8 lessons Mission Australia’s CMO and CIO learnt together to deliver martech success

The chief marketing and information officers of Mission Australia share learnings as they set out to transform a failed CRM and marketing automation project


Despite the demand for marketing technology, statistics have shown about half of all martech stack implementations fail. There are a mix of technical, operational and cultural reasons for this, but arguably the big hurdle is marketing and technology functional alignment.  

During this week’s Adobe Experience Makers virtual event, the CMO and CIO of Mission Australia jointly shared lessons they learnt when tackling the not-for-profit’s marketing technology stack implementation in order to achieve success.

1. Get on the same page as the CIO

When joining Mission Australia in 2014, chief marketing officer, Elvira Lodewick, said she encountered a very unreliable, poorly implemented CRM system, and a marketing and fundraising team burnt by poorly managed system rollouts. Having worked for several large media organisations prior to joining Mission Australia, many of which boasted advanced ecommerce and digital marketing capabilities as well as martech systems, fixing Mission Australia’s set-up was a key priority for Lodewick.

However, her first attempt to implement a new CRM and introduce marketing automation failed. The first problem Lodewick identified was that she and the CIO were not aligned on what was required.

“The CIO wanted system that fitted into larger tech stack at Mission Australia, and was very much focused on fixing teams’ problems, rather than taking long-term growth approach,” Lodewick explained. “This led to a lot of customisation to fit into pre-selected system, without acknowledging or using strength of features a new system could offer.”  

2. Align and set out your objectives

Exacerbating misalignment was a disconnect in objectives and unclear responsibility allocation between marketing and technology teams, Lodewick continued. What’s more, neither had realised just how all-encompassing a transformation implementing these martech systems would be.

“You can’t just deliver while just running BAU. And we didn’t plan the project as a project, so we had poor governance,” she said. “Having been in companies where martech just happens, I didn’t know what was expected of me.”  

As a result, despite having done all the sprints and being in final testing phase, things just weren’t working, and performance and feature issues were rife, Lodewick said.

3. Prepare properly

In 2016, when Peter Smith joined Mission Australia as CIO, he immediately set out to revise and rescope the project. In five months, this saw the team with a high-performing Marketo-based system, which it has been using for three years now “with great results”, Lodewick said.

The key starting point? Never underestimate the challenges you have ahead of you. “Marketers do not generally implement systems every day,” Lodewick pointed out. “Prepare, prepare, prepare – invest time, energy and resources before you start to design and code anything.”

4. Enable for the future

Lodewick also advised enabling for the future. To do this, she advised against retrofitting what your team currently does or existing processes into a new system.

“Let the system education you and lead your thinking,” she said. “Also resource appropriately – don’t try to do it on the side.”

It’s not just about the implementation either, but the phases afterwards. “Having a clear view on your objectives help, but it’s also a big change for teams,” Lodewick said. “You have to think about change management and adoption to guide and achieve the impact you want this to have.”

5. Listen to each other

For Smith, a key principle in getting things back on track at Mission Australia, particularly as an IT function, is listening and learning.

“I don’t know everything about marketing, Elvira doesn’t know everything about tech. So really listening, understanding pain points and what concerns were, we could better understand direction and where they were trying to go,” he said.

Read more: Report: CMOs and CIOs need to collaborate more effectively for improved business outcomes

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6. Pick the right partner

Another must from Smith is to select the right technology partner as you implement. “This needs to be a careful choice that aligns with your team and culture. With that, have much better chance of succeeding,” he said.  

“Your partner is a long-term partner. You also have to understand the vendor. Our approach is to pick a product, but also pick the vendor at the same time.”  

Lodewick said she learnt the hard way that it’s very easy to buy into a funky presentation and sales team that has done their homework.

“The mistake I made was to get swayed, then end up with an implementation partner with a c-grade team,” she said. “In the second round, we invested a lot of time with not just the vendor teams.... but especially with the implementation partner. They are working with you for months on a project at the scale we had.

“We even went as far as CMO and CIO to sit down with key project managers and leaders and interview them as if they were going to be members of our team. So make sure you see the people who are going to work with your teams on the ground when you’re implementing.”

7. It’s all about the people

It’s not just your partner’s staff either. Both Lodewick and Smith said making martech work successfully ultimately comes down to your internal people. Again, key here is listening and avoiding grouping people into stereotypes.  

“There are many smart marketers around, with deep understanding of the data. Once you get past the stereotypes and what each understands, you build a better approach, know what they’re looking for and what they’re concerned about,” Smith said. “That leads to providing a better service. If you don’t listen, you don’t understand.”

Lodewick agreed it’s very important to have the right people around you. “In life, we connect well with some people; others not so much. You have to really work on your communication if you don’t have that initial click,” she said. “Thankfully, everything Peter suggested sounded very sensible to me and more in line with what I’d experienced in my career previously.

“The learning out of all of this is it’s all about people and communication. You’re doing it together – don’t pass the buck. You have to take your responsibility seriously.”

8. Ladder up to organisational goals

Finally, both CIO and CMO also stressed the importance of aligning to organisational goals and strategy.

“The tech strategy is a secondary thing, and marketing is secondary to your organisation’s overarching strategy,” Smith said. “As you align up behind that, it’s easier to see objectives, and to have more synergy and an equal partnership. This ensures you’re not pursuing your own end game.”  

Skills comes into this mix, and Lodewick highlighted having strong, complementary teams between marketing and IT, as well as in your vendor implementation partner.

“Your people have to have determination to see the project through so it succeeds,” she added.  

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia

 

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