Marketing Podcast

Trends in Marketing Operations and Martech with Natali Talevski

Season 3 – Episode 9

The Crisis Series: Marketing Operations is growing in popularity. Business is seeing the advantage of having a Marketer on board with the unique skill set of strategy and big picture thinking, combined with the analytical skills to read and interpret data, to make better business decisions in the future.

On this episode, I am joined by Natali Talevski, Marketing Operations Manager and tech-company SiteMinder in Sydney. Natali is an experienced senior marketer, with a passion for technology, AI and automation.

We discuss:

  • A typical day for a Marketing Operations Manager, and if it’s any different to a Marketing Manager
  • Trends with martech and its role in marketing management
  • Why the skills of “creativity” is so important for marketers

Please note: The audio started mis-syncing 10 minutes from the end, so we accidentally talk over each other a little bit. It was a glitch with the recording software, and I’m sorry in advance.

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Transcript

Fiona:

This is the 2020 Crisis Series of This Marketing Life, I am chatting with Natali Talevski, the Marketing Operations Manager at SiteMinder in Sydney.

Natali is a marketing strategist with a love of technology.

In over 10 years in marketing, Natali has seen big changes in how both organisations’ and customers use technology to automate, engage and connect, and how its turned Marketing from a cost centre to a revenue generator.

Welcome to the show Natali.

Natali:

Thank you.

Fiona:

How is it going?

Natali:

Yeah, it’s not too bad actually.

Fiona:

Yeah, are you are you working from home at the moment?

Natali:

I am. Been working from home for the last… I think it’s almost three months now. Probably would have been the start of March.

Fiona:

Wow, three months. It’s like a long time, but it also feels like a short time?

Natali:

Yeah, I was thinking that the other day, ’cause I think a few people that I know started working from home, I think a bit after me. And so they were saying, “Oh it’s been so long and I thought about it, and I thought… Wow, it’s actually almost being three months.

Fiona:

Wow, I mean what’s it been like… Was it hard to get used to, or did it just come natural for you?

Natali:

For me, it was hard because I can work from home maybe for a day, maybe two, but then I just get easily distracted because it’s too quiet.

So I like the office because there’s background noise. You can look at the window. There’s people walking around, all that sort of stuff. So yeah, my brain tends to work better if there’s things happening around me…

Fiona:

You’re a social person?

Natali:

Yeah, I’m a background-noise person.

So it took some time getting used to… I think it probably took me about two or three weeks to get used to the quiet, but it’s not so bad. I’ve got Spotify on in the background, music going, sometimes the TV. It’s all good.

Fiona:

You’ve just gotta create all that background noise yourself.

Natali:

That’s it, that’s exactly what you have to do.

Fiona:

No, it’s funny sometimes when I’m working I like the background noise, it like it fuels me, but sometimes when I’m doing when I’m analysing data or building a report, I like it quiet so that’s why I like that one, two days from home where I can, where I can smash the data, and then I like those other days when I’m looking for inspiration and ideas and stuff and it’s just being around people just helps with that.

Natali:

Yeah, it’s funny ’cause I’ve spoken to lots of people about this in the past, whether they work better when it’s quiet, or whether they work better when there’s lots of noise and it’s so different with everyone.

You can’t even get a consensus. Some people like, “Nope, I can concentrate when it’s really quiet” others like me are like “No, I need background noise otherwise I can’t concentrate, I get easily distracted”. So yeah, it’s interesting.

Fiona:

It’s a mixed bag.

Natali:

Yeah. Especially when you start looking at office planning and is an open office, does everyone get their own office? What do you do? Is hot-desking a thing? You just can’t plan it for everyone… you absolutely can’t.

Fiona:

I saw on TV the other night. They’re talking about how the structure of offices are going to change and how they may change forever.

Natali:

Yeah, that’s true. And especially now, because I think the world has proven that we’re all adults and we can work from home, so that’s completely gonna change.

‘Cause there were companies that were giving a lot of flexibility. There were other companies that weren’t giving that flexibility, but now because it’s such a global use case that hey, it’s proven you can work from home and be productive. It’ll be interesting how that changes. Once everyone starts heading back into the office. Do all companies globally now offer this as an option for people?

Fiona:

It’s interesting seeing the leading companies, you know the Google’s, the Twitter’s, the Slack’s, all kind of saying, “Okay we’re gonna be working from home for the next… All of us for the three, six months. And even some are saying, “I don’t think we may go back to the office, I mean permanently”.

Yeah, I think Twitter announced that just recently that they’ve said… “Yeah, you’re all working from home indefinitely”.

So, joining the ranks of companies like Zapier, and a few of these other ones. Yeah, I think we’re gonna see this rise of these companies, obviously led by tech, because they always seem to be on the front foot. And luckily you’re working in the tech space at the moment?

Natali:

Yep, yeah that’s right.

Fiona:

And you’re in a very interesting space, because SiteMinder there, they’re a SaaS platform that offers solutions for hotels.

No, I was reading about hotels possibly becoming a lot… looking into streams of… other streams of revenue and looking into how they can become more efficient and how they can continue in this time of social distancing that’s going to exist.

And I guess where SiteMinder fits in is… That’s like a kind of tool that helps with that.

Natali:

Yeah, definitely is. So SiteMinder has a tool that definitely helps hotels figure all that stuff out really, how their revenues are going, how their occupancy rates are going. It helps them manage all of that back-end stuff so that they can focus on dealing with their customers, dealing with the maintenance of their properties.

So yeah, definitely very uniquely positioned in that we can continue to help all of our customers during this time.

Fiona:

Yeah, no it looks like as restrictions are looking to start lifting it looks like tourism is gonna come back probably with a vengeance, ’cause I think a lot of people are busting for a holiday.

Natali:

Yeah.

Fiona:

I know I am. But it’s going to be at least I think local tourism they reckon is going to be expecting a boom. So, it’s all those little hotels then… it’ll be those little hotels in those little touristic local areas that are gonna need help to manage what’s gonna happen.

Natali:

Yeah, yeah, definitely. And like I said, I think all companies are gonna need that kind of help as they start to ramp back up, as they start to bring this staff back on, as they start to open up to customers again… whether that’s a hotel, a restaurant, a café, a library even, ’cause libraries, places of worship, they all being closed as well.

They all need to figure out how it’s gonna work with people coming back and restrictions being with it as well.

Fiona:

Yeah, we’re writing the playbook as we go.

Natali:

We are. Yeah, that’s what’s making it so interesting, I think.

Fiona:

And from a marketing point of view, obviously, you’re the Marketing Operations Manager, has that impacted the marketing strategy from the start of the year, until when this pandemic kicked in? Has that strategy changed?

Natali:

I think as far as operations goes, no I would say, because marketing operations is all about making sure you’re using your marketing systems, and all your other systems at your disposal, to the best of their ability and you’re getting the most out of those platforms that you have.

So the strategy that we had for all of our platforms and all of our systems at the start of the year, that hasn’t changed, that’s still going the way it’s going, those plans are still in place. So yeah, from that perspective, yeah, definitely hasn’t…

Fiona:

Hasn’t changed things?

Natali:

No, because, like I said, you still need all these systems to track everything that’s going, and now more than ever, right? Because people have more time to do some research, maybe they’re doing research on whether it’s like tools, or ways of doing business, or ways of connecting or different technology that they can use, now that they’ve got a bit more time on their hands.

They’re doing more of that admin type research, and all your marketing systems are set up to track all of that. So, yeah…

Fiona:

The thing is, the processes and systems and how you connect up the technology and map things out… that does fund the mentally stay the same, but I, I think you’re right, this is…

And I have heard this from multiple marketers that this is the time to do research, this is the time to say, “Okay we can optimise these things in a better way. Now there’s this tool, or there’s that tool or maybe we can connect this up.

I think, yeah, I think there’s a lot of research going on.

Natali:

Yeah, absolutely and there’s even time to play around with stuff. So maybe you had an idea for a bit of technology, or a different way of tracking something, or a different way of setting up your attribution that you just couldn’t scope out or build the test for, at the start of the year, just because campaigns were running, things were busy…

But now you have that time, so because you’re at home, you’re a bit more productive, you’re not just having people dropping by your desk, to ask questions and chat. So, that time now is spent on… like you said, on research.

Oh maybe I can set up a test for this, maybe I can scope out that project now.

And I think that’s not even just a marketing thing, like I said, I think that’s all areas of business. You’ve even got finance teams doing the same thing, where it’s like, “Oh let’s have a look at our invoicing software. Is that something we can change?”

A sales team looking at sales optimisation stuff, “Is that something that we can change? or “That’s something that we can streamline?”

Even different processes within a business, you would be looking at to see if you can streamline that, or if there’s a way to automate those processes, as well, just to make life easier for everyone. Particularly with everyone being remote, where you can’t just easily tap your neighbour on the shoulder and ask them a question.

I think the different tools that are coming out to help with that… your Slack’s, your Zooms, even Microsoft Teams.

Fiona:

Communication…

Natali:

Yeah, all that sort of stuff. They’re definitely seeing a big boom and people looking into them, using them, seeing how they work. Yeah.

Fiona:

I’ve noticed that with the events industry changing a lot of businesses, whether B2B, a lot of B2B and B2C, used events for brand awareness for lead generation, and all those events shut down overnight. So you’ve got event marketers and event managers scrambling to look at tools and technologies that they can keep going… that they can keep hosting some kind of online event.

Natali:

Yeah, exactly, this… the first I saw was way back when, with Salesforce and their world tour, they were doing earlier back in March…

Fiona:

Yeah, March…

Natali:

And that was at the very start of all of this happening, and they very quickly pivoted that, from an in-person all day event to an online event, which was pretty well-run. So you could go in, you could they had the different channels for the different sessions…

So yeah, It was interesting to see how that happened. And now, like you say, all the other events that were gonna happen this year, are doing the same thing.

So it’s good that they’re still running, but it’s also really good to see just how creative people are getting, in… “Oh, we can still run these events. Let’s just find a different way of doing it in a different way of connecting people”.

Fiona:

Yes, no, I think until with these mega conferences that they have, it’s going to be difficult even if they come back as a physical event, it’s going to be difficult because they wanted to always just cram in as many people ’cause it looks so good in the photos, it looks it’s so great for engagement to have so many people at these large events, but now if we’re going to be social distancing… until a vaccine is available, if those events come back, that they’re going to look very, very interesting.

Natali:

Yeah, it’s a question of, “Are you limiting the number of people that can come or do you find bigger venues, so that you can fit more people that are at a socially distant capacity?” Yeah

Fiona:

It’s gonna be interesting to see what it’s gonna look like.

Natali:

Or do they remain online for the foreseeable future?

Fiona:

I think that’s possible too.

I just wanted to ask. So, obviously getting on to Marketing Operations, I mean, it is such, it’s become a growing type of role and a pivotal role because businesses are seeing the value in getting that underlying technology and operations all organised ’cause then you can build on top of that and you can make things more effective and you can more productive.

I mean, what do you think are the main differences that you’ve noticed from a marketing operations management point of view? What is a typical day like for marketing ops?

Natali:

It’s different every day, and that’s why I like it.

So one day, I might be working on a system optimisation in our marketing automation platform. The next day I might be doing an analysis of data, whether that’s campaign data, or just our customer prospect data to try and find trends. The next day might be putting together campaigns, and nurture programs.

It’s always, always different but I think…

Fiona:

No two days the same?

Natali:

No, it’s never… And that’s why I got into marketing in the first place, right? Because no two days are ever the same. And it’s always interesting.

But yeah, I think a lot of marketing operations… it’s a great role because you’re almost like an umbrella for all of marketing, so you kind of see everything.

It’s not just systems and technology, it’s also a campaigning, it’s also marketing strategy, it’s also your data and your analytics, it’s also budgets and dealing with vendors.

It’s a very wide ranging role and it’s almost like a marketing all-rounder role, that’s slightly turning into a specialist role nowadays…

Fiona:

Oh really?

Natali:

Yeah, ’cause I previously… my first Marketing Operations role was at my previous company and that was the first time I ever heard of marketing operations because before that I was working as a Product Marketing/ Product Manager or a Marketing Campaign Specialist.

But those roles were almost marketing operations in their way, because you were dealing with, you know, putting together your marketing strategy, figuring out who your target market was, working with the systems, and putting all that together.

Whereas now, Marketing Operations has almost become its own little specialist type role, in that, you have the creativity and the strategic thinking of a marketer, which is the stuff that we learn from day dot at Uni, but then you also have the same analytical technical type thinking of either an analyst or a data scientist or a programmer even.

So it’s hard to find people with both those skill sets, rolled into one. It’s a very hard role to fill, because you either get people who are very marketing and not very technical/ analytical or people who are very technical/analytical but not very marketing.

I think in the States, because the roles been around for longer, it’s easier to find people, but yeah, I think in Australia, it’s a relatively new role over the next… Over the last few years, I say that I’ve been operations manager now for almost six years. But yeah, it’s still relatively new. Just because it’s hard to find that combination in the one person to fit that role.

Fiona:

Yeah, no, that makes sense. It’s kind of like understanding the forest, but also understanding the trees…

Natali:

Yeah.

Fiona:

So it’s being able to take that step back and look at everything and how it’s connected holistically, and where campaigns fit, and where technology fits, but then also when you want to see how something is performing, to zoom in and be able to analyse that data, or look at that data.

And yeah, no, I think that’s 100% correct. And I do see it in a lot of marketers I’ve spoken to, very few can do both of those things.

Natali:

Yeah, because we’re not trained that way. I remember, back when I was at Uni, which was, what, 2001-2002, I started uni. So 18 years ago now, in marketing and my degrees in marketing, but it was very like… This is what customers are like… This is the psychology of it… This is how you get people to do what you want them to do… that sort of thing.

Fast forward to just a few years ago, my cousin did the same marketing degree at the same Uni and he literally learned the same curriculum.

So nothing has changed. Even though marketing itself has changed. Marketing has completely moved on from what I learnt at Uni, like it’s… yes, there are some similarities. Yes, you still need to understand your customers, you still need to understand… have a talk to them.

But you also need to understand technology, you also need to understand data, you also need to understand analytics, and that’s just not being taught.

These are now skills that marketers are learning on the job once they get into work.

And I think that’s what’s, kind of letting us down a little bit as an industry. So, if the Unis aren’t teaching you that in your degree, well then how else do you learn that stuff?

Is it different online courses? Is it as part of your electives? Is it a whole new way of actually training marketers that we need to think of, so that they’re ready for this world that we’re coming into? Because I…

Fiona:

I agree. Even… I studied at the Charted Institute of Marketing and even the research techniques that I learned back when, and even the communications, I guess communication strategy hasn’t changed that much? But the execution and the speed has changed rapidly and even when I learned marketing planning…

Marketing planning was this massive big task and you mapped out 12 months and two years and three years and now we’re looking at three months, when we’re looking at our marketing plans. It is definitely not what I was taught…

Natali:

It’s so, so different.

Even for my first job, I started as just a Campaign Specialist within a product marketing team and even then it was starting to change. I can remember getting my first analytics BI tool that the company brought in, and like email marketing was just really starting to become a thing back then as well, so…

But nowadays, you’re running online campaigns, you might come up with an idea now, 5 minutes later you’ve got some copy and some imagery, and then 10 minutes later you’ve launched it, and then you… Within an hour you’ve already got some sort of results to figure out how you should tweak it. How you should optimise it.

So, yeah, like you say the execution is just very, very different nowadays, and yeah, I think that’s the biggest skill that people need to learn or that marketers need to know these days is not just the creative aspects of it and the planning aspect of it, but what do you do with all this massive amount of data that’s coming your way?

So how do you actually analyse what you’re seeing in Google Analytics, or in your automation platform or in your web data, or in your campaign data, what does it mean, how do you link it to revenue that’s being generated?

How do you show the benefit you’re having to your company, to say, “Hey this is a revenue that we’re generating and this is how we generated it, and this is what we’re seeing in our data, and in our markets, so that we can find a niche, we can pivot, that we can run some other campaign that’s gonna be more successful.

Fiona:

That is so spot on. We all need to kinda be data analysts now. There was a huge trend, a couple of years ago, about big data, and what big data would mean and everybody was like, “Oh we need to get more data and more data.”

 

And so all these companies brought in all these tools and got all this data and tracked everything, and then I think they’ve reached a point now where they’re not entirely sure what to do with it, because it was just the wrong approach, and I think now have it being able to analyse that data and make sense of it and turn it into something practical that’s gonna impact the business and going to, like you said, going from the idea, to running a campaign to analysing the results to forward planning the next campaign, that can be happen in a day or two.

Natali:

Yeah, and you know what, I remember someone saying that all data is big data, and it’s true. But I think everyone needs to realise, they already have enough data.

And it’s true, like, I hear the same thing, “Oh we need more data, we need more data and it’s like, No, you have enough data, you just don’t like the answer that data is giving you, and that’s why you’re asking for more data, is because you want a different answer.

But you know what… the data is the data.

It doesn’t lie, this is what it says. And the question now is, Alright, how do we respond to that? So if this is what we’re seeing, “How do we respond? What do we do?”

Rather than… No, give me some other car… ’cause I remember my stats lecturer back at Uni was like, “I can make this data say whatever you want it to say, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing, and that’s true, right?

And as marketers, that’s what we need to push back on, because you get up from everyone, you don’t just get it from sales team, you get it from the C-Suite, you get it from customer teams, everyone saying, “Oh this isn’t what we wanted to do and I don’t agree with what’s being said here”, so well, “It is what’s being said, but what do we do about it now, how do we respond to it, what kind of strategy or campaign or whatever can we run, to make this some more positive response than what we’re seeing now?”

Fiona:

Yes, even if you just look at something as simple as Google Analytics, you can get lost in it. And I’ve had quite a few Marketing Coordinators work with me, and they get into Google Analytics and they get overwhelmed and I always just say to them, “Look… just look for the one or two things that you’re really trying to learn that can move the needle and seriously don’t worry about everything else ’cause you can get buried in there.”

Natali:

You need to look for the “So what?”

Like the part of the data that’s like… “Okay, this is the bit I actually need to care about, and this is why I need to care about it”, ’cause there is a lot of noise in the data you’re seeing, and it’s very easy to track something daily and say, “Oh it’s going up today, it’s gone down today, it’s going up”. Yeah, that happens, that’s just normal.

But you need to find an ongoing trend, for something, and something that…

Fiona:

Yes, No, I… No, I agree and I heard once, I don’t where I read it, I wish I knew. But it said the most impactful data that can help marketers is either immediate short-term data or long-term data but be careful of medium-term data because it doesn’t really help. I don’t know if you agree with that.

Natali:

Yeah, I understand what you’re saying, it’s just trying not to get lost so much in the detail. And I think that comes from the lack of training for marketers to be analysts. I think, if you’re trained as an analyst you understand that concept, and you understand what it is you need to look for, you understand what a trend looks like, you understand what’s important, but I think if you’re not trained in the analytical mindset, it’s very, very difficult to figure that out.

And yeah, I think that’s something that the marketing industry as a whole probably needs to get better at, rather than just telling people… “Yes, here’s a bunch of data. Here’s a bunch of systems that can collect all this data. And now you go figure it out”, like, well no, you need to teach people how to be analysts, that’s a skill you can learn, and that’s a skill that we need to improve on and develop.

Fiona:

Yeah, double down on.

So yeah, so looking at the skills I guess if someone is interested in Marketing Ops and wants to develop those skills, I guess, it’s about the being… understanding strategy, and being strategic. It’s about understanding data analysis, what are the other key skills? I know you mentioned, being creative, but what else do you think are the key skills that would make a great marketing ops manager?

Natali:

Honestly, I think the key skills are the same is what would make a great marketing manager in general.

It’s the things you said, being able to be analytical and being able to look at data and understand what’s important, what’s not important, being able to be strategic and come up with different campaigns, or with different ways of doing business or engaging with prospects and customers.

You also need to understand the technology that you’re working with, whether that’s an automation platform or even just the analytical tools, or the social networks that you use… being able to understand how they work, how they connect with each other.

And also being able to almost picture a data flow in your head. So, understanding alright, this is where my prospect for example, will hit the website. Okay, so then what is the flow of that information? Is it tracked by cookies? Does it get picked up by the automation platform? Is it being picked up by social network? Doesn’t get pushed into my CRM?

You, I think, you need to have a bit of a technological bend in being able to visualise that flow of data, ’cause once you can visualise that, then you can understand this is what I need to analyse it, this is what I need to build it into my campaign, this is what I need to build it into my strategy.

And then, yeah, just being creative, I think is important, not just from a marketing perspective, but even from an analytics perspective, and a technology perspective. Because you’re creative then, you can start to see different ways of doing things.

And it’s creativity I think is your best problem-solving skill, because it means you’re starting to see different solutions to doing things, you’re not just focused on this my automation platform and I need to be able to track this campaign, using this platform.

Okay, that’s cool, but maybe there’s other ways you can do it, that it easier.

That are a lot more… or maybe there’s a different way of building it that simplifies that process. And I think that’s where creativity comes in that problem solving area.

Fiona:

I agree. How does one develop creativity? It’s a skill, I guess, but I wonder how you can develop it?

Natali:

It’s definitely a skill. I think everything in life is a skill that you can learn and creativity is just one of those skills that you can learn.

And there’s all sorts of different ways you can do, it even if you just Google online like “How to boost my creativity”. You’ll find pages and pages of links.

If it’s something like, you set aside an hour a day to find a different way of doing something. So maybe you pick a nurture program, for example, and for an hour of your week you’re gonna say, “Alright, I’m gonna think of all the different ways that I can build this nurture program”, and you just jot them all down. There’s no right or wrong answer. Just to see how many you can get out.

Or maybe you pick a piece of data, whether it’s campaign data, and you’re like… “I’m just gonna look at all the different ways that I can manipulate this data and I can get it to say different things.”

All of that is helping your brain be creative, because it’s forcing you to think differently to what you would normally think, because you’re trying to come up with a whole bunch of different answers and solutions.

And especially if you start thinking “There’s no right or wrong answer”, it’s literally just how many different ways can I do something… that’s building your creativity and that’s helping you improve that skill.

Fiona:

That is fantastic advice. I wish I had gotten that advice when I was studying marketing. That is brilliant, I completely agree. I think that is the best way to start continually being… teaching yourself how to be creative.

Natali:

Yeah, and I have every Friday is my Google Friday that I call it, where I spend, like an hour or two every Friday, literally just doing anything, like whether it’s watching TED talks, reading articles, playing with the system, playing with data, looking at different campaigns that people have done, or anything…

It’s just a way for me to set time aside to build that skill, so build my creativity, build my analytical skills, get out of the industry, out of the marketing industry even, just to see how other people are doing things. What other people are saying about different topics. I think it’s a good way to almost, like expand your horizons in a way.

So you’re not just constantly stuck in what you’re doing every single day. You’re giving yourself a chance, and you’re giving your brain a chance to think of something different, and do something different.

And then that all helps ’cause it then becomes muscle memory, almost.

So then when you have to do something maybe a bit more complex, or maybe a bit more involved, you start to think about it a bit easier, because it’s something that you’re constantly practicing and you’re constantly training.

Fiona:

I love that. I think that’s great advice. I think slotting in and committing that time to allow yourself to look at new ideas.

I definitely try and do research every week, but I don’t think I’ve set a time… but I think blocking that time out of your calendar, so you don’t get pinged or, people don’t message you, I think, and just blocking that time out so that you focus on just expanding your ideas and stuff like that.

Natali:

And it’s a good thing to do, I think if you do block out that time, it almost then becomes habit, and so once it’s habit, you just easily do it every single week. Yeah, it makes it easier to do.

Fiona:

Yeah, excellent. I just wanna talk to you about marketing technology, ’cause obviously this is where you’re very interested, and you’ve been researching and learning from marketing technology.

And it’s changing, still rapidly and given this time of this crisis, and pandemic, it’s probably gonna change again, because of all the innovation that’s happening…

Is it making managing marketing easier? And what… What’s your favourite that you’ve seen?

Natali:

I think it’s definitely making managing marketing easier, just because it’s automating so much.

You can… a lot of the processes and things that we used to do in the past, that were very manual, you can now just set up and let it run in the background.

And you can even automate alerts to yourself if something goes wrong, so you don’t even need to check in on it regularly, to see those running the way it should be running. You can even automate your analysis and all that sort of stuff. I think that’s made it so much easier, which we did then have more time to do more strategic work based on everything that you’ve seen, more analytical work based on everything that you’re seeing.

But my favourite stuff at the moment, is definitely, I think, all of the AI stuff that’s coming out.

So the way… which isn’t new, but I just love seeing how that progresses and how it take… all the different marketing ones, which for me, whether that’s AI, is as simple serving up recommendations.

So similar to what, like a Netflix or an Amazon will do if you’ve watched a bunch of stuff, and now it’s saying, “Hey you might like these things as well. Through to even CRM AI where, it knows if an opportunity is about to be Closed Lost, and so it’ll flag an alert with content that you can send to that person, that can change that to then have you close that opportunity as Won.

All of that sort of stuff I find really fascinating. But it’s so data-hungry that thing, just because it needs to learn all the different trends right?

Fiona:

Of course. What do you think of chatbots?

Natali:

In that they can automate a very simple inquiries, that come through.

And even with all the chat stuff, that I’ve worked with in the past like 80% of your enquiries are gonna be very, very similar, that you can very much automate via a chat bot.

Whether it’s someone asking for “What’s your support phone number?” or “What’s the price for this?” or “Can I have a trial, can I have a demo?”

Those sorts of things, so the bulk of the requests that come through and nowadays you can even automate them, so if someone does want to speak to a person, it can be routed to someone, in say, your support team, or your customer team or sales team, and then they can pick it up from there once the chat bot has got to whatever end you’ve specifically given it.

So I think they’re great for automating very, very simple enquiries that come through, which to be honest, is the bulk of the enquiries that come through for a lot of businesses, anyway.

And then, yeah, just to automate them to hit an actual human once it gets too complicated, or if the person asks to speak to an actual human…

Fiona:

Yeah, to speak to someone.

I remember seeing a YouTube video of a guy who would chat with chatbots to try and figure out if it was a real person or not, and he used to ask questions and try and trip them up, to figure out if they were real.

And it’s funny that the time that we’re getting into is reaching that point where some of this AI and some of these chat bots are so smart that sometimes you are not sure if you’re talking with an algorithm… a software, or you’re talking with an actual human?

Natali:

Yeah, and that’s what makes them so great, because ultimately at the end, it’s about the customer experience, right?

So, if it answers the customer’s question and it answers it in a way that they’re happy with, then it doesn’t matter if it’s a bot or a human to be honest.

Where bots kind of fall over is where there hasn’t been that planning behind them, so they have been trained to respond in the correct way, they haven’t been trained in on the correct questions that are coming in. So even when you start with the bot the first thing you need to do is go “Well, what are the questions that we’re getting?” And I think people get tripped up in the edge cases and they kinda spend all their time in the edge case going, “Oh well, what happens if they ask this?”

But really, like I said, 80% your questions are probably the same, so you just build it for that 80%. And the edge case, just add a path to say “I wanna talk to a human”, and then the human can deal with the edge case but… And that happens in technology all the time, that’s not just marketing technology that’s even like SaaS technology, where people get stuck on edge cases, and they’re like all the needs of factor in this edge case….

You really, really don’t.

So, the bulk of what you’re building is probably gonna be the same constantly. So just build for that, and then you can build in a catch-all for your edge case.

And if your edge case becomes normal or then you can factor that into your normal build, and your normal sends, and all that sort of stuff anyway, so.

Fiona:

No, that sounds like great advice. I would yeah, I think you’re absolutely spot-on about those edge cases.

I think it’s a matter of… I guess it comes down to like you said, customer experience and mapping that enquiry journey or mapping… looking at where in the marketing journey that the buyer is wanting to talk to somebody. And what is the normal flow look like, like you said, “look at the normal flow”. What is the normal enquiry process? Like you said, 80% are very similar, what is that 80% and maybe don’t get bogged down with that 20%.

Natali:

Yeah, exactly, and that’s just programming advice in general.

Fiona:

That’s just life advice.

Natali:

I think regardless… exactly. If a butterfly flaps its wings in Peru, will it cause a tornado in China or something like that?

And I think that’s what people can bogged down into. It’s like it doesn’t matter. It is probably never gonna happen. And if it does happen, we have a catch-all for it, so it doesn’t matter.

Fiona:

Yeah, I think that when it comes to marketing we do have to check ourselves, and sometimes just make sure we live in that 80% and don’t fall down the… I call it falling down a rabbit hole, when you can follow something, and all of a sudden you’re just like, “Does this really matter, does this really shift the needle, is this really gonna make a big impact?” If not… just step away.

Natali:

Exactly. I think the best way to think about it is, “What will 99% of my customers think about this?” and if 99% of your customers are gonna be happy with it, well, then that’s fine.

‘Cause you’re never gonna get 100% of customers or prospects happy with whatever you’re doing, that’s not gonna happen.

That doesn’t happen in life in general or you’re never gonna get 100 people… 100% of people happy with what you’re doing. So, yeah, if the bulk of your customers are gonna be happy with that experience and it’s gonna… You positive experience for them well that’s fine.

Fiona:

True. So I think, when it comes to thinking about now and looking into the future, like I said, “We’re writing the playbook as we go”. What do you think is going to happen now? What trends are you seeing with, with marketing, with technology, with the tourism industry?

What trends do you think are going to come out of this?

Natali:

I think for just business, in general, there’s gonna be a lot of, I think, different ways of collaborating.

Because we’ve seen that we’ve just had to adapt to it, right, because you can’t have face-to-face collaboration, you can’t have like water cooler collaboration anymore.

So I think all of that is definitely gonna change, or even just be streamlined. I know when we first went to work from home, and this happened with a lot of people that I spoke to, everything almost became a video call, because people were just so used to face-to-face collaboration and then in a couple of weeks that died down very quickly, where people found out that things like, messaging, or the Slacks of the world, like that was an easier way to communicate.

And then you could save the video call for something very important.

So I think that sort of stuff will definitely change.

And I think a lot of just processes in general, are very much becoming streamlined. So whether that’s they’re being automated, using the different technologies that we have, or whether just some of the unnecessarily handling of things might just be factored out with processes now, just because people physically can’t do that stuff together in the same room.

So you’re trying to make up for people being very remote.

And so I think we might see increasing remote teams and remote working just because the world has proven how you’re able to do it, and it’s not that bad, and it still works and people are still productive.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of companies embrace that, or just make that part of their norm to offer that as an option, to say, “Well, you can come into the office if you want to, but hey, you can also work from home or you can work from anywhere, in the world, it doesn’t matter”.

Fiona:

Yeah, I’ve seen quite a few companies saying, “You can work from any of our global offices. This is a new thing that’s coming out.

And I also saw the other day, this guy said, “I think we’ve had 10 years of innovation in business in two months.” And we’re going to spend the next 12 months, trying to play catch up…

Natali:

Yeah, and I’m not surprised because it’s forced people to think differently.

It’s forced them to think outside of what they would normally do in a day, which is a good thing, I think. It’s good that people are actually becoming a bit more creative in just how they operate and how a business is run. Like I said, it’s not just a marketing thing, it’s just a business in general, thing, and I think that’s a positive.

It’s definitely gonna be positive of streamlining processes, if you’re increasing collaboration, if you’re coming up with different ways that people can work, and still be productive and still feel like they’re part of a team and still be engaged all of that stuff’s positive.

Fiona:

Yes, and we’re going to be learning the value of things, like spending time with other people.

Natali:

Exactly. And checking in on people as well, I found, is the other big thing that’s happened. Just because everyone’s at home and yeah, slowed down, maybe feeling a little bit lonely. So, they’re reaching out to people, asking how they are and having probably more deep and meaningful conversations than just like a superficial quick catch-up. I will get together for a coffee, oh yeah, let’s do that.

Whereas now, they’ve got the time to chat, so yeah, I hope that actually continues once everything’s lifted and things start going a little bit back to normal, because that’s the other good thing that’s come out of it, I think is people having deeper relationships with everyone.

Whether it’s their family, their friends, their work colleagues… Yeah, it’s definitely getting better.

Fiona:

I’ve met so many of my neighbours. It’s crazy.

Natali:

It’s true.

Fiona:

I think despite all the bad things that have happened in this health and economic crisis, I think there is some good things too, and we just need to focus on that.

Natali:

Yeah, definitely. There are a lot of positives that have come out of it. So just think of people are connecting a lot better. Businesses are operating a lot better. Things are being streamlined. We’ve seen different ways that we can use technology to connect with each other, to connect with customers. to connect with our employees. It’s all positive, definitely.

Fiona:

Yeah, the future is bright.

Natali:

Definitely.

Fiona:

Well, thank you so much Natali, for coming on the podcast, and talking today. I know that there’s been some amazing advice and insight into marketing operations, technology and the SaaS space. Yeah, thank you so much.

Natali:

Not a problem. Thanks for having me.

Fiona:

If someone wants to get in touch with you, or ask any questions, where’s the best place to do that?

Natali:

They can definitely find me on LinkedIn – Natali Talevski. And yeah, just shoot me a message.

Fiona:

Okay, brilliant, well, thanks again. And, you know, take care. And I hope you’ll get your background noise in real life, very soon.

Natali:

I hope so too. Thanks bye.

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