How to centralize and whether to centralize is a topic marketing leaders face at large organizations. For large companies it can be difficult to centralize marketing services, and evaluate the risks and opportunities of doing so. Large companies have many stakeholders, needs, separated budgets, and decentralized resources.
In this story, Marcelo Prado talks to us about an internal organization he owns at GE that provides Marketing-as-a-Service to every unit and business within GE. He also shares insights on goal setting, centralization, operational details, and success metrics around the service.
In his decade at GE, Marcelo Prado held a range of marketing leadership roles, ranging from regional marketing director to CMO of a global business division. In a very humble tone, Prado talks about the wonderful learning opportunities he’s had throughout his career. These range from leading marketing in Latin America for the GE Energy Division, to taking on a global role responsible for about $4 billion in business, selling software and hardware within a very horizontal go-to-market.
Prado was invited to take a position within GE Corporate, in a division called Global Operations, and lead what they call Customer Operations. Global Operations is an internal shared service at GE, which includes services around finance, IT, legal, and HR. GE also has commercial services which Prado is a part of the leadership team. Prado looked at the marketing function and saw an opportunity to Marketing-as-a-Service, an internal agency.
As a passionate marketer, Prado absolutely enjoys developing and leading this marketing service. Prado targets all business units at GE. He has a mix of customers, some are more mature divisions, and some are newer, like aviation and organizations within GE Ventures. Though all of them are at different stages of maturity, Prado controls all marketing automation, in hand with the Commercial CIO at GE.
Prado developed insights on deciding what to centralize and what to decentralize when it comes to marketing services at enterprise level companies. He shares his story below.
Tell me more about how you’re currently operating Marketing-as-a-Service (MaaS).
We are offering a range of services including, pure revenue marketing support, customer data management, and a fully integrated demand center. And we are supporting more and more reporting and analytics on demand gen, and feeding that back to the businesses. Today I have a team of 23 people as part of the MaaS team.
We operate 11 instances of Marketo for the businesses out of here. We look at the contact databases, we look at the integration with Salesforce, we make sure that all of the campaigns that the businesses are launching have good email templates and landing pages. We run webinars from here and we also help businesses with SEO and SEM. We’re getting started on predictive analytics. It’s part of my roadmap but it has not been a focus for the past 12 months. So, basically it is top-of-the-funnel support to help businesses generate more prospects and leads.
We also have the capability to offer what we call “demand center.” This is the integration of the Marketing services with the Inside Sales capabilities run by a peer of mine. This would be a complete funnel management or funnel support back to the businesses, from prospects to leads, to opportunities to orders.
Because of the nature of my team and what we do, we are now deeply involved in GDPR discussions and how we make sure we have the right measures in place to be compliant. I’m probably spending more time than I would like in GDPR making sure that we are ready for that. The other thing you’ll probably see in the news is the big cost crunch in the company.
So, a lot of the businesses are looking at cost or productivity from us. And my value proposition back to the businesses relies on marketing expertise, speed, and also cost. My team is typically 20 percent less expensive than external vendors.
How did you get Marketing-as-a-Service off the ground?
It started with recognizing the challenges I faced when I was a CMO, the same challenges my peers are facing. During that time I inherited a small digital marketing team and I rebranded it as a demand generation team. I also had to make sure the business leadership team understood the importance of digital channels and customer engagement. We had issues scaling that group. We had global reach but I was running campaigns in English outside of the US. We had a large presence in places like China, the Middle East and Europe and I wanted to be more localized with my content and languages. I felt we were losing a lot of potential with those constraints. I just didn’t have the size, or the budget to be local across all the regions.
I noticed many businesses don’t have the skills, or the size to have an internal team doing what my team is doing today. And that’s why they go to external vendors, they have the same constraints I had. They can’t hire. They don’t have enough budget, or it’s not a priority to hire somebody to take on marketing automation because they would rather hire another salesperson.
I developed a blueprint of what I wanted to do based on observing those previous challenges. I also got my peers together and I asked them what would make sense for you as CMO to centralize and potentially leverage a central team? And they gave me a list of seven areas. And some were very aligned with what I thought. Some areas we decided not to do and some I keep on my roadmap. I’ll give you an example. They came to me and said, “Hey we need support in revenue marketing.” Again, they didn’t feel they had the expertise across the globe. I expected that. So I was able to create that expertise in-house with people in Latin America, Budapest, Cincinnati and China. We run campaigns today in multiple languages. We run webinars in multiple languages and that’s how we got started.
Some things that they asked to me to consider, such as translations, I decided to not do it. This is honestly something that I considered, but if you start to do translation, people will throw at you technical manuals and all sorts of things. It can get out of hand very quickly. So I decided that’s an area that I’m going to potentially bring in a partner to help manage. But I am still working on a few areas, such as content creation. I go back and forth with my team whether or not it makes sense for us to centralize.
We also had a lot of discussions around data, especially around customer contact info. There is an ongoing need to clean, enrich and maintain this data, and that’s something we’re doing in 2018. So again I had my thoughts but I reached out to my peers and they gave me a very good list.
What are some of the opportunities and risks associated with this kind of marketing service?
As any central organization, we run the risk of becoming too big or too slow. We play a crucial role in the demand generation process. Speed is part of my value proposition and because we are an internal organization, very flat and lean, we are able to quickly react and deliver what the businesses are asking us under our agreed SLA. Communication flows very quickly and versus outside vendors, we don’t have account execs or customer success managers.
At the same time, the reason why we have been so successful up to this point is because we are focused. We are focused on the areas and capabilities that makes sense to centralize and scale. This organization is not suited to absorb areas such as Strategic Marketing or Product Marketing type of work. We need to keep our focus on digital marketing and data, because that’s where we will be at our best and we will be able to maximize value for the company.
Finally, the cost of this team is funded 100% by the businesses. I grow the team, or shrink it, based on the value we deliver every day. At the end of the day, if I am providing a valuable service we will grow. If I am not adding any value, we will probably shrink or even disappear.
How does someone in a similar position get started?
Vision. A place to start small and scale. And a customer (GE business in our case) that is willing to try it with you.
I can’t start on all of those services at the same time. So where did I start? I started by putting together a vision. This is where I want to be in the future, but I got started here in campaign execution and calendar management. So as we brought a couple of businesses here, here’s how we got started. I hired a couple of people that were experts in marketing automation. That was the easiest thing on this list to get started. So that was step one.
I also had a business that understood my vision and wanted to test it with me. They said “Yeah, let’s try to do it, if it doesn’t work we’ll pull it back.” So we started with two people 18 months ago. We now have 23 and we have six positions that I’m trying to hire by some time next year. Because I think that we put together a good value proposition and my team listens to the businesses on what would make sense for them to do.
How do make sure you scope responsibilities well? How do you evaluate whether to centralize or decentralize?
I started with the services that make sense to centralize and get productivity quickly. I also defined what I can’t or should not centralize. Having the CMO expertise I thought right off the bat that strategic marketing wouldn’t make sense to centralize, everything that needs customer, region, or product expertise, I basically said I would not be able to centralize. So I ended up honing around digital marketing, just because whenever you are talking about digital, software, or tools, it makes a lot of sense to centralize because you get the data. The benefit of having a central repository for web analytics is the ability to look at data the same way across the board.
So that’s how we got started and I was not afraid about putting initial thoughts in front of my peers and asking, “Hey guys this is what I’m thinking, in your point of view what would make sense?” There was a lot of interaction getting them engaged in putting together the first vision of this roadmap, and right now we are a little bit smarter about what we do. We dropped a few things, we added other things and that’s the second version shown in Figure 1.
But again, you have to think abou what you shouldn’t centralize, what you could centralize. And for what you could centralize, how will you go about that? And the way we thought about it is around software tools and data.
We brought some people from agencies and every day they ask, “Are we going to be start developing content?” And I say, “No not yet.”
I’m still not convinced. We get asked all the time, “Can you help with this translation, can you help with content creation?” And we say, “No,” because we are a relatively small team and I don’t want to dilute everything that we are doing.
How do you define success?
Often managers define success as growth in headcount or revenue, especially in a shared services environment. However, I don’t measure success by the number of people that we have. I measure success by the ability to liquidate our cost back to the businesses. If I am providing value, I get paid. At the end of the day, I have to cover the cost of the team. So that is one way of looking at success.
The other way to look at success is whether my team is now sharing the same KPIs as the business teams. So I’ll give you an example. The Oil and Gas demand generation team is measured on the amount of dollars of qualified pipeline they create, but they also track dollars that the sales teams closes that are tied to marketing campaigns. That’s how my team supporting them is being measured, making sure that we share the same KPIs as the business teams because we are at the end of the day a professional services organization that is running behind the curtains, helping the businesses achieve their goals.