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12 min read

Scaling your business with Revenue Operations

Data and analytics

This article originates from a panel at the Revenue Marketing Summit in London, 2022. Catch up on this presentation, and others, using our OnDemand service. For more exclusive content, visit your membership dashboard.

I’m Paolo Negrini, Head of Marketing Ops, Tech, and Analytics at Adobe. I’m here today to talk about an important topic. From the title, you may think it’s all about revenue operations (RevOps), scaling your marketing, technology, and marketing operations. But there’s one more thing to consider, which is change.

I want to show you how business is transforming, specifically in marketing and sales. We all know about how to align with marketing and sales, but they also need the ability to change. As businesses, we can help each other ride the wave of transformation.

Over the past couple of years, we've seen dramatic change due to the pandemic, and remote working. Businesses have changed substantially.

As individuals, we are quite resistant to change because it's challenging and often feels like a threat. We don't know what's driving it or what will be on the other side, making it challenging to adapt.

So, let’s look at what’s driving the change, especially in sales and marketing. What are the key drivers? How are businesses adapting to it?

In this article, I’ll cover:

  • The evolution of marketing and technology
  • The rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist
  • The RevOps framework
  • The five pillars of revenue operations
  • The benefits of RevOps: Creating a neutral, holistic, and integrated approach
  • Building a revenue operations framework

The evolution of marketing and technology

Source: Paolo Negrini

Marketing has changed. If you look at the history of marketing, it’s all about technology and how it transforms how we engage with marketing.

From posters, telegraphs, TV, phones, Facebook, Instagram, all these tools. But if you think about it, those are ways in which people are communicating with each other.

Marketing has evolved through the years because it is a way to communicate and share things with others. The more we see technologies and tools that are connecting more and more people, the more we see systems and technology that support those tools.

Source: Paolo Negrini

Marketing technologist Scott Brinker has a really cool chart that shows the explosion of technology in the marketing space over the past decade. You can see a 30x increase in technology aspects that support this change.

However, with this explosion of technology comes the challenge of managing multiple tools and panel systems. How do we effectively handle all of this? That's the challenge.

The rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist

Source: Harvard Business Review

This article from 2014 shows the rise of marketing technologists, as marketing becomes more and more technology-dependent. These are the types of people who are embedded into the tech side of the business, traditionally handled by shift technology officers or chief information officers.

However, now the CMO is coming into the picture more and more. A marketing technologist looks across the organization and helps the CMO make the right decisions in terms of what to invest in and what is relevant.

This person is a bit of a scientist on one side, but also a creative person who handles onboarding the marketers and manages the relationship with different vendors.

Source: Paolo Negrini

If you look at the five-year timeframe (US only), you'll see that CMOs are investing substantially in marketing automation, systems, data analytics, strategy, and all the different services that support marketing. This is a massive increase, and it shows what CMOs are thinking about.

Source: Paolo Negrini

Another important aspect to consider is not just technology but also data and automation. How can we streamline our business processes? How can we automate tasks and reduce the amount of administrative work?

When you have a variety of tools and systems supporting them, there are often many small tasks to manage, which can be time-consuming. If we look at the data, there has been a significant increase in investments in data analytics, marketing technology, and machine learning automation.

Machine learning is not just a fantasy thing we see in fiction. It's a tool that can help businesses with data processing and become more efficient.

Source: Paolo Negrini

But what is the reason for this? There are a couple of things to highlight. Of course, having good product quality is paramount. If you don't have a good product, then it's very hard to sell. But the two crucial things that are highlighted in the image are having a good customer experience, and having excellent service.

So let's assume that you've got a really good, solid product. But having a really good service and customer experience are the crucial aspects.

That’s why if you have more technology, more systems, more touchpoints with your customers, and more data flows into those systems, that allows you to get that perspective from your customer.

Source: Paolo Negrini

In this chart from Verizon, the customer is at the center and you can see the entire 360-degree customer experience across all touchpoints. It refers to lifecycle marketing, customer journey analytics, buyer insights, and understanding your customers better.

It's not just about marketing, but about being close to your customers and helping them. This is key. To me, it goes beyond marketing.

Source: Paolo Negrini

So, if we have to summarize the top-level trends, we see the rise of the omnichannel customer experience.

Customers are everywhere, overly connected, and they engage with us in all sorts of different ways - with sales, customer success, partner resellers, and all different digital tools like social media, email, etc. So, how do we make sure that we have a really good customer experience across every single channel?

The other thing is how do we manage the technology that is all around it? How do we make sure that technology is managed in a way that is efficient, connected, and actually helps our customers rather than slowing us down?

Lastly, we have cross-team collaboration. How do you work with different teams in a way that is super efficient and has a clear strategy alignment? With companies growing so much and having a number of different roles and functions that are customer-facing, how do you do that?

The RevOps framework

Source: Paolo Negrini

So, how do you create organizational alignment? How do we make sure that we move away from the traditional marketing versus sales fight? To me, I always refer to the concept of revenue operations.

This is something that is becoming more and more relevant and present in organizations nowadays, especially newer organizations. But let’s dive into what it actually is.

Let's start from a customer perspective. It's a function that underpins the entire customer journey. It's not just thinking about marketing being responsible up to MQL and maybe a bit of pipeline. It's thinking about the entire process from getting customers, keeping customers, and growing customers.

There are different ways you can engage with your audience, such as service mechanisms, sales functions, partners, resellers, etc. All of those effectively think about how you can derive a personalized omnichannel experience.

The idea is to create alignment between marketing, sales, and customer success. Because if we're all driving toward the same goal, that's how we're going to be able to create that experience. It’s really about aligning the entire organization around the customer.

So it's important to have a revenue operations function because that function is the one that can connect the dots across the entire organization. It's the one that can bring together data, process, and technology, and align the different teams around a common goal.

And so that's why revenue operations is really, really important. It's about creating that alignment and ensuring that we're all driving towards the same goal, which is creating an exceptional customer experience.

The five pillars of revenue operations

Source: Paolo Negrini

Revenue operations support these five areas of responsibility:

  • Strategic planning: Aligning different functions across the organization.
  • Business analytics: Syncing up data in a way that can be used to help customers.
  • Process design: Ensuring all touchpoints are connected and governance is in place.
  • Commercial technology: Building an integrated technology system.
  • Systems enablement: Ensuring that people understand how to use tools and systems in the right way.
Source: Paolo Negrini

Let's jump into a bit more detail. So, strategic planning. We know marketing and sales need to get close to understanding the product fit. Starting from the top level:

  • What is your total addressable market?
  • What is your total serviceable market?
  • Your market analysis, your customers, your prospects, how do they look?

Business modeling is all about understanding how your business works.

  • What is your waterfall model?
  • What are the different touchpoints and conversion rates?

Then it's much easier to bring everyone on the same page and run the business.

Running a business is hard, and lots of companies are doing it differently. Having joint QBRs that involve marketing and sales at the same time helps break down those boundaries.

Maybe you have weekly reviews and feedback loops from the marketing team to listen in to the whole business on a regular basis.

Your business analytics is foundational to your data strategy, where the data lives, how you structure it, and which system it lives in. How do you make sure that it's solid and integrated? Then you get into descriptive and diagnostic reports.

What reports are you using, and how do you centralize them? The other thing is your predictive and advanced analytics, which is about forecasting and understanding where to invest your limited resources in the best way.

Process design is about the simplest things, like how lead routing works, how leads flow into your sales function, and what is the selling process. How do you define the process within opportunities, what are the gates entry, gates, exit gates?

Documentation is essential, even though it's often neglected. It's one of those things that the more we do, the better it is because new people can come in and know what's going on.

Commercial technology is not just sales stack and MarTech. It's system architecture, how you bring everything together, how you manage the vendors, and how you support and administer those systems.

System enablement is about onboarding a new system and making sure everyone adopts it. How do you upskill the team on a new tool? These are the five pillars that support revenue operations.

The benefits of RevOps: creating a neutral, holistic, and integrated approach

Source: Paolo Negrini

In a traditional organization, you've got a VP of marketing that looks at the entire marketing function, and you've got marketing operations that usually support that function from a technology and process perspective. Then you've got a VP of sales, sales and customer success, and sales operations that looks at how the sales function performs.

In a RevOps world, you add another layer, a VP of RevOps that effectively takes ownership of the traditional marketing ops and sales ops areas. That's your three-layer approach.

Source: Paolo Negrini

So what’s the advantage of the three-layered approach? Because it feels like we’re creating another silo. To me, there are three main reasons why you’d like to move in that direction.

You have a neutral party

You have somebody that sits outside of the games, somebody that doesn't have the same level of incentives, has different incentives, and is not somebody that could score marketing or sales homework. You might have a lack of trust from the other party, so having a neutral party is a really good thing.

You have a holistic point of view

Again, talking about incentives, you don't have the VP of Sales saying, "We have to go in that direction because XYZ," while the CMO is saying, "Let's actually go in the other direction because PMMs are driving us on that other angle." To solve that, you need to have a holistic perspective that looks at the entire process end-to-end.

You have an integrated approach

You might have a situation where you have your analytics function with the marketing design, a really shiny, cool-looking SQL server where all the data sits, and then the sales function does the same.

Then you start having two different systems, a lot of different complexities, data that doesn't talk to each other, and dashboards and reports that conflict with each other. Then you stop looking at what's driving the business and what's actually helping a customer.

That's why I brought in the customer obsession principle from Amazon, which I really like. I think RevOps is a function that supports that perspective.

Building a Revenue Operations framework

Source: Paolo Negrini

But how do you start? Where do you begin building it? Do you need to hire a ton of people? What are the steps to start looking into that?

I’d start very simply, and that really depends on the size of your company, where you are, and what your goals are. If you’re a large company, you might look different because you already have a number of people in seats. If you’re a smaller company, you might have more flexibility.

In general terms, the way I would always think about it is by using a maturity model exercise. You can take those nine points and score them one to five, and then say, "Okay, how am I doing in terms of the first point and defining goals? Am I there? Am I not there? How do I do that?"

So, number one for me is setting common grounds. Setting common grounds means defining co-owned goals and having a way for marketing and sales to work together closely. This involves ensuring that the same goals are in place for marketing and sales and they are very intertwined.

The second point is agreeing on a target-setting methodology. This is essential because you might start bottom-up and work out what you can deliver with the budget you have, or you can work from a financial perspective and say, "Okay, from a financial perspective, this is where we need to hit."

Then, there is agreeing on a shared BI and taxonomy. This means having a central point where business intelligence is stored and ensuring that you are speaking the same language. Building the foundation is also crucial, which involves integrating systems infrastructure and defining processes and governance.

For instance, account creation can be a very challenging one. You need to ensure that the roles and responsibilities are clean and clear and everyone is on the same page.

Establishing a business cadence is also important, whether it is a weekly or quarterly cadence, or maybe both. You need to ensure that everyone is in sync.

Additionally, it’s essential to set very clear roles and responsibilities for swimlanes to avoid overlaps, and to establish an open feedback loop with your sales and marketing teams, as well as your customers.

Finally, centralizing the knowledge base and training is crucial. You need to have a central place, such as a wiki, to manage and centralize the knowledge base, especially when you have a new person coming in.

Source: Paolo Negrini

All of those things will help us anticipate change. And now, more than ever, it's super important to understand what kind of future scenarios we might face, how we can anticipate them and prepare ourselves.

There's an interesting quote from Satya, CEO of Microsoft, saying how COVID-19 gave us a digital transformation worth two years in just two months. That's pretty insane to think about.

Another change we are expecting is a transition from cookies to a cookieless world. Technology, data privacy, everything is changing, so how will we adapt to them?

Another major thing that we are experiencing now is an increase in inflation. Increasing inflation means increasing costs. How do we streamline operations to reduce those costs and be more agile? If you understand what's going on and what are the insights, you can use technology and data to overcome those challenges.

To me, technology is going to be key. It's one of those primary catalysts shaping the world. Always be curious, learn, adapt to change, and embrace change, because it's very hard but it can be a really good thing.

Always have a growth mindset and figure out what's new, what’s next, and how you can leverage what's coming in a positive way to help your business and customers.

Written by:

Paolo Negrini

Paolo Negrini

Paolo is the Head of Marketing Ops, Tech, and Analytics at Adobe.

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Scaling your business with Revenue Operations