The Most Underrated Stage of Marketo Value Realization

BY: Sarah Frazier

PUBLISHED: 3/3/2021

In our last blog post, we started probing into the question posed by many marketing operations leaders— how to get more value out of your Marketo investment. We introduced the Marketo Value Realization Cycle comprised of five stages, each stage focused on a specific objective in preparation for the next stage. Collectively, all stages result in achieving more with Marketo and thereby maximizing your investment.

We also compared the Value Realization Cycle to flywheel— reducing friction enables motion, and motion leads to momentum. As with any flywheel, getting the wheel initially in motion can sometimes be a challenge.

In this article, we take an in-depth look into the first (and one of the most underrated) stage of our Marketo Value Realization flywheel, Exploration. This stage is all about outlining your vision and gaining alignment. Time spent planning—- asking probing questions, mapping to business objectives, and identifying success metrics— will not only kick-start your momentum but also serve as a valuable reference point throughout your project.

Pre-Launch Planning and Alignment

  • It comes as no surprise that pre-launch planning ultimately results in better outcomes. Research by CoSchedule found that marketers who gained alignment on the objectives and set milestones and goals were 3x more likely to succeed, whereas 31% of failed projects were attributed to miscommunications about the objectives.

    And let’s be honest— proper planning takes time. It’s tempting to try to accelerate a project timeline by shortening the upfront preparations.

    Our learned experience from over 1,500 Marketo projects and working alongside high-growth and enterprise organizations is: don’t skimp on the planning. “Spending extra time upfront ensures you have a clear vision of business objectives and are translating them into specific, documented business requirements. For maximum success and project velocity, ensure everyone is aligned— before you start any solution design,” advises Jason Olliver, Director of Operations.

    Too often, organizations spend a lot of time talking about what they will do but not enough time aligning on the why and how they will measure success.  Further, projects that begin by launching a program or architecting a solution are significantly more risky and costly than projects that start with deliberate planning. Your planning should answer questions such as:

  • How does this project solve a current business problem or advance our business objectives?
  • What is my desired outcome of this project?
  • How will I measure the success of this project?

Unless tech solutions solve business problems, they are meaningless. Marketing operations gaps are inevitable when project objectives aren’t tied to specific challenges or business objectives, stakeholders aren’t aligned on the plan, and measurable outcomes are not articulated. These gaps slow your progress, add to your costs, and ultimately threaten your success.

Use Case Example: Box

  • Box, the leader in cloud content management, is an excellent example of effective planning and organizational alignment. Box’s story begins with an underutilized marketing automation platform and fragmented marketing operations processes. “A lot of things weren’t working. We struggled to demonstrate value from Marketo, we lacked strong procedures, and many processes were broken,” recalls Glen Shillinglaw, Sr. Director of Marketing Operations at Box.

    The first part of Glen’s strategic planning was spent defining their business requirements, assessing the MOPS team’s current state, and how they were delivering against the business needs. He evaluated his options to self-correct: do they hire and throw bodies at the problem? Or should they pursue a different route entirely?

    Ultimately, Glen decided hiring wasn’t the answer; he didn’t want marketing to be a manual team. Instead, his goal was to advance their usage of marketing technology, specifically Marketo. His path laid out, Glen aligned with his IT (Enterprise Systems) team, and together, they collaborated on the next steps: identifying the business objectives.

    Part of Box’s vision was to capitalize on every opportunity for growth; creating a system that would scale with them was essential to their long-term success. They started by auditing their processes and challenging everything: what they were doing, the tools they were using, and the people using the tools.

    Box questions included:
  • How can we simplify processes and remove complexities?
  • How can we reduce our SLAs and improve efficiency?
  • How can we reduce time spent on redundant, manual tasks?
  • How do we better leverage Marketo?

Essential to determining their direction, they needed to look beyond the surface symptoms of their challenges and probe into the underlying causes. Eventually, the answers pointed back to Box’s need for strong marketing operations procedures.

Leveraging Questions to Arrive at the Root Cause

Box’s story is an excellent example of asking questions and challenging everything. Too often, marketers design solutions based on what they think are the problems. The objective of the Exploration stage is to spend time planning, probing deeper, and aligning all stakeholders, from executive management to those using Marketo every day.

Using a Root Cause Analysis can help direct your discussions, gather feedback, and develop a more effective solution vs. only fixing the problems on the surface. This MindTools video offers a helpful overview:

The five steps of Root Cause Analysis, as defined by MindTools:

Defining the problem. What is happening, and what are the symptoms of it? Asking “why” questions during this step is also helpful— the 5 Why Analysis— asking “why” until it no longer yields a useful response, signaling you’ve arrived at the underlying problem.

  • Collecting data about the situation. What is the impact on your business? How is the problem impeding your growth?
  • Identifying possible causes. What conditions allow this problem to occur?
  • Identifying the root cause. What is responsible for the problems?
  • Fixing the problem. (We’ll get deeper into this part in our next post!)

The Importance of the Exploration Stage

Surprisingly, 51% of organizations don’t have a clear marketing strategy. Without a plan and alignment to specific business objectives, your marketing operations project will encounter friction throughout your rollout cycle, bringing your Marketo value realization flywheel to a grinding halt.

Data from the Pulse of the Profession 2020 survey reports that 11.4% of an organization’s transformation investment is wasted due to poor project performance. Conversely, you are less likely to incur unplanned expenses from changing directions and redoing work later on with proper planning upfront. To use Alexander Graham Bell’s words, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

The Box story illustrates superior preparation, alignment, and continual innovation. By taking the time to thoughtfully and strategically plan, Box had a roadmap of how they would move from their current to their desired state, the resources they needed to move forward, and a clear vision to rally support from internal stakeholders, paving the way for future success.

“Instituting change is never easy,” commented Glen, “what kept us going was our desire to stay competitive. Working with a Marketo-focused agency, like MERGE, was our accelerator. MERGE guided us through this process, taught us how to work more efficiently in Marketo, and brought a lot of value to us, which in turn helped us to get more value out of Marketo.”

In our next post, we’ll cover the second stage, “Definition,” or the process of scoping your project and developing a detailed project plan. In the meantime, we invite you to download a free copy of our Marketo Value Realization Framework to guide you through your strategic planning, build momentum throughout your MOPS transformation, and help you get more value from your Marketo investment.

MERGE, the #1 customer-rated marketing operations agency, helps enterprise and high-growth organizations expand capacity, integrate anything, and implement best practices, so you get more out of your Marketo investment, faster. Schedule a call with us now.