Talking marketing ops with Lightspeed

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For this third episode, we're going back to Quebec and we meet a jewel of the tech ecosystem in Montreal: Lightspeed. I had the chance to talk with Marceau Boulenger, who has been with Lightspeed since 2017 and is now Marketing Analytics Manager. He's also a huge martech geek, and I had a wonderful time chatting with him. Let's go for the report...

Lightspeed is a software company founded in 2005 in Montreal. Originally, its product was a retail checkout software for merchants. Year after year, the company has expanded its offering to also offer point of sale software dedicated to restaurants, an e-commerce platform, payment services and a loyalty/CRM tool. Its two target industries today are retail and hospitality, and its software is obviously offered on a SaaS model.

Lightspeed has grown significantly in recent years, from 300 employees in 2015 to nearly 1,000 today, establishing itself around the world through numerous acquisitions (USA, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Switzerland…) and now serving over 60,000 customers in more than 100 countries.

This impressive growth has had a great impact on many levels, and in particular on marketing systems, one of the topics most discussed with Marceau. But despite the large volumes of prospects and customers that the company has to manage, its sales processes and organization have remained very B2B, with a highly committed sales team.

At Lightspeed, the customer relationship is shared between 3 main teams:

  • the marketing team, whose objective is to generate hot leads through the inevitable inbound marketing.
  • the sales team, which qualifies these leads and seeks to convert them.
  • the customer success team, which takes care of the customers who have subscribed.

Today, Marceau is part of the marketing team and his job is to optimize the reporting of marketing campaigns so that his colleagues can better optimize them. He is therefore immersed in tools such as Google Analytics 360, Looker, Snowflakes…

For several years, he was also in charge of marketing systems, mainly marketing automation. Even if the growth of the company forced him to specialize, and even if he chose the “data/analytics” side instead of the “systems” side, Marceau remains very close to martech and loves this field.

And you can feel it very quickly when you talk to him ⬇️

You can't stop two geeks talking about martech...

We spent a looooot of time talking about marketing tools with Marceau, so let’s start with that topic.

When he arrives at Lightspeed in 2017, the company uses Marketo as its marketing automation platform. Until 2019, Marceau and three specialists work in this tool to plan marketing programs and campaigns, create automated workflows, etc…

Then they face a major challenge: to support the rapid growth of Lightspeed, a lot of things have been “stacked” in Marketo, without paying enough attention to the governance of the tool, to its ability to scale as fast as the company. Result: a big mess requiring a complete overhaul.

Marceau then has two options in front of him:

  1. starting again from scratch with a brand new Marketo instance, and laying a solid foundation to make the tool scalable.
  2. choosing another tool that would be easier to maintain and integrate just as well with their CRM, Salesforce.

He goes with the second option and starts evaluating several marketing automation tools, including Autopilot and Pardot.

Autopilot had a lot of advantages: a very flexible API, an easy-to-use journey builder, lots of native integrations, including one with Salesforce and another one with Segment… It was sexy on paper, probably sexier than Pardot. But when Marceau looked deeper, he realized that it wasn’t tailored to the needs of a company the size of Lightspeed: the tool was clearly undersized.

For example, it doesn’t sync frequently enough with Salesforce to meet the needs of the sales team; the organization of emails, campaigns and workflows is also inadequate when you have to manage tens or hundreds of different marketing programs.

And Pardot became their new marketing automation tool. If he finds it less user-friendly than Marketo or Autopilot, Marceau is today relatively detached from it, because his responsibilities are much more focused on the analytics part.

Here is an overview of Lightspeed’s marketing stack to date:

Pardot

Pardot was originally an independent marketing automation tool, just like Marketo or Eloqua. But just like those two, Pardot was bought by a marketing technology giant to be integrated into a so-called “marketing cloud”. It was acquired by ExactTarget in 2012, itself acquired by Salesforce in 2013. Pardot then became the (B2B) marketing automation tool of the Salesforce suite.

Strongly promoted by the blue cloud firm, it is positioned mainly on the Enterprise market, with competitors such as HubSpot, Marketo or Eloqua, and pricing between €2,000 and €5,000 per month depending on the options. Personally, I find its interface very unattractive compared to HubSpot and its functionalities less advanced than Marketo, but the fact that it is part of the Salesforce suite keeps it in the game.

Apart from marketing automation platforms, Marceau and Lightspeed also make extensive use of analytics tools. When they were still using Marketo, they had implemented Segment to track activity on their site (they had also contributed to the development of a Marketo connector for Segment).

Then in 2019, Marceau reviewed the entire analytics strategy. First, he cleaned up their Google Tag Manager account. Then he designed a detailed classification of all the events to be tracked on the site. Finally, with his team, they deployed Google Analytics 360, the premium GA that tends to make Segment less relevant since GA 360 allows data related to a “GA ID” to be gathered under the same profile, which would ultimately allow this data to be reconciled with a CRM profile. We’ve only touched on this GA 360 topic that I know less about, but it looks super sexy 🙂

Speaking of Google, Marceau also cited the Google Marketing Platform as one of his main areas of interest at the moment in his profession, for all the possibilities it opens up!

His advice for a successful switch to a new marketing tool

Since he’s had to deal with switching tools several times, I asked him what his advice was on how to make this type of project a success.

“Tough question, but here’s some advice that comes to me quickly:

1. Choose a tool that meets your current need but also anticipate potential future needs (even if it’s difficult to predict the future)

2. Depending on the importance of this tool in your marketing stack, make sure you have an SLA that matches the level of service you want. This was one of the main areas of concern in Autopilot in the end.

3. I often prefer agnostic tools to all-in-one platforms but sometimes a tool that is very well integrated into a platform has more features. So balancing between a more “open” tool and a more “integrated” tool can be difficult. You never know what changes might happen to your stack in the future so always think about this: if another tool changes, do you also have to change this new tool because the integration, which was so powerful before, doesn’t help much anymore? Luckily now, more and more martech tools have good APIs so it makes it easier.

And of course, always do a complete analysis and research.

4. Sometimes you have leaders in marketing or sales who will tell you “we need this particular tool”. Always take a step back, analyze the needs and see if this is really the tool that is best to meet the needs. It’s an easy trap you can fall into, especially in smaller companies where the tool selection process is not always driven by a dedicated person in systems.”

The top three things he loved doing at Lightspeed

As with Louis and Dan, I then asked Marceau what three things he loved to do since he joined the company:

“One of the things I’m most proud of at Lightspeed – and I shared it at the Looker conference in San Francisco in 2018 – is that we’ve been able to automate the reconciliation of Adwords data with Salesforce data.

We first succeeded in implementing Bizible in multi-touch attribution. Then we pushed the data from Bizible and Salesforce into Snowflakes via Fivetran. Then we went in Google Adwords to get all the costs per day, per keyword and per adgroup. Then we put this together and were able to find out how many opportunities & customers a particular adgroup have generated over the last few months. We made all this data available in a Looker dashboard that was updated daily, so that marketers could compare this data with the data provided by Adwords. It really made a difference, and by allowing them to identify areas for optimization, hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings were realized in some regions.

The second thing is a complete overhaul of the tracking on the website, with a standardization of the events, the creation of a nomenclature that is easy to understand. This allows us to be much more reactive if we want to track something new. For sure it’s an obscure job, but it’s very useful.

And the third super interesting project was to work with our developers to create a centralized forms system for the website. Now everything is managed in one place, it integrates seamlessly via API with WordPress and with our marketing systems, and most importantly it saves us from having to manage hundreds of forms in Marketo or whatever. We now only have ten forms with all their variations, so we can make changes super quickly. For example if we want to change the business types in the dedicated dropdown, before it was hell to change them in all our forms, now you change them in one place and it’s done. It’s still a behind the scenes project, an infrastructure project, but it’s super important to get to the next step.”

His views on the marketing technology industry

Beyond the tools and his projects at Lightspeed, there was also a lot of discussion about martech as a profession.

One of the observations we share is the growing importance of marketing operations, marketing ops. A lot of terms are fighting in our field to try to make it understandable: martech, technical marketing, growth (marketing), marketing technologist, marketing automation… I remember that we had a hard time choosing the right terms when I was working at Adviso, because none of them managed to cover all the “technical marketing” hats, or to reach enough consensus.

But with the term “marketing operations”, it seems to be different. It’s becoming more and more widely adopted in the United States, and Slack groups are being set up to gather professionals in this area. Some companies are doing a lot of evangelism work, and it seems to be working. That’s how Etumos described marketing ops in a May 2019 blog post:

“Marketing Operations (MOPs) is a department and/or role that employs technology to improve Marketing Efficiency and Marketing Effectiveness. The vocation is evolving quickly. Its name, Marketing Operations, has been around for years: though many companies are only now figuring out the right formula.

In small organizations, Marketing Operations is usually only one or two people sharing all responsibilities. These are generalists who manage all aspects of MOPs: building email campaigns, reports, tool integrations, and ad-hoc problem-solving.

In large/growing teams, Marketing Operations begins to require specialization. Roles form around skill sets involving: Administration, Architecting, Building, Testing, Reporting, Data Science, Front-End Development, Custom Tool Creation/Management, System Integrations, etc.”

And in visual format, it looks like this:

Here is their full article. If I’m sharing all this, it’s because we finally have the impression that a term allows us to clearly define the field in which we work, and also because it shows that we are not the only ones to evolve in this world. That’s exactly the feeling Marceau shared with me:

Three years ago, I felt like I was all alone in my corner, and today I know that I am part of a growing community with whom I can connect and share practices, and that's super cool!

Let’s bet that we’ll see this term more and more frequently in the corporate world in the years to come!

To go even further, Marceau identified another trend that is still quite subtle: Revenue Operations.

RevOps teams aim to combine Marketing Ops and Sales Ops, which are still often separated in companies. Marceau is having more and more trouble with this separation of these two departments, and he’s happy to see that some are trying to change that.

RevOps would make it possible to rationalize skills while bringing the different teams closer together, allowing them to align better and become more efficient. It could even include the customer success team, which also contributes to revenue.

I think this is a trend that we will see in the future, as data and systems are so important to a company’s success — especially in a post-Covid-19 era where more and more companies will realize the importance of digital in their ability to adapt to the unexpected.

To close on this point, I think that “Revenue Operations” fits quite well with the way Guillaume Cabane described his team when he was working at Drift:

“Our growth team is an enabler for the marketing team (and sales, and support…): we work on technology, build tools and stacks, do development… We are engineers, but we follow the same goals.”

Have we finally found a replacement for that growth term that covers too many things?

Thank you for sharing that Marceau!

If you have any questions for Marceau, you can find him on LinkedIn here.

And if you have any feedback to share with me on this format (for example other topics to be discussed in the next ones), feel free to write a little comment below!

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