CMO Insights: Jason Katz, Vice President of App and Digital Marketing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

October 4, 2017

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Jason Katz, Vice President of App and Digital Marketing for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

In this video, Jason discusses

  • The transformation of marketing within an organization, moving to a revenue growth driving function
  • How this change is being driven from within the marketing organization vs. the overall business
  • How his department balances a team of generalists and specialists to implement their marketing initiatives.

Learn more about Jason from his LinkedIn profile and follow Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our CMO Insights Playlist on our YouTube channel.

Note: At the time of this interview, Jason was still with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is now Head of Marketing Technology for Shutterstock. 

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I am your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today we have with us Jason Katz, who is Vice President of Apps and Digital Media for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Jason, welcome to the show.

Jason Katz:

Thanks for having me Jeff, glad to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So you have done some pretty amazing things over your career. And today I think we’re going to be getting a broad perspective right? Of just your experience as a marketing executive through several different roles. Absolutely. Awesome. So let’s, let’s start off with, you know, say over the last five years from your perspective, what’s changed the most for you.

Jason Katz:

The pace of change in marketing has, has just been super fast in every role. There are so many things that are changing. I was at American express using all the traditional levers of marketing working on working offline, online, working with partners, then working in tech, startups, and music technology and advertising technology, and then in entertainment technology. And I’m literally getting called by thousands of vendors and testing out new technologies. So it’s just a race to keep up and it’s been a lot of fun.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So with all this change, are you changing how you approach marketing and your strategic approach? You find yourself running things more like a business?

Jason Katz:

Yes. there’s no choice, but to run it like a business, I am constantly measuring ROI and prioritizing resources. Every situation is different. For example, when I’m working on OTT streaming services, I am always thinking about like Quello concerts or curious world and app for kids around curious George, I have to think about which of the 15 different OTT streaming platforms which conversion funnel I need to prioritize. So it’s not just web anymore. It’s not just mobile it’s am I focusing on Xbox and PlayStation? Where am I focusing on Roku or Apple TV? There are so many choices to be made. And then for example, in B2B marketing at HookLogic, which was acquired by Critio what’s the right white paper that I need to write to really truly engage my audience. I always have to evaluate what’s working and what’s not and be ready to change.

And then secondly, there’s always the question about is there a product market fit is the product that I have created a good fit for the customers that I want to reach now in marketing, there’s a question of, am I using the right media and approach to reach the audience that I need to reach and the amount of techniques that are available to help me answer that question are proliferating between marketing automation and artificial intelligence. I can now choose the right day time channel and media almost turned key. Whereas in the past I had to do resource intensive efforts like marketing mix analysis or AB testing. It’s just, it’s really exciting.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s great. So tell me a little bit about the people you’ve been working with managing hiring over these last few years. Are you looking for different skill sets now? Are you organizing your teams any differently?

Jason Katz:

Yes. I need, I need nimble teams, you know, I’d say before, before I answer the question about how I shaped the teams at first, think about how I structure the teams. So the first thing is every project or experiment that I work on, it has to have huge revenue, potential. Everything needs to tie into revenue. There’s no there’s no time, no time or resource to waste, especially in the startup world where you got to move really quickly. So every team member needs to have those types of projects. And I usually try to do a balance of projects that are in their comfort zone, as well as stretch projects. And then thinking about the types of skillsets that I’m looking for. I need I work with people who have quantitative skills, creative skills, tech skills, writing design and a lot of motivation. They have to be really hungry. So ideally I’m hiring people who have a combination of those skills and, and then being as lean as I can. And then growing as we’re proving out projects that are showing that re delivering on that revenue potential. And we grow from there and we have to have a good time. Everyone’s got to get along. The best, the best teams are the ones that have fun get along are smart worker they’re all together.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Awesome. So from a process standpoint, what are some of the things that you think about strategically that can drive scale and transformation for your team?

Jason Katz:

It’s really about it really comes down to teamwork. So there’s a movement in marketing right now where some departments are actually calling themselves growth groups instead of marketing groups and growth groups. The origin of that concept is around breaking down silos. So in order to do effective marketing, you can’t just work on your own. You need to work across product and technology. And I spend a lot of time thinking about how do I bring those teams together? So oftentimes we’re thinking about what is the single KPI that can unify not only the marketing team, but all those teams that I mentioned and get people to really work together and focus on unified objectives. So for example, at HMH, we broke down our, some of the work that we’re currently doing into a very user acquisition focused. So we broke it down into three different KPIs that are driving revenue.

One is conversion funnel. Second is paid acquisition, and third is non-paid acquisition. So we, as a team said, we have to move conversion and what can we move the quickest what’s in our control? So as a, as a joint leadership team we made the decision to work collectively on email and do a sprint. So we got together all the resources across the different departments, and we shaped an email project and usually to set up a sophisticated email marketing journey or marketing automation journey, it might take a quarter three months, but because we were also focused and working so well together, we were able to launch it in three weeks. And then we had, you know, scrum boards, we had, we had stickies up on walls and people moving them, and

Jeff Pedowitz:

You’re doing all the agile marketing over there. You’re throwing out scrum, you know, France, Kanban boards, right?

Jason Katz:

Yeah. I didn’t want to use some of the jargon, but yeah, we took some of the development the rhythm of the development teams and we brought it into marketing and it really got people to up their game and it added a level of excitement to the project and, and the emails look great. I mean, it’s so exciting to launch something like that. So we’ll see if it continues the agile marketing thing, but it was, it was very effective in this project. Yeah.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Know, we’ve adopted some of those techniques too for our internal marketing team and yeah, it definitely has an impact. And I just want those things, right. It doesn’t apply to every situation, but in the right situation, it can be really helpful. So tell me a little bit about tech, as you know, certainly in marketing, we’ve seen this explosion of technology over the last few years. What’s, what’s your approach to it and have you figure out what you need and how you use it.

Jason Katz:

Yeah. I love tech. I love marketing technology. I love what it’s done. And I definitely have a lot of thoughts on, on marketing technology. Usually just so a few points. The first thing that I’ll do when I, when I’m in a role is all assess what level of technology exists and what are the strategic objectives and the opportunities that could be advanced using technology. And what I found often happens in the last few roles, whether it be music, tech, ad tech, entertainment, tech, even American express, it really cuts across all things. There are certain use cases that everyone everyone’s most people are looking for. The primary one is measuring LTV at very granular levels. People want to know what is the true return on efforts? So the classic use cases for paid ads at a most granular level, looking down at campaigns and creatives targeting ad platforms are very sophisticated nowadays.

What is, what’s the return for each of those cells? So, you know, where at which to push farther, another one in the mobile environment is push notes. Push notes happened to be very, very difficult to measure because people will act after seeing push notes, but they won’t necessarily click on it. So you need to use view through instead of click based attribution’s. So technology is helping us measure those types of things. They’re also helping us with customer experience. They’re also helping us with measuring the health of the business and pulling together scorecards. So those are some use cases that typically come up, those are addressed primarily with things like customer data platforms which are unifying all first party data from many different places, whether it be online or offline. That’s typically what I do with marketing type that’s what’s come out of the audits that I’ve done in several companies.

And what’s pretty typical, but you always want to look, you always want to assess what your particular company needs because every, every company, every company is different. And then in terms of marketing technology, I also think about what role it plays for these companies. So is it you know, how big of an advantage can marketing technology be? I think what is the purpose it serves for lots of companies is instead of worrying about data and worrying about capabilities, it lets you actually just focus on your customer. Let’s it lets you make things simple. What are your, what are your customers want? What do you need to do to compete? You can spend time on those questions as opposed to, Oh, how do I get that data over here to this system and to that group? And it removes some of the things that typically will get in the way I think everyone needs to do it.

And, you know, lastly, I think it’s only, I don’t know that on its own, it’s a competitive advantage. There aren’t a lot of companies that actually use marketing technology to its fullest, where it is tied directly to realizing revenue potential. But it it really is about getting a lead since there are a lot of companies that aren’t leveraging it as well as they need to. It gives you a chance to focus on what’s important and those competitive advantages. It’s almost like a minimum requirement nowadays. So those are a few different thoughts, I think about it a lot. So, yeah.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Great, great, absolutely great insight. So I assume you’re probably going to MarTech next week.

Jason Katz:

I am hoping to go, I’m still making sure I can fit into my schedule, but that’s the plan. Okay. Are you going Jeff?

Jeff Pedowitz:

I’m not, but a few of my, my team is going so always a great show. So I love the Stackies too. So just seeing all the different ways that people represent the technology. So here’s a shout out to you, Scott and MarTech SF. So tell me a little bit about your approach to the customer and the life cycle. I’m interested in how you organize your marketing activities. Is it very much top of the funnel acquisition or are you doing full lifecycle marketing? And if so, how you, how do you determine the percentage and the breakdown?

Jason Katz:

Yeah, so that, again, it depends on the maturity of the business. If it’s a young business, like for example, when I worked with a really early startup, I spend time thinking about what’s the brand story? What, what message do I want to get to the customer? And, and what is the conversion funnel look like? We have probably have to optimize it many times if it’s very early on, if I’m later on in the, in the maturity of the business, then I’ll spend more time on demand gen or user acquisition and getting more people into the funnel. So it really depends. And then just looking at some of the recent companies at Quello con I’d say one of the, one of the themes that I’ll look at is always giving customers a reason to come back and engage with the brand. Cause everyone’s always very busy. So at Quello concerts, we yeah, I did new concerts regularly, so there’s always, you always coming back from what’s the latest concert that was concert video that was added for each of each curious world, curious George to be added new games, videos and books regularly, many of which were originals many, which featured curious George. So there’s a lot of messaging is always interesting when you’re talking to people,

Jeff Pedowitz:

By the way we have, like, I think, I dunno if we have all of them, but we have many of them. So curious towards that. Yeah.

Jason Katz:

Oh, okay. There we go. Yeah. Curious George. He is a hero for kids.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s true. You know, that’s not, that’s not, I forgot about the parents.

Jason Katz:

That’s right. That’s right. Yeah, it’s actually an interesting dynamic with parents and kids for the kids service because it copper regulations, it’s pretty strict on when you can communicate with customers. So we have to have very good moments for the parents cause we only get them for so, so long. And then there are rules around when you can communicate with customers. So kids, so that’s interesting. And there’s also something recently on HBO Silicon Valley about, so yeah, anyways, if you watch that, that’s a shout out to so giving people a reason come back, always very big people love new things. I’m always able to create much more activity amongst the user base with those, with those reasons to come back and those new things. And then the other one is creating moments and the moments really depends. It could be because there are new things.

And then there are other ways to create that demand. So for an ad tech, we’ve released white papers. If we got them to read the way, download the white paper and browse the website, we knew it was time for the sales rep to follow up in the, when working on the streaming services, we always offered a free trial and after user authorizes the free trial, we always want to ping them very often to use all the features of the service and get maximum value so that they will be able to let the, let the service continue through the first actual payment date. And then looking later on in the life cycle for customers who eventually led their choose not to renew, and there are service cancels, we would run free preview weekends where they can watch all the contents of the service as if they were a paying subscriber again.

And they can sort of tap back into the magic that they experienced when they originally signed up for the service and see what they were missing and see what they’re missing. So maybe they would sign up again. And that happened to work really well. That tactic worked really well for cable companies. I remember many, many years ago. A lot of the premium channels would get me to sign up from those free preview weekends. And it’s an interesting application now for streaming services over the top, which is a beating cable up pretty well that those tactics can work in a, in a, in a different way. So we throw a lot, I throw a lot of things that the customers, and again, it really just depends on where in the lifecycle they are and where the biggest revenue opportunity is.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s awesome. Jason, we have so much great insight. I love how you have metrics and everything that you’re doing. We were out of time for today, but now we might have to set up a round two. So thank you so much for being on the show. Appreciate your contributions. And we’ll definitely talk to you again soon.

Jason Katz:

Sounds great. Jeff, thanks so much.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet. Thank you.

You May Also Like…

REVTalks Masters: Ruben Varela

REVTalks Masters: Ruben Varela

In the new blog series, “REVTalks Masters” we sit down with a few of the speakers from our upcoming event, the REVTalks and dive into their stories to help you with your journey to revenue marketing.

read more
REVTalks Masters: Elle Woulfe

REVTalks Masters: Elle Woulfe

In the new blog series, “REVTalks Masters” we sit down with a few of the speakers from our upcoming event, the REVTalks and dive into their stories to help you with your journey to revenue marketing.

read more

Marketing Operations

Increase efficiency. Remove roadblocks.

Customer Experience

Wow Your Customers

Lead Management

Accelerate Leads to Revenue

Digital Transformation

Turn Strategy Into Action

Inbound Marketing

Right Channel, Right Message

Account-Based Marketing

Accelerate ABM Success

Flexible
Options

Four options. One result: Greater marketing-sourced revenue.

Marketo Engage

Marketo Platinum Partner

Pardot

Accelerate Leads to Revenue

Microsoft Dynamics

Optimize Your Instance

Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Salesforce Certified Silver Partner

Salesforce CRM

12 Years of Integration Experience

Partners

Additional Technology Platforms

Oracle Eloqua

Oracle Platinum Partner

Adobe Experience Manager

Provide world-class experiences

Revenue Marketing University 

Training for marketers of all skill levels.

F5 Logo

F5 Network's Case Study

How a Network Security Giant Unified Global Marketing Operations

F5 Logo

Rackspace's Case Study

How a Cloud Solutions Provider Unifed And Expanded Global Marketing Capabilities

TraceLink’s Case Study

How a Supply-Chain Solution Provider Built Crucial Capabilities For Revenue

Xylem's Case Study

How a Global Water Solutions Company Nailed Marketing Automation To Win

Gilbarco Veeder-Root

Gilbarco Veeder-Root's Case Study

How a Global Fueling Leader Transitioned To Win

Telecomm Case Study

How A Multi-Channel Inbound Strategy Achieved A 600% Increase In ROI

A credit card, representing a Fortune 100 client of The Pedowitz Group's

Financial Services Case Study

How a Fortune 100 Credit Card Company Closed The Loop On Revenue

Resource Hub

Read, Watch and Download

Trending Topics

Our Most Popular Content

Blog

Our Latest Articles

CMO Insights

Hear From Industry Experts

Get Timely Insights

Take an interactive assessment and get immediate results

About TPG

How are we different? Get to know us a bit better!

Case Studies

See real results from customers just like you

How We Work With You

How can we help you?

Partners

Learn about some of our Partners.

Introducing: The Loop

 

Revenue models are outdated. Here’s your update.

About TPG

How are we different? Get to know us a bit better!

Case Studies

See real results from customers just like you

How We Work With You

How can we help you?

Partners

Learn about some of our Partners.

Introducing: The Loop

 

Revenue models are outdated. Here’s your update.