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QA: Just Do It. Must Contain Ep. 8 with Alysha Khan

Season 1 of Must Contain continues with Alysha Khan, Manager of Campaign Operations at Etumos joining Kristin and Kristin to talk about Centers of Excellence for marketing campaign requests. Tune in to learn what a COE is, how it works, what not to do, and the importance of QA.

Short on time? Skip to 20:15 to hear our 3 takeaways on COEs.

A reminder that we have an open call for guests. Submit your buzzword using this form or type the link into your browser –  We can’t wait to hear what topics you want to break down with us. 


Hosted by Kristin Crowe (OGK), and Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC)

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (00:00)
Hey, y’all it’s Kristin Crowe. I’m just here to remind you that we still have an open call for guests for season two. So if you have a buzzword, you wanna break down or a buzzword, you have no idea what it means. We’d love to hear from you. Visit us at and complete the form with your idea. Can’t wait to hear what y’all come up with. And now here’s the show.

Theme Song: (00:33)
Intro Theme Music

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (00:59)
Hi, I’m Kristin Crowe

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:00)

And I’m Kristin Carideo.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:03)

And this is Must Contain the podcast from Etumos where we help explain the how of marketing, although we can’t always explain the why.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:11)
Join us every two weeks as we break down marketing and corporate topics, and discuss what they really mean.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:16)
And if you enjoy this podcast, please remember to like, follow, or subscribe in all your favorite podcast platforms.
And we’re back with episode eight of Must Contain.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:29)
Today, we are gonna talk about excellence.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:33)
That is a high bar for our guest Alysha Khan, but I’m not worried because she is excellent, but she’s actually not here to talk about herself, but about centers of excellence.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:43)
Whoa. Hi, Alysha.

Alysha Khan: (01:46)
Hi, guys.

Um, I’m here for the puns. That’s the thing. I always relish an opportunity for an excellent pun and this was great. This was a very good one. Uh, hi everyone. My name is Alysha. I’m a Campaign Operations manager here at Etumos. Um, I was a Campaign Operations consultant for about a year where I got into the weeds of many different COEs and now as a manager, I help my team set up COEs for their clients as well.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (02:13)
And we are so excited to have you, Alysha. So we’ll get right into it, as with all of our episodes, Center of Excellence or COE as you’ll hear it referred to, as you’ve already mentioned, what is it? Define it for us, at least in the context of Marketing Operations.

Alysha Khan: (02:29)
Yes. So here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna give you guys a fancy definition first, and this is the definition where you will understand it, no matter sort of the industry, right? So if you were to Google “COE,” this is the rough definition that you will see pop up. So what that is, is a central team of specialists performing a shared function for an organization. In MOPs, it would be Marketing Operations. Everyone is operating under the same governance and responsibilities, and they are supporting multiple parts of the business with their excellent expertise. In MOPs, what that really means is that we essentially have a COE that operates in four stages, right? We are intaking requests from field marketers, typically from other marketing departments, sometimes sales, you know, if it’s like a different kind of organization, you are then building these requests for the stakeholders, you’re gonna QA them and then you’re gonna schedule or publish them or send them out into the world, uh, to live and be happy.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (03:27)
Great, thank you for that. We always like to start with defining the terms that we’re talking about because I think, it helps get us all on the same page. We do a lot of work with clients that have centralized their marketing request process, right? So what’s the difference between centralizing a request process and a COE, as you’re talking about.

Alysha Khan: (03:48)
When you’ve centralized a request process, that is not what we would consider a like “by the book” definition, COE, because you’ve only centralized piece of the four stages that I was talking about, right? You’ve only centralized your intake process. Build may be happening by like your field marketers, maybe QA is or isn’t happening. Maybe it’s happening by MOPs, scheduling is happening by somebody. But all of those four pieces are not shared under the MOPS umbrella. They’re happening sort of disparately all over the place. In a true COE — and sorry, you guys can’t see me here, but I’m doing air quotes right now — in a “true” air quote COE, all four stages are happening under MPOS. There’s nobody else sort of touching those pieces along the way, right? But obviously, that’s not realistic for smaller organizations, smaller MOPS teams. And there are a lot of really good cases that require a hybrid model with some of these pieces are farmed out, right? Where maybe all of the build stuff happens by field marketers. Maybe it’s an agency, right? Maybe your QA happens by the agency also or by MOPS. Right? So hybridized, so an intake process that is centralized is probably more of a hybrid model. Once you’ve got all four stages under MOPs that would be a quote unquote, “true COE.”

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (05:04)
So obviously there are a lot of ways to sort of make the idea of a COE work, and have a company that’s truly using “true COE” air quotes or not. And kind of regardless of what their end result is, what are some of the critical mistakes you see people make when they are trying to set up or optimize their COE, whether that’s the hybrid model or a quote unquote “true COE?”

Alysha Khan: (05:30)
That’s a great question. Um, so there are three things. One is not having a good intake process. A really good intake process gets you, everything you need right out of the gate, right? That the person who is building it looks at that intake and is like, bam, I got it. I know exactly what needs to be done. I have all the bits and bobs that I need to build it. And you just run with it and you’re good to go. And you never kind of have to talk to that stakeholder about the requirement of the campaign ever again. Then you need SLAs, which honestly could be a whole separate podcast about how, how to do SLAs, and how to give people to agree to them. But nonetheless, you need strong SLAs, right? Because even if your marketer gives you everything, they’re like, “So it’s been 15 minutes. Where’s my email?” That’s not gonna work. You need some level of agreement that like, no, your email’s gonna take two to three days cuz we have a process to follow and we need to make sure your email is like, correct. And gonna go to the right people and, like, not gonna cause a giant media firestorm. I don’t really know. But you SLAs, you need baseline rules of how long things are gonna take, so people know what to expect once they submit a ticket. Then you need QA. I cannot emphasize this enough. You need to double-check your work. A lot of lower maturity clients that we see that have like smaller teams or, or newer companies are like, no, man, it’s fine. Like I got their request. I built it. It’s chill. I trust myself. I’ll schedule it. And like once it goes out, you realize you had a typo in the subject line. And just like, nobody thought to look at it a second time. Right? Or like you did marketable database is, instead of it is not. Or like whatever it is, right. These easy little things that like had you taken the 15 minutes to walk away or just had somebody else look at it could have easily been avoided. So QA. Super important. Just do it, please. You’ll thank me. You’ll thank yourself. Everybody will be so much happier with you for that.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (07:29)
So basically if anyone’s going, nah, man, you probably have a problem.

Alysha Khan: (07:33)
You probably have a problem. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, please. it’s chill, it’s fine. It’s probably not fine. That’s your first clue.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (07:41)
Got it.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (07:42)
That’s uh, marketing ops. Colon. Not chill. That’s the… . Okay, now that we know what not to do, can you give us an example of a, again, the air quotes, “true COE” that you’ve seen successfully implemented? Uh, what’s in place there? How does it work?

Alysha Khan: (08:01)
Okay. So before we sort of break down into like what a good COE looks in, like those four stages that I’ve talked about, I wanna talk about a really important high, high level piece, which is that you have mutual respect and understanding between the MOPS team and all of your stakeholders. Everybody understands that we are playing for the same team. We have the same goals. Our customers are the same, we want the same things in the end because what that means is that when you go to your marketer and are like, “Hey, I like really want to build this email for you as quickly as possible. Right?” My goal isn’t just to like make you wait days, right? I want to do this quickly for you. But in order to do that, I need X, Y, and Z. Right?

And if there is that mutual respect, the marketer is gonna be like, yeah, I get that right. I, I recognize that you want to do right by me. I wanna do right by you. So I will give you everything that you need up front. So that way this process can work smoothly. Right? When you don’t have that, then everything becomes an uphill battle. Right? Everything becomes a fire drill and there’s no risk of…the field marketer, then. in the scenario where you don’t have this respect is like, “I don’t really care. I just want my email out. Like, do I have to like go call your boss or the CMO or whatever, to get my email out?” It’s obnoxious. There’s no respect for you. And then when you try to go back to them and be like, well, I need things. I need you to follow this process.

They’ll be like, well, I don’t want to. And who’s gonna make me, which is a terrible situation to be in all around. Kristin, I know you’re laughing, but like, I’ve like, we’ve seen this. We’ve heard this like obviously much more politely said, but the undertone is very clearly like you can’t make me, so I won’t. Right. So that’s…

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (09:45)
We’re laughing because we know we’ve seen this.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (09:48)
Yeah. It’s funny cuz it’s true.

Alysha Khan: (08:01)
It’s true. It’s it’s painfully true. So that’s why I’m saying any good COE needs, is respect and buy-in from leadership that this needs to happen. Okay. So from there, let’s look at sort of the four stages, a little bit more, your intake process needs to be thorough. And when I say thorough, I mean a few different things. One is that you need to make sure you’re asking for all the obvious stuff, right? An email is gonna need an audience. A landing page is gonna need a registration form, it’s gonna need a proper URL to it. Um, a list upload needs to know like what your acquisition program or how it should be set is all of that good jazz. You should be asking for all of that up front. You should be also asking for all of those company-specific things that you only know, that your company needs. Right? So maybe every company always sets like… I’m trying to think. Maybe they always set the region. This is a bad example. But for example, maybe they always set their region for every list upload. Don’t ever do that. That’s a terrible way to do it. But maybe every EMEA list upload the region gets tagged as EMEA. So you need to know, to add, ask for every list, upload what’s the region.

Also, please don’t do that. Don’t don’t ever come back and be like, I heard this on a podcast. I’m gonna do it this way. Um, then the other key part, good intake process is it shouldn’t be annoying. Now I know all of us have come across those like 10 page, hundred question forms and were like oh dear Lord, kill me now. You don’t wanna do that to your field marketers. You want your field marketers to have a relatively smooth experience in giving you what you need. Right? So maybe that means it’s a combination of like a form and a document that they submit. Maybe it’s like a form that has questions. So they’re only asked to submit what they need to for that specific request. There are lots of ways to like get the system to work for your team as well. And maybe your team likes long forms.

I don’t wanna, I don’t know. Right? Your form should work for your team. Then we are going on to building when you are building…Something I always tell all of our newer incoming consultants is that need to give yourself time. If you think it’s gonna take 15 minutes, give yourself 30. If you think it’s gonna take a couple of days, give yourself more time than that. You never wanna put yourself up against a really sharp, hard deadline, unless you can absolutely help it. Right. You should always be padding your time because the simplest email build, you just don’t know like maybe this is the one email build where just Marketo crashes on you. And you’re like, I just like, I can’t. Marketo won’t let me in. Right. So always give yourself that buffer. And that gives you a chance also to just double-check your own work as you’re building right. Then, in that build time, you always wanna also go back and double-check with the person who you’re building it for is this asset what you requested.

Right? So when you’re done building that email done with that landing page, send it back to them, ask for them to review it, right? Ask for them, double-check it. This is a great time to also like help build that relationship because let’s say they turn in like, a super long obnoxious subject line. Right? They’ll see it. And they’ll be like, Ooh, maybe I shouldn’t have done that. And that’s a chance for you to also be like, Hey, that subject line is getting cut off. Maybe you should trim it. Right. And that builds that relationship. Cuz now you guys are working for the same goal right. Now they understand that you’re not like arbitrarily smacking their hand for sending a long, long subject. There’s a reason for it. There’s a reason. And now they can see it and next time fingers cross, they won’t do it again.

Then in the QA stage, you just need to do it. I’m like just do it, please. You ideally want a second person who hasn’t touched the program before, but honestly, that’s not possible for a lot of the like one-man shops, one woman shops in that case, step away, go get a coffee, go get a snack, come back to it. Or like budget time the next day to double-check your work. But you need to have a QA process in some shape or fashion where you’re checking for the most important things. Make sure you just don’t do dumb stuff in your email or page or list upload. And then when you’re publishing or scheduling, I think the only major thing here is like, just schedule it correctly. Make sure it’s like going to the right audience, going to the right time. Zone time zones are a major pain. Like Australia apparently changes. They also have daylight-saving times, which has screwed me over more than once. Unfortunately. Um, you’d like, you’d think after the first time I learned my lesson, but I did not. Uh, so, Australia, you’re very annoying sometimes. Um, and yeah, and that’s it. I, I think that’s a good like sort of breakdown of those like things you can do in those four stages.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (14:31)
We still love our Australian listeners.

Alysha Khan: (14:33)
We do. We do. Sorry. We love them. We love them.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (14:36)
We also have daylight savings. It’s terrible. Nobody likes daylight savings.

Alysha Khan: (14:39)
Even here in the US, yeah. I don’t think anyone likes daylight savings.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (14:41)
It’s true, it’s true. So we talked a lot about a “true COE” and what that looks like. Let’s go back to the idea of the hybrid model, which as you’ve said, can work for various companies, especially those with, uh, smaller teams. What are the instances where someone might want to consider a hybrid model versus a quote unquote “true COE”?

Alysha Khan: (15:03)
So I’d say we see that typically with smaller companies or smaller MOPs teams, right? Where you just like don’t have the resources or the funding to get the resources or leadership backing to get the resources, to have everything centralized under one umbrella. So in that case, what we mostly see people doing is farming out the build and the QA sections to either an agency or field marketers or some other people. And that works reasonably as long as you make sure that those people are also operating under the same, what I, what I called earlier that same governance and that same shared governance and responsibilities, right? That they understand that. So for example, with field marketers, we use program templates. This is how we use program templates. This is email best practices for the agency. You understand that you have like vetted them and selected them for their excellence, right? That you understand that they bring that same level and they understand what your Marketo norms are and what your, like I say, Marketo, but whatever your MAP tool is, they understand, you know, what your process is as well so that they can double-check for that. Right. And those hybrid models can off. I mean they can work, right. I think we’re talking about a COE, but that’s not to say that like a non-COE is a bad model. I think it just, it has to be the right fit for your company at that time, at that point in their growth and they’re, you know, size as well.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (16:24)
So let’s say I am in one of those organizations that we work with a lot here at Etumos, that are sort of on the MOPS maturity curve, just starting to specialize between platform and campaign. Uh, and I’m the head of MOPS and I’m experiencing maybe some issues with our non-centralized build model. Maybe field marketers are all hammering the same audience and aren’t really coordinating, uh, maybe there’s email like mistakes happening with the emails that the team is sending. So as a MOPS leader, what’s your advice to me to, to start by reducing risk.

Alysha Khan: (17:24)
That’s a really great point. Um, also shocking. A non-centralized model is not working at all. I will say, I think in this one entire conversation, there’s one thing that I think we haven’t quite highlighted yet. You do need to have some stuff centralized, right? If you have nothing centralized, I’m not surprised that you, poor MOPs leader is having a hard time when nothing is centralized, you need to have something centralized, right? Even if it’s not everything, you need to have something. So to cure this very shocking, you know, unsuspecting and did-not-know-this-was-gonna-happen scenario. Um, the first thing you need is support from leadership, cuz you’re about to go play bad cop to a lot of people and you need to make sure that they are on board with you being the bad cop, right? That you’re gonna have to change process. You’re gonna have to change people’s minds. You’re gonna have to do a lot of things that are going to upset the current apple cart. You’re gonna put it back in a better place, right? Maybe you’re moving from like your, your apple cart to like an apple stand, but you’re gonna have to break some stuff. You’re gonna have to some people off and you need support from leadership to get them to this better place. Then you just, just need to start by identifying your biggest errors, right? Maybe it’s like every email is consistently going to the wrong audience. Maybe your emails just have tons of errors.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (18:19)
Oh no!

Alysha Khan: (18:21)
Oh no! How terrible. That’s like what happens when you put non-marketers in charge of like scheduling emails. Sometimes like they, they just don’t know, right. Your field marketers. It’s not their job to know how to find HR contacts in Marketo. It’s just not their job. Right? So if the issue is a lot of errors, you’re gonna start with your QA process, right? You’re gonna get that in place. If the issue is that like people don’t actually know how to use Marketo, then you’re gonna focus on your build stage and making sure that you either have maybe a junior resource to build or you’re training your Marketo people. I mean, your like field marketers who are in Marketo or you’re bringing an agency on board or you’re doing program templates, right? You’re gonna address your biggest mistakes and leave everything else. Right? Maybe your intake process is built on Slack and it drives you bonkers, but it’s technically not broken.

And it works, for the time being, then just leave it. You, you can like address that down the line. Once your emails are like, you know, error-proof and going to the right people. And like your marketers are building super clean programs, then you can fix the intake process. Right? Then we can move to a PM tool and be like a proper, much more in a better situation. But if it’s not like horribly broken and causing you stress every day, leave it. Don’t worry about it. Triage what needs to happen right away and address those errors first.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (19:41)
You mean the things that bother me, personally, may not be the top things to fix?

Alysha Khan: (19:46)
Oh no, no.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (19:47)
No, no. The things that bother you personally, Kristin, are the ones we would address first. Yeah. Obviously

Alysha Khan: (19:54)
Listen, if that was the case, no email I ever created would have Oxford commas. And like, that’s just. You know, it’s not working. It’s not worth my time.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (20:06)
All right. Well, we’re not here to talk about how to use the Oxford comma, but perhaps tune in another time and uh, we’ll get English 101 from, uh, KAC. But for the time being, we’re gonna wrap on COE and tell you about the three things you really need to know:

First, when planning the needs for your COE, remember the phases of building within a marketing automation platform: Intake, Build, QA, Publish. Each of these phases needs careful planning in how your nascent COE will handle them.

Two, it is critical to get support from your leadership to spin up a COE. If your organization is constantly building things as fire drills, putting these processes in place will lengthen the time it takes to build campaigns. Once you have that, if you want to get started with building a COE and you do not have a centralized Marketing Operations build process at all, start by evaluating what your biggest issues are. And then put each phase of the COE process in place one by one as needed.

Three QA, do it. That’s the advice. Have a universal process for doing it and do it. If you don’t have a second person to put eyes on your build, walk away, get a cup of coffee and then look at it with fresh eyes. Then publish.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (21:20)
And that’s Must Contain: COE. Thanks, Alysha. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back in two weeks with another great MOPS topic until then remember, at the end of the day email probably isn’t the best unique identifier we could have come up with, but we’re just gonna go with it.

This episode was produced by Kristin Crowe, Kristin Carideo, Ali Stoltzfus, and Lindsay Walter. Special thanks to Alysha Khan. Theme music by Rusty Hall. And that’s it for Must Contain. I’m Kristin Crowe. And we’ll see you in two weeks.

Alysha Khan: (22:03)
Sorry. Can I swear?

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