Any time a marketer can find more money in the budget, it’s cause for celebration. But finding more hours in the day can be just as significant.
In our last blog post, we looked at the true (and chronically underestimated) cost of inefficiency in the marketing department, and showed you how to quantify those costs and identify the underlying issues.
In this post, we’ll show you how to address those issues and break the ‘iron triangle’ that prevents marketing from scaling up by using technology and automation to support organizational growth and meet increasingly aggressive marketing goals.
First, let’s define the iron triangle. In a marketing context, it’s the limiting factors that prevent marketing from accelerating. When resources and time are finite, how do you scale operations without sacrificing quality? Unpaid interns and a break room stocked with energy drinks may help in the short term, but to break out of the iron triangle permanently and sustainably, your only viable choice is to leverage technology.
But with more than 5,300 different marketing technologies on the market, how do you choose the solutions that will actually streamline your department, rather than add yet another time-consuming learning curve to your schedule?
You prioritize the technology that aligns with the area of greatest friction in your marketing processes.
In the previous post, we showed you how to use timesheets to collect the data you need to identify how your team was spending its time and filter it into three buckets:
Conversation: The back-and-forth communication required to collect creative or campaign information.
Execution: The effort involved in ideation, programming, testing, and launching of a campaign or project.
Reporting: The analysis and communication of campaign or project performance or impact.
Now it’s time to sift through those buckets and seek out those areas of bloat where excessive amounts of time return minimal value.
Top timesavers for marketing: Prioritize the technology that aligns with the area of greatest friction.Click To Tweet
When you analyze the timesheets, you may discover that your marketing department spends an excessive amount of time chasing down incomplete project briefs. Many marketing leaders are astonished to discover how much time their staff spends emailing or calling people to collect missing information, clarify confusing instructions, or provide ad-hoc project status. This type of back-and-forth, along with ongoing follow-up and continual requests for project updates, can sometimes double or triple the time it takes to complete a project. By minimizing the chatter, your team can spend less time discussing and more time doing.
SOLUTION: If the interactions between your team and other departments are spiraling out of control, orchestration and self-service portal tools are the solution. For example, Zapier and Podio structure your content, conversations, and processes to replace the endless back-and-forth with a streamlined, collaborative workflow.
Self-service portals use orchestrated project data and turn it into visual, accessible status reports. This enables the people who consume marketing services to check in on projects without interrupting your team for a progress report.
Reduce data entry
How much time does your staff spend manually entering data into the system? And how much time is spent untangling the mess of incorrectly entered data or eliminating the duplicate data that’s clogging your system? What about time spent manually reconciling conflicting data from different sources? This time-intensive activity may show up in execution or reporting activities, but in both cases, it’s the same time-burglar at work—a lack of integration between systems that forces people to spend time handling data manually. (And then spend even more time cleaning up the mess caused by human error.)
SOLUTION: If team timesheets are filled with manual data entry and cleanup tasks, look at tools such as CRMFusion that automate data hygiene processes and solutions such as Gravity Forms and Wufoo that automate the ingestion of and cleaning of data.
How much time does your marketing team spend building campaigns or putting together marketing reports? And what types of activities and decision points are involved in these deliverables? If something as simple as running a monthly report on campaign performance or building a custom email list for a new campaign takes hours, you have an opportunity to regain huge amounts of time by automating those processes.
SOLUTION: If your team spends long hours executing and reporting on marketing activities, marketing automation will help you free up time. For some marketers, this may be a case of evolving from an email service provider such as Constant Contact or AWeber to a true marketing automation platform such as Marketo, Pardot, or Eloqua. For others, it may be a matter of exploiting the potential of their marketing automation platform more fully. In addition, look at apps such as Globiflow, which enable you to automate processes within project or process management platforms.
Calculate the ROI
The final—and critical—step in the process is to calculate and report on the ROI your technology solution has delivered. Being able to demonstrate that marketing makes wise technology investments rehabilitates marketing’s reputation as a cost center and paves the way for bigger budget allocations in future.
The best way to assign a dollar value to your results is to calculate the time it takes to complete specific technology-assisted tasks and compare that time to pre-implementation timesheets. Multiply the time saved by the number of times the task is performed within a certain window—a day, a week, or a month.
As the time savings accrue, the results can be expressed in terms of a percentage of salary saved or additional staff added. For example, when I automated key processes and put orchestration tools in place, I was able to “add” 1.7 person years to my team, or realize a $130,000 savings in salary expense (and a lot more in overhead costs). These are the numbers your organization cares about, and these are the figures that will make them pay attention and rethink budget allocation.
Build on success
In this post, we showed you how to fix your biggest time issues by using technology to break the “iron triangle” and free up significant amounts of staff time. In the next and final post, we’ll show you how to build on your success by implementing optimization tactics, and we’ll share some of the remarkable results other marketers have achieved by simply saving time.