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RevOps -Must Contain Season 2 Ep. 4 with Kelly Jo Horton

Kristin and Kristin are back with Must Contain’s first-ever guest, Kelly Jo Horton. This time we’re talking RevOps. We’re breaking down what it is, what it isn’t, how to structure a RevOps org (spoiler, it comes down to making friends over beers), and a bit about how to become a RevOps leader.

Just want to skip to the beers? Fast forward to 25:44 for the three things you need to know about RevOps.

A reminder that we have an open call for guests. Submit your buzzword using this form or type the link into your browser –  We can’t wait to hear what topics you want to break down with us in Season 2. 


Hosted by Kristin Anne Carideo(KAC) and Kristin Crowe (OGK)


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (00:00)
Hey, Containers, it’s Kristin Crowe. Before we get started, I wanted to remind you again about MOPsCON 2022. It’s happening this September 20th and 21st. We’d love to have you at this event made by and for MOPs professionals. So head over to to get your ticket. And don’t forget, Kristin and I will be hosting a live episode of Must Contain featuring Edward Unthank. We can’t wait to see you.


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:04)
Hi, I’m Kristin Crowe.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:06)
And I’m Kristen Carideo.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:08)
And this is must contain the podcast from Etumos where we help explain the how of marketing, although we can’t always explain the why.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:15)
Join us every two weeks as we break down marketing and corporate topics and discuss what they really mean.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:21)
And if you enjoyed this podcast, please remember to like follow or subscribe in all your favorite podcast platforms.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:31)
Okay. Whenever you’re ready Kristin. -Oh no it’s me.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): 01:36
Yea it’s you – Kristin. But I might leave all this in.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:47)
Welcome back to another episode of Must Contain. Today our topic is something near and dear to my heart. As someone who is titled VP of Revenue – Revenue Operations or RevOps. What is it? Should we all be organizing our teams this way? Why do people do this? Why do they organize their operations team this way? Or is it just a fancy buzz word?

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (02:08)
Well, I can’t wait to dig in. And our guest once again is Kelly Jo Horton, Senior Client Partner here at Etumos and our first repeat guest. Kelly Jo was our very first guest on this podcast in fact, talking about ABM. Go back and check out that episode if you get a chance. Welcome back, Kelly Jo.

Kelly Jo Horton: (02:28)
Thanks for having me back again. I’m Kelly Jo, and as I said, I am a Senior Client Partner and a fierce revenue operations advocate.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (02:44)
All right. Well, this should be good. Guaranteed. So let’s jump in. I think it’s probably a pretty easy ask to define RevOps, but can you define how people out in the market are using it and maybe how they’re using it correctly or incorrectly?

Kelly Jo Horton: (03:02)
Yeah. So let’s let’s talk about what it isn’t. I have in previous jobs sat in revenue operations organizations that I would say were not defined correctly or put together under what I would consider a RevOps definition. One organization was led by a sales leader and one organization was led by a marketing leader. So what it is not… it is not a part of demand gen marketing. It is not just a dedicated sales organization. It is not a solution if you have a problem with your sales and marketing teams actually talking and collaborating, which is what I think a lot of companies end up doing, they create a RevOps organization to try to force collaboration and alignment between sales and marketing. And that is not what it’s about.

Not a sales centric organization, not a marketing centric organization. It is an operations centric organization. It should be a separate group that is responsible for software systems, processes, and data related to Sales and marketing. So the day to day sales and marketing functions would still live in those other organizations like DemandGen, brand, and sales. But you have the operations talent all sitting together aligned for the systems piece of it. And as a spoken hub, they have a heavy dotted line into those other organizations. Not DemandGen, not just sales, not just marketing. It is systems and operations and data and process.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (04:57)
So let’s talk a little bit about how the phrase the concept of RevOps came into being. What was the need that people were trying to address with their organizational structures? I mean, we’ve talked a lot about sales and marketing alignment, but it sounds like what you’re saying. It’s that plus other things, plus something entirely different. So what do you what do you think the concept of RevOps- what need does that address for organizations?

Kelly Jo Horton: (05:21)
When I first heard the term, I had been, and you all know this, I had been an advocate for marketing operations, except that over the last five, ten years. Right. With thousands and thousands of new tools being added to the stacks, we are not just marketing operations anymore. And I think some people coined this term to sort of write, to rename marketing operations and move it into marketing, get more part of the whole revenue operations sort of mindset or a revenue generating mindset because we were just seen as one of those groups that just spent money and didn’t make money before. And so that was part of the problem.

So adding the word revenue onto the group tended to lend it a little clout. But I got excited a little too soon because the organizations that I’ve been in are not really structured to support a true RevOps function. They’re more like structured to move the revenue op- or the marketing operations team into, say, sales or marketing. Usually marketing usually sitting under demand gen. And that’s not where it should be. It should be an independent organization. So I, I don’t think it’s a buzzword, but I do think it’s a word that everyone thought they needed to use in their organization to be perceived as hip and cool and like trendy at the time. But nobody really knew what it was.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (06:57)
What do you see as the fix for that alignment? So you talked about how it’s like we shouldn’t just look at it as a way to fix your alignment problem or your collaboration problem between your sales and marketing teams. This comes up a lot in other episodes when we talk about what marketing operations needs to do before tackling complex initiatives like lifecycle scoring and implementation. So is RevOps the fix for that?

Kelly Jo Horton: (07:26)
I would say yes. If you implement RevOps correctly as a hub and spoke model, it would solve that problem. If you have sales and marketing teams that don’t communicate well now, it’s not going to fix your problem totally. They have to be willing, but if you align your software systems, processes, data and customer success operations people under one umbrella and then have them have these dotted lines out to those organization that are not on the operations side, you will have the ability to align that single team under a single strategy that overlays all of those organizations.

So you won’t have sales going off and implementing something in a silo without talking to marketing or marketing ops or any of these other organizations. Because that RevOps team will make sure that doesn’t happen because they will bring that information back to their team for their stand ups, for their weekly meetings, to make sure that everybody is in alignment and nothing gets done in a silo. And I just want to reiterate that a lot of people do not I want to just highlight a lot of people do not include customer success operations in this.

And that is critical because that organization is responsible for a lot of revenue, for renewals, for keeping customers happy and all of that. They have their own systems and those systems need to be aligned with all of the other systems for marketing and sales. And in a lot of companies, they’re not in a lot of companies I’ve seen that organization is completely siloed. That operations portion of customer success should be in the RevOps team in order to make it fully functional, transparent and have a single strategy across the organization.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (09:34)
Yeah, so that was something I was going to ask about because in doing some research for this episode, I definitely saw infographics that showed RevOps as being sales operations and marketing operations, and I saw other infographics as, you know, showing all three customer success operations, sales operations, marketing operations. And I thought that that was interesting. I would love to hear a little bit more about what your thoughts are on incorporating customer success operations, what that typically looks like, and what sorts of platforms that typically includes. And, you know, just dive a little bit more into why that should be part of the RevOps function.

Kelly Jo Horton: (10:14)
So I think a lot of people who are listening to this will probably identify with somebody talking about wanting information from a CSAT or from a survey. Some some customer success interactions, and generally, we don’t get a lot of that in our marketing systems because it’s usually tied to the CRM and often not sent over. It can be tied to the CRM, or it could be in a totally different tool, but a lot of times it’s in a silo and if you wanted to, for example, suppress marketing from someone who who is in a specific success cycle or having an issue or whatever, you need to have those signals in both your marketing operations, marketing automation systems, your sales CRM, so that everybody’s aware where these customers are in the journey and what’s going on.

So I think no matter what platforms you’re using in in customer success, the operations people for those platforms and the people who set the processes and deal with the systems and the data should be included in revenue operations because in my mind this is a business that’s a that completes the entire loop. If you’re just marketing out and selling out and not a not including feedback and everything, then you have a silo. It’s not it’s a problem. So you want to make sure you have a closed loop operation for RevOps and that will facilitate a lot of visibility and transparency for the other teams outside of revenue operations.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (11:58)
Let’s talk more about org charts and silos and keeping people aware they go, or putting people where they go I should say. If you were the CMO at a youngish startup super hip, obviously, how would you begin organizing your teams?

Kelly Jo Horton: (12:16)
Startups usually start with a team of one in a lot of these positions and a sales ops person would, you know, sit with sales. Normally you get into a startup and someone else is running Salesforce, someone is doing the email part and all these other things. They are siloed. I would suggest as those functions grow and as you add tools and as you add complexity and sophistication to your marketing and sales, that you start consolidating and centralizing the operational pieces of those jobs. I would take your sales ops person and I’m talking about like the CRM person, not the person who is writing, helping write contracts or doing those things like that. Sales ops has a million definitions. I’m talking about the CRM admins, CRM Admin, Marketing Automation Admin, whoever is running the customer success platforms, whoever is doing the data science piece, right?

So all of your data visualization tools that would also include things like data warehouse, talent and all of the systems, sometimes even finance systems. So all of those people slowly into one group and as that group grows, you promote those people from within, right? You don’t keep everybody as a marketing operations engineer or as a sales ops engineer. You promote them to managers, directors. Eventually you would have a VP of RevOps and each one of these functions would have some sort of manager or director for sales ops, customer success ops, marketing ops and the data group. And each one of those people would have a hub and spoke model out of their specific groups and they would all report up to a CRO and most importantly, the leader of the RevOps team would have a seat in the exec staff would have a seat at the table, would be seen as just as important and influential and critical as an SVP of Sales or an SVP of Marketing or Data Science.

But they would have a seat at the table. And that’s critical because what we often see is there is like an SVP of RevOps, but that person is from the sales organization or from the marketing organization. They’re not a technology person. They’ve never been hands on in any tools. So they treat it like sales and marketing, which it is not. So you need a RevOps leader who has paid their dues then in the weeds move their way up to management in order to understand how to run this organization. It could it should not be run by someone who only has sales experience or only has marketing experience. And I think that’s one mistake that a lot of companies make. I see a lot of sales people running RevOps. They’re looking at it from just that lens. Or if marketing is running it, they’re looking at it from a demand gen, lead gen lens. It’s all of those things. So it really needs to be managed and run by someone who has actually been involved in sales, marketing and all of the technology that underpins everything.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (15:51)
Yeah, so I want to dig. So one of the things that I see as to why sales leaders are often moved into that VP of RevOps, that that typically comes out of the sales org is kind of because of the analytics piece and the forecasting piece and the feeling that, you know, a lot of that data is feeding into revenue forecasting and therefore somebody from the sales org probably has the best handle on that. You noted that, you know, as you’re scaling a team, you would put somebody who has a handle on the data analytics within that RevOps function.

But at scale, you know, we see business intelligence be its own group. Usually. I’m curious what you think, like where the lines are there. There’s, you know, sales forecasting data, there’s marketing, forecasting data, there’s business, there’s things that would fall under like business, intelligence at scale. Like where’s that line between the types of analytics that RevOps is handling and the types of things that are more like finance forecast, that kind of thing?

Kelly Jo Horton: (16:48)
Okay. Think of it as the tools underneath the operations piece. It may not be the data scientist who’s building the dashboard. Okay? But it is the person who is responsible for the the data pipe that feeds the data in from every platform into your data warehouse. And that person in the RevOps team would be responsible for maintaining the data pipe and the data warehouse and and even things like setting up views in your data visualization platform or setting up permissions, things like that. They may not be building the dashboards in. They’re probably in a larger organization. There’s definitely a separate data science team. But that team is generally not responsible for knowing how to maintain a data warehouse because that’s a somewhat of a different skill set. If you’ve been a DBA before, you know, that’s right up your alley.

But if if you’re a data scientist, you would know Sequel and things like that. But there are a lot of things you probably wouldn’t know about a data warehouse. So I would say for the data piece, it is it’s about the operations of the systems underneath that the data sciences would use. And just think of how great it would be to have someone in the RevOps team that actually is a data steward. Like that’s their full time job is to make sure the data is clean and correct and coming in from all the relevant platforms and that yes, you can actually join this sales data from this customer success data with this marketing data. That’s what they would do because the data scientist just is going to want to has a vision of types of dashboards you want to build to tell a story.

There are the storytellers, but they need the data and the schema to be built correctly for them to be able to do that. And that’s the RevOps part of data as I see it now. One size doesn’t fit all right? I mean, this this is my vision. I mean, this is how I would run it. And and I have been in a team like this before, and I did run a team like this. So it worked very, very well. And one of the thing I want to add is that the leader of RevOps, I’m not saying that person should just be a technology person. That won’t work either. So a true RevOps leader or even a senior or getting operations leader to or sales operations needs to have a pretty strong background in sales and marketing and maybe even customer success. I was doing tech support as my first job when I got out of college, so I worked in all kinds of organizations. I think it’s key that your leader understands a business, how it works, how you sell, how you market and all of that. They cannot be just the technology person that won’t work either. So you really need sort of an all around person at the top to lead that group.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (20:05)
We have covered a lot so far. We’ve talked a lot about teams where they belong, your perfect world, what systems they run and what it’s not, and how it’s come about in some cases in the wrong ways. And I think a lot of that is can be partially in reaction to how many platforms are out there across sales and marketing operations and even, you know, customer success operations and customer experience and just organizations wanting to consolidate the ownership of those.

As you’ve kind of already mentioned, what do you think the right way is to provide centralized governance over the marketing and sales tech stack platforms, regardless of the organizational structure?

Kelly Jo Horton: (20:52)
I think it’s really key to just have a centralized group of at least admins that you could go to who really, really know the administration of the tool and not to take away privileges from people in other teams. But everyone should not be an admin ever. I mean, that’s just a recipe for disaster. So I think it I think at the minimum, you, you should centralize the platform ownership in one team and have certified admins running the show and they can create the roles and privileges to give out to the salespeople, the marketing people, the old marketers.

They all still need some sort of access. I’m not saying take it away. I’m saying let one group worry about the administration of these platforms because it’s so, so important. They’re set up correctly and maintained correctly. And and and then just, you know, let let other people have logins, just not admin logins, too many admins. So yeah,-

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (21:58)
that never happens.

Kelly Jo Horton: (22:00)
Noooo. So yeah, if you’re not doing a RevOps team, maybe you have a business systems team that can maintain those platforms. Maybe not. Honestly, I there’s always a problem. There are always problems when the platforms are siloed off, people are buying stuff without telling anyone else and you just end up with a lot of tech that if someone leaves the company, you have one person who has all the admin rights and no backups. It’s better to have it centralized and have people who can backup people when they’re out or when or if someone leaves the company. So at least the administration function should be centralized, in my opinion.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (22:41)
You kind of sort of answered my next question, but I want to make that explicit. Like if I’m sitting in an organization that I’m the Marketo admin in an organization that is just doing it wrong, like I’m very siloed from my Salesforce counterpart, I’m very siloed from my counterpart that’s running some of the more transactional email tools that maybe the products group is using for customer success or the Gainsight or some of those other kind of customer success tools.

Where should I start in making things better for myself? Especially maybe I’m interested in getting, you know, VP of RevOps title or CRO title at some point, should I just start creating a team of admins or where should I start to try to get some of that experience and try to make things better at my organization?

Kelly Jo Horton: (23:29)
It’s really hard to influence from the bottom up. We’ve all been there. It’s a struggle. You have to you have to get meetings with people. I mean, I I’ve done things like get on the Friday company meeting and talk about why something is important or how you would make something more efficient. And I think you take whatever platform you can get when you don’t have any influence, you got to start somewhere, but you need to come with answers and solutions, not problems. Can’t come in and just complain about everybody being siloed. You have to come in and say, let me show you how wonderful this world could be. This RevOps thing. You come in and say, Look, if we consolidated and centralized some of these operations, we would have a better handle on our data. We would have a better handle on our compliance, our security.

I mean, security in general. Like someone leaves the company and they still have admin logins because nobody was like minding the store or things like that. So you have to come in with solutions and a game plan and you start small, you get people to start listening to start respecting what you’re saying. Then you can start sort of rolling out this grand plan that you have in your head and start suggesting new things. But I would say first off, I mean, it’s going to be really hard to get customer success operations rolled in. I would say that’s the one that’s the least common. And so I would start with sales ops and marketing ops and trying to create a relationship with your peer counterpart, your sales ops person, your market ops person, person, get really close and do it together. Try to influence together because make yourself look like a team, act like a team and I think you’d be surprised at what you could do if you just start small like that, make friends.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (25:28)
Making friends is a-

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (25:30)
-and it all comes back to zoom beers,

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (25:32)
Zoom beers!

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (22:33)
Here we are again.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (22:34)

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (22:35)
Zoom beers, we might have to change the name of the podcast to just get beers instead. So now that we’ve landed there, I think we’re ready to wrap this up. Here are our three takeaways about RevOps. If you know nothing else about RevOps, know these three things.

One. RevOps is about systems and operations and should not be siloed within a marketing or sales organization. There should be a senior peer between that organization, the marketing org and the sales org and the customer success org. And all of those folks should report into a CRO.

Two. Customer Experience Operations is a part of RevOps. It has to be the full function of platforms and processes that are touching the full scope of your customer journey from lead to customer should be administrated and governed by the centralized RevOps team.

Three. The right rev operations lead should be someone who understands all aspects of the business and what falls under RevOps, not someone who only understands sales or who only understands the platforms. If this is something that you want as a part of your job path, make sure you are gaining experience across marketing, sales and customer success. So you have a well-rounded view of how tools and processes are used to create the right customer journey.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (26:51)
I think that’s it for this episode of Must Contain will be back in two weeks. Until then, remember, don’t be scared of new platforms or being the admin on new platforms. Be afraid of the executive requesting a bunch of new platforms.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (27:07)
This episode was produced by Kristin Crowe, Kristin Carideo, Ali Stoltzfus, Lindsay Walter, and Claudia Lopez. It was edited by Kristin Crowe. Theme Music by Rusty Hall. Special thanks to Kelly Jo Horton. And that’s it for must contain. I’m Kristin Crowe and we’ll see you in two weeks.


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