There are two types of people in this world: those who hate sitting through weeks of discovery meetings filled with spreadsheets and PowerPoints, and liars. There is a time and a place for these types of scoping sessions, but if you’re kicking off a new Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Pardot project with a long discovery, you’re doing it wrong. These digital engagement products are different than other products, and the process to set them up properly should also be different. At Attain Partners, we have a solution.
Defining the Partner/Client Relationship
The word “partner” is commonly heard in the Salesforce ecosystem, and is even a part of our company name, Attain Partners, but what does it really mean? In my time as a Marketing Cloud and Pardot consultant, I’ve been a partner for a great many of clients across many verticals. A partner is someone who shares responsibility. A partner is someone who calls it like they see it. But above all else, a partner is someone who should be sharing equally in the power of what needs to happen. A partnership needs to work in both directions.
A Tale of “Typical” Implementations
All too often in our world, both in small and enterprise projects, implementations start with the discovery milestone or project—which results in a giant document, sometimes called a Blueprint, sometimes a Business Requirements Document, sometimes a Business Solution Design. And this document serves to capture all of the needs and wants of the stakeholders at an organization that has hired a partner. Based on this document, a complex and unique system is designed that “meets” business requirements, and those weeks (or months!) are spent on drafting and developing a large document, presentation, or “coffee table book” that no one will review or reference ever again. But it sure looks impressive!
The client is then asked: does this design meet your requirements? Do you agree that this all makes sense to fit your needs? And the client is forced into a position where they have no choice but to rely on the experience of the partner’s recommendation—and to sign off on a potentially overly complex solution—that reinforces both the client’s belief that their situation is unique and complex, and also their hope that the partner knows best. At this point, because they have signed off on the requirements, the client is now on the hook for the design of the partner—they’re part of the decision, although they didn’t have enough information at this point to truly understand what they were agreeing to, or the potential implications of the build down the road. In these situations, there is no partnership, because there is no balance to the knowledge of current and future states. The client is over the proverbial barrel in this power differential.
Dollars are spent, more months go by, as the puzzle pieces are documented, tested, and built, the client starts to learn how the systems work together and function from a user perspective. But without a first-hand view of the platform, most clients don’t really start to understand how the system really works—and what they really want, until well after “go-live” and the partner has taken off and moved on to other ventures. In the meantime, data is building up in the system and complex processes start to move slower, or worse, start to break under the stress of rows and rows of stagnant data. Every few months, Salesforce introduces new functionality that is frequently not able to be used by these clients, because of the complex and custom data models that have been built for them. They’re frozen in time, and their platform moves slower every day (loading times, processing times, etc.).
Now the client is stuck with a system that doesn’t really fit their real business needs—now that they have had time to use and understand how the systems really work. But when they were asked in the first weeks of the project, they didn’t know what they didn’t know. And now that they know, the only partner who really understands the complexities of their situation is the one that got them into that position in the first place.
Providing More Value Upfront
And this is where my team at Attain Partners comes in. Salesforce can do a ton of things, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be complex. It doesn’t mean that you can’t start using it right away. And that’s why we moved the value proposition to earlier in the project, and spend less time and resources on a long-drawn-out discovery upfront. That discovery has a time and a place, but the stakeholders need the context of the platform in order to make informed decisions. If the client is using marketing cloud for emails, short message service (SMS), or social, let’s get those systems to a state of sending emails, SMS, and social as fast as we can. Let’s get those stakeholders using the system, sending ad-hoc and IP-warming messages, starting to understand how the different systems work together—in a lower risk environment. Let’s start peeling off functionality from the current state and trying it out in the new one.
With this setup, we start seeing some returns on our investment, we start training users in a less stressful environment, and we build the client into a true partner who understands more of the reality on the ground and not the glossy sales demo with an “easy” button. Those users will have more buy-in for impacting change across the organization and will start to feel that they have a vested interest in the success of this new platform. And they’ll be far happier with the results down the road, as new features and functionality are built that address their needs from the ground level. The risk of a project is dramatically reduced, as is the up-front cost of getting up and running.
Marketing Cloud and Pardot are products that can do a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean that a project with these tools has to be inherently complex, difficult, or expensive. Trying to design a complex system and launch a Phase 1 digital engagement project with all of the bells and whistles, solving all of our problems in one big-bang, is a terrible idea that’s fraught with risk for both sides of the partnership. If you’re considering a partner, always look for one that considers you as an equal part of that partnership—contact us today, and we’ll work with you to get you up and running faster, and without the thousand page coffee table book.
Explore blog posts from Attain Partners’ Salesforce Digital Engagement team.
About the Author
Aaron Beatty is a Senior Manager in Attain Partners’ Salesforce Services Group and leads the Digital Engagement team. Aaron has been working with commercial, nonprofit, and higher education clients to help them get the most out of their Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Pardot investments. He loves the opportunity to automate complex tasks in the world of digital engagement, saving clients precious time and energy.