Ok, we’ve talked a bit more on SaaStr over the years on how to hire a Great VP of Sales, but hiring a Great VP of Marketing is just as important.  Maybe in some ways more so, in that you can generally hire a great VP of Marketing earlier.  More on that here:

We’ve talked about getting the hire right especially on one axis — making sure they’ve done Demand Gen.  That they’ve held a commit.  A lead commit, or a revenue commit, or an opportunity commit, or an MQL commit.  Some sort of commit.  90% of marketers haven’t.  Not really.  Push them to make sure they really have.  More on that here.

Now — assuming you’ve found a VP of Marketing you really like.  And they held a commit.  And you believe in them.  That’s hard enough to find!  Do you make the hire now?

There’s one final mistake I see 50%+ of founders make:  they hire a VP of Marketing with the wrong playbook.

What do I mean?  Well, here’s the thing.  The demand gen playbook is just so different at different ACVs:

  • From $0-1k ACV, marketing is a B2C-style playbook — with no sales at all.
  • From $1k-$3k ACV, marketing is growth hacking.  Seasoned marketers here have a high velocity, generally paid- and marketplace- and partner-driven playbook to get 1000s and 1000s of sign-ups per month.  There’s often only a partially sales-driven revenue motion, and where there is a sales component, it’s often a 1-2 call high- velocity close.
  • From $3k-$20k ACV, marketing is inbound driven.  Yes, outbound works here too, and it always works, really.  But typically marketing’s goal is to help push 100s and 1000s of leads to sales per month.  Not just sign-ups, but qualified leads.  Informed leads.  Leads that are truly informed and marketed to.  And sales cycles can length, to 30 days, 60 days, and more.  Marketing now has to nurture 100s and 1000s of leads in the pipe, too.  And really know how to support a higher velocity inside-sales team.
  • From $20k-$100k ACV, the ABM and targeted account playbook starts to work.  You slow marketing down — to go faster.  Instead of sending 100,000 emails, you really truly personalize the outreach in marketing.  Not just in sales.  Marketing here needs to know this playbook.  How to target the right accounts.  How to target and nurture them.  How to do events to support them.  How to do the right types of lead capture and content marketing.  It starts to become really important here that marketing knows how to get to the right prospects.  And outbound in general becomes more and more core.
  • From $100k+ ACV, marketing runs the enterprise playbook.  It’s all targeted, and almost anything that works is worth it.  Big events.  Sponsoring Gartner.  Running primarily a targeted playbook just to get to Top 1000 prospects, period.  And working that list thoughtful and strategically. Marketing no longer really cares about leads, it cares about creating sales-accepted opportunities.  Big ones.  And outbound is often a primary source of customers.

You can see the skills at each ACV are just so, so different.  (And yes, I know some folks think “ABM” is a dated term but I still find it the most useful term for describing 1:1 marketing strategies).

So the mistake I see 50%+ of founders make is finally finding a VPM they really love.  And that is great.  Just — not for their deal size.

The most classic example I see is a more enterprise SaaS startup hire a mid-market or SMB VP of Marketing that runs a playbook mainly based on paid Google, Facebook, etc. ads and SEO.  Facebook even now works OK with SMBs.  Google ads have their place.  But they don’t get you into enterprise deals, not really.  They don’t have the 1:1 playbook.  They don’t know how to identify and map stakeholders, and go get them.  And they don’t really know how to partner with a more enterprise-focused sales team.

You also see CEOs hire a VPM that knows enterprise but struggles with smaller deal sizes, though I see this mistake less often.  But don’t make this mistake, either.  An enterprise VP of Marketing rarely if ever will know a PLG playbook.  And they’ll be overwhelmed having to drive 1000s of leads instead of a far fewer, but higher value, opportunities per month.

Hire a VP of Marketing you believe in and love, and want to back.  Just make sure they truly know your ACV, for real.  And have really worked there a lot.  Otherwise, you’ll hire someone great — that will still fail.  They’ll just run the wrong playbook.

Gloss over this, because you don’t have another great candidate, because you need to make the hire, and well, I get it.  But they won’t succeed.



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