13: Lifecycle: A Martech Saga part 2: Don’t overthink lifecycle

It is so easy to go down rabbit holes when revamping or deploying a lifecycle model. Be very careful not to overthink your lifecycle by creating too many microstages, or by over automating elements of the customer journey or sales process.

You want to keep your project neatly scoped and deliver this project on time. Give a skinny MVP and build upon it rather than starting with a complex model that no one will ever use.

We've seen these types of projects be it scoring or lifecycle go into dark rabbit holes and never emerge.

You build a 5 step process, but somewhere in the depths of the definition of a picklist value in step 1.15 has erupted this debate between sales and product……… 

Let's preface the value of project management for these types of projects, and even talk about why a lot of marketers don’t really work on these skills enough.

Project management is key to getting lifecycle off the ground.

How do you organize projects to ensure they don’t go down the rabbit hole? I used to think that anybody could manage projects and it wasn’t a great skill to specialize in. And then I discovered how bad I was at it. 

I’ve gotten pretty hardcore about projects, particularly when I’m working as a consultant. I like a 5 stage model based on Discovery, Design, Build, Deploy, and Review. Each stage has clear deliverables so that we know when to leave that stage. I’m also pretty hardcore on timelines. I’d rather we hit a timeline and reduce scope than expand timelines to keep scope.

One thing I’ve seen ops people obsess about a bit too much is these micro stages in between stages. Your main stages are Lead to MQL but along that path a lead might get confirmed and engaged. How many micro stages is too many? At the end of the day it’s about conversion rates and you don’t want to muddy your table with too many percentages. Lifecycle really allows for measurement of conversion points.

Question: JT, I know you’ve worked in Marketo and HubSpot. Marketo gives you unlimited freedom, but HubSpot’s default lifecycle stage is fixed. What model do you like better? 

Yeah, I’ve used Marketo for 7 years before I started working HubSpot. At first, I was like, of eff this noise with HubSpot. But I’m a little more lenient - HubSpot forces you to simplify and focus on really key stages. Going from MQL to SQL is a big change - one that can trigger insights if you’ve got your analytics tuned properly. Also, no one is making you use HubSpot’s properties - you can totally spin up your own. 

I think as a mental exercise, it’s better to lean more toward the HubSpot model than completely reinventing the wheel.

This is the type of trivial details that bogs down the project. You want to customize things, but you don’t overcomplicate things. 

We talk about the importance of alignment in this endeavour and something I’ve wrestled with a lot has been the best vehicle to communicate to my team what is happening along the lifecycle. The scoring, the micro stages, the touch points, the segments, the emails the in app messages. Like as much of that story as possible.

How do you prevent this type of scope creep that’s bound to happen as everyone starts to unpack things?

I think it’s so important to use a visualization tool like a flowchart -- LucidChart, Mural, or whatever -- to show your lifecycle. People are resistant to complexity when you start to chart things out for them. No one wants a complex process but we often arrive at complex solutions before we’re trying to compromise. 

By using a flow chart, you start to grind away at the concerns folks have that this stage isn’t represented or whatever. It also allows you to show that there’s a lot that goes into each stage. Like an MQL stage that depends on scoring also requires building a scoring program. 

The concept of an MVP is so important here. It gives us unrivaled permission to push something that isn’t 100% what we want. It’s a forcing function that gets something out the door. 

It’s like conversion rate testing -- everyone just leaves you alone as soon as you say, “oh, I’m testing this.”

You do need two things before this magic trick grows old: 1) you need to follow up with future deliverables; 2) you need to show data. 

For lifecycle, it’s getting an initial report into your stakeholders hands. This isn’t a PhD dissertation - it’s something you need to do and deploy.

Thanks for listening folks.

Doon't forget to check out part 1 in the last episode.

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