With Sara McNamara Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Slack
To grow your career you need to learn how to brand yourself internally and externally. To do that, you need to know how to elevate the role of marketing ops from donut-maker to strategic partner. Sara McNamara, Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Slack, covers those topics, plus advice on when to look for when evaluating new positions and how to work more effectively with leadership.
Sara McNamara is a Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Slack. She is an award-winning marketing and sales operations professional whose work has been recognized by the likes of Salesforce (Pardot), Adobe (Marketo), Drift, and LeanData.
Sarah is passionate about leveraging technology and processes to improve the experiences of marketers, sales professionals, and prospects alike -- and to grow businesses.
How can you better brand yourself as Marketing Ops, both internally and externally?
A lot of it has to do with delivering things, as simple as that sounds. A lot of people talk the talk, but can you also walk the walk?
It helps that I'm really proud that the marketers that I work with. We have great relationships. They know that I'm in it with them. When I give advice on LinkedIn or anywhere else, I try to think about what is going to help people.
You often see hype posts around Marketing Ops. While it sounds great, I’m not really into it because it probably won't work in reality or only works for a really specific group of people.
Being real goes a long way to creating strong relationships which helps to build your brand.
How do you manage adoption for changes you release or new products that you bring into the stack?
Adoption becomes a big issue when you don't communicate with people. I try to meet with not only marketing, but also with sales and sales operations. I want to have some kind of cadence because then generally people are on the same page.
It’s a great usage of slack too. I can communicate, “Hey, here are the things we're focused on. Here's the status. Here's how it may affect you.” I'll personalize it for each group to let them know what's coming up that I may need their help on. Or that they may see a ticket or something like that to give them a heads up.
In terms of adoption, something, a mistake that I see a lot of people make is assuming. For instance, on the executive level, they tend to think if they direct someone to do something that person is going to be thrilled and they're going to want to do it.
The classic example of change adoption in marketing operations is replacing any kind of platform. Leadership will often drop the change on the people who may feel passionately about it but don’t have a say in the decision itself.
I understand that not everyone can be a part of the decision itself. Tell them, “I want your perspective. No, I can't necessarily change our decision based on it, but you're a valued member and I want to hear your perspective so we can consider it.”
That’s important because I found that when people feel like they're along for the journey, they will adopt it.
When someone has a request for something to change, what are common questions that you use to be able to dive a little bit deeper and qualify those requests?
First, ask about the expected outcome. You want the backstory of what led up to this point of asking for the request.
It largely depends on the question, but if it's something like, “Hey, why is this campaign this way?” I'll either be able to answer the question or refer them to documentation, a JIRA ticket, or to someone who might know the answer. That example is a little more straightforward than if it's something like, “Hey, I want to look into this new strategy or this new tool.”
I try to take the time to understand the context of why the question is coming up, what their goals are, and then also get a sense of the level of priority. I'll often ask whether executives have been looped into this and did they have a take on it?
I have a weekly cadence with executives where I'll ask, “Hey, this came up in a conversation. Is this something that we should be focused? What's your take on it?” Usually they have some sort of insight.
I lean on that process of questioning a lot to get a sense of what is the purpose of a change request and where the priority lies. The backstory helps me either figure out what’s behind the why and who the players are that should be involved.
How do you allocate time for training and professional development when you already have a ton of work to do professionally?
I always tell leadership that if I can't spend time learning things outside of ‘doing’ then that's just not great for the team. We need to constantly be learning new things because otherwise we're losing value.
I just saw a chart from Scott Brinker the other day with 800 event tools. Our job is to know about those tools, what they can do, and if they bring value. I can't keep on top of that if I'm just inundated with things just to keep the ship afloat.
I really want to put out a warning to people to make sure not to get yourself in the position where you're just taking in requests. That's going to be a scenario where you're not seen as strategic. You don’t want to be seen as just a ‘donut maker’ if you want to be known as strategic.
What are some of the resources that you've seen work best to grow your skill set and career?
I personally just love LinkedIn and Twitter. I'll go on there and I'll find people that I admire or that I think are really smart. I follow them and try to see what they're attending, see what they're doing. If they're having events, I try to join those.
There also are the different slack marketing operations groups that you can join. If you go to my profile and look at my featured posts, you’ll see one that has a link to all the major marketing operations groups. I cannot recommend joining those enough because it's literally just like a hive mind of a bunch of brilliant people trying to help each other out.
I learned tons about different tools that maybe I haven't evaluated yet. You’ll see a very thorough conversation happening amongst people there who have it already and are using it, their thoughts on it, and the thoughts of people who are currently evaluating it.
All of that’s happening digitally right now because of COVID. But I see it persisting into the future. I haven’t found many events that are technical or marketing operations-based in person.