My first job out of college was coaching competitive youth hockey. I often had to deal with players who continuously attempted the same plays over and over again without success. Why? Because those plays had been successful at less competitive levels. What they didn’t understand is that if your environment advances, so too must you. New plays, different strategies and tactics that are tailored to succeed in your current environment.
And this ties into modern marketing, how?
I often deal with the same aversion to change when working with customers. I witness marketing departments that continue to use decades-old processes in an effort to achieve the same success in the post-digital marketing era. In my role, I work with companies to integrate their media spend with their marketing systems and ultimately improve and/or automate processes. This doesn’t always go smoothly or, quite frankly, go over at all. There are times when marketing departments simply don’t want to evolve for any number of reasons.
For example, I recently worked with a software company focusing on B2B lead generation to integrate their media spend (mostly content syndication) with their prospect funnel. They had a long-standing process whereby they manually scrubbed and formatted leads before manually uploading them into nurture tracks within their marketing automation software. It was NOT pretty, but it got the job done. The entire process required many man hours and several of the most complicated (yet admittedly impressive) Excel spreadsheets these eyes have ever seen. The data cleansing was a large-scale, multi-phased process that included mapping each publisher’s unique answer values to a singular client set used in their software, translating job titles to a generic role, long alpha-numeric codes to associate leads to certain asset/campaign/publisher combos, and then manually uploading leads in bulk files each week, among many other steps.
We wanted to streamline the process: automate the formatting, govern the data and deliver the leads in real time from every publisher directly into the marketing automation system. Due to the complexity of their preexisting process, the customer felt overwhelmed by this change, and they decided to make only minor improvements to the same procedure. To me this seemed like buying a jet to drive it across the country on side streets. Why not just quickly learn how to fly to your destination in a fraction of the time? The answer, in my experience, is fear of change, mixed with a bit of laziness.
Marketing departments today are often riddled with smart people buried in spreadsheets, performing mundane tasks. The process gets the job done (by decades-old standards) and everyone is too busy to question it. It’s the “If it’s not broke, why fix it?” mentality. To which I like to drop the old Paul Bunyan story — he could fell a tree better than anyone…until a chainsaw put him out of business. As Einstein said, everything is relative; if you’re not allowing technology to advance your efforts today, you’ll be behind tomorrow.
Take some time every week, month, or quarter to pick your head up, take a step back and ask why. Why do we perform that task? Can it be automated? Can we give certain employees time back every day to think strategically rather than tactically? Your department is full of smart marketers who spend 90% of their day in Excel. Imagine what your team could do if those bright minds were given half of that time back to act strategically for your brand or client!
Vet the Tech
Understand what you need and what it will take to get you there. Is there IT involvement? How long is the set up? Just as importantly map out your marketing tech blueprint. Know what problems/choke points you want to solve by adopting the new tech. And always remember to think creatively about the ways you’ll use it. Believe me, even the vendors don’t know all the applications for their products. Integrating systems in clever ways to create specialized marketing cycles is always a good first start. Plan the tech implementation to solve one pain point at a time, ideally tackling those directly tied to revenue as quickly as possible. Showing immediate ROI is always key!
Input vs. Output
Similarly perform a deep analysis of the time investment needed for the tech implementation versus the benefits it will bring. For example, the benefits of integrating your data and automating your processes will typically far outweigh the lateral steps and man hours needed to get up and running.
Take a minute today to think about and analyze your team’s day-to-day operations and see if you can identify chokepoints that may be worth eliminating. Are there challenges in front of you to streamline or automate long-standing disjointed or manual processes?
Complacency in today’s marketing departments is an epidemic. If you aren’t advancing, you’re losing. The competition is not with your own company but with others. If they are upgrading, automating, etc. and you are standing still then you should expect to be left in the dust sooner rather than later. Be a change agent and lead the evaluation of current processes and new technology in your company. You must adapt!