Originally posted on LinkedIn by Kaitlyn Mellor, Director of Business Development & Marketing Consultant at Magnetude Consulting.
The question of who should lead marketing in your growing business doesn’t always have an easy answer—availability, budget, timing, expertise, comfort level, desire, and industry knowledge play into the decision.
But your business results will be impacted positively or negatively depending on who’s in charge of marketing. It is an important decision, and one that you shouldn’t rush into.
As a marketing firm, we either lead marketing for our clients OR we report to someone else in charge of marketing. Working with over 100 B2B companies, we’ve seen how the right person in charge can make all the difference…in a very positive way.
The head of marketing should be driving marketing strategies that achieve your desired growth goals. For small to mid-size firms, what you absolutely do NOT want is a figurehead. At this stage, you need leaders who are also doers (or at least have the expertise to direct the doers.)
When it comes to who should lead your marketing efforts, here are the pros, the cons, and the best choice:
1.) A Head of Sales or CRO – Heads of sales are excellent at their primary skillset—managing and motivating their sales team. However, they often have a stronger sales background than marketing background. While it’s not done intentionally, when one person is in charge of both sales and marketing, marketing activities that don’t contribute directly to sales tend to fall to the wayside. Brand awareness, partnerships, and lead nurturing programs, for example, may fall out of the purview of someone who has a sales quota to meet that quarter.
Sales leaders can also be protective of their sales teams. Marketing needs sales to help write content, inform new messaging, and review ABM campaigns. It’s the job of senior leaders to push those marketing activities to the top of sales’ to-do list, which happens less often when the head of sales leads the marketing department as well.
2.) A Junior Marketer – Many companies use a junior or mid-level marketer. Companies often turn to junior marketers for many reasons—financial pressures, a talented individual on the team transferred into the marketing department, or because the firm doesn’t truly understand the strategic role marketing plays in supporting business growth. These individuals bring enthusiasm and creative ideas to their role; however, with limited experience, they’re not always focused on the areas that offer the greatest opportunities for the firm.
I spoke to a junior marketer recently who said her mission was to generate new leads. She told me that she’d been acquiring them mostly via email marketing (which is not ideal for getting new leads, but rather for nurturing the ones you’ve already got in your funnel). However, when I asked who her target buyer was, she didn’t know. Junior marketers make great additions to a marketing team, especially when mentored by an experienced marketer, but they aren’t the best choice for leading marketing efforts.
3.) A CEO or Founder – CEOs bring many strengths to the position of head of marketing, such as their strong handle on business strategy and how marketing should support the business goals. The challenge is that most CEOs don’t have the marketing expertise to pursue the right programs to support those efforts. Additionally, they rarely have the time to see them through. That’s the way it should be! CEOs should provide the strategy to move the business forward and work with marketing leaders to determine how to enable the business to get there.
We sometimes see CEOs who lead marketing focus on creating the ‘perfect’ campaign (without the depth of understanding to know what goes into great campaigns). In their quest for perfection, CEOs struggle to get campaigns off the ground. Tech CEOS and founders also struggle with the nuances and unknowns of marketing, thirsty for an exact outcome that is impossible to foretell. Above all, CEOs care deeply about how their business is perceived and of course, achieving the growth goals, which makes them a strong asset to the marketing team.
4.) A COO or CFO – With their strong handle on the financial picture and goals of the company, COOs and CFOs bring a solid analytic perspective to marketing. However, some leaders struggle with investing in the foundational efforts, such as putting the right systems in place—email and CRM—without immediately seeing an immediate financial return.
Some of our clients come to us needing a messaging refresh, a pitch deck, a new website, or a strategy to support a future exit. While those aren’t “money in, money out” endeavors, they’re an invaluable investment in your business growth. Once your programs are up and running, you’ll definitely start seeing revenue tick up, which will please the COO or CFO.
5.) A Product Marketer – Product marketers bring a deep understanding of the audience, competition, and product features, which is invaluable to the marketing process. Because of this focus, product marketers usually have less experience and focus on holistic programming, corporate-level messaging, digital programming, thought leadership, PR, and sales-driven conversion copy. Their product knowledge makes them a great partner for higher-level marketing campaigns. Perhaps more importantly, their focus on helping create a marketable product makes your job easier in the long run.
Marketing is an incredibly diverse discipline, which can make it tough to get the perfect person in charge. All of the above scenarios have their positives and negatives.
You need someone who is more than just “good at marketing.” You need a leader who understands the business needs and knows how to design strategies and plans that will help your firm reach its goals. Your head of marketing must understand your industry nuances and target audience, know what programs actually work, and have the results to prove it.
Instead of making a quick decision, step back and look at the bigger picture. With that bigger-picture strategy in mind, it’s easier to determine what your company actually needs.
After all, that’s exactly what a great marketing leader would do.
If you’re in tech, cybersecurity, or services, we’d love to play that role for you. Let’s talk.