If you’re a small software company selling enterprise solutions to a specific vertical market like healthcare and you could only hire 1 person in either marketing OR sales, what would it be?
The sales exec would have experience in your sector and product space and would have relationships/contacts with potential customers. This person would call into those accounts to arrange for sales presentations and demos. They’d also do prospecting to get into get into new accounts. They’d have minimal marketing support: some product info, sales presentations, case studies… No in-bound lead gen and no trade show presence since this person would command a six figure base salary and eat up most of the budget. Everything would be outbound focused.
The marketing director would be an expert in digital marketing for tech companies. They’d be hands-on and well-versed in all facets of digital marketing (lead gen, content development, marketing automation, SEO, web analytics, etc…). This person would set up strategies to improve the company’s positioning, messaging, visibility and implement campaigns to drive in-bound leads. They’d earn a salary of about $75K which would allow the company to spend/experiment about $25K on digital advertising, running campaigns, attending a couple of trade shows…This (hopefully) results in a flow of marketing qualified leads with potential buyers who actually recognize the need your product.
based on the info you have provided i would hire a sales exec. The comp plan would be heavy on performance-based commission with enough of a base to attract the right person. I would NOT compensate them with only a base salary. I would incorporate stock ownership into their comp plan. Their primary job would be to close the right kind of deals for the company - deals the company can deliver on (not too big such that the company can't deliver, not too small as to waste scarce resources). The expectation and agreement with this sales person would be that they focus on closing near-term deals to generate revenue with which to pay 1) their commission and 2) some part-time marketing resources to help generate leads more leads and possibly 3) inside sales support (prospecting, lead qualification, etc.) This person should be capable of doing their own prospecting, qualifying, presenting, developing proposals, negotiating and closing deals with help from you/your exec team. That's a broad spectrum. Experienced sales people with the skills and experience to drive large, profitable deals from start to finish are not going to want to spend time prospecting, but that's part of the deal for now and the sooner they generate revenue the sooner you can hire/contract marketing and sales support. Pay close attention to the comp plan details - incentivize the right actions and discourage the wrong actions. recruiting will take time and effort.
You have nothing if you don't have sales. You need the salesperson first. Lead generation is almost meaningless if you don't have someone to close the deal. You aren't going to get the kind of volume buys you need to stay alive if you're relying on digital advertising. The owner's job is always a marketing job AND a sales job, in addition to running the company. Train your salesperson to sell product, and you can start saying you have customers, learn how people respond firsthand (you'll never figure out true motivations in digital marketing), and learn how to tailor you advertising after the fact.
You can always assign marketing tasks as project work (collateral creation). For now you are the strategist.
Some people believe that everything is marketing and that sales is the hand of the marketing arm, handing out what marketing creates. Other people believe that marketing is the slave to sales, meaning there is no need for marketing if you have no intelligence gathering for sales, or salespeople to complete a sale. The truth is somewhere in the middle, and both areas are distinct yet intertwined.
I'm a marketing guy. Observers would often tell me that I'm really a sales guy, but my style of sales is the soft sell. The title is unimportant. Figure out the function you need and hire that person no matter what you call them.
It kinda depends on what kind of software you are trying to sell. But as you say it's a specific vertical market, I assume it's not a really big market, and real relationships are the most important. Already having a network, the sales exec would be my number one choice. You need to get to know your (potential) customers really well to know what the actual problem is you need to solve.
Also in a small market like that, you will quickly become familiar with all the players and customers, and they with you.
I'm not sure you would even want to pursue any marketing (focus), but it probably would not take a lot of effort (or money) to quickly get at the top of the search results.
If you're a small software company I don't think you should hire either - marketing directors need people to direct (so they're most effective when they can set processes in motion, establish frameworks, etc.) Likewise, a sales executive can set up procedures, scripts, nurture programs, etc. but will they actually get on the phone themselves and close deals?
What I'd do? Hire two junior/mid-level people and get them working. You'll uncover the gaps in process and what you really need. It'll be quickly apparent where you need executive/director level support.
Depends on the size of your company. If your a boot strapped startup, hire a marketing dude to increase inbound leads...then you close the deals until revenue comes in.