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Jamie Sloan (InVision) on Strategic Marketing Operations

On this week’s episode of Scaleup Marketing, I’m joined by Jamie Sloan, the Senior Director, Marketing Operations and Automation at InVision. Jamie talks about the evolution of marketing operations from tactical to strategic, why process is important to scale, and the one marketing tool she would keep above all others.

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:00] hey, Jamie, how are you? 

Jamie Sloan: [00:00:02] I’m good. Thanks, Tom. How are 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:03] you? I’m fantastic. Thanks for agreeing to do this with me. 

Jamie Sloan: [00:00:07] Happy to be here. Thanks for having me. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:09] So you’re a marketing operations, virtuoso, I think is the word I’ve called you 

before.

Jamie Sloan: [00:00:17] I don’t know if I’d use that word, but, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:18] About your, your background and path into marketing operations and how you’ve progressed to your current role at InVision. 

Jamie Sloan: [00:00:26] Sure. So when I started a long time ago in marketing ops, I didn’t actually know what it was. I sort of just fell into it and everything I found myself doing at my job.

Eventually my boss was like, you know, this is marketing operations, right? And so I read everything I could about really what that was and realized kind of, that was what I was interested in the technical side of marketing systems and reporting and data and how that all works together and trying to make marketing more of a science and not just an art.

And then since then by either by design or just by luck, I’ve had some mentors, yourself [00:01:00] included who have really believed in the importance of ops and, and giving up the seat at the table and resources and the ability to build a team. And, and a lot of chances to do that type of thing that, you know, maybe I wouldn’t have had at either different types of companies or different roles, but so far I’ve been able to build some really good teams and invest in some really cool tools and had a lot of opportunities that I’m really lucky.

I got to have. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:01:22] Cool and InVision you’ve, you’ve been individually for how long. It 

Jamie Sloan: [00:01:26] was four years in October. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:01:27] Cool. And InVision has this enormous marketing funnel that you are the steward over, right? 

Jamie Sloan: [00:01:35] Yeah. What’s funny about InVision is we are a startup and a smaller kind of scrappier company and team, but we really do have big company problems.

We have this, you know, 10 million person database that we’re dealing with. So our problems are at a big scale and we have to deal with everything we have to do is around scale and around. Being able to sustain this large database and, you know, handle kind of systems that work at the [00:02:00] scale that we’re operating at, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:02:02] that was a subtle flax.

The 10 million, the 10 million database was a, that was a little bit of a flex on the audience. Huh? 

Jamie Sloan: [00:02:09] We did a Marquetto migration a few months back that we jokingly, barely survived, but. You know, I’ve done two of these now in my career. I really don’t ever want to do one again, but honestly, having done it at a small scale and then having done it now at a much larger scale, the problems you have or the not even problems, but the situations you have to deal with, the decisions you have to make at the size of database that InVision has.

The stakes are just so much higher. The systems and tools are out there. Aren’t always set up to work at the scale that we need to work at. And we don’t always have the resources to do something we’re not Amex. We’re not some huge company who has, you know, this massive budget and tons of people working around the clock.

There’s just a small team and we’re trying to make all this stuff work. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:02:51] So marketing, operation, something you’ve been doing for a while. It is a role that sort of came out of nowhere. At one point marketing ops, you know, [00:03:00] before marketing automation existed, I don’t know what they used to call marketing ops people back then, but it sort of came about as a result of Eloqua and HubSpot and Marquette and others.

But how do you define marketing operations? 

Jamie Sloan: [00:03:16] How I define it has honestly changed in the last several years. I would say when I started, it’s kind of what I thought about is more maybe traditional marketing operations around the funnel on processes, MarTech and your tech stack, the lead hand off with sales, things like that.

I think of that as kind of, that’s kind of always been the core to marketing ops reporting on ROI, that type of thing. In recent years, I’ve really noticed this trend towards more of this planning and strategy function of operations. So it’s everything from. What campaigns do we go to market with and how do we intake those campaigns and plan for them it’s around budget and decisions around your budget and how you spend it and allocate it.

OKR development tracking of your OKR revenue planning is a big one that I keep hearing being [00:04:00] talked about that kind of used to happen. And, you know, maybe in finance or behind closed doors or the board members would decide now, you know, marketing ops people are being asked to. You know, what revenue can marketing drive?

What number can you sign up for? How can it be a part of that revenue number that your company is trying to drive? And how do we model that and what should it look like? We’re involved in all of those conversations that I don’t think we always were. And I think that’s only helped to elevate the function and give it more of a seat at the table than ever really has had before, which makes me excited to be a part of it.

Tom Wentworth: [00:04:29] I’ve always, I think I’ve written before. I’ve always thought of. I’ve always wanted marketing operations to report into me as the CML. And I’ve also always wanted the marketing operations role to be more of a chief of staff. But my question to you is, and it sounds like you’re playing that role right now in InVision.

How much? So are you, do you own like, talk about budget? Do you own the budget or are you more helping back decisions? Someone else’s making with data? 

Jamie Sloan: [00:04:59] That’s a [00:05:00] great question. I think of myself as I own the SAS budget and that I’m the person responsible for. Are we deploying these dollars that we’re using for SAS tools in the most appropriate way?

Is there a redundancy? Is there shelfware even for tools that my team really has nothing to do with maybe for the social media marketing tool or, you know, they’re a PR management tool or something like that. We may not be in them using them, but I think of myself as owning the SAS budget, how are we spending.

Are the tools deployed as well as they can be. Are they integrated correctly? Is the renewal being handled, right? You know, are we paying for this in the right way? Could we replace it with something else that we already have? Is there a better tech out there that we should be considering? That sort of where I think of myself as owning the budget on the kind of.

Program spend, I guess I think I’ve played different roles at different companies. Some companies it’s a bit more scientific. You remember, in our time at Aquia, we were down to the dollar, you know, how much our ad spend was, what we were getting from those [00:06:00] leads, cost per lead ROI metrics that kind of told us from finance, Hey, we need 500 K in this ad or whatever it was.

Other companies I think are a little bit less scientific about it and it’s more of just a percentage calculation, but I think I’ve seen it kind of the whole spectrum of ways you can do that. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:06:15] Are you allowed to say no? So let’s say that somebody wants to run some campaign and you have all the data that shows that historically that thing is just not going to work.

Do you have the ability, do you think someone in, in, in that sort of chief of staff role should have the ability to be able to sort of veto things? 

Jamie Sloan: [00:06:35] I like saying no, but I like doing it in a way that. Is a no, but so I think it’s the opposite of the yes. And philosophy that some people have. So I think for me, I spent a lot, it took me a while to get here.

When I started, I was trying to be everything for everyone. And I was trying to say yes to everything, but I pretty quickly learned that if something goes wrong, It’s really myself, who’s on the line. [00:07:00] So if we rush something out and, you know, send an incorrect campaign, or if we, you know, mess up targeting and an ad or something like that at the end of the day, I’m the person who’s on the hook for that.

So I really take pride in making sure that we have processes in place where, you know, we have our full process end to end. We can take the campaign in correctly, the right people review it. It goes through QA. It goes through the normal kind of channels for launch. And we only kind of. Deviate from that.

If it’s, there’s a real reason, there’s an urgent reason, a support issue that we have to announce or a really big opportunity that just presented itself. Aside from that, I like everything to really go through the right process in the right channels. And to only make exceptions, if there’s a real reason, if everything is an exception, then you don’t give yourself time to handle the actual exceptions.

Everything just becomes a special snowflake. So I really enjoy being able to make sure that things go through the right process and the right checks. And that if a campaign doesn’t feel impactful enough we don’t spend time on it. We don’t spend resources on it. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:07:59] I remember [00:08:00] I think it was you who built the, should we send this email calculator?

And it was, it was the dumb math of all right. You want to send an email to 400 people with a 30% open rate and a 4% click rate. You’re going to get that email in front of four people. So no, you should not send that email. 

Jamie Sloan: [00:08:19] Yup. That’s I love that calculator. And I definitely do that math and encourage my team to do that math all the time 

Tom Wentworth: [00:08:25] should build that as a Chrome extension.

It would be a pretty simple point. Oh, absolutely. So talk about, so process is really important because what you just said to me sounds like it’s slow. You know, I work at a fast paced company. You’re you’re slowing me down. We’ve got to get this campaign out. COO said we don’t have time. How do you handle.

The, you know, how having a rigid process in the face of the business always won. Always being told to move faster, because this is something I struggle with in my company. I drive real things really fast here, [00:09:00] and I know there are consequences because of skipping some of the process stuff. 

Jamie Sloan: [00:09:05] I’m a believer that if you are thorough and follow the process, you’ll get better results and better quality from the things you’re doing.

And so we spend time thinking through, you know, look at all the available audiences and what message would work best for them, or looking at the full calendar and making sure that we space emails out correctly so that we get better. Open rates and click rates and lower unsub rates. So for me, it’s about getting more bang for your buck or more, more juice from the squeeze.

And so I think it’s really important to be thoughtful and get the most out of the activities you’re doing. The other thing that I think is important is we involved our stakeholders in the intake process. So we didn’t just sort of roll out this like. Super crazy process where people have to fill in a million forms to request the campaign.

And it’s a huge headache. We sat down with the team and talked through. These are the things we need to know from you to launch a campaign. This is how we’re thinking of having you provide that info. Does this work for you? And they tested [00:10:00] it and they gave feedback on parts that were kind of friction, you know, had friction in them or parts that were simple and easy.

Then we built it together. So it didn’t really feel like us forcing a one size fits all sort of answer to it. We gave people buy-in and built buy-in with them to make it a more kind of team built process. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:10:19] What percent of the campaigns that you help support go through the process versus are the one-off escalations.

Jamie Sloan: [00:10:31] Maybe, maybe there’s the occasional, but it wouldn’t even probably be a percentage point on the graph. I get mad at my team. If they go, I don’t actually get mad at them, but I I’m strict with my team on making sure that things follow the process. Because again, if they don’t. It’s me, right? Who’s the person, who’s the face of our email program and our digital messaging program.

And if it was important enough to do it was important enough to ask for it at the right time. And if [00:11:00] it wasn’t part of the planning process, then you know, nothing’s going to change. If it happens a week later, other than you’ll get a better campaign and it’ll probably have better results than if I rushed to get it out tomorrow.

Wow. I also don’t feel like my deadlines are that all of the deadlines are, I think they’re tight enough. Where I can defend them. We’re not saying we need six months to do something. So I feel, I feel good about the, the deadlines and SLS we’ve agreed on with our stakeholders. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:11:24] So let’s say Brian, Kardon, your COO comes to you and says, Jamie, we really need to get this thing out real quickly.

Sorry. You say no to your CO2? Or does he get a pass? 

Jamie Sloan: [00:11:36] I’ll let you know if he does know. I think I think there’s obviously exceptions, but I think for the most part, the way we would handle it, it’s not a, no, it’s an, it’s a, you know, yes, we can do it. I guess this is my yes. And right. It’s yes, we can do it and we’ll be able to do it on this date.

And the reason I think he respects me more for being able to say, if we do it in the timeframe that we’re supposed to be doing these things. I’ll make sure it’s, you know, error-free, [00:12:00] it’ll go to the audience, you know, this week they already got an email next week. They don’t have one scheduled. There’s all those sorts of things that I think for the most part are pretty well understood.

Now the exception is probably sales. So sometimes sales says, Hey, we have this huge renewal at risk. Can you help us spin something up? So we do reserve resources on our teams to handle that kind of thing. And so, but we know we have a kind of programmatic way to handle it. We are aware that that’s going to come and we save some time in our work schedules and calendars to handle that.

But everything else I kind of make go through the right channels. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:12:32] And how, w D was this something that was already in place before you got to InVision? Or is this a process you put in place when you joined. 

Jamie Sloan: [00:12:39] Definitely wasn’t already in place before I joined on all of the marketing ops function really has been built over the last few years.

I think it’s been a joint effort between demand gen my, my team. Some of our other stakeholders that we’ve really built collaboratively. I don’t think it’s something where I don’t think it would work if it was just one team being like, this is the way we’re doing it. Everyone has [00:13:00] to follow. I think it’s really been kind of a give and take in a collaborative process.

We also have someone on the team, who’s a magician with automation. So you fill in a form and it like magically creates things in a sauna and on calendars and fills out forms for you. So she’s made it really go from being what could have been like this arduous process to something that seems streamlined and easy.

Which really, I think helps. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:13:23] Got it. So was there any friction, so rolling out process. I can imagine if you’re used to. Just getting stuff, just do it mentality. Is it hard for companies to make that switch to getting? Cause I feel like it recorded future. We’re a little bit in that same stage where we’ve got we’re much bigger than we used to be.

We’ve got many more we’ve you know, we used to have one product now we have six, so we’ve got six different teams, all wanting to get their campaigns out. And yet we don’t have that kind of rigid process. How do you make a process stick? 

[00:14:00] Jamie Sloan: [00:14:00] I think I’ve been able to prove it with data and that we’ve been able to show that if you’re more thoughtful about the audience and the segmentation for your emails, you get better engagement rates, your unsubscribe rates go down and things like that.

And so we do actually, we did this Aquia too, but we do a monthly calendar review here. Or we look at the next month and the rest of the quarter. And we look at the available audiences and the campaigns people want to run and we slot them in accordingly. So I think part of it is prove it with data show the, what happens.

If you’re more thoughtful about your targeting, you put more time into it. You have more review cycles and better quality. Maybe you going to have time to run AB tests or test your audience, segmentation, things like that. You’ll get better results and more out of your campaign. And we’re talking, I’m talking about a few days delay here, like a week delay.

We’re not talking months. So I think to me that the, the trade-off seems well worth it. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:14:52] No, fair enough. So. I need 

Jamie Sloan: [00:14:56] to address also I have three little kids. And [00:15:00] so I understand that if you don’t set boundaries, you will get walked all over. So if I just, you know, let them this one time, it’s a special snowflake, you know, they’re gonna, they’re gonna abuse that.

So I kind of apply that same principle to work where. The rules are here for the good of all of us. It’s not me being a stickler or anything like that. It’s really because this is the path that we’ve agreed on as a leadership team works for our company. And so I take my, my parenting principles with three little monsters running around and I try to bring those to kind of the, the programs plan at InVisions.

Tom Wentworth: [00:15:33] It’s good training for you. So you’ve talked about team a few times. How do you, so talk to me about your team? Like what the roles are, how do you organize them? 

Jamie Sloan: [00:15:42] Sure. Yeah. Like I said before, I think I’ve been able to be at companies that believed in marketing ops. So I think it’s easy to be like, Oh, we’ll hire one more program’s person, because you can quantify one person runs X number of programs with X ROI.

I think that’s a little bit harder in ops roles because we’re more behind [00:16:00] the scenes. So I think I’ve been lucky to have mentors and bosses who have respected what goes into a solid marketing ops team and given me the ability to build my team. And so right now I’ve got kind of, I have three areas that I look after.

One is kind of the traditional marketing ops that I was talking about around the funnel and around the lead handoff and systems and technology. Then I run the digital messaging team and the digital messaging team is email our website chat in our in-app chat. And then I recently took over the SDR team, the inbound sales kind of up team.

And the thought there is that these are the regenerating, the marketing leads and sending them to sales. And now we’re more closely aligned with the team that is following up. So making sure that they can handle these responses at scale, that they’re using all the tools and technology to the best of their ability that they understand measurement and how we’re looking at SLS and conversion rates and things like that.

So kind of bringing those all together under my team seem to make sense, we’ll see [00:17:00] how it plays out, but that was a pretty recent change. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:17:03] Wow. That’s an unusual structure that, that doesn’t re rarely lives in ops, right? 

Jamie Sloan: [00:17:09] Yeah, I think so. I think for us at having such a large inbound funnel, like we were talking about earlier, You know, incremental improvements and process and up can have, you know, huge results down the line.

So I think the team sees that. And so my team also runs all the followup cadences around like automated leads, where we test messaging and test things to drive up open rates and clicks and things like that. So it kind of makes sense because, you know, from that sampling, we’re already doing a lot of the followup and messaging stuff.

And now we’ll have the STR kind of role in there as well. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:17:42] Cool. That’s cool. The, the, the STRs, like being in, or are they in sales previously? 

Jamie Sloan: [00:17:48] They in sales previously so far they’ve seemed positive. I think they get it because they. They understand how kind of the marketing leads and the health of those marketing leads.

And the followup process is so [00:18:00] integral to them hitting their quota. So they actually feel like they have a closer alignment and more buy-in and more levers to pull, to get to their quota than I think they did before. So they’re actually excited to have these weekly meetings with the people on my team about, you know, making sure that they see all their leads and how many touches they’re doing and you know, what types are they following up with and running free reheating campaigns and re-engagement campaigns.

They’re jazzed about that because they see it as a path to get to their quota, which is really what they care about. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:18:29] Yeah.  How are you measured, annually?

What are your OKR is that you’re held to. 

Jamie Sloan: [00:18:36] That’s a great question. Definitely on the sales side, it’s kind of easy to answer that because it’s just around a number of opportunities. And then I think beyond that, there’s a part of my team that owns channel health. So I’m looking, we’re measuring, you know, how email is performing and contributing to the business, how our website chat and how our in-app chat are performing and contributing to the business.

So those are monetary and you can measure those relatively easily. [00:19:00] On the marketing ops side or kind of the traditional marketing ops side for me, a really important metric is around conversion rate because if you’re qualifying the right leads and sending them over and pushing that in the right direction and then, you know, hitting your targets.

I think that’s really what we care about. And so that side of the team owns lead scoring and lead routing. And what we’re, what are we doing for followup and all of that kind of type of thing. So they are really able to influence that conversion rate and opportunity number more so than maybe some other teams.

So those are kind of the big ticket ones. And then beyond that, we always have a line items that are OKR is around projects or tech implementations or things like that. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:19:40] Got it. So it’s more like there’s no one who owns a number around certainly around opportunity creation, but there’s not like a conversion rate improvement number or, or is there 

Jamie Sloan: [00:19:52] I’ve had them.

I’ve had quarters where we have had that if we have been implementing a specific activity aligned to that, but not [00:20:00] every quarter, but one quarter we may be rolling out a new lead scoring tool. And the thing we’re going to measure is that it could be increased conversion rate 10%. But I don’t think it’s something that is maybe happens every single quarter.

Got 

Tom Wentworth: [00:20:11] it. So what does a typical daylight look for you? So we’ve talked a lot about what you, what your team and where your team spends their time as the, and how many people are on your team. 

Jamie Sloan: [00:20:21] I have a few open heads right now. I think when all is said and done, we’ll be probably around 12. Wow. I have to manage teams at InVision upwards of 26 to 30 people.

I’ve managed different functions, including the web developers, including the project management group, things like that. As we’ve gone through some reorgs and. Re strategy what’s that, that I say re strategy as we’ve gone through some, as we’ve gone through some reorgs and kind of repositioning of focused on the marketing team, that’s gone up and down and changed a bit.

But yeah, I’ve managed up to, I think, 30 people or so at a time. Wow. 

[00:21:00] Tom Wentworth: [00:21:00] So what does your day look like other than, I guess probably just doing zoom one-on-ones or for 

Jamie Sloan: [00:21:05] all day. Zoom calls. That’s what my day looks like. PowerPoint decks and zoom calls, I think is what my middle name is. I mean, not really is a lot of it, to be honest, but for me, it’s around making sure that I’m keeping an eye on.

The big ticket items and the big numbers that matter and not losing focus and going down rabbit holes or being too reactive when it comes to requests. So I think for me, I’m just trying to keep the team focused on the things that matter, trying to hold the guardrails for them around keeping their focus and not getting dragged into projects that maybe aren’t aligned to the team’s goals or the company’s goals removing blockers for them around, you know, getting things done.

I think there’s a lot. There’s a big component around data, quarterly business reviews, yearly business reviews revenue planning, and alignment with other teams. And then I think for me, it’s important to build relationships within sales ops, regular sales, [00:22:00] finance, business technology, and I spend time working on those relationships and working cross-functionally with those groups beyond arcade.

Tom Wentworth: [00:22:08] What’s the biggest misconception about marketing ops?

 I think the misconception is that marketing ops is about marketing automation. I think for so long, the role was so tied to a tool like HubSpot, Marketo Pardot. When what you just described, what your team does and you do is such a different, such a much bigger thing.

You didn’t mention. Marketing automation really wants other than to talk about. How big your database was. 

Jamie Sloan: [00:22:40] I think for me I’m trying to build a team of people that are dangerous in a whole bunch of different areas.

So we have people on the team that own quote, unquote, different tools or pieces of technology, but we don’t want single points of failure. And we don’t want people who can just do one thing. So we really do have kind of shared [00:23:00] competencies across the group. Anyone can jump into drift and create a campaign on the team, even if their day-to-day role isn’t related to drift and website chat, or anyone can send an email, even if their core job is it about deploying emails.

And that’s important to me to make sure that people understand every piece of what goes into a campaign in, and if someone needs help or if bandwidth is tight in one area, we can all accommodate that. I mean, I think it keeps us from being too siloed. And that’s when, when you’re super siloed, I think that’s when breakdowns and efficiency can happen because you’re only focused on like you’re one cog in the wheel or you’re one little piece, I’d rather have a team that is kind of multifunctional and dangerous.

There he is. But I still, I still do try to make sure that everybody knows those, what they would have to wake up and worry about. So even if you know, someone, isn’t the person worrying about drifts, someone else is, and someone else is looking every day at. Response rates for conversations and traffic and conversion and performance of different bots and things like that.

So being clear on swim lanes, I guess, of who owns what, who does, who is [00:24:00] responsible for what, but then making sure people can help each other and can be successful in all different areas. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:24:06] All right, Jamie, I’ve got one last question for you. So we talked about, we just talked about how marketing ops is not just about tech, but I’m going to ask you a tech question anyway.

So if you had to throw out everything, you can only keep one piece of, of your tech stack. What would you keep? And it can’t be Marketa. 

Jamie Sloan: [00:24:27] I could only keep one piece of my tech stack and it can’t be Marquetto. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:24:32] Hmm, put another way. Tell us something cool that you’re doing that that no one else is doing. And you want to, you want to educate the world on, 

Jamie Sloan: [00:24:46] I could only keep one piece of technology aside from Marquetto no, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:24:50] you had to throw my cattle out to throw it out. I’ll let you keep it. You can it up. Okay. But only one other, 

[00:25:00] Jamie Sloan: [00:25:00] only one other one that I think is particularly cool is Pendo. In Pendo you’re able to it’s, it’s a digital message, digital messaging tool within your product or your app.

And so for us, you know, what’s cool about Pendo is you’re you’re getting to people where they’re working. So with email, I think you’re trying to reach them. Maybe they’re just watching TV and reading their email, or maybe they’re, you know, hopefully not driving and reading their email, but maybe they’re in the car or they’re at their kid’s school pickup line.

So it can be hard to get them to do an action that you want them to do from their inbox. What I like about Pendo is you can reach people while they’re working and you can offer them related tips, you know, here to do the next thing. Or this is a related piece of content. You can get super targeted on what you’re offering and how you’re offering it.

And I think the challenge for us has been. The time to really explore what you can do and the ability to build kind of Daisy, Daisy chain campaigns and things like that. So we’ve been a bit sort of execution focused so far, but I’m hopeful that [00:26:00] this year we can really kind of up the ante with Kendo and think about it as a tool that we can use for everything to help from onboarding all the way through the whole life cycle with our customers and use it as a real engagement tool to drive deeper use of our product.

Tom Wentworth: [00:26:15] Awesome. Well, Jamie, thanks so much. I think we talked a lot about what I was hoping to talk about, which is how strategic marketing operations can be when done. Right. And obviously you’ve done it right over to InVision. So thanks for taking some time for me today. Thanks 

Jamie Sloan: [00:26:29] Tom. It’s always fun to chat with you and I appreciate you having me, Jamie.

Tom Wentworth: [00:26:33] Bye.

By Tom Wentworth

CMO at Recorded Future | Formerly Acquia, RapidMiner | I like math, open source, and the Smashing Pumpkins

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