HomeBlog NI's Marketing Tech Transformation – Part I

NI's Marketing Tech Transformation – Part I

September 29, 2017 | By Helena Lewis

  • National Instruments embarked on a marketing technology transformation to improve its planning process
  • Marketing performance management tech was at the heart of this transformation
  • The first blog post in this series describes initial vendor selection steps

Every b-to-b marketer must budget, plan and measure – and the larger the organization, the more complex and frustrating these processes can be. But with the proper technology implementation, cohesion and control are possible.

At National Instruments (NI), a $1.2 billion company with hundreds of marketers worldwide, our marketing organization made a conscious effort to be more accountable to business goals, invest our resources appropriately, and measure and track our successes. At the core of this transformation was marketing performance management (MPM) technology from Allocadia working in tandem with our full technology stack, including our marketing automation platform (Eloqua), sales force automation system (Salesforce) and financial tools (Hyperion).

NI historically approached annual planning like many organizations do: looking backward. We could see how we spent money, but we could not actually invest around our go-to-market plan and adjust our budget on the basis of performance. In addition, our marketing investments weren’t formally aligned with our go-to-market plan. We knew that in an ideal world, business objectives and strategy should drive how we invested our marketing budget. But planning and budgeting were two very disconnected processes for us.

Due to the complex nature of NI’s marketing organization and many stakeholders involved, it was a challenge to set priorities. To make matters more complicated, our customers buy solutions that incorporate products from many business units, and our planning was conducted within these product group silos. Previously, each region created its own version of the marketing plan and budget using Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, so it was impossible to gain global insight into investment and outcomes.

We knew we needed to do the following:

  • Create a shared set of priorities aligned with our overall business objectives and customer needs
  • Devise a better way to ensure accountability to drive true business outcomes
  • Align our investments with our go-to-market plan and strategy

In short, we wanted to bring order or cohesion back to the process of marketing budgeting, planning, and measurement.

Here’s how we did it:

  • Consistent taxonomy across technologies. To ensure the marketing plan aligned with product groups and ultimately revenue, we implemented a structured and governed taxonomy across all marketing technologies that allowed us to show how marketing campaigns and initiatives – even if they spanned multiple products – contributed to product group goals and revenue targets. This common set of words and descriptors spanned plans, investments and activities across all our marketing systems, which gave our team the opportunity to describe and measure all marketing-related activities in a similar way. Our consistency served as a reliable way to link our systems together and give us an end-to-end view of how our campaigns tie to investments and returns, and how these are aligned with our plan and strategy.
  • Buy-in and consensus. Technology without strategy is no way to run marketing, especially at an organization like ours, with numerous regional stakeholders distributed globally. We began by building a strong business case and collecting agreement and buy-in around our initiative from our global team. Our consensus-driven decisionmaking culture meant laying the foundation for our process and strategy well before any vendors were involved.
  • MPM vendor selection with long-term goals. The MPM vendor selection process was critical. Finding a partner with the right expertise and continued guidance was an important requirement because we knew this tool would serve as a critical foundation for our marketing activities by tracking every dollar spent and returned. We wanted to lay the groundwork for advanced measurements, like ROI, and we knew we had to begin with strong control over the investment. We sought more than just budgeting software; we needed a new way to organize our investments and marketing plans. This was a long-term and strategic decision that would define how we visualized and ran the business of marketing. No stone was left unturned.

In Part II of this blog post series, I’ll discuss how we made our ultimate technology decision and describe the many benefits we’ve realized from implementing marketing performance management technology.