"Everyone on the team owns a metric" and 11 other best practices to support a data-driven, high velocity marketing process

Marketing is a team sport. I’ve come to admire and relish being part of marketing teams that operate as a team – where team members excel in their roles and support each other, and the team evolves and improves and ultimately creates market impact “greater than the sum of the parts”.

One such team is a group of modern Boston-area marketers who are now on their third venture together – first an initial group at HubSpot, then a larger group at SmartBear Software and now at Continuum Managed Services.

You have to figure that if the team has stayed together over the years through multiple company moves (from Cambridge to Beverly to Boston), the recipe must be working and they must have figured out plenty of best practices along the way.

So when I learned that Adam Barker, the Director of Demand Generation at Continuum, was going to be sharing his best practices around reporting and marketing process at the MassTLC Demand Gen Peer Group, that meant “Must Attend” for me.

And Adam delivered the goods.

These were 12 best practices that Adam shared, that he and his colleagues apply to building and operating their data-driven, high velocity marketing process

1.       Hire “T-shaped” individuals

They look for marketers who can go deep in a specific area of specialty, but also have a breadth of experiences and interests and the flexibility to operate in multiple areas.

2.       Everyone on the team owns a metric

The team is structured such that everyone owns a metric that represents the impact of that particular  marketing area, usually a specific medium. When I asked Adam for examples he said that the team is broken down into owners of:

  • Blog / Organic Web Traffic
  • Paid Search
  • Social Media
  • Events
  • Programs
  • Prospect Emails
  • Customer Emails

These metrics represent approximately 50% of quarterly MBOs tied to individual bonuses.

 3.       Cross-train the team

There are regularly scheduled “lunch and learn” sessions where each team members presents a “how to” in their area, e.g. “writing a great blog post” or “running a PPC campaign”. This serves to both further develop skills as well as build team camaraderie, and is also a component of the MBOs for each team member.

4.       Report on how marketing is doing, not what marketing is doing

This is also a principle I’ve employed, which is reporting on activity alone sends the wrong message – because it’s not about activity, it’s about the results. Adam made the point that reporting on activity can actually serve to cloud or create confusion around performance and take away focus.

5.       Share updates weekly

As part of the process, each metric owner updates the metrics in their area weekly. These metrics are posted to a shared repository, in their case the company Wiki.

6.       Develop automatic repeatable reports & dashboards

Automated reporting is essentially to feed the process. Having now lived through seeing a product line move from manual to automated reporting, I can tell you that many businesses are still relying on manual reporting, and the shift from manual to automated is a true difference maker – in the visibility its bring and the marketing ownership that it enables.

7.       Meet with Sales weekly

Meet with sales weekly and as part of this review the performance results (see #4). Adam’s group refers to these as “Smarketing” meetings – I first heard Mike Volpe CMO at HubSpot use that term to refer to joint Sales & Marketing sessions when meeting with him in 2009 – and I’ve also referred to this as the revenue team.

8.       Share anecdotal updates    

Adam showed an example of an “anecdotal update” e.g. an email to the sales team with info on the success of a recent program. Everyone is likely doing this in some way, but referring back to #4 and what’s noteworthy about this update is it includes brief highlights of the programs e.g. # of leads or how it compares to results of other programs, to reinforce to the sales team that marketing has its eye on the ball.

9.       Operate in monthly marketing sprints

The marketing team defines deliverables as part of monthly sprints, which both ensures alignment and focus on specific deliverables and minimizes distractions getting in the way.

10.   Weekly marketing leadership meeting

The marketing leadership team stays aligned with a weekly leadership meeting.

11.   End of Quarter retrospective board meeting

This quarterly business review asks questions such as “What did we learn?” and “How will it drive our strategy for the next quarter?”

12.   Rinse & repeat

Each of these steps become more effective as team members get comfortable in the roles and their process. So like many things in marketing, it’s important to remain committed and the results will come through consistent application of the process.

Great list from Adam.

For those looking to understand how to setup and operate a data driven demand generation machine, these are two additional resources I've written that go deeper into these topics:



3 Ways to Jumpstart Marketing and Sales Alignment (MassTLC inspired)

Last week I attended the inaugural MassTLC Demand Gen peer group headed by Christine Nolan of MassTLC and Jonathan Burg of Apperian – it was a vibrant discussion with 35 of the top revenue marketers in the Boston area.

It was striking that with a group of that experience, sales alignment (or lack thereof) was the most common area of frustration shared by many.

We were only able to cover some of the potential remedies in the discussion, so it inspired me to write and share this post – 3 Ways to Jumpstart Marketing and Sales Alignment.

What these three practices have in common is they should help build that alignment by putting marketing on the same side of the table as sales by aligning around common goals.

1.       Build a metrics-based MQL Plan

Also discussed in detail here, you, the demand generation marketer, should work backwards from the revenue forecast and use assumptions around conversion rates to show to both marketing and sales the number of MQLs required to meet the plan.

This accomplishes two things for you:

  • It demonstrates to sales that your demand generation / marketing plan is aligned to their sales plan
  • It solves another problem expressed by a number of the marketers in the room – which is how do you govern processes such as sales acceptance of marketing leads? By building those assumption into your plan, it gives you a leg to stand on when reviewing numbers with sales management… if the metrics such as sales acceptance rates dip below the plan, it should become clear to sales management that the issue should be addressed. It’s not you, marketing, telling sales there is an issue -- it’s a lack of alignment to the plan which should flag the issue.  

2.       Build marketing programs around the sales reps

This next one is a win-win -- make your marketing programs more effective AND build alignment with the sales team.

Here’s an example and here’s how it works:

  • Create “Rep Web Pages” which position each rep as an expert in their field. We demand gen need to remember that -- assuming our products are sold through sales reps -- then we not only need to market our products but also the reps whom prospects need to buy from – because nothing will be bought without a conversation with the rep.
  • The pages include content of value to prospects and provocative questions representing a discovery conversation the rep wants to have with the prospect -- these are both credibility builders for the rep.
  • The page also links to the their LinkedIn profile with similar messaging around the rep for social validation.
  • Email programs both for outbound prospecting and nurturing are emails from the rep (plain text emails with their photo at the bottom), anchored by these rep landing pages aimed to attract the attention of the prospect and move them through the buying process.

The Reps not only should feel good about seeing marketing putting them front and center, but the personalized approach to connect with prospects is a highly effective technique to break through today clutter of information overload. 

Other extensions of this including reps adding this page to all of their email signatures, accompanying emails with calls/voicemails directing prospects to their page and providing intelligence to the reps on who has visited their page to prioritize follow up efforts.

3.       Provide more direction for sales on how to best leverage marketing’s content

In his book “The New Rules of Sales Enablement”, Jeff Ernst of Forrester Research quoted an American Marketing Association stat that 90% of marketing deliverables are not used by sales.

A significant piece of this 90% comes from assets not being packaged and served up with clear direction to sales for how to use them. It’s a pain point for every sales organization and solving that pain point is a great way for marketing to achieve that “same side of the table” status.

I recommend providing both email templates and the related content assets, grouped in categories that are actionable for sales.  The first grouping would be buying stage, then by role, industry and/or topic.

  • Prospecting  – assets used to attract attention and establish need
  • Discovery – assets used to educate prospects during the discovery phase
  • Opportunity – majority of assets for sales use will be during the opportunity phase. An area which marketing can help sales is providing sales with content that reps can provide their primary buyer to share with their buying team – content which help cement the value for the solution for each member of the buying team. Another asset type which sales will appreciate are objection handlers… content that they can share with prospects to address common questions that could otherwise stall out their deals.

So what do you think? Please share other tips and tricks you've found for alignment between marketing and sales.