Here at Rockstar CMO, we share a lot of advice on marketing technology, and this advice often comes from hard knocks that we can’t forget, involving CRMs, MAPs, CMPs, and WCMs, but fortunately, they were never CLMs (Career Limiting Moves). In this article, Jeff Clark shares some of his experiences.

On this blog and our podcast, we’ve covered the best practices for acquiring and managing marketing tech, which have come from our experience and lessons learned. Let’s step through five of those hard knocks that I’ve experienced and what we can learn from them. 

The Process Misfit

Have you ever gone through a long, complex implementation on a key system and then find out that no one is using it? I have.

I was involved in replacing a bespoke, full featured, yet expensive to maintain CRM system with the industry standard; as it was called at the time. Even though the bespoke system had a lot of features and was tuned to the way the business ran, we chose to install Salesforce “out-of-the-box” and use it as it was. It took a long time to orchestrate the switch over due to the data transfer, server set-up and ability to deploy across our global territories.

The Problem: The “out-of-the-box” processes did not fit how sales and marketing operated. So, no one wanted to take the time to learn new ways to track leads, opportunities and prepare for pipeline reviews.

We had to craft new lead and opportunity workflows that worked for us, and encode that in Salesforce. The good news is that we got the opportunity to design and document processes that worked for the teams.

Lesson Learned: For any technology, you must either decide to use the product as designed, or configure the system to your process. For complex, cross-functional processes like lead-to-revenue workflows, out-of-the-box will likely be kludgy.

It Looks Nice. How Does It Work?

Back to the CRM project above. Even though the redesigned lead and opportunity flow fit our business process, the users needed to know how to do it in the new system. Early, pre-launch tests with users told us that it was going to work, but the new system was still going to be a big lift without lots of training.

Problem: Adoption was still going to be abysmal with the updated Salesforce application. We had to document and train the entire sales team (and marketers who’d use the system) across two dozen territories. We also created our own user’s guide. It was like we were the documentation and support team for the application, even though we were in marketing, sales ops and IT.

Lesson Learned: A system is not truly live until the users’ processes are defined and they have been trained. Don’t set an official “go live” date for when the system is ready. Set it for when all users have been trained, and then measure adoption from that point.

The Data Misfit

The original custom CRM system that we retired did all our email marketing, list management, web response tracking, etc. It was a full Marketing Automation Platform (MAP), but as expensive to update and maintain as the salesforce automation part. 

We went out to buy the best marketing automation system on the market to manage and automate our campaigns. We went through an extensive RFP process. Tools like Eloqua were nascent at this time, Marketo and Pardot didn’t exist, and we bought the market leading campaign management system. It was a module of a Marketing Resource Management suite, and we had sites on buying other modules.

Problem: The leader was geared to the consumer market. The data challenge of adapting B2C tech to B2B is there was no definition of an account with multiple contacts in their data model. The good news, we thought, was that the company was committed to adding that functionality to get into the B2B market. So, we waited over six months and let them build the new data model.

Well, unfortunately, it didn’t work, and we went through countless meetings with customer support, application development and senior executives to get it to work. Once it did work, the application and the marketing ops team lost credibility. We went back out to the market to get another MAP.

Lesson(s) Learned. Your tech must fit the way you create, store, and utilize your most important resource – data. If it doesn’t fit, don’t make it. The rule applies to every system that will manage or transform contact and account data.

In addition, don’t fool yourself in “funding” the development of functionality for the vendor. It rarely works out.

Use Cases Are for Users

At another company, we acquired a leading Content Marketing Platform (CMP) to create and automatically post blogs to our website. It had a great workflow for ideating, writing, reviewing and posting content, which work for the content marketing team. 

Problem: Once we tried rolling it out to other teams that could benefit, e.g., creative services, product marketing, and corporate marketing, no one was interested. These teams also create, review, and post content to the website and internal resources (e.g., Box), but it didn’t fit how they worked. Our error was that we didn’t research and develop the other use cases.

Lesson Learned. When buying tech, you must work with the users to build and document your use cases. If we took this step, we would have made sure that the CMP could be configured to work for them and they would have input into purchasing the system. This is particularly an issue for cross-functional tech (e.g., content marketing, process automation, CRM, MAP, etc.), because there is more than one simple use case and diversity of users.

Drinking Your Own Champagne Can Cause Hangovers

Earlier I mentioned issues with bespoke solutions. However, if your company ethos is to use its own products to prove their value to the world, watch out. I worked at a company that had several technologies targeted for marketing users. One was the industry’s leading Web Content Management (WCM) system at the time. It was very a sophisticated, enterprise solution. We had recently added advanced targeting and personalization capabilities, which senior management was keen to demo on our own website.

Problem. The business was not like our typical customer. We were not consumer-oriented for one or even B2B2C like many of our customers. And though we were a global company, we had not developed the data model and internal processes to support advanced targeting and personalization. Geo-targeting was easy. Persona or contact targeting was not.

We had a 10-person development team working on how to enable it. We also struggled to get our marketing team to develop the rules and content to do anything but the basics.
Lesson Learned. Make sure your sales and marketing tech fits you as a customer, not stretch it beyond your use cases. It will be a customization, adoption nightmare. Plus, use those use cases to prove to executives that you’ve done your due diligence to find a system that is the right fit.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a trip down memory lane and lessons learned. Let us know of your hard knocks and what you learned!

Soccer player: Photo by Martin Péchy on Unsplash

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