How to organize your early-stage SaaS marketing organization
We’ve built multiple SaaS marketing functions from scratch at now unicorn companies. Here’s what we’ve learned:
No two marketing teams look the same.
Marketing is broad, even within the vertical of growing SaaS startups.
There are a ton of marketing sub-functions.
You won’t be able to re-use the same job description for a role until you hit 10+ marketers.
Titles are always changing because we’re marketing our own marketing roles.
If you’re too focused on finding someone that fills a box (or a circle in my diagrams), you’ll miss out on the best people
Start with this SaaS marketing org chart
While no two teams look the same, we’ve evolved a framework org chart that we recommend founders or heads of marketers use. Growth marketing, product marketing, and content marketing are the three roles we recommend hiring first (blue, yellow, and red in the org chart). There are of course exceptions, especially if you envision your marketing superpower being comms or events, but those are edge cases.
As a founder, CEO, and definitely as a marketing leader you should learn the differences between each function, identify what you need now, what you don’t need now, and what you’ll need in the future.
Definition: Launch, track, and optimize programs/campaigns across multiple channels to move prospects and customers down the funnel.
Own: Distribution channels; demand gen; inbound; supporting sales outbound efforts; website; marketing tech stack; a/b testing; marketing analytics; ad budget; relationship with SDRs; account-based marketing
Side Note: Some people call this whole subfunction “demand gen”, this isn’t our preference.
Definition: Communicate about the product and its benefits to your audience. Liaison between product and GTM functions.
Own: Product launches; messaging and positioning; customer feedback to product; GTM relationship with product; sales enablement content; pricing (w/ finance or ops); partner marketing; competitive analysis.
Definition: Own the content calendar and tell the story of your brand and company in order to engage prospects, customers, candidates, and partners.
Own: Content calendar; blog; voice & tone; content distribution & social media (w/ growth); customer marketing, specifically customer stories and case studies (w/ pmm).
Comms / PR
Definition: Set the strategy for earned channels. Maintain relationships and communicate with press/media about the company, product, team, and brand.
Own: Media relationships; bylines/placed content; awards; speaking engagement strategy (with field/events); analyst relations; sometimes internal comms.
Field / Event Marketing
Definition: Plan and run events (hosted, co-hosted, and sponsorship of 3rd-party events) to achieve various funnel goals (awareness, lead gen, retention)
Own: Events; booths & conference strategy; hosted events, co-marketing events; supporting local field sales teams; tracking event success (w/ lifecycle marketing or marketing ops).
Brand & Creative
Definition: Establish brand standards for the company and create digital, print, and video assets that align with the brand and support business goals.
Own: Brand guidelines; web design; ad creative; all creative assets not in product; video production; swag.
Definition: Corporate marketing is often used as the umbrella term for brand marketing, events & field marketing, communications & pr, and content marketing.
Side note: We think this term is a little bit stodgy, but you can hire a marketing leader to manage all of these functions, so it’s useful to have a term for this sub-team. Anyone have a better term? Let us know.
Understanding and organizing all 20+ marketing roles
Under each marketing sub-function are various skills you’ll need coverage on, these usually evolve into distinct roles as your team grows. These skills and/or roles are represented by the small circles in the expanded version of the org chart.
Flexibility in the marketing org chart
This might look complicated, and it is, especially since certain roles can fall under different sub-functions depending on the skillsets of your marketing leaders and the profiles of the individuals you hire.
Social media can fall under content or growth.
Lifecycle marketing usually falls under growth, but sometimes product marketing for companies with freemium business models and/or if a lot of in-product work is involved.
Sales enablement can fall under product marketing or content, and occasionally dotted lines to a centralized rev ops function.
Customer marketing can fall under content, product marketing, or even brand depending on the goal of your marketing efforts with customers.
Flexibility across the entire company
Some roles also report into other teams and dotted line into the marketing function. These aren’t represented on the org chart (it was getting too colorful), but here are some of those cases:
Marketing design, also known as creative, is sometimes part of a centralized design team that includes product design. We’ve seen both work successfully and both work unsuccessfully. Depends on the design and brand knowledge of your marketing lead and the importance of consistency.
Growth marketing (the entire sub-function) is sometimes part of a larger growth team that includes product growth and marketing growth. This is a viable option for companies with freemium and self-serve business models with the right growth lead. But we think it’s easier to manage marketing and product growth as separate teams who are really collaborative, regardless of business model or team.
Marketing ops sometimes reports into a revenue operations team that includes sales ops.
Copywriting sometimes reports into Creative, and is sometimes responsible for both marketing and product-related copy.
Product marketing sometimes reports into product, but we never recommend this because product marketing helps guide so much of marketing. We do recommend aligning product marketing managers with specific product teams as the company grows.
SDRs sometimes fall under growth marketing. Make sure you have clear rules of engagement between SDRs, email marketing, and organic acquisition. But, the SDR function is a topic for a whole other post.
We’ll be writing another post about how this org chart adapts for bottom up or freemium business models vs. top down business models.
Hire π-shaped marketers first
The people you hire first should be hybrids, meaning they have depth in 1.5 areas. This isn’t really a T-shaped person, it’s more of a π shaped person.
Most often, we recommend hiring the product marketing/growth marketing π-shaped marketer. They are an expert in one of these areas and very competent in the other area. Sometimes, we recommend the content marketing/product marketing π-shaped marketer.
Rarely do we meet someone who is a content marketing-growth marketing hybrid. This marketer could be a social media expert or potentially an SEO expert. If you do find one of these people as you’re scaling your team, hire them. But, it’s likely not your first hire.
Even more rare, is finding someone who is truly excellent at product marketing, content marketing, and growth marketing. This person has built marketing teams multiple times before, getting hands-on experience in each area. They will likely be VP or CMO-level. Rarely do you need this person right away and rarely will you find this person right away.
We’ll be writing another post about what these first marketers look like, how to hire them, and mistakes to avoid.
To access the org chart and pi-shaped marketer diagrams, subscribe to our paid newsletter, the link will then be at the bottom of this newsletter.
If you are scaling your marketing team and need help thinking through this, Kathleen Estreich and I (Emily Kramer) can help. Through our partnership, MKT1, we help founders and marketing leaders build marketing functions through advising, investing, and courses.
If you have feedback or want to show us your marketing org chart, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is one of our favorite marketing topics and we’d love to hear from you.