Carly Cais, Managing Partner at ElleSpark, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Carly shares why diversifying isn’t just for investment portfolios, why understanding a CRM is so critical for marketers, and how to become more marketable in the job market.
Based in Portland, Carly Cais is the Managing Partner of ElleSpark.
Revenue Marketing Report
Full Podcast w/ Carly Cais
Don’t Paint Yourself In a Corner
"My background in marketing was not a straight shot from point A to point B. It was a meandering walk through the woods where I did a lot of different roles. Accepting those different roles and gaining expertise in a variety of subjects within a business allowed me to step back from the specialization that a lot of marketing roles require and look at things with a more holistic viewpoint. I was able to build marketing and sales solutions that work for the business as a whole.
"I created websites at the beginning of my career and then moved into graphic design. Eventually, I accepted positions in sales operations and CRM administration, sales enablement, and finally, sales support. I moved from someone with a marketing-only approach to someone who needed to focus solely on the sales team—their productivity, day-to-day KPIs, and month-to-month KPIs. That changed how I approached marketing and leveled up my skills in marketing."
Sometimes it's intimidating to say yes to new things. All of us suffer from imposter syndrome from time to time. But stretching ourselves and taking risks can result in a more marketable set of skills, particularly with the trend gaining steam toward merging operations departments into revenue operations.
An example of pushing beyond a comfort zone may be a marketing analyst moving to a sales analyst position. The skills are 100% transferable, and marketing analysts may find navigating forecasting data easier than battling multiple marketing source systems. Another example could be a marketing automation administrator trying out CRM administration. There are a lot of free resources online to ramp up for such a move, and if you have a good grasp of marketing automation, you'll find CRM administration intuitive, particularly when it comes to workflow automation.
"Over the last decade or so (at least early on in the 2000s and then the 2010s), a lot of people started in marketing (or sales) operations and stayed there. But with revenue operations gaining more and more steam, people realizing that their skill sets are transferrable. The two departments, marketing operations and sales operations, shouldn't be so siloed. The analytical ability to think logically and sequentially and incorporate automation into, not just the marketing and sales function, but the business as a whole, are needed in revenue operations.
"I'm beginning to see more people move from the sales silo to the marketing silo and then to revenue operations, which spans the entire go-to-market business."
The earlier you are in your career, the more we encourage you to consider saying yes to positions that push you to develop different skills.
The #1 Skill In Demand for MOPs
Not surprisingly, a lot of companies are looking for operations professionals with experience that spans multiple departments.
"If you're a marketer, learn Salesforce. It is the granddaddy of all CRMs, but the skills you learn with Salesforce are transferable to any other CRM out there. HubSpot, Pipedrive, et cetera. Learn Salesforce as though your life depends on it.
"There are online courses. You can get certifications from Salesforce, although they are ridiculously expensive. But the more you learn about CRMs, especially the more complex CRMs out there, it makes you extremely valuable. When the marketing team changes any automation in a marketing automation platform, it affects the CRM. With that knowledge, marketers can understand which fields or automations will be affected. Knowing the downstream effects of what you're doing is so critical.
"If Salesforce isn't available to you or your company doesn't want to reimburse you for courses or certifications, then learn HubSpot. It has a free CRM. Businesses look for people who say, 'Yes, I'm a marketer. But I also can plan for the downstream effects and ensure consistent reporting on both marketing and sales activities. That way, we're not just talking about marketing sent X number of emails, open rates, or click-through rates.
"Now we're talking about influenced revenue. We're talking about what has happened to influence the pipeline. We understand the CAC and LTV. If you don't have deep CRM experience, you will find that you have to advocate for your value because you can't tie your efforts to revenue.
"I always advocate that people build CRM skills because you'll be able to show their value without constantly fighting for recognition."
Start General, Then Refine
Early on in a career, it's easy to fall into a specialization. We often get overwhelmed by all of the different aspects of a job, especially in operations, that it's tempting to hold on tightly to a skillset that we take to quickly. For example, maybe we find campaign management logical and don't mind the automation piece. Or we find writing certain types of copy easier than others.
When you're new to operations, fight the tendency to gravitate toward what you know and say yes to new opportunities.
"Early on in someone's career, you need generalization to be attractive to a variety of different companies for a variety of roles. The specialized skill sets should be developed on the job. Systems management and data narratives are something you develop over time. You need practical experience to talk about the ramifications of a system or process change 30 days, 90 days, 120 days out. You really shouldn't decide to go deep into a skillset until you can focus on practical application in a role you take."
A big reason why waiting to specialize is such great advice is that it takes us a while to find what we love to do.
"What you want to specialize in is something that you aren't going to know early on as a generalist. Early on in my career, I remember I was exposed to Salesforce, and I had to set up one-off HTML marketing emails to be sent out of Salesforce. I was terrified of the system. I didn't want to do a single thing in there because I was so scared of messing it up. And then, three years later, I come into a company as the marketing manager, and it turned out that their Salesforce instance wasn't properly set up. So everything that I was doing in marketing wasn't being reflected in the data. So we had to hire a consultant, and I worked very closely with her to reconfigure the whole system.
"During that experience, I found that I loved Salesforce. I had an aptitude for it. I love working in it. I love cleaning up, dusting it off, and making it look all shiny and with everything in the right place. But I would never have known that as a marketer if I had stayed in my marketing wheelhouse. I had to get into the system and see how it worked before I realized how quickly the sales team could move once the system was clean, properly working, and automated. That clued me into just how important understanding the systems that run the business is"
For more fantastic career advice from Carly, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.
Camela Thompson Camela Thompson is a trusted expert with a long history in sales operations, marketing operations, and customer success operations. She advocated for revenue operations before it was a thing, and has managed tech stacks and data infrastructure for multiple companies.
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