Good Systems Make Business Sense

Working for Intralinks, a leading provider of critical information exchange solutions, my working life revolves around Intralinks’ internal marketing processes; maintaining the integrity of the system, keeping it running smoothly, identifying and eliminating the bugs and working across the company to ensure the system still works. It is the centre of my universe and without which, we would have little idea of marketing’s contribution to the sales pipeline and the company’s bottom line.


8 October 2010

Systems and processes — we all know we need them. Every marketing textbook, industry expert, blogger, university lecturer, just about anyone you can think of in the marketing world, will tell you they are essential. They tie everything together, allowing marketing teams to measure activity and increase efficiency. Reading this blog you are probably thinking, yes we have them and yes we have a system in place that works.

However, have you ever wanted more? Is it easy to measure what you do and the contribution that you and your team make to the bottom line? Do you want to align more closely with sales to fully realize activity contribution to the pipeline? And have you ever wanted to re-jig your processes or even formalize the one you already have to make it better, faster and more robust?

If so, this blog is for you.

Working for Intralinks, a leading provider of critical information exchange solutions, my working life revolves around Intralinks’ internal marketing processes; maintaining the integrity of the system, keeping it running smoothly, identifying and eliminating the bugs and working across the company to ensure the system still works. It is the centre of my universe and without which, we would have little idea of marketing’s contribution to the sales pipeline and the company’s bottom line. Eighteen months after establishing a global lead process, improving our reporting and tightening our systems, we are able to measure the entire global marketing team’s success but it is a continuing process and I can’t rest on my laurels.

We have come a long way, but there is still ground to cover. So in this blog and ones to follow, I want to share what we did, document our thought processes and what makes sense for anyone thinking about their own systems and processes.

The first step — where do you start?

Every company is different. Every team, marketing tactic and situation is unique. What works for us might work for you but here are a few tips which hopefully will give you a steer in the right direction...

Make someone responsible

The first step in this process is to have the commitment to make changes or establish a system and assign responsibility. It doesn’t have to be a committee or a senior manager, you just need someone responsible and with enough bandwidth to make it happen, otherwise it never will.

Investigate your current process

Do you know, in detail, how your marketing team inputs leads? Do you know where the ‘contact us’ form goes, how sales receive leads, where your leads come from, what systems you use and how marketing sourced leads are tagged? There are many questions asked and continue to ask ourselves. You have to thoroughly understand your process, the software you and your sales team use and how all the pieces fit together. Only when you understand this, can you move forward.

Identify your key stakeholders

No department is an island. Marketing needs to work hand-in-hand with sales, who need to work hand-in-hand with sales operations, finance, legal, billing, client services, human resources, IT and senior management. Everyone in the company should understand how each are inter-related and how a change in one will affect the other.

Bring everyone together to start talking

Don’t invite the world, but do have representatives from each party, especially in the initial stages. To keep the process on track and manageable, it is probably best to assign a small working group with representatives from sales, marketing and sales operations. In addition to system, responsibility and process, your group should also decide on acceptable definitions. From a sales and marketing prospective this means defining, what is a lead that sales will accept? Is it someone you met at the event, or is it defined opportunity with timeframe, budget and decision maker or influencer? Finally, ensure your working group meets frequently to flesh out the system, troubleshoot and keep to the implementation deadline.

So, that is the first step of the journey to building successful marketing systems and process. In a nutshell, start thinking, defining and talking about it. For those of you who want to do more, in part II, I will share what comes next and will explore how you approach the delicate balance of implementing your new improved system and processes.