How to build your marketing automation organization, with Filip Verbrigghe (video + transcript)

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If you are curious to learn more about marketing automation organization, business intelligence (BI), Salesforce Pardot and HR services industry we advise you to check out our new interview with Filip Verbrigghe, in which he shares his best practices working as a Marketing Excellence Director at SD Worx

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Anthony: Hey there! It’s Anthony from DESelect. In today’s interview, I will be speaking with Filip Verbrigghe, the Marketing Excellence Director at SD Worx which is a well-known HR service provider across Europe. Now, Filip and his team have been responsible for both marketing and sales automation at their company and so during this conversation, he’ll be sharing a lot of very useful insights about how exactly they accomplished that in terms of organization, technology but of course also in terms of data. But before we start the video make sure to subscribe to our channel, in fact, do that right now put the video on pause and make sure you click subscribe. That way whenever we launch future videos like this you don’t have to miss out on them. All set, great, then enjoy the video.



Anthony: So, hi Filip thanks for having this interview with us. Perhaps it is good to start by introducing yourself and what do you do.

Filip: Hi Anthony. I am Filip Verbrigghe I work at a company called SDWorx we are active in the HR Payroll environment giving service to other companies, basically making sure that all their employees are served in a good way, make sure that they have their paychecks on time and stuff like that.  I work at SD Workx for quite a while right now and I am responsible for a team called Sales and Marketing Automation. So we work in Automating, Sales and Marketing processes.


Anthony: Okay, that’s interesting. What markets are you active geographically?

Filip: We are active in Europe mainly Europe. We have offices in ten European countries. Well, actually nine European countries and one office in Mauritius and our services are, well, of course, we are active in those countries, but we do also deliver services actually across the globe via a bigger network via partner network that we have.


Anthony: Okay, Great, yeah and I recently became a customer myself. I have to say your onboarding process was quite good so your automation department seems to work.

Filip: That’s always nice to hear.


Anthony: And you talked about marketing and sales automation can you sketch a bit about what you are doing?

Filip: Well, so if you look at the organization we have a pretty light central organization with  a strong local focus, so depending on the size and maturity of the countries there is a pretty solid local organization and from a sales and marketing perspective the teams are mostly in the local countries, so what we do is, we actually make sure that we deliver those teams in those local countries the tools and the processes that they need to do their job in a good way and this from a sales and marketing perspective.  Concretely, this is about CRM tools like Salesforce Sales Cloud and also Marketing automation tools that we provide for them, we give them support and we guide them how to use the tools and we help them to set up, if you look at it from a marketing perspective in more innovative ways to do your marketing compared to classic push mail marketing that’s still happening as well.


Anthony: Not just mass email blasts.

Filip: We still do that, but the world has really changed. The environments where we still do that, because it is necessary to do that, but we actually, this is something that we personally think is important. You don’t want to be a marketer coming in with a message at the moment that it’s totally not relevant for the person on the other side


Anthony: The message has to be timely.

Filip: Yes, you need to make sure that what you are offering, it is not wrong to offer something to somebody, but it has to connect with a need that should be there already with that person, or there should be, you know, attracted to, hey that’s might be something interesting for me and then you can start a conversation and that’s what mass mailing or cold calling or whatever you can never do. Long-time ago I read an article called marketing you won’t hate, and that has been kind of my goal.


Anthony: Your guideline?

Filip: Yeah, my guideline to deliver marketing that people that are touched by it they won’t hate you know? And to drive it a bit more positive that they even like it, so that comes at a time when I need this message so that you can help me guys and that show.


Anthony: So there is no instant unsubscribe, for instance.

Filip: Stuff like that. I feel like the whole GDPR regulation. A lot of people are like oh no GDPR and I think it’s just logical that would protect the data from the people that are trying to reach and that we do it in an ethical way I think is quite logical.


Anthony: Exactly, GDPR is almost the seventh of best practices that should have been placed in a long time anyway.

Filip: I do have some discussions with guys from the team not so far ago on certain aspects of GDPR maybe it goes too far sometimes like we have interesting discussions on Facebook and stuff like that. But generally the idea of coming in with a message that connects with a need is something that I want to fulfill and I think GDPR kind of has this idea behind. Of course, there is a whole idea of protecting your data and which is, of course, good but that idea that making sure that you don’t push something that people actually don’t want to buy. Of course that is something that’s quite central in my view.


Anthony: Do you have some concrete examples for viewers of how do you do these very connected messages very timely message do marketing that people won’t hate?

Filip: Yeah, well it always starts with knowing your target group, that’s key factor number one and that’s why data is so important. That’s where we sometimes cross a bit, with GDPR lines it is sometimes hard a bit. You want, of course, to work on that data but from the perspective of being able to deliver something that is useful for the person on the other side. So we always start with knowing your target group. Knowing what are the needs of the target group. What are the problems that they have day-in-day-out, what do they struggle with? And if you know that, then you can start aligning hopefully your proposition on those needs, second basic principle, of course, is having a good product. But if you have a good product and we do have a good product and multiple good products you can align them with the needs of the customer of your prospect. Then you won’t bring messages that they will have you would just give answers to the needs that they have every day to achieve also good results on their own job and reaching their own targets, where they align with each other. If you come in with the messages that are totally not suited for that person and that function or for that company because it’s like a total mismatch on what they need then you are pushing steps that they are not interested in and it will never work.


Anthony: And you mention technology, and what technology are you using?

Filip: For marketing we are using Salesforce marketing, Salesforce Pardot, b2b marketing solution from Salesforce which is more and more incorporated into the sales cloud which I think is good because it is actually the one solution that was one of the reasons we went for Pardot because I think we went live on it September 2017 and at that time strangely maybe but Pardot wasn’t the best  most integrated tool with the Salesforce for Salesforce cloud there were other tools like Eloco or Marketo that pitched themselves as being 100% integrated with Salesforce cloud and they were even right they were better integrated with Salesforce for Sales cloud, but we chose for a bit of a future proof choice we were quite convinced that Salesforce would work on that integration and that’s what they did. And the other thing was that we were looking for a marketing automation tool. A tool that could handle complex flows complex processes in the way you interact with your customer and your prospect and that was one of the reasons why that Pardot was good at.


Anthony: It is interesting that you say that Pardot was initially not so integrated with Salesforce because Salesforce has been going on that stick of acquisitions and I think that was one of the main challenges to integrate them.  But what I also find interesting is that there are still those third-party solutions that get sometimes deliver just as good as a job, sort of interesting ecosystem.

Filip: Yeah, it is, well it is constantly changing ecosystem if you may look at all those typical slides with the players in the marketing cloud community, it grows and grows and grows.


Anthony: Every year it’s more.

Filip: Yeah, it is sometimes hard from my perspective you know form the set where we are to make the right decision there. Because we also have side core as a content management tool for our website. They also try to get part of that cake so it is sometimes hard what tool will you use with which purpose and how will you integrate them so keeping your marketing automation stack clear is a constant job. It always changes and it evolves.


 Anthony: Do you have a certain strategy there to make? Like how do you make decisions?

Filip: We try to keep it under control. That is one thing.


Anthony: Because you are the central organization that has to enable the other marketing organizations.

Filip: That’s one thing. We want to have a corporate feel at this because reporting is important. If you are having all the different countries having their own solutions, you will never get clear reporting and if you have the possibility to have a returned marketing investment you will not be able to measure it. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t allow new tools to enter. What we do, for instance, now we have quite active in growth marketing tracks what we see there that there are limitations to certain tools that we are using that can be filled in with other tools. What we do, we set them up in a pilot environment we check if they deliver and once we see okay they deliver for certain projects for a certain country then we lift them as a corporate tool, but the integration is important.


Anthony: So local testing and roll out tool?

Filip: Yeah, we did that in Belgium this year we did some local testing with processes that weren’t corrected at that moment.


Anthony: Can we know which ones?

Filip: Yeah, those tools were like Unbounce and Lumen 5. Lumen 5 is a tool to make videos in a very fast way.


Anthony: I would be interested in that one as well.

Filip: But more from an advertising point of view and bounce is a tool that we use to set up multi-step forms. No sorry, I am wrong Unbounce is to create landing pages and the other one is to create multi-step forms, which was Pardot a bit lacking in. So we set it up, we saw it has a big effect on conversion if you have multistep forms and we knew that if we would do that in Pardot it would take more of the development time whatever so we just lifted up the form now as a corporate tool and integrate it with the process we already have. These are decisions, we don’t go light over them. And we make sure that the ownership of the marketing donation stack is central ownership.


Anthony: Interesting, so, in this case, it was actually a CMS gap that you were filling up and now the marketers can create multi-steps forms very easily but you still lead into Pardot to make automation more efficiently.

Filip: Exactly, because that’s the whole point if your process is stuck there then you won’t get them through to your lead channel and to your opportunity channel. That was actually the other main reason why we’ve picked up Pardot instead of other marketing automation tools because it was a Salesforce product because we wanted the salespeople and marketing people working in the same environment. So if they talk about the opportunities on accounts and contacts or whatever logic that they work on the same object and they can speak the same language so it’s the collaboration between sales and marketing has improved on that part.


Anthony: So you’ve actually managed to break the silence.

Filip: Uhm, I wouldn’t say that but it has improved.


Anthony: I am curious, what is your favorite and least favorite aspect of marketing automation in Pardot? Can you name a feature if you don’t want to go in detail?

Filip: I am not a person using Pardot daily.


Anthony: Sure.

Filip: So I can’t say if it’s a user-friendly tool. What I said the integration with Salesforce is important, the fact that we were finally able to set up a solid scoring model within a tool like Pardot connected with opportunities and Salesforce so this integration took place. That’s the reason why I supported that way it should go for Pardot as a tool and the fact that Salesforce is a pretty solid company having a quite future proof roadmap. So I am pretty confident that the next steps are coming will work on further integrating and optimizing these tools. To stick with this example of JotForm I was pretty disappointed to hear that a simple thing like multistep form was impossible in Pardot that’s quite basic. So it was a bit of disappointment but hey there’s ground there as well so…


Anthony: Well, if we will have to do a little  Pardot it would take a lot of custom coding I imagine, which is not the thing you’re looking for. Marketers can quickly spin up those forms.

Filip: And it’s always a bit of a struggle. Pardot isn’t in my first view I would also want to have tools like, that were like democratic tools, you know like that everybody could use.


Anthony: Sure.

Filip: Pardot isn’t the tool that everybody can use. You still need some expertise, there’s a broader population now that are using the tool, so that’s good and we train them. So there are more marketers that are using the tool, but it is still not that easy to use the tool for just the common marketer. You still need to hire some skills.


Anthony: If there would be a marketing director or CMO’s watching this, what would be your lessons learned that you would share with them?

Filip: You mean from the project that we ran?


Anthony: I would say from the marketing automation as a whole.

Filip: I would say, first invest in marketing automation tools, definitely. I don’t know how it is with a lot of other companies but there is still quite a gap to take in that field. Make sure that your marketing tool is connected to your sales tool. Because if you want to have as a CMO want to be at a board table next to the CFO you also need your figures. And that’s what marketing went behind there for a long time, but now we don‘t have any excuse anymore. We do have all the tools available to prove this campaign, this channel, this action even this platform whatever that you put in place has delivered this many euros.


Anthony: To really show what marketing-generated revenue basically.

Filip: Yes, definitely and I think we should. As I said we can’t hide behind the fact that it’s not possible anymore, of course, there are still gaps and we go for 80% truth or 90% truth but it’s good enough. Because in the past we were hiding behind the fact that we couldn’t really, this stupid joke that I spent a million dollars and half of it worked but I don’t know which half, you know what I mean? And this is not the fact anymore or it should not be a fact anymore for marketing these days.


Anthony: Yeah, right. Earlier when we spoke you mentioned that you’re building a BI team is it related to this?

Filip: Of course yes, actually at this stage my team has three parts. The end goal is making sure that we deliver great marketing services across whole business groups between all our countries and that we set up you know good we call it mature marketing campaigns and actions, to get there, there is a very important element and that’s it you have the insight of what you are doing that you know how things are running and that’s where you need data and where you need BI. Of course, before you can have data you need to have your processes automated and optimized. Optimization processes is one goal you know but the fact that you have all these the most of your marketing effort goes through the automated flows means that you have access to a lot of interesting data and working on that data via your BI team is crucial to get the insights to know where you have to steer to grow the maturity.


Anthony: If I can interject, is then for your prerequisite to have those processes before you have started your BI team?

Filip: Well you need data before you can have the BI team. There’s all kind of relevant data that we can work on, the data that was lacking before we were really setting steps and connecting marketing automation and sales automation was marketing data connecting to the sales data and when we had this connection we can get really deep down to the insights on what is working for the marketing and this is what you need to actually grow your maturity on marketing that’s why both automation and intelligence I call it and then excellence those three parts are actually connected to each other and the BI team is pretty important not only through the marketing point of view because we also work on sales and on the finance figures all kind of BI but the BI team is, of course, crucial and having your data strategy correct that’s actually the first thing that you have to do.


Anthony: Is there also a segmentation strategy linked to that at SD Workx?

Filip: We have segmentation strategies, but what do you mean by getting the insights by data?

Anthony: Do you have for instance predefined segments; I guess there is also a focus on certain segments in the market itself so I am looking there on how do you do it? How do you approach it?

Filip: Yes, we have segments defined so if you look at the market you would normally start with segmenting, targeting and positioning. So that what has been for now that is what isn’t important in the marketing department today but we try of course from the BI point of view, we have to make sure that we deliver data to the segments so we can get insights in market share, for instance, this is a very important one but also growth, so your data strategy has to always support your segments it could also work the other way around of course, you know classical segments are defined around the big board table smart people  think about what would be a good segmentation I am not saying that…


Anthony: That it is a top-down strategy so to speak?

Filip: But today you could work more on getting insights out of your data and see well there is a logical connection between this person and this person maybe they are the segments if we put them together if we see a lot of connections there.


Anthony: Is it something that you have actually done?

Filip: Well, we’ve been working from that with BI team predictive analytics because that was like a buzzword and everybody was working on predictive analytics. But what we did was, we took the whole marketing chain, actually the whole sales marketing chain we went up to different steps and we thought what kind of data would be useful for us for making better decisions in one of those steps: segmentation is one of those steps, yeah, targeting, of course, is one of those steps how can you better target your customers via getting better insights in your data. So there was a whole bunch we get about 10 to 15 ideas there and in the end, we didn’t work on segmentation was one that was like very popular, what we did was that we actually did a check on desirability, would you like us to work on this topic? But also on visibility. And only when it was high on desire and high on visibility we could deliver. What we saw was quite a lot of topics that were high in desire but low on visibility, because we still lack some data. And that gave us another view on where you put your data effort. But in the end what we did work on was trying to predict customer satisfaction which is also very interesting because customer satisfaction is a very important topic for all companies today and also for SD Workx. We create or we try to create a model in which we could predict whether a customer, if you would ask him, could be happy with our services or not.


Anthony: Okay, interesting.

Filip: Because in fact with classic customer satisfaction surveys is that you can ask a 100% of your population how happy you are with the services of SD Workx and statistically only about 25% answers which are good enough to give an idea of the whole population, because that is how statistics work, but the thing is that you only have the real results only from the 25% and we want to know which customer is not happy, which customer is happy.


Anthony: Then you group them they are pre-selected or self-selected they may already be happier than the others, for instance.

Filip: Yeah,  and what we do, we look at this data, we have data over the past ten years of doing these kinds of surveys which is relevant and then you could see what are the factors that actually could make the customer happy or could not make happy and then if you then translate that into your total population you can be quite accurate in saying okay, one chance I’ve treated this customer could not be happy or will be happy and then, of course, you can use that in your sales and marketing techniques.


Anthony: Exactly, and these are analyses that have been made by the BI team served to countries, how do the marketers use this?

Filip: We are getting to that phase now, so now we did all the exercise and get the insights and we can only do this for Belgium because we needed a lot of data we didn’t have the access to all the data previously, yeah, we do not have the instruments in all the other countries. But the way we would like to move forward there is, for instance, setting up promoting programs or attractive programs or create visit plans based on the potential of a positive connected score.


Anthony: With visit plans what do you mean?

Filip: Sales visit plans. When sales have to go visit their customers, mostly they can’t visit them all they have to make a certain selection and how do you make that selection well that is something that could help you make that selection.


Anthony: So now you can prioritize based on your analysis and you could say we are running a campaign for very happy customers to make promoters but I guess you could also do proactive campaigns to visits to make sure you’ll have churn.

Filip: Yeah, exactly. And you could automate that you could create automation programs on that. We actually did automate our NPS program, so before we had all this into the Salesforce Pardot environment we worked through the Surveygizmo to do those surveys. Surveygizmo is 100% connected through the Salesforce and Pardot technically, I think you know.


Anthony: I know quite a lot about this.

Filip: But the fact is that process took us several months before we could really get actionable insights or we can get the insights faster but not really the actions and now it’s just a fully automated process. So when somebody fills in an NPS survey and the results are bad so there is an instant signal going to the account owner but his or her client filled the survey and the result was bad and then you can act upon that in a very simple way to automate this but you can’t put it into automation programs and marketing automation programs.


Anthony: And it’s a great example for marketing automation because there you combine email with an NPS survey that is saved in the CRM and that can trigger the same person. And to what extent do marketers target themselves?

Filip: What do you mean by targeting? 


Anthony: When they are doing campaigns, do they also make your own segmented lists? Do you create their own target list?

Filip: That is still one thing that is a little bit difficult, that was one of my dreams to get this through to the marketers themselves because normally the marketers are the best placed to know what kind of group do they want to reach so they have the best idea of that definition. But the reality is that the data is still a bit too complex to hand this over to every local marketer to do themselves all the selections. So that is still something that is some data specialist depending on the size of the country and every country has to have one or it is still something that we deliver from our central BI team.


Anthony: So obstacle is still data but in this case how complex the data is?

Filip: Yeah, and you have to know what is the impact of selecting or not selecting certain fields and if you don’t really know, so that the data model is quite large and quite complex and there are different ways to do certain selections with different outcomes and you have to know what you are talking about and that might impact your results too much that’s why there are still specialists needed to do that.


Anthony: Sometimes there are different ways to come to the somewhat similar selection you could select on the field called product category or perhaps you also have a list of purchases from your past that have this information.

Filip: Yeah, those are the kind of examples. So you have to make good decisions there and I also think it’s…


Anthony: A real profession?

Filip: Yeah, and people who are really good at that are also much faster at it.


Anthony: There are two things that I want to ask then. On one hand, what are the ways to put the data in the hands of marketers? And on the other hand, do you think that there should always be a technical marketer or data-savvy person in team?

Filip: Definitely. But I think the answer is yes on both questions. I think you want the data scientists or whatever you want them in your team and have as close as possible but you want them to do smart jobs. I mean data selection isn’t the smartest job, maybe I put this wrong but the smart part about data selection is defining your target group and that is what marketer has to do or communications specialist or something like that. That is not really a job for a data scientist, of course, he can challenge because he knows the data really good, there is a way of working together but the real smart work for data scientist or data analytic is getting into the data is making analysis, is doing predictive work it is something like that and because there is so much into that data that we are not getting out that we don’t want these guys to wasting their time on making data selections, we want them to get working on the data.


Anthony: Rather than filtering data you want them to make statistical analysis.

Filip: And getting insights for the data for instance on segmentation that we have done and didn’t know it was there. These kinds of insights. I am still convinced that that’s the shift that BI teams will have to go through more, is getting more time to work on getting insights and the pure selection and working on maintenance of data on which is very important, data quality, because it all starts with qualitative data but that’s the difference there what somebody has to do and what kind of profiles you kind of want to work on that.


Anthony: So, Filip, at the start of the interview you also mentioned that you’ve been at SD Worx you worked for a while on a big marketing automation project what do you think is the next big thing at SD Worx?

Filip: From a marketing perspective we have been growing into optimizing our processes and automating our processes and integrating them with sales, now we really have to get back everything that we put in there, and that’s the next thing that we have to do. And one thing that we are working on right now and which is a very fun project to do is really working on growth marketing and the fact that marketer today is more and more somebody that can work on data that can talk from the data and get insights from data means that you can really work on get the figures right on okay, so you want to grow with this figure these means that we will have to deliver these many opportunities, because we do  have insight in the data we know what time to sell is we know what the average lead size is we have all these figures that will give us these insights so marketer can be at the table much more now really getting into the conversation of okay how do we drive this targeting or this group that you have and you know growth marketing growth hacking these kinds of stuff, this is really something we are moving into right now we are really thinking okay what do we have to do to make sure that you will achieve your growth target. This is based on an update that we have that we can really prove this will work because if we put any of it together we will see that it will work. 


Anthony: It’s like a marketer can almost say to the sales I can deliver these many leads or x amount of revenue?

Filip: I think that marketing should be, surely in the B2B context it’s still a bit new maybe but we really should go along with this sales stream and have the same targets and just go for it.


Anthony: Very useful stuff I am sure, it’s been useful for the viewers as well, the last question is there a topic that you want to discuss marketing automation.

Filip: I did have a question for you Anthony, if you look at I talked about marketing you won’t hate and this actually this is also about meaningful marketing if you put it in a more positive way, it is meaningful marketing. How can you as a marketer have a meaningful job but also impact society and positive impact. So what I wanted to ask you if we look at all of the tactics that we have in hands as marketers and all the possibilities that we have what would be the ultimate marketing automation fuel that you would like to set up?


Anthony: It’s a very big question Filip, I think marketing automation is a great technology and like any technology it can be used for bad, which is the marketing we hate or good which can be more into selling the products we love but also helping people in a more significant way. There are different takes that we can take on it and I think it all comes back with all societal issues. I think there is, for instance, a huge potential in health care and in life sciences in general that hasn’t being used yet which also has to do with GDPR of course because it is very sensitive but one topic that is also quite close to my heart is in fact immigration because in the last years, the last century we had several wars and there have been massive massive immigration flows and we are in the heart of Europe and we see a lot of that very close where I work we have people in our company who aren’t even from Europe and they are great people, probably we can do something there to help people integrate into one society to collaborate but also respect different opinions different backgrounds, different religions even and I think there is some untapped potential I am sure. And perhaps that is something for government for sure it something for NGO’s I think, there are actually NGOs working with Salesforce, of course, and I think they can stand a lot to use marketing automation, it will help their own automations but mostly partly I think it will make a huge difference in the lives of the people they want to help.

Filip: That’s nice, that’s okay

Anthony: Well okay, I am going to leave on a thank you for your time and good luck with your next steps

Filip: Thanks a lot Anthony



Anthony: Hey there, it’s Anthony again. I hope you enjoyed this video if you did make sure to subscribe to our channel. That way whenever we put new videos online you’ll be notified automatically. Thank you and have a great day.


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