more specialized agency, the price tag is usually between $5-7k per month. They can also be as expensive as $10-50k per month, especially if they’re covering several marketing areas for you, such as demand gen, paid acquisition, social media management, content marketing, etc. I haven’t really seen any agencies out there, no matter what they do, to be less than $5K per month.
One benefit of working with an agency is that their speciality is typically execution. They usually have a deep bench of resources, meaning they have tons of people who can come in and help. For this reason, they typically work extremely fast.
Consultancies, on the other hand, are a bit different. They’re not necessarily executing the work, but they’re going to help you solve specific challenges you’re facing.
I consider DemandMaven to be a consultancy. While we do have an agency arm where we have a team of people who execute, our bread and butter is the strategic, data-gathering, and market research side of marketing.
When it comes to hiring consultancies, it’s usually similar to agencies, starting at around $6k per month all the way up to $80k for highly-specialized consultancies.
So it really boils down to whether you need an agency for execution or a consultancy for the more strategic and research side of things. I recommend only working with an agency if you have a 6-12 months runway to work with them on retainer ideally.
Something to keep in mind when working with an agency is that they’re not all created equally. There are many agencies out there that don’t necessarily do the greatest work. So the hard part is to find an agency that you trust to give you results. Here’s our recommendations for figuring out if an agency is trustworthy:
- Look at their previous work (case studies, examples)
- Make sure they’re worked with companies like yours before (type, stage, budget)
- Ask if you can talk with a previous client
And remember, once you hire an agency, it takes time to get up to speed. This is true of a full-time marketer, too.
Even if your hire starts executing right away, it takes time for the market to start to notice. For example, if you start publishing Twitter threads, it will take time for the audience to start to recognize and pick up on who you are and pay attention.
It’s also helpful to keep in mind that agencies can execute all day, but if you don’t have the right overall marketing strategy in place or know who your target audience is, then their work will struggle to make an impact.
This is why we recommend our clients invest in our customer research projects. This helps you clarify your market positioning and understand your customer. If you have that type of strategy already in place, that’s amazing. But if not, this is a great place to start investing so you can ensure all execution is going in the right direction and will succeed moving forward.
Full-time and part-time employees
Next, let’s chat about employees.
I’ve noticed that founders don’t have a hard time finding agencies and consultancies, but when it comes to full-time employees, they’re often lost.
Finding incredibly talented marketers with a track-record for growth in SaaS is somewhat rare.
When should you hire a full-time marketing employee?
I recommend that you don’t consider it until you have at least an entire year’s worth of salary for that person. If you don’t have one year’s salary, you might be putting that person in a weird position to justify their salary as fast as possible, and that’s not a fun position to be put in.
How much salary do you need?
The numbers are across the board mostly because you can hire talent from different countries. US talent is typically the most expensive. If you’re hiring a head of marketing, then the salary is at least $75-90k and that’s likely still too low. It can be upwards of $150k.
For more junior talent, it will likely be in the 75-110k range. Senior or more director level is likely 120-150k. A lower end CMO salary would likely be 180-200k. Senior executive levels are as high as 400-500k.
If these numbers sound really high, you might also find that you’re already investing monthly at a similar level but on agencies and consultancies.
One benefit of hiring a full-time marketer is that you’ll have someone on the team with true ownership. Typically, that marketer will hire and outsource based on any skill gaps. For example, if you hire a marketer who isn’t the best content marketer, then they’ll likely bring on a part-time content marketing strategist or a contractor.
Once you have a head of marketing, they are ultimately responsible for building out the team from there, which is a huge benefit.
Learning marketing yourself
The last option, which I’m not covering very deeply, is that you can learn marketing yourself and execute. There are tons of courses, programs, and books. This can be a great option on a lower budget. The trick is that while you’re busy executing, you won’t have time to do other business-growing activities.
Founders and CEOs typically outsource marketing so they can continue focusing on the overarching business, rather than get lost in the weeds.
I’d love to hear from you:
How are you thinking about building your own marketing function based off of what you’ve heard today? What are you thinking of doing next?
To learn more about how to reach your growth goals for your SaaS business, check out our top offers here:
Book a time with me here and I can point you in the right direction.
As always, thank you so much for spending this time with me. Join the newsletter below to hear when our latest content drops ✨
You don't want to miss the next one.
Every week or so, I'll drop a growth marketing knowledge bomb right here on this blog, and I've got a feeling if you're here, you won't want to miss it. I'll only send you actionable, relevant advice on marketing and growth for early-stage startups. Whether you're funded or bootstrapped, B2B or B2C, there's absolutely something to be learned, gained, and leveraged. Subscribe below.