Marketing technology needs its own department & budget to be effective, says LogMeIn’s head of martech
Justin Sharaf, director of marketing technology for LogMeIn, will be a part of the 'A CMO, CIO, and CMTO Walk into a Bar: Who Orders, Who Drinks, and Who Pays?' panel at MarTech Boston.
Earlier this year, when LogMeIn was going through a merger and reorganization, the company had to determine how the role of its director of marketing technology and operations would fit into the company’s overall leadership structure.
“The topic of conversation came up about where my role and where the team should live — should it live within our IT organization, or should it live within the marketing organization? And how should ownership be set up?” says LogMeIn Director of Marketing Technology and Operations Justin Sharaf.
Before leading LogMeIn’s marketing technology team, Sharaf had served as director of customer and corporate marketing. In his current role, he is now focused on managing the company’s marketing technology.
“I’m responsible for our marketing technology stack and support and enablement — it all lands within my budget,” says Sharaf. “But my team doesn’t actually use a lot of the technology.”
As the director of this company’s martech stack, Sharaf says he has been thinking a lot about how companies manage their marketing technology and who owns the martech budget — which led to the panel he will be part of at this year’s MarTech Conference in Boston: “A CMO, CIO, and CMTO Walk into a Bar: Who Orders, Who Drinks, and Who Pays?”
Sharaf says his job is to make sure LogMeIn’s marketing teams are choosing the right tools — and using them to their full advantage.
“A lot of times, a stakeholder will come to us and say, ‘We have this business problem, and we have a tool in mind.’ We then research that tool to figure out if it is the right tool for the need, and we’ll come up with a recommendation.”
Today, Sharaf shares his thoughts on why marketing technology needs its own department and budget — and why sometimes, it’s not about “ripping and replacing” when it comes designing an effective martech stack, but building on the tools that are already delivering a solid ROI.
Who are your primary stakeholders within LogMeIn?
Sharaf: Our stakeholders are the demand generation team, the engagement team, the product marketing team, the analytics teams, the PR team — we’re basically supporting the large marketing organization, which is made up of about 200 employees.
I took the role, or what evolved into this role, almost two years ago now. Before that, the technology lived within the businesses themselves. The demand generation team had to go find the resources and developers to support what they needed.
Oftentimes, the technology would be used by a very small subset of the people, even though it could have supported a much larger group if there was a centralized organization that knew what was available and who could benefit from using it.
There’s an argument to be made that intentionally dividing the teams who are building out and managing the martech stack and those who are using it could be problematic, but it sounds like it has been beneficial for LogMeIn — how do you make it work?
Sharaf: I think one of the benefits that our organization has is that the people who are within my organization, myself included, were marketers within the organization first.
We started working with those marketing teams, and being on those marketing teams. We had immediate credibility to be able to say, “I know the technology that you’re using. I know the job that you’re doing because I’ve done it, and that’s why I can be supportive of you in this way.”
Every company is different, and the size of the company has a big influence on that. LogMeIn has close to 2,500 employees at this point. If every marketer were going out and buying technology, and using it in a rogue manner, it would quickly get out of control — we would not be meeting our expectation, and [would be] falling short in our expectations of what technology can do.
Having a centralized place means that we can prioritize appropriately, and we can budget appropriately. We can bring in the technology best suited for our organization, and we can have a plan for when we bring it in and roll it out into the organization.
I read a lot of articles about companies bringing in technologies and not getting the most out of them, then getting rid of them — or paying for them for years and never maximizing their potential. We eliminate that with the structure of our organization — which is nice.
At the same time, not every company has that luxury. You may not have a headcount, and may need to rely on somebody who is within the demand generation team to be the technical lead. I don’t think there’s one perfect answer — personally, I think that having it separate gives people an opportunity to focus on what interests them and what they’re best at, as opposed to trying to juggle many balls at once.
What was your first priority as LogMeIn’s director of marketing technology and operations?
Sharaf: When I took the role in the beginning of 2016, I moved everything into one budget, which was a big step in the right direction because it gave me visibility into what was being spent, what the contracts were, etc.
We started to consolidate and started to look at what holes were in our stack, and where we had duplication, in 2016. When we went through our merger in 2017, we basically had two stacks colliding, so that was an opportunity to take a good look at what we were using and where we had duplication.
We’re seven or eight months into our merger and we’ve made a ton of progress, but there’s still a lot to be done because we have a lot of legacy processes. We’ve taken a critical eye and looked at our vendors, and recognize duplication, and recognize holes.
I think the best way to do that is taking a look at what you’re spending and what you’re spending it on — and what return you’re getting on that spend. I went to stakeholders and said, “How are you using this vendor?” If they didn’t give me a good answer, or they didn’t have a good return to show on the investment, then I went in and said, “Either this isn’t going to continue, or we need to have a renewed effort around implementing this in the correct way and getting the most out of it.”
At the end of the day, it’s not that you have the wrong technology, it’s that you have the wrong implementation of that technology — or you don’t have the resources to get the most out of the technology.
When you had the two separate marketing stacks colliding during the merger, did that include totally separate anchor platforms?
Sharaf: Absolutely — I like to call them foundational platforms.
Our foundational platforms are our marketing automation, our paid search, our display advertising, our social media, our web analytics. In pretty much every case, we had different platforms being used. So we’ve absolutely had to go through those foundational systems and we still are doing so.
Some of them we’ve already consolidated, and some we are in the process of evaluating and consolidating. Those are the hardest ones, but those are the ones where you save the most money and gain the most efficiencies. It takes the longest time, unfortunately.
Considering what you have accomplished around LogMeIn’s martech management, what are your suggestions for someone coming into a role similar to yours?
Sharaf: I recommend looking at the processes that are currently in place first. I hear a lot of recommendations where people say, “Start with your foundational systems — pick whether you’re going to use Marketo or Eloqua or IBM or Salesforce Marketing Platform.”
But, that’s not always a move that you can make easily. You may not be able to “rip and replace” easily. I like to take a look at what’s there already, and figure out what are your best processes, what are your best returns on investment currently. Start with those as your foundational systems.
The things that you’re not getting the much out of — those are the things that are easy to rip and replace.
My short answer would be to look at what you’re doing well first, and think of that as platform-agnostic. If you’re doing something well, then the platform is irrelevant, but if you’re doing something poorly, then the platform can definitely be a way to change that process and improve upon it.
There are so many vendors that do the same thing, or do 80 percent of the same thing. I don’t necessarily recommend changing because of that 20 percent. I recommend looking at that 80 percent and figuring out how you can get more out of it, or how you can fill that 20 percent gap with something else that you have — as opposed to ripping the 80 percent out and trying to get to get to 100 percent. Build on that 80 percent and look elsewhere for efficiencies.
If you’re headed to the MarTech Boston Conference, be sure to attend Justin Sharaf’s session on Tuesday, October 3. Part of the conference’s management track, the “A CMO, CIO, and CMTO Walk into a Bar: Who Orders, Who Drinks, and Who Pays?,” panel will be moderated by The Connective Good CEO Erica Seidel, and include Sharaf, along with Acquia CEO Tom Erickson and CA Technologies Vice President of Marketing Technology and Demand Analytics David Hsu as panelists.