5 Tips for More Efficient Marketing Operations: Part Two

January 18, 2017 Marcus Varner

Welcome to the second installment of our three-part blog series inspired by a Digital Marketing News webcast featuring Chris Penn, VP of Shift Communications and Shawn Dickerson, Director of Solutions Marketing at Workfront. Last week's post included a thorough introduction to marketing workflows, plus the first of the five tips: Prioritizing with Purpose. Today, Chris and Shawn will cover the next two tips, Creating Automated Workflows and Using Data to Prove Your Value.

2. Creating Automated Workflows

Shawn: Let’s be honest; most of our marketing workflows today look like this. It is workflow by email.

And if we’re talking about the numbers that Chris described (nearly 2,000 emails a day), that is a physical impossibility. So as marketing teams and as marketing operations teams, we’ve invested all this money in our marketing clouds and our creative clouds and our CRM. But the handoffs between those systems, the workflow, the conveyor belt, is typically managed by emails and attachments.

It’s sort of like buying a Tesla, only to drive it on some pothole-laden dirt road with no road signs. This manual workflow is a huge obstacle to becoming more efficient in our marketing work. So Chris, talk to us. Is there a way out of this?

Chris: I’m going to take that to an even higher level. In general, people don’t think about how they get work done. They don’t think about that flow of work—like what does it take to accomplish a task? Most of the time, what we think about is, “Here are instructions to do the thing. I do the thing and I move on with my day.”

How often do you ask yourself, how often do you ask the team, how often do you ask anybody you work with any of the following questions:

  • What can we do to make this task take less time?
  • What can we do to increase the cost efficiency?
  • How can we improve the quality?
  • How can we automate this?

There’s a Japanese word, kaizen, which means “continuous, never-ending improvement.” That’s the Tony Robbins English translation of it, anyway. How can we make small, incremental changes all the time to improve our workflow?

For example, I was finding when I was putting together my newsletter, I had to keep copying and pasting URLs, resolve those URLs and un-shorten them—a huge, manual process. It would have taken six hours to put together a newsletter that way.

But with just a little bit of PHP code, I was able to write an 80-line script that did all those things for me and then spit out the final product at the end. It took an hour and a half to write on a Sunday afternoon with a hot rum cider, and this took a repeating 6-hour task and turned it into a 6-second task. That’s one example of how to find that 10x improvement.

Think about the tools you use in your everyday work. How many Excel or Google spreadsheet functions do you know how to use? And you probably use maybe ten of them, out of the dozens or hundreds of them.

Is there one in there that could save you a substantial amount of time? Are you always asking, “How can I improve this? How can I make this better?” Do you have access to developers in your organization or can you contract out with them? Think about the processes that you go through. Any process, anything that you do that is repetitive is a candidate for automation. Anything that you do more than once, you can automate.

“Any repetitive process that you perform is a candidate for automation. Anything that you do more than once, you can automate.”

Think about even the processes for getting a request from your inbox to your Kanban board. What is that process? If someone drops something off at the desk, write that down. Maybe somebody calls you on the phone; write that down. What happens next? Do you talk to your team? Do you put out a reminder? Do you figure out what the requirements are? Write all of this down and then develop this mental or this physical map of the processes that you do more than once, particularly the time consuming ones.

And then sit down with software of some kind and figure out how to turn that map into reality. Shawn is going to show you an example of how you take that map and turn it into reality within Workfront.

Shawn: Excellent. But first, to answer your question about Excel, the VLOOKUP function is the one that changed my life.

If we look at Workfront specifically, here’s another example of an automated workflow. In this case, we’re looking at a document approval. Typically how that document approval process works for most of us is either back-and-forth emailing with corrections that need to be made, or maybe marking up a PDF either in hard copy or through the Notes feature.

And when we receive that feedback, we’re getting red lines that don’t necessarily agree with each other (because the stakeholders weren’t looking at the same version), or we’re getting similar comments from multiple people while not hearing back from others. It can be an enormous mess.

In this case with Workfront, it is automating that approval process, including the flow between the various reviewers. It makes sure that executive reviewers, for example, never receive the documents until the mid-level managers have looked it over. It also gathers the feedback in one place so that all of the comments exist within that document for all the reviewers to see. It also makes a pretty killer audit trail.

3. Using Data to Prove Your Value

Shawn: Next, we want to talk about data, specifically data that can be used to prove your value. The challenge that we see for a lot of teams right here is seeing the full picture. We’ve gotten really good in marketing at reporting on click paths, referrals, asset downloads, and so forth. But actually tying our individual contribution to the success of the business, especially in a support organization like marketing ops can be pretty difficult.

The digital marketing team may be pointing to some of the stellar numbers of sales qualified leads that their campaigns have generated, or the content marketing team is highlighting the influence of their assets along the buyer’s journey. But neither of those efforts would have been successful without effective marketing ops. Again, it’s an essential part of those other teams’ success. So Chris, for a marketing operations team, how can we show that value?

Chris: Value is defined by what we produce. When you’re talking to a CMO, when you talk to anybody who’s got P&L responsibility, what do they care about? As an organization, as a company, particularly for B2B marketers, we care about customer lifetime value and customer acquisition costs. Those two numbers are going to appear inside things like SEC filings. That’s what the top-level marketers are being held accountable for.

So if we don’t start our understanding of value with those two numbers, we are talking about activity and not necessarily value that our stakeholders care about. We want to do that in reverse. We want to understand what our stakeholders care about first, understand the value of it and the numbers behind it, and then reverse engineer that to the activities we perform in our marketing operations teams.

“We want to understand the value of what our stakeholders care about first, and then reverse engineer that to the activities we perform in our marketing operations teams.”

So let’s start with some numbers. I just did this at a conference, but I want you to just mentally do this. Out of curiosity, do you have a web analytics package? Most people raise their hands. Do you have goals set up, digital goals in your web analytics package? At this point, about 10 percent of the hands would go down. (There are a few organizations that just have a Google Analytics installation, for example.) And finally, do you have a dollar value amount set to those goals? It’s at this point where we lose about three-quarters of the room.

What we’re going to cover in this next section is how to create those goal values so we can understand the impact of our work all throughout the marketing operations funnel. And I feel that’s important. We talk about the buyer’s journey and the owner’s journey, this customer lifetime journey and it’s super important because it’s nonlinear, it’s messy. But from a marketing operations perspective, from our world, the funnel is still super important because it’s how we allocate resources; how we decide who gets what work to do.

So the first two numbers that you need to know are: what is your Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) number? And what is your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)?

Imagine the lifetime value of your customer is $100,000. But to obtain that new customer, what does it cost? Count in all the things, like your marketing moderation software, your time, how much time it takes people to blog, your internet access bills, your website hosting costs, maybe your SAS providers. Everything that goes into that event, spread that over your customer.

So if your CAC is $10,000, that makes your Net Customer Value (NCV) $90,000. That’s where we’re going to start in terms of understanding. And that’s a number that your CMO wants to know; how much do we actually earn on a customer?

CLTV – CAC = Net Customer Value
$100,000 - $10,000 = $90,000 NCV

From there, we want to know our Sales Closing Rate (SCR). How effective are our salespeople at closing a deal? Let’s say our salespeople were really good; they closed one out of every four deals in front of them. We multiply the NCV by the SCR and get a Net Deal Value (NDV) of about $22,500, give or take. That’s important to know.

NCV x SCR = Net Deal Value (NDV)
$90,000 x 0.25 = $22,500 NDV

Now we need to determine the value of a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). We do that by multiplying our Net Deal Value by our Deal Closing Rate (DCR). Because not every sales qualified lead is going to pan out. Let’s say 75 percent of our sales qualified leads are still good by the time we get ready to do our dog and pony show and show them how awesome we are. That means the sales qualified lead value in this scenario ($22,500 x .075) would be $16,875.

NDV x DCR = Sales Qualified Lead Value (SQLV)
$22,500 x .75 = $16,875 SQLV

Now we’re starting to get into the territory where marketers and salespeople can have some debates, like what’s a sales qualified lead and what isn’t? Not every Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is going to become a sales qualified lead. And so we want to understand the value of a MQL. Let’s apply a generous qualification rate, like one out of four marketing qualified leads becomes a sales qualified lead. So we’ll take that sales qualified lead value, $16,875 and we multiply it by .25, giving us an MQL value of $4,219. Now, that’s a number that you can start to put into things like your marketing automation system. Depending on your CRM, you may even want to start putting that number as a secondary piece of data inside your sales CRM.

SQLV x QR = Marketing Qualified Lead Value (MQLV)
$16,875 x 0.25 = $4,219 MQLV

What about activity? Think about what Shawn was talking about all the different kinds of activities; content marketing, digital marketing, ads, pay per click; what is the value of a prospect? So we have our MQLs—how many of the prospects we generate are qualified to become marketing qualified leads? How many of then are just random people who fill out forms?

We may have not the world’s best qualification system, or maybe the traffic you’re generating from certain channels isn’t great. So in this example, we’ll take that MQL value of $4,219 and be overly pessimistic, assuming our Prospect Qualification Rate (PQR) is just 1 percent. If we run that math, the value of a prospect of somebody whose contact information we’ve obtained is $42.

MQLV x PQR = Prospect Value (PV)
$4,219 x 0.01 = $42 PV

Now, think about that $42 number. That’s an important number. That’s a number that goes in your Google Analytics. And once you’ve put that in, there’s the goal value for a prospect, because that’s something you can track very easily with Google Analytics.

Now, your web analytics experience is going to totally change. You’re going to be able to look at what’s the value of every single channel: search, social, direct, referral, email. You’re going to be able to look at pages onsite, pages offsite, and social media. You’re going to be able to look at pay per click and display and all these different channels. You could even benchmark those channels against your competitors to see how much traffic you generate and how much traffic they generate. You’ll be able to understand which channels are more assisting in conversions, which are channels that are last touch; that’s a super important number. If you get this number right, you’ll be able to map out channels, content, everything in Google Analytics and the value of that.

Now, what does that have to do with proving the value of our marketing? Think about this. If you know, for example, that the total value of email marketing is $100,000 because you’ve got that $42 in Google Analytics as a prospect goal. Now you can start mapping back your activities, the things you do as an email marketer as an example, and say I know I’m spending X number of hours, I’ve got X number of people in our marketing program, and I know my email marketing software cost X number of dollars. Am I getting positive ROI? Is this a program I should continue to do?

If your ROI is 200 percent on email, it would be foolish for you to say: well, I'll just keep it as it is. No. Maybe add some more personnel, maybe add some more workflow, maybe add some more tasks because what can you do to increase the volume since you know it’s got such a great conversion rate. This is how you prove the value on a channel-by-channel basis from the very top number that stakeholders care about to the output of our activities on a daily basis.

“This is how you prove the value of your daily activities, on a channel-by-channel basis, to that very top number that stakeholders care about.”

You could even take this one step further. If you work in a media company or a publishing company, and you want to know what the value of that pair of eyeballs is, this is the computation method that would do that.

Now, Shawn is going to show us how we map that number back to the activities themselves.

Shawn: Once you have that baseline, another important dimension of understanding ROI is the work that’s accomplished. Because that’s when you can start getting a full picture of the value that your team is producing. Once you’ve centralized your work management, as we see here in a dashboard in Workfront, you can start reporting on that completed work, and by extension mapping it to those numbers that Chris talked about, and view it through a variety of lenses whether it’s the activity type, or the geography, or the specific marketing team.

As I mentioned, this is one dashboard in Workfront that shows completed tasks. Once you add to that the dimension of Prospect Value and so forth, you can start to see a full picture of how meaningful the work that you’re doing is in contributing to the business.

Earlier, Chris mentioned the “what do you do all day” question. It’s a lot more compelling to be able to say as a marketing operations team, “We completed 342 requests for digital marketing, supporting 35 campaigns” than to say “We were really busy all year long.”

Tune in next week for the third installment of this blog series, where Chris and Shawn will talk about Collaborating in Context and Understanding Agile Project Management.  Or watch the complete webcast below.

About the Presenters
Chris Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. His latest book, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change.

Shawn Dickerson has over 15 years of experience in managing strategy for Fortune 1000 companies, venture-backed firms, and trail blazing startups. In his current role, he oversees content and product marketing strategy at Workfront.


About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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