Restructuring and building Marketing processes is my dream project

When Marketers “shift the focus from project to process”, they become much more productive. They also get to exercise their creativity, defining how the work is done, and measure the impact of their choices. In this interview, Marie-Therese Grüner tells why her current position building Marketing processes at SCHOTT Pharma is her “dream project”.

Marie-Therese grüner - photo by oana.szekely

When did you first become aware of processes in Marketing?

During the second semester of my Master’s degree. I was the working student with a publishing company that managed news publications and events for the real estate sector. During this time, I was involved in an implementation project of a new Marketing Automation Software including building up Marketing automation workflows. That was the start of my passion for creating customer-oriented processes.

After I finished my Master’s, I joined the same company. I took over a Marketing role from a lady with enormous experience. She knew what she was doing, but as the newbie I was like, “what are the processes here? How should I handle this? Help me, please”. Together, we worked on defining and recording processes.

When we began working together, we talked about the idea “shift the focus from project to process” …

And it’s become a shared slogan! But, as we both know from experience, it’s really hard to create processes in Marketing. It’s still unusual for Marketers to work really closely with Sales. Or to focus on improving the efficiency or effectiveness of a process. Nevertheless, this is what really drives value in Marketing.

When a Marketing team works in a structured way, everybody knows what needs to be done, who is involved and when. It’s much more efficient. And that applies to everything. From publishing a LinkedIn post to a full-scale product launch.

To advance Marketing one step further, we have to define projects that create processes. In the end, we want to sit back and monitor a dashboard that constantly tells us which campaign, which channel brought in the most valuable leads; and where we should focus in the future with our budget. But first, we have to build it with a project.

Do you think most Marketing teams are aware of processes?

My opinion: not really. I think in many companies, Marketers are still doing what they’re told to do, and when they should do it. Oftentimes the attitude is also, “just do it how you think is best”. And that’s not working. Going back and forth, asking who is the right contact person at which point, is super time consuming. There’s no real process in the sense of defined steps and predictable results.

The understanding of processes is a trend that gets more recognition – especially in Marketing Operations. The main reason is that Marketing wants to measure its successes a lot more and report on RoI. But oftentimes people outside the department are pushing Marketing to do that, too.

Do you think other teams consider Marketing to be process oriented?

Hard question. I think it depends on how those departments relate to us. After all, Marketers themselves joke that some departments still think Marketing only does pretty images, nice presentations and trade shows!

In practice, Marketing brings so much more value when you really use its full potential. So Marketing needs to work on this mind shift constantly. How can we show other departments that we bring value based on the processes that we have in Marketing? This is something that Marketing needs to drive. It’s really hard because even though you’re trying your best, sometimes you’re just running against a closed door. Marketers need to understand that.

Nevertheless it’s worth it, because we now see some mind shifts. A recent example is building an interface from a website direct to a CRM system. Leads are now automatically integrated into an CRM system which completely removes the effort of manually emailing back and forth. This brings a huge saving of time and effort, plus better quality data for the company. Everybody now understands that Marketing works together with the Sales Excellence team to improve quality, and helps Sales work efficiently on their leads. And this really, really helps Marketing stand out by delivering additional value.

How do you go about creating processes?

When you start, you need to define a project with dedicated people. The key question is “how can we improve efficiency?” But in the beginning you can’t answer that without a project. After a while, you have everything up and running. With the efficiency in place, you can move from a project style working group to management of a process. You don’t really have to focus that much on it anymore. This is what I’m working towards and what I live for in Marketing.

Do you have tips for designing processes?

When you want to start a completely new concept, really start from scratch, I think it’s important to take time to think it through. You have to go deep into the details with other departments to understand what can be done.

I think it’s super important to have a design for quality perspective, too. When you design a process, it’s not just about solving the immediate problem. It’s really helpful to think about wider issues and the future perspectives, as well. Can the design be scaled to, let’s say, a time when the company is bigger? How will the process cascade to handle a larger volume of campaigns? Or a roll-out to more countries? Stuff like that.

I think Marketing departments oftentimes struggle to track the outcome as we are just running to gain momentum in the market. But it’s essential to measure and understand what was worth it and what wasn’t. Which channel, asset or whatever really brought the most value. Which had the best cost per lead? Which leads turned into an opportunity or a Sales order?

Do senior managers understand the benefits of processes in Marketing?

Yes, definitely. I can only speak now from my perspective, but the message is definitely getting through. They do understand that Marketing brings value, so they bring Marketing together with Business Development, Sales, and others. Everybody sits at one table and we discuss things. That’s a real game changer for us.

One of our biggest achievements is that we can now track outcomes. Channels, for example. How many leads does LinkedIn bring us? What opportunities did we gain from that trade show? We can now do that and the Senior Management recognizes and appreciates that. Definitely.

We still do nice images, presentations and trade shows – they know that. But now they also understand that we optimize processes for the company. And that brings them special value. Because a more efficient process means a more efficient company.

Imagine that a Marketer is reading about “shift the focus from project to process” for the first time. And then they ask “where or how do I begin?”

I would say start small. Everybody knows that there are some inefficiencies in Marketing. Perhaps it’s about working together with Sales. If there is one thing that can be easily changed, start with this as a pilot project. Get everyone round a table, discuss ideas, different point of views, get in all the feedback that you can. Then start with a very small pilot project to optimize this as best as you can. Get the momentum rolling so that everybody understands that Marketing can bring value. So start small and create a mind shift in other departments.

Then take a bigger issue from scratch and optimize and optimize. Start more of these projects once you are along the way. When others understand, “hey, this brings value”, then they will most likely support ythe process along its journey and other projects as well. And that’s important because change management is not that easy.

Good point. Introducing new processes is about changing habits and that’s one of the toughest things to do. What do you advise?

Be patient. This is the biggest advice that I have, because it’s hard. When you re-invent a process and it’s kind of your baby, you think it’s the best thing that you could ever have done. But people are not adopting as fast as you’ld like because they have their own working styles. Perhaps they’ve worked like this for more than twenty years. It’s hard to change these habits within just one month or something like that. So be patient.

You also have to help people adopt the new process. First thing – find promoters that encourage others to work with the new processes, too. For example, find the most critical people in the project pilot and get them involved. Get them talking. Why they think it’s the worst thing that they have ever seen; why they think it’s hard to use this process. Because if you have those people in your team, and solve their issues, they can become promoters.

The second thing is training. Do lots of training. Video tutorials, face-to-face training, whatever it takes. And do those training sessions two or three times because it takes time for people to adopt a new process. It takes time, so be patient.

Do you have any guidance on the right size of team to “get stuff done”?

It depends on the project or the process itself. Some processes have more people involved, so it might be a bigger group. But let’s take an example. In the project for integrating the website to the CRM system, the core team was just five people, not more. These people round the table are the peer group representing each department that was involved.

And it’s important that these go-to people drive the project back in their own department and get feedback from others. Are there any concerns? Or additional ideas? But nevertheless, the main group was just five people. This was enough because even with five different opinions, it is sometimes hard to get people to agree.

Is there a dream project that you’d really like to do?

My dream project? I’m currently working on my dream project. What I’m currently doing at SCHOTT Pharma is completely restructuring or building up processes from scratch. Marketing automation, lead nurturing, lead scoring and then a transfer of hot Marketing Qualified Leads automatically into a CRM system.

The icing on the cake would be to have feedback loops from Sales back to Marketing; and then have automated processes to do upselling, cross-selling, further nurturing. This is my dream project that I’m already currently working on with small steps. But designed to deliver as soon as possible. I have to follow my own guidance: be patient.

That’s terrific, congratulations. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

For somebody who wants to delve into this new area in Marketing, my advice would be to just try it out. When I did my master’s degree, there was no real function called “Marketing Operations” or anything like that. There was no real focus on how to improve processes in Marketing. This is a new field that’s appearing now and I think it’s super important.

So if somebody really wants to improve efficiency, loves to do structured work, improve working relationships, maybe work with Sales to define workflows, it might be a good idea to just try it out and learn how it works.

Professional Profile:

After completing a bachelor’s in business administration with product management and customer management, Marie-Therese Grüner moved to Wiesbaden to take a Masters in Business Administration with Sales and Marketing Management.

Her professional experience includes Event and Marketing Management for IZ, publisher of the “Immobilien Zeitung”; and Marketing Management of several product portfolios and campaigns (industrial shakers, strain gauges, data acquisition software and open API interfaces) for the global test and measurement company Hottinger Bruel and Kjaer (HBK).

Marie currently works in as a Global Campaign Manager at SCHOTT Pharma, the recently formed subsidiary of the international glass manufacturer SCHOTT AG, focusing on Marketing Operations by creating lead management processes and structures for international Marketing.