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How Artificial Intelligence will Change Marketing Operations

AI/Predictive Analytics

15 Min Read

J. David Green

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Hello and welcome back to the B2B Marketing Jukebox Podcast. On today’s show we are joined Allison Smith Terrey from Pitney Bowes, where she is the former Vice-President of Global Marketing Operation. In our conversation, Allison explains the vital role that marketing operations plays at Pitney Bowes and just how the process of connecting it with other teams works. In the contemporary world, with the aid of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), these methods can come together for greater collaboration and alignment between marketing and sales. and we hear from Allison about her background and the growth of her involvement a burgeoning department. We also chat about the essential connection and communication between the marketing operations team, demand generation, and sales operations. The conversation finishes off looking forward to the future for Pitney Bowes and where these fields might be headed. For all this and more be sure to tune in!

Key Points from This Episode:

  • A recent success that Allison experienced applying her expertise in her work.
  • Allison’s thoughts on the relationship between sales and marketing teams.
  • The big step forward that AI and ML will provide to B2B marketers.
  • The close work between marketing operations, demand generation and sales operations.
  • Why she adding a sales development team to their strategy.


“I come to marketing operations with a background of engineering and business. So it’s enabled me to integrate strategy, technology, metrics, systems. See the big picture.” — @asmithterrey [0:00:54.9]

“I think as far as metrics and conversion rates, I think they’re really important for marketing and I think that they help identify what’s working and what’s not.” — @asmithterrey [0:03:53.4]

 “That’s where I believe the conversion metrics are critical because they do show you over time where you’re performing and where you’re not performing.” — @asmithterrey [0:13:09.8]

 Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

 Allison Smith Terrey – on Twitter — https://twitter.com/asmithterrey

Allison Smith Terrey on Linkedin — https://www.linkedin.com/in/allison-smith-terrey

Pitney Bowes – https://www.pitneybowes.com/us

SalesForce — https://login.salesforce.com/?locale=eu

AT&T — https://www.att.com/


[0:00:07.2] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the B2B Marketing Jukebox by LeadCrunch. Help us start a movement to make B2B marketers the maestros of shareholder value. On our website, leadcrunch.com, you can find timestamped transcripts of these podcasts and info about the guests. Subscribe to these podcasts on all major platforms, like iTunes. Send topic or guest suggestions to the host at david.green@leadcrunch.ai.

Here’s Dave.

 [0:00:34.1] DG: I am here today with Allison Smith Terrey. Allison is formerly the Vice-President of Global Marketing Operations of Pitney Bowes. Allison, welcome so much to the podcast today.

[0:00:45.0] AST: Hi, thanks. It’s great to be here.

[0:00:47.0] DG: Tell us a little bit about the background you have in marketing operations which is usually right in the middle of all this funnel measurement stuff.

[0:00:54.2] AST: I come to marketing operations with a background of engineering and business. So it’s enabled me to integrate strategy, technology, metrics, systems. See the big picture and see how everything integrates from that analysis technology perspective. I have been in marketing operations for 15 years. I started early. I don’t think I realized I was in marketing operations at the time.

We were just starting to create all these new reports for business marketing, understanding the funnel, understanding conversion metrics, marketing automation, all of that. I have worked for several companies in this role, created several marketing operations departments.

[0:01:40.3] DG: Allison, tell us one big success you’ve had applying the discipline of marketing operations to one of the companies you’ve worked for.

[0:01:48.0] AST: Yeah, I think the most recent is that I led the implementation of the salesforce.com marketing cloud which use all these elements of funnel marketing capabilities, marketing measurement.

We were migrating from another platform onto the marketing cloud, it enabled us to have a 360 view of the client, to be better aligned with sales and then also to provide and enable marketing with more capabilities for omni-channel marketing.

[0:02:18.0] DG: Allison, you have had a decade of experience in marketing operations. Let’s start right where I think there is a lot of problems for most people which is the relationship with the sales organization and getting them both in the same page.

[0:02:34.2] AST: I don’t believe that marketing or sales understand just how aligned and continual conversation they need to have because we’ve learned that over time and how deep you have to go, because both sides think they don’t know what they don’t know.

For example, marketing might have collectively, hopefully you do your planning, your strategy, everyone feels they’re on the same page, they have the same number of goals, MQLs from marketing, et cetera. Marketing delivers that and sales will come back and say, “Yeah, but you know we’re not getting the right leads.”

Lo and behold, some of the things that we learned was that the leads were not spread out the way that sales had set up their quotas and their plans. Maybe a few people in the Midwest didn’t get any leads because we didn’t market the companies there for whatever reason but marketing doesn’t realize that. So you have these types of conversations and I know that –

Anyway, that seems trivial but that I think were a lot of times marketing and sales they have a lot of disagreements because they don’t know what the other one is talking about. All right, so there’s that and I’ve learned that. I think as far as metrics and conversion rates, I think they’re really important for marketing and I think that they help identify what’s working and what’s not and then enable them to go deep and have a good idea of what’s going on in their funnel.

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 Then you asked about vision —well and then you asked about how would someone set up a system, start with the information on there and that’s the vision. What’s happening now is that there’s a movement towards looking at leads and opportunities from the account perspective or the buyer team, which is the right thing to do. The problem is that systems today really don’t enable that to happen but this is where the new technology is coming in with new applications, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, can look at all the data and identify who the account or buying team is.

And then also, both machine learning, artificial intelligence, you know the same thing. I think that they’re going to be critical to help really identify the right attribution for marketing and then the marketing mix. Because really you can’t do it today unless you have some pretty skilled data scientists on your team and even then, I think we’ve tried it and we never really got down to that mix.

I think that’s where artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to come in.

[0:04:59.8] DG: In helping with account-based marketing and the measurement of success there you say, or—

[0:05:04.1] AST: No, not even – Yeah, account-based marketing because right now even sales – we were on Salesforce.com for a long time but it doesn’t matter. They’re all the same. The out of the box report and the metrics from marketing especially they look at a marketing lead that converted to an opportunity. And that marketing source, there are other metrics too but it’s that one lead. There might have been five people on the buying team or there might be five separate lead records for each of those persons in the systems. But only one of those records is going to get converted to an opportunity.

You don’t know that there are four other people also part of that buying team. So marketing’s contribution is greater than just that one person. The tools today look – they focus in on that one record instead of holistically taking a step back and saying, “Okay, all these people from AT&T, they were going to webinars together. They were downloading white papers, they were listening to the podcast.”

Just so happened that record two is the one that converted, but we need to capture all of this information and realize that that was this team of people who collectively decided that they wanted to go forward with your company at least in the exploration phases.

And the systems today, they don’t provide that depth of information for marketing or that intelligence.

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[0:06:34.2] DG: Let me ask you just a couple of questions about what you have talked about so far. On the attribution front, you brought up I think a big pain point that a lot of marketing people have, which is how do you — the tools aren’t really set up, right? When five people from the same company respond to your example, it really credits one of those and it doesn’t give you a very good perspective.

What did you try to do about that to try to get a better understanding of what was actually happening and what impact you were making with marketing demand generation efforts?

[0:07:12.2] AST: So given the tools that we had, there’s two scenarios or two different things. Longer term, we measured attribution with two metrics, marketing source revenue and marketing influence to revenue. Marketing source revenue that is the metric that directly where you had a marketing lead that sales said “You know what? I believe this is going to be a deal, I’m converting it to an opportunity.”

It’s very black and white because all the marketing information follows that record as it becomes an opportunity. It’s identified as this came from a marketing campaign. Now marketing influence that is usually – I guess it depends on the company but that’s a very small set of revenue, a very clear black and white marketing source.

It depends on the business too, right? It really does depend on the business. You might be hiring and a simple—a simpler business that doesn’t have a saturated customer base blah, blah, blah. So to identify the pipeline that marketing touched and somehow urged the prospect to continue pursuing our company as it explored its options, we measured is call marketing influence. There you look at opportunities that are not sourced by marketing.

So we take those out, and then we identified that of that set of opportunities, how many of the contacts had a marketing touch. There we could, if there was a group of – if the sales reps added a buying team to the opportunity so there was more than one contact, there we could get at a better perspective of the group of people from the prospect company that were involved in their opportunity.

We’d have to go to the contact record, identify that they had a marketing campaign attached to them and then we would pull them into that metric for what we called marketing influence metrics. I think if you are CMO, you would assume that you would rightfully say that’s as important as the marketing source because it’s marketing’s job to provide awareness and to bring people along the journey. The thing is executives really like that marketing source too because it’s black and white.

Now the other thing that we were doing is around account-based marketing that we would—we’d have to create some custom reports. So we’d have to know with sales, where the accounts are going after. We need to be able to identify a way to flag them in the system. It’s easy to do with their existing accounts. When prospects come in, you got to be able to catch them and then if we flag them correctly, then we could pull the data out or create some reports in the system that would look at pipeline and leads at that account level. We get to look at it from that perspective.

Now where you run into issues is say again, go back to AT&T. You could conceivably have 500 to a 1,000 different AT&T contacts in your database. We need a way also to say, “Okay, which ones are looking for solution A?” Then you need to make sure that with sales, you’re updating those records, “Yeah, that these are the ones that are looking for solution A”.

It requires some manual diligence from both sales and marketing. It’s not something that’s going to happen automatically for the company in reporting.

[0:10:52.5] DG: Right. I want to go back to something that you were talking about a little bit earlier and it goes to this point, which is the sales organization needs to do certain things in order for marketing to be able to measure stuff. My experience is that the better the sales rep, the less inclined they are to be good data entry clerks and so they don’t always have the diligence and carefulness of a bookkeeper on stuff like this. They’re really just focused on, “How do I close business and we’ll sort out that other stuff out later,” if ever.

How did you go about getting the cooperation and collaboration you needed from the sales organization especially at a huge company like Pitney Bowes, where I’m assuming there’s always new sales people coming in and a lot of different people? What did you find the big keys were? Because it all really starts with that, right? It’s hard to measure much—

[0:11:51.5] AST: It does.

[0:11:52.0] DG: Without their help.

[0:11:53.7] AST: It does. We had what I like to call the triumvirate; it was marketing operations, demand generation and sales operations. We formed a very close partnership and teams and we had some lead management issues to address. Matter of fact, we had to create a lead management system. There was not for Pitney Bowes a consistent way, consistent methodology for marketing to collect their prospects, nurture them, identify who goes to sale, send them to sales and then have sales progressing through the pipeline.

So a group of us created that. I call it a lead management framework because we had many different business units who had very different elements and characteristics; different buyer cycle, different prospects. We had a one month sales cycle, but other—you had an 18 month sales cycle. You can’t be inflexible, right? You need to build that flexibility in. What we did is we created the system with a common flow, more or less, of the data but we allowed for different timeframes.

We allowed for different qualification criteria but there was the standard that marketing had to qualify the leads to a certain level before they went to sales. We set up common reports, so that we’re all looking at the same definitions of an MQL, of an SAL, et cetera. We had different conversion rates for each business unit because they were very different and we understood that, but we all have the same language and the same definition, so that we set that up first.

Then we do that with sales operations and demand gen. And then as we started to have the ability to start collecting data and looking at the results. We started to look at our benchmarks and our metrics and our conversion rates especially against goal and over time. And we started to see where we had weaknesses in our funnel. That’s where I believe the conversion metrics are critical because they do show you over time where you’re performing and where you’re not performing.

Then as we saw where the weaknesses are, we started to work with sales operations really closely because at Pitney Bowes, they were primarily the voice of sales. We would have sales reps involved, but sales operations that was their job there and they were there all the time, where sales reps, like you said, you get a good wrap their own closing accounts and you know, what we found was that really honest, hard deep conversation because marketing would—we were meeting our goals.

We were sending over the number of MQLs that both teams determined marketing needed based on forecast and planning and all that. Initially, sales are accepting the leads, but a lot of them weren’t going further. You have on one hand and I bet this is pretty typical, marketing saying, “We’re meeting our goals. We’re sending you what we need,” until they say, “No, you’re not.” And so then, we started to really understand, “Yeah, we had sales training issues.”

We really saw that marketing was sending leads over too early, so we had to beef up our scoring and model and make it harder and make the marketing qualified lead criteria more stringent. We had to add telemarketing because to your point, you get a rep who’s out there closing very large deals. He doesn’t have time to nurture this person. We added telemarketing to that and then we would pass it over to inside sales but that was great, it was key.

Then we started to talk more to sales, sales operations and they would show us their plan for the year: “Here’s how we’re going to meet our goals. Here are the number of leads that these reps need.” Some internally created by them, some created by marketing. That’s where we thought, “Wow, Joe in the Midwest, he’s not getting any leads and Sam out in California is getting a ton of leads.” Marketing didn’t let us see it until we had this. It took a while to get down to this deep conversation and then said, “Oh okay we’ve got to get some leads for Joe in the Midwest.”

Then they really did start to do very targeted campaigns along with the other work that they were doing, so that they could provide the level of leads that the whole team needed at the individual level. I think, it takes, I don’t know, it took us a while to get there because everyone’s busy and doing their thing and thinking that they’re doing a great job but I really believe that really strong relationships by those three teams makes a big difference.

Once marketing started to provide that level, sales operations started to say, “Yeah, you know what? We’re going to do some work on our side of the house.” They saw that we were willing to do what it took and they then sat down with the sales reps, and said, “Okay, how come you’re not picking these leads up?”

Then sales ops and marketing ops and demand gen and the sales team started to determine who to send the leads to. We started to have a lot more success that way.

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[0:17:20.1] DG: Allison Smith Terrey, thank you so much for sharing insights today about best practices in the really exciting and I think important field of marketing operation. Thank you again.

[0:17:32.4] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for listening the B2B Marketing Jukebox by LeadCrunch. On our website, leadcrunch.com, you can find timestamped transcripts and info about the guests. You can send topics or guest suggestions to the host at david.green@leadcrunch.ai. Subscribe to these podcasts on all the major platforms, like iTunes.

Thanks for joining us, and we wish you happy, data-driven growth.