I met Justin Sharaf through his Marketing Technology in the Hub group. I’ve long been curious about what it’s like for him running marketing technology as the Director, Marketing Technology & Operations at LogMeIn, including managing a merger with Citrix’s GoTo products. I recently got to sit down with Justin and pick his brain on a variety of topics including his advice for MarTech vendors.
Zak: Can you start by describing your role at LogMeIn?
Justin: My team manages all of our technology platforms, integrations, tools and systems that live within the marketing ecosystem. It spans foundational platforms such as marketing automation, social, display and search, plus individual tools.
The key areas of responsibility are managing vendor relationships and budget, technology roadmap, support and enablement for our users, consulting, development and data integrations.
Zak: How do you organize your team?
Justin: I’ll give you a breakdown of the roles on the team. I have one project manager responsible for our Jira board - all of our big projects, which you’d consider epics in Jira and other large projects requiring management and structure.
I then have product owners covering the four categories we bucket technology into, responsible for support, enablement and road mapping within their area.
Zak: How have you organized those product owners?
Justin: The first category is automation systems. The second category is web technologies, content platforms and workflow management. The third category is third-party data, which includes not only data append, but also the feeding of our customer data into our marketing automation system, for example.
The fourth category is product messaging applications. And that resource is half-time on product ownership, and half-time on development.
We have a total of 1.5 development resources, who are doing a variety of tasks including writing to APIs, custom email & landing page work, managing data within AWS, ETL and more. (Ed note - for a whole new approach to aggregating cloud data, check out Bedrock Data's Fusion)
In addition to that full-time team, we have part-time employees and contractors who cover functions such as third party list uploads for content syndication and events. And then lastly we also have contractors helping out as needed on development work or marketing automation consulting.
I’ll be going deeper into this topic, in fact, as part of my presentation at the MarTech conference in Boston this October.
Zak: Let’s take a step back. I’d love to hear about how you got into the area of MarTech and marketing operations in the first place? Let’s go as far back as you want, I want to hear the whole backstory.
Justin: I majored in economics and psychology in college, and I was also really into sports. I thought I might go into sports psychology or journalism.
I ended up not going down those paths though, and my first job was doing product analysis for a magazine subscription agent owned by Time, Inc. It was a combination of financial planning and analysis in the area of direct mail and insert media, and I ended up driving one of our business units called Magazine for Miles. From there, I worked in email, direct mail and insert media for Vistaprint.
Then I had an opportunity at LogMeIn, and I got hired to build an email marketing and marketing automation function. I was a big believer, and i convinced LogMeIn, that although I didn’t have a ton of email experience, email wasn’t so different from direct mail. Direct mail principles are all about the right message to the right audience, good targeting, and a clear call to action.
As I worked in the role, I loved the data side and the architecture aspects to marketing automation. I was also interested in the data aspects, integrations and analytics.
Then about 2 1/2 years ago, I was at a crossroads as we re-organized. I had to decide whether to go into a traditional marketing demand generation type role, or split off into marketing technology. I decided marketing technology, and I then officially started managing the function - budget, relationship - stakeholders - established a strategy - and grew from there.
Zak: That’s an awesome story. I feel like everyone has a little bit different story for how they got into marketing or MarTech, and I really like yours.
LogMeIn’s growth has been pretty incredible since you joined. Do you have any metrics you can share around the growth.
Justin: When I joined we had about 600 global employees, and there were about 300 in Woburn, MA, where the office was located. Now we have over 3,000 employees globally and I think we have close to 1,000 in Boston.
We’ve had multiple acquisitions, we’ve launched offices, we’ve retired offices. We’ve launched products and retired products. And now we’re over $1 billion in revenue, which must be close to 10X from when I started.
Zak: You also have some astounding marketing volume numbers. Anything you can share?
Justin: Well, we have millions of customers - not only millions of users, millions of customers. Also millions of free users. Our database is more like the size of a large retailer.
In terms of email volume, we send probably around 15 million per month. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but it’s not even close to what we were sending at Visaprint, which was much more of a B2C than B2B model.
Zak: For many people, it’s probably hard picturing what a marketing technology role looks like at a company the scale of LogMeIn? What’s your typical day or week look like in terms of key responsibilities?
Justin: With so many people to intersect with, it’s a lot of meetings. We have over 200 marketers who are located from Santa Barbara to Sydney, so there are a lot of marketers to support. I spend about six hours per day in meetings. I’d break them into three types of meetings.
There are 1:1 meetings with my team members; there’s standing meetings for active cross-functional projects; and there’s ad hoc meetings to solve a specific problem or business consulting or idea generation.
Then the rest of the day is spent either on working in systems, working on projects, helping team members solve problems, and then of course replying to emails.
Zak: How does your team align to the rest of the organization?
Justin: I think of our team as a group of problem solvers, partners and consultants. We’re working across the marketing team, listening to challenges, and coming up with solutions.
Our marketing organization is organized into teams - web, analytics, corporate marketing, product marketing, brand and international. We also have teams aligned to products or business units.
We have particular partners in those groups that we work closely with and those partners help us prioritize. We’re not engaging 1:1 with all 200 LogMeIn marketers.
Zak: With that many teams and stakeholders, I gotta imagine prioritization is a real challenge. What’s your approach for managing prioritization?
Justin: We have weekly prioritization meetings with those key stakeholders. We use Jira to manage projects. I’m a big believer that if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. We’re very transparent, allowing anyone to see what resources we have assigned to projects and how long things will take.
We’ve established ourselves as a good partner, with credibility, so our stakeholders know we’re going to do our best but that we also need to have clear prioritization so things don’t break down.
Being fully open helps. Anyone in the company can see every single project, so they know we have a lot on our plate, and what we’re working on. In the last 14 months since we’ve started a clean Jira instance, my team has completed 2,300 tickets.
Zak: It sounds like you’ve built up credibility and trust with your stakeholders, which is so important in a role like this. For folks just entering a marketing technology leadership role, what kind of advice would you have for how to establish credibility and trust?
Justin: I think the keys are process and visibility.
From a process standpoint, you should bring a process to the table to create structure, and then be open to feedback on how to improve it. And actively seek that feedback.
This is going to help you build relationships within the business, and find those champions who will support you. You want people to believe in your vision and process and structure so they support what you’re doing over time. Those champions will become your best promoters.
Zak: I want to get in to some juicy stuff now. Everyone loves merger talk. For you, the LogMeIn / GoTo merger was significant, because you probably doubled your marketing technology world, and had to come up with a strategy to bring these two separate marketing teams together. How’d you go about it?
Justin: As I started to dig in, the first thing that became clear was the two companies had very different technologies. For primary marketing technologies, there were now two of everything.
There were different marketing automation software. Different web analytics software. Different social media software. There wasn’t as much overlap as I expected.
As we came up with a plan, in some case the consolidation decision was obvious - based on the business needs or expertise. But some of the decisions were very difficult. And some are still being decided on now.
The other big thing for me was around the team. I inherited a group of people from GetGo (the name of the entity spun out of Citrix with GoToWebinar, GoToMeeting, Grasshopper, etc.) who hadn’t been a team before. GetGo didn’t have a marketing technology role. We took people from specific roles and they became part of the team. So it took some time to nurture everyone into a team culture.
Zak: So in terms of technology, sounds like you were Noah’s Ark with “two of everything” to start. What was your criteria for keeping or getting rid of technology?
Justin: One criteria was cost. If the technologies were very similar, where could we get the best deal?
We also had one Salesforce instance remain and one retired, so any technologies that were integrated with that remaining Salesforce had an advantage, so that we didn’t have to rebuild any integrations.
Stakeholder input was also vital. We performed stakeholder interviews and requirements gathering. In some cases, the stakeholders had very strong opinions. Maybe in a given area, one manager had remained and one had left, and that manager had a strong preference for a technology.
And then in some cases, we did a light RFP process to put technologies side by side.
Zak: And now you get to do it all over again with the Jive acquisition, right? What are you going to do differently this time around?
Justin: What’s different about each acquisition is the timing, and the pressure to consolidate. Sometimes there is pressure to consolidate and integrate quickly. And in some cases we leave the company or business alone and don’t touch it for a while. That direction comes down from an executive level.
In terms of what to do differently, I think setting expectations is most important as we move through the evaluation and consolidation process. No surprises!
Zak: Working with so many different marketing technology vendors, what about a vendor wins you over as a customer or partner?
Justin: Support - 100% support. A speedy and knowledgeable support and customer success team makes all the difference.
Some vendors claim 24/7 support, but when you get on with a support rep or a customer success manager, they know less than we do, and can’t actually help solve our problems.
The other thing I really appreciate is partnership in roadmap and feedback loops around topics like our challenges with the product, and features we’d like to see.
We had a vendor that took us out to lunch recently to ask what they can do to improve their technology. No ulterior motive. Not selling us, Not upselling us. Not renewing us. They just wanted our feedback because we are actively using the product, and our opinion mattered. They just wanted to listen.
Zak: You’re involved in the Marketing Technology in the Hub meetup group. How did that come about?
Justin: It started a couple years ago. I met Sam Melnick because were were looking at Allocadia as a budget management solution. And then I met Erica Seidel at the MarTech Conference and found out Sam knew her as well.
We are all from Boston, so we got lunch one day and we thought - we are all passionate about MarTech - and we’re coming at it from three different angles - we should start a group and get people together. We invited 100 people to our first event and now our invite list is over 300. It’s a nice community of people with common interests who are also looking for personal development.
Zak: There was a session where you shared some tips on negotiation. You had some gold in there. Can you give us the highlights of some of your tips?
Justin: My mentality is that I know what products are worth to me, and that’s what I’m prepared to pay. I don’t care what list prices are. And if you aren’t going to sell to me at my price, then too bad.
We’re a SaaS company, so I know what it’s like to be on the other side, and what the cost models are. If the vendor is willing to walk away from our relationships because of a few $, that’s probably not a long term relationship I want anyways.
And if I’m willing to walk away for a few $, then they probably haven’t established themselves as a partner worth staying with or starting a relationship with.
Let’s just say that if a vendor is doing everything right, the negotiation is less painful.
Zak: Let’s wrap up on a lighter note. What are some of your interests outside of work?
Justin: I have two little sons, 3 and 1. They take up a lot of my time and my wife’s time. I also play competitive golf. I’m a huge Celtics fan and have season tickets. I’m also into skiing and love poker, but I’m doing less and less of those things! My wife and I enjoy going to concerts when we can; one of my favorite bands is The Lone Bellow, a Americana Country rock group.
Postscript: Days after I interviewed Justin, he was named to the Marketo Fearless 50, to marketing leaders who exemplify what it means to be bold, brave & fearless. Congrats Justin!