Dear SaaStr:  What’s the difference between a VP of Marketing and a VP of Demand Gen?

Perhaps nothing.  Perhaps.  A lot of demand gen leaders want to be a “VP of Marketing” next, and that can be a great hire, and a great title to give them.

But in most cases, likely everything Most VPs of Marketing cannot do demand gen.  Most.  They simply cannot.

A classic VP of Marketing will do 4-5 things (although of course, no one is great at all 5):

  • Brand and Corporate Marketing. You need very little of this in the early days, but it’s much more important when you cross $50m ARR or so. Gets the color of the logo right. Does stuff for the brand. Manages press. Manages inbound (vs outbound) PR. Works with the analysts in the space (which is important, but gets more important over time). Big companies have a lot of these folks. So if you hire a VPM from a big company, this is the primary skill set you often get. Do you even need that today? A little yes. But not 40+ hours a week. More on this here: Hire the Right Type of VP Marketing — Or You’ll Just End Up With a Bunch of Blue Pens with Your Logo On Them
  • Product Marketing. This is confusing. Ultimately, product marketing and demand gen have >>nothing<< to do with each other, but in big companies, product marketing is closely tied to brand and market positioning, so is part of “marketing”. It’s not always even clear this should be part of “marketing” in a start-up. A Director of Product Marketing often reports to your VP of Product and isn’t even directly part of the marketing team in many organizations.
  • Field Marketing. Events, steak dinners, supporting a field sales team. This is a specialized and important skill set. But if you don’t do bigger deals, you won’t actually need a ton of this in the early days. Good field marketers do demand gen, in the sense that their events are responsible for a pipeline commitment out of the events.  But they don’t know how to get you a ton of higher velocity, inbound leads.
  • Demand Generation. This is something that many marketers have never done, believe it or not. This means two things. It means getting you leads. And it means managing the leads you do get through the funnel. But most importantly, what it really means is holding a true lead commit. 95%+ of “VPs of Marketing” have never held a lead commit. More on this here: Your VP Sales Has a Sales Quota. Your VP Marketing Needs a Lead Quota. Period.
  • Growth Marketing.  A cousin of Demand Generation, but often with little experience supporting a sales team, and much more experience support a self-serve or product-led motion.  This can be good too, but bear in mind they often aren’t interested in supporting sales.  And they’re often particularly good at digital marketing and other similar motions.  Make sure that the most fruitful channel for you before you hire a Head of Growth instead of a Head of Demand Gen.

So, you don’t necessarily need a VP of Marketing and a VP of Demand Gen. A seasoned VP of Marketing, in theory, should also be able to do and own Demand Gen.


if you hire a VP of Marketing that hasn’t been at least a Director of Demand Gen previously, and held a lead commit, and met it, and grew it quarter over quarter … they won’t get you any leads. 

Ask.  Make sure they really have:

  • “What was your lead commit at your last company?
  • “What was your core KPI at your last company?”
    “What did you deliver to sales at your last company?”

Listen to the answers.  If they stumble, or can’t answer, or it doesn’t make sense — pass.

A related post:

Hire the Right Type of VP Marketing — Or You’ll Just End Up With a Bunch of Blue Pens with Your Logo On Them

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