How many marketers do you know with an accounting degree?
Probably fewer than you can count on one hand, if you’ve counted any at all. Although marketing has graduated from its arts-and-crafts reputation, it’s still rare to meet marketers with deep financial knowledge who aren’t in an analytics role.
We were excited to catch up with Marc McNabb, vice president of marketing operations and strategy at Hyland. He has a unique background that spans across strategic planning and processes to insights and technology. Marc, who meticulously documents CMO trends over the years, noticed a changing of the guard over the last couple of years.
Learn what Marc had to say about demand no longer being the center of the marketing universe, the strategic role of marketing ops in planning, and how Hyland tracks digital spend insights against campaign performance.
How did you get into marketing?
My first degree was in accounting. After finishing school, I worked as a financial analyst for two years building revenue forecasts for the marketing team. And that was what hooked me in.
It was so much more fun trying to predict the future than counting beans in the past. I got my MBA and then immediately got a job as a marketing analyst. Working as part of a market planning group, we were basically doing CRM but in spreadsheets.
I would travel around the world and sit with the managers of business units, planning out their accounts and doing the business forecasts. These were $10-15 million deals that we were writing up details for. This is when I really got into research and studied statistics.
What does “planning” mean to you?
I have run strategical and annual planning processes at a number of companies. When I worked at SAP and there was a newly acquired company, I would be the one to go in and audit their processes.
There are two standpoints I approach planning from: strategic/annual planning and always-on campaign planning.
For me, strategy and planning are what differentiate a team. The leadership team owns the strategy, and we help facilitate it. In the end, everyone in marketing is part of the process.
Before, everything revolved around what SiriusDecisions referred to as the demand center and how to drive repeatable and scalable demand through our hub of shared marketing services, process, and infrastructure. But now, I view campaign planning as the center of marketing’s universe. While demand center concepts are still important, it’s not about the demand center anymore.
Our strategy relies much more on campaign planning to execution process and the customer journey. Marketing identifies opportunities and creates campaigns to target them instead of getting everyone in the funnel.
What is your planning process?
We have a team of 170 marketers and run an integrated planning process, with marketing leadership making decisions on overall strategy. We start off with our three-year strategy that feeds our annual marketing operational plan. The three-year strategy is really focused on trends. Our annual marketing operational plan, which comes out of that strategy, needs to be aligned to the organization and their goals.
Planning is planning, but it needs to adapt to the needs of the current business. There is no one size fits all.
Our go-to-market (GTM) plan is set up by audience, and we have plan owners for each segment. They are responsible for building an integrated plan against their audience.
As part of both of these processes, prioritization is a critical piece of the puzzle. If we’re running 50 to 60 campaigns, prioritization is critical to success. Here, marketing leadership will also decide on what the priorities for the quarter are, and how that relates to our strategy.
Before prioritization, there used to be a lot of time and effort wasted. But in using Hive9 and the Forrester campaign planning framework, we’re executing what we need to on time.
The plan owners are also the program owners in the programs team. From there, we bring in campaign management, content, creative, and all the promotional tactic teams. Historically, a lot of companies outsource to agencies, but we do a lot more internally. We have a fairly large content and creative team of about 20 people to help support campaign development. It’s almost like an internal agency.
How often do you look at campaign performance and adjust plans?
Every quarter, our plan owners come in to review their campaign progress. This is part of our always-on campaign planning process whereby we are always looking at extended, modified, and net-new campaigns.
We evaluate each campaign’s success from a program objective: reputation, demand volume, demand ABM, sales enablement, and customer.
We want to understand what’s working and what new opportunities we have. If we need to add something in, then we can. And we’re still always prioritizing and updating campaign plans to get what needs to be in the market right away. It’s not a perfect process yet, but it gives us the ability to move and change on the fly.
Are there any other stakeholders involved in marketing planning?
You need a finance team that’s really supportive. Our team at Hyland Software is great; they jumped all in to support us when we were tackling digital spend.
You can’t build integrated campaigns without digital tactics. Typically, when you use a digital agency, you have one black box for digital spend. So, you can only see one lump sum of what was spent optimizing tactics, and you have zero details. If you ask agencies to split it up, then fees quadruple. I think most B2B companies end up with that one sum. We wanted to fix that.
To fix the budgeting side, we got finance on board first. It meant that we changed some of our processes and PO forms. But now, we require our agencies to have the budget model broken out, it’s aligned to our campaign structure, and we have our digital spend lined up through Hive9. Now our marketers can build integrated campaigns and know where their dollars performed better, instead of just dumping all their digital spend in one line item.
How do you see the role of marketing operations in planning?
Marketing ops runs planning now. But that hasn’t always been the case.
I’ve seen it evolve and get pulled all over the place. I remember doing sales ops in the late 90s, and that was considered a step ahead of everything. This was when I was at Checkpoint, Unisys, and Siemens, which grew so much in the early 2000s. But marketing ops didn’t exist.
Marketing ops was built out of the market research function, which used to report into the CMO. Market researchers had the analytical skills and were easily able to pick up the reporting piece and apply those skills to the analytical planning process.
Then around the mid-2000s, marketing ops grew more standardized with the help of people like SiriusDecisions to help guide them. At that time, I was running strategic planning at a corporate level, and I wanted to have plans running up to the business unit. From there, it was all marketing ops, and I helped formalize that process at SAP.
Marketing ops can be— and should be—more strategic and insightful. But it can't function that way if it's just a mature lead processing function, mired in configurations and integrations instead of strategy.
I think marketing ops needs to drive and optimize that strategy process. And I think it’s starting to settle back into that.
To learn more strategies for effective marketing planning, you can read our new eBook, “CMO Guide: How to Plan Smart and Pivot Fast.” We spoke with seven marketing leaders from companies like Unilever, Hyland, Visier, and more about their diverse perspective and approaches to planning.