Data Nightmares and Marketing Miracles with Kanako Tone

Kanako Tone’s gift is radical empathy. An Ops leader with experience in two languages and three countries; she knows what it takes to get GTM teams working together. As the Marketing Ops Manager at Alyce — a gifting platform helping sales, marketing, and people teams build stronger relationships — she’s navigating the RevOps boom with deft and wisdom. We talk about marketing miracles, data nightmares, and the four burdens of your endlessly expanding tech stack.
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Nick Bonfiglio
November 4, 2021 . 4 min read

Nick Bonfiglio: Why did you choose Marketing Ops? Why Alyce?

Kanako Tone: It was time for a change. In my previous companies, I always reported to CMOs or VPs of Marketing. That system works fine, but I could see another way. When Alyce asked me to join as the Marketing Ops under RevOps, I saw it as an opportunity to support radical, transparent operational alignment. No more silos of communication and conflict.

I chose Alyce because I was a recipient of an Alyce gift through a sales touch. They nailed it right away by offering me a travel bag; my LinkedIn clearly says I used to live in three countries. I selected it right before COVID hit, so when I realized I wouldn’t be traveling for a while, Alyce gave me the option to choose another gift. I got a puzzle to occupy myself in our newfound isolation (laughs). That whole experience was mind-blowing. It felt like receiving a gift from my friend who knows me. Right then, I knew Alyce was doing something special.

What do you wish executives knew about Marketing Ops?

I wish more people knew that rushing projects leads to trouble. If we have to take on urgent projects, it means we’re not making progress on everything else. Other teams may perceive that marketing is ‘blocking’ a project from going forward, but we are usually just trying to keep up (laughs). I’m grateful that as we’ve moved under the RevOps umbrella, those types of urgent projects happen less and less.

Unfortunately, most people — even colleagues and peers — don’t know how much effort it takes to build Marketing Operations. I wish we could hit a magic marketing button. When execs need something by the next day, we try to deliver. But that comes at a cost to QA and we don’t recommend it.

You have some impressive skills; you’re bilingual, you’re well-traveled. How have those experiences guided your Ops work?

Two words: empathy and confidence. I’ve worked with all different kinds of people, in different countries, cultures, and languages. It allows me to easily put myself in their shoes, see what consumes their world, observe their pain points, and how they’re reacting to challenges. Those experiences affect how they will come to the table to solve problems.

I recognize that staying laser-focused on my ideal outcome or becoming everyone’s order-taker are not the only options. When I know their context and their frustrations, I understand how to facilitate productive decision-making.

I also think my experiences have helped me understand the marketing industry better. It’s all about learning: living in different places, navigating being an outsider, adjusting to new customs, and seeing old problems with fresh eyes. You gain a new level of trust in your own abilities.

Do you have a data nightmare to share? A story of misalignment or miscommunication?

Absolutely. In a previous role, I helped facilitate the sales pipeline and the scoring of MQLs in our databases. We started to notice some inconsistencies; BDRs would start seeing prospects they already spoke to go through the recycle cycle too quickly. Cue mild panic (laughs). I dug into our databases and discovered that my coworker changed the criteria for an MQL to accelerate that cycle.

I wanted to understand what was going on in his world. I don’t do his job, so instead of immediately informing his boss, I decided to discuss it with him. He had a fear that he wasn’t going to hit his MQL goal. I empathized with his fear but reiterated that we have reasons for the criteria and changing the data in order to hit his goal wasn’t the right process.

In the end, we weren’t able to fix the prospects who had been miscoded. But that experience helped me grow as a leader and see the effects of high-pressure goals on GTM teams. We often get so caught up in outcomes and data that we don’t pause to listen to the people who make it all possible. Often a data nightmare is just a people-problem bearing fruit.

What’s your approach to MarTech? How do you decide what to add (or not) to the stack?

I like the quote, “Tech is a means to an end. Strategy is the end. Operations is how we get there. MarTech is our walking stick and hiking boots.” It’s all about making conscious decisions because one more platform is not just a monetary burden for the business. There are actually 4 burdens you should consider when adding anything to the MarTech stack:

  1. Operational burden. Some systems may be ‘plug and play,’ but that’s not usually the case. If we’re implementing new tech properly, we will need to create data communication habits. We have to put up guard rails; what kind of data should flow into and out of this new system?
  2. Legal ramifications. What sensitive data are we allowing to exist on this new tech? Have we done the proper due diligence to ensure it’s trustworthy? What are their security protocols and how are they ensuring our privacy — and our customers’ — is maintained?
  3. Integrations needed. Any connections between systems will inevitably require processes, training, and troubleshooting. Implementation is usually a domino effect that triggers action. So be prepared. When you’re buying a car, you’re also considering gas, insurance, parking, etc. It should be the same when adding to the tech stack.
  4. Monitoring the tech stack. We have to question whether the data is flowing correctly, supporting the business, and helping our people work effectively. And, of course, Marketing Ops maintains the contractual burden and must justify ROI on the new tech when the time comes.

Be sure that any new additions to the stack are worth these burdens. Sometimes, you realize tech is the last thing needed once you’ve considered all the options. At the end of the day, tech should serve operations, not the other way around.

What’s something you’ve learned that every Marketing Ops pro should know?

Etumos says there are four pillars in Marketing Operations: Platform Operations, Campaign Operations, Marketing Intelligence Operations, and Development. Discovering this concept was an ‘aha’ moment for me. I realized I was spending too much time doing Campaign Operations and leaving only a sliver of myself for everything else. Many of my peers struggle with similar problems; there are so many fundamental pieces of Marketing Ops where we can be expanding our knowledge.

It’s so easy to be the marketing hamster, spinning the hamster wheel every day. I urge the zealous Marketing Ops pro to step off the wheel and consider building a better one. Marketing Operations are evolving and changing. As it does, so should we.

Want to connect with Kanako? Follow her on LinkedIn.

Written by Nick Bonfiglio
Nick is a CEO, founder, and author with over 25 years of experience in tech who writes about data ecosystems, SaaS, and product development. He spent nearly seven years as EVP of Product at Marketo and is now CEO and Founder of Syncari.

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