My move to Sailthru – “I’m not Oprah”

I’d like to tell you all that I have a “shock and awe” announcement today, but it turns out this announcement is relatively anti-climactic to those who know me well professionally.  I’ve left Gerson Lehrman Group and tomorrow I’ll be joining Sailthru full-time as VP Client Optimization and Analytics, where I’ll working with the company’s e-commerce and publishing clients to better leverage the Sailthru platform.

Why am I leaving GLG?  I was brought on to GLG’s team a year ago today to help ship and optimize consumer-facing web applications (well, more “B2P” – business to professional – than B2C, but work with me here for a moment) under the HighTable.com brand through a data-driven approach.  In that year, we ran countless experiments and shipped a few different new businesses, and one key takeaway surfaced from all of our lessons: the enterprise (B2B) channel still makes the most sense for the company in terms of its top- and bottom-line priorities.  While B2B businesses are incredibly interesting to me (more on that to come), my strengths lay in the B2C court, and I decided to listen to some great advice I got from Shara Mendelson, founder of Plum Benefits and a mentor to me, this past winter: understand the difference between when you can execute a “good job” and when you’re the best possible person for a job.  At GLG, sure, I could deliver well on what was asked, but I was not the best person for that job, and my heart just wasn’t in it.

That all said, I cannot say enough positive things about GLG as a company; the pool of talent there is beyond impressive, and the support I received from senior management when I started to think about my exodus was nothing short of incredible.  It’s funny: a major theme of business school is just how difficult corporate innovation can be (and my countless meetings with folks responsible for big company innovation – from AMEX to Aetna to Sony and beyond – this past year certainly revealed some consistent challenges on that front), but I whole-heartedly still believe GLG is well-staffed and well-poised to fight the good fight and deliver some truly innovative projects; I can’t wait to see what’s to come.  A colleague on my team at GLG once told me that she considered her professional development to always be evolving and improving as she was still learning, and these words really resonated with me – despite the shift in focus at GLG, I learned a tremendous amount in my time there, and would do it again in a heartbeat; I’d like to give everyone there my sincere thanks for being a part of that journey.

So with all of that talk around B2B, why Sailthru?  (For those unfamiliar, Sailthru services personalization/marketing needs through an ESP and a robust analytics platform – so the sales channel is indeed B2B!)  First though, let me say that after the countless meetings I’ve had the past few months, I’ve never been more proud of NYC tech – there are so many amazing companies, dedicated founders, etc. – and that there are vast opportunities for anyone excited about tech to go work for an exciting high-growth company.  At the end of the day, though, the reasons Sailthru proved to be the best fit for me personally boiled down to the following:

  • “Eating your own dog food” – I’ve been a client with Sailthru for the past 2.5 years.  We brought them on at Savored in late 2010 when we transitioned off of Constant Contact (I know, embarrassing to even talk about, but you have to start somewhere!) and I also led a transition from Eloqua to Sailthru when I started working on GLG/HighTable (probably equally as embarrassing).  I am an ANNOYINGLY data-driven marketer  (hi, Savored marketing team!), and Sailthru is hands-down the best platform I’ve ever come across for not only understanding and modeling customer behaviors, but also for using those insights to drive actionable results.  Prior to our Sailthru adoption, my computer would crash roughly ~876 times per day as I tried to aggregate customer data from SQL, Google Analytics, our ESP, etc. and I had our team wasting countless hours on manual list segmentation (on a roll with embarrassing admissions today!).  When Mike DeLuca, CRO at Savored, first joined our team, he told us he was so excited to be selling something that “made so much sense for restaurants” – that’s exactly how I feel about Sailthru and marketers.
  • My conviction for smarter marketing vs. harder marketing – an ongoing challenge between marketing folks and – well really, the rest of the world – is that many marketers believe that sending more email yields more revenue.  There are certainly instances where this is the case, but the reality of B2C marketing is that it’s become incredibly more difficult over the course of the past few years.  When we would deploy retention emails at TheLadders circa 2006, we were true puppeteers: we were able to quickly garner attention in the inbox and deliver fast results.  These days, I wake up at 7am to find 45 emails in my inbox – I browse the subject lines but admittedly delete 98% of them without opening.  As a result of this explosion of B2C brands and marketing, marketers MUST work smarter, not harder.  What do I mean by that?  Now, more than ever, marketing (email, mobile, site, whatever channel we’re talking about) must strive to deliver as 1:1 an experience as possible – so it’s not about some kind of Hail Mary attempt with a ton of emails but rather, delivering more relevant messaging to consumers.  Sailthru’s platform makes this approach quite possible for B2C brands, and I can’t wait to further evangelize it via sales and retention channels.
  • Products vs. services – I’m going to let the former investment banker deliver a short tirade here: simply put, having a real, technical product commands a much more interesting valuation multiple than a service, and that’s something that’s naturally on any tech employee’s mind.  There’s something beyond that though.  When I first started my search, I actually thought about hanging a shingle and starting an analytics consulting business; I ran a business like this during business school so as to not be that MBA and made a disturbing amount of cash doing it, but in the words of Joanne Wilson, “I’m not Oprah.”  Indeed, I had coffee with Joanne near the beginning of my search and shared this idea with her, and her feedback was that I don’t have the personal brand of the likes of Oprah – it’s so freaking true!  People can build incredible personal brands, but they most often build those brands around great companies and great products (no offense, Oprah), so why not leverage a powerful product to further the brand equity of not just the product, but also myself?  Moreover, so much of my own self-confidence is derived from being part of an amazing company that’s doing something truly novel – and hence my decision to go “in house” somewhere.
  • B2B powered by a B2C layer, data at the core – yes, Sailthru makes money via B2B sales, but they maintain clients by delivering value on the B2C side, namely via what we’ve already discussed: empowering marketers to deliver more relevant messaging and thereby increasing lifetime value.  In other words, this role is incredibly attractive to me because I can be valuable to a B2B company by way of my knowledge about B2C/quant marketing.  Moreover, I love data/analytics and therefore, I love companies where data/analytics are at the core (vs. inventory, etc.), so I’m excited about Sailthru’s position from this perspective as well.
  • Excited about the long term – given what just happened with GLG (namely, one-year stint – how the tables have turned on me asking candidates why they only stayed somewhere a year…), as I assessed new opportunities, it was critically important to me that I was excited about what the company’s long-term vision looked like, because the next destination has to be my home for a while.  I thought back to when I was applying for my Tuck MBA out of TheLadders in 2008 – I remembered thinking that if I didn’t get into the school, I’d be content working there for a fourth or fifth year and re-applying.  I want that feeling again (that an end is not in sight), and I think the option I’ve decided to pursue was most compelling to me on that front.
  • Talent – I’ve been spoiled in that every company I’ve worked at since my high school job at the Mendham Apothecary in 1999 (yikes on that one…) has had an amazing capacity for bringing on super smart people who are passionate about executing.  From both my seat as a Sailthru client and from my incessant visits (and subsequent conversations) to teach my classes in the company’s office, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to get to know people from across the company – client services, BD, marketing, product, tech, etc. – and quite frankly, I am ecstatic about joining such a committed and talented group.
  • Deb’s Deli on Varick (fine, a SOMEWHAT satirical insertion) I ate lunch here ~90% of the three years’ worth of days I worked at TheLadders (also on Varick), and I suspect the staff will be thrilled about my triumphant return.  I like to do my part in facilitating the trickle-down economy!

So folks, there you have it.  If anyone out there is considering a job switch, I’d encourage you to sit down with people you respect to come up with a similar list of priorities/consideration points and to stack rank the opportunities on the table accordingly.  I thought I was forever committed to leading B2C marketing for a B2C brand, but the thought process here helped me realized that wasn’t the case – if I were a betting woman, I’d say that many of you might discover similar surprises about yourselves.

And if anyone wants to talk shop about Sailthru, you know where to find me.

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About cassyoung

A startup junkie through and through, Cassie has been immersed in the New York tech scene for almost a decade and is presently VP Client Analytics & Optimization at Sailthru, where she works with top brands in commerce and publishing to improve the relevance of their marketing and increase their customer lifetime values. Before joining Sailthru, Cassie spent a year at Gerson Lehrman Group working on new business line development by way of the minimum viable product/growth hacking approach. Prior to GLG, she was vice president of marketing for Savored.com (acquired by Groupon in 2012) and she previously held a variety of marketing roles at TheLadders.com, primarily within the company’s consumer subscription business. Cassie began her career as an analyst on the TMT coverage team at Citigroup Investment Bank, but quickly realized the error of her ways! She fondly recalls her banking colleagues insinuating that she'd legitimately lost her mind when she walked out of the bank in a boom year to pursue the startup dream, and is incredibly excited about the growth that the NYC tech scene has enjoyed in the years since. Cassie holds a bachelors degree from Duke University and an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth. In her free time, she is a Master Teacher with Skillshare and loves talking shop, dive bars and all things Duke. For more information, please visit her LinkedIn page at http://www.linkedin.com/in/cassyoung.
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