We’ve looked at the VP Marketing and CMOs in 30 of Europe’s top B2B software businesses*, to understand what each of them has in common and if there’s anything that’s different.
*all of the companies have European HQs, have raised >$40m, and were started in 2016 or later
Three things they have in common
1. By far the majority of them started out their careers in marketing
Of the marketing leaders that started their careers in a different field, most began in technical or sales roles.
2. Their previous employer wasn’t the same size as the company they joined
As a general rule, it’s thought that leaders should be hired from a previous employer that’s a very similar size to the company they’re being recruited into. However, when the data is considered, what we can see is that by far the majority of marketing leaders were actually recruited from smaller – or much larger – companies. The businesses included in our dataset of ‘30 of Europe’s top B2B software businesses’ are almost all in the category of having 201-1000 employees, and yet 80% of their marketing leaders were hired directly from smaller or larger companies.
3. The majority of them have an average tenure in previous roles of 2-4 years
When we’re assessing candidates here at Erevena, we often look for backgrounds that suggest executives have a track record of longevity with their previous employers. The definition of ‘longevity’, however, can sometimes be surprising: the majority of leaders in very high growth businesses will usually stay for 2-4 years, rather than 4+ years.
There are a number of reasons for this, but – anecdotally – the most common one seems to be that when leaders are employed in high growth businesses, the role they signed up for will be materially different after 2-4 years because of how much the company has grown and changed.
As a result, when we’re assessing candidates, we often consider that a track record of staying with previous employers for 2-4 years is about right.
… Three things they don’t have in common
1. Years of prior experience
You might think that early-stage business leaders would be of a similar experience level, but generally this isn’t what’s reflected in the data.
For example, as shown in the chart below, 16.7% of marketing leaders in Europe’s fastest growing SaaS startups have over 25 years behind them, but 20% of them have fewer than 10 years.
What’s the practical implication of this if you’re thinking about hiring a marketing leader? Two things: first of all, keep an open mind. You might have your heart set on the candidate profiles that are super high potential but as yet unproven, when in fact someone who has ‘been there, done that’ could fit the bill. Secondly, think about who else is on your leadership team. If everyone is at the less-experienced end of the spectrum then the added diversity of a more experienced hire could be exactly what you need.
2. Remote versus in-office
The data here shows that around two thirds of marketing leaders are based in the same city as the HQ (or office) of the start-up in question, whilst around one third are not.
|Percent of marketing leaders|
What’s more interesting, however, is when we add another dimension to this data: whether or not each marketing leader has been a marketing leader before (NB for the purpose of this blog, ‘marketing leader’ is VP or C-Level).
|Percent of marketing leaders that are in their second (or third or fourth) VP or C-Level role|
In other words, if you’re open to hiring a remote marketing leader it’s more likely that this will not be their first rodeo as the number one marketer in a high growth company.
3. Previous experience marketing B2B SaaS products
On starting this research, I had expected to find that by far the majority of marketing leaders in Europe’s top B2B software businesses would have been recruited directly from a B2B SaaS business. But as shown in the chart above – this really isn’t the case. Almost an equal number of marketing leaders came from B2B SaaS businesses, as those that didn’t.
What does this mean for you, if you’re recruiting a marketing leader into your B2B SaaS business? Keep an open mind and think about the specific skills you’re looking for in a hire. If you want someone to build your brand, you might have more luck hiring from a consumer company than a SaaS company, assuming your existing team has a load of SaaS experience in it. Similarly, if you’re angling your product at the SME market rather than Enterprise, you’ll need to get clear on whether you need Demand Gen skills, or PR skills, or something else.
If you’re thinking about hiring a marketing leader for your early stage business, it’s like that the ideal candidate will:
- Have started their career in marketing
- Be currently working for a company that isn’t the same size as yours
- Have an average tenure in their previous roles of 2-4 years
- Have any number of years of experience behind them
- Might need to work remotely
- Have experience from a sector different to the one you’re operating in