Your company has scaled enough so that end-to-end campaign execution is no longer a one-person operation. The marketing manager now needs to communicate with and rely on four different teams to execute their campaigns—the content team, the campaign builder, the QA team… maybe a PM, maybe not—and each of those teams needs to be given a turnaround time to complete their piece of the project.
Those turnaround times (or “SLAs,” Service Level Agreements) can be long or short, strict or flexible, enforced or the dreaded (ahem) unenforced … but no matter what, they need to exist. SLAs are an essential building block in the world of Marketing Operations. As you hope to scale and streamline your campaign execution process, you need to implement SLAs that are, at the very least, reasonable. And if you can use company data & budgeting information to back up your SLAs, it’ll go a long way in keeping each team both accountable and on board with the implementation.
Whether you’re in the midst of scaling your campaign executions or building out a Center of Excellence from scratch, here are some tips and recommendations for implementing realistic SLAs that can streamline campaign creation:
1) Set SLAs that can actually be met using flexible ranges
Before arbitrarily setting a 48-hour turnaround for your next email campaign, talk with your team first. A reasonable SLA should account for the time your team will need to understand the request, set up / build accordingly, include at least 2 to 3 review cycles, as well as time to finalize/schedule/launch as needed. Make it your goal to leave these meetings with a clearly defined list of deliverables each member needs to complete a given task, and the time associated to complete the greater task at hand and those dependencies.
Struggling to pinpoint how long those tasks can take? Create a flexible range to help inform your SLAs instead. Ask your team to provide an estimate of how long each task could take if they had what they needed when starting the task as well as estimate how long the same task could take if they had to search for the information instead. By taking the time to understand what your team members need to complete a task and how long those tasks can take to complete, you can be sure any resulting SLAs reflect and represent the true level of effort and time involved.
For example: We think it will take 30 minutes to build a new email if we have to source the required information, but it will only take 15 minutes if we have everything we need before we build. So, we estimate an email build will take approximately 15-30 minutes.
2) Expect emergencies
No matter how carefully you plan your SLAs, you will most likely still receive urgent campaign requests “that needs to be sent yesterday!” is something we have all heard. When this familiar pitfall occurs, show your flexibility without inundating the team’s bandwidth by following these three steps:
- Review the request launch dates to determine how “urgent” the request truly is, or work with the requestor to push out the due date by a few days; allowing your team more time to complete the request.
- Identify the key members needed to complete the request and evaluate their bandwidth to determine if MOPs even has the resources to assist.
- Reprioritize tasks in the queue to free up more of the teams’ bandwidth, or reassign the task to other team members who share similar skills and have more availability.
If you’re still unable to fit in the extra request, you can also still maintain a strong relationship with your marketing stakeholders by offering alternative solutions and kindly reminding them of what they can do to ensure time marketing operations resources are allocated next time. If possible, try to ensure these last-minute requests and all related discussions are tracked in shared files/spaces. Having this qualitative data in an easily accessible place will allow you to more quickly inform potential solutions if you notice a specific request type continuously running behind or if you notice the team is struggling to work ahead.
3) Be more than just a resource, be a team member
Resources and team members can be seen differently. In marketing operations, we tend to view resources as a tool or item with a specific purpose and intended use; whereas team members are seen as individuals with ever-evolving skill sets, integral to accomplishing a shared goal.
If we apply this to a marketing operations team, a resource represents an individual focused on completing their tasks, with their responsibility ending at task completion. However, if your team culture is focused on contributing to a larger goal instead, your team members will look past their contributions and work to help others along the way. A “team member” perspective allows your team to show greater flexibility when urgent requests arise and allows you to transition any task assignments with greater ease, as there are more individuals able to complete the task. This provides opportunities to more easily free up specialized skillsets when needed, and it results in a higher quality deliverable as more team members have a shared focus on the overarching goal.
So adopting a team mentality goes a long way—it fosters greater collaboration, skill development, and self-education within your team and more importantly, it establishes collaboration to be commonplace.
4) Clarify the request early (fail fast mentality applies)
Clarification is one of the most overlooked aspects of the campaign submission process we see across all of our COPs clients. Most teams tend to believe they’re pretty aligned on what their various marketable segments are, typical buying personas, and standard send times for communications until the requests actually start rolling in.
For example, take this seemingly straightforward request: “Please create an email using the copy in the provided doc and send it to all HR contacts in North America. Schedule this to send at 9 am local time.”
Can you spot which areas of this request could be misinterpreted with the language used? And do you think your current members would catch these ambiguities before or after starting to work the request? Keep reading for the answer. (Hint, there are 3).
Too often we see these miscommunication realizations happen after starting the work requested. While this isn’t a major misstep in the campaign execution cycle—it can be time-consuming. It could be a matter of minutes or days before a stakeholder is able to get back to your team, and every minute spent waiting for clarification is allocated time gone unused. So while implementing or updating your SLAs, try to train your team and internal requesters to be as explicit in their requests as possible. This will help ensure your team’s time is spent as efficiently as possible across the various tasks they may need to juggle, as well as establish a greater understanding across internal teams.
5) A little documentation goes a long way
Another tool that has been shown to be very useful in keeping campaign submissions clear and easy to understand is documentation. We know, we know—“there’s just no time, Etumos!!!” We get it, and we hear you. Not every team has the bandwidth to set up documentation, but we do see clients who have even minimal documentation (and reinforce the use of it) have a far easier time understanding MOPs requests than those who do not. What does minimal documentation look like to us? Think of standardization of the most common reference data points in your campaign requests:
- Geographic location: Do your requesters understand that if they reference “North America” in their request, your system can return contacts in at least 3 different countries and that this region covers at least 6 different time zones?
- Job Role and Job Titles: How do your requesters know which roles and titles can be targeted, and do they understand that “HR Contacts” can include contacts from all levels within the organization?
- Account segmentation: Are requesters aware of the various segmentations in use, and do they understand a “contact” could be further defined as a prospect, a lead, just a known contact, or a current customer?
Asking yourself how you’ve enabled the requesters and your team to easily reference any one of the above data points can help you identify what your team’s “minimal documentation” can look like when you have the bandwidth to start documenting.
By implementing these five tips, you will alleviate potential frustrations and burnout from your team, streamline your SLA process so you can continue to scale, and last but not least, maintain strong relationships with your stakeholders.