Cross Training for Marketing

Most marketing organizations are organized around a set of silos based on specialized program functions within branding or demand generation. The skills, tools, and relationships needed to manage advertising, events, email, website, social, video production, technical writing, etc. are very different. The pressure and complexity involved in each area can easily turn them into organizational islands. They may each have their own databases, audiences, and reporting structures. They may be further fragmented when replicated across business units and geographies. While specialization is necessary and will only increase, the fragmentation and separation that typically accompany it can break down the customer experience, introduce inefficiencies and redundancies, and slow down the whole marketing operation.
The challenge is how to make strong sustainable connections between specialists so that new competencies can be acquired without the negative side effects. Data management and analytics have emerged as two key skills common to every marketing activity. These topics are ideal for bringing marketers together to share how each of their areas produces and consumes data and the models and tools they use to gain meaningful insights. IDC recommends marketing organizations conduct regular analytics knowledge jams to share competencies, resources, and insights. To cross train them on the many other functions that affect customer creation. Key objectives include:
  • Provide visibility into how data is produced and consumed in other areas
  • Improve data capture, quality, and usability
  • Socialize important analytic models
  • Provide a more holistic perspective on the customer experience
  • Raise the overall data and analytics IQ of the marketing team

In each session, representatives from different groups share 15 minute presentations of what they are working on and how they use data and analytics. This will help combat the fragmentation brought on by specialization, reduce inefficiencies and redundancies, and make marketing more responsive.

Three Big Ideas from Dreamforce 2014, Salesforce’s user conference, is always a phenomenon – boatloads of sales and marketing tips and tricks alongside the philanthropic videos and big name entertainment. However, it was these three ideas that impressed me most.

Marketing automation enters the age of the platform: The integration theme threaded through Dreamforce as the company unveiled Salesforce 1, a platform for the Internet of Customers.  Providing a quality digital customer experience requires the integration of applications, data, messaging channels, and delivery mechanisms (including mobile and machines). Like an orchestra playing a piece of music, a brand is more richly experienced by multiple instruments simultaneously. Orchestration is the key. If the oboe plays independently in this corner and the violin over there, you can imagine the discord – even if they all work from the same sheet music. Integration, platforms, and clouds are themes I’ve also heard from Oracle Eloqua, Marketo, Adobe, IBM, Hubspot, and Microsoft. Most of these companies will fill in important platform gaps over the next few years to become winners (I think Salesforce will clearly be in this camp).

Why this matters:  Marketing technology platforms will prod two big changes. Marketing will need to reorganize and become multi-channel and customer experience oriented.  And although vendors playing nice together will be easier to do in the cloud than it was for on-premise software, CMOs will someday find it valuable to standardize on a platform (or “cloud”). Hopefully, they will have differentiated choices that optimize for different business models.

Growing importance of design: I was super impressed with the fireside chat between Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo and Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s CEO. I found Marissa’s ideas on design most intriguing. It’s a topic you don’t hear much about in business circles, yet it was clear that her views on design informed her strategy for Yahoo and her leadership style.  One of Marissa’s points – don’t design for the expert.  Create a “big green button” for the thing people most want to do. Expert users can afford to work a little harder to get their bells and whistles.  Simple things, if they are the right things, make a huge difference. Think about the impact of Amazon’s iconic Add-to Cart one-click shopping.
Why this matters: Change-agents (managers, marketing ops pro’s, communicators, etc.) would benefit from getting grounding in design. You might start with a little podcast I recently found called 99% Invisible.

Marketing in the moment:  Marketing is speeding up. Few marketers remain unconvinced about the value of personalization. Messages are more effective when they leverage the viewer’s attributes. Now it seems that time is also becoming an impact point. Your message is more relevant if it pops up within the context of a real-time conversation. Some moments are daily habits – such as exercising, or conducting a task at work. Other moments are occasional, shared, and public – such as a sports event or an event like Dreamforce. Some moments can be planned for but others will pop up opportunistically and you need to be ready.

Why this matters: Marketers pay lip service to the concept of “agile” but marketing in the moment requires a truly different approach than planning a launch. Agility is what enabled the Oreo marketing team to steal the moment at the Superbowl. Read this Wired story to learn how they did it.

These are three ideas that I’m going to pay more attention to.

Channel Marketing Automation – When CRM is not Enough

Whether you pursue a lead through direct sales or a partner it doesn’t really matter how you get the lead. But what happens next? With your direct sales, you track the nurturing process as the lead develops into an opportunity. You measure your sales reps by the number of meetings they get, the deals they close. You may even have a closed loop reporting process that shows the efficiency of your marketing and sales funnel.

With your partners, your lead gets passed off and … then what? Does the partner accept the lead? Do they follow up? Do their marketing outreach programs conform to your policies and expectations? How much time and how many touches does it take them to close? How do you decide which partner is qualified for which leads? How do you efficiently identify the productive partners, those that need encouragement and those that should be dropped?

Multi-Billion Dollar Channel Management Questions
These are critical questions that have a tremendous impact on businesses with significant indirect revenue. A recent IDC study of large IT companies found that on average channel revenue was $2.4B. It was generated by 34 channel marketing staff managing 8,500 active partners. That equates to $45 million of revenue per channel marketing staff member but only $1.2 million per partner. The dirty little secret – there are also on average approximately 19,000 inactive partners!

Source: IDC’s 2010 Best Practices Study in Channel Marketing (n=13)

A Better Way

Your CRM and SFA are not going to answer any of the critical channel management questions – although many companies think their CRM system is where they should be “managing partners”. In fact, a partner management system fulfills a role more like an SFA – it tracks all the activity that occurs after the lead is generated. It should also facilitate the process of lead distribution – managing all the partner credentials and accreditations need to qualify for a particular lead. Then there’s deal registration where the partners accept the lead so that it is not poached by another partner or … ahem … the direct sales force. And when you consider some of the other requirements of partner management, the CRM fallacy becomes clear:

  • Recruitment and on-boarding
  • Training and development
  • Business Planning and Reporting
  • Compensation and Incentive program management
  • Marketing and Sales support

Are these capabilities that your CRM can provide? Your SFA? Would you even want them to? The answers should be no, no, and no. Don’t be thrown off by that last bullet – the marketing and sales outreach your partners require is very different than the corporate outreach that marketing operations is doing. They rebrand, reschedule, embed, and otherwise repurpose marketing content, making a direct translation from corporate marketing to partner marketing wholly inappropriate.

If you have (or want to have) a significant amount of revenue going through the channel, you need a dedicated partner relationship management (PRM) system to automate more than just marketing and sales activities. Don’t look to your CRM, SFA, or even the newer marketing automation vendors to provide you with the full set of capabilities necessary to effectively manage channels. Those solutions are focused on a very different set of requirements. They may have slideware and inch deep functionality, but that’s typically it. Do ask about integrating a PRM with these systems as reporting should roll up easily across direct and indirect sales.

A number of key capabilities to consider when implementing a platform channel marketing automation:

  • Manage partner profiles and contacts
  • Deliver and track training, certifications, etc.
  • Set business rules for lead distribution
  • Handle deal registration
  • Provide a single system of record for partner and channel management
  • Provide detailed performance reporting (12-month rolling review)
  • Track partner outreach campaigns
  • Manage market development funds (MDF) and co-op spend

With these issues on the table, it should be clear that automating channel marketing requires a dedicated, purpose-built solution. It will be costly and painful and meet substantially lower expectations otherwise.

Many Ways to be Agile

We all greatly enjoyed our time together at the CMO Advisory meeting in Santa Clara last month. The level of participation and feedback was all very positive and we would like to thank everyone who attended for bringing their “A” game with them.

One of the topics we talked about was Agile marketing. We keep coming back the Agile project management concept as we triangulate the issues of career path development, sales and marketing integration, and automating sales and marketing processes. Agile has something to offer on all three fronts, and may prove to be an essential catalyst for success.

First, a Word About Agile

Very briefly, Agile is a method for managing projects that is based on small teams delivering discretely defined outputs in very short time frames. It is characterized by frequent fifteen-minute status meetings (called “scrums”) in which 3 to 7 team members answer three questions: What did I do yesterday? What am I doing today? What is in my way? The project manager (called a “scrum master”) is in charge of managing all the obstacles so the rest of the team can proceed on schedule. The schedule is based on 2 to 4 week workloads (called “sprints”). Progress is tracked in a “burn down chart” that shows how many hours the team has put in and how many it has left to do.

Agile is ideal for managing high frequency activities such as digital marketing, as well as portions of larger projects such as a trade show that can be broken into smaller steps. Elements of the Agile method can also be borrowed and combined with more traditional waterfall approaches to manage the fire drills that inevitably happen in just about every other kind of marketing activity.

  • We recommend that managers of organizations new to Agile use careful judgment when introducing it. Activities that are good candidates include: email campaigns, collateral development, building microsites, and creating social media assets. You can then move on to more complex issues like product launch planning, events, field marketing, etc. The extent to which Agile is adopted should be determined by marketing staff themselves, if the culture does not embrace it, don’t force it.

Career Development
Agile can be an effective way to offer new skills and leadership opportunities to marketing staff. With its quick cycle times, small teams, and discrete deliverables, Agile offers marketing staff the ability to play different roles on different teams, including leadership, at almost no incremental cost.

  • We recommend that the career dev aspect of Agile be emphasized only after your organization is successful with Agile, it should not be an explicit objective when getting started.

Sales and Marketing Integration
Agile offers a very interesting way to get marketing and sales personnel together to quickly address issues of common interest such as: defining lead qualification criteria, setting up processes for lead transfers and clawbacks, coordinating last touch in marketing and first touch in sales, facilitating sales enablement, etc.

  • We recommend that marketing and sales managers work together to get their teams to cycle in and out of Agile based projects so that each side can better understand the other – particularly In terms of providing a seamless customer experience at the point of lead transfer.

Process Automation
Automating large scale marketing departments Is going to be an enormous undertaking, and for many companies one of the key issues will be cultural. Marketing is notoriously not process oriented, nor are marketing personnel typically comfortable with the billable resource model. But this is the world they are going to be thrust into post-automation. Processes will be formalized, optimized and measured. Individuals will be expected to track their time against specific activities – and/or it will be automatically tracked within the system.

  • Managers should not underestimate the magnitude of this transition and the fact that it will impact everyone in marketing personally. Some, hopefully most, high potential employees will embrace the change, others will find it threatening and disruptive.
  • Agile marketing is an effective way to get marketing teams comfortable with – and to see the benefit of – working in structured, measured work conditions. Agile requires everyone to not only estimate the time they expect to spend completing specific activities, but to track and measure the actual time in “burn down” charts. This is a safe and democratic way to get your marketing staff prepared for the world of the “marketing ERP” that is just around the corner – and this cultural priming may be the best way to ensure the adoption and sustainable success of future automation efforts.

So we feel that Agile marketing is worthy of careful consideration. We hope you give it a try and let us know what your experience was like.
Gerry Murray