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.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how I am such an organizer.  I was reminded again last week how that can be a very good thing when setting up a new Marketing Automation (MA) system.  I went through training on Aprimo Marketing Studio On Demand last week as we are adding that tool to our arsenal of products at The Pedowitz Group.  It occurred to me that one way that every MA implementation is similar, regardless of the tool, is that serious consideration needs to be given to organization of the system up-front.  If you don’t put the time and effort into it up front, within a few months you will have a monstrous, out-of-control system where you can’t find anything.  Especially if you have a lot of users in the system.  So here are my thoughts on considerations and issues as you setup and organize your MA system.

  • Naming conventions – you need them!   For any marketing campaign, you are going to have several different elements to setup in your MA system.  You need to name them consistently to keep track of them.  Also, if you have several different people working in your system, they will need to find their own stuff.
  • Security.  This is a tricky one.  Depending on your MA system, you will have different levels of security options.  Some will let you lock down everything you do so only those working on the projects will be able to see it.  Others only have security at the top level.  While you may have the urge to lock absolutely everything down that you can, you need to balance this with sharing best practice campaigns so your users are not re-inventing the wheel every time they setup a new campaign.  My advice is to have some level of security and then put into place a governance document that helps guide everyone’s behavior in the system.
  • Data hygiene – especially for things like picklists.  You should have clear data priorities setup (whether you can force them or you just need to setup rules in your governance doc) to avoid overwriting good data with bad.  You should also have standards for picklists and adding new fields and picklists.  Even if your MA system doesn’t force limits on the number of fields or picklists you can add, you still shouldn’t let just anyone add fields and values.  Maintaining these will save you a lot of headaches down the road when you want to delete fields only to find out there are a lot of other dependencies.
  • Filters.  Most MA systems have a concept of filters or segmentation (or both) to help you narrow your audience.  You should setup some standard filters that will be frequently used so you don’t have a bunch of users creating many different versions of them.
  • Headers and footers.  Make sure you have created all of the standard headers and footers to satisfy each business unit and geography – you shouldn’t be leaving it to your everyday users to create these.
  • Templates.  Again, you don’t want your everyday user to constantly be reinventing the wheel, so try to create everything in advance that you can.
  • Subscription management.  Making sure the right people get the right stuff is key but can be tricky depending on how granular your subscription options are.  Definitely put a lot of thought into this one up front so you can ensure your users don’t unsubscribe due to lack of relevance or too frequent communications.  And setting this up correctly in your MA system is important since it is very difficult to change later.

Procrastinators, take heart – if you already have an out-of-control system, you can always do a clean-up and fix it.   Just follow the items above and then put a good governance doc in place for everyone to follow.  You’ll likely need to do a clean-up every so often, anyway, but this should hopefully cut down on the maintenance.

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.

Change is tough and stressful.  That shouldn’t be news to anyone, right?  And implementing a new marketing infrastructure, a CRM system, or new marketing processes to generate revenue are all pretty big changes.  So why is it that change management isn’t the first and biggest imperative for any project like this?  Well, because that would require, er, well, Change!  That’s not how most big technology or strategy projects are approached.  The whole “If you build it they will come” mentality abounds.

If we stop and think for a few minutes, though, you know that they won’t come.  Even if you make it a “top-down initiative” or involve everyone in the specs so it’s exactly what they want.  Why is that?  According to Switch authors Chip and Dan Heath, it’s not because people don’t want to change, it’s that they don’t have a clear path, an emotional tie and environmental reinforcements.  They argue that the logical side of a person’s brain is like a rider and the emotional side an elephant.  The rider will over analyze everything, but he can’t get the elephant to move in a direction the elephant just doesn’t want to do.  So you need to make a clear, simple argument for change that appeals to the rider while giving the elephant a good emotional tie to the change.  And all the while, you have to provide  the right environmental stimuli to make sure that the rider and elephant stay on track.

I’d recommend a full read of the book, as it gives a lot of great insight on how to do all of this with good examples along the way.  But here are a few thoughts I’ll provide for you very specific to a marketing automation or CRM implementation that might help your project today:

  1. Create clear, concise definitions of things like “leads,” “contacts” and “accounts.”  For example, in my days as a marketing ops director, I used to use “leads are a response to a marketing campaign.”  Of course, then you need to define a marketing campaign 🙂
  2. Create clear goals and outcomes that people can work towards and get excited about.  Generate $20M in marketing-influenced revenue is a clear goal that people can measure and work towards.  And if you can start showing progress toward this goal, people will get excited about getting there.
  3. Find examples and hold them up for the world to see.  In a large company, there are usually pockets that are ahead of others – that business unit you acquired that has already implemented their CRM or the marketing department that has been running some successful campaigns.  Find these examples and replicate them.
  4. Celebrate success and move past failures.  So many times we get caught up in what didn’t work and fail to recognize that doing so just provides reinforcement to the troops that the project will ultimately fail.
  5. Take a few small risks.  Let your teams try some new tactics and be okay with failing.  Don’t get caught like a deer in the headlights just because you don’t fully understand the tactic yet.  Just keep it under the radar.  For instance, one that I know always trips up marketing teams is implementing lead scoring.  Especially for large companies, they start thinking about all the stuff they don’t know instead of just trying something and seeing what works.  They don’t even have to show the lead score to anyone – just create the program, turn it on, and start measuring so you can see if you are even on track with your score.  You’ll learn a lot whether your program succeeds or fails.