4 Steps to Better Business Planning Using Marketing Technology: Interview with Mark Sarbiewski


Glenn: Hi, everyone. I’m Glenn Gow, Founder & Advisor of Crimson Marketing. Welcome to Moneyball for Marketing where we talk about the incredible changes happening in marketing organizations around big data and marketing technology. We feature marketing technology insights from the top marketers in the world. The reference to Moneyball is from the story of how the Oakland A’s baseball team were able to win and win and win because they figured out how to use data and technology to their advantage. If you’d like to learn about how to use big data and marketing technology and marketing to help you win visit us at CrimsonMarketing.com or email us at info@CrimsonMarketing.com. And now on to our podcast.
Today I am very pleased to welcome Mark Sarbiewski, the CMO of Anaplan. Now, Anaplan describes themselves as a company that provides your business with a planning platform across departments from Finance, Marketing, Supply Chain, HR, and IT. Mark, it’s great to have you here.

Mark: Great to be here, Glenn. Thanks for having me.

Glenn: I think it’s really interesting that we’re going to talk about marketing analytics and planning today because you are a planning company, and I would imagine that makes life interesting at Anaplan. So, tell us a little bit about, as the CMO, how you view marketing analytics and planning.

Mark: Well, I think interesting is the perfect word, right, because I’m surrounded by folks that are sort of planning experts deep into analytics wanting to drive the company by numbers, there’s a lot about marketing that lends itself to that and there’s a lot that doesn’t, and so I think the first place it starts for us is really where we can get into numbers is around the funnel. We look at what we actually expect to be the full breadth of the funnel, we start from what is the reach of our database across every rep, every territory around the globe? So that we can even just at the very beginning of the marketing process all the way through the funnel to we’re closed, they’re referenceable, they’re expanding. And as you could expect that actually is a ton of data and it comes from lots of places.

Glenn: Do you focus in particular on conversion metrics or are there other metrics that you focus on in addition to that?

Mark: Conversion is certainly a big one, but it is a mix of metrics from do we understand who we’re really trying to reach and do we have those people? Do we know there are? So, there’s metrics around reach which is sort of the first one, metrics around the mix of tactics because we’re like most companies, we don’t just do one thing. We have a lot of web presence, we have digital, we have in-person, so we’re trying to understand who we’re reaching where and how much that costs, and then the cycle times with all those and the conversion rates, and then what is the ROI from all of that?

Glenn: Right, big question, the ROI. So, you’ve mentioned that every Monday morning you report to the Executive Staff, tell us a little bit about that, that’s not that common that you have dashboards in executive staff meetings when you’re a CMO, I’d love to hear about that.
Mark: Yeah, and, really, it’s every functional leader has a dashboard, right, so we’re trying to use our own technologies to do our jobs as well as we can, on the marketing side what we’ve put together is a view of the funnel that can be sliced and diced all the way up to the overall level, all the way down to a particular rep, and so that’s one of the first sets of metrics that we’ll look at, and we’re trying to understand from a marketing perspective you’re obviously looking at a cycle that can be three to six months long. So, you’re that leading indicator of where are my territories happy? Am I warming my territory for a new rep in the right way? And how is that leading indicator for my future quarter’s performance going to be?
What we try to do with that, because there is a mountain of data that’s underneath it, we design very explicitly those dashboards for the exec audience, right, and I think it’s a great exercise for us to go through because when you’re swimming in the data and you’re totally confident in what all the different things mean you don’t think like an executive, you’re not thinking like the Head of Sales, or the CEO, you’re thinking like a marketer. So, I think that one of the things that forced us to do was design for the other functional execs in the company so that they could see what’s coming out of marketing that was really relevant for them.

Glenn: Yeah, I think there’s a real clarity when you’re forced to bring everything up to a strategic conclusion.

Mark: That’s right.

Glenn: It causes you to think differently as a marketer if you need to report actually how are we contributing to pipeline, or revenue, or whatever the measure is? There’s a lot of data behind that, but ultimately that’s the answer the CEO wants to hear.
Mark: Yeah, it is, and one of the things when I started a year and a half ago here or so we were a young company, we’re defining our processes and our KPIs, and we all bring some level of experience to the table at that, and so you start from a decent base, but what became very obvious when you’re pitching to the Head of Sales, and a marketing lead is nice, sounds good, a marketing qualified lead sounds good, but honestly it’s what has come in and turned it into a sales qualified opportunity that was sourced from marketing, or partner, or sales.

Glenn: Right, right, right.

Mark: That’s where we start, right, and then when we say, “Where are we getting the ROIs?” I, of course, will track cost of an MQL, I need to know that and my conversion rates, but the ROI doesn’t come until it’s a true opportunity in the pipeline.

Glenn: Right, yes, good, good. So, ultimately it’s how are you contributing to pipeline. Very nice. Tell us a little bit about some of the things you learned by being focused on the data and some of the changes you’ve made in marketing as a result of that.

Mark: Yeah, you always have your hunches, you’re looking at stuff and maybe you go to a particular event or you put something on, and you have a gut feel for how that goes, and you can make decisions based on your gut or you can look at the data, and that data is always going to tell you something more than what your gut did, and so for us we had, as a very young company even before I got here, we went and we were trying to figure out, find the market, find the product fit, and we have a platform that’s widely applicable, so where do you go? And they went to a handful of events and one particular event they did great, and it just got six opportunities out of this one event, and so that one data point from one event drove the next year’s event strategy, and it turns out when you looked at it that was a fluke, the rest of the events just didn’t yield That particular strain, it wasn’t yielding, and so everybody could remember getting those leads from that one event, and so they were hanging their hat on that, but the data tells us something different.
So, we shifted heavy into the sales related events like Dreamforce and the data shows that’s the place for us to be. I think that’s a good one. We had another one where we actually–PR’s always an interesting one, everybody, you want it, you crave it, you need it, but what’s the return, what kind of PR should you really be striving for? And we were able to track several articles that were not even directly a part of, but a journalist wanted to speak directly to our customers and the customers were huge advocates, they did a great job, those articles drove direct demand. We were able to track exactly what leads, they would mention the article, because they were asking people where they had heard about us when they came to us, and there were two or three of these articles that just had way more reach than we expected they would have, and way more impact. And so, it taught is something about the kind of PR we should be going after especially when we want to try to turn it into demand.

Glenn: How do you ask people who come in how they’ve heard from you?

Mark: Well, the model here is we have an inside sales development rep team that generally makes the first contact with prospects and people that have kind of raised their hands and said, “I’d like to talk,” and it’s part of the call script that they got, right. They want to understand what’s working and what’s not, and I think it’s what marketers crave, right? What we really want is data that tells us what’s working and what’s not because that will help us do our jobs better. So, they track it, they ask that question in the course of a conversation where that makes sense, and then we put it into Salesforce, there’s a field for how did we learn about that. And then we have some automated ways to. We have a lot of tracking that we do as incoming, where have they clicked from to the extent that we can get that, so it’s the combination of those two things.

Glenn: Great, great. Well, the important thing is to gather that information so that you can be a smarter marketer, so building it into the sales process makes a lot of sense. You had talked to me earlier about how sometimes lots of data can become a giant mess and how we should approach data from a way that makes it useful.

Mark: Yeah, yeah. Again, it harkens back a little bit to the way we try to do this and using our own stuff, but the gist of what we’re doing is we’re pulling data from multiple systems, we use the marketing automation, we have Marketo, we use Salesforce, we have several other systems that are part of the mix, and as we started down the path of, “Okay, what are the dashboards that we really want? What’s the data say around conversion metrics?” We really wanted to get into what does our conversion look like across the funnel and what’s our cycle time across the funnel?

Glenn: Define cycle time for us.

Mark: Yeah, well, we wanted to know from the time we first connect with someone, whether they connect us or we find them to the time we close a deal, and how long do we spend in each step of that. Perfect, great information that we need for our planning. We want to know how soon we need to be marketing, when we can plan on some of that turning to pipeline and deals. And so, in our eagerness to get that what we did was we pulled basically the entire history of the company in and what we found was that there was literally too much data. There’s a time dimension to both of those metrics that you watch your conversion well over all time or over six months within the time frame that you want, and then you have bunch of data under the covers because you’re trying to find Salesforce, and our sales systems have these multiple touches that you can record, and so not only did we find we had too much data, we also found we were not consistent in how we used those.
So, now you’re just looking at stuff. We ended up essentially kind of starting over because we pulled too much data in, we uncovered a few things and we had some behaviorial changes which was good, but now we look at a six month window. And what we want to say is, “You know what, if we believe that’s our full cycle that’s what we want to look at.” So, we cut off a particular time, what did we drive in this month one and what’s converted over six months? And we try not to bring in every single individual touch because, you know what, not relevant. How is it moving through the big phases? If you get that you get smarter.

Glenn: Now, talk to me a little bit about leading indicators and determining what you’re going to do from marketing based on what you’re learning from that. So, if I understand I have a six month cycle, I can see how these touches have impact, that should give me, based on that historical information, a insight into what I should be doing from a marketing standpoint.

Mark: Absolutely. I think that we looked at two things to start. One, we look at what is the yield from the different marketing tactics whether we’re doing webinars, whether it’s SEO, SEM stuff, whether it’s an event, our own event, et cetera, field marketing kind of thing.
Glenn: And by yield, what do you mean there?

Mark: Well, by yield I mean it’s sort of a combination of the volume and quality of the opportunities that come out of that. So, Dreamforce, you meet a ton of people which is great. We happen to be going after sort of Fortune 1,000-2,000 type companies, and so some sub-set of that audience is perfect for us and a chunk is, so you can’t just say, “Well, I had 2,000 people come by the booth,” when 500 of those were actually from the target companies I wanted, so there’s the combination of that. And then are they right titles and do they move into sales qualified leads? So, I think yield is absolutely one, and then you want to understand the conversion to deals and the cycle time there, sort of a little bit back to there.
So, a partner we found when looking at our metrics, not surprisingly, we had this hunch, but we have a lot of great partners for Anaplan and partner initiated cycle are tremendous, right? There’s already a relationship there if you have a partner they usually have brought us to the right person, there’s some warming of the whole context, and so the conversion rates are really high and they tend to go fast. So, as a lesson from that we’re sort of doubling down and investing a lot more, we have been for a little bit, but next year even bigger, in going to market with partners.

Glenn: Mm-hm, right. Right, because you have the proof in the data.

Mark: Yeah, you have the proof. Yeah, exactly and by the way I will say one other point on this is marketers in my history has always been that people ask for data, you want the data, and the data comes in super handy when you’re working to build you budgets, right? I’m trying to justify, I’m trying to show what I’m able to bring and data is 100 percent your friend on that score.

Glenn: Right. And we also talked about one other thing where you need a core set of data that doesn’t always live in the same place.

Mark: That’s right.

Glenn: Talk to me a little bit about that.

Mark: Yeah, one of the things that intrigued me even about coming here was kind of the core proposition in that, and it’s not just marketers, I’ll say it’s for sales ops people, it’s for finance people, there’s always multiple constituent systems where the data lives, and historically what people do is so difficult to bring it to one place to put it together because if you really are going to talk ROI, for example, what do you need? I need all my spend data, I need all my sort of yield data from that, and those probably live in multiple places; some of this is going to be Marketo, some of it’s going to be in Salesforce for example, for us the spend can be in a set of different places, the actuals in your finance systems. And consequently what happens when it’s hard to pull it together, you end up doing post-mortem analysis. At the end of the quarter the CEO’s going to say, “Tell me what you did, what you learned,” and that’s good analysis to do, but it’s sort of too late, right? Certainly it’s too late to do anything in that quarter, maybe you take a lesson and you do it in something going forward.
So, what we do here is we have all of those systems pulled into our own, into our own system, that’s really what’s feeding those dashboards, so I’m bringing cost, marketing, reach information, tactic information all into one place and it’s against my plan, right? So, I think the real discipline is there’s intent, there’s always intent. This is my plan, I’m going to spend this, I expect this yield, this is going to happen over this time frame, et cetera for this region.” So, that data lives where we now bring the rest of the data from the actual, so it’s nothing more than actuals against plan, but it’s just been hard to do for marketers.

Glenn: Yes.

Mark: When you’ve got that, and literally every day you’re sort of seeing whether or not you’re kind of tracking to that plan, what’s working and what’s not, you’re just more agile, you can be much more honest and stop things, or at least you know you’ve got to go fix them, and double down on what’s working, and I think that’s, again, that’s just a gold mine for marketers.

Glenn: All right, fantastic. So, I’m going to leave us with one question here as we wrap up, Mark, and tell us what you see happening in the next year or so as it relates to marketers being smarter managing their data. What does the future look like?

Mark: It’s a great question. I think there’s a realization and the tools are getting better. The Cloud is transforming everybody’s world, but it’s huge for marketers, and getting the data because you really are, there’s so much going on in marketing, there’s a lot of it that’s quantifiable, there’s some that’s less quantifiable. Being able, having this to come through into a system where you can have that come into one place, big data is a loaded term, and this isn’t so much big data because there’s a lot of what you’d call structured data, but literally being able to bring it all together, and slice and dice, and view your actual performance kind of in real time against your plan.
I’m seeing, not just ours, but I saw a bunch of interesting things happening at Dreamforce on this front as well. And, man, at the rate marketing is changing and how it’s so much about community and digital and other stuff, having all that come to one place, I think it’s a very exciting time. You’re going to be able to drive by the numbers is the way I like to say in a way marketers have it, it’s been this sort of black art now and you’re going to be able to drive by the numbers, still have all the good creativity, and take marketing to a whole other level.

Glenn: I think you’re right. I think tools are coming to fore right now and are making it easier and easier for marketers, but I think there’s another aspect to it which is we as marketers need to embrace this, we need to step into it and say, “We’re going to take advantage of what’s not available to us that hasn’t been before,” and that’s uncomfortable for some marketers because they weren’t trained as data scientists, but they don’t have to be, not with the tools available, they just need to step forward and say, “I’m going to be smarter at running my business leveraging this data and these tools.”

Mark: I agree 100 percent. I think that there’s a lot of classically trained marketers that are great at messaging, and positioning, and creative, and they have tremendous instincts, and if you don’t embrace the data and the numbers I think you’re just missing a trick because it’s only going to make you better. It doesn’t obviate any of those other skills I just talked about, all it’s going to do is let you hone it more quickly and more specifically for who you’re trying to target.

Glenn: That’s a great point. Well, Mark, we’re out of time, so thank you so much for sharing what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it, and what you’re learning from it. It’s been very helpful for me and hopefully for the listeners.
Mark: It’s been my pleasure, Glenn. Great to talk to you.

Glenn: All right, thanks. Talk to you soon. If you like this podcast please subscribe and rate us on iTunes and tell your friends about us. You can also go to our website, CrimsonMarketing.com, and sign up for our free monthly newsletter featuring the very best of our marketing insights, featured Moneyball for Marketing podcasts, and one of our favorite features called, “Bad Marketing,” or email me at info@CrimsonMarketing.com. Thanks for listening to Moneyball for Marketing from Crimson Marketing. Have a great week and let us know if we can help you in any way.