Walking into a new organization is bound to come with a few surprises, even if everyone is genuinely happy with their marketing infrastructure. It’s the nature of marketing operations. No matter how talented the previous person was, they inevitably cobbled together some creative solutions due to budget restrictions, time constraints, or lack of knowledge.
If you’re in marketing operations, you can do things at the beginning that will make your long-term career at a company easier.
01 Keeping the Train on the Tracks
The first thing any marketing operations professional wants to do when they start with an organization is to be left alone for a couple of weeks to learn the ins and outs of the systems they’ll be managing. No two marketing automation platform instances are alike, and there are always tricky details hidden in integrations.
A few weeks to onboard would be great, but a new marketing ops person will be given a long list of things that need to be done to support existing operations. Depending on how large your organization is, this could mean everything from restarting the email nurture engine to integrating new tools the marketing team has purchased.
Priority number one always goes to keeping the marketing train on the tracks–or getting it restarted if it stalled without an ops professional running things.
ProTip: We’ve seen that prioritizing integrations, fixing the marketing-to-sales handoff processes, then enabling campaign activity is a good way to things up and running. Leads only mean something if salespeople know they exist and can follow up on them.
02 Mapping What’s There
After searching for a map of your new company’s technical stack, you’ll need to update whatever you find with the latest systems acquired (and canceled). You may also find the technical documentation…lacking.
We recommend making an effort to document things as you go to avoid repeating your predecessor’s mistake. This means developing a habit of opening up existing documents and changing them when there’s a systems revision.
The process of creating and updating technical documentation is tedious, but it will help you quickly pick up the nuances of their systems and help the next person (hopefully, a direct report to help scale your team!) ramp up quickly.
ProTip: Explore tools like Visio, Lucidchart, and Draw.io to make mapping your systems easier. If your computer is locked down and you can’t install new applications, put a ticket into your IT team to open up admin rights 🙂 and build a map using PowerPoint or Google Slides. A diagram of your technical stack will provide a useful visual aid when you explain why adding a new application eats up time and bolster your argument for adding headcount to your team.
03 Understanding Politics
After speaking with a few successful marketing operations professionals, we noticed an interesting similarity. They all took time to make the rounds with the leadership team and check in with people who were impacted by systems activity. They established a network of “informants” because they had learned from experience that people tend to assume the people in charge of the systems already know if something is broken or bothering them.
Whether you set up a formal meeting to get the down-low on the tech stack or meet with people one-on-one, it’s important to establish you’re unbiased and want to help make things run as smoothly as possible. It helps when you didn’t build the system from the ground up and can honestly say you aren’t attached to how things have always been done.
Receive input with a grain of salt. It’s natural for people to remember previous employees in an overly negative (or sometimes positive) light. Reserve your judgment and use your feedback list as a starting point to do some heavier systems investigation.
ProTip: Keep opinions confidential to build the trust of people you’ll rely on for information. People share their feelings about system updates and changes to processes, and it’s nice to have a group of people you can call.
Years of operations experience brings with it the knowledge that people gossip. The sentiment that a type of lead never converts or an event was a bust may be grounded in reality, but it’s best to check the systems first.
Salespeople sometimes form the opinion that marketing is padding their numbers or intentionally stuffing the lead pipeline with things that won’t convert. This is seldom the case, but fortunately, it’s easy to disprove. Developing a transparent reporting cycle with the inside team and showing incremental growth along with bumps due to campaign activity will help establish trust.
ProTip: Don’t expect people to take your word that something isn’t working the way they think it is. Do your best to back your statements up with data. Conversion statistics and system screenshots are good tools. Always offer to investigate further if they see any examples of the issue and ask for links to the impacted records.
05 Developing a Roadmap
Once you’ve mapped your system and investigated rumors of inefficiency, you’ll have a good idea of your priorities. Make sure your management team and the people you’ve asked for feedback are also aware of your priorities. It’s better to inform people that their highest priority is lower on your list than to let them think you’re ignoring them.
Don’t know where to start?
Fix Critical Functionality
There are always “nice-to-have” requests, and then there are mission-critical fixes. Correctly setting up integrations, identifying the cause of missing leads, fixing system errors inflating lead counts or duplicating records, correcting delays between systems, and setting up flags to ensure sales is seeing leads as they come in are all items we’d define as mission-critical.
Solidify Reporting Structure
If the proper benchmarks aren’t in place, marketing can’t show the broader organization that what they’re doing is working. If they can’t prove their value, jobs are ultimately at stake. Ensure your organization has lead workflow benchmarks in place, campaign source reporting, and multi-touch attribution reporting.
Some of your efforts will go into bolstering the trust in your organization’s data. Check out our article on common marketing data gaps and how to effectively measure campaign performance for more tips and tricks on building a reliable data structure.
Optimize Cross-Functional Handoffs
Cross-functional handoffs can account for a cringe-worthy amount of waste at any company. Whether your highest converting leads aren’t being elevated immediately to sales or management isn’t aware your sales team has abandoned marketing-sourced leads in favor of prospecting, it’s important to publicize and correct these expensive gaps.
Automate Data Management
Any reporting process that use CSV files or rely on complex formulas in spreadsheets should be automated as much as possible. Sometimes this means buying a lead routing tool, deduplication plug-in, or a robust customer data platform (we suggest the customer data platform!).
We assume projects will need to be tackled in between normal operations (supporting ongoing campaign activity). Anything outside of normal operations and the categories above should be filed under “non-critical” requests and handled as you have time. Or additional headcount.
06 Winning the Hearts and Minds
Don’t settle for the personal knowledge that you’re good at your job. Find ways to quantify the value you’re providing to the business.
How executives define value is consistent across business groups. When it comes to major projects, the underlying goals are saving working hours and increasing revenue. Examples of activities that save working hours include reducing clicks, combining reports, surfacing data, eliminating bad data, and eliminating redundancies. The list of examples directly impacting revenue is similar, but the groups benefiting from the change are specific: lead generation, inside sales, and field sales.
If you’re designing a self-refreshing report, you’re saving valuable working hours aggregating the information regularly, giving you more time to dig into details behind a dashboard and deliver insights. Suppose you’re putting rules in place to gate leads. In that case, you’re saving valuable inside sales time wasted researching unqualified leads and improving their efficiency, which will increase pipeline–and ultimately revenue–generated.
It’s not enough to provide value by completing a project. You have to prove the value using meaningful data points. Quantifying your project’s impact will help management see value in what your team is providing, better understand how work hours were invested, and measure the underlying impact on the business. Consider the following statements:
We implemented improvements to the Lead object in Salesforce.
We saved eight business development managers six hours per week prosecuting unqualified leads, allowing them to focus on the higher converting lead sources. This resulted in $1M incremental revenue in the first month after the change.
ProTip: Quantifying your impact will help management see value in what your team is providing, better understand how work hours were invested, and measure the underlying impact on the business. These things are great, but if you’re not using it to solidify your career, you’re missing half the point. We value altruism, but tracking your impact on the business will reduce resistance to prioritizing high-value projects and prove the value you are providing to the company.