Data and Ops: At the Core of Marketing

Data fluency, digital savvy, and a feel for marketing operations have become core skills for the modern marketer. That’s the clear message I got at the ZoomInfo Growth Summit last week, especially from separate conversations with Mike Volpe of Cybereason and Joe Chernov of InsightSquared.

Interestingly, although Volpe and Chernov share a consensus view of the importance of data and technology, they come to it from different perspectives. Mike Volpe, who played a large role in growing Hubspot as its CMO, now utilizes data to market Cybereason’s detection and response security seasons. Chernov, who worked on Volpe’s Hubspot team, is selling sales intelligence software to clients themselves involved in using marketing technology to power performance.

Baseline analytics expectations are raised for everyone

In a presentation to the conference, Volpe sketched the balance of his ideal marketing team, based around four core competencies: digital, analytical (data fluency), reach, and content. Simplifying the funnel to “attract, convert, close,” Volpe looks for data skills especially at the second (convert) stage. But he emphasizes that all marketers today “need some basic fluency in data,” and the average expected fluency is much higher than it was five or ten years ago — even in creative categories like writers and graphic designers. “Writers need to be somewhat analytical,” he said; they at least need to know how to measure the success of a blog.

However: “While the baseline expectation is higher for everyone, you also need more analytics experts than you used to need. What’s especially hard is recruiting people who have heavy duty analytical expertise and digital knowledge.” In other words, someone might be able to apply sophisticated analytics techniques to data from Facebook or Instagram, without necessarily understanding the role of social media platforms in a marketing strategy. “You need to understand the context behind the data,” he said.

If you need data experts, does that mean IT still has a role? “It depends on what you mean by IT,” he said. “Pure IT, no. The cloud has enabled business units to be more independent. You do need someone to be responsible for managing systems: That’s now the marketing operations role.”

A patron saint to marketing ops

Cue Chernov, who emphasizes the importance to a business like InsightSquared of engaging directly with marketing ops professionals.

The InsightSquared sales intelligence solution converts Salesforce CRM data into readily understood reports and visuals. In effect, it makes data friendly to non-data experts; and it goes beyond pure Salesforce data to the extent Salesforce ingests and integrates data from other systems like Marketo.

InsightSquared’s founders “started with the idea that they would do for business intelligence what Hubspot was doing for marketing technology,” Chernov told me: In other words, they would make it more accessible to the midmarket. “Larger companies with deeper pockets and more human resources had an unfair advantage” when it came to assimilating and interpreting sales and marketing data.

There was an initial concern that marketing ops professionals would perceive something like InsightSquared as a threat: as something which would usurp the marketing ops role in making Salesforce work and understanding its output.

In  fact, when Chernov inspected InsightSquared’s successful deals, he found that having marketing ops involved in the transaction was a good thing from every metric. In other words, he explained, good marketing ops professionals welcomed the solution. “We discovered that we should seek them out,” he said. “We should become the patron saint of ops. They want to get out of being spreadsheet jockeys. The more time they spend on that, the less strategic they become.”

Following my chat with Volpe, I asked Chernov if the ops role within marketing teams is new and evolving. “It’s not a new role,” he said, “but specializations in product are relatively new.” As soon as marketing systems of record developed (going back to Salesforce and Eloqua), there were ops specialties. Indeed, he explained, whenever a new category is created in the marketing and sales tech space, “it will give rise to an ops specialty. Your team then needs a person who can make data accessible and reconcilable with adjacent functions.”

By taking away routine work from ops staffers, InsightSquare seeks to free them up for higher order priorities. Ultimately, said Chernov, a good marketing ops manager should be able to “play a consigliere role” to the CRO or CMO, “Almost a chief of staff.”

The message is consistent. The systems which make up the marketing stack, and the data they generate, need to be understood: at a granular level by marketing ops, and at a high level by today’s CMO. “I think it’s critical,” Volpe said of the latter point. Ten or 15 years ago, CMOs tended to come from a brand background: Now they’re more likely to be from lead gen. But whatever their experience, CMO’s need to be “tech-centric. They need to know what systems they have and how they tie together.” 

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