As the founder of an early-stage B2B startup or small business, you’re likely all too familiar with the delicate balance between limited resources and ambitious growth goals, especially during tough economic times.

With so much on your plate, the idea of adding another expense, such as a marketing hire, seems almost silly. However, investing in the right marketing professional from the outset doesn’t have to cost the earth and can be a game-changer for your business.


In this article, we’ll explore the crucial question: who should be the first marketing hire in a B2B startup or small business? Let’s get straight to it!

Step 1 – Your first marketing hire – not an FTE


This may go against lots of other advice out there about investing in your brand and getting someone in who knows all about growth hacking! But the truth is, you don’t need a full-time marketing hire to get going and, given the stage of your business, you might find that hiring someone full time with a specific skill set ends up being redundant a few months down the line because you’ve pivoted and need a completely different approach.


My advice from having worked with over 30 early-stage startups and small businesses is to get a recommended Consultant or Freelancer in who can roll their sleeves up and make sure you’ve got all the essentials in place. These essentials are things like:

  • A solid positioning strategy that balances your business goals with customer and market demand.
  • A GTM plan that reflects this positioning and understands exactly who the target audience is and how to reach them.
  • Messaging that resonates with the target audience and can be easily cascaded across your marketing channels and activities.
  • A tactical marketing and content strategy plan that is going to help you achieve your business goals within your available budget.
  • The core marketing and sales assets you’ll need to support your marketing plan – for example, your website, sales collateral, ‘repurposable’ copy assets, etc.

Having focused in on the specific marketing tactics you need to run to reach your business goals, you can then pull in the right ad hoc resource to cover this.


TOP TIP: If you’ve selected a strong Consultant to do the work above, then they’ll likely have their own network or resource they can tap into to support with the execution of your plan.

Step 2 – Hiring for your initial growth phase


Once you’ve proven out the plan from above, landing on the best channels to reach your audience and convert them into sales, then and only then will you want to consider a full-time hire. The great thing with doing it this way is that you’ll know what specialist skill-set you need to support the scaling of your marketing plan. For example, if you determine at Step 1 that you need to focus on paid ads, get someone in that at least has a T-shape on paid advertising. Similarly, if you work out that branded content is what will work best with your audience, your hire should be someone with at least some background in brand and content marketing.


TOP TIP: Keep your Consultant on board to help you do this hiring, making sure the job spec is accurate, you’re attracting the right candidates, and you’re tapping into the right networks and talent pools.

Step 3 – Ensuring your marketing stays aligned to your business goals


Very quickly after your first marketing hire – or, even better, at the same time as getting your first FTE on board – you’ll want to get someone involved at a more senior level. This is crucial to ensure that your marketing stays aligned to your business goals and focused on the right GTM plan. In addition, this person can manage and mentor your FTE so that you don’t have to worry about handholding them on a daily basis.

The good news is – this senior person doesn’t need to be an FTE and a further drain on your budget! In fact, for early-stage startups and small businesses, you’re better opting for what’s known as a Fractional CMO, i.e. a non-FTE resource who can commit a handful of hours or days a week to your business.


The biggest advantage with using this set-up is that they will:

  • Provide continuity at a strategic level;
  • Translate any business goal changes into the marketing plan that your full-time hire needs to execute against;
  • Feed back to your leadership team about what’s actually happening on the ‘marketing front’ so that the strategy can be adjusted accordingly.

And finally, this person is also in a position to start scaling your business with the right marketing foundations such as processes, platforms, brand, etc.


Now, you might be wondering – I’ve just hired a full-time person, why do I need a Fractional CMO as well?

Truth is, you’re unlikely to find that unicorn who’s got enough expertise and experience behind them to know about the strategic pitfalls that your business will face. All at the same time as actually running the execution of your marketing plan. Yes, you’ve got a tight budget, but don’t underinvest where it matters most or you’ll end up with marketing activities that aren’t hitting your business goals and investors or the like breathing down your neck that you haven’t got the right strategy in place.


TOP TIP: The Consultant you hired at Step 1 might be best placed to act as your Fractional CMO too – they’ll have all the background from the initial positioning work carried out and will again have a great network for you to tap into as you grow.

Seems easy, right?  Well, with the right senior Marketing resource guiding you, it can be!

And you’ll have the best of both worlds – the right strategy in place with one eye on the future to grow and scale, and the right executional support to help you meet your short- and medium-term business goals.