I just finished an excellent book called “The Phoenix Project” about the daily challenges IT operations managers face, including all of the personality types and business units they have to attempt to please. If you’re involved in marketing to tech professionals, I highly recommend this book, as it gave me a new perspective (and a higher level of admiration) for what IT pros do every day.
While it’s a fictional story, there is a lot we can all learn from it, especially the details on the emerging organizational methodology called DevOps. If you’re not familiar with DevOps, here’s a definition, but in a nutshell, it’s a new way of structuring IT so they can be more aligned with their counterparts in development. The end goal is to be able to develop/update software faster in response to customer needs and competitive market demands.
The origin of DevOps partially comes from the agile development process, which dramatically changed the way traditional applications were built (AKA the waterfall method). Due to the adoption of agile, IT operations teams had to evolve their procedures to keep up with the massive transformation happening on the development side of the organization. Unfortunately, this led to a pretty messy process when development wanted to move their application updates to production. The response from IT was to restructure teams and invest in new technology to support this new process, and today we call the process DevOps. After researching DevOps and talking to IT and developers who are currently doing it, I realized that we could apply this methodology to our marketing team structures as well.
Even though our non-industry friends think “marketing” is only about choosing logos and writing taglines (thanks, Mad Men), we all know our jobs have evolved dramatically over the past 20 years. Our CEOs hold us accountable for ROI, we now have to track everything, and (to use developer terminology) we are “testing and releasing” campaigns at faster rates than ever before. We also have to work with multiple teams across the organization to get things done. While working with IT, data scientists and application owners are now becoming a crucial part of our role; I’d like to focus this particular article on working with sales.
My job has let me be a fly on the wall and sit in on meetings with the best technology marketers in the world. In all my time listening to these strategic discussions, the most common topic is the organizational challenges of working with the sales department. We all know our most common grievances about sales…
“Sales won’t follow up on my leads.”
“Sales won’t qualify anything in Salesforce.”
“Sales has no idea what I do.”
“Sales thinks my job is worthless.”
“Sales is trying to make me do their admin work.”
“My job is not to sell for sales.”
We have our list of complaints and trust me, so do they. But to be successful in today’s age of the informed buyer, we have to work together. And not only do we have to work together, but we also have to be smarter and faster to keep up with our nimble competitors.
So what I’m proposing is this. Let’s create our form of DevOps; we can call it “Marles” or “Salketing,” or whatever internal acronym you want to call it. At the end of the day, it should be about finding ways for both teams to work together, share ideas and more efficiently convert marketing driven pipeline into revenue. The DevOps philosophy includes three essential principles: People, Process and Technology. I believe we can use this same framework for our version.
The first step should focus on integration. If you want marketing and sales to work better together, make sure marketing and sales ARE together. I don’t know how many offices I’ve been in where sales teams sit on different floors (or even different buildings) from their marketing counterparts. This may not be an easy change for large organizations, but it’s something that should be in your plan. It’s amazing how people work better together when they’re physically in the same location.
Do something social on a regular basis. It could be a monthly sales/marketing team lunch or after-work drinks, just make sure you do it, and it’s consistent. I know we all have tight budgets for these types of activities, but even a pizza shared between groups can help align the teams. These shouldn’t be working lunches (I’ll get to that in a bit). These meetings need to be 100% focused on the social interaction between the teams. It’s all about gaining perspective and respect for each other. Marketers need to learn about sales pros and sales pros need to learn about marketers. I’ve sat in both seats. Marketing is hard. Sales is hard. We both want success and to help the company. These social gatherings are an excellent way for both teams to understand that we all have the same goals, just different ways of getting at them.
I’m not a huge fan of adding unnecessary processes, as sometimes they slow down results. That being said, standardizing processes is necessary for successful team integration. One of the most frequent complaints I’ve heard from marketers is that they don’t always have insight into what’s going on within the sales organization. What are they struggling with? What big wins or losses have they had? How are they against goal? Usually, these are left for quarterly updates, and by then it’s too late for marketing to help.
One of the first process changes you can easily deploy is using the sprint meeting practice stolen from agile development. These are quick, very regular (usually every other week), team meetings where you report on progress from the previous sprint meeting and set goals for the next. This could be as simple as marketing committing to a certain number of leads from a new campaign and sales committing to calling on all those leads before the next meeting. We don’t have to change the world in these meetings; the important aspect is keeping the meeting frequency consistent and focusing on small goals that lead to big wins.
Tracking is also essential to the process. Both groups have to own tracking, and this message has to come from the top down. Marketing can spend all day in Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, Hubspot tracking first touch, last touch and conversion from MQL to SQL, but unless sales do their part, and correctly associates closed business back to campaigns, it’s useless. For tracking to work, you need tools, proper training and someone to hold the teams accountable. This only happens with management support (sales management, marketing management, and senior management), so make sure all senior managers are in agreement on the tracking process and the monitoring tools you plan to deploy.
In the IT world, DevOps has led to increased investment in automation technology to help operations teams track changes and move applications to production faster. That’s one of the primary goals of DevOps, and without these tools, it’s very challenging to move the organization towards a DevOps approach. It’s the same in our world. If you want our version of DevOps to be successful, you need a marketing automation tool. Each sprint meeting needs to focus on small, highly targeted and frequent campaigns. Without automation software, this is just too hard to manage, and tracking will be a disaster.
You also need a sales CRM tool in place. When you throw your results over the fence, you’ll need sales to make sure they’re tracking everything from opportunity, to pipeline, to close. Sales CRM tools like Salesforce are the best way to do this (if the process with sales is established and enforced).
Finally, I’d recommend leveraging a few collaboration tools. Choose only a few, and make sure everyone is using them. I’m a big fan of slack because it helps limit the email noise, and is an excellent way to keep specific campaign discussions organized and in separate places.
I’m also interested in some of the new tools out there like Engagio. This tool allows you to track, communicate, collaborate and assign specific tasks against your target accounts. I expect we are going to see more solutions like this hit the market soon, so it’s an exciting space to watch.
As marketing becomes more data, project, and technology driven, there’s a lot we will be able to learn from the technology contacts we are marketing to. We saw this with the rise of “Agile Marketing” and I believe we’ll see this with DevOps and future organizational methodologies. The longer I work in different management positions, the more I realize that I should have paid a lot more attention in the organizational behavior class I took in college.