Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 115: Q&A with Sam Melnick @SamMelnick

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About three years ago now we started producing a weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio,(live every other Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific).  It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests coming up as well.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.

In this episode, Brian Hansford, VP of Client Services at Heinz Marketing hosts Sam Melnick, VP of Marketing at Allocadia.

In this episode we’re talking about a mid-year review.  As Sam says, “It all starts with the plan. So whether you’re planning for next year or whether you’re looking at what’s going on in real time, measuring performance in real time or if you’re doing that kinda half year look back, to me, it all starts with the plan. That’s your roadmap. You set out your intentions. You set out where do we wanna spend time and money. What do we expect to get out of our time and money? And now you get that chance to compare results and hopefully adjust and improve.

Brian asks Sam several great questions!  Listen in to hear Sam’s replies!

  • When marketers are at both the strategic levels, CMO level and even operational level, are reviewing that data, what are some of the best practices that you see with your clients and even that you recommend in how they manage their budgets against the plan and make decisions on where to invest their resources?
  • What should they look at in terms of reviewing their plan? How can they look at the data that they’ve been collecting and analyze that performance up to this point and use that to make plan adjustments and moving forward?
  • Do you feel that marketers are getting better at measuring their performance against revenue? The revenue attainment and what they’re actually doing to drive results.
  • What are your thoughts on that and how should marketers consider using that when adjusting for a strong second half?
  • Should marketers wait for a mid-year point to measure what’s working?
  • How often should they analyze what’s working with a marketing performance management approach and solution and make those go, no go, or any sort of adjustment decisions, pulling investments, adding investments?

More from Sam:

I am an analytically driven marketing professional who has experience as a marketing leader, industry analyst, and customer success manager at a marketing technology company. My special talent is the ability to focus on details or specifics to execute, but also step back and distill this information at a higher, more strategic level.

I am a student of marketing and will never stop learning about and discussing marketing. Some of my favorite topics are: Marketing technology, marketing benchmarks, change management within marketing, and building high performing teams. Feel free to reach out if you want to connect around interesting ideas, projects, companies, and/or tools!

Outside of work I love skiing, basketball, and cooking. Additionally, I am a barbecue and craft beer aficionado.

Paul:  Welcome aboard. It’s time to grab your board, swim out into the ocean of ideas, and see if you can catch that Sales Pipeline as it’s starting to curl up over the horizon there with that master surfer himself here, Brian Hansford, sitting in today, here.

Brian:  Thanks, Paul. Appreciate it! Hi, everybody. Brian Hansford, here, with Heinz Marketing. I’ve been called off the bench. Matt is off speaking at another event as he often does this time of year.

Paul:  He’s probably just surfing somewhere, here, that’s what he’s doing.

Brian:  Well, the guy, I’ll tell you, if there’s anybody that can make the best use of time to even think about getting some surfing in, it would be Matt.

Paul:  Exactly.

Brian:  He’s the most productive guy in the world that I know; it’s pretty incredible. But I always enjoy sitting in and taking the helm here a little bit for the Sales Pipeline radio, and I’m very excited to have this conversation over the next 25 minutes or so just for everybody’s edification, I guess. My name, again, is Brian Hansford, and I am a vice president of client services here at Heinz Marketing. Coming up on my six year anniversary here, so it’s been a fantastic ride. Love working with all of the companies and clients that we work with. And I especially enjoy the opportunity to have conversations like we’re going to have today with Sam Melnick who’s vice president of marketing from Allocadia. Sam, are you there?

Sam:  I am here, and let me ask you this. Six years, how many years is that in marketing years?

Brian:  I gotta tell you, if you break out all of the responsibilities, all of the clients, and everything else that you have to cover, I don’t know, man, I think there’s a dog year conversion rate there someplace. It’s been a great ride, and I love it here. Anyway, that’s a great question. I’m going to have to think about that.

Sam:  Absolutely, well congrats on the six years. That is awesome.

Brian:  Well, thanks, and I really appreciate you joining us today. Sam, give us a little bit of background on who you are, where you’re coming from, and then tell us about Allocadia.

Sam:  Yeah, absolutely. Well, first of all, thanks a lot for having me. I think my favorite part of the job and the previous jobs I’ve had is having interesting conversations with smart marketers like yourself. So as you said Sam Melnick, vice president of marketing at Allocadia, kind of a checkered past touching a bunch of different marketing companies and roles. I’ve been a marketing practitioner at BP backed start-up. I’ve been an analyst in a group called the CMO advisory service at IDC, where I worked with senior-level marketing operations professionals and CMO’s. And then I worked at Lattice Engines, where I was more customer-facing, so another mar-tech company, predictive marketing and now here I am at Allocadia.

Brian:  That’s a fantastic background. Very interesting. I’m sure especially with what you did at Lattice and the CMO advisory service, the exposure that you’ve had to all kinds of marketers at all levels, capabilities, knowledge and what not has been pretty vast. If anything that’s one of the things that I enjoy about this job is just being able to work with so many different marketers at different levels, different capabilities, and then helping them, and learning from them, and trying to help them succeed. I’m sure you see that a lot. Cause I’ve seen you speak before and some of the stories that you tell and share are pretty fantastic.

Sam:  Well, I appreciate that. Thanks a lot. You’re making me blush. But, yeah, I think as we said, when you get those roles as in whether it’s an analyst or whether it’s customer-facing, you just learn so much from smart marketers and you’re able to take that and share it. And I think one of the things that I like doing at Allocadia so we’re, just to kind of answer that final question, we’re marketing performance management software, so we work with CMOs and marketing operations executives, surprisingly.

Brian:  Yup.

Sam:  So we help marketers create plans, manage their budgets and investments and then measure results, particularly ROI, so marketers know what’s working, what’s not and where they should spend their next dollar. So that’s what I’m up to now with Allocadia.

Brian:  Well and, you guys are doing some really good things. Just some of the news releases around some of the big wins that you’ve had over the last year or so. Just seeing the logos on your websites and customer stories that I’ve seen at some events. Some very interesting stories and one of the things I wanted to talk about with you today are the overarching theme is we’re approaching the mid-year mark of 2018. At least for the calendar year and most organizations that have a fiscal year on the calendar year, fiscal year.

So we’re at the mid-year mark and marketers are so heavily measured on results now. The activity based marketer is, if not extinct, soon to be extinct if there’s going to be any longevity in career there. The Deloitte CMO Council survey that comes out every year shows time and time again that CMOs in particular if they’re going to have longevity in their careers at a particular company that they’re working at, they need to be able to demonstrate results. And you know here we are at the mid-year mark and I wanted to talk with you and get your insights on what marketers should be looking at at the mid-year mark. What should they look at in terms of reviewing their plan? How can they look at the data that they’ve been collecting and analyze that performance up to this point and use that to make plan adjustments and moving forward? So I want to dive into that and get your thoughts on what you’re seeing with your clients and just some of the best practices that you’ve come up with and give our audience some ideas. Things that they can think about to move forward.

Sam:  It’s a great time to start really looking at the past six months, understanding where you’re at and how to move forward for the next six months. And I’m even going to say it, and I’m sorry, and then it’s even starting to set the table for the next year.

Brian:  Oh! You’re killing me. Are you actually seeing that? Are you actually seeing companies that are starting to think about next year?

Sam:  Yeah, at the enterprise level, the large companies. And I’d say, you said like planning season. Or not planning season, you said we’re about to hit the mid-year point and I think sixty to seventy percent of companies are on a physical year calendar. That means we’re coming right up to the six months. For the largest companies, so the largest customers that I have at IDC and we have at Allocadia, they start their planning cycles about six months out, for the year. And it’s not like they start putting like we’re going to do a webinar on this day. It’s more like strategic plans. It’s like the c suite. It’s corporate goals. Like the director of plans, marketing planning at XYZ, twenty five billion dollar company, they’re just starting to rev their engines right now.

Brian:  You know one of the interesting things is with technology that’s available now and tools like Allocadia’s, you can start providing insights on okay, what has worked well? Where are we starting to see some strong returns based on the budget investments that we’ve made and that can help and form what can go into the next year’s plan. And that’s more than marketers had even three years ago, where basically we were just guessing. So that has to be an interesting transition and, actually, incredibly valuable for B2B marketers to be able to provide that insight and information, I would imagine.

Sam:  Yeah, it is. And you and I were kind of talking about how should we focus this, where do we want to focus the conversation and doing some prep, and I’ve been saying, like what I said to you, it all starts with the plan. So whether you’re planning for next year or whether you’re looking at what’s going on in real time, so measuring performance in real time or if you’re doing that kind of half year look back, to me, it all starts with the plan. Cause that’s kind of your roadmap. You set out your intentions. You set out where do we want to spend time and money. What do we expect to get out of our time and money? And now you get that chance to compare results and hopefully adjust and improve.

Brian:  So when marketers are at both the strategic levels, CMO level and even operational level, are reviewing that data, what are some of the best practices that you see with your clients and even that you recommend in how they manage their budgets against the plan and make decisions on where to invest their resources?

Sam:  Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great question. And so how I look at it is you need to split up your data and split up that question and then try to bring it together. Cause you need to split it up in terms of returns and investments. So we like to look at it, the most advanced marketers that I see, they’re looking at something called a planned ROI and they’re saying I’m intending to send X dollars or X resources into these areas and I’d expect to be forty-five percent of the way through my goal. Or maybe it’s heavy on trade shows so I’m sixty percent of the way when I get to fifty percent of the year. But they understand maybe I’ve spent seventy percent of my dollars, I’m fifty percent of my way through my goals and because they’re going to get residual effects from that seventy percent, I’ll get to a hundred percent. So I think that’s where it starts first. Where you’re planning to spend dollars and what are your planned results from them? So that’s number one.

Number two is making sure you have your data laid out in a format that you can react. So it’s one thing to be able to plan I’m going to spend X, I’m going to get Y results and here’s how we’re going to move forward but if you don’t have access and a plan to get to that data in a format that’s meaningful when kind of stuff hits the fan and you’re actually executing, you’re going to be running around doing V look ups and excel gymnastics on your weekend. So the second thing is to have a plan for their data and how it’s going to come together.

Then the third thing is having that feedback loop to the marketers, whether it’s a six person marketing team and you’re just having those weekly stand ups or whether it’s a six hundred person marketing team and you’ve got the right dashboards and a tableau or whatever. Having that feedback loops to the marketers who are actually doing the work, can react to the results, is super important.

Brian:  Do you feel that marketers are getting better at measuring their performance against revenue? The revenue attainment and what they’re actually doing to drive results.

Sam:  Yes but there’s still a ton of work to do. So we actually did a benchmark study and I know you guys have done studies before at Heinz and you probably see similar data, but we did a study last year. We found that only 21% of marketing organizations report that they can tie their measurements back to business impact and revenue contributions. So that means one out of five marketers out there are able to say alright, here’s all the things we’re doing, here’s the data that’s coming back, and here’s how it relates back to company objects and ultimately revenue. So it’s absolutely getting better but we’ve got, as marketers, a lot of work to be done. And that’s why having partners like Heinz or hopefully Allocadia is so important to help you join that 21% and get it up to twenty-five and then thirty and then forty.

Brian:  Yeah, absolutely. So we’re going to take a break here for a commercial intermission and we’ll come right back. Talking with Sam Melnick, vice president of marketing at Allocadia.

*Break*

Brian:  Brian Hansford here with Heinz Marketing, filling in for Matt Heinz, and I’m talking with Sam Melnick from Allocadia. Sam, are you based in Vancouver where Allocadia is headquartered?

Sam:  I am based in Vancouver one week a month. I’m actually based in Boston, Massachusetts. So I get to visit the lovely Pacific Northwest, or I guess, Southwest if you’re in Canada, a few times a month.

Brian:  Wow, so I bet you’re racking up the miles then. Now are you, you’re in the middle of conference season, so are you on the road currently?

Sam:  I got back from the road, I think it was last week. Sirius Decision Summit, I was at and we’re good for now. So we’re moving into, actually we’re moving into our planning for the next few quarters right now.

Brian:  Nice. Talking about planning in trade show season. So the Sirius Decisions event was last week and a few weeks ago was the Marketo event and they just announced their plan engage measure framework. What are your thoughts on that and how should marketers consider using that when adjusting for a strong second half? Tell us what your thoughts might be on that.

Sam:  Yeah, so I really like that framework and also a congratulations to our mutual friends, Divisible for their acquisition there, both Marketo, Divisible, we’re all a part of the same happy family so it’s great to see when good people, good companies, come together. So the plan engage measure framework is something that’s really similar to Allocadia looks at with our run marketing which is really that plan invest measure and then do marketing which is what we call execution or what Marketo is calling engage.

And I think it’s really important that marketers think about that framework, the plan engage measure, as they adjust. We are often mid-year we’re usually in the thick of things. We’re just thinking about engaging, executing and just kind of hammering that home. We’re often just kind of chasing that revenue number or maybe it’s a pipeline number or even for some a lead number. And making sure that you do test set back, measure the results that are coming in and, as I said, go back to that plan to see how are you producing, how are you matching up against that plan and what do you need to adjust? So it’s not forgetting, not getting stuck in that engage and execute loop cause when you do that that’s really when you kind of go into that spiral of, like you said, an activity marketer. So hopefully that helps.

Brian:  Right cause you can get stuck in activities where you could be doing all kinds of things but if they’re not producing the results that are needed, that activity it’s meaningless. It’s a waste of resources. It’s a waste of effort. And I guess that gets into should marketers wait for a mid-year point to measure what’s working? How often should they analyze what’s working with a marketing performance management approach and solution and make those go, no go, or any sort of adjustment decisions, pulling investments, adding investments. If your CFO comes to you with the classic example I like to throw out there. Okay, CFO comes to you one day and says listen, I have 10% budget that I could add this quarter. What can you do with that? I’m throwing a lot of questions at you right now but how frequently, how often should they be measuring performance and then using that loop to make those adjustments as needed?

Sam:  Yeah, I think the easy answer is real time, of course. I think that’s the end goal for all of us. How do you get this real time, almost feedback loops you can adjust? You work with plenty of marketers, you know that’s not realistic so I’d say it really depends on the size of the organization, the maturity of the capabilities and then also where you are in the organization.

So I’ll break each of those down. I think the size of the organization kind of ties into where you are in the organization but at a size level, there’s a certain agility that’s harder to come to. So making sure you have those check points at kind of the chief exec, CMO, type level or corporate level where there’s a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly check point to see where you are and have the right people in the room to make those no go or go decisions is really important. And we all want to be real time but if you’re not capable to do that. It’s like what are you capable of? And start there. And start making that better through again it’s the people process technologies. So start kind of fixing those.

In terms of the level of the organization, how often you should be measuring, if you’re someone who’s a field marketer or someone who’s really on the ground floor, so kind of quote, unquote vanity metrics. Email opens, website visitors, it’s not that you shouldn’t be measuring those, you should, but you can use those as almost early indicators on your performance so you can adjust in real time. If you know that your website traffic is down but you know that website traffic equals more SALs and more opportunities, you can start saying okay we’re going to have a gap further down because I can surmise or I know that from past data and you can move faster.

But as a CMO, they don’t even care about website traffic unless something’s totally wrong. They should be looking at pipeline or opportunities created or even revenue and that’s where they should be measuring. It might not be at the same frequency as that marketer in the field who’s looking at traffic on a daily basis.

Brian:  Yeah, I think it’s important to have and use analytics in the right context. So if you have those activity metrics or performance metrics around site visits or webinar attendance, things like that, those are important in the right context but if you’re including those or leading with those metrics as your top, key PIs and your KBRs for the executive suite, then you’re missing the mark.

And that leads into my next question where we’ve been working more and more with clients to help them actually tell the story on what they’re doing to drive results. And in a lot of ways it relates to how much more effective are we at measuring performance against revenue and driving that but also being able to tell the story and tell the story in a way that’s meaningful to the right audience. With your clients and Allocadia customers who you’ve worked with, are you seeing that marketers are getting better at telling the story and what they’re doing to actually drive results? If they have the data but being able to analyze the data and tell that story, are you seeing the skills and the capabilities in that meaningful storytelling, are you seeing that starting to improve at all?

Sam:  I actually am and I feel pretty good about this. I was talking to a couple of customers who are kind of taking this on in the same direction recently and they didn’t call it exactly this but we’re kind of looking at it as, they’re looking at it almost like return on intent to help tell that story. So obviously we all want to measure our live return on investment in terms of a mathematical sense but there’s also this idea of return on intent. Am I doing what I said I was going to do? Am I getting the results out of my actions that I expected?

And they actually have CMO level dashboards where they can go into their CMOs office on a weekly basis and say here’s across our two billion dollar company and our two hundred million dollar or a hundred million dollar marketing spend, here’s what our efforts are going into. We’re supporting this product line, this market launch, and this region. And their CMOs have the confidence that the checks they’re writing, often six figure checks, are going towards the activities and the intention of that plan, of what they have aligned with their other c suites, I guess counterparts. So that storytelling and that ability to kind of talk about that return on intent, am I doing what I said I was going to do? Is definitely a part of that story telling.

Brian:  I like what you’ve mentioned there’s planned ROI and then return on intent. So those are some interesting concepts and I think this could be really valuable for people to add in their work flow and their approach to measuring overall marketing performance. Well, Sam, I think we’re coming up on the close of our conversation here. These conversations always go much quicker and I really enjoy cause I always learn and I feel like you could talk for another sixty minutes or so. I definitely want to make sure that we give you the opportunity to come back and talk about some more. Your insights are always valuable. Any time I see you at a trade show and you have the opportunity to speak and share some case studies, incredibly valuable. I would encourage anybody to look at the content that Allocadia is producing. Keep an eye out for Sam. He is a prolific content producer, tells some great stories and offers great advice. Is there anything in closing that you want to leave us with, Sam? Any great tidbits of knowledge as we’re approaching and getting through this mid-year point?

Sam:  Yeah, absolutely. Well, I appreciate the kind words, first of all. Thanks for having me. I guess the one thing I would say is don’t strive for perfection, strive for progress. You’re at a certain point, you have certain capabilities, you have certain measurements, use those to the best of your ability to make the best decisions you can today and then improve, kind of, that plan and measure portion of your marketing capabilities as you move forward so you can get even better.

Brian:  Yeah.

Sam:  I guess those are my wise words. So thanks for having me, Brian.

Brian:  Thanks so much, Sam. Keep on doing some great things at Allocadia. Thank you to everybody that has listened in on Sales Pipeline Radio. I’m Brian Hansford with Heinz Marketing, sitting in for Matt Heinz, and look forward to seeing this up on our site. If you have any other information needs on B2B marketing, please come to heinzmarketing.com. Tons of great content that we’re going to make available to help you in your efforts and also please make sure to check out Allocadia.com. They have tons of fantastic content, very helpful for B2B marketers out there and driving revenue. So go get ’em, guys. And here’s to a successful mid-year point for everybody. Good marketing.

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