Marketing Operations


You know that you need lots of assets to support your demand generation efforts, but now you are facing the challenge of creating those assets with limited time, budget and staff.  This task can seem daunting, but a few basic principals will help you accelerate your production of new assets such as white papers, webinars, videos and case studies to support your lead generation and nurturing plans.

First, viewing the content (i.e., headline, key messages, detail) as separate from the format (e.g., white paper, webinar) will help you create two distinct workstreams that can feed each other.  Subject matter experts are needed to create the content.  But once the content is created and approved, publishing the content in a variety of formats and channels should be under the complete control of the marketing team.  Creative teams, agencies and contractors can be used to manage the formatting and publishing.

Second, one piece of content can and should be published in a variety of formats.  No need to look at one whitepaper or one webinar as its own distinct project.  One piece of content should be the scope of the project, with many assets that come out of that.  Re-purpose that whitepaper into a webinar, podcast, blog postings and newsletter article.

Finally, don’t constrain yourself to a single workstream managed by a single team.  Hire dedicated or contract writers to help create a constant stream of content.  Use your own creative team as well as agencies and contractors to create the assets.  You should have one person or small team managing the strategy for the assets, but many people can be involved in the creation to help you accelerate your results.

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After a successful first half of her day and a good break, Janet is ready to tackle the tasks ahead of her.  At 1 pm, Janet reviews the latest campaign metrics.  She notices that one of her campaigns is not getting good response rates.  She calls the campaign manager into her office to brainstorm getting this campaign back on track.  It is determined that the messaging and offers should be tweaked.  The campaign manager goes off to make the changes and they agree to discuss the results in a few days.

Next she takes a look at the lead scoring results.  She notices many leads in “hot” status.  A quick look in the CRM shows that many of these leads have not been followed-up on by the lead qualification team.  She heads over to talk to the lead of that team.  The conversation is easy because the teams are in close alignment on strategy and incentives.  Everyone is working towards the same goals.  She determines that the issue is around having too many leads in hot status, but when the lead qual team follows up, not many are converting.  She discusses with her Marketing Automation administrator some changes she wants to make to the lead scoring criteria.  The changes will be made by the end of the day and they can review the results in a few days again to see if it helps.

At 3 pm, Janet interviews a couple of candidates for her team.  She is looking for a business analyst who can help with reporting and data quality.  This will be a key role to keep her team supplied with the right information and prospect data to be effective in their campaign efforts.  She is looking for someone who can not only crunch the numbers but also analyze the results and bring suggestions to the table.  She also wants someone who is familiar with data best practices that can keep their database clean and complete.

At the end of the day, Janet looks back at her dashboard to find some campaigns that are working well.  She shoots off some meeting invitations to business leaders to discuss how she might be able to replicate these campaigns with their content.  She updates the campaign calendar based on her earlier strategy discussions and shuts down her computer for the night.  She’s now off to watch her son’s soccer game secure in the knowledge that her marketing department is an effective and efficient piece of the company’s revenue engine.

Janet gets to the office around 7 am because she likes to work early to avoid interruptions and be done with work at a reasonable time so she can spend more time with her family.  However, her CFO feels the same way, so this morning she is accosted with questions as soon as she walks in about the effectiveness of her marketing spend.  Fortunately, Janet has this information readily on hand because she has a marketing dashboard that gives her real-time information about closed-loop marketing ROI.  She can tell the CFO exactly how much she has spent and what she has in both closed won and anticipated revenue for the month, quarter and year.

At 9 am, Janet has a meeting scheduled with her CMO to talk about the marketing strategy for the next quarter.  She walks in with information about what has been working for them and what hasn’t.  She also has some ideas about what they could try because she has been quietly testing out new strategies for the past few months and has information about what might work.  The meeting concludes promptly at 9:30 with a clear vision of the strategy for the next quarter and buy-in from the CMO.

At 10 am, Janet chairs a staff meeting where the Revenue Marketing team reports out on the status of current campaign projects.  With simple workflow tools and project dashboards, Janet can clearly see where everything stands and get tasks at risk of slipping back on track.  Everyone on her team has clear roles and understands how they are evaluating campaigns against revenue.

At 11 am, Janet sits down to review the latest content pieces the team has developed.  She has clearly defined personas and buy cycles for her prospects, so she knows what content will be effective in each stage of the decision process for each type of prospect.  That makes her job in editing the content easy.

At noon, she finally gets a break before gearing up for the second half of her day…

I have a picture sitting on my desk with the quote “Success is a journey, not the destination.”  It’s a good mantra for revenue marketers.  I always tell large companies that implementing a marketing automation system and processes for the first time is at least a 3 year journey before you are really going to feel comfortable that you know what you are doing.  Setting up a revenue marketing team isn’t easy and it isn’t just a set of to-do items you can mark off.

There are four basic steps to becoming a revenue marketing team:

  1. Figure out your strategy and get the right processes in place.
  2. Get the right technology in place to support those processes.
  3. Get the right people in place to support both the processes and technology.
  4. Continual improvement.

While the first three steps are by no means easy, it seems to be that last step that is the big gotcha.  Once you slog through many months of strategy and process meetings, documentation, a big technology implementation and a big disruption in your department by either a people shake-up or some serious retraining, it’s really hard not to just sit back and relax.  But in reality, that’s when all the really hard work sets in.

Being a revenue marketer is all about measuring and improving through a series of iterations.  You will constantly be on the lookout for new ideas and testing out new channels and messages.  You will build out countless nurture, drip and multichannel marketing programs.  You will work tirelessly on your inbound marketing channels to drive traffic and build your house list.  There are incremental achievements that you can point to along the way to show the success of what you are doing.  But there is no end point.  There is no point you can reach where you can say “I have built a revenue marketing team and I am done.”

So here’s to all the revenue marketers out there who will work tirelessly for a successful marketing campaign, only to work harder to improve it the next time.  While your journey will never be done, you can also take solace in knowing that you will always continue to make a difference with the work you do.

In a 24×7 world of marketing automation, it is easy to push marketing information anytime to your clients, monitor their interaction with your marketing around the clock and react in real-time.  It’s also really easy to screw up.

I remember the first time I setup an automated campaign using a marketing automation system.  Fortunately we had a very small sample test list since we were just learning the system.  The campaign was supposed to send an email offering a whitepaper, wait some period of time, then send another email to people who didn’t download the whitepaper offering it again.  What the program did (due to incorrect setup) was send out the first email and then immediately send out the second email noting that they hadn’t downloaded the whitepaper yet.  My boss was very forgiving about this, and assured me that most people probably thought it was an error and they just got the same email twice rather than us being very impatient.  So we decided to do nothing and just fix our error for the next round.

I’m sure you all have examples of emails sent to you addressing you by the wrong name (I was once called Bill in a marketing email) or with spelling errors or no content at all.  Despite our best attempts at testing everything before it goes out, there is always a chance that you can screw it up for the world to see.  Here are a few suggestions I have for fixing and avoiding those errors:

  • If it is a small error (like the one I described above) it is sometimes best not to address it at all.  That might call attention to an error that no one noticed in the first place.
  • If it is a big glaring error, you should own up to it.  First rule in PR is to be up-front – people are pretty forgiving and it will blow over quickly if you just fess up.  A cover-up is way more interesting and will stay in people’s minds for years to come.  I’ve seen emails sent out that say please disregard the previous email as it was sent in error.  Short, sweet, and you probably put it out of your mind immediately after it happens.
  • When you are automating things, start simple and make sure small parts of the program work before you add complexity to it – that way you will avoid some big fat hairy mistake just because you were unable to test out every possible scenario.
  • Build in plenty of time for testing.  Just because you could create and send that email in the next 5 minutes doesn’t mean you should.  Be realistic and give yourself a day or two in your timeline to test and make sure it all works.  Get someone that’s not involved at all in your project to help with
  • Be really vigilant about data quality.  Put some system into place, whether it is internal or through a third party, to do data cleansing and auditing on a regular basis to avoid embarrassing errors that could cost you a lead. I certainly didn’t respond to that email that called me Bill 🙂

The Marketing Automation (MA) market is heating up with competition as well as acquisitions.  This means more choice for the consumer, but with more choice comes a longer decision-making process.  It can get very overwhelming very quickly to try to choose a MA system.

They all have the same basic capabilities under the hood – they can send emails, setup forms and microsites, track website behavior and automate actions.  But they differ in their interface, ability to configure and integrate and the level of complexity they can handle.  Some are more appropriate for large centralized marketing groups, while others work better for decentralized or smaller marketing groups.  I remain vendor agnostic in this blog, as I strongly believe that each company needs to evaluate and make the best decision for their situation.  But I can definitely point you to a few ways to make your decision easier.

First, know what you want the end result to be.  Think about the end, not the means to the end.  Outline your goals and be open to changing your organizational structure and processes as well as technology to meet those goals.  It’s best to think greenfield and not get hung up on your existing structure and processes – you can always outline a number of phases to get you there.

Second, be realistic about where you are today.  What are your current capabilities, systems and resources?  Do you have CRM in place and (the million dollar question) how well is it being utilized today?  How big of a change will it be for your marketing and sales teams to put this new technology in place?  Don’t neglect the change management aspects of this whole process.

Third, figure out your gap between your current and desired situation and outline a series of phases to get you there.  Maybe phase I shouldn’t even include the MA system – maybe you need to get other resources and processes in place first.  As much as you want the technology, it helps to be brutally honest with yourself about whether you are ready for it.  You don’t buy a car before you know how to drive.

Finally, once you get all of this sorted out and are ready to start looking at vendors, create a series of use cases so you can make sure you are comparing apples to apples across vendors.  Figure out what the most important features and functions are that you are looking for and have each vendor focus on these for their demos.  Otherwise, you will end up sitting through a bunch of vendor demos and will come out more confused than when you went in.  You need a very objective way to evaluate and grade each vendor on their functionality.

If you take your time to walk through these steps before you even take the first vendor meeting, you will find the vendor evaluation process to be relatively painless.  Your preferred vendor should shake out pretty quickly.  Good luck!

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementation projects are generally big hairy beasts that take a long time.  Especially if you are a large global firm with lots of business units that need to cooperate to figure out a data structure that works.  So it’s not surprising that the marketing department, tiring of waiting for all the business units to duke it out on CRM, is often tempted to go around them and setup a Marketing Automation (MA) system on their own.  Most MA vendors have a cloud-based option for their software today, so marketing can get this done without IT and without sales, which means they can get it up and running very quickly.  But there are a few issues with this that you need to be aware of up front so you can address them.

Problem #1: MA systems do not manage leads.
MA systems are meant for the marketing department to use.  They have the ability to score and route leads, nurture leads, and notify people of leads.  But leads don’t live in MA systems.  MA systems track contacts and activity on contacts.  When there is sufficient activity to call a contact a “lead,” that lead needs a new place to live where the sales team can view and track its progress and ideally turn it into an opportunity.  Salespeople don’t log into your MA system, nor do you want them to.  Even if they did, there is no easy place for them to find their leads.

Problem #2: MA systems do not track campaigns.
The second issue is that MA systems don’t have a strong concept of campaigns.  They have silos of activities and programs.  But a true concept of a campaign with several parts that can easily be tracked together with a full lifecycle of contacts, leads, and closed won sales just isn’t there.  Some MA systems have tried to implement pieces of this but with little success.  The MA system is really meant to be the execution engine, not the tracking mechanism.

Problem #3: MA reporting is limited.
MA systems are going to report on contacts and activity.  It will not let you easily report on lead progress, revenue segmented by your critical criteria and multi-channel campaigns.  Some MA systems have tried to incorporate some of these pieces, however I have not yet seen anything that comes close to the type of reporting that an enterprise firm needs.

Problem #4: Data has to be refreshed manually.
Another issue is that your data will only be updated when either you upload new data, or your customer fills out a form.  Your salespeople will not be able to update contact information.  You likely also have many other systems and departments, such as accounting, that might have updated data.  All of this information would have to be ported manually into the MA system and data priority would need to be managed manually.

So now that you know the problems, what are the possible solutions?  Integrating a CRM to your MA system is obviously the best choice.  To get robust reporting and segmentation, you should also integrate your other systems (ideally into your CRM or data warehouse as the data master).  If this just isn’t an option or your CRM implementation is taking a painfully long time, there are plug-ins out there that you can setup to temporarily manage your leads and reporting.  Just keep in mind that you will still have some of these limitations until you get your CRM up and running.

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