A day in the life of... VP Marketing of a product design platform

Design, once overlooked by marketers, is quickly becoming an integral part of our discipline.

So, it's fitting that this week's Day in the Life interview comes from InVision, a design prototyping and workflow platform.

Clair Byrd is Acting VP of Marketing and Director of Content Marketing, so let's find out what she gets up to in a typical day...

(Remember, if you're in the market for a new role yourself, check out the Econsultancy Jobs pages)

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I currently lead InVision’s cross-functional marketing team and overarching content strategy.  

That means that I lead the team who strategizes for, plans, produces, and goes to market with everything InVision releases, from huge industry-shifting product announcements to daily blog articles.

I personally manage our cross-functional creative teams, comprised of content strategists, engineers, and designers, plus our programmatic teams, like content, product marketing, PR, automation, and others.

I also help set brand and creative strategy for our organization, identify key strategic initiatives to tackle, and measure our success or failure.

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Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?

I sit at the VP level and report directly to our CEO, Clark Valberg.

What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

A high EQ (emotional intelligence), a strong sense of direction about what we want to be (beyond software) for our customers and community, and exceptional creative strategy.

These things help in a multitude of ways.

Firstly, our customer is extremely sensitive to anything that smells like marketing or sales.

This means we have to be creative about how we approach potential customers, provide tangible value through the thing we’re approaching potential customers with, and be genuinely interested in our community’s success outside the purview of our own products.

Having a high EQ also helps us empathize with our community and better understand what feels right (things we should do) and what doesn’t (things we shouldn’t do).

We don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right to us (we affectionately say we don’t do “gross” marketing).

EQ also helps us hone in on the initiatives that will provide clear value to a user by addressing specific pains they might be experiencing in their daily workflow.

Having a clear sense of self, or, what we want to be for our community beyond a software platform, helps us provide leadership and guidance to a community still evolving.

The creative professional has been historically in reactive, service-type roles for a long time, but as digital continues to ascend, so do the people who know that world best - the people who literally create digital stuff.

Design is often undervalued because people/stakeholders don’t understand it - it’s our job to help them understand and also provide the tools necessary to unblock designers in their daily work life.

Exceptional creative strategy unifies these things into real life projects and initiatives that also help us meet business goals.

Tell us about a typical working day…

This is a tough question because there really isn’t a typical working day for us.

Our marketing team manages a wide variety of brand and demand generation programs simultaneously and in-house.

We are deeply cross-functional, which means we have designers, content strategists, and engineers involved in projects from day one - and depending on what the project is, our DRIs (directly responsible individual) shift and change.

In addition to this, we’re a fully remote team. Our marketing team of 30 is distributed across five different time zones, three countries, and 10 states.

Our meeting load versus time spent actually making stuff, or what I call a “maker versus manager mix,” ebbs and flows based on what our focus for the month is, or what our immediate priorities are.

For example, last week I was in the trenches writing copy for a content campaign focusing on helping designers transition to Sketch, but this week I’ll be onsite with my team in Boston working on 2017 strategic planning and initiative development.

Working like this helps keep us agile with the ability to turn around complex web projects and high-quality, major brand statements with incredibly short lead times.

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What do you love about your job? What sucks?

Every time anyone asks me what I love about my job, my answer is always the same: the people, and the people.

I have an amazing team who inspires me daily; they are insanely talented, entrepreneurial, incredibly passionate about what we do, and approach work with a deep sense of humility and teamwork that I’ve never experienced at another company.

I personally feel that the depth and diversity of collaboration we’ve got at InVision is the number one contributing factor to our success (and we’re hiring!).

Additionally, our customer is freaking great. It’s a real privilege to cater specifically to the designers, engineers, and other creatives working toward a better web every day, plus, they are passionate supporters and natural advocates of the people, companies, and brands who give back to them.

Who wouldn’t want to work with that kind of community every day?

I can’t honestly say much sucks about my job. Sure, we’re in crazy growth mode (named in Forbe's Next Billion-Dollar Startups 2016) and have a lot to manage, and the hours can be long, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The things we get to do make a meaningful impact on designers’ and other creatives’ lives. If I was pressed, I would say the 7am mornings can be tough. Because InVision is 100% remote, we all work the same core hours, which shakes out to be 10am-6pm EST… or 7am for us West Coasters.

What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

All our marketing efforts roll up to the same set of goals: Net new leads, new free user signups, conversion from free to paid, enterprise marketing qualified leads, and total annual recurring revenue.

We use the same set of metrics to measure the success of each program to “democratize” our marketing and measure things apples to apples. Doing so helps us know where and how to invest our resources more effectively on a day to day basis.

Even an initiative like DESIGN DISRUPTORS, which some saw as a big flashy brand play, was measured and held accountable to the same set of goals.

Thinking of all initiatives as equal helps us represent both the brand and the business in each thing we create - which makes for more balanced, thoughtful campaigns.

What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?

Remote teams are made possible using today’s collaboration tools. InVision is a product design platform, but it's also a robust collaboration tool we use extensively to prototype and iterate on our marketing experiences.

It’s completely invaluable to our remote team’s workflow and productivity.

Additionally, we’re big proponents of Slack and video conferencing (currently Zoom or Google Hangouts). We spend a great deal of time on video together actively hacking through problems in real-time.  

How did you get started in the digital industry, and where might you go from here?

I’ve always been an early adopter of technology, but I originally intended to be a chef.

My parents wanted me to go to college “just in case,” I studied English and ended up writing in some capacity for every single job I ever had.

By age 19, I was working professionally in kitchens at night and at a small ecommerce company between classes, doing an early form of content marketing and community work.

In 2009, I moved to the Bay Area to cook - I took a job as a private chef for an affluent family. Unfortunately, I had to take a “day” job doing operations to make ends meet in the Bay Area.

In that role, I began taking on responsibilities outside of operations - things I could pull from my previous experience at the ecommerce company, like how they positioned themselves in the market, using social media, writing web copy, etc.

I really enjoyed this work, and decided to try and unify my love for food and beverages with this new found interest in writing for the web.  

I discovered a local beverage startup who needed someone to work on content marketing and partnerships with local restaurants - two things by this point I knew I could do.

They also needed the person to work for almost free. It seemed perfect to me, so I applied and got it.

That role led to Tony Hsieh and Delivering Happiness, where I led content and community, which drove my crossover into tech - ultimately leading me to InVision.

I take a lot of management and creative inspiration from the kitchen, and one day, I hope to end back up there - in the kitchen.

I have a big dream of being able to apply all I’ve learned about alternative businesses, digital product development, and brand development to a restaurant chain concept.

Which brands do you think are doing digital well?

I have a huge crush on Intercom. They are really innovating with their product and their marketing.

Additionally, I’m really impressed by brands who can articulate a clear, easy relationship between something digital and something real.

Starbucks is an excellent example with its new app ecosystem, and WeWork’s digital interface for real-life spaces, events, and communication is really cool.

Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the digital industry?

Learn as many things about your future field as humanly possible. Become well-versed in your core focus area, but don’t neglect the technical areas that will be adjacent to your job, even if you never have to touch them yourself.

Learn the basics of computer science. Understand how email works. Become design-literate. Try your hand at copywriting and see how it goes!

Having this foundational knowledge will make you a more effective team player with a greater capacity for digital strategy because you’ll know more about what it takes to make things for the web.

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