In his 18 years of marketing experience, Garth has built a track record developing high impact teams, building best-in-class marketing capabilities, and creating innovative Enterprise marketing programs and product marketing narratives to drive sales, build pipeline, and land business objectives. He’s currently the VP of Integrated Marketing at Workfront, and previously worked at a variety of industry-leading technology companies, startups, and agencies including: Microsoft, Rackspace, Autodesk, and Buzzsaw.com.
1. Can you tell us about your role at Workfront and the planning process for your team?
I’m Vice President of our integrated programs team, which encompasses all of our digital channels and digital demand generation. We cover paid search, paid media, email, webinars, essentially anything that drives demand digitally, plus all of our integrated campaigns which tend to be focused on specific buying centers, like marketing teams or IT teams.
In our organization, Product Marketing defines the overall go-to-market strategy, chooses the buying centers that we go after, and provides the high-level messaging. Then my campaign team takes that and builds it into specific campaigns. We choose a persona, craft a story tailored to their pain points, then figure out the right channel mix to target them. My team builds out a whole plan for the campaigns for the year and then briefs all the channel teams. The other side of my house is the webinar and paid search teams. Once they get the overview and big rocks of the overall plan, they build their plan for each specific campaign, and execute on them. During all of this, content creation happens to support all our programs.
2. The pandemic is causing constant shifts to how our markets look today. Have you seen a need for your teams to do more short term planning that supplements or iterates on that long term plan?
The way we plan has completely changed. Solely from a no in-person events perspective the amount of change is staggering. And the larger your organization is, the more people need to get behind any pivots which can cause delays.
Initially, we knew we couldn’t hit our targets for in-person events anymore and would need to double the volume of leads we usually drove through webinars. It was a very quick mindset – and budget – shift to make sure we hit our numbers. We shifted all spend from in-person events to digital channels that are showing the most promise.
Earlier on, a lot of us hoped that it would be a shorter two month period and then things could return to normal. But as we’ve gotten further into the summer, we’re starting to see more realistically what the rest of 2020 will look like.
3. How does your long term investment planning adjust to accommodate short term planning processes like Agile?
One of the things I built right away – and probably should have had before – was a clear model that allows us to do bottoms-up forecasting of the leads we were going to generate for sales. We based it on historical data, by channel, so that we could forecast we would drive X number of leads with a webinar and it will cost Y/week.
Creating the model was the first step, and the second step was using Allocadia to see how much we’d already invested in things like in-person events and what could be shifted. In the early days that was tricky because we were still uncertain of whether we’d need to go full virtual or if some future programs could remain as in-person events. Using Allocadia, Xander Irwin, Financial Analyst for Marketing, has been helping me look at strategy and point out when shifts will impact our ability to hit our bottoms-up forecasts.
4. What’s the biggest strategy shift you’ve had to make recently, and how did you plan for it to make sure it had a positive impact?
Two big shifts come to mind, obviously the first is in-person events. For Q2 we were expecting that to be 30-50% of our lead volume. Making the shift to all virtual triggered the second strategy shift which was creating digital efficiency. We’d been so reliant on in-person events that we hadn’t focused on being super efficient with digital channels. Now we’re thinking critically about how we can drive the cost down.
It was difficult to pivot a plan, while mid-plan, but the speed at which it needed to happen also complicated things. What’s been interesting about these shifts is the amount of focus from the company on it. Now I’m having biweekly meetings with the CEO and CFO to talk about demand.
5. Do you think that it’s important to build agility into the bottom-up plan so that you can be flexible with how you’re picking the tactics and the channels that you’re going to be utilizing to hit those goals?
Absolutely. Start-ups in general need to be agile and flexible. For enormous organizations like Microsoft, it’s admittedly a little more clear and easier because almost everybody is your end user, and you have a relationship with them.
Otherwise, I think you should expect that you’re going to have to change plans mid-year at a minimum. Very likely there will also be some shifts that happen at a quarterly level.
6. What do you think the future of marketing planning will look like based on what you’re seeing in today’s world?
If there’s one thing we’ve seen this year, it’s that annual planning is changing, and that’s a good thing. Marketing planning is being shaped more and more by the channels we use. Digital channels are more flexible and there’s more opportunity for programmatic targeting. Very quickly, we’re able to make bids and go after audiences based on trends that we’re seeing. The combination of the flexibility inherent in digital channels and all the data they serve up has already led to more iterative planning and that will only continue.
The other area I see is ABM. While I think target account strategy is really important, I’m not sure the tools we currently have are where they need to be. I know ABM is supposed to be here already, but I haven’t seen it work as perfectly as prescribed. The execution is so much more complex than a lot of companies have time for. But I do think it’s the next logical step.
7. What are some planning best practices you would want to share with other marketers? Or methods/processes that you’d never use again.
My number one piece of advice is to get started early, which is especially important when you’re doing an annual or even a quarterly plan. The second is to be ready to change and have a methodology to support strategy shifts. People get really attached to their plans and when things need to change quickly it’s a huge stressor.
A third best practice I learned during my time at Microsoft. Treat Q1 of each new year like Q5 of the previous year. Inevitably the whole planning process – especially budgets – can be slow. If you’re an enterprise-focused company you need to be generating leads all year round, even in Q1 when budget can be a little light, or plans are still fluid. So I advise my marketers to stay the course: keep spending on what you have in market until the new plan is in place and ready to go. Until you know the big rocks for the company’s plan, you aren’t 100% sure how to prioritize marketing spend and focus your team.