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Building Your Firm on Salesforce


Chris Butler: Welcome to the Agency Marketing Matters podcast. I’m Chris Butler.

Lauren Siler: I’m Lauren Siler.

Mark O’Brien: And I’m Mark O’Brien.

Chris Butler: And we’re gathered here today in the back of the Newfangled headquarters. We’re enjoying each other’s company and looking forward to talking a little bit more about digital marketing with you all. As normal, we’d like to start off with sharing something we’re excited about or inspired by, something interesting that’s happened recently, and we decided I would go first.

We have a new theme on our homepage. We’ve been doing themes for a couple of months now where we look at our content repository and realize that, oh, we’ve got a lot of content around this particular topic that we’re excited about and we need to re-bundle it and make sure that it’s elevated in a way that’s interesting to people.

This week’s theme is about marketing data, which I think will be relevant to today’s conversation on the podcast. If you go to the homepage, you should see it. All these articles are really created out of the fact that we’ve thought a ton about how firms that broker expertise can build their businesses on the right CRM. Just so you know, spoiler alert, it’s Salesforce. We’ve created all this content to help them better understand why and how to do just that.

If that’s something that’s interesting to you all, go to our homepage. Take a look at it. There’s 15 articles there, most of which were written by Lindsey Barlow, our resident Salesforce expert, who would be here today if she weren’t on vacation. That’s what I’m excited about. What about you, Lauren?

Lauren Siler: Yeah, I had an interesting conversation with a client last week. They’ve been doing really well with their content marketing for a while and they’ve had Act-On for a while. They’ve recently adopted Salesforce, and so we’ve been integrating all of those tools together for them. One of the things that was really fun about that conversation is the way that that client can now access closed loop reporting around their content marketing.

What I mean by that is now that they are properly using Salesforce and logging their opportunity and that that system is integrated with Act-On in the website, they can now see very clearly which of their content marketing assets are most influencing the opportunity they’re generating and the opportunity they’re closing. They’re using that to inform more strategic decisions about their content marketing moving forward. It’s pretty cool.

Chris Butler: It’s kind of the holy grail of content marketing, really.

Lauren Siler: Yeah.

Chris Butler: A lot of people don’t believe that exists. That’s awesome.

Mark O’Brien: Right, it’s true. Yeah, they don’t know it’s possible.

Chris Butler: That’s right. How about you, Mark?

Mark O’Brien: My favorite thing is that today is the first day of the second half of the year. It’s July 5th. We were closed, obviously, since the end of last week. I like that because you can close the books on the first half of the year and just look at what happened. It was a great first half of the year for us. It was a really good year in a lot of ways, and because of our use of Salesforce … Again, we’re not forcing this. We just end up talking about similar things.

Chris Butler: Forcing.

Mark O’Brien: I’m able to see at a glance so many different data points that can speak to, okay, well what did happen in the first half of the year from a revenue perspective, from an expense perspective, from sales, from timekeeping, everything. How does it all come together? That is really the point of today’s conversation, is how we use Salesforce.

When people think of Salesforce, they’re thinking about Salesforce the CRM, the customer relationship management tool, where you log your sales activity. Yes, it started that way but what Salesforce has actually become is so much more than that. That one aspect of it probably accounts for less than 5% of the entity that is now Salesforce in terms of the actual company itself and what they’re doing, what they’re working on.

It was about six years ago that I went to the first Dreamforce conference, my first Dreamforce conference and first heard this idea of the wall-to-wall enterprise. That is an enterprise that has every data point inside of Salesforce, so your accounting systems, your sales systems, your marketing systems, your project management systems, all of that is actually inside of that single database which allows you to pull end-to-end reporting so there’s no data truth of your business that is not pretty much instantly knowable and comparable and connectable.

When I first heard that, it seemed like this utopian vision. Now we’re talking about how people don’t realize you can do revenue attribution. This is just complete analytics across your entire firm. Because Salesforce is so cheap … And that’s another thing. People think it’s expensive. It’s not expensive at all … it’s so cheap, this system is approachable. You can actually have something like this, a company of our size. We’re 18 people today. We can have that without spending millions of dollars, or million of dollars or anything close to that. That’s quite exciting.

The phrase I keep using is that I feel like over the past year as we’ve really dialed this all in, over the past year especially I feel like I’m seeing Newfangled for the first time. I understand what’s actually happening inside of Newfangled in a way that is so much deeper. I had a lot of assumptions; we all did. It’s just amazing how wrong our assumptions can be. But to get real data truth is very, very difficult in a small business.

Chris Butler: Yeah, what you’re describing, just so listeners can understand, is the result of what’s been a two-year process for us of getting data in the right place, using the right tools, integrating them with Salesforce. Yeah, we’re not trying to force Salesforce, but that’s because we don’t need to. There’s really no competition in this space. There’s no other tool that can really do this.

Salesforce, as you pointed out, was built as a CRM, but I don’t think anyone who works there would call themselves that anymore. I think that’s just a vestige of the past because people think they understand what that means. But as you were pointing out, that real time view into Newfangled, that’s because all of our revenues going through systems that are tied in with Salesforce, all of our work is being run through systems and time is being logged through systems that are run in Salesforce, all of our marketing is being run through systems that are tied into Salesforce. All these areas that would’ve in the past and probably for many people listening are silos where the data stops, they’re all tied in, and that is what makes this thing the uber database.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, and I think it seems at the outset when we describe it this way I can see the listener feeling that’s a daunting endeavor, like, “How the hell do I do that?” There’s an initial investment of time, but what I’ve also found is that it’s not that difficult to sustain. Once those things are integrated and once those habits are built inside of the organization, it just becomes part of the way you do business.

Mark O’Brien: They all build on each other, yeah. All the things you just rattled off, Chris, all integrate with Salesforce but they are not Salesforce, which is important to note. You can use individualized best of breed technology for any one of those things, but one of the reasons why Salesforce is such a dominant CRM is that it does integrate with pretty much with everything. That’s an argument we’re constantly making for having our clients adopt Salesforce over the HubSpot CRM or LeadLander or Pipedrive. There are tons of free/cheap CRM tools out there, but they’re dead ends.

Chris Butler: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. If anyone’s listening who’s a database nerd, the reason this works is because Salesforce doesn’t really force anything. All they force is what they call an object structure, object relationships. Those are highly customizable. Salesforce out of the box, so to speak, makes some assumptions about the names of objects and the ways that they relate, but you can change all that. If you have someone who’s sufficiently experienced in Salesforce helping you customize your database, you can make Salesforce the database for anything.

We happen to have customized it so that it fits with our sales process, our marketing process, our operational process. It can do all that, and that’s why it is really the ideal database for this, because it handles objects in a way that doesn’t force those objects to correspond to each other in a way that they may not in reality. Then one other piece of it is that, even when they don’t, that’s what APIs are for. Almost every best of breed database out there will have an API that plays nicely with Salesforce.

Mark O’Brien: Absolutely. We rarely run into any roadblocks there.

Chris Butler: Right.

Mark O’Brien: Let’s talk about what that means. I think a good example is this morning. We also adopt Traction. Any listener will know that. We talk about Salesforce and Traction all the time. One of the things we do during every Traction meeting is we’ll get the Traction scorecard and the 20 second thing there is that you’re supposed to have the scorecard on a digital island. Gino, the author, gets into some specifics about the digital island.

But you’re on a digital island and someone brings you a card and, after reading that card, you feel great and you know you can stay on that island for another two weeks. The question is, what’s on that card? What data points do you need to see about your business that allow you to know whether everything is going great or not? But during that, you have weekly level 10 meetings, which we had this morning, and one key thing there is looking at the scorecard.

On this scorecard, we have this amazing array of reports. We can pull, for example, who in the company is spending too much time, who’s working too many hours. We have sentiment, we can see how people are feeling about the work they’re doing by individual or across the company. We see marketing stats that relate to how many leads are coming in, how many opportunities have been generated, how many forms have been submitted. We actually have it live right here. Lauren just pulled it up.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, we’ve got profitability numbers.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, profitability numbers. We can compare profit to our revenue to sales to expenses. We can see profit by category, by business category internally, all of this on a single screen, all live. No one’s doing anything for these reports to be generated. Most people without Traction, they have to go and manually create these scorecards, which is a huge thing.

Chris Butler: Yeah, and they’re filling data in a spreadsheet.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, and it’s going to be wrong. But this all, because of Salesforce ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s all there. That’s all automatically generated because you’ve built the reports and also now Salesforce purchased this company called Wave and now they call it Einstein Analytics, and it’s a data visualization tool that is programmable by non-programmers.

Chris Butler: Right. Let me just mention something about that point. Something that’s been huge for us on the Salesforce side is that time spent gathering data for the purpose of reporting is, in my opinion, mostly time wasted. It’s time you should be spending building up your expertise or servicing your clients. You can spend an enormous amount of time gathering data just to figure out what’s true today about your firm. This obviates the need for all of that. Additionally, what Mark just described is once you’ve crafted a report that is supposedly designed to tell you what’s true, that’s going to change. What’s beautiful about this is that that’s okay. This tool allows you to build reports. You don’t have to be a programmer, database expert, or really even a Salesforce expert. It’s very intuitive.

Mark O’Brien: For the ReCourses geeks out there, we also have the David Baker metrics built into it as well in terms of utilization, payroll percentage, profit percentage, that you mentioned. All this is right there, and any of us can go in any time we want and see as of this moment here’s what these numbers are. That’s amazing.

Chris Butler: It is. What you’ve been talking about so far, we’ve talked about some marketing approaches to using a database like this and a lot of operational ones that you just mentioned. But this is, as you said, wall to wall. You can connect the dots. If you go into our system right now and you wanted to know, if you wanted to connect the dots between a piece of content and the most profitable account that came in through that piece of content, you could do that. If you wanted to say what piece of content generated the opportunity that led to the most profitable account we have right now, that is an answer you could come by here.

Mark O’Brien: Or a referral source, or whatever it may be.

Chris Butler: Right. But it you don’t have a system like this, good luck answering that question.

Mark O’Brien: As you mentioned earlier, Lauren, it does build on itself. Each new module you put in here just gets fed into the whole machine and it raises the water level for everything.

Chris Butler: Yeah, you just created a report for us, opportunity sources report, which would not be possible without this kind of intelligence. That had so many interesting tidbits for us to really realize where does this stuff come from and what’s working and what’s not. Those are the kind of things that matter. That’s how your business ends up the next five years and the five years after that.

Mark O’Brien: A lot of very well-meaning people make educated assumptions about their business that are dead wrong and lead them to many bad decisions that lead to many other bad decisions, and they don’t even know how to backtrack to figure out where they made the first bad decision.

Chris Butler: That’s right.

Mark O’Brien: Right, and this just gets rid of that. There’s no guesswork involved anymore.

Chris Butler: Right. You had a thought, Lauren?

Lauren Siler: No, I was just going to reiterate that part of what makes this so sustainable is that it’s just baked right in to how we manage the day-to-day operations of our business. We can see information on how profitable things are because our timekeeping is tied into this. We can see all of our marketing numbers and our sales numbers because of the way that we manage our sales process through Salesforce and the way that our marketing initiatives are tied into Act-On, which is integrated with Salesforce. Once you do the initial investment of time integration with Salesforce, you’re just going about your daily business the way that you normally would, and this data is accessible to you.

Mark O’Brien: We don’t adopt anything now that won’t integrate with Salesforce, so all of our technologies, and throw some out if I miss any, WordPress, QuickBooks, GoToMeeting, Act-On-

Lauren Siler: Even our contracting system.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, our contracting system now is tied into Salesforce. Our project management system, our timekeeping system, everything ties into Salesforce or it was built on it.

Lauren Siler: That is a rule, that we don’t really adopt anything that doesn’t integrate with Salesforce. I don’t feel like we’ve sacrificed anything.

Mark O’Brien: Anything at all. In fact, it forces us make better decisions oftentimes, like the contracting tool.

Lauren Siler: Right.

Chris Butler: That’s true. There are some tools out there that were built to connect the dots between tools that otherwise may not be integrated with Salesforce, like Zapier.

Mark O’Brien: Zapier’s so good.

Chris Butler: Zapier’s an amazing tool, and we’re using that in a variety of different ways right now, but basically it ends up being a courier between one system and another, one system and Salesforce, to deliver data, and it does it in a really nice way. It’s easily configurable by anyone who, again, isn’t a programmer. One thing I wanted to mention, we’ve talked about the marketing benefits. We haven’t talked much about the sales stuff, and I think you guys should talk a little bit about that, and the operational benefits of Salesforce. But from the perspective of someone that is operationally minded, one thing I can tell you is that pre Traction, pre Salesforce, we used to spend most of our team meetings arguing about what’s true.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. It was all opinion.

Chris Butler: All we cared about was getting a solution, and we were of like mind in that, but we had a very hard time coming by them because we all had different perspectives, different pieces of data, and we didn’t really have a shared truth. So we burned hours and hours and hours just trying to figure out what’s true so that we could agree on a solution. We have not done that in the last two years.

Mark O’Brien: That’s a great point.

Chris Butler: We don’t argue about what’s true anymore. Sometimes we argue about what to do about it, but of course that’s not what the system’s for. But I would imagine that if you’re out there, you don’t have a system like this, and you struggle operationally in terms of figuring out how to fix a problem and you’re constantly trying to fix that same problem, most of the time you’re trying to fix it you’re arguing about what the problem is itself, what’s true. That will go away if you do the work to adopt these systems. If you’re having operational problems and you’re not bought in on the idea of just wiping the slate clean and adopting a new approach, I promise you you will stop arguing about what’s true if you adopt this, and that’s huge.

Mark O’Brien: That’s such a great insight. You’re so right about that. Gosh, thinking back to those arguments. Those were not fun, and there’s no winning because no one’s actually right. Everyone’s wrong.

Chris Butler: When you’re repeatedly arguing about what’s true, that means that everyone doesn’t know what’s true.

Mark O’Brien: Right, yeah. Another thing that’s interesting on the other side of it, the positive and growth oriented side of what we see now that we’re here is that, because the system’s so easy to create reports, we’re getting better and better at creating reports. Well, what report do we really need to see? For example, we’ve been measuring revenue profit expense and sales for a while now.

Just a few days ago I had a bit of a breakthrough, like, “Oh, we have four reports for that. We need one that has this basic line chart, and that’s going to tell us all we need to know.” The act of becoming efficient with reporting, it takes exercise. Like anything else, you have to do it. This system makes it so easy to pull the right data points, but also to compare them to each other and to build those charts out, again, without being a programmer that it gives you the freedom to play, which is quite powerful.

Chris Butler: One other thing I wanted to mention on the sales side, but I want you guys to pick this up and maybe add some detail to it, is that it used to be that … You can’t have the entire team on a sales call. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t play to everyone’s strengths. I’d be lousy on one, and it’s not really something … Well, it’s not my skillset. But oftentimes, your entire team does need to have insight into whether or not a fit is right.

We’ve come up with some tools to help with that. We’ve got a fit filter, we’ve got some ideas about what makes for a good client. But ultimately, not everybody who might contribute is on those calls. What I think is amazing about this is that when you guys update an opportunity in Salesforce after having a sales call, it generates an email to the entire team that goes through all the data relevant that you know to that account and we can all look at it and we can see, oh, is this a good fit?

We can start thinking about it. If we have a problem with it, we can let you guys know. That equips you guys for the next call, and that, again, wouldn’t exist. It’s all automatic. You guys are just adding data to the database that you’ve configured to map to what you need in that process, but then we all get informed. That, again, is a Salesforce thing. That otherwise would be a meeting that we’d burn time on. You’d forget the detail. It’s fantastic.

Mark O’Brien: It speaks to the point of cohesion, really, about everyone understanding what’s going on and creating empathy across the departments and all the rest. I think the most recent or, I guess, not quite yet realized manifestation of that is this idea that we came up with in the last Traction off-site [meeting] last week of the stats ticker. This is a dream I’ve had for a long time.

In fact, going back to that first wall-to-wall epiphany I had when I was witnessing it at Dreamforce was the idea of having a TV screen or a monitor or something up on the wall inside of Newfangled that everyone could see that would show the key vital signs in real time. We’re going to do that this quarter. That’s going to be a reality. All that information’s in there. We just have to simply figure out, well, what things do we want to show?

It’s going to be great. We’re going to show leads and opportunities and pipeline and sales and forecasts and profit for the year and all kinds of stuff that relates to everybody’s reality once those reports are built. Again, it’s going to be real time, it’s going to update by itself every day and even to the hour if we want it to, and that’s going to create a lot of cohesion too, I believe.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, and it brings people in. It brings everybody in the company into the future of the company, and everybody can see how their own perspective and their role is influencing that future. Because I think the classic understanding of a CRM and maybe Salesforce or other CRMs is like, “Oh, well the sales department’s siloed over here and it’s their job to make sure that new business is coming in,” and we don’t really have anything to do with that. But what Salesforce has evolved into is so much more than what’s going on with that active opportunity, and with people having the ability to have that insight I think really spreads a level of ownership to the future of the company and investment in it.

Chris Butler: Yeah, it’s great for culture to have insight into the things that make the company’s opportunity tick. Actually, a couple months ago we … In the dashboard that Mark referenced earlier, we have a report in there that says “new leads created”. The Traction team, we look at that every week. It’s part of our agenda. But the rest of the company, they could see it. They just don’t. It’s not in their day steps to look at it. Hence, the ticker is a great idea that solves that problem.

A couple of months ago, I was noticing we’re getting all these great leads in and I sent an email to the company. The reason I did that is because I was thinking about a particular programmer on our team who never looks at that stuff because it’s just not in his job to do so, but it matters to him. He’s the guy who practically delivers the promises that we make, and for him to know that, hey, the future stability of your job is directly tied to this stat that we’re looking at every week and actually you can see that data and every time this email comes in it’s an indicator of our future stability and success, that’s what that ticker is all about. I sent that email out, saying, “Hey, these leads are our lifeblood.” But the ticker obviates  the need for that email.

Mark O’Brien: Anyway, it’s great and it’s built on the idea of cooperation, meaning the technology is. When we look back at other technology platforms over the years, the ones that have failed are the ones that are inclusive that want to build everything themselves and stay within their own tiny ecosystem, and Salesforce is not that. All the other CRM tools I know of are that. Even if they want to play, they can’t because developers aren’t developing apps for that platform because they are either too exclusive or too small. All the things we just spoke about, you can’t do that with any other CRM platform out there. You can’t come close to it. Dynamics is the only version that you can get closer with, but it’s not as widely adopted as Salesforce is, obviously.

Yeah, it’s just, I don’t know, seeing the connection from the epiphany at Dreamforce 6+ years ago to today where we are living this dream and would never, ever think going back and to, now that we’re living this dream, see what all the future dreams are, like where we’re going to go from here, we’re so nowhere close to done. It feels like we just started. There’s so many things we can do with this. To be honest, and this is a consulting stream that we’re going to open up at some point and help other companies do, and that would be really exciting. It’s not today, but it is some day and that would be really fun to figure out how to do that.

Chris Butler: Yeah, this sounds a lot like a commercial for Salesforce. In a way, why not? They’re not paying us for this, but I think it’s important that we are able to detail all the ways in which this database can help you run your firm, because it is so many. As you pointed out, Lauren, it’s not just about a customer relationship database. It hasn’t been for many, many years. But without knowing all the detail about what else it is, you’d just never know that.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, it’s the truth of it. This is just the truth. Yeah, as we see it.

Chris Butler: Let’s wrap up. Who’s got some content to share?

Lauren Siler: Yeah, as you mentioned at the beginning we’ve got a ton of content about all kinds of aspects of Salesforce. One that you might want to check out, it was written by Lindsey, Lindsey Barlow. It’s called Decoding the Salesforce Database: Frequently Asked Questions.

Chris Butler: Oh, no! That was the one I was going to …

Lauren Siler: Oh, no. We should really collaborate on it.

Chris Butler: Well, it’s that good. It’s that good.

Lauren Siler: Right, that speaks to how valuable it is.

Mark O’Brien: What is it now? Decoding the Salesforce …

Lauren Siler: Decoding the Salesforce Database: Frequently Asked Questions. She runs through all of the major components of understanding the data model inside of Salesforce and how you might use it and configure it for your firm.

Chris Butler: Yeah, if you’re thinking about your firm and you participate in the sales process and you’re thinking about how that might actually map to the way Salesforce works structurally, this is the piece of content for you. It’s the one that I think, when I was reading it, I learned from it. I’ve understood this for a while, but I think Lindsey did a really good job of making it understandable.

Mark O’Brien: Mine is our upcoming webinar series, and it’s related here. It’s a two-part series. Usually each quarter we do a whitepaper and a webinar, but we decided that the webinar format was a much better fit for the material we wanted to present for both of these issues. Basically, we refer to them as The Firm of the Future. One is about marketing and sales intelligence, and the other is about business intelligence. The business intelligence one is about everything we were just talking about.

You can sign up for that, for both of them as a series. You sign up for one, you sign up for both. The Salesforce one will be first, and that’s coming up in early August. Then we’re going to be doing the business development one in the later September, so I’m really excited for that series. It’ll be fun to be able to show that. Because we can talk about all these things right now, but actually looking at these screens and seeing these reports is much more interesting. Yeah, keep an eye out for that. Right now you should be able to go to the site and register for those.

Chris Butler: All right. Well, it’s been great. Thanks for joining us back here, all of you, and feel free to come back to Newfangled. Spread this around, tell your friends about it, and we’ll see you next time.

Lauren Siler: Rate us on iTunes.

Chris Butler: Yeah, please do.

Lauren Siler: Thanks.

Mark O’Brien: Bye.