In the era of rapid technological advancements, marketing automation has become a fundamental asset to any business. It has the potential to not only streamline operations, but to significantly boost team efficiencies. To explore its various applications, we’re asking CMOs, VPs and other marketing executives how it can transform day-to-day tasks, foster innovation, and enhance performance. As a part of this series, we're interviewing Derek Boshkov.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! To begin, can you share a bit of your personal backstory and how you got started?
Coming from a multicultural family, I went into school thinking I was made to be a Canadian diplomat (since I survived years of negotiating peace treaties with my two younger sisters and our many cousins).
Although I completed my MA in International Relations, I realized that my true passion was in problem-solving, technology, and storytelling. As a result, I was introduced to the wonderful team at Oracle Marketing Cloud (Eloqua), and spent a number of years there as a technical specialist and SME of CRM integrations, based in the Toronto office.
After Oracle, I split the next 6 years working as a digital marketing consultant. I joined Forrester, heading their Marketing Automation function, and then went to Achievers, where I was in charge of the MarTech stack. Since then, I have been working at Demand Spring, bringing all of my MarTech and strategy experience to lead the MarTech consulting team here.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you’re grateful for?
I have been lucky enough to work for a number of great managers throughout my career. I have learned key lessons from all of them, whether it was how to lead, or how to show the business your worth. I’m not one to ask for help, but I learned that there are many elements of work that are hard to pick up without someone showing you the way.
I was lucky to work for a manager who believed in me and my skills when I was at Forrester. He spent a lot of time showing me the ropes—how to conduct myself, how to achieve consensus, and to build rapport. I think in the beginning, he believed in me more than I believed in myself, but it’s because of him that I even tried to take the next step of my career and think of myself as more than a technical expert, but as an entrepreneur. He now happens to be the CEO here at Demand Spring, so it has been amazing to see how our working relationship has evolved over time.
What are three strengths, skills, or characteristics that helped you to reach this place in your career? How can others actively build these areas within themselves?
- Mental Toughness/Endurance - All of my years playing sports as a kid and into my teens has made me comfortable with failure and rejection. Sometimes there will be other variables that will affect the outcome of your endeavors, no matter how hard you try. Maximize the things you have control over, and let the rest fall as it may, worrying about that does no good to anyone! Also, try to have some fun along the way, it helps!
- Appreciation - For those of us who started from the bottom, this might be easier, but you know things could always be tougher compared to where you are right now. Be grateful! It took all the hard work in your life to get to this point, now look back, feel your accomplishments, and be proud of them! Spend time with family/friends who surround you with love—this helps with #1 above!
- Problem-solving skills - Whenever I chat with a mentee or younger colleague, I always advise them to come to the table with solutions, not problems. No matter how stuck you feel, your manager will appreciate you coming with whatever solution you could come up with, and then having them help you navigate through these scenarios, rather than you simply putting your hands up when things get tough. It shows a level of integrity and care about the work that you do. Your manager will notice this, and help propel you forward, since this is the type of help that makes their jobs easier too.
Which skills are you still trying to grow now?
These days since I am leading a team and selling Demand Spring’s services, I am always trying to get better at public speaking, networking, events, producing content, etc. I have spent most of my career on the marketing and ops side. I never had a chance to use these skills, but they are absolutely necessary if you want to thrive in your career! Learn how to sell your skills!
What impact has marketing automation had on streamlining and enhancing your team's operations, KPIs, and overall efficiency?
Marketing automation has helped us scale and keep track of our lead/sales funnel, and has helped us orchestrate our campaigns. However I have really seen the magic of marketing automation work for our clients. I always tell them that marketing automation needs to be a magic box that enters every lead/contact into a journey with the right messaging at the right time, regardless of where they come from.
So in addition to the traditional lead gen tactics that marketing automation has always been able to help scale, I have started building customer lifecycle journeys for our clients, so they can also tend to their customers post-sales, and not just when it’s time for renewal. It’s amazing the different ways you can use these tools for your various business segments, you just need some creativity!
What’s your favorite marketing automation tool and way to use it?
One of my favorite marketing automation tools is LeanData. Since I come from a marketing ops background, I have been able to use tools like LeanData or the ZoomInfo suite to have ultimate control and visibility over the lead-sales funnel. Whether it is to enrich data, match lead to account, route leads, auto-convert to contacts, etc. these functions serve to overcome the gaps that traditional lead and contact based tools have inherently.
My second favorite would be Marketo Measure (Bizible). If you give me LeanData and Bizible, I can build you something nice!
Ensuring a personalized customer experience is crucial in today's marketing landscape. How do you balance automation while maintaining a human touch?
Personalization, dynamic content, and accurate segmentation are becoming more and more important in digital marketing, especially now with AI and machine learning being able to step in and help scale a more personalized journey.
I am seeing B2B companies adopting B2C-style personalization in an effort to create a hyper-personalized customer experience. No matter the level of AI personalization capability in your tech stack, I always recommend that your automated journeys have milestones (either time-based, or engagement-based) that will signal to your marketing/sales/customer success team when it is time for a human touch to occur. A phone call from a rep will go a long way in a scenario where the customer is unhappy, or struggling to use your product, but automation can handle other areas of the journey.
Data is also a cornerstone of effective marketing automation. How do you utilize data-driven insights to continuously refine and optimize your automated campaigns?
It’s interesting because these days I am noticing many marketing teams that are putting less weight behind the typical vanity metrics in campaigns, since engagement such as opens and clicks are becoming increasingly harder to track with the rise of privacy protection offered by big companies like Apple and Google.
As a result, the capability to track full-funnel metrics and attribution has always been a stronger basis of reporting on campaign success. When you can put a dollar amount on generated business in your campaigns, it makes your marketing team stand taller, and gives them a seat at the table when big business decisions need to be made. There are many marketing tools now in addition to Bizible, CaliberMind, etc. that are building this type of functionality. It is becoming increasingly important.
As AI and machine learning become more prominent, how have you integrated these technologies to not only automate tasks but also to provide predictive insights?
I am very excited about the capabilities of AI and machine learning as a “grand orchestrator” of the customer experience. I have spent many years working with marketing teams that have struggled to ensure that messaging, channels, and expectations of customers throughout the journey were being maintained by marketing, sales, and customer success, and I believe that some of this AI functionality will make it easier to coordinate.
I imagine the future of work being coordinated by predictive models generated through AI and machine learning of your companies’ historical performance. One would simply turn on their laptop, and have their tasks for the day planned out (Call client A, Meet with client B for lunch, prospect on LinkedIn to this list of people, here are three examples of messaging to use, etc.). So, the automation of tasks is great, but linking this to predictive insights based on research that no human would be able to perform in a reasonable amount of time, is where AI really becomes an incredible tool.
What strategies have you found most effective in integrating marketing automation with other departments, such as sales or customer service, to create a cohesive and efficient end-to-end customer experience?
Marketing automation has the power to bring teams together, and I have seen this work when it powers a shared visibility on reporting and KPIs. This is essential for teams to start working together and getting behind a new technology that spans multiple departments. Once the teams can refer to the same reporting, and share the same scoreboard, you can complement this with meetings that review how the automated journeys are working, and optimizing those points of automated vs. human touch.
Implementing marketing automation can come with a certain degree of change management. What tips do you have for introducing a new tool or process to a pre-existing team?
Try to achieve buy-in from the beginning. Get IT, sales and customer success excited about the marketing intelligence they’ll be able to use, and how it can help them in their day-to-day. Identify champions on these teams that can spend extra time with you in formulating what this tool will do for their departments before you release it to the broader team. Ensure you are keeping these teams up to date on progress, and pulling them in for brainstorming the strategy around these tools. Again, if this can support a shared reporting environment, and can help the teams focus on the same goals, life becomes easier managing through this type of change.
I have seen teams implement tools by themselves, and without including these other teams in the decision and implementation process they typically silo themself and push others away, unless it is coming from a C-level mandate. It is much easier if you can push the change through inclusively and organically.
Based on your experience and success, what are five ways to use marketing automation to improve team efficiencies?
1. Automated Email Marketing at Scale - Segment your database based on the way you go-to-market and build out hyper-personalized journeys for each segment. More than just the traditional lead-gen, think about your customer journeys, partner journeys, journeys for free trial sign-ups, etc.
This past year we designed and implemented a customer onboarding journey in Marketo using its nurture and content stream capabilities. We designed the strategy behind the customer journey around Gartner’s hype cycle for emerging tech (since we were working with a tech vendor). We broke down each of the stages and designed content around each stage. This was feeding into the idea that the customer would be better supported throughout the journey after purchase. This was also bouncing back-and-forth between automated touches pointing to reference materials and the support community, to an alert for a call to come from the customer success team.
2. Lead Scoring and Lifecycle - Again with marketing automation, we have the built-in capability of moving leads/contacts into specific journeys or directly to sales. All of that is fueled by aligning your marketing automation to your businesses’ sales funnel, and specifically the important stages in the sales cycle, and having the automation take control of your digital marketing efforts. It’s a win-win for marketing and sales, since marketing can focus on content creation, event-planning,and optimization while the automation takes care of “keeping the lights on”. Sales also gets the opportunity to focus on the marketing-generated leads that are the most likely to buy.
This element is important with marketing automation, as we have helped clients configure this in a way to easily spot where the breakdowns tend to occur in the sales funnel. Is it between the hand-off from marketing to sales? Does it seem to be a problem where meetings should be booked? Do we experience a slow down in opportunity progression? What a great data-driven perspective to have of your business.
3. Reporting and Analytics - In addition to my point above, marketing automation allows for the business to make data-driven decisions based on the amazing reporting capabilities that these tools have built in. So, as I mentioned above, there is capability to track what I call the plumbing metrics, lifecycle stage volume, velocity, and drop-off, as well as keeping track of the percentage of leads that are recycled and disqualified to track overall lead quality. Then you have email, website, and overall campaign engagement tracking built-in. These reports can help every area within your marketing department, from the vanity metrics (important for campaign managers, email specialists, and social media marketers), to ROI (important for direct-level+).
Another component here is that this reporting can be brought over to other tools in your MarTech stack. And so, when we implement the tool, we ensure the data is being brought into your existing reporting, whether it’s all in your CRM, or you’re using a tool like Domo or Tableau, you are able to feed this data in.
4. Digital Marketing for Events and Webinars - Marketing automation is more than just email marketing, and we sometimes see clients paying for marketing automation but only using it as an email tool. With events and campaign tracking, marketing automation can speed up your time-to-market for events and webinars. Working on the look and feel of your email and landing page templates during implementation can set you up so that the campaign elements for launching an event (invite, registration, reminder emails, attended and no-show follow ups, etc.) are all ready to go, waiting for you to update the copy and then select the send times.
We currently work with a client who is able to launch 2-3 webinars a week by working with us to automate their webinar campaign creation process. This marketing team generates a lot of buzz in their industry!
5. Integration to the MarTech stack - These marketing automation platforms are very customizable - to the point where there are a number of different ways to achieve a certain functionality. As a result, they can complement your MarTech stack very nicely. Most of the integrations you’ll need are fairly easy to configure (log in name and password), although some will take extra work. However, taking advantage of the marketing intelligence that these tools can generate is easy, no matter what tools you need to leverage this data in.
Earlier this year, we worked with one of our clients to optimize a Marketo instance so it could integrate with Drift, 6Sense, Sendoso, and ZoomInfo. Then we needed to have all of these campaign metrics and lead scoring appear in Salesforce. This resulted in a lead score that took advantage of all the first party data these other tools were capturing, plus third-party intent to provide an accurate level of engagement to the sales team to follow up with. We saw improvements in conversions, a lower number of recycled or disqualified leads, and better alignment between marketing and sales.
Can you share a story about a challenge you faced with marketing automation, and how you overcame it?
I once worked at a company where there was a massive misalignment between marketing and sales. Marketing was spending money on bringing new leads into the system, and when they were sent to sales, they were ignored. Sales believed that the leads that marketing was generating were not worth their time.
When I was brought in here to solve this problem as a Marketing Operations Manager, I approached it in three ways:
- I onboarded Marketo Measure (Formerly Bizible), and implemented this tool alongside the Marketo and SFDC instance so we could show ROI as a dollar figure on the leads and engagement we were generating, plus the money we were spending on these leads.
- I built out dashboards in SFDC (since the C-level used SFDC as their main source of reporting) that showed campaign and channel successes alongside the ROI so visibility was easy to achieve
- I built out reporting in that dashboard that showed us the number of MQLs that were not reached out to within the previously agreed upon SLA. This report was key as we had our sales ops team able to push the sales team to address the issue (either lack of focus, or maybe we need more SDR/BDR help, etc.).
With these elements we were able to move the sales team from the top-down, since leadership did not like to see the money we were spending on leads and how many of these leads were simply ignored. It forced process change.
Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
I’m not sure of a movement per se, but I always found that forgiving and showing care/compassion is how you can build meaningful and long-lasting relationships with people. Once you realize that most people only want the same things you’re looking for (a roof overhead, food on the table, the ability to care for family and friends, a decent-paying job) then you can empathize with people better.
If someone rubs you the wrong way, it could be because of so many things that they are going through, and we really don’t have any clue what it could be at that moment. The gut reaction is to perhaps act defensively, and/or aggressively, which rarely produces good results. Instead, when you show some compassion and understanding, people tend to show you respect over time - whether in the workplace, or at home - since you care about them as a person, and not as their actions in one moment. It has worked for me time and time again in my life.
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