The Future of the Tech Marketing Department
LinkedIn data analysis reveals the five dimensions of top performing B2B tech teams. Although this work looked at EMEA region, these insights can be relevant to any organisation across the world.
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Deirdre Wafer, Insights Manager EMEA & LATAM, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, shares a framework for building the future B2B Tech Marketing Team based on data
The hallmark of a successful B2B tech business is its ability to generate quality leads. When LinkedIn asked marketers about their primary focus, 76% of those working in tech told us this was their top priority. So, how do you build a marketing department to deliver against the demand generation targets B2B tech businesses set? What types of marketers do you need to meet quarterly MQL targets more effectively?
Up to now the answer has seemed fairly obvious: you fill your team with marketers in demand generation roles. You hire experienced tech marketers who’ve got a proven track record of generating leads, and who know how to leverage channels like email and social media to do so.
You won’t be surprised to hear that’s what the majority of B2B tech marketing departments look like. What’s much more surprising, though, is that the tech marketing teams that are most successful at generating leads don’t look like this at all.
As leader of the Insights team for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions in EMEA and LATAM, I’ve got access to data that provides a unique perspective on how to set up a tech marketing team for success. LinkedIn is a marketing, selling, learning and talent platform. This means we can identify the marketing teams that are most effective at generating leads at scale – and we can compare the make-up of these teams to the rest. To map out the future of the B2B tech marketing department, that’s exactly what we did.
We used aggregated marketing data to identify the 20 tech businesses meeting their lead generation objectives most effectively. We did this by analysing not just the volume of leads that they generate, but indicators of quality and conversion rate as well. We then used anonymised talent data derived from member profiles to look at patterns in how these marketing teams are organised – and where they direct their efforts.
When we did this, we found that the most effective marketing teams for generating leads don’t have a higher proportion of demand generation marketers in their ranks. They have fewer – a lot fewer.
Top B2B tech lead generators have 73% fewer marketers in demand generation roles than the average for those outside the Top 20. Instead, they have 71% more marketers in brand roles. Whereas the majority of tech businesses have 57% more demand generation marketers than brand ones, at our top performers, brand marketers outnumber demand generation marketers 4x.
It’s a startling finding. It suggests that the most successful B2B tech businesses aren’t successful because they do the same things a bit better than the rest. They are successful because they are taking a fundamentally different approach to the same core objective. Whereas other marketing departments aim to drive bottom-of-the-funnel results by focusing on the bottom of the funnel, top performers focus on the entirety of it. They don’t just generate leads. They build lead generation systems.
The tech marketing organisations of the future don’t just have more of a particular type of marketer in them. They are built on different principles. When we analysed the data on the characteristics of these marketing teams, we identified five dimensions of a top performing team. These dimensions are a framework for building the future of the tech marketing department:
Re-balancing brand and demand
Top performing tech marketing teams understand the role of brand in B2B marketing strategies – and they are organised around the principle that investing in brand drives more efficient and more profitable lead generation over the long term. That’s why the average marketing team in our Top 20 has 24% of its marketers working in brand roles – and only 6% in specific demand generation ones.
Recent research for LinkedIn’s B2B Institute by Les Binet and Peter Field shows that marketing campaigns that have a brand impact are 4x more likely to deliver growth in revenue and profits – and 50% more likely to deliver against short-term objectives like your quarterly MQL target. The ROI of brand is even greater when marketing to anonymous tech buyers who want to be inspired rather than sold to. And when you prioritise building an effective brand, you also prioritise putting marketers in roles with a remit to build that brand.
The challenge that all B2B marketers face is that these brand investments take time to deliver their return – and marketing budgets often depend on delivering numbers that you can point to this month or this quarter. That’s why, outside of our Top 20, you’ll find only 14% of marketers in brand roles – and a whopping 22% in demand generation ones. For understandable reasons, senior marketers are directing resources towards their most immediate targets. However, the future for B2B tech marketing involves balancing this with a longer-term view.
Turning brand marketers into hybrid marketers
One of the reasons that most tech businesses invest less in brand marketers is their perception of what a brand marketing role involves. We expect brand marketers to focus on lofty marketing concepts and expensive, high-profile campaigns – and cut themselves off from the day-to-day.
Look closely at the brand marketers working in our Top 20 B2B tech businesses and a very different picture emerges. A third of them list lead generation as one of their key skills. Half of them have expertise in social media – and almost a fifth are skilled in content strategy. These are practical, hands-on, hybrid marketers who have all the channel-specific expertise that they need to help connect brand activity to demand generation goals. They know how to pull all of the brand levers that are important in B2B tech – emotionally engaging video content, but also conversation-driving thought-leadership and interactive audience experiences on social media. The difference is that they are empowered to use these skills in a way that addresses the entire buyer journey, not just the end of it.
Creating audience-centric roles not channel-centric roles
When we look in detail at the roles that are found in B2B tech marketing departments, one clear difference emerges between the top performers and the rest. Outside the Top 20, marketers are more likely to be siloed according to the channel or tactic they work with. They are far more likely to be described as an email manager or a content manager, for example. Within the Top 20, those same marketer profiles are more likely to be found in audience-centric roles. They are defined by how they help the business as a whole understand its audiences and create tailored experiences for them. The most effective organisations for lead generation have more people focusing on specific verticals, specific segments and specific regions. Their approach to building a lead generation system starts with understanding the needs and motivations of the people they hope will become leads.
Encouraging cross-sector curiosity
Our top 20 tech marketing businesses don’t just have more brand marketers. They also have a wider range of backgrounds and experiences in their marketing teams. They benefit from marketers with varied experiences in sectors like Management Consultancy, Automotive or Financial Services. Outside the Top 20, tech marketers are far less likely to have worked outside tech.
A marketing team with access to more diverse perspectives is often a more creative marketing team. It’s able to think outside the traditional tech marketing model when it comes to building the famous brands that anonymous buyers are likely to respond to. However, there’s more than one way to tap into these different perspectives.
Marketing leaders can encourage their teams to learn from other industries by attending webinars, seminars and courses that feature speakers from other sectors. They can also try to mobilise more of the knowledge from within their own business by hosting sessions with representatives from HR, Finance or Customer Experience. Tapping into new perspectives on marketing can empower your team to generate a far wider range of ideas.
Building a learning culture for marketers
Do the demands of the future marketing department mean that B2B tech businesses need to radically overhaul their existing teams? Do they need to bring in a raft of marketers with completely different skill sets? Not at all.
In our analysis, the most important differences between top-performing tech marketing teams and their peers aren’t differences in skills. They are differences in roles. Tech marketers share many of the same capabilities and they have much of the same potential. However, they are encouraged to develop that potential in different directions.
Just because a tech marketer is currently defined as a demand generation marketer, an email marketer or a content marketer doesn’t mean that’s all they can do. Outside the Top 20, we found that 33% of tech marketers have brand skills – and 37% have product marketing skills.
The key to unlocking the potential in tech marketing teams lies in redefining roles and empowering people to use their existing skills more broadly. However, it also involves building a learning culture that encourages them to develop those skills. Rather than neglecting brand capabilities and leaving them in the background, marketing leaders can encourage their teams to keep evolving and adding to them. They gain when their teams learn and adopt new techniques for applying brand skills to social media platforms, emerging formats like conversational marketing, and other fast-evolving areas of the buyer experience.
The future tech marketing department doesn’t need radically different people in it – but it does need a radically different approach to deploying and empowering those people. The tech marketing strategies of the future won’t just take a more holistic approach to the buyer journey. They’ll also have a more holistic view of the potential within their marketing teams.
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Explore our booklet: Revealing the Future of Tech Marketing
We reveal how to take the guesswork out of modern B2B tech marketing – and adjust your approach to thrive in the era of the Anonymous Buyer.