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Welcome to our deep dive into working in tech marketing. We are going to explore the role of marketing in technology companies, and see how it compares to marketing at more “traditional” non-tech companies. We’ll explore the various marketing roles that are available, their goals and responsibilities, and whether they are a good fit for you. By the end of this guide you should have a good understanding of the role of marketing in tech companies, the jobs that are available, and be ready to decide whether you are interested in continuing along a tech marketing career path.
Let’s get started.
Marketing is the process of getting people interested in a company’s products or services. If you studied marketing at school then you might remember the 4P’s (the marketing mix) framework that outlines the different levers marketers can pull to reach their goals:
Let's apply the framework to the early days of Instagram:
Reminder: I’ll be referring to non-tech companies as “traditional” companies throughout these lessons.
Conversion is a term you’ll hear very frequently within tech marketing. It’s not a complicated concept – a conversion is simply the name for the point where a person completes a desired action or goal that provides some value for the company.
A couple of quick examples:
The conversion rate (CR%) is simply the percentage of people who have completed the goal action out of the total sample. So for the company blog example above, if we had 1000 visitors to our blog post and 15 of them sign up for our newsletter then we would say we had a conversion rate of 1.5%.
Tech marketers spend a lot of time trying to raise conversion rates as any improvements they achieve can have a compounding effect – if you can increase the new user signup conversion rate from 2.5% to 5%, that isn’t a one-time increase of 100%, it’s an ongoing increase in user signups. The work of improving conversion rates is known as Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). CRO can be a full time job so we’re not going to go into much detail now, but quick examples of the kind of work you can do to improve conversion rates would be changing the marketing text on your website to make it more appealing to a specific customer segment, or changing the color of the sign up button on your homepage to make it stand out on the page and increase clicks.
A sign up button is an example of a Call To Action or CTA – a part of a page or piece of content that encourages the audience to perform a particular action. You’ll often see CTAs written in the form of a command or action phrase (“Sign Up Now” or “Learn More”) in an attempt to get more people to take the action.
A large part of traditional “offline” marketing has been focused around building “brand awareness” through the channels that were available at the time: tv and radio, billboards, newspapers, magazines, direct mail (the “junk” ads in your letterbox) and so on. As you can probably imagine, it is very difficult to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns that use these traditional offline channels. You may know how many people read a newspaper each day, but how many saw the ad you placed on page 5 of the sports section? And from the small group that did see your ad, how many went ahead and bought your product or service?
There is a famous quote from John Wanamaker, an early pioneer in marketing, that sums up traditional advertising: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half”.
If you can’t easily measure the success of a specific campaign then it’s important that each campaign can at least attempt to raise the overall awareness of your brand. In contrast, tech companies usually focus far less of their attention toward brand marketing as their inherent online/digital nature lets them use marketing channels with directly measurable outcomes.
As the internet started to become mainstream back in the late nineties we saw huge growth in the field of digital marketing. Many of the initial changes associated with digital marketing were effectively the digitization of existing marketing practices – for example, instead of buying a full page advertisement in a newspaper, you could buy display ads on that newspaper’s website. Over time marketers became more sophisticated and started to take advantage of new channels that were becoming available, leading to the creation of digital marketing sub-disciplines like search engine optimization, search engine marketing, Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, and more recently, social media marketing.
While traditional companies are making heavy use of digital marketing to find new channels to advertise to their target audiences, the wealth of data that is available to tech companies across all aspects of the marketing mix means they can go even further. Every interaction with a customer can be recorded as a data point to be used for analysis and optimisation, both before the customer buys a product and also uniquely for tech products: while they are using the product. Tech companies are suddenly able to see how their customers are purchasing and interacting with their products in real time, opening up a new set of opportunities for savvy marketers to help grow their businesses.
As tech marketers we can aggregate all of this data into analytics tools that we can use to help make data-informed decisions. No longer are we forced to guess whether a marketing initiative or campaign is working – we can check in real-time to monitor the performance, and make adjustments and optimisations as needed. With the marketing technology tools (or MarTech) that are available, it’s easy to track the actions taken by users (like when they Signed Up to a SaaS product or Viewed Video on a streaming service), analyze this data, and then use it to further optimize our marketing resources (whether all the tracking is ethical or not is a discussion for another time).
To show how data provides tech companies with improved marketing capabilities, let’s look at an example of how companies acquire new customers.
The goal is to buy a gift for a friend. The “traditional” method: you jump in your car and head to the shopping mall. You browse around a few stores until you eventually find the gift you’re looking for. You make the purchase using cash and head home. That process is simple enough. While the store is happy to make the sale, there are many questions they would love to ask to help them improve that will have to remain unanswered: how did you find their store? Did you see one of their ad campaigns? If so, which one? Why did you choose them over their competitors? Have you shopped there before? What could they do to encourage you to shop with them again in the future?
More technically savvy companies can apply digital marketing and technology to answer a few of these questions. Imagine the same shopping mall scenario, but this time you pay by credit card, use a loyalty membership card to get a discount and the sales associate sends your sales receipt to you by email. By providing them with your email address they now have the ability to send you promotional marketing messages to try and encourage future purchases (it’s much easier and cheaper to make a repeat sale to an existing customer than to find a brand new customer). The email address and loyalty membership card can also link you to a unique customer profile, helping the store to track your purchase history and tailor any future marketing to you based on your previous purchases. Finally, data from the credit card company can be aggregated and used to help provide the industry with general information on purchasing trends, which companies can use to guide future strategy and supply decisions. All of this is a big step up from the purely offline “traditional” strategy, but it still leaves us with many unanswered questions: how did you find the store? Did a particular ad campaign convince you to make the purchase? And so on.
Now let’s modify the example again, going from buying from a physical store to a Direct to Consumer (D2C) ecommerce website.
You open up a new browser tab and search for “best gifts for friends''. The top result is a blog post listing “the 15 best gifts for friends”. You click the link to the blog and half way down you see a sponsored ad section featuring the exact product you’re looking for. You click the link to visit the store, browse around, and add the item to your cart but something distracts you before you can make the purchase. A few hours later you’re browsing Instagram and see an ad for the product from the same store – you click the ad, go back to the store and complete your purchase by filling out the delivery and payment details forms.
Let’s look at what happened from the store’s point of view.
When you arrived at the store's website they checked to see if any cookies exist in your browser to show that you had been there before. Since it was your first time, a new cookie was created using a unique ID to track any future actions you take. At the same time, they grabbed your referral information – the address of the site you came from, along with additional parameters (characters added to a URL after the ‘?’ symbol) that tells them the details of the advertising campaign you clicked.
An example of a link with tracking parameters for a Sponsored Banner campaign via Instagram
The D2C store knows you are a new visitor who came from a specific sponsored blog post campaign. As you browse around the store they track the products you have viewed, and take note of the product you add to your cart.
The store is using a Facebook tracking Pixel to send the information they are collecting back to Facebook, who can match it to your Facebook user profile. The store can create a retargeting campaign on Facebook Ads Manager which will advertise specific products to people who have already viewed that product’s page on the store. Since Facebook owns Instagram you don’t even need to browse Facebook itself to see an advertisement, it can be shown when you scroll through your Instagram feed. After tapping the Instagram ad you are taken back to the site where you create an account and complete your purchase. The ecommerce store now has a full profile of you containing your name, address, email address, purchase history, and your attribution data.
The attribution data describes the path that led to your purchase – in this case the sponsored blog post and the Instagram ad. This data allows the company to break down the performance of their sponsored posts and Facebook ads, and calculate the exact amount of marketing spend this particular sale cost them (the cost per acquisition or CPA). If the marketing cost is lower than the break even cost to sell the product then the company knows it can keep selling via that channel. Facebook will also use the attribution data: each additional sale is a data point that helps train their machine learning algorithms to better target future potential customers, with the ultimate aim of lowering their customer’s CPA and increasing the amount spent advertising on their platform.
Of course, the ecommerce company also has your email address details so they can continue to market to you in all of the regular ways this allows – sending out newsletters, customized special offers and so on.
Our ecommerce example shows how the marketing teams at digitally native companies can use data as a distinct business advantage. Software products can take this even further – not only are they able to capture all of the customer acquisition data, but they also have data from when the customer is actually using the product.
After paying to get a customer, how can you keep, or in marketing speak, retain them? In traditional marketing your options are limited. If you’re lucky you might have an email or postal address that you can use to contact them with news on your latest news or deals, in the hope you’ll get them to come back to your company, product or service.
As a tech marketer for a software company my options will be much wider. I can open up my analytics tool of choice and run a cohort analysis to see whether a specific group of users who signed up for my product are returning to use it again. If the metrics are worse than expected then I can formulate some ideas on how to improve them: I could send out a targeted email or push notification to re-engage the customers and bring them back to the service. Or I could try and improve the onboarding process (the set of instructions or tasks you are presented with when you first use an app) to make sure people understand the product and are getting the full value from it, which should in turn make them more likely to continue using it. There are plenty of options that can be used to try and improve retention, and with access to real-time user data it’s easy for software marketers to run experiments and see whether they are having a positive impact. Now imagine trying to do this for a non-tech company: how would you ensure customers are coming back to use your product or service? And how would you measure the success of any efforts you make to improve in this area?
We’ve been talking about analytics quite a bit by this stage, but we haven’t covered the metrics or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) we should be measuring.
First, a couple of definitions. A metric is a data point that can be used to help measure the health of a business, like the number of visits to our company’s blog or the number of times a specific action has been taken in our app. A KPI is a quantifiable value that is used to track performance against a specific goal, so examples could be the number of new users who signed up for our service this week or how many keywords our blog is ranking for in Google.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the data and metrics that are available to us as tech marketers, and this can lead to poor decision making and the potential for analysis paralysis, where you spend so much time analyzing data that you don’t actually take any action. We want to make sure that any metrics we track are providing us with useful insights and are not vanity metrics, the name for metrics that may look nice (the total number of people who visited your website) but don’t actually offer any real value (the website visitors you get may not be in your target audience).
The specific metrics and KPIs that you’ll want to track should be based on your conversion goals. In the software and startup worlds it’s quite common to use a growth framework based on a funnel called AARRR (pirate metrics – yes I know…) to help determine what we should be tracking based on the stage of the funnel we are currently focused on.
There are many other metrics frameworks that are available and potentially better suited to specific types of tech companies. I highly recommend reading the book Lean Analytics if you’re interested in learning more about analytics, metrics and KPIs.
Another important factor in the type of marketing you’ll choose to do is who your customers are. We like acronyms in tech so we usually refer to these customer segments as B2C, B2B or B2B2C.
B2C – business to consumer: marketing directly to regular non-business users. Think of Nike selling shoes and apparel via their ecommerce website, or Netflix’s streaming video service.
B2B – business to business: marketing products to business customers. An example is Atlassian, who sell their project management software Jira to software companies who use it to help manage internal development processes.
B2B2C – business to business to consumer: a partnership model where one company sells another company’s products to consumers on their behalf. An example here would be Instacart, the delivery service that partners with grocery stores to provide them with delivery services direct to consumers.
If I’m targeting users for a new social media platform then the choices I make around advertising platforms, frameworks and KPIs will be very different than if I am trying to target business customers for an enterprise SaaS product.
Outbound vs inbound marketing
A lot of traditional marketing falls under the category of Outbound or push marketing, where you as the marketer are “pushing” your message to potential customers. This includes activities like emailing a large mailing list you purchased from a 3rd party, cold calling, or advertising in print media. By pushing out your message you are effectively interrupting a potential customer while they go about another activity (for example, trying to watch a television show), so the odds of succeeding in your campaign can be quite low.
With Inbound marketing we are trying to pull, or attract customers to our products or company. Popularized by the marketing software company Hubspot, inbound marketing focuses on creating content that offers value to potential customers so they are inclined to seek it out themselves. Good examples here would include free “how to” guides on a company's blog, or ebooks or audiobooks given away to download. While the potential customer may be visiting your website or blog for the free content, not to use your product or service, if you grab their attention and email address then you will have future opportunities to market (and hopefully sell) your product to them.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of tech marketing we are in a good position to look at the different marketing job roles that are available in startups and larger technology companies.
We’ll start our tour of tech marketing roles looking at product and growth marketing, before moving on to the channel-specific roles. It’s worth mentioning that every company will have their own expectations on how a particular role should function, so for the purpose of these lessons we will be using what I consider to be fairly standard interpretations of each role.
Example job titles: Product Marketing Manager (PMM), Product Marketing Associate.
Product marketing is a key role within any technology company, although if you’re new to tech the word “product” may be confusing – as with product management, it can refer to either the main product offered by a company or a feature within a larger product. We can use Instagram to explain: when the app was initially launched it was the product, but over the years Instagram has added much more functionality so the features will now be broken out into separate “products”, like Feed, Stories, Shopping and so on.
Product marketing works closely with teams like product management and tech sales and are responsible for communicating the product’s value to users and/or customers. They do this by:
Researching the market
Product marketers will conduct qualitative and quantitative research (in-house or using an external agency) to gain an understanding of the market where the product will be released, and the customer segments within it.
Defining the product’s positioning and message
Product marketers will use the research to create a marketing strategy that outlines the product's position and messaging in a way that will be compelling to the target market.
Launching the product and showing value
Next, the product marketers will help to create a go-to-market launch plan that outlines the process of getting the product in the hands of users/customers.
Driving demand and adoption of the product
The product marketer’s role doesn’t end once the product has launched – they will continue to work to ensure there is ongoing demand and adoption of the product.
The primary goal of product marketers is to drive demand and adaptation of your product to customers.
As you can probably imagine, a product marketer’s role is varied. You can expect to spend a lot of time working with other teams within the company as you define the product’s brand positioning and go-to-market strategy. You’ll be conducting user research prior to launch, but also when the product is in the hands of real customers to make sure you can continue to drive ongoing demand.
Product marketers make use of tools like:
Product marketing requires strong marketing skills so if you already have a background in marketing and are ready to learn more about the specifics of tech marketing then it could be a good option. If you are currently lacking experience but keen to work in product marketing then you will probably need to spend some time in more junior or entry-level marketing positions.
Product Marketer salary
Product marketers will generally be expected to have a bachelor's degree or higher, along with a few years of previous marketing experience. As a product marketing manager based in the USA with a few years experience you would expect to earn somewhere in the low six figure as a salary.
Example job titles: Growth marketer, growth marketing lead, growth marketing manager
As you can probably tell from the name, growth marketers are focused on finding ways to grow and scale the company. The work tends to revolve around growth experiments – small tests that are created to see whether a specific growth strategy or tactic will work. Based on the outcome of the experiment the strategy or tactic can be scaled up or stopped.
Growth marketer evolved out of growth hacker, a title first described by the well-known tech marketer Sean Ellis in 2010. The growth hacker title has lost some credibility in recent years as it’s become closely associated with spammy marketing tactics.
Growth marketers often think in terms of funnels and frameworks (like the AARRR framework we covered earlier) to focus on areas of the product that would benefit most from growth and optimization work. As an example, imagine a growth marketer knows that people are signing up for their product but the monthly active users (MAU) metric isn’t growing as quickly as expected. They check their user cohort analytics and see that most people who are signing up for the app are not returning to use it again within the first week (we’d call this low week 1 retention). They can then create some growth experiments to try and improve this metric, like updating the user onboarding flow to make sure new users fully understand the value the product offers.
The primary goal for a growth marketing team is to help the company improve their North Star, or key metrics, so most of their activities will be based around this goal.
The day to day work of a growth marketer will vary depending on the size and scale of the company. In smaller startups they may be the only person focused on growth and could be expected to do it all, from designing and implementing growth experiments through to analyzing their performance. In a larger tech company they may be part of a growth team with data analysts and growth-focused designers and engineers, so their work may be more focused on strategy and experiment planning.
An example day could start with a meeting to discuss the performance of an ongoing A/B test, some time spent devising new growth experiments, analyzing data from in-play experiments, and working with the product and engineering teams to implement changes that were tested in an earlier experiment.
Growth marketers use a similar set of tools to product marketers, which will commonly include:
Is Growth Marketing the role for me?
A growth marketer’s work is spread across the entire product life cycle so it’s important they have broad knowledge across a wide range of tech marketing topics. Growth is definitely a role that is suited to skilled T-Shaped Marketers, a topic we’ll cover in more detail in our Prepare section.
Growth marketers will be working closely with other teams within the company so they need to have great communication and interpersonal skills. The analytical nature of the work lends itself to people who are happy working with data, and it can be beneficial to have some technical or coding skills as this will broaden the scope of the experiments they can implement themselves (especially as engineering resources are almost always in very limited supply).
You’ll need to be the kind of person who loves to consistently learn, keeping up to date with new technologies, channels, strategies and tactics to ensure you can use them to drive growth.
Most companies would expect growth marketers to have a degree, but it’s not necessarily a hard requirement, especially if a candidate has a proven track record of helping companies grow.
Marketing roles in early-stage startups tend to suit generalists who are willing to work on whatever is needed at the time, whether that’s writing a blog post, managing an ad campaign or reporting on weekly marketing KPIs. As tech companies grow in size their marketing teams will usually expand to include specialists who can use their skills and experience to focus on specific channels. We’re going to take a look at these channel-focused roles now.
Email marketing may not be as trendy as channels like TikTok or Instagram, but it continues to bring in huge amounts of revenue to companies that know how to use it effectively. And there is much more to email marketing than simply sending out a monthly newsletter – when used effectively email can drive sales, push traffic to your site, increase brand awareness, nurture prospects and leads, improve retention and reduce user churn.
Here are some examples of the types of emails tech companies commonly send:
One of the main reasons why email has remained so popular is that it’s an owned channel. Your company owns the email list, so they can be fairly confident that the time and money spent building it won’t be wasted. They also have relatively free reign over how they want to make use of the channel – they can design emails however they like, send them whenever they want, etc (within reason and anti-spam laws of course).
Compare this to a partner channel like Facebook. In the early days of Facebook ‘Pages’, companies spent thousands of dollars trying to build up their “likes” (followers) so they could market to them on Facebook. This worked – for a while. Then Facebook decided that commercial Facebook pages were ruining the experience of the user feed so they tweaked the algorithm and all of a sudden pages with thousands of followers became ghost towns. Any money “invested” in building up the page’s Like count had been wasted.
An email marketers primary goal is to positively influence the companies marketing KPIs via the email marketing channel.
The day-to-day job could include tasks like designing new email marketing campaigns, writing newsletters, working with other members of the marketing team to try and increase email list signups, and analyzing the performance of email campaigns. A company that is hiring dedicated email marketers is likely to have a larger marketing department, so the email marketers would likely be working alongside members of the brand, product or growth teams to help coordinate on product launches, upcoming events, and advertising campaigns.
Some popular email marketing tools:
Email is still primarily a text-focused channel, so email marketers will need to have strong writing skills so they can create compelling copy (the written material). You’ll need to be analytical to measure the effectiveness of the email marketing campaigns, and it can be helpful to have some creative and design skills to increase the visual appeal of any emails.
Like most jobs in tech, a college degree may be expected but is not necessarily required. Most employers will be much more interested in any experience a candidate has. If you don’t currently have experience then you could help your case by trying to start and grow your own email newsletter list using a free tool like Mailchimp.
“Content is king” - Bill Gates, 1996
Content marketers research and create compelling content that can be used to market the company. The content is usually distributed in the form of blog posts, ebooks, podcasts, white papers, or similar types of media.
Much of this content will be provided to users free of charge, and may also be “gated” – offered in return for the user performing some kind of action that is useful to the company, like signing up to an email list or viewing a product demo.
So what kind of content do content marketers create? That really depends on the company and their overall content and marketing strategies. One common content theme is education, where you help the potential customer learn about a topic that relates in some way to the company. An example would be a customer support app making a “Beginners Guide to Excellent Customer Support” blog post series that potential customers would find useful, while also providing the company with an opportunity to promote their product. Another possible theme is customer interviews, where you can use the interview content to create blog posts, videos and podcasts about real users using your product. It’s really down to the imagination of the marketing team.
But content isn’t a game of “throw a dart and see where it lands”. Content marketers will spend a lot of time researching potential topics to make sure they are appealing to their target audience, and will have positive benefits to the company in areas such as search engine optimization (SEO).
Beyond researching and creating content, content marketers may also be involved in the promotion of the content across the various social platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn, and on communities like Reddit or Quora. They may also analyze the performance of the content they’ve produced, including metrics like page views, newsletter signups etc, to make sure it is meeting its expectations.
The primary goal of a content marketer is to increase the number of conversions attributed to their inbound marketing content.
An average day might include time set aside for research, meetings with other members of the marketing team to discuss content performance or campaign strategy, adding content to the company’s content management system (CMS) for publication, and of course, a decent chunk of time will be devoted to writing (or otherwise creating) new content.
This role is perfectly suited to people with strong writing abilities, who enjoy working within a team and are able to handle the strict deadlines that come with working to editorial calendars. You’re unlikely to be spending too much time working directly with customers, but will still need solid social skills to help while you’re researching content or hosting interviews.
Content marketing is a natural role for people with previous writing and research experience like journalists, authors, academics and teachers. As with most roles in tech, a degree will be preferred but is not necessarily required, especially if you have a portfolio of work (this could include a personal blog) or some relevant prior experience.
A common trope in the early days of social media was that social media marketing was something that should be left for “the intern” to do, while the rest of the team worked on more important areas of the business. But this was a very short-sighted idea. Creative social media marketers have the ability to bring relatively obscure brands and products to the attention of huge audiences in a way that was unimaginable only a few years ago.
As the online “face” of the brand, the social media marketer will craft compelling social posts and respond to comments while sticking within the company’s brand voice and guidelines. When done well, it’s almost like a real-time mix of marketing, public relations and support work.
The primary goal of a social media marketer is to increase the number of positive engagements, followers, and social-focused conversions on the company’s social media accounts.
Social media marketers are responsible for crafting compelling content to be distributed across a company’s social media platforms. While this started as a mainly text or image focused job (as those forms of media suited the early platforms, like Facebook or LinkedIn) with the rise of Youtube, Instagram and TikTok there has been a big shift towards video content.
In a small startup or tech company, the social media marketer may be personally responsible for writing the copy, organizing any art or video creatives, scheduling the distribution of the content across the social platforms, and then responding to any comments left on the post. In larger teams some of these responsibilities may be shared, for example there may be graphic designers who can produce any images that are needed.
Social media marketers will work very closely with other members of the company that are involved in setting the company’s brand strategy and identity, to make sure the content they create follows this “brand voice”. After all, if your company is selling patient tracking software to hospitals then you will probably need to take a different tone in your messaging than if you’re in the social media team for Nike, or for that matter, Wendy’s.
Most social media roles will also require some analysis of the performance of the social media posts to make sure they are attracting new followers or subscribers, the posts are getting engagement, and that the followers/subscribers convert are converting to users or customers.
Social media marketers will use a range of tools to efficiently interact with multiple social platforms, including:
If you’re highly creative, have strong writing skills and attention to detail then you have the hallmarks to be a good social media marketer. You’ll be interacting with the public so it’s helpful to have a confident personality (the comments won’t always be friendly – or fair!).
An entry level social media marketing role can be a good way to break into tech marketing if you have limited industry experience as the technical and product knowledge requirements are low. Creativity and hard work can go a long way, as can any proof of previous experience building a social media presence on your own personal accounts.
As image and video-heavy platforms like Instagram, Youtube and TikTok have grown in scale, so has the ability of “influencers”, or people with large social media followings, to partner with businesses and leverage their audiences as a customer acquisition channel. Influencer marketing is most popular within ecommerce, where companies like GymShark pay people with large followings within their community (in GymShark’s case the fitness community) to promote their products. But that doesn’t mean that software-focused tech companies are left out – they just use different kinds of influencers.
Influencer marketers manage the partnerships between companies and influencers. This may include the initial research and outreach to find the influencers that best suit the company, negotiating the terms of the partnership, working with the influencers to develop the content that they will be sharing, and promoting the content when it is being distributed to maximize the return on investment.
The influencer marketer will work closely with the rest of the marketing or management team to make sure that any potential influencer campaigns fall within the overall company strategy and brand voice.
Once an influencer campaign has completed, the influencer marketer or team will be responsible for analyzing the performance of the campaign to check whether it has been successful, and help plan whether they will use the influencer again in future campaigns.
Tools of the trade
Influencer marketers need to have strong communication skills and be comfortable working with other people – a lot of time will be spent messaging potential influencers and trying to convince them of the value of a potential partnership. A high level of knowledge around the various social media platforms, including the type of content that works well for each would also be expected. Managing influencers is more relationship-focused and does not generally involve much in the way of technical knowledge which may be appealing to some people.
Affiliate marketing is similar to influencer marketing in the sense that both are working with external partners to leverage their audiences. While influencers are generally being paid a set fee to post sponsored content to their audience, in affiliate marketing the affiliate is paid a share of any revenue they bring in while marketing your product to their audience, often through the use of affiliate codes or special deals.
Affiliates can market products across a wide range of channels, including blog posts, videos, podcasts, and social media posts. A user or potential customer will commonly click an affiliate link and go through the process of signing up for the service or purchasing a product. The sale or signup will be recorded to the affiliate, and the company will send a payment (usually somewhere between 5-20% of the total revenue from the affiliate sales) to the affiliate at a later date.
The primary goal of an affiliate marketer is to grow the revenue (or if revenue isn’t relevant, a metric like user signups) of the company via their affiliate marketing partners.
Affiliate marketers seek our new affiliates for potential partnerships, evaluate new applications to the affiliate program, create marketing assets for affiliates to use, manage affiliate payouts and investigate potential fraud, and analyze the performance of existing affiliates.
Affiliate marketing suits people with strong communication and interpersonal skills as you’ll spend a significant amount of time working with affiliate partners. The roles do not normally require a high level of technical knowledge, although you will generally be expected to understand the basics of how affiliate tracking works (using cookies to track referrals etc). Affiliate marketing can be a good entry point into tech marketing for people who lack previous tech industry experience.
For as long as there have been search engines, there have been people who are working hard to make sure their companies land at the top of page one of the SERPs (search engine results page). These results pages show a mix of paid and non-paid (“organic”) results, and the work involved in trying to improve organic rankings is known as search engine optimization, or SEO.
The majority of searches take place on Google, so that tends to be the key area of focus for most SEOs. But companies may also seek to improve their rankings on the search engines on other platforms like Amazon’s ecommerce store, or Google and Apple’s app stores.
The primary goal of an SEO is to improve the rankings of their target keywords on search engine results pages, to increase the amount of traffic that goes to their websites. A keyword is a word or phrase that is closely related to the business, for example a project management app like Asana may target keywords like “project management software” or “task management software”.
The actual work can range from technical (working to improve web page load speed times, as fast loads are rewarded by Google) through to creating and optimizing website content, making sure elements like page titles and meta descriptions are set up correctly, and that the right keywords are being targeted and “crawled” (read and indexed) by Google’s search bot.
The work can be fairly research and analysis heavy, with SEOs spending a lot of time in tools analyzing new potential keywords, monitoring the rank of keywords, and tracking backlinks (external pages that link to their page).
SEOs will be proficient in a range of tools, including:
SEO roles are well suited to people who enjoy research and analysis. To perform at a high level an SEO will need to have a reasonable level of technical knowledge, understanding how search engines work and how the web and websites are structured. It’s also very helpful to be proficient with spreadsheet tools like Excel or Google Sheets, as they are frequently used by SEOs to analyze data.
As an SEO you’re likely to work closely with other team members involved in areas like content production, analytics and engineering (to implement any technical optimizations), so it is important to have good interpersonal skills.
While SEOs are hard at work on the organic keyword rankings, it’s down to the SEMs to take care of the increasingly important paid side of search engine marketing.
While a search engine's primary job is to present the user with the most accurate search results as possible, the way they cover their costs is by selling ad space on the results page. Most of these ads are sold via an auction, where people are able to bid on specific keywords with the aim of pushing their ad higher up the results page. The higher up on page 1 you are the more likely you are to get the user’s click, but this comes at a cost – in some competitive industries companies are paying $10 or more everytime someone clicks one of their ads, so they also need to make sure that these clicks pay off in the form of conversions.
Why are companies so willing to pay for search engine marketing, when the keyword bid prices can be so high? The key idea here is intent – when a user opens up Google and types in a search query, we know that they have very high intent – that is, they are looking for a specific result – so if your company can offer a product or service that helps solve their problem then they are likely to want to view, and hopefully purchase, the product. Compare this to when you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed and are interrupted by an ad for a product – you weren’t actively searching for that product, so you will have much lower odds of clicking the ad and making a purchase.
An SEMs primary goal is to increase the number of conversions that come in via paid search channels. To do this, they work with other members of the marketing team to come up with lists of keywords to target, and then use advertising platforms like Google Ads to create ads to run against those target keywords. Ideally they will be able to get their ad showing towards the top of the first page of the search results, to increase the Click through rate or CTR (the percentage of people who click their ad, out of all of the people who viewed the search results page).
Getting people to click on an ad is only the first step – you also need them to convert for the ad campaign to be a success. To help increase this conversion percentage, SEMs will often send traffic to custom landing pages they have built with content that has been tailored to the specific campaign. The landing pages will usually have the key conversion actions presented front and center (for example, a large Sign up for free form).
Why not send the traffic to the homepage?
A company’s homepage needs to cater to a wide range of people who are visiting the site for any number of reasons, so the information tends to be fairly general. By building custom landing pages, SEMs can craft content to specific audiences – for example if I work for a SaaS company and I’m looking for a new project management tool, the SEM could create a landing page outlining how their project management tool improves the workflow of SaaS companies, and provide testimonials from other SaaS companies that use the tool. By tailoring the information to me they are increasing the chances that I will go ahead and sign up to their app (and in doing so, convert).
A final key part of an SEMs job will be analyzing the performance of the search campaigns, then using the information to make changes and optimize them for improved future performance.
Search engine marketers will spend much of their time working with tools like:
Search engineer marketing requires a mix of skills across areas like copywriting (to write the copy for the ads and landing pages), design (to help build landing pages), through to data analysis to measure the success of the campaigns. While an SEM should also have a good understanding of how the leading search engines operate, the roles are not overly technical (you’re unlikely to be writing any code).
Pay Per Click is a form of online advertising where the advertiser pays each time a user clicks on their advertisement. PPC marketing shares many of the characteristics of SEM marketing, however PPC marketers will be advertising on non-search platforms like the social platforms Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or TikTok, or B2B platforms like Capterra. The people who see their advertisements will generally have lower intent than what you’d expect to get from search ads, but smart PPC marketers will use the content options offered by the platforms (especially photos and videos) to grab a prospective customer’s attention.
Most PPC ads on the major social networks will be targeting consumers (so ecommerce, B2C apps etc), and contain an image or video along with some compelling advertising copy (the text). B2B PPC is often focused towards product directory platforms like Capterra and G2 that specifically target business customers.
A PPC marketer has many of the tasks and responsibilities of an SEM marketer. They will spend significant time creating and managing ad campaigns on the various ad platforms, including writing ad copy and designing image and video creatives. They will analyze the performance of the campaigns and use their findings to make optimizations. A common method to try and improve campaign performance will be creating campaign specific landing pages, which the PPC marketer can make themselves using a tool like Unbounce, or in conjunction with other members of the company, such as the design and engineering teams.
Successful PPC marketers have a combination of creative and analytical traits. They need to be strong communicators, working with other members of their team but also to come up with compelling ad copy. They need to have a good understanding of the ad platforms they are using, including the customer segments that are available and the type of content that converts on each platform.
The job of the CRO is to improve conversion rates across the company’s websites and apps. Conversion rate optimization is like the compounding interest of the tech world – while individual changes may not always have a large effect, the cumulative and ongoing impacts of these “small wins” can be huge. Imagine a company that can improve its “Visit Website > Sign Up for a Free Trial” conversion rate from 10% to 12%. While the change may only be 2 percentage points, it’s a 20% improvement in terms of the number of users who are going on to start a free trial. This gives the company a larger group of people who will test the product, and (hopefully) go on to make a purchase, and a potential 20% increase in revenue is certainly nothing to complain about! And this isn’t a one-off increase. If the increased conversion rate holds, then the 12% conversion rate is the new normal for the weeks and months to come.
But there is a major caveat to all of this: scale. It doesn’t make sense for an early-stage startup to focus their resources on CRO as the true effects will only be noticed when you are dealing with a significant user or customer base. For example, if you have 10 users of your just-launched app then there are much better uses of your time and money than spending two weeks trying to improve your signup forms in an attempt to increase your user signups conversion rate by 20%.
Conversion rate optimizers design and implement optimization tests. Depending on the size of the company and resources available, they may literally implement the tests themselves or they may work closely with members of the product, engineering and design teams. A common type of optimization test is the A/B test, where a small randomized sample of users are shown an alternative version of a product and then their use of the test product is measured against the control group. As an example, a CRO may set up an A/B test that changes the wording on the homepage to try and encourage more users to sign up for a free trial of the product. One small group of users will see the new test text while the rest will see the “regular” text. After running the test they can compare the results to see which text encouraged the most signups and then implement any changes as needed.
Conversion rate optimization requires good attention to detail and a broad range of knowledge. You will need to have an understanding of the basic principles of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design, and user psychology to be able to create useful optimization tests. It is helpful to have an understanding of statistics as you will need to make sure you are performing and analyzing statistically significant tests.
With the huge increase in data flowing in from all areas of tech marketing, it probably comes as no surprise that there is a need for people who specialize in turning this raw data into actionable insights. Many mid–large size technology companies now employ full time marketing analysts to help take their firehose of data and make it useful for the marketing team.
The main goal of a marketing analyst is to provide marketing with actionable insights from the company’s data.
A marketing analyst will gather data from a variety of qualitative and quantitative sources, including the product’s database of users and events, sales or financial data, competitor and market data and so on. They will then use a range of analytics and business intelligence tools to analyze the data and then present their findings to the rest of the marketing team or other stakeholders.
As a highly analytical role you’ll need to be very comfortable working with data, but also enjoy spending your days analyzing large data sets. The role requires good communication and presentation skills as you’ll need to present your findings to other members of the business to take further action. Marketing analysts will usually be expected to have a bachelor's degree or higher in a subject like business, math, statistics or computer science.
Each of the marketing roles we’ve covered requires its own set of skills and responsibilities, but there are common personality traits that will benefit anyone who is considering a career in tech marketing.
There is a lot of variation in the day to day work of a tech marketer. You could start your day in a meeting developing strategy, move over to writing copy and designing images for an upcoming campaign, and then follow it up spending your afternoon analyzing cohort retention data. Tech marketing roles suit people who are willing to be flexible and adapt to changing environments, and do the work that is required – regardless of whether it’s strictly outlined on their job description.
Our goal as tech marketers is to get people interested in our product or service, so you’ll need to be a strong communicator to get your message across effectively. You should be comfortable producing written content (whether that’s for internal communications with your team or for external partners and customers in the form of emails, blog posts etc), and building relationships with team members and external partners.
Creative can mean two things in this context – you can be creative in the sense of being able to come up with compelling advertising campaigns and written content, but you can also be creative in how you look to solve problems. For example, can you piggyback on another platform to try and leverage their audience of potential customers? A lot of marketing success will come down to finding new, creative ways to get your message across to your target audience.
It’s common for marketers to get stuck thinking about short-term tactics that produce an instantly measurable result (you can try searching for “top marketing tactics” to get an idea of what I’m talking about), but top performers have the ability to think strategically, setting long-term goals and developing plans on how best to achieve them.
As tech marketers we have access to a wealth of data that we can use to our advantage. It’s important to have an analytical mindset and the data-wrangling skills to back it up, so you can make full use of the data on-hand to make informed decisions.
Tech marketing is constantly evolving – new channels are being launched, strategies and tactics that worked one year don’t work as well the next and so on. To try and stay on top of all of the ongoing developments you’ll need to have a strong desire to continually learn and improve yourself.
Finally, it’s extremely important to have an action-oriented mindset. While it’s easy to spend a lot of time learning about all the available marketing channels, or coming up with strategic documents outlining your plans on taking the market, none of this is valuable unless you are the kind of person who’s actually willing to get in and do the work. Don’t just plan out a list of 5 blog posts to improve your SEO – write the posts. It’s a cliche, but perfect is the enemy of good and sometimes you just need to take action.
If you have any previous experience in marketing then you are starting with an advantage. With the 4 P’s and fundamentals already under your belt, your key focus should be on acquiring the tech-specific knowledge needed for tech marketing roles.
No previous marketing experience? That doesn’t have to be a disqualifier. Tech marketing is the kind of industry where enthusiasm and a proven history of self-directed learning can go a long way towards convincing an employer to give you a chance. And I’m saying this from personal experience, both as someone who changed careers into tech marketing and as someone who has hired junior-level marketers.
You will need to set realistic goals – if you are new to marketing it’s highly unlikely you’re about to be hired as the next Head of Growth. If you’re starting with zero experience then it can make sense to focus on a specific channel, study up and learn as much about it as you can and then look for entry level positions within that specific channel. As you gain experience and build up broader knowledge you can make the move to the more generalist positions like product marketer or growth marketer.
Don’t be too concerned about time based requirements on job descriptions, especially if you plan to apply for non-management level roles. While 10 years of experience would obviously be helpful, things move very quickly in tech and some of the leading platforms and technologies haven’t even existed for that long. Start your learning journey today and you may not even be very far behind.
Many companies will list requirements like 2-3 years of experience for their junior roles, which can lead to the catch 22 of “I don’t have enough experience for the job, but without a job I can’t get experience”. Don’t let that put you off as there are ways to get around this – for example if you have a portfolio of marketing related projects that you’ve built in your spare time and can show strong enthusiasm for the subject then that will go a long way towards getting an interview.
Look for breakout platforms and technologies where you can reach an advanced or expert level as quickly as anyone else. For example, if you were early to learn about marketing on TikTok then you would have channel-specific experience that someone with 10 years of general experience couldn’t match.
If you’re keen to continue along the path to a career in tech marketing then you’ll need to keep building up your knowledge. You'll find more free in-depth guides on important tech-related subjects in the guides section.
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