Ops Cast

From IT to CMO to CRO to founder with Jenn Steele

January 29, 2024 Michael Hartmann, Naomi Liu, Mike Rizzo and Jenn Steele Season 1 Episode 103
Ops Cast
From IT to CMO to CRO to founder with Jenn Steele
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Show Notes Transcript

In today's episode, sharing her story is Jenn Steele. Jenn is an entrepreneur, CEO, and founder with a solid track record in the fields of marketing technology and startups. With over a decade of executive experience, Jenn has consistently demonstrated strategic leadership and go-to-market skills that have led to outstanding outcomes. After successfully turning around and selling Kissmetrics in 2023, she is currently founding another company in the martech space. 

Her journey includes roles such as CEO at Kissmetrics, Vice President of Marketing at Reprise, Chief Revenue Officer at ORSNN, Chief Marketing Officer at Madison Logic, and Vice President, Product Marketing at Bizible. She started her marketing career at HubSpot in 2009 as one of the first hundred employees.

Tune in to hear: 

  • Jenn share insights on her experiences with Marketing Operations (Ops) teams across different roles, highlighting how her perspective on Marketing Ops has evolved and varied depending on her position, and how it has changed over time.
  • As a former CMO and current CEO/founder, Jenn outlines her approach to building a marketing organization, emphasizing the timing and importance of integrating Operations and the early focus areas for the Ops team.
  • The conversation delves into Jenn's transition from marketing to entrepreneurship, exploring the motivations and influences behind her decision to start new ventures in the marketing space.
  • Jenn reflects on pivotal moments and key figures in her career, discussing how certain decisions and individuals have significantly influenced her current success and providing final thoughts on her journey and advice for others.












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Michael Hartmann:

Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of OpsCast brought to you by MarketingOps. com powered by the MoPros. I'm your host, Michael Hartman, joined today by both of my compatriots. So this is two in a row, I think. So Naomi and Mike, say hello. Hello.

Mike Rizzo:

Hey, everybody. Glad

Michael Hartmann:

to be back again. Quieter, quieter. All right. So, uh, we've got a, we've got a great episode today. Uh, joining us today to share a little bit about her career story is Jen Steele. Jen is an entrepreneur, a CEO and a founder with a solid track record in the fields of marketing technology and startups with over a decade of executive experience, Jen has consistently demonstrated strategic leadership and go to market skills that have led to outstanding outcomes. after successfully turning around and selling Kissmetrics in 2023. She is currently founding another company in the MarTech space. Maybe she'll share something about that. I don't know. Her journey includes roles such as CEO at Kissmetrics, vice president of marketing at Reprise. I see, we talked about this. Reprise. Chief revenue officer at Is it just the initial Orson Orson Orson? Chief marketing officer at Madison Logic and vice president, product marketing at visible. She started her marketing career at HubSpot in 2009 as one of the first 100 employees. So Jen, thanks for joining us today and helping me with pronunciations.

Jenn Steele:

Thanks for having me. And thanks for using some of my LinkedIn bio brought to you by chat GPT. Oh, really? Yes. Yes. Like so many people who are in marketing, I suck at marketing myself. So I turned to

Michael Hartmann:

AI. That's funny. Um, so it's funny. My wife the other day sent me a text from the other room in the house. She's like, what's the name of that AI thing that does, does, uh, um, images. I'm like, that's free. And I was like, I think the one you're thinking of is Dolly, but I don't think it's free. So now maybe I'm right. Is it sort of free? Is it? It's sort of free.

Mike Rizzo:

Sort of, sort of, kind of. Okay. Depends on how you're doing it.

Michael Hartmann:

Uh, so yeah. All right. Well, check GPT did a fine job, except didn't help me with pronunciation.

Jenn Steele:

So,

Michael Hartmann:

um, anyway, well, good that you're here. So Jen, we're excited to have you. So, um, This is going to be a little bit different than some of our episodes, but, um, in some ways it'll be familiar. We do a lot of, do a lot of episodes where we talk to people about their career journey. In fact, we had a whole sort of series of them just focusing on that. Um, so excited to get your unique perspective big in the MarTech space and being out of it. And, uh, anyway, so. And if I remember, if I got this right, when you talked to, you know, I talked, you started your career actually in it somewhere and in some way, um, and now you're all the way down to where you're founding and advising companies. So maybe how about we just share, you just shared like an overview of your career with our audience. And, um. Yeah. How that intersects with, I guess what I was rewatching some of, um, Scott Brinker's Mopspalooza thing the other day, just the explosion of the marketing technology landscape is just, it was mind blowing to sort of really seeing it again and to having the chance to, to think about it, but anyway, so love to hear your story.

Jenn Steele:

Sure. Sure. Uh, but speaking first of Scott Brinker, I, so I joined HubSpot in 2009, left in 2011, went to a few non martech companies, and then in 2017, I joined Invisible. And it was wild, because when I left HubSpot in 2011, there were 150 companies on his Martech landscape. And then, um, joining Visible, what was that, six years later, we had already, we were over 4, 000. I mean, saying that the Martech landscape, and now we're over 11. Saying that the MarTech landscape has gone bonkers is putting it mildly. Uh, so, so yeah, and it actually makes me really glad that I started my career in IT because if you don't know technology, it's really hard to be a marketer, especially at a small company right now. Uh, which of course goes right into MoPros, but, um, I, I, let's see, I have a degree in biology and never did anything with it and ended up fixing computers and running IT departments at law firms. As strange as that sounds. Oh,

Michael Hartmann:

so my dad was a, my dad was a legal, my dad was a legal administrator. So you probably worked for someone like him, right? Yeah, yeah,

Jenn Steele:

yeah. Exactly. Yes. I, I answered to our firm's administrative director.

Mike Rizzo:

It's just to, just to round out the, the legal back. I served people for a little while, like I was that guy.

Michael Hartmann:

Wow,

Jenn Steele:

that's way more exciting than installing servers.

Mike Rizzo:

Uh, I'll tell you the story, maybe offline, uh, one

Jenn Steele:

day. Oh, and over some sort of beverage? Yeah. Yeah. Um, I happened to be right place, right time when I went to change careers. I had picked up my MBA. My worst classes were actually my marketing classes, but we don't talk about that much. Um. And honestly it was killing me. I mean, I was, I was so burned out. I was so done. And your very best day in it. Um, everybody ignores you and I don't like being ignored. Hey, I'm on a podcast right now. Clearly, I like people to pay some attention to me. Um, I call up my career services office and they're like, you need to go talk to this Cambridge startup. I was Boston located, um, Cambridge startup that nobody's ever heard of called HubSpot. And I did end up talking to them because it turns out that the recruiter for HubSpot had gone, um, to undergrad where I went to business school. And of course, the founders of HubSpot had gone to business school where I had gone to undergrad. So, very small world there. Um, I started as a marketing consultant because that's what you take somebody, you take an executive who has been running IT departments and help desks and servers and, and software, and you have her tell hundreds of marketers how to do inbound marketing. And weirdly enough, it worked. And by the time I left, I was, I was, I think, acting director of consulting services. I don't know. Titles were malleable. And, um, actually, for all I know, I'd still be there, except that Amazon came knocking, and I had married a guy from the Pacific Northwest, and HubSpot didn't do remote at the time. So that's how it all started. And then like so many startup execs, it's just, okay. I was here for this much time. I mean, I was at Amazon for two years and one day because Amazon is Amazon. Uh, but I paid my Seattle dues cause I swear everybody here has to work at either Amazon or Microsoft at some point. And, um, and then I love startups. I just love startups. So I went to a recruitment startup as head of sales and marketing, set up our HubSpot instance there. Um, I also set up our network when we moved into an office because I wasn't that far from IT. Um, and then on and on. And, um, luckily, most of my job switches were voluntary and People came after me, not all of them have been, and in the smaller companies, I've consistently had to candle or at least understand marketing operations. And that's where having the IT background has been huge because I know how data structures work. I know how databases work. I know why I hate how Marketo structures things versus how HubSpot structures things.

Michael Hartmann:

I don't think we want to go down that road. I'd go right there with you. You and then Naomi would have to have like this fight with us

Jenn Steele:

and literally

Naomi Liu:

just became the Vancouver Mugly

Jenn Steele:

co leader. So I cannot say anything about, I have to say the Marketo marketers I know are extraordinary. I think because your brains had to deal with this broken system for a really long time. So you had to become really good at marketing, but, um. And, and Marketo is more powerful in a lot of ways, but I, why do you start with an asset? Okay, wait, we weren't going to talk about that. Nevermind. I told you,

Michael Hartmann:

I told you.

Jenn Steele:

Yeah. So I, it's so funny because I don't know that you can get marketers more passionate than when you talk about our tools.

Mike Rizzo:

It's like a whole new world. I just wrote about that. I literally just wrote this in Slack in our community, like, what, two, three days ago? Anyway, I put it in our, we have a channel, Jen. It's called Let It Go. It's Let

Jenn Steele:

It Go. Oh, that's actually my favorite. I'm in your, I'm in your Slack. Um, and that's one of my favorite

Mike Rizzo:

channels. Yeah. Yeah. So I let it go in there the other day cause I heard from someone, uh, they were like, I was explaining an attribution process or something. Yeah. Yeah. And the words that came out were, um, Isn't that redundant? And I was just like, Uhhhhhhhhh. Like, I don't know how to respond to this right now. But you know, after years of doing this, right, You sort of know how to, uh, maybe handle, you know, Sometimes it's like, Yes. No. Redundancy is important. I, like, So, anyway.

Michael Hartmann:

It's a little bit like, uh, the arguments over, um, maybe religious arguments down here in the South, I'm in Texas about barbecue.

Jenn Steele:

Please understand, attribution is a religion. Um, it is absolutely religion. I mean, I I worked at Visible. I'm a big fan of like, when I started at Visible, it blew my mind because I had been trying to build my own attribution models. And when I got there, uh, Dave Rigotti, who was my peer at Visible, we ran marketing together for a little bit. He sat down with me and he's doing demos. We're in a conference room, et cetera. And I said, really, so can you trace like, Do you know how much money a blog post make makes you? He's like, Oh yeah. He builds the report in Salesforce with like four clicks because of course the data objects were all already there. And my mind exploded all over the conference room because do you know how many hours I had spent trying to build exactly that model? So that works to a point, but fundamentally I have come to this conclusion because not everybody understands like these are data points. You could roll them up. 70 ways to next Tuesday and we just have to agree on how we're looking at things. Um, I've come to the conclusion that attribution is whatever the hell people will agree on. Like, I don't, it's, it's not, I used to think it was data, dummy. No, it's a religion.

Mike Rizzo:

Yep. I agree with that. There's a lot of passion in, uh, in the category and the subject matter. And, and what's, you know, what's kind of fun is that like, it never really dies down, right? Like, um, It's just, yeah, it feels like everybody's constantly searching for the answer, um, and it's like, it's the never ending quest. It's just, I don't know where to go.

Jenn Steele:

And it's wild because of course now, I'm a CEO at Kitsmetrics, I'm a CEO and founder now, and I pray that I don't forget that You can make data say lots of things. The data will not always say what I want it to say, which I swear is something half of founders forget. And that's okay. Like, work with what you have. And I just hope that I can. Keep that perspective and don't make some poor marketing person's life complete hell, like my own life has been made hell at times.

Mike Rizzo:

I'm going to plus one to that. I'm sure, I'm sure Hartman has more places to take us on, on this conversation, but I just, I want to emphasize in general, um, I love that you're saying that and that you want to remember that, but what we actually really need is that the generation of folks that are learning this as they grow through their career now, when you become, hopefully for those of you that aspire to do so, become the investors of the future, remember that. When you're the board and you're the investor, remember that this stuff is not like perfect and there's no answer to it, because that's actually the other part of the problem, Jen, is that you get all these investors in these startups and they want to know what's going on and you just have to get them on level playing field. So it's not just your executive team and your internal team of stakeholders that have to be aligned on what attribution is, quote, unquote. But it's also your if you're on a private company with investors, you have to get them to understand that this is not either. And so that's the other part. Anyway, sorry.

Jenn Steele:

Oh, yeah, I think you and I could talk about this for hours. As you said, Trust

Michael Hartmann:

me, I'm I am fighting back the urge to take us down that rabbit hole. But I do I do think this is a good segue, though, because one of the things I wanted to kind of get your take on is you've played sort of different roles, whether it was It sounds like you're in marketing operations and you were sort of adjacent to it, right? In different ways, and I'm curious about your perspective, maybe through those different. Places on what you think made marketing ops teams better in certain scenarios than others, right? And maybe there's some variation there. Maybe it's like it always is, right? It depends, right? The classic consultant answer, but I'm just curious, like, what is you? Yeah, you've, you've seen a lot of different examples. Plus you had clients, right? I assume in your role at HubSpot, you were. Selling or marketing to, yeah. Marketing ops folks. So, um, I think it would be really useful for our audience to hear that perspective.

Jenn Steele:

Yeah. And at case metrics, I was, I was dealing with marketing ops folks and stuff like that. Um, I, I have, I have so many words that are all trying to come out my mouth at the same time. Um, number, my number one learning is that unless you're very careful, rev Ops doesn't work and you still need marketing ops. And unfortunately, I learned that the hard way at an organization where I said, yeah, sure, we can use rev ups. And then my team was suffering through everything until we could open up a, a mops head count. Um, and that was, that one was tough. And some of it is just. Sales one, it's like, it's not that we didn't try to win. It's not that we didn't, but, and I even had said about the people that we interviewed, I'm like, they don't know my stack. Like I, like you can hire them, but they're going to be sales ops, not rev ops. And. Somehow, it didn't really matter until we proved to them that it was taking us longer to get the data that everybody wanted because we didn't have any headcount who could deal with it, like, naturally.

Michael Hartmann:

No, I'm convinced on that front. Well, A, that doesn't surprise me, but B, I'm convinced on that front that a big part of that is the nice thing about sales. I'm not saying sales is easy. I've been in sales. It's, fucking hard, like no doubt about it, but it is very binary, right? Whereas marketing, there are so many other factors that come into play. It is. It's not like you can point to one metric, even it says good or bad, even attribution, if let's say you agree on that, right, you know, saying it's good or bad. It's really hard. And it's kind of a moment in time. So I think it's, and then add on top of that, most senior executives have very little exposure to actually doing marketing. And

Jenn Steele:

so, and yet they all think they can do it well, it's easy. Let's not forget that. Absolutely. I mean, I could have made that Pringle commercial. Totally. That isn't it the same with B2B? Same thing, right? Of course.

Michael Hartmann:

Yeah. Anyway, sorry, again, could derail us here.

Jenn Steele:

Yeah. I'm sorry, what was your question

Michael Hartmann:

again? Yeah. Oh, your perspective. Your perspective on like what marketing

Jenn Steele:

ops? Yeah, so interestingly enough, I don't hire marketing ops as early as some of my colleagues do because I am so sy. You know, when we were, when Dave and I were at visible, we didn't really need marketing ops because most of our team knew how to make all of our tools work. Um, and so it's, it's almost like I value it so highly that I don't let it go very easily. In fact, I was just talking to the person that I'm bringing on as my fractional CMO and yes, I'm hiring a fractional CMO, despite coming on from marketing because I need somebody else to take care of that portion of my brain. But this person's not as good at HubSpot as they would like to be or. And I'm like, I've got that covered. Like, I'm a founder of a tiny company, right? We're like three people right now. And so, I can, because I know apps, I can hire somebody who's not as strong in my tech stack. So I think that's a different perspective than a lot of leaders who didn't, who don't like to roll up their hands or think in relational databases. Roll up their sleeves. I know, I know how to speak English, really.

Mike Rizzo:

No, we understood what you meant. We meant what you knew. The um, you know, Who was it? I think it was Jomar at summer camp a while ago brought this up, perhaps, and, or it was at like career fair or something, one of our virtual conferences we were hosting. And the, the comment that was offered or the insight that was offered was marketing ops professionals are much more equipped and capable of becoming entrepreneurs. Because they understand so much of the foundational go to market technologies. And if you end up taking a liking, perhaps, to some of the other aspects of go to market, you may find yourself rapidly iterating on a business idea, and, and operating very effectively and efficiently. Um, and it sounds like, Jen, that's That's up your alley. And I think for, for our listeners, perhaps that's some, maybe a message they could take away too, right? Is, is that this stuff can equip you to, to know how to build out a go to market, you know, motion using technology. Um, and it can let you maybe operate a little bit more leanly for a while. Um, But at some point you do have to, like, figure out when to let go.

Jenn Steele:

And that's an interesting one because, I mean, there are even times now that I was questioning my CTO about the data structures in our product, have I mentioned, I think, in relational databases, but, um, and it turns out that he was right because I was missing a key piece. I just would like to announce publicly that I can be wrong sometimes and almost admit it. Um, but So on the one hand, absolutely. In fact, I don't know that I would be as an effective executive and certainly not as an effective founder if I didn't have such a deep technical and operational background, because if somebody asks for a report, I'm like, yeah, I can figure out how to get it. Or at least I can figure out the concept of how to get it and make somebody else run it, you know, um, And it was huge. And without my technical, I mean, when I was at Amazon, my one year of B2C marketing was, um, on the track, what was the traffic team? And I was the bang chick. I ran all, I was responsible for all of Amazon's revenues across free and paid search. And the only way I could get the category managers to pay attention to me was by branding myself the bang chick. It worked. Um, but the sheer amount of data that I had to deal with was bonkers, right? Cause it was Amazon, even 10 years ago, it was Amazon. And if I hadn't already known so much about databases and attribution models and a lot of things like that, I would have floundered then, but then I could build on knowing how Amazon ran their data, um, to go lots of different sizes and to know various things. And, and in fact, I, I advise, uh, uh, startups in one of the accelerators, like on mark tech stack, because it's like, I know this stuff. I'm curious if you ever have, sorry, I'm curious if you ever

Naomi Liu:

have, um, if you ever struggle with like taking a step back and like letting go of some of the decision making, like some of the decision making processes or, you know, things should. Be structured this way or this is how it goes, especially when you're leading a team. I feel like sometimes that's something that I struggle with because I also am quite technical myself, but I also lead a very team. Right. And yeah, if there are ever projects that I need them to work on or if, um, you know, there's just things that, you know, we have to load share. Mm-hmm, in my mind, there's a way to do it. And what I think is the right way. Right. And then I'm like, okay, this is your project to run with. And sometimes I find it difficult to kind of let go of like, okay, I see how we both got to that same like end results. Right. You know, and I, I'm just curious like what your,

Jenn Steele:

like how do you handle that kind of thing? Yeah, so I don't think it's easy. I think especially with the super technical roles, like we got there because we were the smartest person in the room who could understand the technology. Like there's some people that went for them, but like I had a crappy job out out of college and I was just better at fixing computers than at doing my actual job. And so I ended up in it. Um. But the first, well, the first person in I. T. that I hired that I didn't fire, and that's again a story over a beverage, um, did things not like me. So, Naomi, it was like describing exactly what you're talking about. Like, I knew how to do this. Um, the thing was that I was completely snowed under. Like, I had just completed a giant move project, and build out, and all of this stuff, and I needed desperate help. I just needed a warm body. And at some point, I realized. That he absolutely did not do things like me. He couldn't problem solve like me. He couldn't write like me. He couldn't do a lot of things like me. But he was extraordinary at details and checklists and things that I sucked at. And so the mantra I adopted that I still use to this day when I find myself getting in my own way or being like, Mine! I know how to do this! Um, is, People don't do things like me. And that's usually good.

Mike Rizzo:

I love that. I love that. I, I, I will tell you, uh, it is, it is incredibly hard for me as well. Right? Like here I am. I know a bit about building community now. I certainly know a lot about, uh, MarTech as it relates to B2B SaaS organizations. I'm not, you know, the foremost expert, but I definitely have my, have gotten my hands dirty enough times to know what I'm doing. And, um, and today, you know, we've got a very lean team at MarketingOps. com. There's like three of us that are like really honed in, or let's call it four of us, that are super honed in on like trying to work on things all the time. It is, and there, let's, let's find a question at the end of this, but it is. It's so hard sometimes to write something out to someone without feeling like I'm literally just giving them the play by play on exactly how I would have done it, right? Like Naomi, when you were, when you were suggesting that this is a challenge for you, I, the thing that went through my head was, yeah, I feel like by the time I write it out, I could have probably done it. And that is so

Naomi Liu:

difficult. It's so difficult. It's so difficult. Right, but then you can also, especially, you know, if you're, I think a lot of people who go into leadership positions and lead teams, they want to be able to, there's that mentorship aspect of it, right? There's something that I really enjoy about that and watching people grow their careers, but how can they grow them if I'm So, You know, and I also don't have the time to handhold, but at the same time, like, you have to also train them and mentor them and motivate them. But then, like you said, you could have just done it yourself.

Jenn Steele:

That's super awesome. Yeah, although you could have done it yourself once. Yeah, you could have done it yourself once kind of going back to what Naomi was saying about mentorship and leadership. It's like, yes, but you write it out and then they have it for the next time it has to get done and hopefully they can iterate on it and hopefully make it better. Well, in my case, better than anything that's come out of my brain because I'm infamous for skipping steps.

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah, I think it goes back to the point of entrepreneurship to write like. Um, marketing ops up to up till now, really up until just the last few years, we were stumbling our way through all this stuff, right? Like there was an active Googling and community, like whether you were in HubSpots user groups or Marketo user groups or whatever, there was a ton of like active. I don't know how to do this. So I have to, I have to forge my path to get there. Someone has given me a challenge and I need to get through to the finish line of, you know, building out a UTM tracking system or like, they didn't even ask for that. Right. They asked for like, I want to be able to report on where my leads came from. And then you ended up figuring out that meant UTMs, et cetera, et cetera. The point is it's entrepreneurial, right? And like, and like that is. Like, if you're an active Googler and you're a research first type of person before you like pick up the phone and call your friend, you go to like your resources, Marketing Ops might be a good career path for you. On top of that, for those of you looking to enter into Marketing Ops or who have just entered the chaos, um, please, welcome, yeah, welcome, but also please consider that you should have an entrepreneurial mindset. Right? Just because someone came and did it before you, and there are, there might be answers, right? Um, you should also aspire to roll up your sleeves and try to figure it out for yourself. Uh, which doesn't always equate to, I have a job where I clock in at 9 to 5. Oh, goodness, no. Right? Like, those are, those are not always in sync with each other. And I'm not saying that you should throw away your work life balance. What I'm saying is, uh, it is really about, sometimes it's, it's more than just being told, here's the checklist and like,

Jenn Steele:

here you go. Oh yeah. But you will have nights when you're like. Oh, I broke the lead flow. Oh yeah. I cannot do the thing that I was planning to do this evening because I have to fix the lead, lead flow as soon as possible, but definitely before morning.

Mike Rizzo:

You know. My wife has been helping us. Sorry, last thing Michael. Yeah, yeah. My wife has been helping us with stuff and she totally woke up middle of the night and hit me. And she goes. I didn't change the on the email, you know, whatever it was, I was like, I patter on the, on the arm next, you know, after the, the abrupt wake up and I was like, welcome to marketing ops.

Michael Hartmann:

It was great. The only, I'm going to just, I'll play counterpoint here a little bit in that. I tend to agree, like ideally as a leader, I want people who are going to be entrepreneurial, who are going to try to solve problems themselves. And then you at least make that effort on the other hand. And no one likes to hear this because I can't, I bet you couldn't find anyone who says I want to be micromanaged. At the same time, there are people who to be most productive actually need. Here's the checklist of things to do, and there's a place for those people. It's not good or bad. It's just so I think the point the point I am making is that you need to meet people where they are. If you want to be the most effective leader, you can. And sometimes it's or it could be somebody who doesn't have that kind of aspiration. I've had that too on teams like a really high performer who just. Didn't have aspirations to do other than anything more than really interesting, good work. Totally fine. So that's like the only thing I, that's the only pushback I would give you on that. It's just, I think it's, it's easy for us to all jump into, especially for you two who have both, both, both lived sort of startup lives where I think I like Naomi, you haven't really been startup life. Most of the top, most of your career, right?

Naomi Liu:

Um, we've done a, I mean, at my career, like we've done a whole bunch of acquisitions and you could classify some of those acquisitions as startups. So there has been like that exposure for sure, but not direct startup.

Michael Hartmann:

Yeah. So I mean, it's, it's just interesting. It's really interesting for me to hear this perspective because I do think it says a lot about, like, for the people who want to be in startups, I do think that is an important trait to have, like, you want to be able to, like, just figure stuff out because there's not always going to be somebody who has time to really spend with you, coach you, mentor you in the moment. Very true.

Jenn Steele:

I have, I have been known to say, if you're beating your head against it for more than 30 minutes and you're not making any headway, it's time to put up your hand, right? Because we've got more than one brain around here. Like, at the very least, I could be like, oh my gosh, I did that the other day and it was dreadful. That was the first thing. And so sometimes it's nice to put parameters so you don't have somebody with their head down and you're like, what are you doing that if you had talked to me, right? And the second thing, and I learned this in IT, was having two very much the box checkers, the people who know how to get things done and grind to every one crazy problem solver. Because a crazy problem solver like me will skip steps, you can't have that all the time. But you also need The people who can grind things out and be really methodical to be able to turn around and say, what am I missing? And have somebody do the crazy, like, why don't we go HubSpot to Salesforce and back to HubSpot so that then it corrects this thing over here and tags it this way. So those are the two things that I think have been really important.

Mike Rizzo:

That's no, that's, that's super, super interesting. I, so I've never actually, um. I like that strategy. Can you play that back for me one more time? So you said you need the crazy problem solver, and for every one of those, you need two?

Jenn Steele:

Yes. This was in IT, which I find maps pretty well to marketing ops, because it's a lot of the same things. You're running the data, you're doing the this, you're doing the that. And it's, I needed the people who could get the systems up and running, right? I needed the people who could implement a campaign and never miss a step. Because if you miss a step implementing a campaign, you've shot yourself in the foot. But then I need people who, when you're asked for A crazy thing. The people who are best at implementing the campaign may not be able to report on it sideways like your CEO wants. So, the out of the box thinker is the one who can be like, Oh, we can stitch these two pieces of data together and then we can get that to happen. Um, and I just found that two to one was better because we had to get more stuff done than we had crazy problems to solve.

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah, yeah. So let's, let's circle back around. Um, we were talking a bit about sort of your, your journey. Um, I'm actually, I think when you and I started to interact more on LinkedIn recently, um, Was during sort of that period of time where you became ceo and then exited. Um the company do you just like What what transitions happened there? Um Did you have to build out a whole new marketing team and then? Like, how did you go about that then and does that influence how you're going to do it this time? I heard you say fractional CMO right out of the gate. That's super, super interesting too. Like, you're starting there. So yeah, maybe guide us through some of that.

Jenn Steele:

So, um, they brought me into Kissmetrics. It was a fairly small company at that point. I mean, many of us remember Kissmetrics when it was a much larger company. And they hadn't had a CEO or a sales team in a long time. So they basically, they couldn't remember how to land a deal or onboard a customer effectively. Um, so it wasn't, gee, well, Jen built a new, a martech stack. It's. I don't have a go to market function. Um, I'm supposed to turn around and solve this thing. Where do I start? Now, I was lucky because I had a robust analytics platform. Who knew that my own platform worked really well for that, which was nice. But it was, I mean, putting pieces together. I will say that being a turnaround CEO is highly operational because you need all of the Excel sheets. You need all of the, the systems to, to work together. And then it's not just the, your, martech stack, it's also your fin tech stack. It's also your HR stuff. And so for me, it was, where's this data coming from? Who's our credit card processor? How does that work with our CRM? And it was, I will, I love that you actually asked that question because I never thought about exactly how opsy my first few months at Kissmetrics were while I figured, tried to figure out what in the world happened. Um, We got to the point that we could land new deals, et cetera, and my investors wanted to sell the company. And I did for a small profit, or at least they told me they didn't lose any money. Um, it was, it was a wild experience. I was, I was actually grateful that I was on the visible exec team when Marketo acquired us. So I already seen some diligence, um, because I was basically it, it was like me, my head of sales, cause I did not hire anybody in marketing, um, and my CTO. And that was. It was just the three of us like kind of swimming through crazy diligence and just me dealing with all the legal documents. Oh, fascinating.

Mike Rizzo:

So, sorry, if you have more. No,

Jenn Steele:

no, go ahead. I was gonna ask. Um, I can't. Sorry.

Mike Rizzo:

I was gonna ask. I, so, at MarketingOps. com, like I said, small team, right? We're working on lots of things. I got my hands in a lot of that stuff, right? Like credit card processing. We have Stripe accounts. I have access to all kinds of stuff, right? What is your take on RevOps? Because to me, so much of what I'm doing today, thinking about productization, how that lines up to the literal connections to QuickBooks, uh, how we'd send invoices, process them, recognize revenue, we're on a accrual, not a cash, right? That's how we do our things. To me, that's RevOps. Um, like, truly, it's from It's the actual

Jenn Steele:

revenue operation.

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah, like, like how the revenue is reckoned, all those things. But, I would love your thoughts on RevOps

Jenn Steele:

today. This reminds me of CRO. The role of CRO, especially as Startups have defined it is basically sales has done a better job of marketing themselves by giving themselves a CRO title. Um, it feels like, and I, and I think I said this earlier, it's in so many companies, Rev Ops ends up being sales ops. And I think your assessment that, and it's a little bonkers when you think about it, like marketing used to be product and placement and positioning and price. That is all of the stack you just discussed. So how that is not either MarketingOps or the true foundation of RevOps, I don't know. I mean, I've worked places that I could only use my Martech stack to measure against the booked revenue number in Salesforce, but we weren't SaaS, and recognized revenue was over in NetSuite. But I couldn't Report out on attribution because none of my marketing tools integrated with NetSuite and NetSuite didn't integrate correctly with Salesforce to report that number back. So I had to do a guesstimate of, we usually recognize 90 percent of our booked revenue. I mean, it's, it's so close to what you were just describing. Um, I think that more and more CMOs are trying to say, I'm sorry, we are not your arts and crafts people with, uh, with all the sexy tools over here. We are directly. Responsible for revenue and not like we get on the phones like sales does, um, but we need to know how the company recognizes revenue. We need to know, you know, how we're doing. What are the investors asking? Because we're the ones that are showing the face of the company. I think if CMOs win that fight, then marketing office is going to be where it needs to be. I think otherwise, marketing ops is, is tough and we need to talk rev ops. We just need to pull it out of sales cold, dead hands.

Michael Hartmann:

What do you think the likelihood is? What do you think the likelihood of CMOs in general winning that, winning that

Jenn Steele:

argument? I think, I think marketing is going through a crisis of identity at the moment. Um, I think that, A lot of Silicon Valley CEOs have been taught really wacky shit about marketing. Um, that has caused a lot of, well, a lot of therapy bills for a lot of marketers. Um, and I think the current wackiness we're seeing in the economy, especially in the tech sector, which of course tends to kind of lead the whole like B2B marketing and marketing ops, you know, at least we were loud about it. Um, I honestly feel like we're just coming to a very strange point, and I don't know what the future of the chief marketing officer is. I do know that we're not going to go from, what are we, 11, 000 marketing tools down to zero anytime soon. Um, it's just Where, how did, how does the organization of the future actually look and will marketing take price back and, and positioning and product back to the extent that it'll actually work because what's what we're doing now isn't working. And sorry, you hit a religious argument for my turn to get into religion here. For me, it's a, as a founder, I'm, I'm watching other founders going, what are you a dumb ass? Um, at the same time, I'm also just reading everything. The VCs are saying almost none of whom know anything about marketing, marketing ops, any of that stuff. They just know, like they know sales and maybe they know product and that's it. And it's, there's a lot of strange stuff out there. And as marketers, we need to get better. And I still say we, even though I'm on my second CEO gig, but we need to get better at marketing ourselves and explaining what we do.

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah, I, I, I have to agree. Um, I don't know, I'm hopeful that there's a C suite. Uh, opportunity, uh, at least adjacent and alliance that, that, that does a really nice job aligning, um, some of the executives in the room, board members, et cetera. And perhaps it comes from, from this background, this marketing ops, robops sort of background. Um, It is, I've also experienced, uh, the just separation of product and marketing and, and those two things come together in a role called product marketing all the time.

Jenn Steele:

That was, that was how I grew up. Yes, I was in product marketing.

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah, but it's fascinating, like. You know, the user research piece, um, the way that pricing and, and, and like, particularly in SAS, this happens all the time, right, where we're trying to figure out what features to package with what plan and all this other stuff like that, that used to actually sort of fall under marketing. And I'm. I don't know that that's right or wrong. I don't know that pulling that out and doing that kind of research is a good or a bad thing, but I, what I do know is that it at least should still, uh, be a very close conversation between those leaders, right? And that seems to be lacking very sorely.

Jenn Steele:

Yeah. Well, if I think about how to, how to construct an executive team, It's like, there should be somebody dealing with all the internal crap, right? You can call that COO or whatever, but it's like, there's my internal finance, my internal HR, there's like all that stuff. Then there's R& D, and that is product and technology. And then there's go to market, and that's the person who is responsible for how the hell do we make people give us money? Like, whether that's, you know, land and expand, like, whatever that is. And I think that I don't love like separating sales and marketing and customer success into their own executive roles. But I hate even more putting that under somebody who's sales at only short term focused because then it's a mess. And I don't think there's an answer as much as that's how I think about it is like the people who are entirely internally focused, the people who are developing the thing. And then there are the people who are selling the thing. And, um, and I, we're just not playing well together. Yeah.

Mike Rizzo:

So, you've, you've been on a journey, entered, uh, from IT to marketing, you became a CEO, turnaround CEO, sold a company, um, didn't build marketing there. You've also talked about some things that are pretty, uh, passionate subjects for

Jenn Steele:

you.

Mike Rizzo:

Is this, is this new endeavor you're on something that is going to touch on any of those? Can you share anything? Like what's led you to now start something?

Jenn Steele:

Well, truthfully. One of my investors from Kissmetric says, Hey, I like what you did there. You want to take one of my other products out of one of my other companies and, and sell it? And my first answer was kind of no. Um, and then I started talking to people and I, I'm really passionate about go to market people. Like I realized at one point that I actually like marketers more than I like marketing. Um, and. In, you know, May, June of 2022, my people were in pain, losing jobs, CPLs had quadrupled. I mean, it was, it was rough. And I realized that this product, even though it had been originally built as an affiliate's product, and I didn't want to get into that space, could be repurposed into a marketplace. And so the company that I'm founding is called SoundGTM. We are launching to Alpha and ED now, um, but essentially it's. It's a marketplace that on one side pulls together, um, the funnel effectively. I mean, the first use case we're, we're attacking is qualified meetings. So basically I'm a marketer or whatever, I'm going to go to your platform and put up my, a special landing page, et cetera, and so on. And then of course my product has backend integrations into your CRM. And when it hits a qualified stage. You'll have to pay for it. Well, who do you pay on the other side of my marketplace? I have go to market professionals that I sourced mostly through communities at this point. We can talk a little bit about that offline. But, I source mostly through communities at this point. Um, who can basically call up their friends and say like, Hey, um, I hear that, you know, you've been looking for outreach. If, you know, like, go to this page and see how that goes. And then when they turn into a qualified lead, the person who picked up the phone gets paid. And I've got a list of sales and marketing people who are both very interested in using their networks to get a little cash on the side. Whether that's to pay their mortgage or to To buy a boat. Um, and if I can get the product to work, well, I've I'm seeing a huge amount of demands on both sides of the marketplace, especially there's a lot of sales people who never want to work in sales again, or at least would be happy to never do a pipeline review again. And, um, and, you know, most of us here come from the marketing side. And so we understand just how hard it is to fill the top of the sales funnel. And so, um, anything I can do, you know, my dream is Sunday. I will have my Google AdWords budget, my LinkedIn budget, and I'll have my sound GTM budget. Right. And that's how I get qualified leads into the funnels. That's

Mike Rizzo:

awesome. I'm excited. I've, uh, I didn't, I've been, I think I still fight it. You can kind of hear me hesitate even to say it, um, but I'm totally a marketplace guy. Every single idea I've ever come up with has

Jenn Steele:

always

Michael Hartmann:

been

Jenn Steele:

some sort of double sided

Mike Rizzo:

marketplace thing and I fight it tooth and nail. I'm like, no, no, no, that's a product. And

Jenn Steele:

people don't want to fund it, et cetera. I mean, we're facilitating it through a product, obviously building AI into the product because you have to at this point, but also we have ideas. Um, but this is my third marketplace and it's my co founder's fourth. So I think we're marketplace guys too.

Mike Rizzo:

I'll tell you what, some of the biggest, uh, you know, revenue generators in the world are marketplaces, folks.

Jenn Steele:

So, yeah, yeah. And, you know, think about it this way, instead of driving for Uber, you can just come right on to sound GTM and pick up a few thousand dollars, uh, from the comfort of your home.

Mike Rizzo:

Yep, I own a great domain, by the way, um, if you'd like, if you'd like that, it's called productfeedback. io. It sounds a bit like a marketplace, uh, similar to what

Jenn Steele:

you're building. Yeah, not quite. Uh, somgtm. com I already owned because I was going to go out on my own. Um, it turns out I really hated going out on my own. I love working with people and teams. Um, so when it came to, uh, naming my company, I'm just like, well, I already own this domain. Sure. So we are incorporated as SoundGTM. Yeah.

Mike Rizzo:

Yeah. Can't tell you the amount of founders books I've read that are like, don't get hung up on naming your company. It's a waste of

Jenn Steele:

time. Yeah. Yeah. Although everybody hates our logo, which we did with an AI tool over beer in 20 minutes. So I don't know why people would hate our logo, but it is what it is right now. We'll fix it later.

Mike Rizzo:

Oh, that's awesome. Well, Harman, are you back? Do you have audio? He doesn't know.

Michael Hartmann:

It's it's questionable right now. So got it. Got it I'm gonna blame it on the cold cold here. But anyway, we've finished this

Mike Rizzo:

up No, it's all good. Um, well, I you know, I want to be respectful of time Um, jen, thank you for for joining us. I think just sort of Anything else? Any final thoughts that you might want to offer the audience as it relates to sort of their career path, what they're thinking about? We've talked a lot about, you know, entrepreneurship, marketing ops in general. Any passing thoughts before we sort of round out the show?

Jenn Steele:

Um, I agree with what you said earlier, and that ops is a great foundation for entrepreneurship. But I want to caution people that it is far more annoying than you want it to be. Now I hear there's a reward on the other side, but I am definitely in the annoying part. So, um, yeah, and, and, but the best part is communities like market, you know, like, like marketing ops, like what you do that gets you through. It's, it's the people around you that, that really matter.

Mike Rizzo:

Awesome. Well, um, thank you, Jen. And, uh, if people wanted to stay in touch with you, uh, what's sort of the best way to, to reach you?

Jenn Steele:

Yeah, so I am Jen Steele, almost everywhere. That's J E N N S T E E L E. I am most active on LinkedIn. I have a Twitter account. I refuse to call it X, but I'm not there very often. And if you want to see a lot of wine shots and Seattle skyline shots, I am Jen Steele on Instagram as well.

Mike Rizzo:

Awesome. Uh, well thank you again for joining us, Naomi. Thanks for hanging out with us and uh, sharing your perspectives as well. And Hartman, thanks for barely hanging on. Your internet

Michael Hartmann:

nailed us today. It's a good thing, it's a good thing that we're not sharing the video.

Jenn Steele:

Especially when I

Michael Hartmann:

kept trying. Um,

Mike Rizzo:

I'll, I'll close us out, uh, listeners, thank you for listening, please, uh, like, subscribe, share. If you want to be a guest, come join us. Don't hesitate to go to your profile on marketing ops. com where there is a. Module on the right hand side of your free profile that says that you'd like to be a guest. You click the button sends me an email and then, uh, we will get in touch with Hartman and get you scheduled. We'd love to have more of you on. It's all about learning from each other. So appreciate you. And until next time. Thanks.

Jenn Steele:

Thank you. Thanks.