Top Things to Turn Off to Get Stuff Done in 2016

I’m a firm believer that to do your best work, you need focus. Interruptions murder focus. When trying to focus on a given task, there are some interruptions which are outside of our control: fire alarm, emergency phone call, urgent biological needs, boss hunts you down to talk to you, etc. But most other interruptions we enable ourselves, and we make no effort to remove these. I recently underwent a deliberate effort to try and remove as many self-inflicted distractions as I can to allow myself more focus.

I settled on a list of the most common (and easiest) ones that almost anyone can turn off right now to be more productive and keep your focus consistent:

  1. Turn off email notifications on desktop and mobile

This is probably the biggest (and easiest) thing you can do. Do not check email every time the notification pops up – in fact, turn that notification off and schedule regular breaks to check email. In my unscientific estimation, 80% of the emails we get don’t require us to do anything, so it makes sense to batch process those emails so you’re not switching gears every five seconds. Remember: reading and responding to emails is a task that requires focus in and of itself, and shouldn’t be seen as something you need to react to with every new ‘ding’ of the inbox.

  1. Turn off chat

Most organizations use a chat service like Slack or HipChat for real-time communications. I’m actually a huge fan of chat – it enables collaboration without having to schedule defined meetings, or to share information that isn’t urgent but is potentially useful for a group. But of course chat notifications (and your reaction to them) is another thing that pulls focus. And the problem with these services is they enable notifications for EVERYTHING by default. Once you join a few different rooms, plus the 1×1 conversations, your chat icon will be forever bouncing up and down with new notifications. Do you really need to see a notification when your marketing team decides it’s time to compete for posting the cutest puppy GIF? Well, maybe, as that sounds pretty awesome – but you get my point.

The first step is to only enable notifications if it’s 1×1 or you are specifically mentioned in a group room. That way when you see a notification, you at least know it’s truly relevant for you. Like email, it’s best to batch process those conversations to every one or two hours and see how much you can actually get done. Try to set expectations for for others to do the same thing, so send the message and go back to your work, when you check again later, an answer should be there. It’s actually pretty rare that you need to know something right away? Most ‘urgent’ asks are only urgent because you are thinking about them right now, and can be handled in due time like other requests.

  1. Turn off alerts on your phone/tablet/watch

We love our gadgets – and we also love that they want us to play with them constantly. Heck, soon even our mirrors might even be harassing us with all the stuff we need do! Devices by default are interruption factories, with constant notifications and buzzing for every app we’ve installed. It takes a lot of effort, but you can turn off any and all electronic distractions.

Of course I love my phone as much as everyone, but if I looked at every group text, Instagram post or tweet I’d never get anything done. Once you turn off notifications from most of your apps, you realize you never really needed them in first place. If you have random wait time, like when commuting on the bus or waiting in line for coffee, feel free to quickly check out the updates from your e-social world. But as the ‘new’ default, you want most of your apps off.

Thanks to advances in mobile operating systems, we can even set up Do Not Disturb times, either scheduled or ad hoc, and even have the granularity to allow for specific notifications to still get through. For instance I set up my mobile to only ring if it’s my immediate family or wife calling from 9 PM to 6 AM every night. The power is yours – engage with your electronic life on YOUR terms.

  1. Turn off the internet

Now you can’t exactly turn off the whole internet, (and let’s be honest most things you do need it), but you can create a distraction free zone by using simple apps like Self-Control or Freedom. These allow you to block certain websites for a period of time, so you aren’t distracted by your fantasy football team when you’re supposed to be working on a presentation. Once the time period is over, the site will be accessible again and you can go and read and plan and whatever else you need to do. Creating pockets of full focus can be amazing and allow your brain to really become a task machine. The ‘flow state’ is a real thing – make sure you do what you can to get there.

  1. Turn off your colleagues

This one is tricky, and not as simple as the others listed above. In-person interruptions are one of the easiest ways to be yanked out of your flow, and it’s been shown it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to re-focus on what you were doing prior to the interruption. Whether it’s your boss asking you about the latest TPS report or a coworker who wants to tell you about the super rad DJ she saw on Saturday, it’s tough to remain focused and also be the social, well-liked, empathetic coworker. I’ve personally found the best way to do this is to provide clear signals of when you are in ‘focus zone’ vs when you are open to being interrupted. If you are fortunate enough to have an office, close the door and even consider putting a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign up. If you are like most folks and are in the ever-so-fashionable ‘open layout‘, you can do things like put on headphones (even when not listening to music) and demonstrate in your body language that you are intensely focused on the task in front of you. When approached, calmly but firmly ask if they can come back later (tell them the specific time) or to schedule time with you when your calendar is open. Or if that isn’t working sufficiently, you can grab your laptop and try to find a distraction free zone, whether it’s somewhere else in the office or even a nearby coffee shop or restaurant. And if your manager is supportive and you have a good work environment at home, take an occasional WFH day to be super-focused and cross a bunch of things off your to-do list. Just make sure you show how productive you were at home so you can continue to use this method.

These things are not easy, but they will help you get more out of your work day. Multitasking is not the way to check off items and blast through that to-do list. You get to make your day your own, not someone elses. You get to decide what’s important for you and your work. Take control, turn these things off, and get stuff done!

Predictive Analytics for Marketing – Unlocking the Value

*Updated June 6, 2016 with information about ABM providers*

Predictive analytics is one of the biggest trends in recent years. With Nate Silver’s bestseller, The Signal and the Noise, a new concept emerged that with the right math and data, anyone could predict the future. There’s an ongoing question of how to best apply Predictive Analytics for Marketing. In this post I’ll go in to the overall concept and how you can unlock the value within your organization.

Marketers love jumping on the next big thing, and Predictive is no exception. Even today it’s touted seen as a plug-and-play tool to unlock the potential in leads that might have just sat in your marketing database in nurture limbo. You can see this on the website of Lattice, one of the biggest provider of ‘predictive solutions’ for Marketing:



Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 1.14.28 PM
300% higher ADS? Sign me up!


Now, I’m a fan of using advanced lead scoring as a method to improve both qualification and prioritization of demand for Sales. At New Relic, we were early adopters of Infer and find a lot of value in their solution to apply predictive analytics for marketing. Thanks to the both the methodologies they employ and the access they have to myriad data sources, Infer is able to bring a number of data points into the equation that the average (or even advanced) modern marketer wouldn’t be able to. But there’s a few things you need to keep in mind in order to truly unlock the value of predictive analytics for marketing.


As I mentioned above, the two primary use cases for using predictive analytics in marketing is for qualification and prioritization of demand. If you know what leads have the highest likelihood to convert, you can use that score and implement a threshold to limit the amount of unqualified leads getting to your sales floor. It’s also likely that you’ll find leads you aren’t currently passing on to your sales team that could be assigned. In order to maximize the effectiveness of those leads, you’ll also want to use some sort of view for Sales that prioritizes the leads by score. I like to say that if your reps can make 80 phone calls in a day and you’re sending them 100 leads, you better be sure that those 80 calls are going to the right prospects. Using a predictive score to help prioritize can make your sales reps

Another method to unlock more value is to have your medium or low-rated leads go to a Sales Development team to do manual qualification on. If certain pockets of these leads convert at a decent clip, the next iteration of your model refresh should value them appropriately. This will make sure the right resources in sales are matched to the right set of activities to achieve the highest level of productivity.

Before we get to far into the nitty gritty, it’s important to understand the math concepts that fuel these predictive engines. I can’t really summarize it better than this Harvard Business Review primer on predictive analytics:
Regression analysis in its various forms is the primary tool that organizations use for predictive analytics. It works like this in general: An analyst hypothesizes that a set of independent variables (say, gender, income, visits to a website) are statistically correlated with the purchase of a product for a sample of customers. The analyst performs a regression analysis to see just how correlated each variable is; this usually requires some iteration to find the right combination of variables and the best model. Let’s say that the analyst succeeds and finds that each variable in the model is important in explaining the product purchase, and together the variables explain a lot of variation in the product’s sales. Using that regression equation, the analyst can then use the regression coefficients—the degree to which each variable affects the purchase behavior—to create a score predicting the likelihood of the purchase.
In plain English, for marketing we look at the different demographic and firmographic factors (aka the profile of the individual and their company) and sometimes pair it with behavioral data (website visits, product trials, etc). This gives us a score that we can use to ‘predict’ whether that lead is likely to convert and make a potential deal.


Predictive Analytics for Marketing
Do YOU want to be doing this?

If you’ve bought into predictive analytics for marketing conceptually, then you’ll need to begin your vendor search. This is a fairly crowded market these days and I have not personally used each and every platform below. Based on what I’ve heard from other marketers, these are the top players in the space:

  • Infer: the solution I have the most familiarity with, Infer bills itself as a Predictive Sales and Marketing platform. It was fairly straightforward to implement – we just had to get them proper levels of access to our CRM, provided some rough guidance in how we wanted to use them, and they create the predictive model based on our data and began scoring leads at regular intervals. They are also adding the capability to add in net new contacts that fit your profile.
  • 6Sense: they differentiate their predictive solution through ‘uncover[ing] net-new prospects at every stage of the funnel’ and focus more on larger B2B organizations. They were born out of a custom predictive analytics project at Cisco and count Dropbox, ADP, and Netsuite as customers. Their founder, Amanda Kahlow, also has a very interesting story in how they came to bring on Salesforce as an investor.
  • Lattice Engines: also focused more on larger customers, Lattice Engines positions itself as a part of Account-Based Marketing, scoring and helping prioritize accounts for your marketing and sales teams. Dell, Citrix, and Staples are on their customer list.
  • Everstring: ‘leverages data to predict your next best customer.’ They call themselves a decision platform and seem more focused on the sales side of the equation compared to their peers, specifically calling out how sales development and sales reps can use the platform.

I’ve had many marketers ask me for my opinions about different predictive analytics providers. I’ll tell you what I often tell them – from my experience, you aren’t going to find much differentiation in the models themselves. They all use the same mathematical techniques to create the predictive models, using similar data sources so even in a typical bake-off it’s not likely that one provider’s model would be really good and another would be mediocre. Thus when you are conducting your evaluation I believe the most important factor is whether you like the organization and the product. If you have a good trial experience and the price matches the perceived value, I would move forward and feel comfortable with it.

There is another option you can consider, and roll your own solution. I’ve used this option in the past when predictive as a service wasn’t as developed. If you have access to the right kind of data and the capability internally, it’s a viable option. There are consultants who also specialize in this as well, but I think given the plethora of options out there, most organizations are better off using one of the companies above.

Besides the obvious use cases for advanced lead scoring, almost all of the predictive analytics solutions out there are pushing to add capabilities to build target account lists and generate additional demand by either buying names at sets of target accounts, or highlighting existing demand at certain accounts. In the future, I believe these solutions will partner with account-based marketing technologies like DemandBase and Engagio to find the ‘next’ set of accounts that you should be focused on at your organization. Otherwise, they risk just being an expensive lead-scoring program. I’ll touch on this below when I talk about what’s next.

There's not a one-size-fits-all solution.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.


Implementing a predictive analytics for marketing solution
Once you’ve completed your evaluation and chosen a vendor you can begin the implementation process. It will of course differ between vendors, but in general you will need to provide access to your CRM and/or Marketing Automation solution, the vendors will need time to create the model (if they didn’t do this during the evaluation process), and then will score all your existing demand and net new leads. Simply put, you pair your data with a vendor’s data sources, run it through the predictive model and voila! – we can predict who is going to buy.


However, there’s a simple, but crucially important premise to understand to really unlock the value of predictive analytics for marketing. The key word in the description of predictive analysis above is “regression” – by definition, predictive analytics actually is relying only on what happened in the past, so by using these models you have to assume that what happened in the past will continue to happen. This is fine in a super-stable business where you have a set of products that are consistent over time, sold to similar personas, with no dramatic shifts in the market, etc. Alas, most marketers are working in more dynamic environments. For this reason, you need to be very proactive in properly managing predictive analytics for marketing programs.


Best Practices in Applying Predictive Analytics for Marketing

This doesn’t mean that predictive scoring doesn’t provide value – it just means that marketers can’t ‘set it and forget it’. There are a few best practices you can follow to get the most of your predictive analytics for marketing:
  • Make sure you get regular model refreshes as part of your agreement with any vendor (at least 2x/year), and that you enable it from your side by providing the right set of resources and access to appropriate systems so this is as seamless as possible.
  • When you implement the scoring model, don’t make the scores immediately visible to front-line sales reps. Rather have it running in the background for the length of at least one sales cycle (or if your sales cycle is too long to make this practical, try doing this for long enough that you feel confident in the evaluation of a given cohort of leads). This kind of single-blind study will allow you to see how the model performs without changing Sales behavior.
  • Get Sales leadership involved early, so they are bought in to the concept, and regularly update them on the progress of the project and implementation. If you learn something interesting during the blind rollout, share that with them.
  • Use other methods of scoring or categorization to complement the vendor’s score. This is really important when going after new markets and buyers, or releasing new products. You may for instance want to segment portions of your audience and adjust scoring tiers as new types of buyers enter your marketing/sales funnel, because the scoring model in place might not see them as valuable until deals start to happen.
  • Make sure you have regular catch-up calls and discuss new buyer personas and products (or any other changes in your Go To Market motions) with the vendors you work with. They want to make sure you are engaged and happy so it’s best to provide as much info as you can to them so they can set you up for success.
  • Be proactive in thinking about how predictive analytics solutions might complement other technologies in your Marketing Technology stack – look at what ABM providers are offering for instance to identify possible overlaps and where you might be able to get the most value out of using them together. Or if there’s two much overlap, perhaps you don’t need different sets of technologies to meet your needs.
Can predictive analytics for marketing help you find your next customer?
Can predictive analytics for marketing help you find your next customer?
What’s next?
Currently, predictive solutions are focused primarily on optimizing the demand you already have in your ‘system’ – that is, helping to score and optimize leads you’ve attracted and captured already. The next phase is adding features that help more with the top of funnel (TOFU) part of marketing. Features like identifying and adding in net new accounts (and the right contacts at those accounts) in your database for outreach and nurturing, account scoring/analytics, and stronger integrations with third party data providers (like Datanyze) to do account enrichment and better coordinated outbound activities (in combination with Sales tools like Salesloft, Yesware, and the like).


I believe the predictive analytics providers and ABM solutions (like Engagio, DemandBase) will start to encroach heavily on each others’ turf as they collectively focus on helping marketers identify, target, engage, and measure the effectiveness of marketing and selling to the ‘right’ set of companies. Both ABM and predictive analytics solutions will also start to blend with some of the funnel analytics providers out there (FullCircle, BrightFunnel) as they provide deeper analytics relating to target accounts. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a great time to be a data-driven marketer, as we’ll have a wealth of data and solutions to help us drive efficiency and ROI.
Remember, while applying predictive analytics for marketing can be super powerful, you need to own and control your own destiny and can’t just run things on autopilot. But if managed correctly, partnering with a predictive analytics provider can  unlock a lot of value in your lead database and bring added leverage to your programs and marketing spend.

Empathy in Marketing – why your team needs it

If you’ve seen me talk about the PHACE talent framework or read my overview post, you know that empathy in marketing is one of the key characteristics I focus on. It’s also something that has emerged in job descriptions as smart hiring managers realize the power of having empathetic employees. The challenging part about empathy, like a lot of soft skills, is the difficulty in quantifying and evaluating it during the interview process. It’s also challenging to develop this within individuals in the work setting. In this post I’m going to dive in a bit and give my personal view of empathy in Marketing, how you can find the right folks, and develop it in employees that may not demonstrate it.

Webster’s simple definition of empathy is “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions; the ability to share someone else’s feelings.” That’s a fine definition but I like an even simpler one:

EMPATHETIC: putting yourself in others’ shoes


Why Empathy in Marketing is so Valuable

I strongly believe every modern marketer has to get closer to the business side of things to be successful – at a minimum they have to know how their work drives Sales, and strive to make as big an impact as possible in revenue. But as Marketers we’re also working with Product, and are probably working with some combination of Legal, Finance, and IT folks as well. But far too often I see Marketing teams that aren’t adding as much value as they could be to the business, because of strained working relationships they have not only with folks outside their department, but even the colleagues they sit next to and work with every day in Marketing.


When you’re evaluating candidates for Marketing positions, you can try to assess the level of empathy by asking about other jobs within your organization. For instance, “What do you think is the hardest thing about being a sales rep?” or “What do you see is your role in driving revenue?” With the former question, you’re looking to see if the candidate understands the life of a sales rep and the challenges they face, or least can picture it. In the latter case, if the candidate talks about top of funnel activities only (like leads) and doesn’t relate their work to what’s happening in Sales, they might not really understand how they need to affect the business, or may lack the right level of empathy for their colleagues in Sales.


Developing Empathy in Marketing Teams

The root-root cause of lack of empathy is the fundamental attribution error. We each see the world as affecting us, and it’s difficult to think about things from the other side. So how do we develop and encourage empathy in marketing teams? I believe a large part is embedded in who we are naturally as individuals, so you will find people who are somewhere on the range of “Super sensitive” to “Feelings are dumb”. But that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage more empathy in the folks on your team.


There are a few different options to help people put themselves in others shoes — two of my favorites are setting up formalized shadowing programs or temporary job assignments. For instance, at New Relic we instituted a formal Sales Rep Shadowing program, dubbed “Rep Life” where a member of our Customer Lifecycle team recruits a number of sales reps to serve on a roster where folks in Marketing can sign-up and sit with the reps during scheduled times, listening to customer/prospect calls and seeing how reps on the floor follow-up and respond to marketing-sourced leads. That feedback is documented and at the end of each period, the Customer Lifecycle team pulls out the common themes and figures out what Marketing can do to improve the information we provide to Sales, how we alert the reps to different activities, and how we notify them about significant campaigns or marketing activities. It also builds a level of trust and helps to reduce some of the tension between the sales and marketing floor.

Another program I’ve heard other organizations do as part of Marketing onboarding is have new marketers spend a few shifts as a customer service rep. This allows them to understand what their customers’ issues are as they use the products, and help realize where there might be opportunities for marketing to add more value. Marketing might be able to create a ‘fast start’ guide for instance to help customers find value in the product easier.
building empathy in Marketing
Shadowing sales reps is a great way to build empathy in Marketing


However you choose to encourage empathy in Marketing it is up to you – but the key thing is that the programs you develop live on and aren’t done just one time. In your regular check-ins and conversations with team members as you see tension build between different groups, realize that usually it’s a lack of empathy for the other side that can be diffused by encouraging folks to put themselves in others’ shoes. And that attitude leads to a better working relationship that’s great for everyone in the organization.

Desperately Seeking Unicorn

I was doing research for my Sirius Decisions Technology Exchange keynote session earlier this year, and came across a real job description for a Sales Operations Analyst that cracked me up. The company shall remain nameless, but needless to say, they want everything:

  • B.A. or B.S. degree or equivalent
  • 5-10 years solid sales operations experience
  • Expert in “all things” SFDC is a must
  • Experience in subscription-based and/or SaaS-based business, including quote-to-order process
  • Experience in using using Microsoft Office Suite, especially Excel (Pivots, Look-Ups, Filtering) and PowerPoint, Google Apps for Business, DocuSign, WebEx, and DiscoverOrg
  • Self-starter with ability to work in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment
  • Team player with strong cross group collaboration skills
  • Experience with presentations to senior executives in sales, finance and/or operations
  • Strong communication skills and management presence
  • Superior problem-solving skills. Must be able to accurately compile and synthesize quantitative and qualitative data
  • Excellent customer service attitude
  • Have empathy

Let’s break this down a bit.

5-10 years solid sales operations experience

While Sales Operations roles and CRM technologies are nothing new, most folks who have been doing this well for 5+ years are in management roles. And some of the technologies that are used most aren’t even 5 years old!

“all things” SFDC

I promise you the man or woman that knows all things Salesforce knows they are much too valuable to join your firm.

management presence

So you want them to be a technical expert and know everything, but also have an executive presence?

strong cross group collaboration skills

And also must play nicely with others.

Have empathy

This is my favorite and the one I actually think is good! In fact, it’s one of the core talent characteristics I look for when I hire marketers. Taken all together, here is what this company is basically looking for:

fire unicorn


Framework for Hiring Growth Marketers

My career path in Marketing is far from typical – I came in to it from a product management role at a research firm, and until for a long time was always in a technical or operations-focused marketing role. As I have matured as a marketing professional I’ve focused my career specifically on driving rapid growth at organizations. At the same time, the technology portfolio that marketers use to reach and engage the market has developed and matured. Obviously there’s been a crazy amount of technologies released to serve marketers and I believe we’ll see a lot of consolidation down the road. Regardless, the importance of hiring growth marketers who understand how to use technology has increased dramatically and there’s no reason to think marketers who can marry the creative and technical won’t be highly sought after in the future. Right now supply isn’t matching the demand when it comes to hiring growth marketers, and thus it’s exceedingly difficult to fill these roles. As a result I’ve evolved my personal philosophy in hiring, and have focused on looking for certain traits that can result in quality hires rather than focus primarily on experience.

Introducing the PHACE Framework for Hiring Growth Marketers

In a nutshell, I use a framework consisting of these talent characteristics: Proactive, Hacky, Analytical, Connected, and Empathetic. These aren’t the only things to look for of course, but I’ve found that if you are hiring growth marketing roles with candidates that rate highly on at least a few of those characteristics, they are likely to succeed. I had a chance to share this framework at the Sirius Decisions Technology Exchange in San Francisco, and the response from the audience (and follow-up conversations) was extremely positive!
Hiring Growth Marketers
Are you looking for the right characteristics when hiring growth marketers?
In future blog posts I’ll do deep dives into each of those characteristics, but suffice it say that if you can evaluate candidates and use this as a framework, it will allow you to focus on hiring growth marketers without directly engaging in the talent war. After all, experience is a lagging indicator, and I always believe in hiring for upside and potential rather than focus on deep experience (not that that’s a bad thing of course!).

Presentation from the Sirius Decisions Technology Exchange: