Talent Hub is proud to introduce the eighteenth episode of the Talent Hub TV series in podcast format. Here, Talent Hub Director, Ben Duncombe sits down for ‘on the sofa’ chats with inspirational Salesforce professionals to learn more about their fascinating stories and market insight.
This month’s guest, Salesforce Marketing Cloud Solution Architect, Mark Koh, joins Ben on the sofa to share his own Salesforce journey, from a background in digital marketing to the point that he’s at today. He helps us understand what makes a great Marketing Cloud consultant, and how businesses can successfully implement and run it effectively.
Mark shares his thoughts on the future of the platform and what excites him about what comes next.
Listen here, or if you prefer to read, the entire transcript is below:
Ben: Welcome to Talent Hub TV Episode 18, we’re here with Mark Koh today, so our first Marketing Cloud guest, so do you want to introduce yourself Mark?
Mark: Yes, hi everyone, my name’s Mark, and I’m a “Mark…..eting” Cloud Architect.
Ben: So thanks for coming on the show, we’ve got a lot to discuss.
Ben: We’ll go back through your history, and then we’ll talk a bit about the marketing platforms you’ve worked with, and yes, a bit about what you see going well in the market, what’s coming through, and things like that. So, before you moved into the Salesforce space, what did you do?
Mark: Yeah, absolutely. Well, long story, basically I started, well I left University studying Media and Communications, I wanted to be a Filmmaker, but then I guess there was not enough money in it, so I kind of went into marketing, and specifically digital marketing, and one of the key things in the marketing industry nowadays is marketing automation and marketing technology, so, you know, I kind of got into CRM, Salesforce core and then the marketing automation, Salesforce Marketing Cloud as it is known now.
Ben: So you actually worked with Salesforce core before Marketing Cloud?
Mark: Actually, kind of hand in hand together. The story is, basically, I was in this Digital Marketing role, and they said “does anyone know Salesforce?” And I was like, “oh I can..” and I kind of put up my hand and was like “yes, I can I get help with it” and then they gave me access to Salesforce core, and this thing called ExactTarget.
Mark: I was like “what’s this, is this Salesforce?” and then that’s how I got into Marketing Cloud. But yes, I kind of started at the same time in core as Marketing Cloud.
Ben: And it was ExactTarget that point?
Mark: I think it was just after the acquisition, so I think it was like 2016, the start of 2016, but yes it was just after it had been acquired by Salesforce. So it was still called ExactTarget, the URL was ExactTarget, which is Salesforce now, but a lot of the branding then, was ExactTarget, so it was still relatively new as part of the Salesforce ecosystem.
Ben: And when you put your hand up to say you could do that, had you really come across the platform before you’d heard of it?
Mark: Well no, so I really did a lot of work with other platforms like Mail Chimp, so yes, like digital marketing, marketing automation, Mail Chimp was one of them, and like data stuff like Campaign Monitor but yes, I really had no experience in ExactTarget until I started like, going in and started using it.
Ben: Sure, and then from putting your hand up, to then starting the journey, what kind of things were you doing at that point? Like what were you doing with the platform?
Mark: Yes, I mean the basic role at that point where it was just marketing campaign management, so it was just like, you’re sending emails, you’re sending SMS messages, you’re managing customer journeys, you’re, I guess, taking data from CRM and then sort of using that to target and communicate. So that kind of basic stuff at the start.
Ben: And how did things grow from there?
Mark: Well, basically, the funny thing is that I was, you know, I was a Marketer, so I had to, come up with these campaigns for how to target people, and how we communicate with people, and because I working in a very small team at this company, I really didn’t have anyone else who could do the technology bit, so I kind of had do it myself right, so, let’s say, you need to install Marketing Cloud Connector. Right? No one else could really do it because you know, you wanted to have like real-time leads or contacts coming into Marketing Cloud, so I had to like, do it myself. I implemented it and that sort of, evolved my technical skills more and more, which is how I kind of moved to where I am now, which is a consulting and sort of technical implementation role.
Ben: Sure. How important is that, to have, not just coming from the technology background and working on Marketing Cloud, but how important is it to have that marketing mindset and background?
Mark: Yes, definitely much more important than Salesforce core. I think, with Salesforce core you can get away with it, with not knowing too much about things except sales cycles and things like that. But the really good Marketing Cloud Consultants, they have that good mix of technical and functional understanding. I think with Marketing Cloud, you really have to understand, what are you trying to achieve within the platform? Because we certainly create these customer journeys, there are many, many things you can do, with the platform. You can sort of target as email and SMS, you can create these journeys, so you can choose whether to target someone based on, let’s say, you open an email, click a link etc. There’s all this capability in the platform, but you really need to understand fundamentally what the goal of a Marketer is. So how do you want to communicate with them, let’s say like a marketing lifecycle, how marketing automation increases, let’s say a content management system, data analytics etc. So that functional understanding is very important and it’s something that I definitely look for when I sort of try to recruit and build my team. So you need to be able, you need to come more from a marketing background rather than from a technical background, and that’s something that’s, because from Marketing Cloud you can definitely learn, like a SQL or HTML, CSS etc. like a knowledge of coding language, but if you don’t have a fundamental understanding what you’re actually building the platform to do, for your clients or a Marketer then it’s very hard to sort of teach them.
Ben: Okay, so your initial move into the Salesforce world was campaign management execution, what has your role evolved to and included over time?
Mark: Yes, I know, I kind of do a mix of everything. I mean, so, I came away from campaign management, to sort of more technical implementation development, and so now I’m solution architecture, and sort of like engagement/program management and things like that. So in my current role, I work with a client and understand their requirements, understand who is needed from a resourcing perspective, understand the project plan and sort of build that out for them. It’s just kind of evolved from that campaign management, initial function and has kind of evolved into what it is now.
Ben: Sure, and you’ve worked both on the client-side and consulting?
Mark: Yes, absolutely. I’ve worked client-side with campaign management, Marketing Cloud implementation and marketing technology implementation in general. So I guess, consulting was the next logical move for me, being exposed to clients and the conversations as well. But yes, being able to, I guess, be involved in a digital transformation programme, which is where I saw myself moving into.
Ben: Sure. But having been on both sides, what would you say, is the benefit of being in-house if you really want to work with the technology, from both sides, so in-house and in consulting, what are the benefits either side?
Mark: Yes, so I think when you’re working in-house, you understand a lot more from that marketing perspective. And also a lot more of how Marketing Cloud and marketing automation can be used in the context of your business, so, you know, it’s very important from a technical perspective, when you get initial requirements, you understand what marketing is trying to achieve. So I think from a consulting perspective, you would get more, you know, you find more people are from a technology background or from a development background, which is good, so they can actually deliver quite well, but I think where the gap is, Developers don’t necessarily have the ability to talk to a business or talk to a Marketer.
Mark: Right, so you kind of, I think yes, I think from an in-house client-side perspective, yes, you just have that ability to know, and understand that business more, understand the functional side of the platform.
Ben: Sure, and then consulting, you get to see lots of different businesses.
Ben: Okay, cool. So having worked with the platform for a good while now, what have been some of the coolest kind of initiatives that you see companies do with the Salesforce Marketing Cloud platform?
Mark: Yes, absolutely. I think the main one, is around, you know, the digital customer experiences and some of the really interesting ways that businesses and clients can target, communicate and sort of report and understand how the customer engages with the marketing that they send. So one of the clients that I’m working with right now, they have this sort of Developer marketing technology ecosystem, so the thing about Salesforce and ExactTarget or Marketing Cloud is they’re really trying to expand the capabilities that Marketing Cloud has right, so it used to be just ExactTarget and they sort of put it on DMP and Crux, and now they’re calling to like, the rest of the sort of marketing technology stacks, where they have like Datarama which is a data visualisation across platforms, they have Integration Studio, for the integration of SAC Max and personalisation of online and offline channels. So we’re trying to build out journeys that can be across that entire lifecycle. So the idea is that, you know, let’s say you are visiting a website, you have all this data about you know, behaviour about how you perform in that website, and that can be used to inform like how say, advertising targets you, so you get value there, then you can either read or you can customise, and as it’s a CRM, you can inject them into the marketing automation and go through that lifecycle journey builder. And from there, we can then integrate with Integration Studio which is another platform where we can personalise different interactions across like website application. So yes, one client I’m working with at the moment is doing that entire ecosystem and that end to end delivery.
Ben: And I guess you’ve seen a lot of projects now, so how, not necessarily on that scale and complexity and using everything, but if a company is about to start a Marketing Cloud implementation or project, how can they set themselves up to be successful?
Mark: Yes. I think the first one is very – work with a Partner. A lot of times I work with clients who basically get bought Marketing Cloud and it sits there for like a year and a half, and they do not actually implement it or do anything with it, and a lot of times is because you’re just working directly with a vendor. And vendors, Salesforce vendors, they’re going to sell you the Kool Aid to a certain degree. They’re going to say, “hey, we can do all this cool stuff look, it’s clicks not code”, but then we start to get into the actual implementation and usability, especially from a, you know, an operational people perspective, companies don’t actually have the capability. For example, they don’t have a Campaign Manager that actually is technical enough to actually is execute from the platform, or they don’t have an implementation team that can integrate, even ExactTarget with CRM. You need to be able to know how to do that integration, but then they start to move into things like integration of like a ESP or ERP or integrating with a data warehouse or whatever, you’re going to need to have that platform understanding. So the main thing is, you really want to work with a Partner who can flesh that out. Flesh the vision that you want to achieve.
Ben: Make it happen.
Mark: Yes, exactly.
Ben: So you’ve mentioned the importance of having that marketing knowledge, having a team. How important or how necessary is it to have core Salesforce experience when working with the marketing platform?
Mark: Absolutely. So I mean look, I think at the moment right now, clients that I work with, because I work in a Salesforce Consulting practice, right? I find that the majority of clients here, have Salesforce core, so there’s some implementations where you have Microsoft Dynamics or SAP or whatever, but the majority of the time, if you have Salesforce core, you have Marketing Cloud, or you’re going to get Marketing Cloud, there’s a lot of out of the box integrations and that’s a key thing, that’s one of the key things that makes it easy to use, Marketing Cloud. So I think an understanding of Salesforce core is extremely important Because when you start to look at especially data models. Even like the data model for the technical architecture of Salesforce core, or you look at the sales and service cycle within Salesforce CRM and how that works, you need to have that end-to-end visibility, because Marketing Cloud can be used for marketing, but it can also be used for digital communications as a whole, right? So it can be used as say, for example, you come in as part of a sales cycle, you come in as a lead, you know, and you can get it into a nurturing journey by a sales person, Marketing Cloud can sort of talk and nurture them so the sales person get more effective closes, and in Community Cloud, for example, if you have that, Marketing Cloud can then form that sort of, onboarding for example, flow of communication from a community perspective. So Marketing Cloud actually sits across that entire lifecycle. So it’s very important to understand how different systems fit into the entire customer experience.
Mark: So, Salesforce core is extremely important.
Ben: Okay, and aside from having the right structure, what are the biggest challenges companies that are using or implementing Marketing Cloud facing?
Mark: Number one, they don’t have the capability to actually use the platform. They don’t have people there to actually, with the technical mindset, because you know, you have Marketers who understand to a certain degree, how to send email and SMS and digital advertising, and a mix of different channels, but then they actually implement, so if you build it without executing from the platform, that’s like, a first issue. So that’s why you have a lot of businesses nowadays that have a Campaign Manager. So it’s an augmentation to the capability. Like an extension of their team. I would expect that the people aspect of just finding people is challenging in the Marketing Cloud space.
Ben: So to have that extension of the team and a Campaign Manager is obviously very handy, but what actual roles make up a successful Salesforce project, a Marketing Cloud project, and then a BAU team if they do build that out?
Mark: Absolutely. So I mean, the way that we structure our teams is that we have a Solution Architect, then we have a Senior Developer, almost like a Technical Architect that is more hands-on the platform. And then from there, you usually have a mix of different skills, configuration, development and testing, and then we have campaign management functions, so they can actually sit in the business, understand their requirements, and then do things like, let’s say workshopping with the clients. Oftentimes we have clients that want to use Marketing Cloud, they want to build out these channels, and see the capability that Marketing Cloud can achieve, but they don’t actually understand how to, or where to use the capability like a functional or campaign management consultant. So that’s a core team.
Ben: Okay, yes, and then when we’re moving into BAU and just running these campaigns, is it just a Campaign Manager a company would need?
Mark: Sometimes, it depends. So sometimes you still need architecture and development. You’re enhancing the platform, doing additional integrations, you’re bringing in new data from data sources, or you have reporting requirements etc. So you still sometimes need that architecture and development capability. But you definitely need a Campaign Manager to do all that operation and execution.
Ben: Sure, and you mentioned an example that a client of yours at the moment end to end are doing some really cool things with the platform, what’s the best features right now for you, in your opinion?
Mark: Definitely. What’s happening with DAP, so that’s a very good play that we’re trying to get into, and we’re trying to get the integration between marketing technology and advertising technology so the idea there is that you can have a journey that is across all direct channels, email, SMS, and then digital advertising like banners etc. so you can have that sort of experience across both, Integration Studio is an extremely good platform for trying to seek opportunities for them. So we have some clients that are built on Adobe as well, that have Adobe Marketing Cloud and primarily need a local content management system play which is systems that build websites, so the idea is to integrate the Marketing Cloud journeys with the website and the interactions you get from there. Then Integration Studio system sits in the middle and orchestrates, and then another play we’re looking at is data analytics, so Datarama is an example, so we’re trying to get data from the advertising Adwords, and Google Analytics, and web analytics programme and sort of build it into data warehouse, and building analytics and reporting and generating science to go into Einstein.
Ben: Okay. So those are the kind of features that I see on the horizon. Sure, and the market is short of resources in terms of you know, people that have the skills to be able to execute a lot of these projects. So what’s your top tip for anyone that is looking to get into the Salesforce Marketing Cloud market?
Mark: Yes, definitely. So what we have is two categories of people that come into Marketing Cloud, there are people that come from core, then there are people that come from marketing, right. So if you’re coming from marketing, you have that marketing mindset, you just have to be more technical and understand more about the platform, be more hands-on, so I guess with that, if you’re coming from marketing, be more hands-on, understand a bit more about the technical side, and see how the data works, how the data flows etc, and then understand the capabilities that can be achieved by marketing technologies, so you can slowly form how you want to run your campaigns. From Salesforce core side, what I would recommend is you really have to, try and get functional view of that lifecycle or that content, or whatever process you’re working for a clients, right. So the idea here, is that you understand. ”hey, you know Sales and Service and Communities or whatever it is, is just one part of that life cycle, what’s the next extension of that, you know, marketing, how does that work? So then you have a functional understanding of what Marketers do. Communications, create experiences etc. And then from there, hopefully you already have a good technical background, you work with SOQL or Apex or whatever and you sort of transition into like a SQL for Marketing Cloud. You have a technical understanding, you just need that functional understanding.
Ben: Okay cool. And if anyone wants to reach out to you and ask any advice or pick your brains on anything that you’ve mentioned today, what’s the best way of them doing that?
Mark: Yes, definitely, so I have a website – Mark-Koh.me, so you can reach out from there. I’m also available on LinkedIn, so you can obviously talk to me there, but yes, just send me a text or email me, or send me a message LinkedIn. I’m always up for ideas, collaboration or like a coffee or anything like that, so.
Ben: Sure. Perfect. Well, thank you very much for your time, it’s been really interesting speaking with you.
Thank you for listening, and stay tuned for Episode 19, coming soon. Make sure you’re following Mark on LinkedIn and feel free to reach out to him with any questions regarding the topics covered in the podcast episode.
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