Switching from Sales to Marketing with Catarina Hoch

Imagine having to come up with ROI estimates for a project without much data, but you know it needs to be done. Having switched from sales to marketing, Catarina Hoch, VP of Global Marketing at Operatix, knew in her gut a refreshed website was crucial to the organization's success. But she had to make a business case to her CEO.

Or, listen on:
Watch here:
The hosts:
Trinity Nguyen
Christian Kletzl

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How sales and marketing can align better
  • Why following your gut is critical
  • The impact of tactical versus strategic 

What to listen for:

  • [01:02] Catarina’s switch from SDR to marketing
  • [03:48] Things to keep in mind if transitioning to marketing
  • [05:46] What it takes to be good in sales
  • [06:47] Lesson learned from moving up the ranks
  • [10:56] Letting go of the tactical
  • [12:30] Relaunching the company website
  • [16:56] Catarina’s words of encouragement
  • [18:18] The breakdown with Trinity and Christian

Check out Catarina' blog post: "Making the jump from sales to marketing"

Reference Links:
Guest headshot

Catarina is VP Marketing at Operatix – a global Outsourced SDR company that helps B2B SaaS vendors accelerate pipeline & revenue. She has been in the B2B Tech industry for over 5 years and loves to see marketing making a direct impact in companies’ growth. Outside of work she loves travelling, skiing and spending time with her husband & her rescue dog Lyla😊

Read Transcript

Catarina: The earlier we as marketers understand that to generate revenue and helps the sales team, the faster we're going to be successful and we are going to be able to prove the value of marketing.

Trinity: Welcome to the First 100 Days, a show for revenue practitioners by revenue practitioners, giving you unscripted access and tips to help you navigate any new transition or initiative, both in life and at work. Catarina Hoch is one of the few guests we've had on the show who have been in both sales and marketing roles.

Now the VP of Global Marketing at Operatix, she has some valuable insights on transitioning from an SDL role into marketing. What have both roles taught her? Take a listen. When I looked at your background, you're one of the very few guests that we've had so far on the show that has been in both sales and marketing roles.

So maybe you can give the context to the audience, like your transition from sales to marketing, and why did you make that switch? 

Catarina: I mean, I had sales roles back in Brazil before I moved to the UK, but I've always worked very closely with marketing. So my uni degree is in PR and then I worked in digital agencies and advertisement agencies where I was kind of doing a bit more of a sales side but always very much related to marketing.

And then my last job before I moved to the UK was in a fashion magazine, something completely different. But it was quite a small team so I was kind of looking after sales and marketing altogether. And it was quite fun because when I moved to the UK six years ago, I landed a bit by accident in an SDR role at Operatixs because I didn't speak English at the time.

So my English was very poor. And so I started to look for jobs where I could speak German. When I was searching for the roles, I was like, oh, Business Development Manager in German. I was like, okay, let's see what it is all about. And I decided to join the team. So my first role in the UK was actually working within the German market because that's where my language capability was.

And then with time, obviously, I developed my English and then they opened up a position to join the marketing team to build everything up from the ground. There was no marketing at all previously. So that's how I ended up switching from sales to marketing. But I think I was always, I always wanted to go back into marketing, but obviously the opportunity to have worked in sales as an SDR was so important for me to be able to build out the whole marketing function, because you just learn so much when you're on it.

It's funny because when I started with User Gems, I was doing the prospecting, like the SDR work as well, and trying to do like the AE side as well. So, I thought it was really interesting because then you understand, like, what's the day-to-day like, and how marketing can help make that less painful or help them accelerate the ideas a little bit faster.

Trinity: So I think that experience is really awesome. 

Catarina: It also speaking to customers, right? Because I think marketers in general, they don't do that enough. You know, the sales team often knows more about messaging and pain points of the customers than the marketing team does, because they are speaking to customers day in, day out.

So for me, too, having had that experience and still now, I still listen to sales calls. I join sales calls with the sales team sometimes because you just need to hear what the market is saying. That's so important. 

Trinity: So, were there anything that you wished you knew when you made that switch, when you were in marketing, but it was a different type of marketing 

Catarina: before this one? One thing that I noticed, like, in marketing roles, you need to be very much switched on around trends and always learning and evolving and understanding what's going on in the markets.

 If you compare the professions, sales and marketing, you don't have a sales degree or a specific university, or a course where you learn sales, right? But you've got to learn marketing. And when I started marketing ten years ago, no, even more probably, there wasn't even Facebook or like Instagram or Tik Tok, you know. So I think marketers, they have always to be learning and evolving and educating themselves and networking with peers, understanding what's working, what isn't. I'm not saying sales doesn't evolve, but you know, once you're really good in sales and you have certain techniques, then you have lots of soft skills that are important for sales as well, once you crack it, you need to keep doing that. Right. But it's different with marketing because something that worked six months ago may not work now anymore. And you have to try different things and you have to risk and see what works. And it isn't like a science, right? It's a lot of trial and error. 

Trinity: Yeah. A hundred percent.

 Always have to be learning. I never thought of it that way, but that is so true.

Trinity: Always like looking for, like, who's doing what? What's working for which company? Can I copy any of that, things like that. 

Catarina: I think the sales people that are really good are the ones that are also always trying to learn more and better themselves. And, you know, I recently joined a Sales Impact Academy.

 And our company has enrolled the team or the management team members into Sales Impact Academy because we just saw the value and importance of constantly upskilling our team members. So even though sometimes as a sales person, you you're doing really well and you're cracking it, and you know, you found your style and your way, things are also evolving – maybe not as quick as in marketing or maybe they don't change as much, but it's so important for you to keep learning and upskilling yourself. So I think the people that stand out from the sales perspective are also the ones that they are trying to educate themselves and always learn more.

Trinity: Another thing I noticed about your background, I thought was really interesting, too, is like you've been rising through the ranks at the same company. So what are some interesting learnings as you advance to the next stage, but still with the same group of coworkers and managers, et cetera?

Catarina: When I joined, I very quickly realized that being an SDR wasn't what I wanted to do. Like I'm a relationship builder. For me, cold calling people and not building relationships with them as such, like, whenever the relationship starts, I have to hand it over. It was not something that was natural to me. Like, I was really good with account management because, you know, I was good with looking after my clients, but for me, it was hard to do the SDR job because I couldn't, kind of, go into that side of my personality.

 You know, it was an entry point for me to get into Operatixs, and I think they quickly saw the value and like that there was potential in me, which maybe other people wouldn't have seen because my English was really bad.

Catarina: My boss probably thought like, all right, gee, she's doing an alright job. She's got experience in marketing. Let's give her a chance. You know, it's easier to learn a language than learn marketing, right? So I think from the beginning, once I joined the marketing team, there was a big switch from the SDR role because in the SDR role, you know exactly what you have to do, you know, you follow, kind of, your tasks and everything like that.

And when I was thrown into the marketing role, like there was literally nothing, and I had to completely start from zero. I was new to B2B tech as well. It wasn't a industry that I was very familiar with. Obviously, in my work as SDR, it helped me to, kind of, get into it, but I had done it for only six months.

So I think there was a lot of initiatives that I needed to have to obviously start from the ground and build things up and understand my priorities. And I think with that, I was always able to show more things. It's, like, every year when I was planning my marketing strategy, I was like, what is the big thing I'm going to do this year?

So, I remember the first year, my big thing was to implement HubSpot because we didn't have a CRM system. Then, the second year we started to develop our content strategy more. The third year we started creating customer events and events for prospects. On the fourth year, my big achievement was to launch our new website.

And so on. Every year I always had one big project to execute. Because it was a small team, like, I had to come up with everything. I had to think about what the big project is going to be and how are we going to execute it? And what are we going to prioritize? I feel like after five years in the company, we have grown like crazy.

And I still feel like there is so much more that I want to do. It's never, there is never a dull moment. There is always more things that can be done. And sometimes, I know, like if you think about people these days, they normally don't stay for long in the companies. Because like, if you're like, okay, I've done my work, I want to move on. I don't know. I haven't had that feeling yet.

I feel like there is still a lot, a lot that we can do. 

Trinity: On the show, we want to leave the listeners with some practical tips, cheat sheets, playbooks to help them succeed. You did a lot of different, major projects in the last six years running marketing. Which one is your most favorite one? And why was it special? 

Catarina: It was definitely the relaunch of our website.

We had a massive impact with that. It was a project that I knew from the beginning when I joined, like, that we needed to focus on that. But it took me a while to convince my CEO. We basically doubled our inbound leads since we launched the new website, so it was definitely the project I'm the most proud of.

We still started working on the new website when COVID hit. So it was like, a crazy time. Everybody was like, what's going to happen? We actually took that time to focus a lot and recharge. And since we launched a new website a year ago, we literally doubled the marketing contribution to revenue. So that was definitely my favorite project and the most important one.


Trinity: I want to drill a little bit deeper in that, like step back. How did you prioritize which project for which year? Like, what was the process like? 

Catarina: It was quite natural to be honest because as we were going into running the campaigns and doing things, we were stumbling across things that just weren't in place.

I have a marketing target. I need to track the pipeline that's generated from marketing and instruct them to sales, I need to track the opportunities. We can't track it. We don't have a CRM. Let's put a CRM in place, you know. So I think it was very organic. I wouldn't say it was too planned. It was like, okay, tick that box. What's the next one? Then, specifically, 

Trinity: for the website, for the CRM – I get that one because you need to measure everything for the website. Some companies might think that it's a "nice to have." So how did you decide to prioritize relaunching 

Catarina: the website? My CEO was very reluctant in changing it because he thought, oh, it looks good.

You know, it's, it's doing alright. What is it that we need to change? And I was like, right, we need to change the whole backend. We need to change the design, we need to change the messaging. We need to change the content. We need to change like everything in it. And for him, it was just like, oh, it's the visuals, right?

It doesn't look so bad. So, why do we change it? So it took me a good time to convince him, and I actually had to make up some numbers to say, this is worth the money. So, I put together a presentation to prove the ROI, and I've got to do it for every single project. My CEO is a sales man, right? So, every single project from marketing needs to prove ROI.

So, I had no idea how many leads we were going to get from the new website, but I just made it up. We actually achieved over it. So I just knew, my good feeling told me we needed a new website. I know we need to do it, so I'm going to build a business case based on my gut, but I'll prove it to him.

And it was a big risk. It was a gamble and it definitely worked out well. So did you 

Trinity: benchmark before you went to him? Did you benchmark your website with other websites? And like, Hey, and did the marketing, like the arts side of marketing, and you come out, like, we need a new page because our messaging don't speak to the buyers anymore.

Based on what you hear from the sales team? 

Catarina: The main issue with our previous website was we didn't have any SEO strategy. So that's what I, what we needed to address specifically. And that's where now the leads are coming from. So our agency was helping us to, kind of, try to fix stuff here and on the old website.

Trinity: But it just didn't have the capacity anymore to do tweaks in a way that they needed to be done. So we kind of spent a lot of money on the old website, just making tweaks and tweaks and tweaks. And in the end, when I looked at the budget I spent throughout the year on making tweaks on our website, I realized, actually, we almost spent the money on a new website, so we may as well just do a new one. So talking about the benchmarks and how I put together the business case, obviously, I did look into industry standards around what is the typical average between visitor to a lead. And then we knew very well, our conversions, in terms of leads sent through our MQL pipeline to close, and our conversion rates from the sales perspective are really high, so we had to close two or three deals only to be able to justify the investment in the website. Can you share some words of encouragement or advice for revenue practitioners who are 

Catarina: listening? I think there is two kind of lessons that I'd like to share. And I think it's around the earlier we as marketers understand that we're there to generate revenue and help the sales team, the faster we're going to be successful and we're going to be able to prove the value of marketing. I think there is still so many people or companies that see marketing as a cost and not as an investment and the people who are guilty for that are the marketers themselves. Right? So for me, it was super good to be managed by a CEO that has a sales mind, because that really puts me in, myself as a marketer, to have a sales mind as well, and this is the way that I could show the value of marketing to the company by generating revenue. And so I think that's one of the things. And then my other advice: follow your gut. You know, like with the website, for example, I knew we had to do it. And then I had to find a way to prove the value.

When you follow your gut, obviously you can't just tell your CEO, oh yeah, I think we should do that. Prove it. Find a way to prove it, but don't let your gut feeling be dormant. You've got to listen to it.

Trinity: Christian. What do you think? 

Christian: I think that you really got a lot of value out of the time when you were the sales person at User Gems. And I think we should do that more often. 

Trinity: Do you want to give some context to the audience?

Christian: I think the context was in there. Right? I think it's super valuable when marketing has experience in how sales works for a company.

And asCatarina also said that this was a super valuable experience just to see, what is sales doing? How is sales working, talking to the customer, getting the feedback from the customer. I think that's why you always ask our salespeople for like, Hey, was there any good quote? Is there any wording that I can use on the website?

Because, ultimately, hearing it from prospects or customers really tells you how the market perceives it. So I think we should send you back.. 

Trinity: Love to, I don't think the sales team wants me back. 

 For me, it's a reminder that, as she said, marketing needs to learn from sales. Like marketing, in every role,

 you want to talk to the customer. There is the story of product management to talk to the customer. There's this joke of programming for a year can save you two weeks of talking to the customer. And I think it's similarly in marketing where we are... Like marketing is one step removed from the customer.

Christian: It's not usually not directly interacting. So I think it's a good reminder that marketing should either learn from sales or be part of these conversations as much as possible.

Trinity: Like sales and marketing need to work together. But personally, I think some of our best marketing campaigns came from sales without them knowing it.

So, we have all these recording tools that we listen to, maybe some of these banters, or just like sitting next to sales and see how some of the best sales reps are doing things and figure out how we can scale what they're doing, in a programmatic way, using the marketing tools and tactics. Yeah. So a hundred percent there that, personally, I've been learning a lot from the sales team.

Christian: Yeah. I think what they do, and what you do in this case, a good job in, is that they tell you whenever there is something you should listen to, like whenever the customer describes something. So there should be like a KPI for this. Like, I want every sales rep, if there's anything good that the prospect of the customer says, then it should get to marketing.

Trinity: Yeah. I mean, yes. A sales team always contact different people in the company, not just marketing. They say, listen to this part, it's great. Actually, some of the best copywriting on our website came from our sales team because they talk to the prospects and customers all the time and describing the products in so many different ways and constantly iterating and see which one sticks.

So they actually have the best copy. 

Christian: And how the prospect 

Trinity: describes it and have the prospect describe it. Yeah. And another piece that Catarina talks about, anything, a lot of marketers on this podcast and other podcasts been talking about or championing for is marketing generates, like, the, mindset.

We need to change our mindset, that we're not here to generate leads or MQLs. Marketing generates revenue. Kyle Lacy, in the very first episode talks about it. It's not just about influence pipeline, marketing, generates the pipeline. 

Christian: Absolutely. She mentioned that, I think it's important for her because her CEO, I think, has the sales background.

So I think, definitely marketing is more sales-focused than it usually would be. I think it also sounds like she knows how to manage up and what's 

important for her. 

Trinity: Also, we talked a lot about career transition, usually by switching to a new company, but in Catarina's case, she spent the last few years at the same company.

And I think that there's a benefit to that because you understand the culture, you understand all the nuances, you understand how to manage up very effectively. And you've got the trust from the leadership because you've been there forever. You're loyal. So I think that makes a lot of the conversation a little bit easier.

Maybe that's why, when she talked about like making a bet of changing, like the website, et cetera, it was less about proving a kazillion data points, but the company trusts her because she proven herself. 

Christian: She has the social 

Trinity: capital, which is the benefit of staying with the company for a long time, and kind of like earning your stripes.

Christian: Yeah. Which means you can make bigger bets than you would usually be able to do. Yeah. Yeah. 

Trinity: So I think that's something that we should highlight more on our show, too. Don't always have to change companies to, you know, to move up. Are you going through a major transition within your organization or your career?

Do you have a first 100 day journey to share, recently or in the past? If yes, I want to hear from you. Email me@podcastatusergems.com. .