Building a Marketing Capability at your B2B SaaS Startup

One of the challenges for B2B SaaS startups when it comes to marketing is in figuring out what an ideal team configuration looks like. Of course, the factors that impact this decision are wide ranging and include:

As a rule of thumb, in most SaaS businesses, the marketing team represents 5% of total employees so this should give you a feel for the overall numbers required. Naturally, as budgets increase, accessible markets expand, and the business matures additional headcount will be needed with most early stage startups relying on one marketing resource. (Source: Marketing Lessons from the Top 100 SaaS Companies).

There is no typical team so it’s not simply a case of replicating other similar companies, but rather a case of configuring a team based on the size of the addressable market, internal resources, the marketing strategy being implemented, and the ambitions for the future.

Finally, depending on requirements, one ongoing set of decisions will relate to assessing which activities need to be done in-house versus those that can – should be outsourced in the early years. In recent years the pendulum has shifted more towards outsourcing than historically was the case (largely because transaction costs have fallen and more professionals have chosen to become self-employed).

Marketing for Your B2B SaaS Start-up

In the early days when resources are tight a ‘jack of all trades’ is the optimal choice for your first hire. Ideally, they will be a fast learner, have an appetite for testing, and be willing to set clear goals and KPI’s. A CMO may be too expensive at this stage, so it is important to access external support when making strategic decisions. It is also important to note that at this stage the digital marketing manager may need a lot of hand-holding, and will lack the ability to support strategic decisions. Finally, it is also important to recognise that as the business grows they may not be capable of transitioning to a leadership role.

See Is Your Marketing Lead Still the Best Fit to Run Your SaaS Startup?

Marketing for Your B2B SaaS Scale-up

So what would a B2B SaaS scale up with circa 100 employees look like?

The following represents a configuration based on the jobs to be done approach as initially described by Clayton Christensen.

1. Head of Marketing — Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) 1 FTE – Senior

Someone to lead and ensure there is one point of contact ‘representing marketing’. Ideally, they are active at C Level ensuring senior management has full clarity as to the marketing strategy. They should be responsible for resourcing, setting and allocating budgets, and performance managing the team, as well as setting strategic direction. In SaaS businesses marketing needs to focus on acquisition, conversion and retention so they will need to collaborate effectively with both sales and product.

2. Content Marketing (Manager) – 1 FTE (Mid Level)

This person will be responsible for inbound marketing. They will need to write content that resonates with the target audience and help to push it out (amplify it) on completion. ‘Content is key’ for disruptive start-ups as it reduces the cost of customer acquisition and also serves to educate the market about innovative solutions. Ideally, they will also support the production of gated content so emails can be captured which can then be marketed to via drip campaigns/marketing automation.

3. Product Marketing Manager – 1 FTE (Mid Level)

This person needs to sit between product/tech and sales i.e. to help manage the product roadmap and to manage internal and external communications relating to new feature releases. Essentially they need to help ensure that new features are well researched and that they represent strong benefits for target personas. Once complete the benefits of the new features need to be communicated widely (both internally and externally). Depending on release cycles the need to update content and collateral can be fairly frequent.

4. Designer - 1 FTE (Junior / Mid Level)

Someone responsible for creating visually strong images, graphics and new pages for the website (incl landing pages) as well as PDF guides and case studies. In many companies, this function would often be outsourced initially as it is hard to justify a full-time employee for this.

5. Digital Marketing Manager – 1 FTE (Junior/ Mid Level)

This person would be an ‘all rounder’. Someone who can turn their hand to a number of activities including - managing reporting incl KPI’s, PPC, Linkedin adverts, drip email campaigns and email marketing. They would also need to be strong on lead acquisition and driving ‘conversions’.

Finally, it is worth noting the emergence of customer success teams (often aligned with marketing) who are responsible for ensuring customers obtain value from the application on an ongoing basis. These are dedicated resource designed to get the customer up and running and to ensure that they are using the relevant features and benefiting from the new application reducing the risk of them churning.