PODCAST 178: Why SDRs Should Report to Marketing with Amy Frampton

In this episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast, we have Amy Frampton, Head of Marketing at BambooHR and 15-year marketing veteran. Join us for a hilarious conversation about what’s changed in marketing lately, brushing shoulders with Marshawn Lynch, poaching SDRs and AEs from sales, and tips for employer branding.

If you missed episode 177, check it out here: Trust-Building Strategies Every Seller Should Own

What You’ll Learn

  • Why trust is integral to chiefs of staff
  • Who sales development should report to (spoiler: it’s marketing)
  • The importance of employer brand
  • Being intentional about employee satisfaction

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. About Amy Frampton & Bamboo HR [3:13]
  2. Quick aside: What a chief of staff does [9:46]
  3. Changes in marketing in the last 15 years [13:08]
  4. Who should sales development report to? [15:20]
  5. Employer branding & employee satisfaction [20:51]
  6. Paying it forward: Shout-outs [26:48]
  7. Sam’s Corner [29:00]

About Amy Frampton & Bamboo HR [3:13]

Sam Jacobs: Hey everybody, it’s Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the Sales Hacker podcast, today on the show we’ve got Amy Frampton. Amy is the head of marketing at Bamboo HR. She’s a captivating person, she’s super interesting, with a great sense of humor. We talk about the history of marketing, who sales development should report to, all of it.

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Today on the show we’ve got Amy Frampton. She’s the head of marketing at an HR software company called Bamboo HR. Prior to joining Bamboo, Amy spent more than 15 years in technology and marketing leadership roles in the greater Seattle area. She was VP of product marketing at Smartsheet, a leading work management software company. Before that, she served in marketing and leadership positions at Vulcan, the holding company founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Microsoft.

Amy, welcome to the show.

Amy Frampton: Thanks so much for having me.

Sam Jacobs: We’re excited to have you. We like to start with your baseball card, which gives you an opportunity to tell us a little bit more about both your role and the company Bamboo HR. Tell us how you would define it, characterize it. Give us the pitch.

Amy: We’re a SaaS offering and we’ve been around for almost 14 years, building what we think is the best HR software in the world for small and medium businesses. Everything from sourcing, finding the right candidates to onboarding, and then managing the employee experience once folks come on board. We’re super passionate about employee experience, both at Bamboo HR internally, but also in helping our customers reach the same goals.

Sam Jacobs: How big is Bamboo, so that we can frame it in terms of its growth?

Amy: We’re at almost a thousand folks. We’re a Cloud 100 company growing super fast and doing it really year over year by building a great product. We made a commitment at the beginning of this year in the local news here in Utah, that we’d hire 500 people by the end of the year. We’re well on our way to that, we’re about halfway through. We expect to be about 1200, 1,250 before the clock turns to 2022.

Sam Jacobs: Those 500, is it mostly in sales? Is it engineering? Is it all of the above?

Amy: It’s all the above. We’re hiring sales like crazy. I have about 140 folks and that includes the sales development reps. They live in marketing here at Bamboo, and obviously, we’re hiring a lot of SDRs. And our more traditional marketing and then a ton of engineers because we’re working on product every single day and that investment needs to be big. I think our HR team would say all of the above when they look at who we’re hiring.

Sam Jacobs: Let’s get into a little bit about your background. How did you get to where you are today? How did you originally get into marketing? Was this your goal all along or did you stumble into it based on what was available and the opportunities at the time?

Amy: It definitely was a stumble. A stumble that I’m so grateful for, but I went to school in political science and history, so of course I’m in marketing. I was passionate about politics and about the importance of involvement in politics in college and high school, so I went to work for both the US House and the US Senate after college. I grew through that and just loved it, it was super fun. I don’t know how fun it would be now, but I’m on the outside now.

As I decided to go to a corporation, I was in Seattle in 1998, so obviously Microsoft’s growing big. There was really no Amazon yet, at least no cloud offering for Amazon, but the tech was growing so big. I thought a little bit about going into lobbying or legislative affairs. I ended up getting recruited by a communications agency and this is a little bit embarrassing, but my dad was in marketing and I went to his house and I got all of his college books on how to be a marketer and how to do communications. I remember reading them before I started this job, which I clearly totally lucked out on because I was not a marketer or a communications person and their big client was Nintendo, so I didn’t want to mess it up.

Reading these books and calling my dad and saying, wait, politics is marketing, I did not understand we were in the same field. The ability to connect with people to hopefully motivate them and to spur an action is exactly the same premise. You could say, well, politics is better or worse than marketing. Both sides have a sales team working for them at all times, and I loved it. I went agency for six years, loved it, great clients, Microsoft, Nintendo, Safeco, which is now Liberty Mutual. I love, love, loved it. I got recruited into Microsoft by one of my clients. From that point on, I was in tech marketing and couldn’t have loved it more.

Then I got offered a career change. I got offered a chief of staff job. I get asked about this a lot because people say, do you need to grow your career in a straight line? How do you become successful? At least for me, a zigzag line was the way to go because I wanted to have an impact and work with fun people and learn. I was then chief of staff at Hewlett Packard Enterprise OpenStack business, and then at Vulcan for the CEO for four and a half years. I really got to dive into operations and work with the sales teams, even more, work with product teams even more. I loved that.

I realized I was missing marketing. I went back into marketing at Smartsheet, and then onto Bamboo HR. That’s a long story, but I think it’s important for people to know that you can take chances and do interesting things. It doesn’t all have to be in a linear line. It can be, it totally can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

Quick Aside: What a Chief of Staff Does [9:46]

Sam Jacobs: I want to dive into the questions of how marketing has changed and what your perspectives on it are, particularly because you’re running such a large SDR team. What is the definition of the chief of staff job? Oftentimes people say that the chief of staff can become the COO, but it’s sometimes presented as quasi-administrative in such a way that it feels difficult for me to envision that person would have the credibility within the organization to become the COO. What’s your perspective on the job description of the chief of staff?

Amy: That’s a great question. I get people calling me saying, “Hey, I’ve been offered a chief of staff. Does this mean I’m going to be an EA? Does this mean I’m going to be a business manager? What does this mean?” It means different things in every job. It’s all about a connection with your CEO or the exec that you’re working with. I was chief of staff for a guy named Bill Hilth, who was an open-source leader for years, and a tech leader in the Seattle area. I had worked for him at other places as a member of his marketing team, and he and I had a close relationship and heavy trust. He would say, “Hey, go get this done or go do this research and talk to my leadership team and either make this happen or figure out how it could happen or figure out the best way to go.”

I had a front-row seat to both the birth and death of OpenStack at Hewlett Packard. They’re still doing some work in OpenStack but in a separate cloud division. I was working with HR on his behalf, of finance. I got this opportunity to have this meta MBA, and then to do the same thing at Vulcan for the same person. I actually was supposed to go to AWS and he called me and he said, “Hey, I’m going to go work for Paul Allen.” I looked at it and I thought, this is like working for Willy Wonka. We’ve got the Seahawks and we’ve got all of the South Lake Union in Seattle, and we’re saving the elephants and the coral reefs. There’s no way I’m taking a standard job if I get to do this.

Sam Jacobs: Thank you so much for that explanation. I think to your point, it depends on trust. If you’ve got that trust, then I would imagine the department heads that you’re issuing orders to or issuing directions to are more likely to listen.

Changes in Marketing in the Last 15 Years [13:08]

Sam Jacobs: How do you think marketing’s changed since you got into it? You’ve been doing it for a little while. You’re now running a modern marketing organization. What do you think the key evolutions and key advancements have been? How have they impacted technology? What’s your perspective on the last 15 years or so?

Amy: I think most heads of marketing or just anyone in marketing would say that the use of data is so much more important than it used to be. It used to be a lot of let’s do this fun thing, let’s get some attention, let’s go out there. You think of the early dot com days with the puppet ads, right? There was a lot of let’s just get some eyeballs and it will all work out. Now certainly, at Smartsheet and here at Bamboo HR, you’re parsing audiences and trying to understand your customer and their engagement with your message in entirely new ways. With all of the analytics systems that we have, you’re so much more connected instantly to what’s working and what’s not, versus let’s go be fun and creative and tell a great story.

People want things to land a lot closer to where they are these days as a customer or as an audience type. So that has become a lot more important. For me, I think it’s become more and more important through my career for me to understand the product that I’m selling. That it’s not enough to be creative or have a great comms line, but the reality of the product and talking about that in a realistic way. I can remember years ago when my brain started to change this way. I used to be reviewing things for my team and I would put in the comments, “Put this in human language and send it back to me, no more buzzwords.” I think it’s gotten more grounded, at least in my experience.

Who Should Sales Development Report To? [15:20]

Sam Jacobs: There’s a lot of conversation around the role of sales development and SDRs. There’s a group of people that are still highly metric focused, making sure the dials are there and making sure you open enough sequences or cadences or whatever you want to call it, that you’re flooding the airwaves so to speak with effort generated largely by humans. Another point of view is that there’s so much inundation that buyers are suffering from because of the growth of sales development. It’s really much more about a smaller, more curated list of account-based marketing, but more personalized, more focused outreach that is really highly customized. Where do you fall out on that spectrum?

Amy: As we look at how we’re leading our marketing in that numbers game that you’re talking about, we certainly have all the cadences and all of those sorts of things. The reason that we put SDRs in the marketing team is that even if you’re just going through the standard cadences, having a connection to the content that was taken in by your audience, by the person they’re calling or emailing, and understanding how they engaged with what marketing is doing to get to the SDR, that is super important to us.

As we work with SMBs here, we tend to say how can we serve this certain audience? It’s a little bit different, enterprise to SMB, but I think they’re both super important. That’s why we made the connection between SDRs and marketing because when they get the first call from us, we want that person calling them to have an understanding of why they’re interacting with us in the first place.

Sam Jacobs: Was there a concern? This is the constant debate, where SDR should report to. Some say, “Hey, let’s create a third department, that’s called Demand Generation and it can be the bridge between marketing and sales.” Was there consternation from the sales team, “Hey, the SDRs want to become AE’s one day and there’s a career path for them through marketing.” That’s typically the common objection about training and development.

Amy: Totally. It’s the common objection, but we didn’t have that issue here. We work really closely, we have the sales leadership, Jed Smith is my peer. We have expansion sales, which are additional products once folks are customers. We all work really closely because all of us have folks that come in at either an SDR level, maybe an AE1 level, our first level of account exec, or maybe come in through support, expansion, and customer experience, all of which want pathways through the company. In fact, just today, two SDRs were interested in working over in customer experience and we were all on a chat about it. “Yep. Let’s do that.”

We’re pretty connected in terms of that experience. I was asked, “let’s make sure that we don’t lose that SDR to AE experience.” It’s not just SDR to AE, but it’s also SDR to expansion. I have a lot of SDRs that want to come to traditional marketing. Maybe they’ve just graduated from school or are getting back into the workforce. They do the SDR thing for 18 months and they think, “I want to go over and work in demand gen on my team or something else.” We try really hard to make that connection. We push pretty hard to understand where people are going and why, and the rest of the team does too.

I want my marketers, no matter what level they’re at, to talk to customers all the time. If I can get an SDR or an AE to come over and be in marketing with me, that’s all upside. I’ll recruit those folks all freaking day. Don’t tell the sales leader I said that.

Employer branding & employee satisfaction [20:51]

Sam Jacobs: There’s another part of marketing that I know your company specifically is focused on and that’s employer branding, employer marketing. That is an area of marketing that a lot of CEOs don’t have a good hold on. They still invest completely in customer marketing without realizing that there’s a whole life cycle and that employer marketing and customer marketing are often interwoven because of the fact that your employees are talking to customers all the time. Talk about why employer brand is such a key differentiator from a marketing perspective.

Amy: There’s two ways to think about it. One is a gut qualitative, if you sit down and think about it, it makes sense. Then there’s data to back it up since I talked about data earlier. Happier employees, employees that are excited about what they’re doing and where they work to do better work. I think we all can say, yeah, when I’m more into what I’m doing, I’m better at it because I’m more engaged, I pay more attention, I probably push harder, and because I care more. That culture eats strategy for breakfast in terms of, we are building a company here at Bamboo where we want people to be excited about what we’re doing. It doesn’t mean free lunches and lots of ping pong and one of those balls where you stand in them and then you roll around and hit each other. We don’t do a lot of that kind of stuff.

It’s about how do you create a culture that is living the values that you lay out? I’ve never been at a place that lives its values. I’ve been at some wonderful companies. Smartsheet was a wonderful company, but the values here at Bamboo are embedded. Having people feel like they’re a part of what they’re doing, of what we’re doing at Bamboo, and that we’re growing this together and we’re building together. People do better work when they feel that way. It doesn’t mean you don’t hold them accountable. It’s not Disneyland. Birds aren’t landing on our fingers and squirrels don’t run up and dress you in the morning or anything.

It means that we respect each other and we care and no matter what role you’re in, that holds true. That means that we’re better at our jobs. There was a study that said for every point on Glassdoor that you got raised, customer sat goes up one and a half points. If I’m happier, I do better work. It starts to show in actual numbers, you get that MPS or customer sat number to raise. That’s the instinctual part or qualitative part.

In that more external part, we live in a world in which you can’t hide a bad culture for long, and I’ve had companies as customers that have gone through this, they’re the unicorn, they’re the thing of the day, nobody can beat them. It doesn’t take long if their culture isn’t good and if their employees aren’t feeling like they’re being treated in a humane and respectful way for that to blow up. Right?

Between Glassdoor and the other transparency tools that we have now, there’s just no way to get around it. We all want to support things where people are happy and the culture is good. I think that there’s an innate thing and I think there’s a transparency thing where it matters. If people are unhappy at a company, not only does it show in their work, it is out on the internet pretty dang fast.

Sam Jacobs: Let’s assume people are happy. If I’m a CEO or I’m a VP of marketing, how do I start working on the employer brand? How do I intentionally build the employer brand to reflect happy employees?

Amy: Identifying what your values are as a company. Lots of companies have values, but are they really building them from reality? It’s building from the reality of your product as well. Your employee brand has to be based on reality. A lot of listening about how things are going and building that brand together. Different employee brands can be good but different. You can have a brand that is, well, we work a ton, but we think it’s worth it because of X or we really look at work-life integration or whatever it is. Polling out what employees really are loving and then creating your employee brand based on that reality means it will actually land.

We’re about to kick off again, talking to employees, and we do EMPS, which we have on our product twice a year. We’re getting active feedback from everything on one-on-ones to anonymous surveys all the time, but we’re also going back and saying, “okay, who are we now that we’re a thousand people? How do we make sure that we consistently talk about our brand both internally and externally?” As you grow, you’ve got to make sure that you continue to be aligned with what you’re utilizing and your brand.

Paying It Forward: Shout-Outs [26:48]

Sam Jacobs: One of the things that we do at the end is pay it forward a little bit. We want to figure out who are your influences? What books do you think are important if I want to become a head of marketing for an incredible company like Bamboo? Who are the mentors that have influenced you along the way? People or ideas that have had a strong impact on you?

Amy: I am a history nerd and I still read British history about Winston Churchill in the 1940s. That’s what I’m reading right now, The Splendid and the Vile. Learning how historical figures have managed crises. Winston Churchill was a little bit in marketing, right? But that wasn’t his main gig, and learning about that is always helpful. Bill Hilth, the man that I worked for for so long has been a huge mentor to me. He taught me about the importance of products in marketing, which is huge. In terms of some business books, I love Atomic Habits. I’m rereading it right now. The idea of little things that have big results. I’ve seen executives execute that in terms of small changes, big results. I love that. The Growth Mindset is big. We all need to look at that book. I would say, read it annually and understand the difference and what you can do with a growth mindset.

Sam Jacobs: If folks want to reach out because they’re inspired, they want to dig in a little bit on some of the things that you said, what’s your preferred method of communication? How should people reach out?

Amy: I’m AFrampton@BambooHR.com and I would love to hear from folks even if they disagree and especially if they disagree, that’s the fun part.

Sam’s Corner [29:00]

Sam Jacobs: Hey everybody, Sam Jacobs, great conversation with Amy Frampton. She’s led an incredible life. We talked a lot about a lot of things. First of all, we talked about what’s the key to success when you’re chief of staff? Trust. Trust between you and the person that you are chief of staffing. Because if you don’t have trust, then you can’t drive influence, you can’t drive outcomes within the organization. If you do, you can serve as the extension of the CEO or the COO and as a consequence get, as she said, sort of a meta MBA. That’s a really interesting career path, one that’s growing and burgeoning because we’re hearing more about it.

The second thing we talked about was sales development, who should they report to? Here’s the point that I took from it. Everybody’s always saying, “sales development wants to become account executives. We have to make sure that they report to sales.” I’ll tell you from firsthand experience, there are many more paths for people that have conversations with customers all day than simply becoming an account executive. The default assumption that every SDR wants to become an AE is not true. I think that’s actually quite liberating. You can build that into the professional development career path that you have for SDRs. You make it abundantly clear that product is a career path, customer success or expansion is a career path, sales is a career path, marketing is a career path.

In a fast-growing company, new opportunities abound, not just in sales, but across the organization. As people join the sales development organization, they have many more choices. Maybe the SDR team can report to marketing or sales or some other team. Maybe it makes sense for SDRs to report to marketing. I really enjoyed talking about it.

The final thing we talked about was the importance of employee brand. I worked at The Muse, I can underscore that it’s all interconnected. One of the things she talked about is the idea that people want to buy from places where they know that those companies treat the employees well. That’s really true and it’s all synergistic.

One point of improvement in employee satisfaction translates to 1.5 points of improvement in customer satisfaction. It’s something that everybody has to be thinking about. If you don’t know what your employee brand is, you best commence an exercise to discover it because it’s out there, whether you do that or not. You want to be more intentional about controlling it, creating it, and spreading the message around it.

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