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The Digital Utopia Podcast Episode #36

Is RevOps Simply the New Inbound Marketing?

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About the podcast

The Digital Utopia Podcast is for SMB Marketers and Business Leaders looking to align their Marketing, Sales, and Service departments so they’re part of one powerhouse growth team.

Each episode will dive into the strategies, philosophies, and tools that will change your approach to organizational growth, give you renewed focus and clarity, and allow you to build a brand that not only helps you stand out—but win.

The Digital Utopia Podcast is produced by Digitopia and hosted by Frank Cowell and Joseph Freeman.

Episode transcription

Joe  
When we talk to a lot of people about DevOps, somehow the conversation quickly always turns to awesome. How is Rob is going to get me more leads. And more leads to your point earlier is just a marketing. That's a marketers job, get more leads, that's marketing, get more revenue opportunities that spans all lifecycle stages. 
 
DJ  
You're listening to the digital utopia podcast, a resource dedicated to helping b2b leadership and executives gain clarity and focus in a chaotic marketplace.
 
Frank  
Hey, gang, welcome to the digital utopia podcast episode 36. I'm your host, Frank Cowell, and I'm joined by my co host, 
 
Joe  
Joseph Freeman. 
 
Frank  
Is rev Ops, simply the new inbound marketing? That's the question we're talking about today, Chris? 
 
Joe  
Yeah, that's a good question. So this was born out of an article you recently wrote called, I'm afraid for our Rev ops community. 
 
Frank  
Yeah, I am genuinely. 
 
Joe  
And what you said in the article was that you're afraid that we're getting fancy and losing sight of two big questions. And those questions were Why does Reb ops exist within the organization? And where's the function live within the organization? But really, as we were kind of, you know, talking through all this, it boiled down to our people, just renaming inbound marketing as Reb. Ops, is that what it's been reduced down to? 
 
Frank  
I think that's what's happening so much in our community. And that's one of the reasons I'm afraid, is that people aren't asking those questions. Yeah. Why does the function exist? Yeah. And where does it live within the organization? So want to talk through that today? Yeah. And I think what I hear happening with a lot of DevOps leaders is they start, you know, there's a conversation going on, where they're having trouble getting traction within their organizations, they're getting relegated to, to doing marketing support, and sales support, they're getting relegated to all of these things. And that's really what prompted me to write this article, as I was having a conversation with one of my fellow strategists the other day, Krystina Gillenwater. And we were talking about this challenge that's happening in the community, and I got kind of fired up, and 
 
Joe  
You got fired up 
 
Frank  
a little bit. It's a greater threat. It's really rare. I don't get fired up much. 
 
Joe  
Fiery Frank 
 
Frank  
I don't have many opinions. But I do have an opinion on this. And, you know, I think I've been in the business world long enough. I think I've been in this, you know, digital industry for quite some time, I would consider myself one of the Oh, geez, going back to the late 90s when I cut my teeth in this stuff. And, you know, I've seen lots of cycles. And I've seen lots of hype come and go. And what ends up happening often is that people will jump on the hype, executives will get excited about the hype that they're hearing about, only to realize, like, Oh, yeah, this wasn't like a magical shortcut, we still have to roll up our sleeves and do a crap ton of work. You know, there's, there are no shortcuts, there are no magic silver bullets out there. And so then these things that are hyped up, just kind of come and go and they lose favor. I fear that's what's going to happen with rev ops for the bulk of the business community. And the the leaders within the Reb ops community that are they're trying to champion this effort. And I see a lot of those people simply doing inbound marketing stuff, and maybe doing it a bit smarter, and a bit more strategic and calling it Rev Ops. 
 
Joe  
Why don't we let's define what inbound marketing is. And let's define what rev ops is just for anybody listening. 
 
Frank  
Yeah, inbound marketing is the process that you go through, to put your brand out to the world in an educational approach instead of a promotional approach. And do so around very specific buyer personas and very specific topics such that those buyer personas, find your brand, very relevant, with lots of meaning because you're helping them solve problems even before they do business with you. And that attraction brings about awareness with your brand. And then when you continue to provide value and nurture those people, those people consider your brand when they're ready to buy, 
 
Joe  
But it's still a marketing function. Right? inbound is a marketing world. Yeah. 
 
Frank  
Now if you if you talk to a company like HubSpot, they would say inbound is a mentality. It's a philosophy, it goes across the entire organization. It's a bit warm and fuzzy. Sorry, folks at HubSpot if you're listening. It's a bit warm and fuzzy and not super relatable, in my opinion. For example, in the sales function, if you were doing inbound sales, all that means let me boil it down. All that means is the leads that you got via inbound, you're going to continue to educate them and treat them like they're already a customer before they're a customer and serve them well. Well, I would suggest I've been selling that way for eons. And that's just good old fashioned, consultative selling, meaning you aim to bring value before you aim to extract $1. So that's what you know, HubSpot called inbound sales, like continuing the inbound philosophy of serving, not promoting, serving, not selling, so not anything really new under the sun. There. And so then you've got like, you know, what does inbound mean to be an inbound organization? Once you have the client? Well, that just means that you're proactive in giving your clients the content and information they might need before they have to ask for it. And you're, you're there to delight them. Hmm. Sounds like you know, just what I would aim to do anyway. Right, like, so I think this idea of inbound is an organizational philosophy is a big, big stretch, inbound marketing as a thing. And I think it's it's definitely a lens on digital marketing. I would suggest today that the reason you're not hearing that so much is because it's kind of become the rigor of just how you do digital marketing, right? You know, that's just what you're supposed to do, you're supposed to educate, you're supposed to prove provide value, because consumers today have way too many options. And so you have to be in front of them with value to get them to pay attention to your brand, right? So that's inbound slash inbound marketing. And what I fear is a lot of the tools and tactics that go along with inbound marketing, such as landing pages, and lead magnets and funnels, and nurturing, and automation and sequences, like all of those tools and tactics of inbound marketing, I fear, are taking too much of the robots conversation. It's becoming too much the content of the rev ops conversation and toolkit. And that's not what RevOps is about, 
 
Joe  
although that actually does have to exist and is a huge part of DevOps. It's becoming the star on stage. And it's really just one of the report, 
 
Frank  
here's where I would disagree. 
 
Joe  
Oh, 
 
Frank  
here's where I would disagree, 
 
Joe  
okay.
 
Frank  
It's part of marketing. And marketing is a player in the rev ops conversation, right? But the rev ops function, isn't the function to define workflows to define down to the content level of your blog post and your nurturing sequence. 
 
Joe  
I love that. So actually define Reb ops for us then, 
 
Frank  
okay, rev ops is a function that aims to exist to partner with the executive team to uncover and exploit and take advantage of revenue optimization opportunities across the macro funnel of your business, 
 
Joe  
which I think that part's important across the macro funnel, because when we talk to a lot of people about rev Ops, somehow the conversation quickly always turns to awesome. How is rev ops going to get me more leads, and more leads to your point earlier is just a marketing, that's a marketers job, get more leads, that's marketing, get more revenue opportunities, that spans all lifecycle stages, you can get revenue opportunities, presenting themselves from customers, that's not a lead, that's a customer and they can present new upsell, cross sell opportunities, they can present, you know, new people in their cohort that might want to buy from you. It's not really a lead. It's actually that's a referral. So which becomes a lead, but you get my point. Yep. 
 
Frank  
Plain and simple. If you're the rev ops champion, you say, Why do you exist? I gave you the why, right? Let's just tactically talk about what you're supposed to be doing. Right? In a nutshell, you're supposed to analyze that macro funnel from stranger to fan across that entire buying lifecycle that your customers experience with your brand and then stay on and continue to buy, 
 
Joe  
what do you what are you looking for? 
 
Frank  
Okay, you're looking for, as you analyze the the major milestones in that macro funnel, you're looking for underperforming major milestones. Okay. And when you find the underperforming major milestone working backwards, by the way, you've heard us talk about top down optimization, so working backwards. Okay. How many fans are you creating? How do you know if you have you're creating fans? Well, if your recurring services business, what's your retention? That's your KPI? 
 
Joe  
No, would you say milestone? Are you saying it's a KPI? Are you saying it's a lifecycle stage? What's the milestone definition? 
 
Frank  
What I mean by milestone is like, for example, you might have like in the qualified column, you might have two major milestones, which are the KPIs so I'm using milestone and kind of KPI interchangeably, but like the reason I'm saying milestone is just to indicate that along that journey, there are major points of achievement, there are major milestone points in that journey that your buyers go through, where you can measure performance and outcome that is meaningful. So like, if you look at like that qualifiers column that we often talk about, you kind of have two milestones in there. You've got mq ELLs, you've got SQL, right. So that would be a situation where you're gonna have a couple of major points in that journey to measure. So working backwards when you say, hey, are we creating fans? Well, what's the number one way you measure that? So it's either retention, if you're recruiting services model, or if you're a transactional based business? It's repeat purchases? Right? How do you know if someone loves you? They stay, they come back. They buy more. Right, right. That's the number one thing, then we can look at all the metrics related to that. Okay. How many times do they referred you? Did they leave you reviews? Do they participate in testimonials and case studies? Like there's all the things like what's their net promoter score? These are all the things that are indicators to the most important outcome, which is the retention or the repeat, repeat buys 
 
Joe  
and everything you just said, just to kind of bring it back around. Everything you said is Rev Ops, it's not inbound. None of that is inbound marketing. Now, it might be supported by the marketers who are doing inbound. But it's not in and of itself, what's being preached as inbound marketing. And I think that's where some of the ambiguity is starting to, well, it just needs to be separated out. 
 
Frank  
Yeah. So let's go back to it. So you as the rev ops champion, you're looking at that macro funnel, you know, all the KPIs and all the related metrics across that macro funnel, your job is to continually monitor that set up the systems to monitor that data. And then when you see you have a bottleneck, when you see you have a stage, that's off a KPI that's off, your job is to investigate all the supporting metrics. In your to find the inflection point, what is the number one inflection point we need to focus on for this quarter, to start to take this particular stage and drive it up to its optimal performance. So when you do that, you're going to you're going to come across two things, it's either going to just be underperformance in an area, or it's going to be an opportunity to add something to the business to the process, to then take you to another level, 
 
Joe  
whether that's process or whether that's technology, or what you can figure out what that is, 
 
Frank  
it could be it could be a process, it could be a technology, it could be a new feature you need to add for your clientele, you know, it could be a new benefit, you're adding for your new clientele, because you've identified that that's the inflection point. Like if we if we add this, this is the thing that is going to improve the net promoter score, which ultimately improves our retention, right? Like it's an indicator towards, you know, our retention, sticking and ultimately, you increase the retention, you means you increase the LTV, that's more revenue. 
 
Joe  
Okay, so you're looking across all lifecycle stages, as you're finding the bottleneck. Once you find the bottleneck, you're then going to look at what your possible solutions are to unstick that thing, right. And that could be the three P's that could be a process problem. Could be your platform, something's wrong there. It could be the people, right? They're not performing well there. You got to look at all three of those, figure out what's the solution within those categories, and then what you do. 
 
Frank  
So let's be clear. And when we say figure out the solution, if you're the rev up champion, when we say figure out the solution, once you identify the inflection point, that's the thing you identify and take to your executive team and the heads of marketing, sales and service. And you say, hey, in this particular area, I'm noticing that the reason we don't have retention is because we're not proactively answering questions around problems that our clients have. And instead, they're having to come to us. So what I suggest my strategy is, is that we have some sort of proactive solution in place, that's what you guys need to do. That's where it stops. That's where it stops. Because now if this is a problem that then needs to be solved by the head of service, then they're going to work with marketing. And together, they're going to come up with the solution of how to do that. I said it in this article, and I want to be very clear, if you're the rev up champion, coming up with the what, which is the strategy. Okay, we need a solution to proactively answer client complaints and questions. That's the what, that's the strategy. That's where it stops, how that's not what you're supposed to be solving. Because you have marketers to do that you have sales people to do that, you have ops people to do that. And I said in the article, marketers should solve marketing problems. Sales should solve sales problems, and ops should self service problems, 
 
Joe  
but they just need someone on the outside being the RevOps person, I know, they might be inside the organization, but they need someone looking in from the outside saying, here's the problem to solve Next, go solve it 
 
Frank  
correct. And having that macro view is really helpful because the RevOps champion can then do that with the lens of saying, Hey, I'm looking at how all of this is connected. And because I'm keeping an eye on how things are flowing from stranger all the way to fan, I'm suggesting this kind of solution, this kind of fix, because I understand what's happening across this entire journey. Okay, and this person really becomes the right hand to the general to the general or the CEO, this person, this person, this function is really the right hand to that. It's not necessarily peer to marketing, sales and service, marketing, sales and service, kind of almost have a dotted line relationship to rev Ops, because they are the right hand to the general or the CEO. That's another thing I want to talk about real quick here. This is a slight nuance, it's it's a nerdy thing. But I'm, I'm very much a stickler for nomenclature and definitions of some things. In the DevOps community, I hear a lot of people talking about how, oh, well, the head of operations kind of is really where the bulk of rev ops takes place. Wrong. What's happening in our business world is the word ops is getting attached to a lot of functions, and it's the fancy thing to do right now. So sales ops, DevOps cloud Ops, like everyone's an Ops, and because that word is short for operations, people are confusing and thinking that the operations department is like where rev ops really, you know, takes place in the buffet that's not true. operations is about your product delivery, your product or offering fulfillment plain and simple. So if you're a product business, it's where the manufacturing takes place. If you're a service business, it's your people servicing the clients and doing the doing the time work. That is not revenue operations. Revenue operations is how you operationalize revenue across the entire buying lifecycle that inherently, is the COOs job. So the question comes, well, why then do you need Reb Ops, if it's the COOs job, the reason you need it is because the job has gotten very big. The amount of data and information in connected systems required to operate in today's business world to create a unified experience for your buyers, is a very big job. That's why the COO needs this right hand function. They are a support to the COO/GM.
 
Joe  
And they support them how?
 
Frank  
by helping set up the technological systems to bring all this data together. Because in most organizations, that doesn't happen, most organizations, you have a lot of disparate systems, right. So they exist to make sure that data comes to the coalesces in one spot, there then to set up the reporting, once that data is in one spot, or accessible in one spot, to then set up the reporting and to provide insights on that macro funnel, okay, then there to being an analyst on an ongoing basis, looking for the bottlenecks and finding the inflection points, then there to be an advisor to the CEO, and the three marketing, sales and service, there to be an advisor to say, here's what I found. Here's some supporting data. Here's some research I did online. My suggestion is we need to, we need to come up with this kind of solution. So you folks go figure out how to do that. So those that's that's how their right hand to the to the CEO. 
 
Joe  
Yeah, I love that. You know, I think here in Digitopia, we talk a lot about the first part where you are doing the analysis, we will do that, right. And you look for the bottlenecks, once you find the bottlenecks, you go kind of figure out what solution what type of solution is needed. You just made the point that you then hand it off and say marketing team, go figure out a solution for this problem. Sales Team go to the same, I think, 
 
Frank  
sorry to interrupt you, Joe. But but that might mean that marketing sales has to work together on this problem, right? I'm not suggesting that, then you maintain silos. I'm suggesting that it for the marketing part of the problem. The marketers have to solve that not the DevOps person, right? Well, the sales and service. 
 
Joe  
And I think the challenge for maybe even a lot of our listeners is when you're a smaller company, you might not actually know how to solve those problems. I mean, we work with a lot of marketing teams, a lot of sales teams that say, Yeah, I get the idea of a nurturing queue, I get the idea of a better sales deck, I get all that. But I'm not exactly sure. Because the one I made is as good as I know how to make it. So what would you recommend to you know, a smaller, medium sized company who's like, Okay, I get all this, but then who's going to point me in the right direction to actually find a solution that's working, because what we're doing right now is not working. 
 
Frank  
So for small and midsize companies, where I'm at these days is where the CEO slash GM can really benefit is by having a right hand analyst. Okay, first and foremost, it's the analysis part, like setting up the technologies to get all the data unified, setting up the reporting, maintenance, seeing it, monitoring it, and finding the inflection points, that is a massive value to a COO, massive. And if you're a COO, or your President, COO, Jia, like CEO combo one person that you absolutely need this, right? This is something that can be an amazing support to what you're trying to do in your organization. So that way, you could focus on things like leadership, you can focus on things like brand building, you can focus on things like acquisitions, and the big, bigger things. So having this right hand is really critical, then if your teams don't know exactly how to do some of the tactical stuff. Look, there are a lot of pieces of support information and courses, and there's no shortage of that on the internet. So if you're like, let me let me just say this, if you hire a marketer in 2021, and they can't figure out how to do a nurturing sequence, because they haven't bothered to Google it, or go take a course, or read a book, like you've got the wrong person, like Shame on them, like to do your job tactically in digital today, like we're talking about tactical digital stuff. There's no shortage of that information online, their strategic stuff, being a strategic thinker being in and out like that. That's not it's not just information you consume, that there's skill sets there and there's practice, right, but to like, know how to like set up HubSpot to do you know, nurturing automation. If you can't figure that out by googling and implementing and testing a few things on your own. You've got the wrong person. 
 
Joe  
Yeah, but you're talking about tactical stuff. And I would argue that there are a lot of the right person based on that definition in place in companies that are creating nurturing queues that aren't moving the needle and they actually don't strategically know what to change. They're they don't understand potentially, you know, what pain points to hit on really or how to speak, and are truly, you know, sales oriented sort of way through these nurturing cues. So what do you do about that?
 
Frank  
 So that's where I think the the Reb Ops, strategist analysts can be a value, okay? Because I think they can look at opportunity in the marketplace from a strategic lens and saying, okay, here are these buyer personas that we're trying to engage with in the marketplace. And, and here's where we're winning. And they can look at that data, say we're winning disproportionately with this particular buyer persona, and specifically around this particular product or solution. So why is that and they're the ones who can dig into that data to then tell marketing, sales and service. Hey, gang, by the way, I know we want to sell to everybody, but this particular buyer persona around this pain point. And when we sell them, this thing is working really well. They stay longer, they buy more, they refer people, they participate in our case studies. And so I would suggest that when you're targeting and you're developing, you're nurturing and all this, lean into that, like I would I would focus there for in your next set of initiatives for the next quarter. or however long you do this in your organization, that's where they can be evaluated, they can point those things out by looking at the data, especially if you're a business where, you know, you have more than, let's say, 50 customers, you then start to you can start to pick up trends. And you can start to pick up information about that customer base when you're smaller than that, and I just picked 50 as kind of a general number. That's not an exact number. But generally, when you're smaller than that, it's kind of hard to make some of those assumptions, you know, based on the data, because it's it's such a small subset, right. But, but you can then look at it and make some guesses and then have your team makes make some strides towards focus. Yeah, I think that's where the rev ops champion, and the analysts can be a big value to those teams is pointing those kinds of things out, like, Alright, you're marketing to these three or four buyer personas across these topics. And we're selling all these things. Let's really think about what we're doing really well. And where we're really winning, 
 
Joe  
which I love. That's a whole actual exercise called positive difference where you don't look to fix the broken things. But you go look, yeah, yeah, what is actually working, and either double down on that or replicate it into the things that are not working well. So what 
 
Frank  
you know, Joe, I hope we were coming up on time here. And I hope we answered that question. Those two questions today. Why does rev ops exist? And where does it live in the organization, if you're listening today, if you're a COO, and you're a GM, and you're, you've been curious about this stuff, hopefully that cleared that up for you. This is your right hand team. It's not a team that should grow to like, you know, ad infinitum, just forever. This is a few sharpshooter people at the most right in there, your right hand to uncover those gaps and opportunities. If you're in one of those functions, here today. Hopefully now you understand how to interact with your rev ops champion and if you're in rev ops. Now, hopefully that gives you some clarity of like, what you should be doing, what you should not be doing. Let the marketer solve those problems, sales and service. Thanks for joining us. Until next time, have a good one.
 
 
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