Digital marketing student and Rewire Area Editor Shameek Aswani had the chance to chat with marketing automation consultant Carlos Díaz Escarabajal about what it’s like working with Salesforce for MRM/McCann, what to know when implementing the software, and what to expect from the sector in the coming years.
To start things off, what’s it like to be a marketing automation consultant today? What’s the landscape like, and has it begun to overshadow offline?
It has definitely begun to overshadow online. Why? Because we are totally connected, whether it be through mobile or desktop. We are always downloading something or the other from the internet, browsing apps, reading newspapers… Your mobile phone is your best friend—it’s your map, alarm, and TV. You are active on your mobile phone for at least 3-4 hours daily.
Offline is for everybody; as in, when one launches a marketing campaign, it is for whoever passes by it on the street. But in the case of online, I am targeting right at you, I am not talking to your mom, dad, or sister. It’s more personalized and thereby proving to be more effective.
The digital marketing landscape is growing fast. If you take a look at how it was five years ago, there were probably only two or three major MarTech vendors and now there are more than 15.
Companies are increasing their data usage about twice per year. People are using more and more data, and this will lead to items like fridges being connected thanks to the internet of things. Technology in general is really growing fast and we see bigger companies trying to fill in the gaps by acquiring the young emerging tech companies and building the landscape at an accelerated rate.
Thus, brands out there who are heavily dependent on offline and reluctant to get out there and test the waters with MarTech or digital technology are soon going to be out of the game. I mean, one can survive one or two years, but you’ll end up becoming the next Nokia, you know, or the next Kodak. Of course, you have to put ads on TV and on the street, but you really need to enter the digital spectrum and lay down a plan with well-defined goals.
Salesforce has become quite the buzzword. How would you and your clients describe the platform’s purpose?
Salesforce is definitely a buzzword right now! As I mentioned earlier about companies trying to fill in the gaps, Salesforce belongs to that list and is not only trying to acquire emerging tech companies, but is also using its resources to try and build relevant technologies for the business.
Salesforce’s purpose is to help gather the data in a tidy way and thereby help clients deal with their customers better. If you have such huge amounts of data on an Excel sheet, it can be difficult to study, understand, and react. Our platform uses this data given by the customer and helps brands really capitalize in an effective and efficient manner.
In terms of the marketing cloud specifically, there exists a journey builder, which is a tool that allows you to orchestrate your communications to the customer. This not only allows you to define the way you want to talk to and evaluate the customer, but also allows you to react to certain actions performed by the customer with a personalized message.
Can a company of any size implement the marketing cloud? Who would you recommend it to?
I don’t think so. It’s quite expensive to implement the platform. When you have, for example, a store selling shoes on the street, you should go for something like Mailchimp, which is more of a freemium marketing automation tool. As with Salesforce, there are additional expenses a company has to bear such as having a dedicated team to deal with all the data modeling, integrating data to the cloud, or even studying all the data exported from it.
I would recommend the marketing cloud to medium and large companies ready for omnichannel communication, who want to be able to ultra personalize and ultra segment their communication, as it is important for brands to be relevant with customers and put them at the center. We’re in the era of customer centricity, speaking to them directly, in exactly the moment they need to hear the particular message, without too much noise or emails.
Companies need to have two- or three-year plans. Otherwise, the use of the marketing cloud will not be done properly. It takes about two months to implement, and from then on, it’s a continuous process to constantly integrate, study, and segment data and not just use the cloud to send emails. At the very least, a mid-term plan to seek profit from investment!
Which departments of an organization need to be involved when setting up and managing the Salesforce platform?
CRM, Business Intelligence, Data Analytics, IT, and Marketing Automation. Once we have all this combined, companies will be able to squeeze the most out of the data. IT alone is not enough, as they will just integrate the data and say that everything is ready and set up, but not really add value to communications. You need a transversal team in order to gain the most value.
How much tech savvy (from basic to advanced) should a marketing automation consultant be equipped with in order to facilitate the implementation of this software?
The more the better.
If you’re doing this on your own, it’s great to know HTML, SQL, and, maybe a bit later, knowledge about a sophisticated tool like CSS. Not all of those are necessary, as you have a learning curve where you start from the absolute basics and slowly pick up all these languages such as SQL, to help segment the data further, and HTML, in order to help design better emails.
To be honest, it’s a very DIY application in terms of implementation in the market right now, as there aren’t many trailheads out there.
At MRM/McCann, the first thing I started learning was the tool itself, which made me establish a level of proficiency. Then, I started to analyze customer needs and tried to link that with the marketing cloud. To manage a team, you don’t need to know such programmatic languages. But in order to, say, communicate with IT, you would at least need to possess a basic knowledge of all the different technologies. For that reason, I have done plenty of courses to get an overview of everything.
I see the keyword “data” being mentioned quite a lot on Trailhead (Salesforce’s online learning platform). How important is data querying in particular for a marketer using the platform?
As I mentioned earlier, customers are going to up their data usage about twice a year, so it’s really important. One main point with regards to helping clients implement the marketing cloud is to understand their data and address the pain points. When starting a project, we need to help them give meaning to all the customer data—to really understand why the data is there, how they can use it, and how they can improve. You really need to be creative in this scenario, not only in terms of how you can merge certain data in order to personalize and create campaigns, but also in terms of analyzing and improving campaigns.
Data is everywhere and is everything.
The first thing you need SQL for is to make all the data integrations. Imagine you have a marketing automation tool and all the data is coming from the CRM. You would need SQL to facilitate the integration. And once you’ve built your data model, you will then need SQL to segment for campaigns, given the complexity. Finally, once the campaign has been launched in various marketing channels (omnichannel approach) you would then need SQL querying to track and analyze all the data coming from these various sources.
To sum up, can you list the top 5 skills that a marketing automation consultant of the future should possess?
Try not to be obsessed with one way of working or any one technology. Technology is growing every day, solutions are growing every day. Maybe the guy working next to you has a better idea that needs to be heard and not ignored. This is where the mentality to discuss with other teams present in the organization comes into play.
Eager to learn
You have to read newspapers and blogs and stay up-to-date with the latest. Imagine Salesforce buys a new product and I don’t know what this new product does. If a client asks me, “Hey Carlos, do you know about this product?” You can’t say no.
You need to go to clients and be disruptive with them, as they’re used to doing things in a certain way. This not only means in terms of IT, but we also have to try new methods of communicating and engaging with clients. You can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach when dealing with multiple clients. Instead, you should be going out there and validating each method, exploring new possibilities. Clients really appreciate when you try new things with them.
This is connected to the skills previously mentioned. Sometimes, clients get so obsessed with profits and campaigns. From a marketing automation consultant’s perspective, you have to be the spike of the arrow and be creative and disruptive with them. Otherwise, your clients will learn and match your pace. For example, each time we create an email campaign for them, they end up copying and learning how to do it themselves. If we don’t provide additional value, then in one year, we lose the client. Our role is to be the spike of the arrow always.
This is something I take from personal experience. This might apply to every job, but when you’re working with technology, you really need to put yourself in the client’s shoes. You not only need to provide a personalized solution for the end customer, but for your clients as well. You need to give them comfort, understand their situation, hold their hand.
What was your experience like teaching in the Master in Digital Marketing here at HST?
I really enjoyed it! I’ve been doing this for two years. This time, I even did it for the online version of the program. It’s like a break from actually working with Salesforce every day. I’m really using this opportunity to teach and educate as many individuals as I can, even if it’s just a little bit. At the same time, I get inspired by the questions asked in my sessions, which really helps me think deeper about what I do.
Carlos Díaz Escarabajal is an industrial engineer turned IT + marketing automation consultant. He’s currently working with Salesforce for MRM as Marketing Automation Manager, where he designs strategy and analyzes companies’ technical and business necessities, focusing their digital transformation around MarTech. When he’s not working, he’s usually riding a bike or practicing trail running in the mountains. Contact him on LinkedIn to talk about MarTech or to do some sport!
This interview was conducted by Shameek Aswani. Being born and raised in Dubai hasn’t stopped Shameek from feeling 100% Indian at heart. He is a dual-degree student currently pursuing the Master in Digital Marketing at HST after successfully completing his MBA at IE Business School. He believes in learning from everything and everyone, a realization which resulted from having lived in 3 different cities in 3 different countries. A truly global citizen. Connect with him here.