Report: 38 percent of Canadian tech firms place marketing operations in the US

A new study by the Impact Centre at the University of Toronto suggests that Canadian marketing leaders are less experienced than their US counterparts.

The study, The CMO Search: Where are Canada’s Chief Marketing Officers?, looked at the employment patterns of Canadian and US tech companies identified by CB Insights as having raised money from VCs. Specifically, the study looked at the qualifications of the most senior marketing officers at 47 Canadian tech companies, including their past experience and education. These marketing leaders’ qualifications were then compared with those of the top marketing officers of 47 US-based unicorns.

The goal of the study was to examine and compare the quality of marketing leadership in Canadian and American tech companies by looking at factors such as education and past work experience.

“We are not developing a local talent base that will enable us to solve the marketing challenges our firms face.”

The study revealed that 38 percent of Canadian tech firms have made the strategic decision to place their marketing operations in the US. It also found that senior marketing leadership in the US had a job title that featured the term “marketing” in 61 percent of the cases, while in Canada, there was a senior marketing person in only 35 percent of cases.

In its analysis, the Impact Centre suggested that Canadian firms conducting marketing activities out of US offices creates a “severe problem.”

“We are not developing a local talent base that will enable us to solve the marketing challenges our firms face,” the report reads. “This has implications for public policy and the development of support programs aimed at accelerating the growth of Canadian companies.”

The Impact Centre study also suggested there is some lack of clarity about who is responsible for marketing within Canadian tech firms. “In the case of American firms, marketing leaders had a senior marketing title 90 percent of the time,” the report reads. “Compared to Canada, US companies are much clearer as to who is responsible for marketing. The role is more senior on average, and it is not combined with other roles in the company.”

When it comes to the educational background of marketers in Canada and the US, the Impact Centre study found that Canadian marketers may not be as qualified in marketing than their US counterparts.

The study revealed that 48 percent of Canadian marketing leaders located in both the US and Canada had no business degree. Ten out of 23 of these individuals had a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM), and only two percent had both a graduate and undergrduate degree in business.

In comparison, 75 percent of American marketing leaders had a business degree, and 26 percent had both a graduate and undergraduate degree in business. Overall, there were five times as many business graduate degrees among US marketing leaders as there are among Canadian marketing leaders.

Forty-eight percent of Canadian marketing leaders located in both the US and Canada had no business degree.

When looking at past experience of Canadian and US-based marketers, the study found that 83 percent of US-based marketers working for Canadian firms had prior experience working with high-growth firms, while only 38 percent of Canadians had prior experience with VC-backed high-growth firms.

This is not the first study by the Impact Centre to look at Canadian tech companies sales and marketing efforts. In May, the centre released a report finding that Canadian tech companes are generally delaying investment in marketing and sales, which can delay their revenue and growth in the long run.

In March, Workbrain and Rypple co-founder David Stein also shared a playbook on scaling startups, which noted that marketing is a frequent issue for the Canadian tech market. At the time, Stein said, “There isn’t a deep pool of seasoned marketing leaders that have been through this elsewhere. So finding the people as you continue to grow who have seen what it takes a couple sizes ahead of where you are — there aren’t a lot of those people around, especially in enterprise software.”

Overall, the report suggests that Canadian tech companies may be lagging behind their US counterparts because the country’s senior marketers aren’t as qualified for the job — an issue that can make it harder for companies to scale.

“When Canadian tech companies are sold, the marketing function typically moves to
the headquarters of the acquirer,” the report reads. “Thus, Canadian marketing personnel lose out on the opportunity get the experience of taking a company from start-up to a world-class company. As a result, there are very few people in Canada developing a base of experience that can help us address our marketing challenges.”

Read the full report here.

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi is a staff writer and content creator at BetaKit with a strong interest in Canadian startup, business, and legal tech news. In her free time, Amira indulges in baking desserts, working out, and watching legal shows.