With nearly two decades of experience working as a marketing strategist/advisor for agencies, Lisa Cole joined Faro Technologies as VP of corporate marketing in fall of 2019, setting out to bring consistency, alignment, and structure to a highly complex marketing organization.
Spoiler alert: That’s exactly what she accomplished (and a whole lot more).
With teams supporting marketing efforts across 12 buying personas, 16 countries, and four business segments, the 3D-measurement technology company had been planning out of spreadsheets and other disparate tools. With marketing teams across the globe having their own ways of planning, there was no consistent language or terminology for processes.
Setting out to make “random acts of marketing” a thing of the past, Lisa knew that establishing structure and purpose in Faro’s marketing strategy would be key.
So, what does successful marketing planning at Faro look like today? We talked to Lisa to get a glimpse at how the magic happens.
How did the marketing organization previously plan?
When I joined Faro, plans were not laddered to any business strategy.
Each regional marketing director got their budget, but they each had their own way of planning and allocating their dollars, as well as their own way of tracking and managing plans and budgets.
There was no established operating structure across 55 horizontal marketers across the globe. We also couldn’t manage the size and complexity of our plans across spreadsheets.
How do you plan nowadays?
Now, our plans are clearly structured across the organization as campaigns, programs, and tactics across four different segments, each of which has four to six different buyer personas. We also have a defined lead process workflow.
There’s a dedicated program manager in each business segment, and then our integrated marketing directors (IMDs)—who are our portfolio managers, effectively—are the keepers of our plans. They build the plan, they fund the plan, and they report on the performance of that plan. Basically, the IMD sets the business goals and objectives, and the program managers translate them into executable programs with aligned tactics.
We learned the hard way that if we want the plans to be executable and reportable, we need to make sure they’re all talking ‘apples to apples.’ This is the only way for the rest of our corporate marketing team to effectively build an engine around them that can take advantage of uniformity to increase speed and agility in market. It also eliminates the need for data cleanup before reporting so we can take advantage of real-time dashboards.
Starting with an overarching business plan, we connect the dots between all of our different functional groups. We align the plan with our product roadmaps and with the sales strategy. When it’s time to approve the plan with the CFO, our conversations are data-driven because we can show him all our plans and performance data directly in Hive9. No more spreadsheets and PowerPoints!
How often do you plan?
We develop our annual marketing plans between September and November. Then, in the new year, they’re rolled out to the entire organization immediately.
We’ll monitor performance against our plans on a biweekly basis. Then, one month prior to the end of each quarter, we’ll review our progress against our goals and adjust plans for the upcoming quarter as necessary.
What’s your marketing team structure like? Who’s involved in your planning process?
In the product marketing group, there’s a workflow director—almost like a business general manager—for a market segment: e.g., construction. That construction workflow director brings forward the roadmap, outlining what to bring to market and when. They get aligned with the IMDs on what they can promote and what the revenue expectations are.
The IMDs reverse-engineer our model of what demand generation they need to create in the context of their own regions and goals. They then turn to the three regional sales vice presidents and say, “This is what I have on the calendar for the upcoming quarter, and this is what product marketing or the workflow director has provided, so let’s talk about how we’re going to go get that.” They look at any specific strategies, accounts, or geographies they should focus on, or any blind spots they should be aware of.
How do you ensure you can be agile and change plans midway?
We have improvement scenario plans based off lead-to-revenue projections. On a monthly basis, we receive a beautiful reporting package assembled by the marketing operations team. Between the IMDs, me, and the global campaign management leader, we’ll review marketing performance data from Hive9 and other specialist reports, like database health or social media performance and engagement.
From there, we’ll see where we’re at across metrics, including budget variants. If we find that we’re underspending in an area, for example, we look at why it happened. We’ll decide how to address what will likely be a gap in lead flow for the following month, or what else we might need to pivot on to meet our marketing goals.
For each metric, we look at a scenario to see how things need to play out. Because of the sheer complexity of our organization, we do this once a month, but in a perfect world, if we were smaller and less complex, we would do it even more often.
What steps do you take to get away from “random acts of marketing”?
It’s one thing to be able to plan. But a lot of the IMDs’ job is stakeholdering. If they can get everyone aligned on what the areas of focus are, they’ll flesh out the plans. If they can’t get aligned, sometimes I’ll come in, look at any constraints, see what the goals are, and be a tiebreaker on a decision.
In our organizational structure, it does feel like everyone is involved in the planning process, but we’ve established very pointed questions so that people have guardrails. We were previously very much a sales-driven organization. Marketing used to go to sales, ask them what they wanted to be done in a region, and go through a collection of random acts of marketing.
Now, it goes more like this: “What are we going to talk about? Who are we going to reach? What are the business goals? Here are my expectations for the region, but let’s get aligned on how we’re going to get the revenue.”
If no more than 10% to 15% of what flows through your ecosystem is random, you’re probably doing a good job stakeholdering.
Do you have any advice about better marketing planning that you’ve learned along the way?
If you’re looking at how to improve marketing, first make sure you’re always able to articulate how marketing’s plan can ladder up the business’ plan, align to product roadmaps, and link directly to sales’ plan.
And second, always be able to plan for change. I’ve never seen a plan that actually unfolds exactly how you initially expected it to. Therefore, to monitor and track any plan changes, you need to have a clear understanding of your leading indicators of success. Once you establish those metrics, you’ll be able to get out ahead of shifting plans as quickly as possible. You need to know what’s working and what’s not.
Third, stop random acts of marketing! Instead of having all sorts of naming conventions and approaches to planning, you can make your job a whole lot easier by leveraging repeatable frameworks and consistent approaches for your campaigns and programs.
Not only does this marketing structure enable you to develop your marketing plans much more quickly, but it also helps improve the efficiency of your team and maximizes the performance of your in-market efforts.