How To Structure Your Marketing Team For Success With Naomi Liu

On this week’s episode of Digital Conversations, Billy Bateman is joined by Naomi Lui of EFI, who chats about how to best structure a marketing team, and what your team should be focusing on.

Guest: Naomi Liu has spent her entire fourteen year career in marketing ops, the past seven of which at EFI (Electronics For Imaging). Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn here!

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Billy: Alright, everyone. Welcome to the show today. I’m your host, Billy Bateman. And today I have the pleasure of being joined by Naomi Liu, Director of Global Marketing Operations at EFI. Naomi, how are you today?

Naomi: I’m good. How are you, happy to have this chat.

Billy: I’m doing great. I’m doing great. We’re happy to have you on here today. And let’s get into it a little bit. Like first let’s start out with your nickname, you’re IT for Marketing?

Naomi: Basically, yeah, that’s the easiest way to describe it. When   it’s always a challenge trying to explain what I do to friends and family. And it’s just,  that’s the easiest way that I’ve come to be able to describe what I do.

Billy: It’s awesome. I love it. So, before we get into to our topic about structuring marketing teams, just tell us a little bit about yourself.

Naomi: Yeah, so I am based out of Vancouver, BC and beautiful Canada, and I work for a company called Electronics For Imaging or EFI for short. And I am currently the Director of Global Marketing Operations there. And I came a little bit about, I guess, my career, I came up to my career in a bit of an unconventional way. So,  growing up, I’ve always had very strong technical aptitude. And I taught myself how to code HTML as a kid, and I built my first website when I was 12, or 13. And,  just always been super fascinated with computers, and that you could input something into this box and it would like do what you told it to do.

But I think that I definitely have like a strong affinity for also the arts, right. So it’s just kind of what can I do with a career that will marry both the right and left side of my brain and when I first declared major in university, it was computer science.

But then, after entering the program, I was just like, I don’t know if I want to be a developer or programmer for work and, but I really like that kind of stuff. But I don’t, but I do. And so what can I do? And so I switched to communications with a focus on marketing and kind of just, I’ve been doing this marketing ops for my entire career. So 13-14 years, and it’s been just like this great kind of marriage of the two sides of things that I really love. And so, yeah, it’s really just allowed me to exercise both my right and left side of my brain.

Billy: Cool. Awesome. Okay, so one more question before we get into it, if we’re gonna look you up on social Naomi, and try to figure out who you are, what is something we would not know about you?

Naomi: But isn’t that the point, that you wouldn’t know? Are you trying to out me right now? I mean, you would put me on the spot here, but I mean, I guess you wouldn’t know that I am an avid collector of Pyrex casserole dishes.

Billy: So you and my wife should get together.

Naomi: Yeah, she can tell me where she stores them because I’m running out of space.

Billy: Awesome, awesome. Okay, so we want to talk about structuring your marketing team, because there are a lot of different ways that you can do this. Like, I mean, as I’ve worked with a lot of marketing teams here, ChatFunnels, and we see all different ways from our customers. But this is something you’re passionate about. So, let’s just jump into it. What are what are your initial thoughts on the best way of structuring teams?

Naomi: Yeah, so I would say that the biggest question, or the most common question that I get, is do you centralize or decentralize your marketing ops team? And I would say that in some scenarios, it makes sense to decentralize. But in my opinion, this is largely related to the size of your company and how mature your organization is when it comes to their not only their tech stack, but also their technology adoption internally. But when you’re part of a larger organization, for example, EFI has three business units. And we conduct business in sometimes up to 18 languages. A centralized model is going to be crucial to your success, right, especially in an organization that has a global presence. On my team, specifically, I have three direct reports. And they are distributed with around the same support and mine.

So one in Europe, two on the east coast and myself on the west coast. And between the four of us, we’re able to support the entire company globally. There’s enough overlap and time zones from Europe to APAC, and kind of everything in between. So there are also resources of course, internally that I use to flex a team depending on project load. So there’s some folks that are on other teams that don’t report to me that I kind of tap on their shoulder once in a while to be like Hey, you know we’re struggling right now, do you have some time left to help us out? And yeah, that’s usually not a problem.

Billy: So let me ask you, how did you decide that that this centralized structure where you guys have round the round the clock coverage was the best way to do it?

Naomi: Well, so I guess first I can talk about like the skill set on my team. Personally, I can answer that. So what how I structured My team is that everyone on my team has the same baseline. We can all execute a campaign end to end we’re a Marketo Salesforce shop. And despite that, though, the way that I’ve kind of structured it is that everyone on my team has specialties. Which come in really handy when we’re working on like really highly customized special campaigns or something that falls out of a standard clone template.

So on my team, I have a web developer, an email developer and a data operations person. I structured my team that way because I strongly feel that if you’re trying to build a marketing ops center of excellence. One of the key things is solid data governance process, best practices, internal technology, adoption and scalability.

And it’s really, really difficult to do that if it’s just like a decentralized model, and everybody just kind of does a little bit. But nobody kind of has ownership. I didn’t want to have a team of just generalists, right? Because instead of everybody just kind of knowing a little bit. I wanted a team where each person felt a strong ownership in their area of expertise. They knew what they were bringing to the team and to the organization.

And I feel like if you elevate someone into a role where they are that subject matter expert. Then they really feel that sense of responsibility and pride around that right. They really want to develop things for the team and the business. Investigate like, new methods or streamlining their area of expertise. How it’s gonna benefit the company and just like help them elevate their craft. And I found that that’s been really beneficial.

Billy: Yeah, that make that makes sense if you if you let somebody really just own something. If they care, they’re gonna make it better. Hopefully then if it’s like, well, this is kind of my thing, but it’s not really my thing. So, if this isn’t perfect, it’s not a big deal.

Naomi: Yeah, ambiguity in that sense will kill a team I find so I find that like. If there’s something ever that’s an issue with. For example, a landing page or there’s so many things that comes out where I’m like. Okay, how is this going to impact us if there’s like new issues with browsers that are causing display issues with a landing page. I know exactly who to go to on my team. For example, and there they’ll be able to take it as ownership to fix it or investigate it. And so that really helps.

Billy: Yeah, so what do you see so you guys have your areas of specialty, but they can all still run a campaign. What are the drawbacks you see to that, and what are what are the pros as well?

Naomi: For everyone being able to run a campaign? Are you saying like on my team or just across the business unit?

Billy: What do you see is like the pros that you really love about it. And there’s got to be some drawbacks somewhere.

Naomi: So I would say that if so there are some folks, business partners that we support that have more technical aptitude, and we do definitely open up the platform for them to be able to do some of the things that they want to do to an extent, right, because we always want to protect people from themselves and not accidentally, for example, email the entire database, right? So pros, I would say,   giving our business partners a little bit of flexibility to kind of go in and poke around and learn things and to make minor edits if they need to, and then we are not kind of holding them back from doing that.

And they feel that they have that ownership over their campaign. But I would say the cons definitely are, if it deviates away from anything that’s like just a simple text edit or something like that it. It can, imake our team feel like Help Desk at times, right? And then it becomes like, Okay, well, we should have just done it from the beginning. And then yeah, the controller we know. Right?

Billy: Okay. So let’s talk about your partnership with IT and sales ops. I mean, there’s got to be some friction between teams, but there’s got to be some great synergies in the way you’ve set things up. So talk about that relationship that you have.

Naomi: Yeah, I feel very blessed because I can honestly say that I feel like I have a great relationship with my IT and sales ops team. And I think part of it is just the communication aspect of it right and having a really good understanding of who does what. I find that on the IT side, if you approach it from the perspective of, hey, my marketing ops and IT, we are delivering projects together, right? I’m not just going to IT to complain when something is broken. Because then it just kind of puts people on guard or on defense, right?

It’s not, like, We’re not saying something’s broken because of something you did, right? It’s like, hey, let’s partner together and deliver these projects. And then if something goes wrong, it’s both of our responsibilities to figure out what is the issue so we can both fix it. It’s a partnership, not a, help me with this, like, let me open this ticket and,  you kind of just go through this queue, it just becomes very, that that’s not a relationship, right?

I definitely have business partners in it that I partner with very closely and we, we work to deliver projects together and there’s full ownership and I love just the IT team that I work with because we’ve been able to collaborate and deliver some really great things together? And I would say on the sales ops side, it’s kind of the same thing, right? It’s communication and having just a really clear understanding of who owns what, right.

So for marketing ops, the way that we’ve done it, my team, we own the lead and campaign object in Salesforce and sales ops owns the rest. And if there’s ever any crossover or gray area, that’s when we kind of work together and collaborate to figure out, okay, what am I doing or changing to the things and areas that I own, that’s going to impact you and vice versa. So, it’s great because anytime sales ops is going to make a change.

They know enough about Marketo and what we’re doing in the system to check with us first if there’s going to have any downstream effects. And, in return, I respect that relationship in reverse as well. So that if we’re making changes that,  we’re making sure to have that conversation with them and say, Hey, we’re going to do this, like what are some things that we have to consider. I talk to them every day, multiple times a day. So it’s really that collaboration and communication.

Billy: Yeah, I know. I mean, marketing and sales don’t always see eye to eye. So it sounds like you have a great relationship with the sales ops team. And, talking every day, probably key to that. If, if somebody is coming into a role, and maybe there hasn’t been that relationship between marketing and sales where they’re seeing eye to eye, they’re collaborating well. What advice would you give somebody?

Naomi: Yeah, I mean, I would say it’s just it’s relationship building with a lot of it, right? I think if in the beginning, you can kind of understand pain points, and find ways to solve those pain points. That’s going to go a long way, right? Because sometimes people get stuck into this mentality of this trap of like, okay, I’ve been I’m going to do things this way, because that’s how I’ve always done them. Right. But then if you ask a simple question like, Why do you have to do it that way?

Sometimes they can’t answer, right? It’s just because they haven’t found a different way to do something. Right? And so, documentation helps too, right. So there’s no ambiguity and it’s clear. And just having that conversation, like, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and, find your IT partner, find your sales ops partner and just work with them on projects.

Billy: Awesome. Awesome. Okay, so let me let me shift a little bit. Into just like demand Gen. And I wanted to ask you, how did you end up, you’re, you’re more of you’re running, running the ops side of things right now, but in demand Gen, like, what advice would you have for anyone that’s getting into that and starting to starting to work in demand?

Naomi: Yeah, I would say that key is having a firm and solid grasp of your company’s data, right? Because data is going to determine and drive everything that you do within the organization. And everything which includes everything from, laws and legislation to governance, management of the data and hygiene. How dirty or how clean is your data, you really have to have a good grasp of that. Because everything that you’re going to be doing it at some. It’s kind of like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It’s gonna come back to the data part at some point.

And so, data is paramount, because when it comes to the scope of the tools that you’re going to be responsible for. Some of the tools that you’re using will ingest or intake that data. Some will deliver or output it, but some of them will also do both. And you really need to understand what that looks like and what that is.

I would also say that having a good understanding of email deliverability and ways in which you might be impacted is actually something that a lot of people might gloss over. They might just think, okay, if I hit send. It’s just going to go and check your inbox. But that’s not always the case. So just have a good understanding of that. And then and I say this sometimes to folks on my network and other colleagues. But a large part an intangible part of the job is anxiety management. And I don’t mean, your personal anxiety.

I mean I feel like a large part of my job is helping to guide my business partners through technology adoption, and onboarding and process changes. Because change can be scary and it can sometimes be uncomfortable. And if you’re new to a role, and you come in and you have all these ideas and you want to implement them. You might feel sometimes you get pushback. And it’s not because it’s necessarily a bad idea. It’s just sometimes trying to navigate change and that change management can be something that you just have to learn along the way and that comes with experience too.

Billy: Yeah, yeah, that’s funny you you’re talking about email deliverability like I think everyone that didn’t have a mentor. Has been like I’m gonna do this email marketing thing has learned some hard lessons there. So, I want to dig in on one thing you mentioned, just understanding the data. So for you what are the metrics and data points that you really look at that you found that this is going to, indicate, hey, are we heading on the right road towards success?

Naomi: In my scope of responsibility, right data hygiene, deduplication, normalization, that’s like a big part of the things that kind of keep me up at night, right? Because dirty data is going to be the bane of every marketers existence. Like I’ve never come across somebody that’s like, we have an amazing database, everything is perfect. There’s no dirty data and it’s, I can trust every single record that’s in there like that does And helping, right? So for me, it’s really about churn, about how much our data degrades How much are, like, the bad and bogus data that’s in there, how do we catch all of it and make sure that we’re not emailing to them?

How do we prevent spam traps and honey pots from getting into our system? How do we just make sure that we’re not over emailing to people? And then also the duplication part? Right, so we have some tools in our, in our tech stack that will help with that. And part of it is I’ve come to realize over the years that data is something that people don’t care about, because unless they’re directly impacted by it, or they look at it every day, right. So somebody who is maybe, thinking of this awesome social or nurture campaign. The data piece is not something that they’re focused on. They’re focused on writing great content, how are they going to get these assets?

Where are they going to promote them? They’re not thinking about the data behind the scenes, right? They just you just kind of assume that it’s going to work until it doesn’t. And so that’s kind of where I guess my team is a bit of that safety net. We just have to make sure that as much as possible we’re eliminating junk and bogus data and merging as many groups as possible because otherwise duplicates just it makes it impossible to report properly and to do any type of, it’s not great.

Billy: No, I agree, you’ve got it that dedupe problem, man, if you don’t stay on top of that. It will just consume you once you decide to tackle it.

So you mentioned you had some tools on the dedupe side of things are those internal tools are just tools anyone can go and can go on use, because everyone’s always interested in how can we help with that dedupe problem.

Naomi: So we use a tool called Ringlead. Not sure if you’ve heard of it, but it’s a great tool that we use for data normalization,  cleansing and just deduping, and it plugs into both our Salesforce and our Marketo instance to allow us to do merging of dupes and doing like exact matches. And also we can have logic in there for soft matches, fuzzy matches, things like that.

Billy: Cool. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Okay, Naomi, if somebody wants to contact you and continue the conversation, what’s the best way for them to do so?

Naomi: LinkedIn, I’m always happy to have a conversation. Just feel free to connect with me and reach out. If you want to pick my brain on anything, or just bounce some ideas off me. I’m happy to do that. Yeah, that’s the best way.

Billy: Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much, and, and we’ll chat later. Awesome. Thank you.