Ops Cast | Can Marketing Ops Generate Revenue Without a Marketing Strategy?

D In this episode we talk with AJ Sedlak about the LinkedIn post he published in late August 2021. In his post he made the provocative statement that Marketing Ops could help deliver revenue for an organization in the absence of a Marketing Strategy….and at the same time, Marketing would struggle to deliver revenue without Ops.  We...

D

In this episode we talk with AJ Sedlak about the LinkedIn post he published in late August 2021. In his post he made the provocative statement that Marketing Ops could help deliver revenue for an organization in the absence of a Marketing Strategy….and at the same time, Marketing would struggle to deliver revenue without Ops. 

We dig into that topic and also cover:

  • What should strategy look like from an Ops perspective
  • How should Marketing Ops be measured
  • The value of strong people vs tech in Marketing Ops

Recorded live on September 30, 2021.

Episode Brought to You By MO Pros 

Hi, I’m Michael Hartmann, I’m Naomi Lou, and I’m Mike Rizzo. And this is ops cast, a podcast for marketing ops pros and rev ops pros Created by the MO Pros. The number one community for marketing operations. As professionals tune into each episode as we chat with real professionals to help elevate you in your marketing operations career.

Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of OpsCast brought to you by the MO Pros. I am Michael Hartmann today. I’m joined by both co-hosts again, Naomi, Lou, and Mike Rizzo, please say hello everyone. Okay, everybody. So today we are talking with AIJ Sedlak director of marketing automation at Smartsheet about a topic that started from a LinkedIn post that he had a few weeks.

So we’re recording this in September, late September of 2021. So about a month ago that he posted about whether or not marketing ops can generate revenue without a marketing strategy. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Before, before AGA was at Smartsheet, he held several different marketing automation and marketing operations roles at poly slash poly-com and also at Thermo Fisher scientific.

Uh, he’s also been a graphic designer, web designer, including having his own agency. If I got that right. Hey Jay, thanks for joining us today.

So this is good. I think this should be an interesting one because I know that the LinkedIn posts and we can, we can share that post when we, uh, post our show notes here. But, um, it got a lot of activity. I know there were some, some pretty. Now the people, I guess, if you want to put it that way. Um, so, okay.

As I, so like I said, it was kind of a provocative posts and I, you know, uh, it triggered lots of those comments, interesting ones to some degree. So I thought it, you know, rather than pointing everybody to it, since they’re listening and we don’t want them go into, you know, driving and go into LinkedIn while they’re doing this, I’ll read it verbatim and then we’ll kind of get going.

So. Here’s what AGA said. I was mulling over the power of marketing operations and a thought occurred to me marketing strategy by itself with no operational support or execution can’t really produce revenue, but for better, or for worse marketing operations has the potential to drive revenue with that strategy.

Am I wrong? Right. So if we’re getting into some of the responses. I would love for you to share with our listeners what you were suggesting or kind of what triggered you maybe to, to make that post? Yeah, in my new, my new role here at Smartsheet, I’m really looking at how I can elevate the marketing automation team and get more of that strategic, um, part of, of our job, um, in play around the organization.

And. No, get out of know the typical situation of, you know, just being ticket, uh, producers and that kind of thing. Um, and I was just kind of thinking through what is at the heart of the challenge. Um, and, and I saw that it’s. In my opinion, it comes down to the fact that that the operations can run. They can exist and they can generate revenue.

Even if they’re, you have basically little or no strategy behind them. And, and I think you used the word strategy, but I also kind of mean to scale. That you can have these tactics, these platforms that run with almost anybody at the helm and you can drive revenue. Um, you may not thrive as an organization, but you can, you can make money.

And I think that that’s part of our, um, our challenge is as marketing operations professionals and trying to become more strategic is. It’d be one thing. If we could say, you know, you’re not making any money, so we have to invest in strategy, but the problem is that that we are making money. And we have to try to tell this story about how we could make more money if we invested in strategy.

And it’s a very difficult discussion to have.

Definitely. I mean, I think this gets to something that we, we, this is not something that I think we talked about before when we were kind of thinking about this, but I think it also gets a little bit to how should marketing ops be measured. Right. And I think I know me, I would love to be measured on some sort of thing.

That’s tied to revenue, although it’s really hard to justify that in my mind. So, um, I know Naomi you’ve had, you’ve done some things around. The teams. And have you ever looked at like trying to tie it at all to revenue or anything? Um, I think we tried definitely. I think the majority of the metrics that I set for my team and that I sat, um, as benchmarks against the organization is really around the services part.

Right. So, you know, the amount of tickets that we get, especially, you know, measuring it during COVID like we, we increased 66% in production and. Without increasing headcount. Right? So, um, for me really it’s around the metrics around performance, um, time to close tickets. How do we, like how long are projects taking what’s the average type of time to close for specific types of projects?

Is that calling campaign? Is it a, you know, a landing page with, you know, eight different languages are there, you know, different nurture programs that are tied to it as well? Um, those are really the main ones that we can control on our end when it comes to the revenue piece. Um, that’s so something I’m struggling with because I find that, you know, at least on, on, at EFI, like once the lead goes into Salesforce and it goes into sales, it’s like, It’s a lot harder for me to keep my hands around.

Like, you know, are you following up within X amount of time? Are you like, how many touches are you doing? Right. So it’s like, I have a bit of anxiety around that too, because it’s like, when I can’t, if I can’t control that process, I am a little bit more hesitant to figure out how to, how do you report on it?

Right. And, you know, you have a baseline report, but then how do you improve on things? Um, and it’s, you know, it’s still a work in progress, like, you know, constantly meeting with sales meeting with our lead development team. So. Yeah, for, for me on that as well. Naomi, I don’t know about you, PJ. You know, when you think about are, we might actually have the ability to measure the speed to lead kind of functions, right?

From whether whatever map you’re using to your, to your CRM and how quickly that gets in the hands of your team. Um, and you may also be able to with, you know, proper kind of. Reporting and attribution and agreement across the different platforms and teams, you might actually be able to kind of measure velocity as it moves through the sales funnel.

Um, but Naomi, you know, you, you said, I don’t really have a way to impact, like the number of touches or some of those things. And for me, it sort of begs the question. Do you want that responsibility, right? Is that our responsibility? Um, and is that why we’re seeing so much more around this idea of rev ops these days?

Um, you know, we’re, we’re trying to create that alignment versus like, you know, it might not be solely the marketing ops person or team’s responsibility to think through velocity on once it kind of crosses into the sales hands, but as you start getting further into rev, The argument can be made that like, that’s actually, you know, you’re, that’s like their function, right?

It’s to think about how quickly can we get that deal across to, to sign and, you know, make sure it’s actually getting followed up on and all that stuff, but so kind of going back, and it was a bit of a ramble, but going back. Do we really want that responsibility or is that where you just, you just find ways to continue in the aligning and it sounds like Naomi for you, it’s just a partnership play at AJP here.

Curious to hear your thoughts too. Yeah. I mean, I think you bring up some good points and, and I think in, in my sort of definition of strategy, I think that what you do about the reporting aspect, when you talk about things like philosophy, you talk about attribution. I think that’s all part of strategy because.

It’s, you know, if you just report on the information, that’s just, I mean, you’re sitting in a car and park, you’re looking in the rear view mirror, right? You’re I mean, you’re a historian at that point, but when you start taking that, that data and you say, what can we learn from this? You start to do some analysis, you start to bring some insight and you use that to decide how you move forward.

That’s when you’re not writing the story of the future and you’re becoming, uh, you know, strategic at that point by using that data and not just, you know, The board might like to see these dashboards and see how have you performed. But as a marketing or a sales organization, we need to say, okay, so these are the steps we’ve taken, and this is where we’ve arrived.

Where do we step next? What path do we take next? And that, that to me is part of strategy. You know, it’s not just, um, you know, brand, it’s not just, um, you know, how do we design, you know, what’s our, what’s our catching new slogan, you know, how do we, how do we get that in the hands of people? It’s also about that, uh, that use of data in a smart way.

Yeah, it makes, I think that’s great. I was, I was also thinking one of the things I like to think about, and I do think this is where we could potentially tie it is marketing ops in, in revenue ops to the. To a greater extent as well, have the ability to help affect potentially, um, what I call it, like the, the micro conversions of somebody, you know, a customer journey in the places you can go and may are making it a little more efficient or automating components of it and things like that, where you can have, I think, uh, still it’s I still feel like it’s indirect.

Right? I struggle like Naomi, I think. How, how do I, actually, if I was asked to take responsibility for revenue member, um, just purely as marketing ops, I would, it would be hard. There’ll be a hard pill to swallow, I think. Um, although I’m not sure I would run away from it either if I could get, use that as a way to get some more control or something.

Um, so, you know, so one of the, one of the, I think one of the consistent things Aja in the, in the, kind of the commentary on your initial post. Really a number of people sort of debating the value or relative importance of strategy. And I liked that you defined it a little bit ago about what you think of it and tactics are tactical activities.

So they’re getting shit done kind of part of the job, you know? So, um, Uh, maybe you were, I’m not sure if you were thinking about this before you made the post, but like, what is, what’s your take on the, the, the relationship between strategy and tactics, uh, or strategy execution? I know I put, I posted like one of my favorite books, business books I ever read was called execution.

The discipline of getting things done, and it really changed my view about the importance of strategy. The ability to execute and be accountable and all that. But yeah. So a like, did you have a kind of a thought going in about that and B after S you know, some of the reactions has your point of view shifted at all?

Yeah. You know, I think, um, when I think of the tactics, um, and you know, I, I spent a lot of time working with small businesses, and I think this is part of where my mindset was on some of this. You know, it’s really easy if you’re starting a business to just be checking boxes and you know, you go and you say, okay, I’m going to start this, this business.

It’s a store or a restaurant or whatever. So what am I, what am I going to do? I’m going to, uh, maybe I’m going to incorporate myself. I’m going to open a bank account, maybe get a, you know, employer identification, number, that kind of thing. But, you know, some of those also those boxes, you also get to R I’m going to launch a Facebook page.

I’m going to go to Squarespace or whatever, and I’m going to set up a.com website and that those aren’t strategic decisions. Those are just checking boxes. This is what I have to do to start my business. So to me, that’s a purely tactical, purely operational activity. You know, if you just say, okay, here’s a, here’s my website, I’ve got my phone number on there.

I’ve got a contact us form, you know, whatever. Um, but when you start to look at. And what content should I have on there and what, what are my customers going to be looking for? How do I get a particular message across, you know, that’s when you start to elevate and, you know, I kind of look at it as there’s, there’s sort of four levels of operational maturity.

Like you’d start off purely tactical, and then you get into where you’re a little bit more thoughtful. And then strategic. When you start to look at data, you start to really use market research or whatever to make decisions. And then you get into innovative where you. I don’t even need the data to make decisions.

You have gotten to a point where you can anticipate the right ways to go based on sort of ancillary data that you’ve seen in the past or experience. And you start to really kind of push, push your business in ways that, um, isn’t just waiting for feedback from your customers. You know, some of the things that you you see from a lot of the big tech tech companies, for example, like apple and stuff that you know, where they are giving you things that you didn’t even know you needed.

Um, and as far as, you know, did my thinking adjust? Um, I wouldn’t say it changed my mind exactly so much as it did kind of. Caused me to further define what I meant by strategy, you know, and that’s where I started to think more about, uh, some of the data aspects and the, uh, you know, what the strategy really mean.

Um, you know, and there was, um, one person on there that kind of brought up the subject of a strategy consultant. You know, that, that their argument was that strategy. Was was generating revenue. And I kind of felt that the point there was that the strategy was a product in that case, you know, not, not really the same thing I was thinking about, but, um, you know, always interested to kind of see how, and this was one of those posts where kind of like started off as a rant.

And I thought I can’t post this. Kind of boil it down to, you know, what, what are kind of the core, the core points I want to make. And like, let’s see, let’s see what people think about this. Um, and so it was kind of interesting just to see what, uh, what people came up with, um, in terms of what they thought I meant.

And there, there were people that kind of interpreted it as me suggesting that we should operate with our strategy. That is definitely not the case.

Yeah. I, uh, I think, I think as you get into strategy discussions too, like for me in, in just going and going back to the example of like getting your business off the ground, right? Like a lot of people feel like you sort of need to check some boxes, um, that go a little beyond some of the basics, like, uh, You know, uh, oh, I’m going to post on social media.

Um, and I’m, and I’m going to post on all of the social media platforms. Um, and, and you, you, you don’t really know why are you talking about my space mate? Yes, my space. Yes. It’s a great company by the way now. Uh, and so, so, you know, you’re, you’re doing these actions and, um, At the end of the day, you know, I think, I think as we get into discussions around strategy, I, I sort of can’t ever, um, skip the Simon Sinek, like start with why, um, you know, video content that’s out there and for the listeners that haven’t yet gone to discover that content, go look up Simon Sinek, look up, start with why.

Put the combo together and Google and, and that’s exactly it, right? Like it really starts with why are you doing this? Um, please don’t just post on social media for a reason. He’s a great follow on LinkedIn too. If you follow him on like yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a good call out for sure. So, so yeah, for when it comes to strategy, like you definitely need to start asking the questions, like why, uh, and letting some of the, um, The data and the reporting that you’re talking about, AIJ where you’re, you’re not looking in the rear view mirror, but you’re actually thinking ahead one level, like, what are the analytics that we want to be looking at to be able to make an informed decision?

Because the reality is is you can measure everything, uh, but that’s not necessary. Right. And so. You can start ahead of time and say, we need to specifically be thinking about these types of analytics to allow us to make informed decisions as we continue to improve upon our strategy. And so, as you think about the tactics that you’re going to deploy into the market, you know, I need visibility on these measures in order to understand, you know, what, what is success look like?

And defining success is a very strategic. Thing that needs to happen, uh, you know, across the organization. Uh, and I think, I think that’s where, you know, I I’ve been in a lot of different organizations and right now that’s definitely something that we’re talking a lot about is like, what are the analytics we need visibility on for the activities we’re performing so that we can make a better decision?

Yeah. I think that’s super important because, you know, if you, if you get to point B and you treat that alone as success, that’s. That’s something, but that’s not really, you know, was this the place where you really want it to be, you know? And would we, would we come here again? Um, and I think, you know, that your point about defining those metrics upfront is really important from a, you know, if you wanted to go purely tactical on that point, You know, how many times have people out there done some sort of activity, and then they get a request later, like, Hey, can you tell me this piece of data about it?

And it’s like, well, no, because we didn’t know we had to measure that. So in order to do that, we would have had to do it a little bit differently. Uh, it would have been possible, but with. No. And having, having that sense ahead of time of what that success is, it also kind of puts you in a position of trying to justify why we’re, why we’re doing this.

If you can’t define how you would measure success, then I think you really have to think about whether it’s an activity that you should be doing. Totally. Yeah, I’m a hunter. I like the concept of start with why, or just like building a hypothesis. Right? So if, if for example, you have a go to market strategy and you know, it’s like, oh, we need to generate a thousand leads a quarter.

Let’s just be hypothetical about it. And you’re like, these are the tactics with which we believe are the strongest place for us to try to generate a thousand leads a quarter. Uh, one of those tactics is podcasting. Um, so it sounds like I’m talking about us, but I’m not. Uh, the other tactic is, you know, content, production, eBooks, and then the other one is social media posts.

And so what analytics do you need to have in place in order to understand which of those three tactics are kind of performing the best against each other and, and how. So when you think about like producing content for, um, a webinar or a podcast or something, does success, like does a pass or fail happen in one week?

Or does it pass or fail happen in a year? What’s the time horizon before you even understand like where some of these strategies and tactics you’re deploying and the analytics are collecting actually become viable resources for you. And I think all of that plays into this idea of like strategy and tactics and execution and being strategic about how you go to market.

Yeah. And so, Yeah. The, you know, the idea of self benchmarking I think is really important because, you know, uh, Michael, I know you you’ve, uh, coined that phrase, the, the fallacy of best practices, um, which, you know, I love because the best practices idea is, is, I mean, it’s fine if you have nowhere to start from, but it’s really frustrating when you do have experience and you have data of your own.

And, you know, there’s somebody saying like, how do we get the best practices? And it’s like, well, the best practices for us now is just trying to be better than we were, you know, it’s, it’s looking at. How can we do this thing better? Or should we continue to do this thing or stop doing it? You know? And at that point, best practices and best practices are just an opinion anyway, right?

I mean, there’s a, I can’t think of a single topic out there that, uh, you know, there’s anybody that can, can really say purely, this is, this is the goal. This is the thing that you need to do. You know, it’s, it’s all about, you know, what, uh, the different nuances between our businesses and our organizations, what, what works for our goals and what works for our audience and, uh, you know, what can we actually make happen with the business parameters?

We have the funding that we have or whatever. So, so best practices is, is only useful. If you don’t know where to start. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Business like funding, team, team size skills, tech, what resources do you have? You know, resources that broadly, I think I’ll play into all that stuff. And then there’s like some of this stuff that’s not even, it’s really difficult to measure that you can’t really carry forward.

Like. Culture can make such a difference in how a particular practice in one place may or may not work effectively at the next place. Right. So, um, it’s interesting. Uh, so like, this is all like in my head right now, just sort of evolving, so bear with it. But you were talking about like, if you’re looking back, you know, you’re, you’re measuring.

But you’re looking in the rear view mirror with it. W would it made me think it was like, oh, well, the next thing is, you’re going to be continuing to go forward. But I was like, well, that also applies like you’re going into unchartered territory again, like you’re almost starting over. And I was like, probably.

Like the mental model I now have without it’s like, there’s this circle, right? You’re going through a cycle, you’re going through a cycle, whatever that frequency is, my rate, whether it’s, you’re doing it weekly, bi-weekly quarterly. Maybe it’s different for every tactic or if you’re going like big branding efforts.

Right. Which are probably long, shouldn’t be long periods of time. I don’t know that most marketers get that much leeway to really show the value of like truly branding kind of efforts. But. Like that idea, like, what you want to do is make that, that next cycle around right. More efficient, more effective, better results, whatever those key metrics are that you’re, you’re driving at.

I’m sorry. Like, I don’t even know how, like, I’m just, I’m just saying I don’t even really have another point about it. Other than it just sort of occurred to me. Like there’s like, maybe that makes sense. I think it makes sense. Uh, Michael it’s like, you’re, you’re, you know, as you circle back around to, to, you know, simultaneously you’re, you’re performing all of these actions, right.

Let’s just use the, this idea of like, um, we’re going to produce webinars once a month for the entire year. And, and that’s all like the CTA at the end of every webinar is to like, Buying the product, right? Whatever product it is that you’re selling, um, you certainly cannot measure the success of that entire initiative after like one or two webinars is done.

Right. Um, but at the end of the year, you could look backwards and understand holistically across like the initiative of webinars relative to paid advertising. You know, what was, what was successful there? Like which one of those from a CPL perspective, we, we properly, you know, aligned our data to be able to measure that entire initiative.

Um, but then what gets really interesting is like, but like which specific, you know, webinar topics were the most relevant to our audience. And like, so when you cite that whole idea of like cycling back around. The way I’m thinking about your, your thing. Michael is like, as we circle back and we decide, Hey, like this initiative is actually good for us.

Uh, the idea of like becoming more efficient or more effective or doing it better next time around, we’re going to double down on this, but we’re specifically going to go a little deeper and we’re going to say, Hey, this webinar’s strategy is good, but we could probably make it better. As long as we. Stay focused on these, you know, a couple of topic areas or something like that.

And so that’s, that’s kind of the forward backward thinking type of like, how do you let strategy and tactics kind of come together, uh, you know, in the rear view and. I think that that’s how I’m interpreted. I think you hit on some really interesting points that are about the, and when you talk about webinars as an illustration and saying, okay, these topics seem to resonate.

You know, when, when you do things, some of these tactical things and you want them to then carry forward into your future decisions, you have to have some sort of a framework around how do you define them now, even just looking at something simple, like subject line AB tests, right? I mean, you do, you do an AB test and you can say, okay, so we know that those two subject lines, this one.

But what do you do next time? You’re not going to use the same subject line. For the next email. So you have to have some sort of a categorization, some sort of taxonomy where you say, okay, so we were comparing ones where we use the person’s name, or we used a number or we used exclamation points. You know, you have to have some sort of a decision-making framework to say next time, you know, let’s, let’s say we’ve, we’ve done.

Several of these tasks. We’ve, we’ve got a lot of data on different subject lines. How do we look at them and say, okay, these are the ways that we should craft our subject line in the future. And it’s the same thing for, for webinars or for paid search ads or any of that, that, you know, how, how do you take something and turn it into a very, kind of almost black and white way to make a decision for something that’s, you know, in many ways different, but you want to get those same results you want to build on those results and move forward.

Piggybacking on that. I’m curious if, if you guys have ever run into issues where, you know, you have clear data that points you in a certain direction, but then there’s, you know, sometimes there’s lots of cooks in the kitchen or just even pers like, even for myself personally, trying to fight that urge of, you know, personal bias, right.

You’re like, oh, but I really like this better, but the data says this and I really don’t want to do that. It says I should, you know, I just, I’m curious about how you guys kind of overcome that, right? Or is it always a matter of like the data speaks and the data is the only source of truth and you know, what does that look like for every.

Um, questions like that always bring me back to one of my favorite mark Twain quotes, which is there are lies, damn lies and statistics, right? So like there may be days, this is what it’s like, data can say kind of whatever you want it to say in some cases. So. But I do think, I do think fighting biases is a really difficult thing.

I like other podcasts. I listened to get into that kind of stuff. And like, I know it’s there. I have my own biases. We all have our own biases and it’s, it’s, it’s really tough to do, to deal with. I, I don’t know that I haven’t answered for a Naomi. It’s actually a really good episode of the podcast, cautionary tales that talks about, um, how data can be used to tell any stories that you want.

Um, I think it was about forums. I can go. Um, but the, yeah, it’s, it’s certainly, there’s, there’s a fairly straight forward way of looking at it. Like, okay, it’s a, it’s a act of setting aside your ego and saying, I’m going to listen to the data and go where, where it points, um, or choose not to. Um, which, you know, certainly I think we’ve probably all had situations like that.

Um, and I can think back to when I first started using. The idea of testing an email marketing and, you know, kind of having this hypothesis and seeing the results and being like, oh wow, I was wrong. I thought I knew so much, but I was wrong. And kind of getting out of that mindset of well it’s, you know, it’s not an ego thing.

It’s not that, you know, I’m, I I’m, I’m dumb. It’s just that, uh, you know, I had a hypothesis and that’s why you test is, is to not let it be about what, what is somebody’s opinion? It’s about what resonates. Totally. I, uh, at one point in my career, I, I definitely had that same moment, right. Where I was doing a lot of email marketing.

And, uh, it was certainly a subject line kind of categorization exercise, right? Like, uh, categorically, we, we bucketed them maybe into two or three things. And, um, I had a hunch. I had a hunch that like, one of the versions was going to be categorically better than, than the rest. And I ended up being wrong, but, uh, Pointing out the idea that you can have a data, data, tell you any story you want.

I was like, well, if I filter it down to just the customers that came from this audience, it’s actually right. So that was the real audience you wanted. Anyway, you didn’t want the other, the people that were like actually opening the one, that one they’re just done the right audience there. The real buyers are over here.

So let’s just filter out that place that reminds me of it. Uh, early in my time at Texas instruments, when I joined there, I was in my first ever one of the few times I’ve been to it where I went to a like behind the one-way mirror, two-way mirror. I can never remember which it is. Right. And like, literally standing up in the middle of the, like, like almost wanting to bang on the mirror going, what are you talking about?

Right. Cause, and it was like, that was so Naomi, maybe this isn’t like, that was the big aha moment for me to stop and go wait. Like I’ve got my own, like, I have my own way of thinking about this, whatever. I don’t remember what the topic was probably about our website or something, because that’s what I was doing in those days.

But it was like, oh, I need to stop thinking about how I think about it or how the people internally think about it. It completely changed how I thought about that kind of stuff. It listened to feedback from people both internally and externally. Yeah. And there’s. I don’t think it’s around anymore, but there used to be a site called which test one, and know if you ever needed a dose of humility.

Um, it was definitely the place to go because it would give you two side by side tests and you would try to guess which one was the successful one. And I think I was probably wrong. 75% of the. So, you know, you take that and you start to see, uh, you know, I totally remember that site too. I’m like actively trying to Google it.

Right. It’s still way back archive or something. Yeah, it’s funny. But yeah, like I, and I also did paid search and other ad like cheap, like you couldn’t decide between one word and ad copy. Right. And you got it. My guess would be, oh, what’s this one word that would be the one that was winner. And I was just like, agents are like, probably wrong.

Two thirds, three fourths of the time. So yeah, district staff, um, and I think strategy can, can dictate all of the experiments. Right. And all the hypothesis that you put out there. But like, um, when you, when you think about. The types of things that we’re going to do as a marketing operations organization.

I, yeah, I think you can just go execute on things without really having any, uh, hypothesis in place. And I had sort of begs, like, where does strategy come from for you? Ha like, I’d be curious to know, like, you know, you started off our conversation today around this idea of like, um, trying to find alignment, you know, and, and kind of what’s next for you and the team and, and your Stack.

Uh, is that purely coming from you or like, you know, where you kind of brought in to Smartsheet with the idea that like, Hey, we need help shaping this. Um, or, you know, are other people involved? Like how, how strategy kind of playing into all of, all of what you’re building there? Fortunately, for me it was, uh, it was definitely, um, Part of the design in, in hiring me to this role was that they were looking for somebody that could drive that, uh, that story with the, with the, uh, with the stakeholders.

And, um, you know, there there’s, there’s some pockets of resistance and, and I think, you know, it goes back to a lot of the, the habits that people have built, where, you know, there, there are organizations where the, the mops team is just punching tickets. Right. Um, And that’s kind of what they’re used to. And in fact, I had a really good conversation with one of my marketing colleagues at Smartsheet when I was kind of doing my initial road trip around and she said, That originally, when she started working with the marketing automation team there, that she was getting some feedback from them, some questions, some ideas, and her initial response was w what are you doing?

Just do the thing I asked and let’s move on. And she said, but in time I started to see that there was actually a lot of wisdom there and there was actually some things that I could, you know, take advantage of and improve what I was doing. And she said, now I love it. You know, I I’d love that, that, uh, that relationship was there and that they felt, you know, willing to have that conversation.

And so she kind of realized that you could check her ego and there was this, this opportunity to, to use the team as a resource. Um, And that’s really the kind of thing that I’m trying to build throughout the rest of our organization. Um, and, and kind of. Just get my foot in the door with some ideas. And, you know, I think part of the key too, is, is presenting a, uh, an environment of psychological safety with my team that, you know, they feel empowered to, you know, have ideas, even if they might be wrong, even if they’re met with a little bit of, uh, of reluctance or, or even hostility that, you know, this is what we’re here for.

We are experts in how to use this tactic. In a good way. And we’re not just the email team or the Marquetto team. Um, you know, one of the songs I keep sending to anybody who will listen is that a lot of our work is actually trying to avoid sending you. Um, and that if you hear that, that requires, thought that requires, you know, how do we, how do we reduce frequency without reducing the impact of what we’re trying to communicate?

Um, so, you know, we’re having kind of a lot of conversations around the business of how. How do we take these batches and turn them into, to, you know, strategic drips and, um, you know, it reduces the amount of people that we have to have on the, on the, a team. If we don’t have to keep executing on the same stuff all the time.

And we can turn some things always on, we can, we can combine some messages. Uh, some of those kinds of, uh, you know, one of my, uh, previous managers had used the term strategical that, that I love what strategic use of a tactic. Right. Um, so that, that’s where we say, okay, so there’s this thing we do, you know, we’re doers, but there’s, there’s a good way to do it.

And there’s a bad way to do it. And, you know, we, we are trying to always be striving for that good way to. Um, you know, and one of the, I saw a thing on LinkedIn just a little bit after my post. Um, there was, uh, a guy who’s a founder of some organization. I’m not gonna, you know, call them out or anything.

But he said, you know, he asked if anybody had experienced setting up email automations and triggered sequences, they were, they were looking for, you know, tools and best practices. And, you know, I think that that kind of resonated with me in this topic, which was. When you talk about, it’s not just about strategy, it’s also about the skill of the people in that tactic.

You know, here’s somebody who, it was essentially some sort of a, you know, a, a startup exac or whatever, and they were going, and I guess, going to execute on marketing automation, you know, and they don’t have any experience in it. And they’re, they’re basically looking for. What are people going to put in my LinkedIn comments?

Now I’m going to build my, my business practice around that’s right. They, they, they wanted the, uh, the quick fix recipe. So they’re gonna say, I think this leads us to do like another question here. So there was one of the commenters on your posts. Okay. Fellow by the name of Richard Grillo. So Richard, if you’re listening, thank you.

Uh, and he suggested a follow-up question, which was how much marketing ops versus marketing strategy is truly needed at any given time. And I think this is another debatable question because it really comes down to the, you know, the company itself is what he said. Um, so we take him up on that question.

Do you have any thoughts, right? You, you were just sort of describing a scenario of somebody at a startup who was like part of the marketing strategy in air quotes, right. Was to execute on marketing automation. And then you describe what you’re doing. It probably I’m gay, I guess Smartsheet is now sort of a bigger company.

I don’t know that it’s the same size you’ve been, but. Yeah. What’s your thought? Like how, what do you think that balance is of what’d you call it strategic strategic, which sits with tactical tactic? Yeah. Um, yeah, I mean, I think it really does depend on the company. I mean, it depends, you know, how, how big you are and how you’re running things, you know, if you’re a sales lead or product lead company changes, uh, your strategy, uh, drastically.

And I think, uh, if I remember Richard’s comment correctly, I think he, um, had, had mentioned something about, uh, you know, Like a cruise ship that doesn’t really have anybody at the helm and, you know, it’s yeah, you, you can be making progress, but you, it may not be meaningful progress, which I think is a really important, uh, caveat to put on that term.

You know, the there’s there’s progress, there’s meaningful progress and there’s, you know, there’s also maximum progress, you know, are we, are we really doing the best we could be doing? Um, I think a lot of it comes down to what role data plays in your organization. Um, you know, we use this, um, phrase data-driven a lot.

Um, but I think that a lot of people use that term to just refer to reporting. So I think, you know, coming back to the idea of a hundred percent. Yeah. Um, and I think that’s just, uh, You know, that’s just looking backwards. So I don’t really think you’re being data-driven if all you’re doing is reporting, you know, data-driven is when you’re taking that data and you’re using that to literally drive yourself forward.

And I think that having a good analytics practice in your organization having, you know, investment in NBI and, uh, having, uh, you know, an actual. When you, even, when we, when you create dashboards, you know, are you doing it in a way that that makes the right information visible and are, you know, are you also including a bunch of metrics that don’t matter?

You know, how are you actually telling that story? Um, So I think that’s, that’s really important. Um, too, and, you know, analytics is an interesting beast because you, you have this idea of, okay, we’re asking the company to invest money so that we can make sure we’re investing our money. Well, um, so it’s a little bit of a, it’s one of the hardest things.

Yeah, you mean, I need to buy a tool to understand how my other tool is working. Right, right. And same thing with MarTech, you know, you, you, you bring technology onto to not have to step up people and then you need to step up people to make sure that the technology runs. Yeah. Yeah. It’s like, wait, we, so we bought Marketo.

And, you know, we’re gonna be able to send all these automated emails, but like, I can’t send an automated, like blog posts, like newsletter RSS feed until I go buy another tool to help me do that. Like it’s, it’s always a hard lesson. Yeah. It drives me crazy. Now that the, that whole category of the Marketo Eloqua HubSpot is marketing automation, because the automation part is it’s bullshit basically.

Right? It’s not, there’s, there’s some amount of automation. But at the end of the day, there’s still a lot of care and feeding and yeah, and I think, um, you know, th there’s this impression that the robots are doing all the work and, and, you know, the point I make is that it’s, it’s kind of a garbage in garbage out situation that, you know, it’s the marketing automation platforms.

They’re going to scale whatever. Put into it. So if you hire like, you know, a junior person who’s, you know, two years out of college has no guidance has no idea what they should be doing in the organization. And you’re saying, okay, you’re going to run our Marquetto instance. You’re going to scale mediocrity.

You know, um, but if you invest in people that, that, you know, have a, you know, an understanding of marketing and, you know, even some of the things, you know, that have been on this podcast before talking about and understanding of finance and how businesses work, you know, psychology, all of these things, and you, you invest in the right people and you get excellence in there and the human factor, then you scale excellence and you.

Because Marquetto is going to cost you the same, whether you have, you know, one junior person running it or 10 experienced people running it. Right. Um, so you, if you, if you invest more, all our perspective sure. But the, uh, the debt that you could create, the technical debt that you can create, depending on who’s in there first.

Right. Uh, that can be really scary. Yeah. And there’s an opportunity cost. Right. So what else could you have done that you wouldn’t be able to, which is, we can’t really. It’s really difficult to put a number on it. Right. It’s one of those fallacies or biases that we all struggle with. Right. And what we have that, uh, that view of those parallel universes, where we can see what would have happened.

If we had made a different decision, then it will be perfect. But until then we have to have to try to convince people otherwise, Yeah, I got a question when I was at, uh, I just came back from Saster this week. And two days ago I was talking to this, uh, this guy who kind of heads up sales and marketing, and they’re bringing in a new VP of marketing and, and he says, I really need help finding a marketing ops person for our HubSpot environment.

Um, and, and so I’m like, yeah, let me see like w w w we’ll do our best right. Put a job post out there. I’ll share what a good job post looks like. And then he asked me, um, and mind you, I don’t have a purview on that. I actually borrowed that from the community, like the community shared what a good job looks like.

So I’ll share what the community shared with me. Uh, but he then asked me, what’s your take on when’s the right time to hire a marketing ops person. And I, I certainly gave him my answer, but like, We kind of went down this path just now. Right. So I’m curious, AIJ like, when do you think, you know, company size revenue size, uh, what do you think we even just talked about, uh, early stage founder, who was like, just going to deploy some sort of marketing automation themselves, right.

It was asking for advice on LinkedIn. So like, does that person need a marketing ops person or what do you think? I mean, I think from pretty much day zero, you need. You need something in marketing ops. Now, whether that is, you know, your future COO who has experience in, in ops to some extent, or whether it’s, you know, a true expert.

I think that we’re, we’re maybe driving towards a world now, um, where people are really starting to understand how important. Is, and that it’s not just something you throw any warm body at and that there’s actually value in staffing it well. Um, so I think we’re going to see that that becomes much more important much earlier in the stage of a company’s.

So I, you know, I think you can’t hardly go wrong from a higher, as soon as you get to the point where, you know, we need to start thinking about how we’re going to market this. You know, if you’re, if you’re maybe a SAS startup and you’re spending a lot of time just engineering upfront, you know, you don’t necessarily need the marketing ops person.

They one for that. But. Yeah, once you start saying, okay, we’re going to, uh, you know, start monetizing this and we’re going to start, uh, you know, getting our, our, our work out there. Um, you definitely need somebody who’s who kind of understands to some extent, how to do that strategically. I think even before you had strategy, sorry, I think you, even before you even have any tools to write, because you need somebody to set that strategy, that framework, you know, do all of the discovery with the different, um, people in the organization, even if it’s a small company and, you know, just to determine like, what are the tools that are best, right.

As opposed to just, okay, well I’m buying this because I have a relationship with the co-founder or, you know, I’ve heard good things about this and it’s brand recognition, but really just kind of determining, you know, somebody who can come in and say, you know, Are we, should we get Marquetto or should we, are we, do we need HubSpot right now?

Or is that something, you know, just what do we need to do before we can, you know, do the whole crawl, walk, run scenario, right. I think that’s important because there’s been a lot of folks that, you know, I’ve known in the marketing ops industry. Who’ve gone into an organization where, you know, maybe senior leadership has bought a whole suite of tools and now they need, they need to hire somebody to run them all.

But then they go in and they’re like, well, I would never. I put these in here to begin with. Right. So then it becomes expensive in depth contracts. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. One of my good friends is going through that right now. There’s like, he’s, you know, um, head of marketing ops at a company and they have like something like 20 something tools.

He’s going to cancel the contracts and bring it down to like, So, yeah, I think that’s a, that’s a really good, an overlooked point that, you know, the, the choice of technology as a strategy in itself, you know, for, you know, you don’t want to hire somebody. Who’s only got experience in, you know, say Eloqua.

And so they say, okay, so we’re going to go and we’re going to get Eloqua onboard. You know, you, you want somebody who’s going to be platform agnostic and say, what does the business need? What’s the right platform to meet our goals at this stage? You know, you can, you can sign up for Eloqua or Marketo later, but maybe right now, all you need is mailed.

Right. Yeah, totally. Well, I mean, I was in, uh, in a, uh, I’m in another community where it’s sort of senior marketing and sales and customer success leaders. And there’s one, there’s a group of marketers. We, I remember someone who was sort of struggling as the only marketing person at a startup. And she was like, if I, you know, and there were a number of us that we have to be talking about MarTech and she’s like, yeah, if you could choose one right.

Invest in tech or invest in people, which would you do? I would go get a person first before I get tech. And this is the guy, this is, I’m the guy here on the call. Who’s a believer in the tech and the ops stuff. But totally think that the people, part of it is probably trumps the technology. Because if you get the right person, you can make the technology do like work, work.

It’s the best. Totally. And, and that was definitely one of the things, uh, uh, pretty much, I don’t think I said as a. As many nuggets of wisdom, as we’re just shared in the, in the like two or three minutes that all of you just shared to this individual that asked me this question, but I definitely. Um, try to overemphasize the idea that when you find that marketing ops person to bring into your organization, and please, please, please bring them into your, the strategy discussions that are relevant to them and are acceptable for them to be a part of, of course, from a business perspective.

But you know, things like, Hey, we think that. The territory model we’re deploying next, uh, next year is going to be really impactful for us. And so we want to kind of think about ABM as a strategy, right? And so bringing that person in sooner, rather than later, before you just turn around and then go like by 6 cents.

And they’re like, Hey, by the way, we bought 6 cents, like, uh, you know, will you do this? Just make it work, just make it work. And, and, and those are, those are things that I think. Historically have been overlooked. I think at this point we’re seeing a bit of a shift, right. Where they’re starting to think about like who, who are kind of our technical, our MarTech stack kind of advisors internally.

And like, let’s, let’s start bringing them in to think about like, Hey, if we wanted to do this, You know, what would be the best way to do it, but that was the thing that I was emphasizing. Right? Like, you know, Naomi, you, you said the same thing. AIJ Michael, like, get somebody who’s there who can think about the strategy of the tool selections based on stage or direction.

Uh, and then, you know, go procure the software that you need to get there. So he was super appreciative of that. So hopefully we can go find that guy, a HubSpot person now.

Oh man. So this has been a really fun conversation age. I wish I had, like, I think we could probably carry on as we usually are. Like at the end, it’s thinking we could carry on for another 15, 20, 30 minutes again. But that being said, I think it’s time to call it. Episode Dunn’s Aja. Thank you so much for your insight today.

Thanks for starting that conversation on LinkedIn a month ago that led to this. If posts online or whatever, want to kind of keep up with you or follow you or whatever, how, how can they do that? Uh, you can find me on LinkedIn or in the MO Pros community on slack. Fantastic. Naomi, Mike, thanks as always.

All right. Thanks everybody. Thanks. Hey Jay, thank you. And all of our listeners. Thank you so much for joining us. Uh, continue to rate, review, send feedbacks and suggestions for guests and topics. We’re always looking forward to it until next time. Bye bye.

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