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2 Posts authored by: Sarah Hums-Oracle

So I’m in Italy as I type this, on a family vacation. We left Cincinnati for Rome yesterday. (Or was it today? I am not really sure what time it is and neither is my body.)


The trip has not started out well for me.


First, my family of four was assigned seats in all different areas of the plane to Rome. With a four and seven year old on an eight hour flight, that’s obviously not going to work. It was a full flight, and we were one of the last to board, so finding passengers willing to move seats so we could at least have one parent next to each kid was not fun.


Then, we get to Rome, and of all the suitcases brought here by my 20 extended family members traveling together, mine is the only piece of luggage that did not make it. In fact, it’s currently not accounted for, anywhere in the world. It just disappeared along with every piece of clothing I packed for this week long trip. I went to the luggage counter as you always do when in this situation, and the simple task of providing the address to the villa I’m staying in was difficult because of the language barrier. I’m finally told that IF they find my luggage, it will be at least three days until it is delivered here.


My family has loaned me a few shirts and shorts – but at this point, I really only have a few things to wear. And let’s be honest – they’re not the “good clothes” they packed. They are the "extra old t-shirts in case I spill wine on myself" shirts. So I’m a little out of my element with things that are not mine – they aren’t my style, they don’t really fit, and there aren’t a lot of them.


The icing on the cake - somehow, these few loaner clothing items got left on the bathroom floor when someone took a shower last night, and every piece is completely soaked. Guess what they don’t have in this secluded Italian villa? A clothes dryer. The few items I have are currently hanging outside and I’m waiting for them to dry in the humid Italian air.


So as I sit here with literally only the clothes on my back, I am reflecting on the day where NOTHING seemed to go my way. It got me thinking about bad days I’ve had as a marketer.


We’ve all had them. I always say, you’re not a real marketer until you’ve  sent out an email with a huge error, selected artwork for a piece of creative that unintentionally offended someone, or walked out of conference rooms fatigued and frustrated after trying desperately to get someone to adopt an idea and feeling like no one is listening.


How we handle situations in times of stress is a critical factor to our success as marketers. Although yesterday was not fun, it’s travel – it’s unpredictable, just like we can’t predict mistakes on our campaigns or people’s unwillingness to hear out our ideas. Stress is going to happen in marketing, just like it inevitably happens in travel.


So how did I get through it without writing this vacation off as a total bomb on day one? Two things:


One, I asked for help.


I asked the flight attendant to help relocate our seats. I asked the luggage counter to look for and (hopefully) deliver my luggage to the villa. I asked my family to loan me clothes.


Two, I took an hour to reset my attitude.  By the time I arrived at the villa yesterday, I was feeling snarky and negative from the lack of sleep combined with the stress of this experience. I was not fun to be around. So I asked my in laws to watch the kids while I took an hour to drive into the village with the windows down. I cried (in private – away from everyone else who was happy and excited to kick off their vacation), got over it, and decided by the time I got back I would move on. So what if I don’t have my luggage? I’m in Italy. I’m lucky. I have beautiful views and amazing food and wine to enjoy and family all around me. The travel disaster, although it felt like the end of the world yesterday, seems inconsequential now that I’ve reset my outlook.


When you have a Marketing Bad Day – which are at the same time unpredictable and inevitable – I think these two strategies can help. First, ask for help to remedy the situation as quickly and effectively as you can. You may not be able to fix it, but you can do as much as is possible to make it better, if not right. Then, take a break, feel what you need to feel, and move on.


The next day will be better – I promise.

Implementing a marketing automation strategy and solution can feel like drinking from a fire hose. For excited and passionate marketers lucky enough to lead this effort, the possibilities that come with this type of initiative can be both inspiring and overwhelming. This becomes magnified when marketing automation and revenue performance management are foreign concepts to most of your organization, and you not only have to implement the strategy, but also get the rest of the organization on board.


The good news is, you're not alone! In all my conversations with marketing automation professionals over the past few years, a few themes have emerged which I have compiled into a list of tips for avoiding "bright shiny objects" and leading transformative change. Here goes...


  1. Oil the Squeaky Wheels First – Identify low-hanging fruit and get some quick wins, so you can clear your plate to focus on the bigger issues next. Although it's important to keep the larger strategy in mind, and always be working toward your organization's high level goals, you don't have to wait to start making an impact. Identify a key area of two - perhaps a division that needs to up the ante on lead generation, or a sales team that is flooded with leads and needs some simple qualification in place to help them prioritize. Get a project or two off the ground in the areas that seem to be yelling for it the most, and use that as a foundation for credibility to move toward your larger strategy in the long term.
  2. Read the Contract – Know what you bought and what you didn’t. It’s tempting to try and scoop up add-ons every time you uncover a need or see a cool new things you’d like to do, but focus on making what you have work first and only then start to enhance. There are a lot of great things you can do with marketing automation solutions, and if you're anything like me, you get excited at the "cool" factor. However, getting some of those key wins under your belt will help justify additional spend for tools that will enhance your larger strategy later. It's a lot easier to ask for more money when you have proven some results.
  3. Only You Can Create Your Success Plan – No two organizations are the same. There are plenty of tools and planning documents for documenting your strategy and prioritizing, but they aren't cookie cutter templates. They are typically based on best practices learned from existing customers and provide a great starting point. But only you can prioritize and come up with the best approach for your organization. The order in which you accomplish your quick wins and your long term strategic projects are completely dependent on the larger organizational goals. You may need to switch out elements, expand or contract the time frame in which you need to accomplish certain things, or add completely new elements that are specific to your company. That's ok. It's YOUR should control the path to get there.
  4. Stop Your Yapping and Do It – If you're lucky, you work for an organization that "gets it" and understands what you are talking about when you are trying to explain the potential awesome things you can accomplish with this new strategy. But honestly, most don't. At least not enough to take your word for it alone. Do some test/pilot campaigns in the “new way,” track the results and use the data to do some internal PR work. No one cares what you say as much as they care what you do. Don’t just tell them what can be done, show them. This goes back to getting some quick wins. Seeing results, seeing things done a new way, seeing the impact is far more powerful than hearing someone talk on and on about "we can do THIS and it will help us with THIS."
  5. Tell Everyone You’re Awesome – when you’re implementing something that requires a lot of behind the scenes foundational work, and people don’t truly understand the broader vision, it’s easy for them to assume you’re not doing anything.  Your value may be questioned along the way and it’s easy to become deflated. Jump up and down and scream about what you’re doing in as many ways as possible – talk about how the small things add up to the bigger vision. Use your marketing automation solution to run internal campaigns, and SHOW them what you're up to. Share reports and results in as many ways and to as many internal influencers as possible.
  6. “Segment” your internal audiences. Every group that will be impacted by this change has a different take on “what’s in it for me.” Tailor your messages when having the tough conversations. When talking to executives and sales/marketing leaders, talk in terms of revenue. Campaign Managers? Talk about cool things they can do and making them look good. Sales Operations? Focus on efficiency and data to make their jobs easier. Want to really impress them? Create your own internal personas and use them to plan your internal PR campaign content - then show them how they can do it for their own customers.
  7. Be Ready to Dig Up Some Dirt. When you implement something as foundational as marketing automation, you’re bound to bring bigger organizational challenges to the surface – such as core customer data integrity issues or massive sales and marketing alignment challenges. It’s critical to bring these issues up and try to help solve them, but communicating the problems in an effective and tactful manner that doesn’t “throw people under the bus” is the first step. People don’t like to hear that things they’ve done aren’t working, so the WAY you communicate the problems is almost as important as the SOLUTIONS you come up with. That being said, never be afraid to talk about the hard stuff, and if you need help justifying your findings, use benchmarking data and industry research to back you up.


For the other experienced Topliners out there - what are your tips for navigating the tricky waters of change management?


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