The changing purchasing landscape has many B2B firms scrambling to hire marketing managers, but it's best not to rush the decision.This is the first part in a three-part series to help business-to-business (B2B) companies evaluate how to go about marketing.
Part One (this article) discusses whether hiring a full-time marketing manager is the way to go, or whether hiring a marketing company might work better.
Part Two identifies four types of marketing manager that small and mid-sized B2B companies should avoid in order to improve their likelihood of marketing success, if they're hiring.
Part Three focuses on how to evaluate marketing companies, for companies who are considering working with a marketing firm.
The State of Marketing in B2B Companies
Let's start with the context. Marketing is a function that’s new to many business-to-business (B2B) companies. Historically, most B2B companies generated revenue through their sales team, with the help of a few trade shows and publishing the occasional catalog. For many businesses, marketing simply didn’t matter.
But today, buyers make decisions in a different way than they did in the past. And that has changed the role of marketing. Purchasers don’t talk to salespeople until they've done a lot of their own research online. And that means that companies need to have marketing in order to be considered as a supplier, let alone win a deal. Studies shows that a typical buyer will complete 45% to 90% of their buying process before they’ll talk with a salesperson; on average, they’re 57% of the way into the process before they even engage with a rep.
"Studies shows that a typical buyer will complete 57% of their research and buying process before they ever talk with a sales rep."
That's why marketing matters now. Companies can no longer rely solely on their sales team to raise awareness, generate leads, and close deals. It's not a good use of their time to do all these activities, and they're not able to do it all well. It takes marketing to get on buyers’ radars, convey a solid reputation, and generate a lead.
As a result, many companies are thinking about hiring their first marketing manager. It’s a big step for a lot of businesses, and should be thought through carefully.
But hiring a full-time marketing manager isn't the only way to get marketing happening within a company, and it isn't always the best way. Business leaders have two options when it comes to getting going with marketing. They can hire a full-time marketer, or they can hire a marketing company.
Which one is the best? There isn't a black and white answer, but there are some factors that indicate which might be better. Here are three questions to help evaluate which is the best bet.
1. Do we really need a full-time marketer?
The first question companies should ask is whether they’re ready for a full-time, permanent marketer. Many companies realize that they aren't ready after they make the hire, and find that things aren't working out. These companies aren’t ready in terms of the scope of work to be done (there isn't enough work to keep someone consistently busy all year), or they aren't ready because the organization doesn't know enough about marketing to hire effectively and manage the individual.
The best way for companies to evaluate whether this situation applies to them is to ask the next question.
2. What type of marketer do we need?
There are two general parameters on which to evaluate marketers - their amount of experience, and their skills.
A junior marketer will be able to execute tactical projects like managing a website, working with graphic designers and updating social media. A young person isn’t likely to have much in the way of strategic marketing experience, and may not have much “big picture” knowledge to understand how to take a company in the right direction. Conversely, a senior marketer might have the strategic chops a company is looking for, but not be interested in the nuts and bolts of executing a marketing plan, and might cost too much on a full-time basis.
And there is a vast array of marketing skills - from digital marketing to trade shows, webinars to print ads, PR to email marketing. And on and on. What specific skills a marketer needs depends on what kind of marketing the company needs to do. If the leadership team can't answer this, it's likely that a marketing company is going to be the better solution as their starting point for marketing.
Which brings us to the last question.
3. Can we hire a marketing company?
For companies that find themselves in either of the situations above (they don't have enough marketing to keep a full-time person busy or they don't know what kind of marketer to hire), there is an alternative. Engage a marketing company.
Marketing companies work on a project-by-project or ongoing basis. They offer a spectrum of skills on an as-needed basis. They can help companies figure out what kind of marketing they need, what 'good' marketing looks like, and how to manage the marketing function. All of those things help a company scale the marketing learning-curve more quickly than they would on their own, so that they get value from marketing and know what they can achieve - and are eventually ready for a full-time hire.
Next in the series:
This is updated from an original post in 2016.
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