Systems, people, processes: Lessons from building our demand generation pipeline

Systems, people, processes: Lessons from building our demand generation pipeline

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Thought byErik Wagner
January 24, 2018

This blog is a continuation of a blog written in late 2017. In the first blog, I wrote about how demand generation tactics can be utilized at a services company. I shared two lessons from FFW’s journey: 1) Start with a vision; 2) Build strong relationships. These two lessons were crucial for us to get to the point where we were ready to begin to plan and execute.

The following are some additional things we learned when building and launching a demand marketing team for our B2B organization. What we've learned has helped us be better partners to our clients, who are oftentimes going through similar growing pains to what we experienced.

Lesson 3: Assess the situation

There are several parts to assessing the situation, but for brevity, I am going to focus on systems, people, and processes.

Systems: We analyzed FFW’s marketing stack to find any deficiencies. At the time, we had seven separate CRM systems, two marketing automation platforms, several tools for conversion rate optimization and lead generation, several team messaging systems, and more.

One challenge we noted immediately was that using a separate CRM instance in each market made collaboration between markets challenging. It also made for an inconsistent sales process, and made it difficult to gathering our financial and project data. Even though it was an arduous task, we migrated all of our data to Salesforce, onboarded 50+ team members, and standardized on that tool as our global CRM.

Similarly, we had many duplicate marketing systems, most of which were under-utilized. We evaluated our tools and determined what we needed to build a great marketing stack. This process helped us identify ways to streamline our operations and reduce overhead.

People: We analyzed the FFW team. Starting a marketing department meant that we were short staffed and needed to recruit help from outside of our immediate team. We found great writers on our sales team and amazing webinar hosts on our consulting team. We also recognized that there were some areas where we would need to hire some additional help to fill gaps in time and expertise.

Processes: Having a new team and new department meant that we had no established processes. We needed to start somewhere, so we began by adopting a project management platform and building out a marketing campaign template. This defined from a high-level who was doing what on the team and when they would execute those tasks in order to hit a targeted campaign launch date.

We also partnered with our sales team to define the inbound and outbound sales and marketing processes. To ensure that we were aligned, we codified much of this in a service level agreement (or SLA, which I'll talk about more later).

Lesson 4: Nail the basics

It’s difficult to build strong marketing campaigns and targeted messaging if you do not know who you’re marketing to and fully understand the industry challenges. Think back to Marketing 101: do you remember your five C’s and four P’s? If you’re like us, you might need to revisit how you define each.

  • Five C’s: Customer, Company, Competition, Collaborators, and Context.
  • Four P’s: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.

There have also been some suggestions to add three additional P’s for service companies, so we went so far as to define: Physical Evidence, People, and Process.

When going through this process, I recommend thinking about your current situation and then envisioning how you see the company growing in the future and how that may affect some of your definitions.

Lesson 5: Define your SLA

Accountability is a critical component for building high-functioning teams. For that reason, we built a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing. This tool details the mutually agreed upon responsibilities and goals of both teams. We have found that an SLA is helpful for aligning and unifying our efforts across each department. For example, we reference our SLA when leads sit for too long or when the lead volume is not as high as needed to hit a market’s sales goals. 

Lesson 6: Plan and budget

The budgeting process is a great planning and management tool. When we built our first marketing budget we did not have a lot of data to go off of, so we had to make many assumptions as far as what we believed we needed to hit the corporate sales goals. But, we envisioned a time when we would be able to calculate what the ROI on each marketing dollar spent was on a per market basis.

Once we had enough data collected, we built an Excel model that looks at all of our lead data and pipeline numbers to produce a certain amount of sales. This model allows us to calculate how big a marketing budget is needed for each market based on the revenue targets set by our executives and board of directors.

Using that information, we built our marketing plan to conform to the budgetary requirements of each market.

Lesson 7: “MVP”

You’ve heard of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in product management. When we were building out our marketing team and processes, we used a similar concept for our first marketing campaign. Our first marketing campaign was not great. We did not have the staff, sales structure, or marketing stack that we needed to produce an amazing marketing campaign.

However, that first campaign helped us gain traction on the team, get some leads in the door, and start to build off of something. Each subsequent campaign that we have launched since then has been an improvement over the previous campaign.

In my next post, I will highlight the final four lessons when building a demand generation department for a service company, and how those learnings inform our digital strategy.

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