It's important to have your operations and demand generation teams in lockstep to facilitate alignment and to understand what’s working for your GTM motions. According to Ben Pollack, the operations team is fueling these data-informed decisions. He shares how ops supports automated vs. targeted approaches and helps marketing and sales speak to various pains at scale. .
Ben Pollack is the Head of Growth Marketing at ChartHop, an HR technology and people analytics company that has raised $54M in venture funding to date, led by Andreessen Horowitz. Ben's team oversees the architecture of ChartHops MarTech stack and revenue operations, in addition leading all demand generation campaigns and growth channels. With experience at multiple high-growth B2B software startups, Ben is a seasoned veteran when it comes to high-velocity go-to-markets and building and operational infrastructure to support.
What are your findings with channels and touch points and their correlation to funnel velocity?
I'll start with a general overview of actions and correlations and then I'll outline a couple of specific examples.
My first day at ChartHop, it was coincidentally Marketing’s time to present. I just talked to one slide. The slide itself was super simple. It was a pyramid, and on the top were all these little boxes in a pyramid form. Those were outbound growth tactics, channels, and touch points that were not just paid, but referral, word of mouth, flywheel, press, other types of brand opportunities, paid search, paid, social SEO, you name it.
At the bottom of the slide was just a big block that said, “Operations” because that’s the high level idea. If you don't have an operations team and a dimension team that are in lockstep, you're not going to have close alignment between understanding what works, understanding what doesn't, and having your operations team fuel data-driven or data-informed decision-making.
Attribution is difficult and you can't make every single decision you have off of data points. You should rely on your gut. It's actually a new found viewpoint for me. I used to be like, oh no, it's all, data-driven 100 percent of the time. It's always data informed. Yes, you should use qualitative discussions that you have with partners and customers in part of your decision-making and rely on trend lines that may not be causal or statistically significant. But use your own judgment to make a call. At a high level, you need Ops to support demand. Without Demand Gen, Ops might not be able to shine as much.
Here's a couple of specific examples of how I view Ops and fueling Demand Gen and fueling growth. One of them is more on the go-to-market side and one of those more on the attribution side. First, our whole 1, 2, 3, go-to-market playbook is super simple. Step one, understand the accounts that need us and why. Step two, Operationalize the data within and power the team to go to market towards them.
Then, measure. How'd you do? Did it work? Did it not? Rinse and repeat your learnings. Question how you bring this data in. How do you enrich your database to understand these are the accounts in target segments in regions specific for this type of campaign? Here's the signal or the intent data point that is showing us this is the right campaign to put them down and this is the right time to do it. None of that is Demand Gen so far. You just identified a go-to-market plan, and a target to do so, based on operational infrastructure within Salesforce, HubSpot, Clearbit, Outreach, that's kind of our stack.
Finally, how do you deploy? Well, if this is the target segment, and this is the messaging, and this is the pain point, we can run paid here. We can do a community play here. We can have BDRs go this way. Great. Let's consolidate. Let's organize. Let's go to market, strong. Let's give it a chance and let's circle back. We’ve rinsed and repeated that type of framework a few times now and it's been really successful for us. Ops is fueling demand. Demand is going to market. Demand is then recognizing what's working through Ops and analysts, and then you're refueling that virtuous cycle. That’s one example.
The second example is more simple. It’s around attribution. We haven't solved it. I don't think many orgs have. Chris Walker, who was on the podcast a while ago, gave the best attribution trick there is. It’s a ‘how’d you hear’ form. We have two fields on our forms: email and how did you hear? It's all we need to know, but we also layer in all the UTMs and anything else we can. It's leveraging really complex workflows within Hubspot or other types of systems to ingest information, attach it to specific objects, leads, contacts, accounts, products, ops, you name it, and then look back and ask was this spend effective? Was it not?
We don't report on MQL. They're an important part of our story. They give us and our performance team a ton of data to make decisions around. But at the end of the day, it's about what's driving revenue, reporting on the revenue, earning the executive leadership team’s respect to be able to do that by leveraging the intermediary funnel data together.
How structured do downstream actions need to be?
As a BDR, I've done both the tried and true high velocity, let's go get it at scale, all automatic. and also the high return, but it's so manual and cumbersome.
At ChartHop, we’ve struck a nice balance. There's a law of concrete cadences: After the deal, after the call ends, you do this. When you have a new account, that's a target for you and you put them here. That structure's pretty clear, but the touch points in the messaging within is catered. We have very few touch points, nurtures, or whatever it is that the first touch is automated.
I get outbounded at all the time. I'm a software buyer and you can tell when the first touch is automatic. Even if it's hitting my pain point, if it's not catered to me, particularly post demo, I'm out. If it is catered to me and you still hit on my pain points, then I'm in. From there, the follow-ups can be automated. Those touch points can be automated, but only if the first is hitting it nicely.
As another example, we have a nurture sequence post demo that we put folks in if they’re kind of ghosting on us a bit. Some of those touch points are automated, but the BDR or the AE takes the time to be careful about who they're putting in that. Once they release it, they can set it and forget it to an extent, and then it can automate. It's a middleman situation and it's definitely finding that middle ground.
Even if I'm not interested, when I receive an email that I think is just fantastic, I will respond and say, we have no bandwidth or budget for this, but you did a really good job. You have to use your discretion as a BDR or AE on when to personalize and when not to.
In the last two and a half years, Ops has really started to rethink automating everything. It’s now looking for a happy medium between super automated inbound and then the super targeted, like one-to-one outbound approach. It’s a happy medium where you're really getting a nice level of customization, but also the efficiencies that the technologies and the automation can bring.
Is firmographic fit, persona, or behavior the most important criteria to customize effectively?
It is the intersection of firmographic fit, persona, and behavior. Persona, segment, vertical…what’s the pain point? How do you target by pain? How do you leverage Operations to programmatically build a system to allow your marketing team and your sales team at scale to speak to the pain.
I’ll give you an example from ChartHop. We traditionally have sold really well into high growth orgs. High growth orgs need tools to support their growing workforce. That's a really easy win for us. One of the best signals of growth of a target for us is headcount growth. High growth orgs are typically hiring and we can pull that data.
We partner with a really great MarTech company called Primer, led by Keith Putnam Delaney. What we’re doing in a workflow is automating the creation of specific orgs that are creating, or that are undergoing headcount growth. What is the percent delta on the headcount growth? What are the number of new roles month over month that were created within that org? We then push that into Salesforce. What location are they in? What segment are they in? Okay, let’s enrich that from Clearbit. What vertical are they in? Great. You now as a BDR, have a list of headcount percentages, numbers, titles, emails, locations, segments, all of that - pain point. What's the pain?
Based on this segment, it's probably here, lower downmarket might be a little bit like, “Get out of spreadsheets,” or up market might be, “Consolidate your systems.” Talk about personalization of messaging. That token of new roles is pushing to the sequence. So the BDR is waking up and QAing a manual email, but it's all automated with the tokens, the play, the pain, the persona, and that type of playbook is that rinse and repeat endeavor through which a targeted pain point based on all the parameters you describe rinse and repeat, see if it works. See if it didn't. Operations leads this go-to-market.
How to structure the organization of Sales Ops, Revenue Ops, and Marketing Ops?
Everything is separate in terms of Sales Ops, Revenue, Ops and Marketing Ops, but definitely in lockstep. You can only have things separate if in lockstep. If everything can’t align cross-functionally, things can't be separate.
The other big piece is who you have to do the job. When I joined ChartHop, I was the only operations professional in the organization. It was best suited for me to handle Salesforce at the time and be our admin. I am not a sales ops professional. I'm certainly not a Salesforce certified admin. When we were small stage, it was just me as Ops. I'll handle the stack or buy HubSpot, I’ll buy outreach, I'll hook up Salesforce, we'll get it going. In a small stage company, all Ops is Ops. At larger companies, that’s not the case.
We’ve found a happy medium with Marketing Ops living under my team, Revenue Ops as kind of an in-between, and Sales Ops under sales. We are a matrix growth organization, so it actually includes some product people now, given that we have a product-led growth, go-to-market itself.
There are people signing up for ChartHop free, and that data pushes into Salesforce. How do we reconcile that? That's a huge piece of our operational infrastructure now. We have two meetings every week just to align the bodies of work moving forward. Who's the project lead here? What are the blockers who else needs to be involved? The reason we're able to bucket out different office departments is because we align cross-functionally and it's not just leadership, it's folks on the ground floor and all the way in between.
At least at a stage like ChartHop is with 200 employees. At a larger org, you may need to centralize that and have an operations team. But that operations team, if they're just one operations team, and it’s centralized, might not be giving sales what it needs. It might not be able to give marketing what it needs. I've seen that before where you have a centralized Ops org and it's not aligned. That can be the danger there, especially at smaller orgs if you try to do that.