11 min read

6 |  Product-Led Growth Jake Levinger, Marketing Ops Manager at Retool

Apr 19, 2022 2:54:21 PM


Today, Jake joins host Islin Munisteri for a conversation about product-led growth and keeping the customer at the center at the "what" and "why" of building a system. We also talk about buildlind out an enterprise-level webinar for demand gen with a marquee customer. Finally, he talks about why enjoys working at Retool and having a technical ICP and selling to developers.

Jake is currently marketing ops manager at Retool. He started as a sales development rep, and then switched to marketing operations at Boomtrain, Eventbrite, and Carta over his 9-year career. He graduated in marketing and Latin from the University of Miami.

Connect with our guest, Jake Levinger, on LinkedIn.


[00:00:00] Islin Munisteri: Hi, this is Islin with Theia Strategies and I'd like to welcome Jake Levinger onto the show.

[00:00:07] Jake Levinger: Hey, thanks for having me excited to be here.

[00:00:10] Islin Munisteri: I'm excited for you to be here to Jake is currently marketing ops manager at Retool he's worked at Carta, Eventbrite, and Boomtrain over his nine year career, he started out as a sales development representative, and he's worked his way up. He graduated from University of Miami in marketing and Latin.

[00:00:35] I'm so excited to have you on that.

[00:00:37] Jake Levinger: Yeah. We are really looking forward to chatting and sharing a bit more context and about the journey.

[00:00:44] Islin Munisteri: Great. So let's let's start with telling me more about your career and how you started in, in marketing

[00:00:52] Jake Levinger: ops. Yeah. Hopefully give you the. It was the first story of it.

[00:00:57] So I went to school, I went to school, Miami graduated back in 2013 and had double major in marketing. And in classical Latin, I think you can tell which one it is. I've built my career off of, but marketing, I came to learn quickly in the hard way, really that it's just a really broad discipline there's everything ranging from marketing opportunity right now, B2B, SAS, marketing mansion, paid acquisition and performance.

[00:01:25] And then all the way down to, agency advertising. PR, this is a lot of different facets. I didn't really fully appreciate that when I went into the workforce. And kinda little bit of soul searching my first year when I moved back to Texas, where I'm from, worked for a brewery, worked for some random kind of marketing agencies, doing some from SEO to agency to PR just to find out what I wanted to do.

[00:01:47] And ultimately. Found out that I interned, that was, it was a startup. And I found that really fascinating and thought that, working for Starbucks could be an interesting place to go in my career. So I reached out to some, actually someone I knew from high school and he was in San Francisco and founded his own company called Live Blends.

[00:02:06] It was a smoothie delivery startup of all things. And. Reach out to him said, Hey, no, I'm looking for job. And he's we only have a sales rep role open. And I said, sure, that sounds great. I don't really know much about it, but I want to be in startups. And Silicon valley is obviously a great place.

[00:02:22] So did a few did make a week or so of trial work basically. And then he was like, yeah, sounds good. Let's fly out here. And so he flew me out and went to say, July, 2014. And I. We lived in worth at this startup and it was an SDR for them. Did that for about 10 months, learning the ropes of just what it means to be in sales, what it means to be like a B2B SAS business and kind of just very like learning and fumbling around in it.

[00:02:50] After that moved on to the slightly larger company, I think live Linds is about five people and moved onto a company called Boomtrain, which is about 20 or 25 people as an SDR. And it was interesting can doing the same thing, a larger little bit larger scale learning a bit more learning a lot more about like the B2B SAS go to market motion and.

[00:03:11] Did that for, I want to say about seven or eight months at which point, we had one guy running marketing, he's a friend of mine. He knew I was interested in marketing and he was like, look, I don't really have anything specific for you in the kind of B2B marketing space for HubSpot, if you want to own that.

[00:03:26] And I was like, I don't know what that means, but sure. So I basically took the HubSpot inbound certification. And then I went through, some of the groups on that. And then he was like, all right, good enough, let's get you started. So he threw me in the deep end on that building landing pages, working with webinars and sending emails and in.

[00:03:49] Starting to do something more rudimentary like workflows and MQL criteria and stuff like that, did that for maybe another six months or so. And found out that I actually really enjoyed that. I found the puzzle like problem solving just more behind the scenes, but like really important part of marketing ops, just really interesting.

[00:04:07] So I wanted to find a more suitable company to do that. Pick a major or like looking at a more formal education within it. So that's when I joined Eventbrite in 2016 and worked there for two and a half years on the marketing ops team. I think never really looked back, but that's the initial early days and how I really got into it.

[00:04:25] Islin Munisteri: That's exciting. And I remember like during our earlier meeting, you talked about a lot of repetition with Marketo at Event Brite.

[00:04:35] Jake Levinger: Yeah. Yeah, EventBrite probably was picking up the story. I remember it was great because it was a place where I, it was, I think it was 500 people and we a pretty large company, especially by the earlier standards that earlier startups I worked at, which were like five and twenty-five people.

[00:04:49] And the reason I picked the larger companies that I wanted to get that formal education. And so I joined and was immediately put onto a five person marketing ops team. And my job from day one for about the next year or so, it was just really heavy repetition of campaign execution and Marketo. So figuring out how to, hammering out how to do pains and build landing pages and webinars and crafting landing page, era, eBooks, and forms.

[00:05:19] Oh, then the conduct of supporting our international marketers, we had seven teams and they all needed, stuff executed Marketo and that kind of all funneled through me. So just built the muscle really early on, just from how to actually just execute and create framework on top of that.

[00:05:33] And yeah, that was definitely a super, I got exactly a one in the early days. Just really build that operation around how to like one of the core facets of marketing on.

[00:05:45] Islin Munisteri: And I guess since you've used HubSpot and Marquetto now which tool do you prefer?

[00:05:51] Jake Levinger: It's funny. When I joined retool about a year and a half ago, I was interviewing my manager and he's look, we need to hire a marketing ops person. He's I don't want to hire someone. Who's just going to blanket statements that we need. Marketo and I said, that's a great cause I don't want to use any more.

[00:06:05] I've used about five years across Carta and Eventbrite. And I was just I wanted to see what else is out there. And I know, I knew that HubSpot was out there. I used it in the early days of marketing opposite engineering. And when I came in, I evaluated it based on what we needed at retail, and honestly found that they were more or less the same thing.

[00:06:25] And that the HubSpot's a bit, bit more user-friendly like you can build better workflows and all this is decided. I think I don't really get really matters too strongly, which one you pick, it comes down to personal preference, but at the end of the day the most important thing is to know what questions to ask for the tool, like more or less to do the same thing, but you could know what questions to ask, to understand how to unlock the value.

[00:06:48] Well, like, Hey, like where's the, HubSpot calls, email drips, like workflows calls me engagement programs either we know what you need. And what it's called is I think there's we'll make it, make them more or less interested

[00:07:05] Islin Munisteri: and they go, across your career what's your biggest experience?

[00:07:09] Spin or biggest learning experience?

[00:07:11] Jake Levinger: think there's, I think more so than more than anything in my career, the biggest learning I've taken just in marketing ops and Pontius Ford for their company is mainly just from having gone through this myself is building great systems, but building them for people.

[00:07:29] I think marketing and operations specifically is an interesting role because you face customer facing customers in your work and your work also serves internal stakeholders as customers. I think one of the mistakes I made earlier on was I. Yeah, it just really came into Carta. I had a grip on what I wanted to build as far as a go-to-market system and of system.

[00:07:53] And I'd seen when it scaled at EventBrite that worked really well. I was like, great. I'm gonna come in and build this and I'm gonna build a great system. And then I'm gonna put a really strong process to support this system. And then I'm going to plot the people in afterwards and teach them that process.

[00:08:06] And I think that was just the wrong way to do it as I've assumed learned. Mainly because. Doing things that order, the system was fine. I think if I don't hang out with the opposite approach, I've gotten the same outcome. However, because I slotted the people at the very last minute, basically, they're like, who is this guy?

[00:08:21] What are these arbitrary decisions being? Why am I, why is my process being shaped? To me, no rhyme or reason as a sales rep or as a day to day operator in the, in those processes and systems. So I think that's probably the biggest learning I've gathered. As a, as just a marketing ops practitioner, be customer centric, knowing that customers could be external facing or internal facing speak that, take that forward with you.

[00:08:43] As you build things, anything you build that touches people, make sure that they understand what you're building and why you're building it. And then you make sure that their feedback and their points are heard.

[00:08:57] Islin Munisteri: That's great. And I guess what was, what's your favorite campaign that you've executed across all the companies you've worked at in marketing

[00:09:05] Jake Levinger: ops? I think it's recency bias, but I recently got. I've dabbled a bit more in demand gen recently. And I got to own a webinar with one of our big marquee customers.

[00:09:14] We use Coinbase as our big marquee customer for this webinar who your first foray into an ABN slash demand gen webinar and also our first foray into an enterprise content. Normally your content has been much more. The self-serve customer centric, but this is the first time we got not only of marquee customer, but also got people talking about.

[00:09:36] How they use our product, or I guess how our product helps shape their business and their kind of their entire engineering org. It was this super fun to build that from start to finish. I learned a lot the, marketing ops I've usually been on the other side of the table from demand gen, just helping.

[00:09:51] Orchestrate the automation and make sure the plumbing is working. This is a time where I got to be on the other side. I used to do both, coordinate with the speakers, make sure that the script is up and running with my counterpart on my team. And then just kinda, actually help run the event and all the followup stuff.

[00:10:08] So it's been, it was really fun. It was definitely a learning experience. And that went really well. And.

[00:10:17] Islin Munisteri: Cool. Wow. So you actually got to do the full webinar execution, not just, doing the plumbing behind the scenes, which is that's exciting. And do it, do you guys have a single source of truth in your texts?

[00:10:31] Jake Levinger: That's a great question. We have given that we're a product led company, a lot, most all of our data flows into our data warehouse.

[00:10:40] So anything that we really do need to get in a way that we need to tie in. Our Stripe revenue data and tie that in with our Salesforce, account information and whatnot in our, or you can usually use our house as a source of truth and just write queries against it. But by and large for our enterprise business, our Salesforce instances, the source of truth, and then HubSpot kind of runs in orchestrates on top of it, just for the automation, the market automation.

[00:11:09] Islin Munisteri: Cool. So I guess it's like a data warehouse, Salesforce and HubSpot working all together in

[00:11:14] Jake Levinger: concert. Yeah, exactly.

[00:11:18] Islin Munisteri: This is a deeper question. So if you died tomorrow, what do you hope people would say about you and how you impacted.

[00:11:26] Jake Levinger: And this I think in general, I try to be, I think I mentioned earlier.

[00:11:30] I try to be customer centric and everything I do. It might work, but also just, real life customers is think about anyone you interact with anyone. You can ha you can shape a positive experience with it. So I would have hoped that worst if God willing something happened.

[00:11:47] People would be like, oh, he really did take effort to care and leave them as it acts within interact with on a personal and on a professional level.

[00:11:58] Islin Munisteri: That's wonderful. I think that. Yeah. Being customer centric is something I'm actually trying harder to be as we build out the systems and that type of thing for our clients as well. Because if you don't have the customer involved in building the system, you got, you have big problems. And what's the best piece of career advice you would tell your younger self?

[00:12:22] Jake Levinger: Yeah, that's a really good question. I think, I think it is. I think it's still kinda, not to sound kind of cliche or boring, but I think it is just do the right thing for people around you. Don't go bend over backwards for things, but just do the, do high integrity work and it'll and everything else will pay off from the.

[00:12:39] Pay off in the long run. I think one of the things looking back on my career that I was frustrated with, or I just didn't really have much insight into the processes, like how getting promoted and how raises work and all these things. And it really is one of the things I've, I think feedback I'd give myself now or advice would just be, focus on your responsibilities, expand your scope of things that you work on.

[00:12:59] Expand your domain expertise, learn more, build relationships with people and all that stuff will come with.

[00:13:07] Islin Munisteri: Wow. That's great. Yeah. I think building the hardest part is building the relationships with the people as you build out the systems, so that everyone's aligned on the same page. Is there anything we haven't covered?

[00:13:25] As far as like working at retool or why, I guess why you jumped to reach.

[00:13:33] Jake Levinger: Yeah. Rachel's been really, so just to give a really brief plug on what retail is, we're an internal app building software. So if you're, if you work at if you, lot of, a lot of companies, not just startups or companies in general that have technical teams need to build apps or things that just are internal facing at times or external, but really they just need to build into, they need to build apps that allow people within the business to actually.

[00:13:57] Things like an example would be Amazon. If you went into Amazon, you're like, Hey, my orders not working. And they need, or my orders not arriving. They may have built an app for a customer support rep to go in there, look up your account, build something, or, change the billing if they need to stuff like that.

[00:14:14] I probably butchered that. But in any case, that's a really high level. What, what retooled. And so we sell the developers, it's our ICP. And I think that, that was one thing I was really interested. I've worked at, I've never really worked at a company that has a technical ICP buyer.

[00:14:27] So I think that was really interesting. The other thing that was really interesting was the fact that it was a product-led growth company. What that means is just, that you can go to our website, sign up for the free trial and then start using the product and start getting value out of it.

[00:14:39] And so what that means is it the. Marketing ops, funnel or the funnel, the acquisition of bundles of it different from a sales-led company, such as Carta. Pardot was like, if you need to talk to someone is requested demo. If you want to buy it, whereas retooling X to go use the product. And I think that's been really interesting to understand the nuances.

[00:15:02] I think the problem set of what I work on every day. It doesn't really change from what I did at Carta versus what I do here at retool. However, the tech stack and the skillset you can learn, like for example, understanding how like the segment works. So like a customer CDP customer data platform works and be able to use a lot more product data throughout the customer life cycle, rather than just host customer acquisition, I think has been really fun and interesting to combat.

[00:15:28] So that was kinda one of the reasons I was really drawn to it among, the fact that I think the business is doing really well, and I think the people I work alongside are super smart and bomb.

[00:15:38] Islin Munisteri: Whoa. That's great. I think that's a wrap for today's podcast. Thanks for joining us, Jake, and have a great day.

[00:15:48] Jake Levinger: Awesome. Thank you. Yeah. Thank you for having me really enjoyed it and hope to join again soon.


Islin Munisteri

Written by Islin Munisteri