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Implementing Marketing Cloud at Your Higher Education Institution

By August 27, 2018

By: Kirsten Sands Rauscher, Program Director, Constituent Relationship Management, University of Maryland – Robert H. Smith School of Business

We are in the middle of our Marketing Cloud implementation. I am definitely exhausted, and despite feeling like we are trying to move a mountain, I still think we are pretty extraordinary.

Remember us? We’re that ordinary place just like you. Okay, maybe we’re just climbing the mountain instead of moving it – but we’re doing it together, we’re learning a ton, and we’re transforming the way we do business. Get it? We’re a business school!

University of Maryland – Robert H. Smith School of Business campus. UMD uses Education Cloud.

We’re back with part two of our journey here at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. In our first post, I enjoyed sharing a bit about our road to choosing Marketing Cloud, but I’m thinking that this one might feel a bit different. Today, I hope to help you climb the Marketing Cloud mountain too – by throwing you a rope. Grab on and keep reading for the best advice I can offer…

So you purchased Marketing Cloud, now what?

First, go back and purchase the Premier Support plan. It’s worth every penny.

Premier Support offers you a catalogue of virtual accelerators that you can sign-up for, and invite as many stakeholders on your team as you’d like. They range in topic and offer you a dedicated coach to tailor the content and delivery to meet the needs of your team and/or use case(s). We’ve already taken three!

Training is great when a consultant can come deliver some hands-on in person and virtual modules – but the accelerators have been a fantastic complement to these. I checked out the catalogue of topics offered with premier support and tried to dedicate consulting hours to trainings that weren’t available there to get the most out of both resources, and would recommend that strategy to you as well!

Second, establish an internal Marketing Cloud implementation committee. Our committee is made-up of about 6 individuals who helped lead the purchase/selection of Marketing Cloud, serve as executive sponsorship for both Salesforce and Marketing Cloud, two Salesforce Administrators, and our internal Marketing Communications team.

Together, we drafted the scope of work since we knew we needed an implementation partner to help us navigate getting started. While we had two Salesforce Admins (and my all-time favorite Admin Michael Mazzotta, who I know could do it all if time weren’t a thing), we were lacking the full technical knowledge, time and resources required to configure Marketing Cloud and set-up the native integration with Sales Cloud. Aside from our technical needs, we had a handful of “high priority” projects we wanted to get up and running with the support of a consultant, which included leveraging journey builder for our PT MBA recruiting/admissions pipeline, developing a cloud page to replace our website’s prospective student inquiry form, and training! None of us had any prior experience on Marketing Cloud, so if I haven’t said it enough – training was incredibly important to us.

The University of Maryland Smith School of Business, which uses Education Cloud to improve their marketing and more.

Did you decide what mountain you wanted to climb first? Excellent. Now you need to hire an implementation partner.

My best advice is to ask your Salesforce community first for referrals and advice. I guess that’s what you’re doing now! We hired Balance Digital Marketing because of their industry experience (Higher Education loves vendors who understand us) and for the fact that most of their team were former ExactTarget employees. That means they’ve been working with the product before Salesforce made the purchase and rebranded the product to Marketing Cloud, and I felt really good about their level of expertise.

Just like climbing a real mountain, your scope of work requires specialized “equipment” & training, skills, resources, and a clear strategy. Ask as many questions as you need before putting pen to paper to make sure your implementation contract reflects your needs.

Okay, now it’s time to climb the mountain with your partner. How can you make sure your relationship is successful?

I definitely learned a ton here. It was not my first time working with a consulting partner, but it was my first time serving as the primary project manager on our side. Here is what I learned about myself, and what it takes to have a successful partnership:

1. Take a moment to reflect on you. My doctor once told me I had a Type A personality, and for some reason it made me furious. Turns out, I kind of am. I like to make lists, I like to plan meetings and trainings in advance, and I like to visualize our roadmap (literally visualize this on paper, not just in my dreams). Whether or not you’re like me, you need to know what you require in your relationships with your vendor to be successful. Take time to think about this, and then communicate it to your climbing guides.

2. Ask your implementation partner what they need to be successful in return. I know we aren’t in this for a long-term relationship, but we sure are putting a lot of money, time and resources in a short-term one. Because of that, it needs to be incredibly effective, and fast. We set-up weekly 30-minute check-ins so that there was a dedicated time on the calendar for us to touch-base if we needed to, and it really made my Type A side feel more comfortable.

3. Have a side hustle! A side hustle is a small project you want to launch on Marketing Cloud outside of the scope of your contract with your implementation partner – and it should be small, you don’t want to get too crazy here. I can’t stress enough the importance of demonstrating short-term wins. We had some really ambitious projects in our scope of work that would take time. Luckily, part of what makes us so extraordinary is my colleagues, particularly in our department we call the Masters Program Office. This group is dedicated to supporting over 1,500 graduate students from around the world achieve academic, personal and professional success. They adopted Marketing Cloud in a matter of weeks, and launched their entire weekly summer email campaigns to incoming students and created amazing, personalized templates to welcome our new students into the Smith community. We did this project mostly ourselves, learned an incredible amount about Marketing Cloud, and had our consulting partners to lean on in times of need (that was huge!).

4. Together, determine your user onboarding strategy. I had a mis-step here, so I hope you can learn from our story. Historically, I’ve sheltered our Salesforce users. They’re only trained on what they want and need to know about Salesforce. I couldn’t protect them from the big and scary Marketing Cloud, because I didn’t know it either. I did figure this out eventually the hard way, after a couple of trainings where my users gave feedback that was similar to “I only needed to know the last 30 minutes of content of that 2 hour training you made me sit through” accompanied by a sad face emoji. Got it, that emoji message was heard loud and clear.

We stopped all trainings and had a team meeting with our partners. I asked the golden question I wish I had known to ask all along…. “What business process decisions do we need to make internally before we train users on this feature?”

I wanted to train our users on how we wanted them to use Marketing Cloud, and not train them on Marketing Cloud. They didn’t need to learn the million ways you can pull your contacts into Marketing Cloud, they needed to know the one way that would dictate our enterprise business process.

I now I ask that question to myself every step of the way. I also self-educate on Marketing Cloud through trailhead, accelerators, and youtube to try and stay one-step ahead of what our users are experiencing.

University of Maryland campus

Your implementation won’t be perfect. You’re going to have to make 911 calls to your implementation partner because something isn’t working and you can’t figure out why. You might sneak out of work early after a day of Marketing Cloud training to go have a glass of wine (this never happened to me…)

But while you’re sipping (or not sipping) that glass of wine, it will become clear that every crazy moment is worth the pain. You’re transforming the way you do business, after all.

If you need a little boost of confidence along the way, having a short-term successful email campaign has been really impactful (our side hustle). It’s a great way to demonstrate the power of Marketing Cloud using our own data, and not relying on demo videos to prove to our stakeholders that this is worth the climb.

Sundial at dusk, with students walking by.

My last piece of advice is to create a community of Marketing Cloud users within your organization. If you’re reading this, you’re part of the larger Salesforce community already – but how many of your colleagues are?

We’re hosting a 4-day Marketing Cloud Boot Camp in August to complete our “roll-out.” The first and last thing I’ll say to my colleagues is that no one climbed a mountain without a little pain, and we can’t do it without lifting each other up every once in a while.

Ranger StationFor the first time, we’ll all be holding on to the same rope (and sunsetting those 21 siloed email platforms for good).

Thanks, Marketing Cloud!

For more details and best practices, get your free copy of the Digital Marketing Center of Excellence for Higher Education e-book.