Marketing 101: Stephanie Ross, Director of Marketing, Teamworks

For this edition of Marketing 101 I sat down with Stephanie Ross, Director of Marketing at Durham’s Teamworks, a collaboration platform for college and professional sports teams and leagues. She began her education as an engineer and along the way she became a marketer.  We had an insightful conversation about Teamworks’ marketing programs and how to build alignment between marketing and sales.

How did you become a marketer?
It was more of a delightful happenstance. I never intended on being a marketer. I originally thought I was going to an engineer, so I started going to school for civil engineering. It was through my part-time job opportunities that I eventually realized that wasn’t my career path. But instead what I’ve really always wanted to be is a problem-solver.

My first part-time job in college was working for a retail dance boutique and it was fairly new. I couldn’t just be a casual sales associate. I saw so much opportunity. We needed to build a revenue stream, we had no brand presence and very few digital assets, and I knew I could help do something about it.

I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. There are so many wonderful marketing resources available. I looked for mentors in other areas or at similar boutique stores, and studied what they were doing.

That’s when I realized, “I don’t have to be an engineer to be a problem-solver. I can be a marketer and a problem-solver at the same time.” I fell in love with it, so it just continued from there.

Did you change your major?
I did, I completely changed. I ended up graduating in Digital Arts, Arts Applications with a minor in Graphic Design studies, and a complementary Math minor from being in engineering for so long. But that’s what marketing is, right? It’s the delicate balance between creativity and calculating results.

While finishing school, I started taking various marketing internships which led me down my career path today.

Started in the ticketing space, and that’s what took me into the software industry, where I really flourished and found my niche: product marketing and software marketing. I fell in love with it and kind of worked my way up the ranks there.

I was at Live Nation Ticketmaster, which is B2C marketing, and then from there I moved to the independent ticketing space, which was B2B marketing, at Etix, which is a vertical SaaS software. Then, from there, I moved to Teamworks, which is also a vertical SaaS.

How long have you been at Teamworks and what are your responsibilities?
A little over three years. Currently, I oversee all of our marketing efforts in demand generation, revenue retention, and overarching company brand.

What are you guys doing for demand generation?
We are primarily account-based marketing. A lot of our deals are enterprise, and what makes it a little more unique is that we have a very finite market, so you only get one chance to make a first impression.

We’ve identified certain sports verticals, and we’re sticking with them. You want the right product- market fit. Really, honing in on those accounts, and creating thoughtful, personalized pieces for those prospects. It’s not just a blanket campaign.

What’s in your marketing technology stack?
We keep it pretty simple, intentionally. The platforms you are using are only as effective as the people bought into using them, so we keep it basic and focus on full adoption. We have our CRM, Salesforce Pardot, the Google Suite, and then we also have a video platform for storing and measuring video success.

Give me an overview of your team.
We have one demand generation specialist, a marketing coordinator, a customer success/product marketer, a marketing communications manager, a digital specialist who owns all of our systems and the website, and we’re hiring an events coordinator right now. And our stellar interns.

How have you cultivated the brand, and what does it mean today? Where do you see it going in the future?
The Teamworks brand, it’s a direct reflection of our culture. We are a company filled with software professionals and former athletes, and from that, we’ve set a standard of core values, and those values are reflected in our brand. It’s that delicate line between being premium and polished, and being comfortable and conversational, and I think our trading cards are kind of the reflection of that.

I had a mentor at a previous company that told me people love people, people don’t love software. That’s always stuck with me, and so that’s why we do things like the trading cards, because we want people to know that we’re humans behind the software that they’re purchasing, and we’re going to be here for them if they need us.

How do you see the brand evolving, and where do you see opportunities for growth?
Currently, we’re growing internationally. We’re moving into the EPL [English Premier League], European Soccer Leagues. We work with collegiate teams across the U.S., and the next step for them would be working department-wide. We also work with Olympic teams, national governing bodies, and other international pro teams. Continuing to grow into other countries is our next big step.

It’s got to be really tough to balance the overarching brand, while tailoring messaging with ABM [account-based marketing].
We have to work very deliberately to keep it contained, yes. Within each of our verticals, we have to craft a concise messaging track for each of the personas. There’s a lot of persona work involved, because you only get one chance to make a first impression. It’s critical to not assume that you are going to have the same dialogue from one vertical to the next. Yes, we’re a startup, and yes we have to work swiftly, but our go-to-market plan has to include knowing exactly who we’re talking to.

We don’t run many blanket campaigns, digital ads, or some of the typical activities that would classically come before your ABM work. We use that time, that money, and those resources to do the persona work first. On social media, yes we have a presence, but we don’t spend a lot of time on that strategy.

What’s the culture like, and how do you manage marketing and sales alignment?
The culture is great and the energy is high. We had the chance to build the team from the ground up. We’ve always been one team; we don’t know any different. A lot of it’s the sports culture. When you come from a sports background, if the whole team doesn’t win, the team doesn’t win. For us that means treating the funnel as one; it’s not the sales funnel and the marketing funnel.

You mentioned the funnel. What are the top-of-the-funnel activities for such a narrow universe?
It varies a little bit from vertical to vertical. The majority of them are going to be marketing-qualified leads that have interacted with early campaigns, be it email marketing, partnerships, event activity, or the occasional direct mailer. What we would consider a “marketing-aware lead.”

Marketing rarely leaves the funnel. Until something is all the way through, we’re going to continue providing assets and education. Once the initial interaction has occurred, that’s really when marketing ramps up. It’s not just about the top of the funnel when you have such a finite market.

Where does marketing fit into retention?
We look at it in two ways. We have product marketing, which is measured off of usage goals. Are we making them aware of the full system that they have, and are we making them aware of new products and the value that they’re going to provide for them? Then, the second portion of that would be back to the account-based approach of a renewal. They re-enter our account-based marketing strategy with the customer success team, as opposed to the sales team, and then we work towards the renewal.

For a recent college grad, what advice would you give about becoming a marketer?
My advice would be to seize the opportunity. Marketing is a very broad category, and there are a lot of generic marketing jobs that will give you the opportunity to find your niche. Once you find it, own it.

About Frank Pollock 4 Articles
For more than 20 years Frank has worked at the intersection of marketing, innovation and technology. He honed his craft at Disney/ABC, Frito-Lay, General Mills and Colgate-Palmolive before founding The Pioneer Group, where he works with high-growth companies to develop marketing strategies, deploy marketing technology stacks and drive results.