First of all, I don’t think Tom Kahana, Director of Marketing Operations at Imprivata, is a geek in any way. In fact, while very experienced, well-informed and enthusiastic about all things MarOps, he’s actually quite affable.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that I’m far more of a geek than he...but he calls himself a marketing ops geek at the end of this interview, and I needed a catchy title. So there it is.
Tom has over 15 years of marketing experience in the technology space. And for the past six years, he’s been in the thick of marketing operations’ rapid evolution. Which is why I reached out to him, on numerous occasions, for expert insights – and that inevitably led to this interview and hopefully much more content to come.
David: Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to be Director of Marketing Operations at Imprivata?
Tom: I’ve been in marketing ops for nearly a decade, but most people don’t know that I come from a demand gen background. I think having the mix has really enabled me to see both sides of the spectrum, which I use in making strategic decisions.
As for Imprivata, I became aware of an opportunity over a year ago, but at the time I wasn’t ready to make a move. I kept an eye on the company, was impressed by the continued success and incredible growth it has achieved and recently felt like the timing was right.
What sealed the deal for me was hearing how the marketing leadership team was fully aligned in the importance of the marketing ops role in defining and driving marketing and company strategy. I couldn’t be happier with my decision!
We’re seeing a big shift in marketing and the ways in which marketers think. A few years ago, marketers relied on technology vendors to develop and deploy innovative solutions for them. But it now seems that most marketers don’t want out-of-the-box solutions – they want to customize based on their growing expertise. How do you see this playing out in the tech-heavy marketing ops role?
Well I rarely purchase anything out-of-the-box anymore, I need something tailored to my company-specific needs. We’re always looking to push the boundaries of what our marketing tech can do and customizing our integrations and technologies allows us to streamline our processes to accommodate our challenges.
"We’re always looking to push the boundaries of what our marketing tech can do and customizing our integrations."
I also find that focusing our initial efforts on customization provides us a path to be more successful, so we hit the ground running.
Marketing and the marketing ops role has evolved very rapidly. It’s conquered many challenges over the last couple years just to arrive at new ones. What are some of these new challenges and how do you think they’ll further mold the industry and marketing ops in particular?
I’m probably biased, but I’m a true believer that marketing should be setting and driving business strategy for organizations. One of those key initiatives where I see marketing ops setting strategy isn’t just for marketing technology, but all customer-facing technology.
"I’m a true believer that marketing should be setting and driving business strategy for organizations."
As we become more and more experienced in aligning our technologies according to our prospects’ and customers’ specific needs, we can leverage that knowledge and shape strategy for other groups that interact with our audience (such as Support, Customer Advocacy or Operations).
What will be the “must have” marketing tech in 2016?
Predictive analytics has really gained stream in 2015 with several new companies offering impressive solutions. I believe that trend will continue next year and will continue to be atop the “must have” list.
I see many of my peers who were early adopters with me on the marketing automation train also buying on this initiative. It’s certainly something on my roadmap and I would be disappointed if I don’t add it next year….Vendors, I know who you are and I’ll reach out to you, no need to flood my email and voicemail :)
What do you see as the most innovative/exciting initiatives Imprivata marketing is doing in the space right now?
I’m incredibly excited to be at Imprivata and we’re doing some really exciting things. Much of the work we’ve completed in my first 90 days has been about building out the foundation of our technology, process and reporting. Things like ensuring our data normalization program streamlines our lead assignment and scoring process or establishing a reporting cadence that delivers timely data to key stakeholders in an easy, consumable and repeatable format.
"Once our foundational efforts are finalized...we’ll be able to move to the “fun” phase. The phase where we can get creative and innovative."
Once our foundational efforts are finalized over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be able to move to the “fun” phase. The phase where we can get creative and innovative and really move the needle in making Imprivata’s marketing and sales organizations much more successful and efficient. However I’m such the marketing ops geek that even the foundational work makes me wake up with a smile on my face every morning.