Why marketing operations needs documentation

A strong marketing operation requires a blend of marketing fundamentals, project management, technological savvy, workflow definition, and consistent documentation. Balancing these skills is essential to help a department scale and continuously improve. Too often teams will sprint to complete a project, deploy a campaign and skip the most important part – documenting their operation.
Marketing automation change is inevitable. When the average tenure of a CMO is under 3 years (according to an HBR study) – changes are going to happen. When a sales leader is replaced – changes are going to happen. If you are developing your marketing operations personnel, odds are they are going to leave and you will need to replace them quickly and get the next person up to speed rapidly.
Preserving the knowledge (and intellectual property) inside your marketing department before it walks out the door is critical to keeping your team running efficiently and smoothly through a transition. Proper documentation is critical to ensuring you and your team can transition quickly and identify where processes might have room for improvement.

Document your marketing operation

There are very few people who will purchase software without proper documentation. How would you ever be expected to set it up?  Below we will cover the critical tools you will need for success.

5 Critical Documents for Marketing Operations Success

Customer Journey Map

The customer journey is one of the most critical components in any successful marketing operation. It looks at the way a customer will interact with the information you provide to them in your ads, online, at events, over the phone, in the product, and through the sales process. Each unique touchpoint is an opportunity to automate your marketing tactics, and a map keeps the critical elements at the forefront of every team member’s mind.

Marketing Automation Workflow

Throughout the customer journey, it is common to automate many of the marketing efforts. The challenge is once your team gets beyond one or two sources of traffic, multiple forms (free trial, support, contact us, etc), and wants to create personal experiences for each prospect or customer based on their; persona, geography, title, buying authority, steps they have taken in your funnel, you are likely to have a quagmire of automated marketing workflows. Many teams will build these at a campaign or program level, and this is a good start, but if you want to dominate the market and have a speedy team – documenting this down to the tiniest of detail will pay dividends in the long run.

Email Marketing Playbook

Email is dead – not hardly and if your team doesn’t have an email marketing playbook they operate from, it is time to create one. Operational efficiency in marketing cannot be achieved without one for teams above 10. How your team handles laws and regulations (GDPR, CASL), who’s on your suppression list and where to find it, governance rule (how often can we email), what are our branding guidelines, and more should all be covered. If you would like to build one, send me an email here and I’ll send you the template for creating an email marketing playbook from scratch.

System Integrations

Have more than one technology in your marketing operation? Most teams are leveraging a multitude of complex software across their marketing technology stack. Many of these tools are integrated into a platform such as Marketo, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Net-Results, or other marketing data aggregators before being sent to the CRM. In some companies, the IT team will integrate the marketing tech stack directly into the CRM. Having solid documentation of what is happening to the customer/prospect information as it passes through your systems is important for understanding what marketing automated process is handled where. i.e. Many teams will use a tool like Neverbounce to scrub their emails on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. If Neverbounce is integrated into the workflow this will ensure the budget for the tool will account for what the tool is doing for the automation process.

Project Management Process

Getting things done is critical to maintaining a marketing operation with speed at scale. Sure you could just yell at everyone to work faster or harder, but that is often the best way to lose a team. Document your current process; what is needed to start, who starts a project, who manages the project, what’s required to move the project through each phase. The documentation here needs to create clarity, not confusion for your team. Be careful not to add too many steps, but also realize many creatives produce more effectively when they understand the process. (If you don’t have a process yet, I strongly advise getting help building one. There are many great trainers on agile marketing, waterfall marketing, and general project management.)

Tools for Documenting Marketing Operation

A great place to start your marketing operation documentation is using the out of the box functionality in your marketing automation software. Most modern tools have a visual flow builder for your customer or prospect journey. While these are great places to start they will all ultimately be missing critical parts of your entire operation flow and should not be the only documentation you have.

Marketing Automation Workflows

Marketo – Revenue Cycle Model

The revenue cycle model in Marketo is a very powerful tool. Not only can you create a flow based on the status of a lead, if you are integrated with a CRM you can use sales tags to help your flow trace the experience through conversion. While this is a great tool, it is cumbersome to set up and you can only have one model live at a time. Configuring this to work well in your operation takes a strong understanding of your current process, the data taxonomy you need, and how each trigger is firing to include or remove someone. If you only want visual representation or brainstorming – this is not the best tool.

Pardot – Engagement Studio

The new Engagement Studio for Pardot is an incredible upgrade from the “Drip-Only” automation found in previous versions. With the engagement studio, you can visually build complex workflows for each prospect/customer. It is a great concepting tool, however if you want to create an interwoven acquisition to conversion to communication to closed deal flow, the Engagement Studio still has some room for growth. This is a decent tool for visual brainstorming if you are only focused on the marketing experience.

Google Sheets/Excel

Building workflows in Excel and Google Sheets has been happening for many years. These workflows allow a categorized marriage between the journey and the attribution/taxonomy of a prospect/customers flow through your systems. Using a tool like this will drive a deep level of detail and understanding in the expected outcomes for each step, including what’s next. The challenge with rows and columns is for many it is hard to trace the data flow or visualize exactly what is happening in the marketing operation. It is recommended you create an Excel or Sheets version as a complimentary appendix to go with a visualization of your workflow.

Process Mapping tools

Creating visual maps of the marketing automation process and the workflows inside your operation are important to a complete documentation set. These tools go hand in hand with the marketing strategy to ensure your systems and processes are focused on the outcomes outlined in your strategy.
Here are a few tools you might find useful:
  1. Visio – great documentation tool for outlining process and systems. There is a learning curve to the “right-way” to use the tool and what are the industry accepted icons.
  2. MindMap – great out of the box tool for capturing workflows and hyperlinking them to supporting documentation. Limited functionality compared to Visio, and if you are working with IT it’s likely they will prefer Visio, but MindMap is a good go fast tool.
  3. Adobe xtensio – Adobe has many great products. xTensio is one of their documentation tools. If your team is highly Adobe literate, you may find this tool is easy to use and create all of the above visuals and intergrated supporting documentation into one place.
  4. MIRO (formerly RealTimeBoard) – RTB, I still can’t accept this new name, is a staple for de-centralized teams. Because this board is “Real-Time” you can collaborate across multiple locations while building out workflows and processes. If you have Trello or Jira, your projects can be managed with agility inside Miro.

Project Management

Trust me you want to put your projects inside a tool. At some point you are going to want to look at the operational efficiency of your marketing team and having the projects inside a project management tool is way more efficient than trying to look up dates in a spreadsheet.
Here are a few popular ones:
  1. Asana – Have used this one for the last 7 years. Like it more than any of the others. It has it’s limitations at the free level but it’s worth the upgrade. In 2016 we converted a team from Wrike to Asana and we completed over 400 projects with our team of 3 producers – it was an improvement of 200%. Cannot brag on this tool enough.
  2. Trello – Popular for many teams who like to keep their project management simple. Trello is widely respected as one of the better project management tools for teams under 20.
  3. Microsoft Project – This best the one of the project management staples. Resourcing, staffing, vacation, Gantt charts and more. This tool is only recommended if you have a dedicated project manager.
  4. BaseCamp – Fun and light hearted this tool can be a great way to collaborate with creatives. Once you have the lingo down it is a straight forward tool and inexpensively priced.

Final Thoughts on Documentation

The goal of documenting your marketing automation process and overall marketing operation is critical for building your foundation for communication. It’s not a matter of if your department/team will experience changes, it’s a matter of when. Taking the time to build a map, playbook, and document your workflows will pay dividends.
If you have question on how to get started or would like more information on any of the above, leave a comment and we’ll be in touch.