Tag Archives for " Execution "

Marketing Plan Detail – Knowing How Much is Enough

Marketing Plan Detail
Marketing Plan Detail

When it comes to marketing plan detail, it makes sense to document tasks and milestones to manage your initiatives effectively. But, knowing how much detail is enough can be a tough question to answer.

Also, it’s not specific to marketing as it applies to any complex plan. Finding the right balance can make the difference between completing your work on time, the way you want to – or not!

Too little detail will lead to critical steps being left out, and this often results in bad execution, quality issues, do-overs and delays. Are you a master of logic with an incredible memory? If not, you can’t possibly keep track of every step of the process. As the adage goes “fail to plan, plan to fail.” On the flip side, when the plan is so granular that you get bogged down in the minutia, your time will spiral out of control, and things become overwhelming.

Whether the level of marketing plan detail is too vast or too vague, the outcome is usually the same. A cycle develops of repeatedly pushing out due dates. The management of your plan becomes a frustrating exercise that can undermine the confidence of you, your team, and your manager.

Find Your Marketing Plan Detail Balance

Given the importance of finding the right balance of marketing plan detail, it seems worth an investment of time and thought up front. Here are some ideas that may help:

Learning from the Past:
Analyze similar projects and campaigns you have run in the past. In marketing, we tend to do many of the same things quarter after quarter. Think about the key steps and the level of detail you outlined previously. Was it too much, or not enough? Learn from this and use what you uncover moving forward. You can save time if you have already created project plans in the past. The goal here is balance. You want to execute your plan well, with the least amount of detail needed.

Think Milestones:
Think about the “big buckets” in your plan and use them as starting points. You can always break things down into finer bits if you need to. Let’s use the example of creating a new piece of content. There is likely a milestone for “final approval” near the end. If there is only one sign-off, a task called “gain final approval” is just fine. However, if there are multiple stakeholders – you may want a separate task for each person involved. By starting at the top and then breaking the detail down, you will be aware of the key things that must get done.

Define the Line:
It’s helpful to identify what types of tasks need more detail. Everyone on the team should understand what a task “is” and “is not.” You can use a time-based characteristic such as “tasks take longer than 30 minutes to complete.” Not a hard rule, but usually activities taking 15 or 20 minutes don’t require a lot of thought.

You might have a criterion to ignore logically implied tasks. For example, “share the results of our latest campaign” doesn’t require sub-tasks such as “open PowerPoint, create a slide deck, post it to our Intranet, and send a link to everyone.” Most of these steps are intuitive.

Whether it’s time, the number of sub-tasks, or logical implication, think about your past experiences and try to come up with definitions that make sense.

Adapt and Adjust:
Finding the right balance of detail is tough, especially when managing a team because everyone thinks differently about the planning process. You need to account for personal differences. I would err on the side of too much detail rather than too little. You can always condense later, and you don’t get a second chance to remember something important after the fact. As long as your level of detail works well for you, stick with it. If not, refine along the way. Planning is an iterative process that takes time, so be patient.

Why it Matters

By using these guidelines when thinking about marketing plan detail, you should improve execution and reduce some anxiety. If you don’t, chances are you will spend more time later revising your project lists and eventually running out of time.

In a role where one of your primary functions is planning and executing, your reputation depends on your ability to deliver. Having the right mix of marketing plan detail can help you achieve your goals with greater ease and consistency.

Turn Marketing Process into Your Competitive Advantage

Marketing Process
Marketing Process

I’m sure some people saw the words marketing process in the title and quickly hit the back button. But if you’re still here, it probably means you’re at least neutral on the subject, or better yet, a fan.

For many, process has gained the reputation of being boring, time-consuming, and overly administrative. If it’s not properly planned or managed, a process can indeed become those things. It can start to work against you instead of helping.

But when it’s done well, process can be brilliant, elegant and creative. When exceptional, process can differentiate companies in powerful ways. How businesses consistently do things can actually become as important as the products or services they sell. So why not take what many of your peers view as a “necessary evil”, and transform marketing process into your strategic advantage?

​“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
W. Edwards Deming

What is Process and Why Does it Matter?

​Most dictionaries will loosely define a process as “a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result.” Imagine governments, hospitals, sports teams, or software developers without it. A sound process is the only way to get things done when managing high levels of complexity. So what value does reliable process bring to the table?

  • It’s predictable, repeatable and scalable
  • It defines how people work together
  • It provides a documented roadmap of how tasks should be executed
  • It helps you plan for contingencies and adapt
  • It can be continually refined and improved

Why Marketing Needs Reliable Processes

Every department in an organization relies on good process to operate efficiently. Like other areas of business, marketing has a unique set of characteristics that makes process particularly important. Marketing is complex, very subjective and the stakes are high.

It may seem simple on the surface to some, but there are many moving parts in a well-run program. Dozens if not hundreds of small details for any given project or campaign need to be well-planned and tightly managed. Your reputation is very public, and it’s on the line every time you communicate. Also, marketing tends to be more of a discretionary spend for most companies, so if it’s not showing ROI in reasonable timeframes, the outcome is usually not positive.

Why Marketing Needs Reliable Processes

Two distinct sets of advantages develop from improved marketing process. First, you end up producing higher quality work that has more impact. Secondly, you gain efficiencies that increase productivity. When combined, these benefits ultimately lead to better results for less cost and with less time invested. Here are just a few of the many reasons why you should consider embracing marketing process as a way to achieve more:

  • ​Important details don’t get overlooked – this improves quality and saves valuable time usually needed for re-work or fixing problems
  • You create consistency in the execution because you start doing things the same way every time meaning fewer mistakes – also, on-going projects become simpler to manage and they finish sooner
  • Everyone on the team knows what to do and how to do it – this alignment saves time and effort
  • When process is running smoothly, you free up more time for research and creative thinking – this always leads to better marketing
  • You learn to leverage previous work and ideas by staying organized – this frees up more time for learning and creativity
  • Contingencies will have been considered while planning your processes – if you need to re-adjust, there are backup plans

​Some people are highly structured by nature. I tend to naturally be more free-wheeling which means I absolutely need process to function. Over the years I have come to appreciate, respect and even admire process. The fact Moneyball is one of my “Top 5” movies of all time may be an indication of how far I’ve come.

I firmly hold to the notion that well-conceived marketing process is a key factor in making a good marketing team great. Further, in a function that is constantly struggling to break through the clutter externally while proving its worth internally, strong marketing process can make all the difference.

Marketing Process

CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation

CRM Best Practices
CRM Best Practices

For most companies today, their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is the primary tool for managing sales and marketing information.

A forecast from Gartner estimates the CRM market was worth $27.5 billion worldwide in 2015 and anticipates it rising to $37 billion by 2017. This year, Gartner expects Enterprise CRM will outpace ERP sales for the first time in history. As compelling as the story is for CRM, it’s not an easy road for some – especially if adoption is a struggle. Getting sales and others on board is often cultural or process challenge rather than issues with the CRM itself. Fortunately, research shows that adoption numbers are turning a corner as companies get better at deploying and managing their CRMs.

I have always been a huge CRM fan because I’ve experienced first-hand the many advantages. Of course, I’ve seen the “belly flops” in my travels as well. Through it all, I’ve learned much about how to make CRM add real value to a business, In this article, I’ll share six highly foundational and strategic tips that can help your CRM project get off to a great start. These are essential if you want to succeed and create a solid ROI – or any for that matter.

Shown below is an overview of the key benefits and capabilities sales and marketing should expect from their CRM if it’s done right. I’ve included a separate marketing automation system, which is an optional but integral part of an “ideal” scenario. Most CRMs these days include some level of automation built in, but they’re not as robust as standalone applications.

Ideal CRM Scenario for Sales & Marketing

Building a Solid CRM Foundation

#1 Gain Executive Buy-In
A high-functioning CRM can produce impressive results, but It’s usually a big investment among many competing priorities. The fate of CRM success depends heavily on the level of executive support. This means your CEO can’t stand in front of the team a few months from now talking about your new CRM, and then ask “how do I sign into this darned thing?” The sales, marketing, IT and other leaders involved must share the same level of commitment, or your CRM project will likely not survive. Success will rely on your people and processes more than the technology. For the owner of the project, this means a great deal of executive communication and collaboration – before, during and after the decision has been made to proceed.

#2 Create a Plan
CRM is typically a large-scale corporate undertaking involving many complexities and stakeholders. Before you deploy it, be clear about what you want to achieve. Decide who will use it and how. Understand what the data mapping will be relative to other connected systems. Clearly define how you will deploy, test, train, support and improve your CRM over time. It sounds intuitive, but you would be surprised how many companies fail to do this adequately and then pay the price later. Be sure to think about how success should be measured. It’s also important to know the needs and concerns of your different user groups and then plan how you will address them to gain support.

#3 Build It for Users
CRM is designed to improve effectiveness and productivity, but that can only happen when your users see the benefits and embrace them. Don’t design or position the system as a management tool for “big brother” to keep watch. Don’t make it overly complicated either. If you do one or both of these, the CRM simply won’t fly, so stop now and save your money! Some ways to help this will be presented at another time. However, the key themes are: keep it relevant, keep it simple, and ensure it’s set up to help people do their jobs easier and better.

#4 Provide Training & Support
This is two-fold. First, the people responsible for CRM will need to be well trained – including the system itself, plus the customizations and processes you will use. Most vendors offer a “train the trainer” program. The core team could be internal, consultants, or a combination of both. Next, come the end-users. Make sure everyone understands the importance of CRM to the strategy and growth of the organization. Ensure each user is clear on the CRM’s use as it relates to their respective roles. Document your training for new people coming in and as a reference for existing users. It’s better still if you can create instructional click-by-click videos. Once training is complete, there will be questions, so be sure to offer responsive support to help get users up to speed as quickly as possible. This is crucial during the first few months.

#5 Mandate Adoption
This area is by far the one that “makes or breaks” CRM success. For sales, in particular, I would argue that CRM usage should be part of the job description and have some weight in performance appraisals. There simply can’t be exceptions. I once had a sales VP tell me “our reps only have to bother with CRM until they make their quotas – after that, they can do what they want.” How well do you think that CRM program worked? Adoption starts from the top and must be continually reinforced.

One of the best ways to get sales people using CRM is to stop the “spreadsheet madness” that comes with pipeline and forecast review meetings. Don’t accept any data not sitting in the CRM – period! I like the adage “if an opportunity isn’t in CRM, it doesn’t exist.” It’s best to review the data directly from your CRM on a projected screen in sales meetings and use custom views showing the key fields you need to see. People will be a little embarrassed in this situation if they haven’t come prepared, and the behavior should quickly change. If not, the Sales Manager may need to take a more aggressive stance. Again, 100% adoption must be enforced if your CRM is to deliver on it’s full potential. Successful sales people usually see the value in short order and take full advantage of it. But, if others don’t get with the program, understand why and fix it. It does take some time to learn a new system, so it’s best to have a pre-defined cut-off point if you’re moving into a new CRM. A few weeks to a month after training should be more than enough time in most cases.

#6 Communicate Results
Track, measure and communicate results and benefits shown from using CRM over time. Show how it’s impacting sales productivity, marketing campaigns, customer satisfaction, and service (if CRM is used for that purpose.) The more value you can show to senior management, the more support you will have. When you create a positive buzz from end-users, they get others excited about adoption as well. Ideally, in your planning phase, you have established some goals and metrics that you can track against in a meaningful way.

Hopefully, you have picked up a point or two here that helps. I’m coming at this from the B2B sales and marketing perspective and didn’t touch on the many powerful CRM capabilities around service, support, social media tracking, and help desk integration. For B2C and retail, CRM tends to be more focused on direct customer interaction and end-client experience. That said, these tips are applicable to any CRM implementation. They build the critical foundation needed for CRM to have the significant impact it can and should. In the next installment of the series, I’ll focus on ways to make CRM easier to use, better maintained, and explore added functionality to draw out further value.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and would love to hear your thoughts about CRM implementations or any experiences you can share. Please follow us on your favorite social feed and contact us if we can help in any way.

CRM Best Practices: Make CRM Easier to Use & Increase Adoption

Making CRM Easier
Making CRM Easier

In a previous post called CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation, we walked through 6 crucial steps needed to get CRM off to a great start.

In the post, we outlined the key foundational components of CRM effectiveness. In this article, we’ll look at 8 practical and proven ways to make CRM easier to use.

Today’s CRMs are incredibly powerful and robust but this can be a double-edged sword. As with most software programs, vendors continually increase functionality, flexibility, customization and integration options. These are all good things, but they also add complexity and can make the system more difficult to learn and use.

The following ideas will help make CRM easier to use for both end-users and the people managing the system. Full adoption of CRM is critical and most times it’s an “all or nothing” proposition. Your CRM must be fully utilized if you want to standardize and simplify processes, have accurate reporting and ultimately increase sales.

Here’s a quick re-cap of the “foundational” tips that were presented in CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation:
1. Gain Executive Buy-In
2. Create a Plan
3. Build it for Users
4. Provide Training & Support
5. Mandate Adoption
6. Communicate Results

Ideal CRM Scenario for Sales & Marketing

8 Tips for Making CRM Easier to Use

#1 Minimize Fields
When deploying CRM, people have a tendency to include fields that are rarely if ever used. People think “we might need this” but don’t stop to ask themselves “why.” In the planning phase, a good approach is to critically challenge every field you want to include. Why is it important? What purpose does it serve? Does it feed a measurement that needs reporting? If you don’t have a valid reason for a field, exclude it.

#2 Customize Page Layouts
Most CRMs allow you to define roles, permissions and page layouts based on different user groups. Use this feature when you set up your CRM. Only show fields that are relevant to each user type. For example, Marketing often creates custom fields to track awareness and engagement levels before opportunities convert. If people in the Service department use the CRM, they don’t need this data and likely don’t care about it. So don’t include it in their respective views of the system. This keeps their screens from being too distracting.

Another aspect of simplifying page layout involves “related lists.” Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities typically reside in distinct sections of the CRM and are often referred to as objects. These objects can contain data from other objects that sit under the main body of information. Often, the default includes a number of related lists that seldom get used. It’s best to take those off your page layouts if they’re not useful.

#3 Reduce Required Fields
The primary way to “force” a user to input specific data is with the dreaded “required field.” Some fields are absolutely a must, but think about your process and make sure you don’t have required fields that are not essential. Nothing annoys a user more than making them enter data they don’t think is relevant. If a field is important and should be required, a good start is explaining why it matters. Keeping required fields to a bare minimum helps productivity and reduces frustration.

#4 Simplify Lead Creation
When it comes to leads in CRM, most are early stage or not prospects at all. This is why CRMs typically use a separate lead database so you don’t clutter up your accounts with useless data. The idea is to create (or import) leads in a way that takes very little time. Keep your lead record simple! The company name, contact name, lead source, interest, industry, city, email, and phone number will generally do. If you import lists with full addresses and other information, that’s fine – but, don’t ask people to type it in. Once leads convert and there is substance to an opportunity, data will increasingly be added during the sales cycle.

#5 Use Automated Formatting
Most CRMs allow some degree of automation. It varies between products so to start you should invest time learning about your CRM’s capabilities specifically around: 1) Easing data entry by automatically formatting certain types of information and leveraging dependent picklists: and 2) Any other features that save keystrokes or unnecessary navigation.

#6 Simplify Field Names
Don’t confuse users with field names that differ from other internal systems. If your entire company refers to those who have bought your products as “clients,” don’t name the CRM field “customers”. Creating a corporate “standard naming convention” document is a great idea if you don’t have one already. The more familiar you make your field names in CRM, the better. If you use custom fields, make them intuitive, short and simple. Titles that are too long will make your reporting unwieldy.

#7 Use Help Buttons
A great feature of most CRMs is that you can customize help buttons (usually a question mark symbol) to provide real-time instruction if people are not sure about a specific field. If you have this feature, use it. Obviously, you don’t need to explain what a zip code is, but if it’s a custom field, this is a perfect way to help users understand what the field is for and how to use it properly. For required fields, this is a good place to describe why a field is needed. This also makes training for your CRM easier and helps people get up to speed faster.

#8 Make it Mobile
Like websites and other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications – it needs to be mobile. Many users work in the field – especially salespeople. If they can’t access their CRM data in a way that’s productive, that is a severe limitation. The good news is that virtually all SaaS-based CRMs offer a mobile app version of their software. If they don’t, or you’re considering a licensed CRM without strong mobile capabilities – stop now and save your money!

Conclusion

If you have built a good foundation, making your CRM easier to use is guaranteed to improve adoption and effectiveness. Ease-of-use is heavily impacted by simplicity, a clean interface, and relevance. Think about CRM from the user’s perspective and always challenge yourself in your set-up decisions. It’s been proven time and again that whether it’s a machine, a website, or a software application – positive user experience is often the difference between success and failure.

Please share any ideas, thoughts, or experiences you may have on this topic. Contact us if we can help with your CRM project, or point you in the right direction.