In the process of helping build a consulting team that goes beyond implementation it has been a thrill to see how high-performance clients move beyond basic Engagement Marketing implementation and perform neck-and-neck with the best of the best.
So how do successful clients cut through the madness (aka. noise) and achieve results?
I see a pattern emerging as to how these clients are able to achieve results – hard work and tenacity – yes. But also there is an organized method to their madness.
This post will focus on explaining how clients organize this madness and turn it into performance.
Clients can organize this madness and turn it into performance, which, here at Marketo, is a process we refer to as optimization methodology.
The methodology defines a process around understanding what you need to do to improve your Engagement Marketing. High-level the methodology includes defining and prioritizing key capabilities, benchmarking those capabilities, and improving in a prioritized way.
This post will follow this process in more detail. Here is an outline of the process:
Identify and confirm
- Confirm the portfolio of capabilities to optimize
- Create a summary of each capability
- Drive clarity within your core team
Benchmark and prioritize
- Review and benchmark each capability
- Prioritize optimizations
- Set detailed plan for each optimization
- Execute on the plans
Get results and start again!
- Visualize capability progress
- Review your KPIs
- Go back through the process again
Now I will walk through this in more detail. The approach we use is a bit formalized, however I am sure there are other clients that do this in a less formalized way! The process can be tweaked in a number of ways to suit your needs.
1. Portfolio of Optimization Topics
The first thing successful clients recognize is that there are a certain set of topics related to Engagement Marketing that need to be considered.
Here is an example of the optimization topics we identified for a recent client:
In the above table we identified the topics the client should consider for optimization and then there was a process to determine which we would work on first and which we would tackle later.
Clients’ marketing teams will have varied levels of understanding of what these topics are and as a first step it will be necessary for the team to become very familiar with each topic. If we are working with a client on optimizations we will usually work on a recommended set of topics upfront and will present these topics to the client in a workshop environment to make sure the understanding is deep.
Once the understanding is there we can focus on prioritization. Prioritization will always vary by client. Working on a single topic might take dozens of hours or more so the client capacity to make progress needs to be balanced with the planned priorities.
2. Topic Summary
One asset we find helpful in this process is the creation of a topic summary. We will create a slide for each topic to clarify that topic for the client. Here is an example:
With a slide like this for each topic, you have a summary of each topic that can be presented to others. At the very top of the page is the description of the topic which ensures the topic is clear and everyone is on the same page. Then there are other important aspects of the topic like the goal and project team for example. We usually start with something generic, but then we will tailor each slide to the client so for example the approach for one client might be different than for another client. We will mention deliverables and also will start to tie an owner to each topic.
These topic slides (can be some other format if you want) then form the basis for next steps.
3. Core team familiar with topics
Typically a first step in an optimization workshop will include walking through a whole set of these topics with the client team to get them familiar with them.
There are patterns to the topics but they will vary slightly by client.
Several sessions may be necessary to ensure the familiarity with the topics is deep.
Through this process of getting everyone familiar, changes may need to be made based on new information that is coming in.
4. Review and Benchmark Capabilities
What comes next is some sort of benchmarking. The client will want to assess their capability by topic and create a starting point. There are different ways to do this. One simple way is to get the core team to agree on the values and document them.
Here is an example of how we created a benchmark for one client:
The above is our assessment of how well content creation is happening. We also projected forward our assessment of how well it would be working if certain changes were made to the capability.
Yes there is leeway here. However I believe the core team is the best placed to judge a capability considering the big picture and where the capability stands. If the client is not clear about what good is then it can be useful to have a consultant involved that has seen how other clients stack up.
Another way you can benchmark is to have a set of questions about that capability and based on those questions the computer spits out a capability assessment. I don’t think this method will give you the best number but the advantages are it can be deployed in a standard way and self-service assessment is also possible with the use of questionnaires.
5. Prioritize topics to be optimized
The next step is to prioritize the topics to be optimized. I touched on this above. Often it makes sense to tackle a few priorities at a time. It does depend on your capacity to handle multiple optimizations at one time.
You may have dependencies to consider. In the above example the client was planning to completely change and re-launch their CRM globally in the future so we prioritized any optimizations that were dependent on the CRM for later. In other cases the prioritization will be impacted by differing client specific situations. Another example is certain optimizations may touch different teams so you may have dependencies there.
In the end you just need to know which are the priorities.
6. Set detailed plan for each optimization work-stream
The natural next question at this point is what do we do next?
Planning out each optimization gives this visibility.
Here is an example of a plan we created for a client:
What you see in the above plan is what it will take to execute on the optimization for one particular topic – in this case nurture optimization. The numbers are the hours needed for that task. In our case these plans were created by the consultant and the project manager for this client integrated these plans into the project plan. Each client will want to do this a bit differently. The main point is that you need to plan out each optimization.
7. Execute Optimizations
Then you just need to execute on your plan.
Sounds simple right!
8. Visualize capability progress
A great way to share progress is to create a visualization that shows progress.
Here is an example of such a visualization we created for a client:
In the above visualization the capability scores we already spoke about are shown visually. You can decide what software you want to use for the visualization. In the above example we used Tableau Software. With Tableau the above image was an interactive web page. We could share that web page as a URL link with anyone we wanted. And it was interactive. The top graphic shows the overall capability score across all capabilities. The lower image is one capability. The user could select different capabilities to visualize using the dropdown. And if they hover over a number there can be a note behind it explaining why the score changed.
9. Review your KPIs
You should also look at the KPIs you are tracking and you should see progress there. For example if marketing qualified leads are important to you, improvement in certain capabilities will lead to more marketing qualifeid leads. To keep it simple just monitor your existing KPIs.
10. Go back through the process
Finally I just want to point out that this process should repeat.
Maybe you ran through an optimization for nurture. You created nurture 2.0 and things are better than before. The journey really never ends though and you would like to improve your nurture capability again. You would go through the same process again. Of course you can skip steps that are not needed and it will be simpler the second time!
What you will find is this methodology educates so everyone has the base knowledge needed. It gives clarity so everyone is on the same page. It also acts as a forcing function on prioritization so you get the best results you can for a given level of cost and effort.
I just want to point out that the methodology is all about identifying capabilities to improve and measuring and improving those capabilities. Improvement of those capabilities should obviously impact the final marketing result. So for example by improving your capability in nurture you may see that there are more marketing qualified leads sent to sales. If marketing qualified leads is one of your goals you should already be tracking that.
If you work on several capabilities you should see broad improvements in your final results. If not you will need to investigate why. It could be that the capability in question is not tightly related to results or the measurements are not honestly improving given the big picture. In the end I am certain you will see improvement!