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The Secret to Hiring Rockstar Operations Professionals

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Melissa McCready, Growth Ops Advisor at Navigate Consulting and President of The Growth Ops Community, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Melissa shares why you need operations, how to hire a rockstar, and why growth operations is going to be the new gold standard.

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Melissa McCready
Melissa McCready

Based in Orange County, Melissa is a Growth Ops Advisor at Navigate Consulting.

Revenue Marketing Report

Full Podcast w/ Melissa McCready

Once More With Feeling: You NEED Ops

It's obvious. We're huge fans of operations on the Revenue Marketing Report. We understand that without them, a lot of us would be left in the dark.

And other people are starting to notice this reality, too.

In a recent survey by BrandMaker, a majority (89%) of CMOs are planning on investing more in marketing operations because:

  • CMOs consistently struggle to translate data into ROI proof points (47%)
  • Marketers use too many data sources to easily make sense of it all (41%)
  • The majority of marketing leaders struggle to report data to their executive team (91%)

"Imagine you have a hundred thousand person concert, and you have people who organize, clean, and maintain the event and the venue. All of a sudden, they don't show up. The concert doesn't happen," said Melissa McCready.

"All of that orchestration is operations. We're the business orchestrators. We're the ones laying the framework for success operationally with systems, people, data, and analytics. Unfortunately, we're looked at as a cost center versus as an investment with a high rate of return."

According to Hubspot, 74% of under-performing companies did not know their visitor, lead, MQL, or sales opportunities. A majority (69%) of companies that leverage marketing automation and ROI metrics report an increase in total marketing revenue contribution, according to CMO.com. At the very lowest of estimates (a study by McKinsey & Company), "marketing operations [provided] a 15-25% improvement in marketing effectiveness, as measured by return on investment and customer-engagement metrics."

There is a very logical basis for this dependence on operations.

We rely on technology to sell. This includes marketing campaigns, cold outreach, and any other proactive tactic that involves digital delivery or online information sourcing. To make the most of this technology, we need ops.

operations keeps businesses running

"If you invest in operations, your rate of return is going to be higher. You're going to have happier employees. You're going to have happier clients if you're doing it right. And there's no one' right' way of doing things. That's key for operations to keep in mind. If you're operationalizing a business in a way that the customer experience comes first, you're establishing processes and systems in a way that supports goals and objectives."

A lot of people think operations professionals are expensive, and the good ones are. It's because they have to know how all of the systems interact, how to meet requirements, and how every change will impact humans. No plug-and-play tool is a substitute for the knowledge accumulated by an experienced operations professional.

"Companies tend to under hire, and they don't want to spend the money. They think that operations people are very expensive. And the reason that operations people are expensive is we have to know a LOT. We're expected to pivot, change, and customize.

"Marketers have over 8,000 tools to choose from on the market. That's an enormous amount for any one person to know. From systems to change management to end-user training—you can't scale without operations."

How to Find the Right Hire

We understand that every profession sees a full spectrum of talent, from the insanely gifted unicorns to the people who blow things up if not closely supervised. We get it.

But hiring managers don't always know how to tell one from the next.

Melissa did a great job digging into the common hurdles hiring managers face and gave an interview tip that is very strange and absolutely brilliant.

Hire to Match the Ask

I see too many young companies hire the cheapest person they can find who wants an operations position with major projects on the immediate horizon. Usually, the need for headcount is created by purchasing an automation tool and then realizing it’s hard to use.

If you aren't pairing your inexperienced intern or new hire with an experienced consultant (or just biting the bullet and investing in a qualified professional), your implementation will be an absolute mess. It may limp along for a while, but you won't start collecting the data your business will learn to rely on from day one.

operations gold standard

"You need to invest. Operations is a critical piece of your business. If you don't hire someone who knows what they're doing, scaling and growing are next to impossible. If you don't value operations, growth will slow down, and you're going to wonder why sales are low for an excellent product. Ask yourself: Can you deliver, can you enable, can you do renewals? Can you market effectively and keep your brands above water? Operations allows businesses to see the entire customer journey from the backend of the office through to outside the office".

As a job seeker, I've learned the hard way to ask anyone recruiting me about the proposed salary range of the position before I agree to a screening call.

There is a huge range depending on the company's industry, maturity, and their recruiter's ability to tap into the market to get the latest competitive rates. Unfortunately, the proposed salary often has little to do with the candidate's technical expertise and breadth of skills.

Payscale, Salary.com, Glassdoor, and Indeed are okay starting points, but nothing compares to talking to peers in your industry.

Are Your Expectations Realistic?

I'm a big fan of revenue operations and an even bigger fan of the growth operations mindset. However, I think it's a huge mistake to take multiple roles and crunch them into a single "revenue operations" position because you aren't willing to pay for necessary specialists.

"When you build a house, do you hire the plumber to do your electricity? Do you hire an electrician to put your windows in? No, because you don't want your house to fall apart.

"There are specializations for a reason. Good MOPs folks focus on providing a center of excellence. They'll understand how their marketing automation platform interacts with tools like Gainsight or Salesforce or Microsoft dynamics. They may not be experts in these peripheral applications, but they're going to understand the impact of anything they change to those systems."

We're not saying there isn't value in a marketing automation administrator knowing the CRM. Many of us get certifications in both CRMs and marketing automation platforms. What isn't realistic is expecting one person to own both the CRM and the marketing automation platform. Those are two big jobs on their own, and there are only so many hours in a day.

"When companies under hire and understaff, they burn their people out. They have revolving doors. My experience in talking to anybody in operations is that we stay at a company for two years and we're spent. So many operations professionals turn into consultants because we're burned out and tired of not being appreciated. A lot of us have horror stories about not being valued and being asked to boil the ocean.

"We try to say 'not yet' rather than 'no' because we have other dependencies that are a higher priority. They are roadblocks to doing what the business asks of us. And we can't do everything overnight. Somebody once said to me, 'Nine people don't make a baby in a month.' Some things just take time."

Certifications < Experience

Melissa had an excellent point.

"I cannot tell you how often I hear, 'I am so deep in Salesforce, and I'm an expert.' And then I ask what a permission set is. They have no idea.

"'I'm an expert in Marketo.' Okay. Can you do a list import? If the answer is no, you're far from a Marketo expert."

Honestly, some people impress me with their unfounded confidence.

operations hiring requirements

A certification implies an understanding of system rules and guidelines. It doesn't mean that someone is skilled at gathering requirements, can find a solution people enjoy using, or train end-users.

"It's so hard to assess people on tools unless you can give them a real-world test. If I go back to life as an FTE, I'm hiring a team to develop tests for operations people to take because it's been the bain of my existence.

"I don't care about certifications. I would much rather have somebody who has been running things for a long time. I would rather hire that person without certifications, and I don't feel certifications should be a barrier. They aren't a good indicator of the skills you need to scale an org."

Many times, the hiring managers don't have the technical expertise needed to understand what the role should be or how to screen people who don't have strong applied skills. Look for creative problem solvers and hire an operations consultant (or past coworker or respected acquaintance) to help you with the job description and interview requirements.

Ask Them How They Do Their Laundry

"I'll ask people about their laundry. I'll ask, "Are you a do your laundry as you go kind of person, or you do your laundry on just one day a week?"

It sounds really strange, but there's sound logic behind the question.

"What I get out of that is how they process things. At the top layer, do as you go laundry people tend to be stronger data quality people who run checks and balances and don't mind daily monitoring. The once-a-week laundry people are more apt to automate a process.

"Then I ask what they want to be doing (once or daily?). People who do the laundry one day a week can be more focused. And the reason that they can get more focused is that they will find ways to automate things.

"Then the question becomes, why do you do your laundry one day a week? Or why do you do it every day? This really gets to the way that they process things. Is this person somebody who is going to be able to cross-communicate? Are they going to be able to manage other people? Or are they somebody who's an individual contributor? If they tell me they don't know why they do laundry every day, that means that they're probably not ready for management yet. You always have to explain your ‘why’ as a manager.

"A day at a time is great for management. It tells me they can balance a lot of things. If they tell me they do it all on one day and the why is they don't want to be bothered with laundry the rest of the week, I'll ask whether they don't want to be bothered because they don't have enough time or you don't want to bother because you hate doing laundry? If they think doing laundry is better done all at once because it's a better use of time, that tells me that they're really good at prioritizing.

"Finally, if they tell me they just hate doing laundry, I ask why. Do they not like the tactical pieces of it, or do they hate it just because they don't want to touch it? That tells me that there'll be certain tactical items and operations that I would not put them on. I wouldn't have them do any data quality work. Because that's laundry. I wouldn't have them cleaning up lists, views, or reports. That doesn't mean that they can't be a manager. It doesn't mean they can't be an individual contributor. It just lets me know how deep they're going to be willing to go on things.

"You can also get to how they prioritize and process things by asking how often they take out the trash."

Growth Ops Will Be the Gold Standard

"Growth operations is the next level of revenue operations. It helps companies optimize people, processes, and technology for the purpose of just not revenue growth, but internal growth and customer growth. The focus is on the big picture."

marketing analytics balancing act

I've seen revenue operations work well if it incorporates every aspect of marketing, sales, and customer success operations. But too often, revenue operations only refers to a revenue analytics team or sales and marketing operations combined.

"Customer operations and even channel operations have been revenue operations afterthoughts. That needs to change. Everything should be about what the customer needs. Revenue results from customer relationships and loyalty and good marketing and partnerships and your internal team feeling supported.

"Revenue operations became a thing to knock down silos. But it's not one-size-fits-all. Centralizing something doesn't solve everything. You can have decentralized models where people work extremely well together and don't need to be reporting to the same people.

“At the end of the day, we need to think about the customer's needs first, and then work backward."


For more on why growth ops is the new gold standard and other great nuggets on operational excellence, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast. Be sure to visit the Growth Ops Community and tell them the Revenue Marketing Report sent you.

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