Marketing Automation: Proving Your Worth in Marketing

Marketing Automation: Proving Your Worth in Marketing


I am excited to connect with one of the top professionals in the field and a prominent Community contributor, Jessica Kao, to discuss leadership trends in today’s marketing, gaining a winning mindset, succeeding as a Female in Tech, and proving your worth in the organization.

Jessica Kao, is the Director of Client Services at Digital Pi. She’s a Marketo Champion of the year and Marketo Certified Expert. Jessica is a frequent speaker, global marketer, demand generation expert, and a marketing operations leader. She also runs the Marketo User Group in Silicon Valley.

Topics covered:

– Measuring performance can be overwhelming

– Females in Tech: taking the leadership role

– Gathering your information and sharing insight

– Proliferation of data, more is not better

– Changing your mindset, using benchmarks and goals

Check out MarTech interviews series on our blog.


Inga: Today’s guest, Jessica Kao, is the Director of Client Services at Digital Pi. She’s a Marketo Champion of the year and Marketo Certified Expert. Jessica is a frequent speaker, global marketer, demand generation expert, and a marketing operations leader. She also runs the Marketo User Group in Silicon Valley.

Inga: Welcome to the podcast, Jessica. Do you want to do a quick introduction?

Jessica: Sure. My name is Jessica Kao. I’m currently the Director of Client Services at Digital Pi, which is a Marketo marketing automation consulting agency. In the past, I’ve been Head of Demand Generation and Marketing Operations. And a fun fact about myself is, in my prior life, I was a bench scientist in oncology and doing research, and I got my PhD doing a cancer genetics at Stanford.

Proving Your Worth in Marketing

Inga: So I know you and I discussed that. We’ll kind of focus on proving your worth in marketing. But one of the reasons I was really excited about talking to you was your specific background and the way you think. It’s almost like a mindset of how you would approach any decision you make in marketing. And as we’re sort of opening the conversation I wanted to kind of ask you, and especially you’re in consulting now, right? So you work with multiple clients, so let me ask you about this mindset. Do you think that things are very different now and we are much more focused about proving our worth or is it even our worth, is it even about the individual anymore?

Jessica: I think nowadays it’s almost 99.9% about proving your worth and what is the results of the actions that you do. So it’s all about what happened, what are the results, the dollars and cents of what you did as a marketer. So, I think it comes into a couple of different layers, right. There’s the you as a marketer as part of the company. You representing marketing, you receiving X dollars of budget for marketing to do X, Y, and Z. At the end of the day, every single CMO, every person is asking, or should be asking; well, what happened? You did these programs, you did these tradeshows, you did this webinar; this tradeshow, this white paper you know. What would happen to it? How much pipeline did we generate? How much sales did we generate? And I think part of being a marketer is preemptively thinking that way, living and walking that each and every day that you were doing marketing. And then not only is it important in proving your worth, but it’s like a lifestyle, it’s a mindset that you should be having each and every day.

Inga: I wonder if it goes back to a few years when I was speaking with the COO of the DMA, the Direct Marketing Association and that was sort of the pivotal shift of budgets from advertising into marketing. You and I come from the world of marketing where we can’t — It’s not like we can limitlessly sink dollars and just not account for that. Literally every dollar counts like you said, but also now we have the technologies to account for that. Meaning, every initiative, every campaign we create and run, we can measure it very well and understand the impact and the impact not only within that campaign, well it did well. We sent an email with a great picture and everybody opened to see the picture but actually impact, the final result so to speak, the impact on the company’s business, revenue, even look at the profitability. Things that probably when five years ago was not something we were thinking about.

Measuring Performance Can Become Overwhelming

Jessica: Exactly and I give a lot of talks on analytics, reporting, and ROI and things like that and sometimes I think people can get really overwhelmed about what to look at and things like that. It really boils down to some very basic and very simple concepts. Which is all we’re trying to figure out is if I give you a certain set of amount of money and you do X, Y and Z, what happened? Do we do more of X, Y and Z? Is it working? Because if it’s working then we’ll do more of that or if it’s not working, stop doing stuff that’s not working. So, do more of the things that are working, do less of the things that aren’t. And it really comes down to that and I think that you mentioned about Direct Mail and I see things like that, a resurgence of types of things like Direct Mail coming back. But because, like you mentioned, we have a huge set of new technologies becoming available. I mean every month there’s some new thing that we can do and with that technology it’s a new thing that we can track. So for example, with Direct Mail before 10, 20, 30 years ago people did Direct Mail…forever. You send out its red mail and you just kind of wait and see what happens. But now Direct Mail can be hooked up to your marketing automation system, it can be tied to an electronic or a digital campaign. You can see if you sent out this particular mailer, did they respond and come specifically to their personal URL so that you can track and they come to their own specific web page and then you can see what the worth is or what the ROI on that campaign is. And I think before five years ago, one we would never even think about tracking something like that let alone I’m trying to prove the value of that. I mean things like billboards are a little bit harder. I drive down 101 here in the Bay Area, and there’s tons of marketing tech billboard and that’s a little bit harder to brand awareness and things like that is a little bit harder to evaluate and to track the ROI on. But definitely more and more going into the mindset of preemptively going into the mindset of launching a campaign and figuring out what the impact like you said the impact.

Inga: So we are more accountable for it and there is an expectation of that. It’s not just there available, but there is an expectation that marketers will do that and provide the sort of back view of how things worked.

Jessica: Yeah, it’s the accountability. It’s again coming into that mindset. It’s not a bad thing. It’s like oh, you know not held accountable. I think you should be because accountability not as a negative thing but as a positive thing. Because like we you know started today’s topic on is about proving your worth. And so if you take the flip side of the coin, instead of being accountable and like oh I need to account for all my dollars or where they’re going and justify it. Yeah, take the flip side which is how much easier is it to get budget if you can show hey, that twenty thousand dollars that you guys need to run this campaign to send physical Kindles with our white paper to the CEOs and I got them to respond at a 200% greater rate and that led to X number of closed deals. How much easier is it gonna be for you to get budget when you can show there’s a 2000% ROI on return on your marketing campaign? A whole lot easier when you can prove your worth.

Females in Tech: Taking The Leadership Role

Inga: I’m an achiever. I live off of that. If I see results, I can’t live without that, actually. But you and I have both females in tech, you run Marketo User Group in Silicon Valley. I’ve been running the New York User Group for Marketo. And do you think we take more leadership roles in that.. females do, or we should, or we don’t? I’m asking this question because uniquely, both you and I are very deeply [involved] in the Community and we hear a lot of different opinions. Or is this sort of it’s just there and it’s a general trend?

Jessica: I think it depends on what level, right. I mean as you get higher and higher, you know marketing, I see like definitely more women in marketing. I think in my last company the whole marketing team was a group of very strong powerful women. And I think in this day and age we need all the things that we need again to help us take that leadership role. And for me data has always been the most important thing in order to help me take that type of leadership role, and I’m sure for you too. Because data is power. It’s not an opinion. It’s not “he said, she said”. It’s not well, I think this and I think that. Data is like a third neutral party and it is power. And I think from women in tech leadership for us; I think it’s a huge leg up for us to take advantage. And it’s like it’s there for us to take an advantage of. Why not use it?

Inga: So we need to seize that opportunity, basically?

Jessica: Absolutely. It’s there in front of you. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it. Now, whether a client or if you’re at a company, whether they listen to the data, now that’s a different story. I mean I’ve been in many situations where I have shown there’s like hey it’s not my opinion, this is what the data says. And people, VPs of marketing, CMOs were like, “okay it doesn’t matter”… This is my opinion, they’re gonna go with whatever they are. But at least we have tried.

Inga: It’s interesting that you mentioned how the companies work and we do need more female leaders. We definitely need more women in tech in leadership positions. I really like what you said that data or probably even insights to be more specific is the ticket to those positions. And we need to learn, we need to invest the time and even money into understanding how we can leverage that data. But if we talk about companies and how it works in companies, not every smart leader, female or not, is set up for success. And I think this is something that you mentioned too. You really need to see how it works in a company, but what can we do differently? If the company is not receptive, which I’ll say from my consulting experience, that’s many companies, very many companies. And sometimes we just need to.. At Romanoff, I think we work with companies that are either just super complex, they’re large so they have to figure it out or they are maybe not that large, but they’re growing really fast and they are in the process of figuring it out so they need that data. They need to figure it out, they have the desire, and the desire to achieve more than they are achieving now. So we are perhaps a bit lucky. But if you kind of look at the overall business, some industries are earlier adopters than others. Like you are in Silicon Valley. In the Bay Area I think you guys are enjoying the high tech and business services environment that is definitely more advanced. But if we’re working in companies, let’s say, I went to Marketo summit. I learned all this great stuff. I’m coming back talking to my VP or CMO and it’s not resonating. How can we make it work? How can we increase the awareness of that the impact can be measured should be measured and this is how it can be measured

Gather Your Information, Start Educating and Bringing Insight

Jessica: I’m an optimist. So, I think part of taking that leadership role right, well even you can be an individual contributor in a company. You can be a marketing specialist in a company you know come to the Summit, you come to my talk about analytics or you’re listening to this podcast and getting information. I think it’s also an opportunity as well as a responsibility to educate internally about this topic, about how to gather insights from your data, how to change your mindset, change how you behave and work and think and approach marketing. And yeah, I’ve been in clients it has been an uphill battle. I’ve been in clients where hey, I don’t know but please educate me. I’ve been in clients that there’s been pushback like they don’t, aren’t really receptive or open to it. I think it’s tying back to the leadership whether male or female; I think it’s an incredible opportunity for a person in your career, in your personal and professional career; so can all of this information that’s out there such as this podcast. There is so much wealth of information and education material and absorb it. And then take that internally and educate your team and start small right, start really small.

I met a woman in my user my Marketo User Group here in Silicon Valley where they’re running let’s say Google AdWords campaigns or Facebook campaigns or LinkedIn campaigns and as hey my boss gives me $5,000 a month and I spend them on Google AdWords and I send them to the homepage. I’m like okay, well if you just send to the homepage, how are you measuring ROI? What do you go back to your boss and tell them? Like this is what happened to the money, this is how many leads I got, this is the impact. Well, I don’t. That’s a very simple thing that you can change without your boss asking or the internal people asking. Start running campaigns where you can gather data, start showing them the data, don’t wait. I think when I was younger in my career, I sat and I waited for my boss to tell me what to do. I sat and wait and was like okay, what report do you want? Okay, I’ll go do that. Instead this is an excellent opportunity to take the initiative just show them all right. They’re not ready for like the big ROI conversation. Start small, you don’t have to boil the ocean all at once. Start with a single campaign that you’re working on. Kind of switch up the mindset like okay, now I’ve got this money from Google AdWords. I’m going to specifically set it up in a way to go to specific landing pages where they’re capturing names. And then I can measure from the $5,000 I’m spending from within Google sending them to these three landing pages; how many names am I capturing? Are they new names, are they not? You can start basic, start small. You can do this even if you don’t have a marketing automation system or if you don’t have Marketo specifically. You can start measuring these very simple, very basic, start measuring and putting the data in Excel all right. Like don’t let the technology let you be like I don’t have this, I don’t have that be scrappy. Big company, small company be scrappy and show them because if they can, a lot of times especially when I talk to whether it’s VPs or individuals, if you haven’t ventured in the world of reporting you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t know what to ask for.

I mean a lot of times when I’m having conversations and introducing like the VPs of marketing to the world of reporting specifically, my world is Marketo reporting from in analytics and this is independent of Marketo. It’s like okay, what are the questions that you’re trying to ask and I can tell you 10 times out of 10, it’s the same questions which is; what happened to the budget I gave you? What happened, where are we with in terms of leads being generated and pipelined dollars, am I hitting my goals? How am I making impacts into the company? It’s all the same thing. So a lot of times I turn it around, a lot of times this is before we put in any kind of tool or do we do anything, I pull up a blank excel sheet. Or if I’m in the room with them, I’ll whiteboard. It’s like okay, well let me mock-up a report. I want to mock up the columns and mock up the rows and I want to put some fake numbers in there; this type of report is gonna answer this question. And then that’s how we start the conversation because sometimes one of the things that I realized through 20 years of reporting and looking at analytics is it’s really like amorphous, intangible thing when we’re just sitting here in a room talking about reporting in a conference room and you got some PowerPoint slides with some words and bullets like oh, we’re gonna measure ROI. We’re gonna measure you know return blah blah blah. It’s like okay that’s a very intangible thing. So I like to have conversations where okay, let’s make it tangible, put up something so we can look at something together and talk about it. And those conversations tend to be incredibly productive because at least we have a starting point to look at together. And there’s like oh well actually not quite interested in looking at the data this way like broken out by industry. I really want to look at the data by geography. Awesome! It’s a whiteboard, it’s fake data, right.

So, from there then we can morph the conversation to a point where we have mocks of a report answering a question that the executive or your boss is actually interested in. And then from there you can go and set up, build whatever; do the things you need to do, lay the foundation to achieve that report. And now (1), you build relationship with working session together. (2), you’re on the same page. (3), you’ve shown your worth because you’re answering a question that he needs answered that he may or may not have known about through an active working conversation with you. And you’ve proved value because you’ve provided insight. And this is not just about when you’re at the company. I do the same thing if I’m interviewing for a position, whether it’s a Director of Demand Gen, Director of Marketing Operations. And this is just kind of career advice that I give my Marketo User Group members as well is and actually, I’ll say this is the advice that I learned when I was a newbie and a marketing group leader which is someone — we’re paying it forward right, Inga? We pay it forward in this one community of marketing. Which is… don’t wait for them to tell you what they’re looking for. Hey, you know company asks I’m interviewing for you what are you looking for no, I go in there and say look this is what I can do for you. How are you doing your reporting? How are you measuring ROI? Look this is what I bring, this is what I’ve done in the past, this is what I can do here, this is how, this is why I’m educating and bringing insight. And when you approach whether it’s an interview or your job, bringing insight that they didn’t have; you’ve proved your worth not only as a marketer but you’ve proved your worth in terms of an employee, a personal value for yourself and that means more highly desirable, they want you. More companies are going to want you because you’re coming to the table with something they didn’t know. Teach them something they didn’t know.

Be Fearless, Which Doesn’t Mean Less Fear – It Means You Go Through It Boldly

Inga: You’re talking and I’m thinking there is a reason why at Moscone Center a Marketo Summit, there’s a giant poster of you from your fearless 50 submission. That fearless attitude and I hope it’s contagious to everybody in marketing. Because what I’m hearing you saying is marketing is no longer a black box. It is predictable, but it’s confusing and it requires a conversation. It’s no longer a cookie cutter solution that fits everybody. So these fearless conversations basically start somewhere… This is something that I don’t think marketers did in the past. But I believe is really really important…

Jessica: Yes, I was honored to be named one of Marketo’s 50 fearless marketers and with that giant 20-foot poster hanging from the ceiling. And part of one of the talks that I gave at the Marketing Summit this year is I gave a talk on analytics and reporting and about this topic. But also about being a fearless marketer, what it means to be a fearless marketer. And being a fearless marketer does not mean you operate in the absence of fear. I think it’s a misnomer…a misconception fearless, right. We think of fearless, less fear and I will tell you every day I am scared shitless. You don’t know where it’s like every day you wake up and you’re like okay, what’s gonna happen today? But you go through every day with fear, but one of the things that helps me go through it boldly and unapologetically is because I know that I have the data to back me up whenever I need it. It’s solid, it’s reliable, its dependable, it’s right here. And so, even though there are any number of unknown situations that I walk into every single day that is different, you don’t know what’s gonna hit you upside the head literally every day. And I’m sure some of you marketers out there know I’m talking about, right. You just don’t know all the uncertainty, the thing that you can always count on is the data and logic and reason and using your brain cells to pull out the insides on the data. And that’s to me what makes me fearless.

Inga: I hear a lot of like fear, uncertainty, but I hear a lot of power in that. And it sounds like just to reiterate you earlier words you said, data is power. I noticed that in a lot of conversations we have with clients, it’s interesting sometimes to have executive join the discovery process and ask the same question we just asked the team a while ago about what is their objective, the goal. And of course, there’s business goals and there’s marketing objectives that basically are derived from the business goals. There’s a bit of interpretation and then it gets disseminated into very specific dashboards and KPIs. But at a higher level, can you talk a little bit about at any level of a marketer how to tie what you’re doing to the overall KPIs to do exactly what you said, whatever campaigns were doing to make them meaningful, impactful. Impactful for the company not just for me, I did really well, I got all this opens but that actually there’s revenue that resulted from the campaigns that I created.

Jessica: I think there’s two parts to that question which is what are the what are the metrics? What are the things that I should be thinking about? What are the things that I should be measuring right? That’s part one and then the second part is how do I make sure I can do that right? Because there’s one thing of you know I’ve had some conversations like okay, this is the report that you want and this is the data that you want to answer X , Y & Z question. But then there’s a reality of okay, can we get you that information? Are we set up from a people processes and a technology standpoint to capture the information and the data that we need in order to get you the report that you want; whether it’s you, your team or the executive level. And I think those are two very equally important processes that sometimes get neglected. All right, so we talked a lot about how to have the conversation with the executives. And I think a lot of it, you know we’ve heard this term vanity metrics, right. Like the clicks and the opens and that’s nice. Those metrics are for you, the individual marketer. How do I optimize this particular email campaign that’s down at the 10-foot level? It’s important, those metrics are important for you. But if you think about from the executive level, we have to take it all the way to impact on the company, the KPIs and everything boils down to sales, dollars, pipeline, revenue. Like how is this impacting the dollars and the customers and the closed deals that’s come into the company. So before we even start a campaign or planning a campaign; it’s a really important part of the process to map out the strategy of one, what is the data that I need to tie this marketing tactic, this email that’s gonna go and promote, this webinar that’s going to do this, this and this? It goes all the way down to how do I know that it impacted the sale. So mapping out that strategy and understanding what are the data points that you need to collect, how are you gonna collect them, how are you going to tie back. And then this comes back to your marketing tech stack, your marketing automation, your CRM or however you are gathering and collecting that data. Sometimes, if it hasn’t been thought out together that could be a challenge. Then you have to get super creative, sometimes very manual in Excel.

I spent many many Sunday nights with a glass of wine and some quiet time manipulating Excel sheets to get to the reports that I need to and I want to. Sometimes that’s where you have to start to prove hey, it’s important to get this data. Then here’s another way to justify it, wouldn’t it going to be nice to automate this data? Great, this took me 10 hours. If I have this miss and this technology stack and integrated together, this would have taken me 10 minutes. That’s another way, reporting isn’t just for reporting pipeline and marketing tactics and things like that. You can use reporting to show gaps in your processes and to justify budget for you know hey, if we had the right technology or if we had the right reporting tools we can even get more with in less time right. So anyway that’s on a side.

Proliferation of Data, Analytics ADD, and More Tools is Not Better

Inga: So how do you deal with ADD? I think with all the technologies we have and you’re right, it’s not a 100% possible to automate. It’s worth it sometimes, sometimes it’s not worth automating and you do have to dig in and add things manually. But I guess that’s the difference between analytics and insights. Analytics will dig in very deep, looking at Google Analytics at the littlest detail there is available. But then aggregating it and also it’s coming back to the topic. It’s not only proving your worth but proving the exact impact of what you’re doing. But tying it back to what’s important to the company, how do you deal with that proliferation of data and an ADD and now I have five different software solutions to pull the data from somewhere and talk to each other. Some of them talk to each other, some of them don’t.

Jessica: I have encountered companies and clients where they just buy every tool and I’m like it’s not the tool. It is exactly what you said which is, it’s the insight, like human, like you, as a person as a marketer. Data doesn’t mean anything and data without putting an insight. Just the other day, someone showed me report, they’re like oh here, I made this report. I’m like well, what am I supposed to conclude from this report? I don’t know what you’re trying to say with this data and that leads me to a couple of points which is one, I see a lot of analysis process, let’s make reports for the sake of reporting. I do encounter some of the executives that not that they don’t know what to report, they want to report on 50 million things. Like I want to report on this, this and this and then I’ve got this long list and 50 post it notes of all the things they put a report on which would probably take a lifetime — it’s a lifetime achievement of reporting and that’s not what you want.

You wanna know, if I ran this campaign how many people downloaded this white paper and clicked on the blog but then didn’t go to my webinar but then had purple socks. It’s like well, why in the world would you want that data and if you did have that data what are you gonna do with that data? And that is equally on the opposite side of the spectrum of like too much reporting is also a bad thing. So, when I’m in that whiteboard session with someone or looking at a blank excel sheet or mocking up data, it’s like okay, well let’s walk down this path of this what you want to see if they have purple socks, likes to eat bacon and downloaded your white paper. Okay, here’s a mockup of a report, what are you gonna do with that? And then they look at me and like ‘huh, I don’t know’. So if you can’t actually do something different, if you’re not going to do something different with this data then is it even worth spending the time to report? And that’s an obvious example right? Like about purple socks and bacon but I’ll give me one that I do get asked a lot.

Inga: Purple socks seem to be important, it kind of like you’re talking to Marketo people.

And It Can Be Confusing

Jessica: I’m wearing my purple Marketo socks that’s why. But I got this question once, I’m like okay we have ten different white papers. I want to know what revenue or what pipeline is associated or influenced by these 10 different white papers. I’m like well, that’s an interesting question but this was a this was a perfect example of where before we dive into going and doing it, let’s mock this up. Okay, so you released a white paper five…you release a white paper last year and you released these four white papers this year okay. So now, I have a list of white papers and the dollars that they are associated with. The oldest white paper who’s been around the longest has been attributed to influence a million dollars and the other white papers it influenced 10,000 20,000 30,000; what information are you gonna do with that? And before you answer that, let’s talk about the scenario. The first white paper who has a million dollars which has the most has been around the longest and you’ve spent lots of money promoting it on Google. These on the white paper like is latest one that only has influenced $10,000, you released it last month, you haven’t really given much promotional dollars to it so obviously, people can’t find it. So it’s a circuitous argument that it hasn’t brought in a lot of dollars. So now we’ve looked at what this white paper is brought in the most money, this white paper is by the least amount of money; what are you gonna do that information? Because you can’t assume that the white paper that brought in the most money is the most important because of other circumstances; it’s been around the longest, you’ve promoted it. So now, what are you gonna do? What I got with silence in the room okay. Because as a marketer you got to help the people on your team around you think through right. it’s as part of the education process let’s think through and a lot of this. Like I said my previous background is a scientist. I put on my scientist hat and walk through these scenarios of like is there another way to explain this data, why are we really asking this data and what are we gonna do with it?

Shifting from ‘Marketing Gossip’ to ‘Marketing Conversations’; Live, Eat, and Breathe the Proving Your Worth Mindset

Inga: It sounds like we have to shift from ‘marketing gossip’ to creating ‘marketing conversations’ and the word that comes to mind is meaningful. Do it with purpose and analyze with purpose. I know we’re at the end of the time here, but I wanted to ask you one more question. Who does it well in terms of proving the worth and it could be a specific company you worked with before or maybe it’s a generic, maybe it’s an industry, a vertical or horizontal market. Where have you seen marketers excel at that be sort of the leaders and an inspiring example to us?

Jessica: The people who excel at it incredibly well are I mean you and I live in the world of Marketo and the Community, the market the Marketo Community; they have the tools necessary in order to accomplish this. I think it’s the people who do well what or the people who understand the importance of measuring first, who start out their campaign with benchmarks and data goals they’ve already set it out. You know, I’ve been the marketer where it’s like okay we’re just gonna run the campaign and we’re gonna cross our fingers and hope right. I see the people who do it well are the ones who live, eat, and breathe the proving your worth mindset every day. It’s a lifestyle, it’s what I see happen too often is it’s an afterthought, right. You run a campaign, you do a tradeshow, you do your thing, you’re so busy with marketing, has marketer’s hair on fire, something’s burning each and every day and then you come back from a trade show exhausted from your international flight. Your boss walks over to your desk and says okay, so what happened at the trade show? Did we sell anything? Did you close a deal? It’s an afterthought. Instead it should be something that we’re laying the groundwork all the time. How you execute, how you think, how you strategize; all those things need to happen way as part of the planning stages. And the people that I see do it well is when it’s part of their DNA. It’s part of their everyday marketing activity, it’s always about proving your worth, getting the data, getting insight into the data. If you put that priority first, those are the people that I see do well.

Inga: All right well thank you, Jessica. I got a couple of takeaways here. Fearless does not mean less fear. Measure, but of course look at KPIs and think what and how to measure, not just measure endlessly. And show data in your organization, make friends, start these conversations, even if you don’t know the answers.

Inga: So, thanks again and we’ll provide the contact information for you. I would love to have a couple of links from your presentations from the summit as well.

Jessica: Thanks for having me.