photo of sam kuehnle on the market mentors podcast
May 2, 2023

Recruitment and B2B Marketing Parallels + Startup Marketing Advice 

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer

Introduction

Are there any similarities between recruitment and B2B marketing? On the surface, they may seem like different jobs requiring different skill sets, but if you look closely, you’ll find that both disciplines have more in common than meets the eye. 

However, as modern marketing has become more commonplace, the recruitment industry lags behind. So what can recruiters learn from the transformation B2B marketers have been through? In this podcast, we’ll dig into exactly that.

Plus, as Sam’s been hired as Loxo’s first marketer, we’ll also discuss his first 90 days and his advice for making a success of a role like his. 

Today’s Guest

Who they are: Sam Kuehnle is Vice President of Marketing at Loxo

A bit of background: Ten years ago, Sam started as an ADR for a software company and has since risen to become one of the most influential B2B tech marketers around. He more widely came to prominence during his time at hyper-growth marketing agency Refine Labs and has since joined Loxo as their first full-time marketing hire. 

Where you can find Sam:

Connect with Sam on LinkedIn here

Prefer Video? Watch a full video of the podcast here…

B2B marketing and recruiting: The surprising similarities

One of the key jobs Sam has as Loxo’s new VP of Marketing is to help and empower recruiters. Loxo, a recruiting and talent acquisition platform, helps recruiters simplify workflows and improve performance. However, technology alone won’t transform recruiters’ success. 

Instead, there needs to be a shift in mindset. And this shift is something that we’ve seen in the B2B marketing industry over the past few years. When you look at both the recruiting and B2B marketing industries, there are distinct similarities. Sam goes on to explain;

“So the psychological aspect for me is nearly identical. So let’s look at B2B marketing. You have 98–99% of your market not actively looking to purchase software services. And then when you look at the job market, I mean, right now it’s a little bit different, but when you think of top talent, usually 98–99% of them aren’t actively looking for a new role.”

But what do those similarities mean for recruiters?

It means there’s an opportunity for recruiters to use the strategies B2B marketers have implemented to help them win more business and place more candidates.

Sam describes this in more detail;

“So your job’s going to be one, you need to build awareness of what your brand is and what you do. Two, you need to then develop trust by demonstrating your expertise or showing how you can help advance their career. Third, you’re going to want to create a relationship with them as a potential trusted partner. That’s huge. And then lastly, when they’re ready to buy or when they want to start that conversation about moving roles, they’re going to come straight to you. So that’s where I say the end result and the behaviours that fuel that are near identical, and that’s what’s wild, exciting, and eerily similar all at the same time.

Transforming recruiting: Lessons from the evolution of B2B marketing

But what other lessons has Sam learned during his career that he thinks can transform recruiting?

Certainly, B2B marketers have become a lot more sophisticated as modern marketing techniques have become commonplace. And Sam talks about some core lessons, including;

  • Spray and pray messaging
  • Lead volume over lead quality 
  • Demand capture rather than demand creation
  • Withholding pricing (or job salaries)

Sam explains, “So those types of things, it’s like we’ve seen what happens when you get ahead of it in marketing, and I’m watching recruiting just kind of lag along, and I’m like, I’ve seen this before. I swear I’ve got this crystal ball in front of me. I know how this can play out if we do it properly.” 

The 90-day reality of being a startup’s first marketer

One of the areas we discussed on the podcast was how Sam was finding his new role as Loxo’s VP of Marketing. In my opinion, being a company’s first and only marketer is one of the toughest jobs out there.

Invariably, you have a multitude of things to accomplish with limited time and high expectations. 

So what’s the key to making a success of marketing jobs like this? 

Sam gives his thoughts;

“When you are the first marketer in an organisation, what I’ve found is that being a jack of all trades and eager to learn will go a lot farther than being able to go very deep in one area and only focusing on that.”

And that makes a huge amount of sense because B2B marketing has become so fragmented that it’s impossible to be an expert in every area.

Sam’s focus in the first 90 days

Given Sam’s deep expertise in demand generation, it would have been easy for him to jump straight into that. However, first, work needed to be done to put the right foundations in place so Sam focussed on the following;

  1. Marketing operations – making sure systems and tools were set up and talking to each other
  2. Content – Loxo’s biggest challenge was brand awareness so good content is vital 
  3. Product marketing – win loss analysis, customer interviews, understanding the road map 
  4. Finally, demand generation.

Another benefit of this approach is that it gives Sam an appreciation for the other areas of marketing he’s less familiar with. He explains;

“So now as I think about growth, one thing I do like about it is that it gives me an appreciation for all of those things that have to occur in order to do it well. And then, when I do start to hire, it gives me a much better sense of what the day-to-day really looks like.”

No playbook exists for growing a marketing team

Another core aspect of Sam’s remit is to grow the marketing function. Loxo, having been established for over ten years, isn’t like a lot of companies that hire their first marketer.

And this is something that influenced Sam’s thinking on how to scale the marketing team. He explains;

“I thought when I got started that I needed a product marketer because, one, I’ll be the first to admit that product marketing is not my background, not my expertise. And it’s a very specific skill set for which you want someone who knows it, lives and breathes it, and does it well. Fast-forward a few months; Loxo’s been around for 10 years, and I’ve quickly seen after doing these initial win-loss analyses that our message resonates with the market, but our biggest hurdle has been growth. So not enough people know about Loxo. That tells me that priority number one is not product marketing; it’s getting in front of our ICP more. I quickly shifted from we need a product marketer to I need a content marketer.” 

So when you start to think about growing your marketing function, what advice would Sam have for you?

“We all have these preconceived notions of marketing, and hire number one is a leader. Marketing hire number two is a product marketer. Number three is doing… You really need to assess what your current mix looks like in terms of the skills that you have available as well as your company’s maturity and the biggest needs in terms of what needs to be filled if you want to be successful in hitting your business results.”

A few other highlights to look out for in this episode:

  1. Should you look for a new marketing job right now?
  2. Agency versus In-House 
  3. What skills and attributes Sam thinks makes someone good at demand generation
  4. Advice for Founders and CEOs looking to hire marketers