3 Ways to Better Manage Marketing Automation So the ‘Shiny Object’ Doesn’t Stab You

I presented at the All About Marketing Tech Virtual Conference & Expo on the topic of targeting and automation. One of the themes I hit upon was about how companies are hindering their marketing automation success with needless complexity.

On Thursday, I will be presenting at the All About Marketing Tech Virtual Conference & Expo on the topic of targeting and automation. One of the themes I plan to hit upon is about how companies are hindering their marketing automation success with needless complexity. This topic falls squarely in the “land of shiny objects,” which is a recurring theme in many of my posts.

This theme in my posts and the 1:10 p.m. ET session, “Using Automation + Targeting to Engage and Convert,” focuses on how tempting technology can be to the marketing practitioner and how it can lead to the desire to do too many things — to detrimental effect. However, there are three things you can do to manage automation better.

Step 1 in Marketing Automation

First, make sure you have a customer strategy. If you do not have a solid strategy, then you will be automating a bunch of tactics. Unless these tactics sit under a cohesive strategy, they may work against each other.

For example, a price-focused customer acquisition program may hurt long-term brand development or pricing power. When you add automation to this scenario, it will supercharge the tactic and potentially cause greater harm.

Step 2

Second, make sure you have a test-and-learn agenda. Automation is a very data and metrics-driven process and it is managed by humans, using those same data points and metrics.

Successful marketing automation involves iterative learning to drive growth. Therefore, knowing what you are trying to achieve through automation and running multiple tests to better understand the underlying dynamics is critical.

What tends to happen, however, is that too many objectives are pushed through the automation system and the ability to learn is muddled by an excess of data and a dearth of focus.

The advice I often give is:

“Because you can do something through automation, it does not mean you should.”

Creating a learning agenda you can manage and identifying the critical metrics needed for evaluation are critical first steps before automating a marketing function.

Step 3

Third, make sure you have a pivot plan. A pivot plan anticipates how you will modify your automation program and lists the levers at your disposal.

For example, if results are not coming in as expected, you may alternate content, alternate segments or redefine the automation goals.

Doing all three at once will most likely leave you as clueless as when you began. While this seems like marketing management 101, it is easy to lose sight of this with automation. Automation generally promises rapid decision-making over volumes of interactions and self-learning capabilities.

As a result, it is tempting to get out of the way and let it do its magic. In the near to mid-term, despite automation’s usefulness, this will not substitute for strategic and management thinking.


I am in no way discouraging the use of marketing automation. It is not only the future, but it is also the present and is driving positive results.

Successful marketers need to start experimenting with the technology now.

However, marketing automation is also not so wonderous and awe-inspiring that we forget that it needs management and strategy. That, in turn, means balancing lofty automation goals with what you can managerially digest.

Should You Centralize OR Decentralize Marketing Campaign Operations?

Growing marketers must inevitably decide what operations to centralize and what to decentralize. For functions like data quality management or vendor management, centralization is an easy decision. The decisions around marketing campaign operations design and development are more difficult.

If you are a growing enterprise with regional and perhaps international locations, and you are going through a digital transformation and building out a marketing operations function, you must inevitably decide what to centralize and what to decentralize. For functions like data quality management or vendor management, centralization is an easy decision. The decisions around marketing campaign operations design and development are more difficult.

The Case for Centralizing Marketing Campaign Operations

What skills and resources are needed to operate a campaign center of excellence?

  • Analysis and reporting skills
  • Program and campaign architecture and design, including multi-channel campaigns and ABM. These people should also be experts in the buying journey and the personas.
  • Power-users who can build and launch whatever you dream up. This includes marketing automation platforms, CRM, inbound technologies, website CMS, social technologies and paid media expertise.
  • Campaign project managers who can coordinate the entire campaign development process and the creation of assets just in time for usage in campaigns
  • In some cases, you may also need the data gurus to identify the hottest segments to target.
Centralized marketing campaign operations
Centralized marketing campaign operations. | Credit: Pedowitz Group by Kevin Joyce

Establishing the campaign center of excellence at HQ and centralizing the campaign power users and designers in one place has some advantages:

  • Best practices can be centralized and shared more easily
  • Brand consistency can be more easily managed
  • Avoids the difficulties of finding experienced power users for MarTech globally
  • Drives maximum re-use of campaigns and assets
  • Creates a tight knit team environment for mentoring and skill development
  • Provides a single coordinated set of content requirements to creative team
  • Provides a single set of data segmentation requests to data/segmentation team
  • Drives consistency in reporting and facilitates global rollup of demand generation reporting
  • Promotes less dependence on regional marketing people to execute campaigns so there may be more predictability in campaign schedules

All this sounds great, but there are some drawbacks, especially if you are in the regions!

  • Regions have much less control over what campaigns are created and to whom they are sent.
  • Regions may feel the process is too slow, and it takes too long to get a campaign out.
  • Regions may struggle to have their input incorporated into campaigns and may not get campaigns that are precisely targeted to their region.
  • Regions may become frustrated that they do not have the power to be agile and create quick one-off campaigns around events and local activities.

The Case for Decentralizing Marketing Campaign Operations

The alternative to centralizing all of the campaign design and execution resources in HQ is to decentralize the function, encouraging regional campaign design and development.

Decentralized marketing campaign management.
Decentralized marketing campaign operations. | Credit: Pedowitz Group by Kevin Joyce

Many organizations choose to build campaign design and development centers across the globe. There are some clear advantages.

  • Moving demand generation closer to the customer just seems logical. The regional marketing teams have their finger on the pulse of their markets, they know the content that will resonate, they know what their sales teams will value, they probably know the channel partners in the region. Bottom line, they can fine tune the segmentation, messages and offers better than HQ.
  • The regional marketers also do a lot of tactical marketing, events and promotions that require campaign support (email, paid media, etc.). Having that close at hand, under their own control gives them the flexibility to be responsive to sales requests and create and distribute their own content freely.
  • There will be less need or localization and translation since much of the content will be sourced locally.
  • Having a global demand generation team could enable you to offer 7×24 campaign services to all regions and turn around campaign builds in less than 24 hours.
  • There are still some in the HQ CoE who crank out best-practice based campaigns that can be shared globally.
  • The roles of campaign designer, power user, and regional marketing manager may be fulfilled by just one person in smaller regions, making campaign creation faster.

This sounds attractive, especially if you are scaling global operations, but there are drawbacks.

  • Great responsibility follows inseparably from great power. When we distribute the power and technology to all the regions, they need to understand that they have a responsibility to not SPAM customers, abide by the brand guidelines, align their messages to the approved messaging architecture, be rigorous in their use of QA, and coordinate their campaigns with the occasional global campaigns that emanate from HQ.
  • The content calendar and editorial calendar for the organization as a whole will be more difficult to coordinate as more regional campaign centers emerge. As a result, there is a risk of duplication of effort between the regions and HQ. The regions need to share their editorial calendar and content calendar with other regions and corporate for coordination and sharing.
  • There is risk that best practices will not be shared or followed by the regions. In addition, the level of sharing of great campaigns or offers will only rise to acceptable levels if you make it someone’s job to drive it.
  • Finding experienced marketers in using Marketing Cloud, Pardot, Marketo, and OMC is difficult enough in NA and EMEA. Imagine how hard it is to find them in South America, or China. Now add in experience with AdTech as a pre-requisite.
  • The demands on the creative/content team, and the reporting and analytics team, will increase with requests coming from all regions independently and not prioritized.
  • Regional marketing teams often report into the region’s General Manager, who, being compensated heavily based on sales results, may often usurp the regional marketers to focus on short-term marketing tactics as the expense of long term nurturing programs.

These drawbacks are not insurmountable. Addressing each of these as you build the global demand function is highly advised.

Next Steps If You Are Deciding Which Route to Take

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which model is more customer centric, and will deliver better customer experiences across the globe?
  • Which model is more flexible, scalable, and agile?
  • Can you start centralized, define many of the required processes and then gradually add campaign development centers in the regions?
  • Can you put in place some templates, best-practice based campaign examples, process and governance so the “great power” you distribute can be used wisely?
  • Can you segment the marketing databases and limit permissions to reduce your exposure to a rogue region campaigning to the world?
  • Can you hire or train the people you need in the regions you want to support?


How has your company organized demand generation? Please share your experience in the comments below or via email: kevin@pedowitzgroup.com

How to Become a Marketing Unicorn

What does it take to succeed in marketing today? I recently had a chat with TD Bank CMO Patrick McLean about marketing’s changing roles, responsibilities and leadership. And he joked that at his bank, they’re looking for nothing less than “Marketing Unicorns.” Here’s what that means, and his advice on how to become a unicorn in your own career.

Patrick McLean Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer, TD Bank – America's Most Convenient Bank
Patrick McLean
Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer, TD Bank – America’s Most Convenient Bank

What does it take to succeed in marketing today? I recently had a chat with TD Bank CMO Patrick McLean about marketing’s changing roles, responsibilities and leadership. And he joked that at his bank, they’re looking for nothing less than “Marketing Unicorns.” Here’s what that means, and his advice on how to become a unicorn in your own career.

“I joke that we’re looking for unicorns in these roles,” said McLean. “We’re asking them to do a lot. We’re asking them to think strategically. We’re asking them to be sound fundamentally from an analytics perspective. We want them to be creative leaders.”

Change Starts at the Top

That expansion of expectations doesn’t just go for the marketers who work for Patrick. It’s true of his role as CMO as well, and for the leaders working for him. We were discussing the recent research on marketing strategy and leadership, which shows that marketers are being asked to do more in 11 different areas than they were just 5 years ago, and he saw exactly what our survey respondents did, especially when it comes to taking responsibility for technology and data. Here’s a piece of what he had to say about that:

Technology and data are things he feels leaders need to understand first-hand, not just have somebody else take care of. “The landscape changes so quickly that not only do you need some people on your team that are immersed in it and get it and are continuing to challenge the status quo. … But you yourself have to immerse yourself as a leader so that, first of all, you don’t personally get left behind, but also so you can understand what that technology can do.”

But even beyond MarTech and data, which are responsibilities I think everyone expects to have expanded, McLean sees other new and important facets to the role of marketing leader:

“The role of the chief marketing officer is so complex now, and there’s so many different dimensions to it,” said McLean. It “has evolved significantly in terms of the role they play across the business. And I think being a good relationship person, and being collaborative, and influencing across the organization is a really important role that the marketer plays.”

A Full ‘Stack’ Development

That applies all the way down the marketing personnel “stack” (to borrow the tech term we all use and respect so much).

When I was a young marketer growing up in the early part of my career, there were the functional disciplines of marketing, and you wanted to make sure you were learning all the aspects,” said McLean. “Fast forward to today … and in a lot of ways the role that analytics plays now, in particular, and the changing dynamics of customer behavior now, and they just demand that you have a really good sense of everything from analytics to strategy to creative.

The marketer used to be the person coming up with the advertising and maybe executing tactically on a few acquisition tactics. But in a  lot of ways, the marketer now is the driver of growth, the voice of the customer, the analytics leader, in a lot of ways, across the business to understand what’s going on in the market place. And I just think that responsibility to be all those things has never been more complex or more important.

How to Become a Marketing Unicorn

So that’s the view from the top of what marketers need to be able to do today. But managing your own career, how can you build those hard and soft skills to become a rare and in-demand Marketing Unicorn? Here was some of McLean’s advice for that:

“We’re looking for unicorns these days,” he said. So, “think about what it would take to turn yourself into a unicorn, at least directionally.”

Patrick went on to describe how he developed his own unicorn skills (Should we call it his “horn”? Maybe not.) and the techniques he used are more like what you see tech workers doing than what you’d traditionally do in marketing. He went out of his way to work in companies and on projects that would give him the skills he needed to develop:

What I did early in my career is I got into an e-commerce role. I took on roles that challenged me from a technology perspective … And having done that, first of all, I had a passion for it. And second of all, I gained an appreciation early for the value of it. I would encourage anybody to do a tour of duty in one of those jobs, whether it’s completely in your wheelhouse or not. Whether you work for your digital team, or get into a product development kind of job where you’re forced to get into technology and forced to understand it.

Patrick also advised ambitious marketers to develop their understanding of business strategy.

“While I’ve always been relatively confident and engaged in marketing strategy,” he said “I think what’s changed for me [as a CMO] has been elevating my game to the point where I’m connecting marketing strategy and business strategy, and therefore influencing business strategy. And that’s been an eye-opener for me.”

That was a challenge at first, and something he had to work on. He closed that gap by spending more and more time with business leaders across the bank.

“Again, it’s this idea of getting out of your functional positions and becoming more a part of the broader business leadership team that’s driving the business forward. And when you move into a chief marketing officer type seat, that becomes the expectation. So the more you can think that way earlier in your career, the better equipped you’re going to be when you get there; and I would say the more likely that you’re going to wind up in one of those seats.”

While some of that may sound daunting, it opens up a lot of opportunities for marketers to move up and into more rewarding positions in the company.

“It makes it that much more fun, too, honestly,” he said. “You’re not just playing your position, but I think we all should be aspiring to move the business forward and lean into it.”

If you to hear more of Patrick McLean’s advice on building your career and becoming a marketing leader, you can click here to see the compete interview on demand over at AADM.

How are you working to develop your own career? What advice would you give to more junior marketers coming up themselves? Let me know in the comments.

How Top CMOs Leverage MBOs to Drive Accountability and Performance

Management By Objective (MBO) is intended to be measurable and directly tied to the organization’s goals. But in many cases today, and especially in marketing, managers default to defining MBOs for their team members that are not connected to the organizational goals and objectives.

Management by objectives (MBO) is a management theory introduced by Peter Drucker in his 1954 book, “The Practice of Management.” MBOs improve organizational performance by defining objectives agreed to by both management and employees. According to its time tested principles, having a say in goal setting and action plans encourages participation and commitment among employees, and aligns objectives across the organization.

Do the quarterly MBOs given to individuals on your marketing team look like this?

  • Creative designer: Get certified in a new application, design and publish 20 new assets
  • Event planner: Successfully execute two named events
  • Campaign manager: Launch two new programs with greater than 10% open rates

These MBOs are NOT connected to the marketing objectives, and that is root cause for many accountability issues in marketing. Management By Objective (MBO) as a process for defining objectives at both the organizational and the employee level was popularized by Peter Drucker in his book “The Practice of Management.” The objectives at all levels of the organization are intended to be measurable and directly tied to the organization’s goals. But in many cases today, and especially in marketing, managers default to defining MBOs for their team members that are not connected to the organizational goals and objectives. The breakdown tends to happen at the department goal level. If we are to hold ourselves and our teams accountable for marketing outcomes, then the MBOs for every individual have to make sense in the context of the organizational goals.

For example, if your quarterly marketing goals include something like this:

  • Grow revenue from current customers by 10%
  • Source 500 new customer accounts
  • Expand sales into two new geographies and exceed sales goals there
  • Create a marketing sourced pipeline of $50m

What should the department goals look like?

Choice A:

  1. Creative group: Design and publish 20 new assets, make the website more mobile friendly, drive for 10,000+ downloads this quarter
  2. Demand generation group: Drive 1,000 new SQLs, acquire 500 new leads.
  3. Marketing Ops: Clean up the database, increase technology adoption by 10%
  4. Event planning: Get 10,000+ leads from events

Choice B:

  1. Creative group: Increase engagement with our content quarter over quarter by 10%, grow customer revenues by 10%, increase new traffic to website by 10%, drive 500 new leads from website, increase traffic from two new geographies by 25%
  2. Demand generation group: Source and engage with leads from 1,000 new accounts, of which 33% are in two new geographical regions. Drive content engagement from our installed base up by 25%, create a $10m pipeline from current customers, create 1,000 new SQLs with $10M in opportunity value attached
  3. Marketing Ops: expand databases to include 100K records for two new geographies (geos), achieve installed based revenue growth of 10%+ and new account acquisition of 150%
  4. Event planning: Get 10,000+ new leads from events, 50% of this from two new geos, engage with 10% of our current customers at events

Choice A is more about tasks and less about outcomes. Choice B is more tightly aligned to the marketing organization goals. With department level goals written like Choice B, we can now write individual team member MBOs like this:

  • Creative designer: Increase buyer engagement with our content by 10% over last quarter and grow existing customer revenues by 10% as a result, create 20 pieces of new content to support expansion into two new geos.
  • Event planner: Drive 250 new SQLs from events, resulting in $20m in pipeline, half of which is in two new geos
  • Campaign manager: Acquire and develop leads in 25 new accounts, generate 15 SQLs, and create $5m in pipeline

As CMOs if we ensure that the departments in marketing have goals and objectives tightly tied to the top line marketing objectives, it becomes much easier for the department heads to divide up those numbers for the individuals on their team. If the department goals are nebulous or activity related, instead of outcomes, all bets are off.

The result is that we assign out the big marketing goals, in slices, in exactly the same way the VP of Sales divides up his revenue target to each rep. So if marketing has a goal of 1,000 SQLs, and $50m in pipeline created, then perhaps 10 individuals each get 100 SQLs and $5m of pipeline.

An obvious objection might be that one cannot assign a goal to an individual that requires many team members to contribute to be successful. How can we give a goal of 100 SQLs from the website to the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) person when they don’t own the content used for attracting and capturing new leads?

The answer is that the marketing goals and the associated numbers have to be driven down to each individual, otherwise nobody owns them. Giving a net new lead goal to the SEM person will force them to make demands on the creative group and on marketing operations to get this job done. Giving the interactive designer a goal for pipeline in new geographies will force them to serve the sales and marketing teams developing content that makes this happen.

Peter Drucker imagined the MBO as a way to get every individual aligned with the goals of the entire function. Don’t fall into the trap of giving people tasks or developmental goals for MBOs. Don’t think it has to be constrained to what the individual can do individually. Simply make him/her an owner of part of a number related to the marketing number and watch your team’s performance accelerate.