A Rally Cry for Change: HubSpot’s Streamlined Operations

Shannon Fitzgerald-Lussier
March 7, 2023

HubSpot is a world-renowned source of expertise and marketing best practices. But there’s still an internal HubSpot marketing team executing their own growth strategy… and facing their own set of challenges.

One of these is operational marketing: maintaining the plans, budgets, and projects that distributed teams work from. Even the most sophisticated marketing organizations can get trapped trying to manage their budget in dozens of disconnected spreadsheets. This creates gaps in visibility that can lead to over- and under-spending, missed targets, and delayed campaign execution.

We had the pleasure of talking with Chloe Washington, chief of staff to the CMO at HubSpot, at B2B Marketing Exchange. Keep reading for Chloe’s advice on successful change management and finding the right level of disruption after HubSpot streamlined their strategic marketing operations processes with Uptempo.

But first, what is a Marketing Chief of Staff?

You might be starting to see “chief of staff to the CMO” or “marketing chief of staff” pop up on more and more LinkedIn profiles. Chloe describes the role as the right-hand person to the CMO. They hold a uniquely strategic place sitting between the CMO and the marketing team.

She says, “You’ll hear a lot of things that people on your team would never tell the CMO, and it’s up to you to synthesize that information with what you’re also hearing from your CMO.” Those insights are what’s needed to create a path forward for the team, one that’s focused on operational excellence.

Recognize the breaking point

The clearest warning sign that something is broken, is when that same problem crops up repeatedly, but never seems resolved. Chloe joined HubSpot and was asked to help the marketing team get out of spreadsheets. When you have a 600-person marketing team trying to manage plans and budgets in spreadsheets, everyone is doing it their own way. There’s no consistency to how budgets are managed, and that’s before you start to worry about version control.

When there’s no single source of truth, how do you know if you’re over or under budget for the month? Telling your CFO that you don’t know how much you spent last month isn’t acceptable. And taking five or seven business days to find the answer is far too long. There had to be a better way.

Chloe’s vision was to find a system of financial management, with goals, plans, and an automated record. Something she could roll out to those 600 marketers and have everyone actually using one system. And in her search, she found Uptempo’s Allocadia product and realized it was the answer to her team’s spreadsheet nightmares.

What does successful change management look like?

When you’re tackling change management at the enterprise level, it’s a massive undertaking. Chloe explains, “You want to cause enough disruption that they feel like change has been made and that it was worth it.”  It’s a fine balance to hit just the right level of disruption. But you don’t need to be the bull in a china shop to make an impact according to Chloe.

Operational excellence is the North Star for any marketing chief of staff. And although it can be tempting, Chloe recommends that moving fast and breaking things rarely works, but it definitely doesn’t work for this role.

Her rally cry for change can be broken into two main pieces of advice.

#1 – Understand your allies and what they want

The first time that you need something from a coworker, should not be the first time that you’re talking to them. Form close relationships and understand what other team members and departments are working on and where their priorities sit.

As Chloe says, “Everyone agreed that we hated spreadsheets, hated versioning, hated planning. And that’s where you can really find people to be your allies.” She recommends starting by finding a common denominator and then figure out what that stakeholder really needs, because everyone had their own challenges.

Chloe advises that you really start to see change happen when you can answer the “what’s in it for me” question. When she had to explain to the CFO why ditching spreadsheets for Uptempo was necessary, she quantified it with “the VP of acquisition is spending five business days trying to figure out how much was spent last month.” Is that what they should be spending that time on?

#2 – Communicate constantly

After you have everyone on board (or at least the stakeholders), communication is critical to keep everyone moving forward and not falling back into old habits. Chloe advises being honest about the changes coming and be prepared to have a lot of conversations to truly understand your teams fears and needs.

The other part of communication is that not everyone learns the same way. Figure out the best cadence that works for you and your team to synthesize information, but there should be a consistent flow of communication. Chloe had wiki, email, Asana communications, and more explaining and reiterating the changes to keep every marketer moving forward on the same path.

What also helped was starting small. Chloe used a pilot group to test out and adopt the new processes first who can give feedback before it starts rolling out to the other 600 marketers.

The success of any change initiative hinges on the ability of leaders to create a compelling vision, communicate effectively, and manage resistance to change. Change is never easy, but with the right mindset, tools, and techniques, organizations can successfully navigate transitions and emerge stronger than ever before.

Change is a constant in today’s fast-paced markets, and effective change management is critical for organizations to adapt and thrive. As Chloe shared, the success of a change initiative hinges on effective communication, strong relationships, and a clear plan for managing the transition.

Ultimately, change management is about more than managing a new solution in your martech stack or a new process—it’s about creating a culture of agility and adaptability that can respond to evolving business needs and thrive in an ever-changing environment which is exactly where Chloe has helped position HubSpot.

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