Blake Kendrick, Director of Operations for FullFunnel, talks about his team’s approach to reporting: specifically, auditing fields and schema on the backend to pull through as impactful, actionable data.
Hi everybody. Welcome to Agency Unfiltered. I'm your host, Kevin Dunn and Agency Unfiltered is a bi-weekly web series and podcast that interviews agency owners from around the world about agency operations, growth, and scale. Episodes can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And you can find our videos and full transcripts on agencyunfiltered.com. Today we talked to Blake Kendrick, director of operations for Boston based FullFunnel. Blake talks through his teams approach to reporting. Specifically, how important an audit of back-end schema is to impactful actionable insights in business intelligence. We talk about data integrity, hygienic fields in properties, deliberate structure, and more. Have your clients data infrastructure set for business intelligence with this episode of Agency Unfiltered.
KD: Well, Blake, welcome to Agency Unfiltered. We'll just jump right in. Welcome to HubSpot HQ in Cambridge.
BK: Thank you very much, yeah. Pleasure to be here.
KD: Cool, we're excited to have you. Obviously the Boston Brand is strong with FullFunnel so obviously appreciate that. What we're gonna get into today, it's interesting right, I think a lot of clients, like you can't have a client engagement without reporting coming up. And it makes sense, right. We have to validate our performance and our impact. But, what FullFunnel has discovered is that to extract the value out of reporting there's a whole lot of intentional work and ground work that you have to put into the back-end or the CRM. The data points that then pull through to the reporting. And so, rather than me just butcher it, why don't you just give us the quick overview of kinda how you guys think about reporting and some of the work that has to go into the back end before you see value in it.
BK: Yeah, so there's a couple of layers and kind of directions that we approach reporting from when we're setting our clients up for success on that front. One of the major things that you have to do is just understand your schema up front. So we always start with a data dictionary, kinda roll out, defining all the fields and everything like that.
KD: Fields, as in, just across the CRM? So the properties that are in use?
BK: Yeah, yeah. And you wanna leverage. So one thing that we see, we come into these instances where people have made really custom, sort of environment for themselves. And capturing a lot of really, data that is unique to them. And that could be having form questions kind of laid out as individual fields. It could be, you know, the line of questioning that sales people do, or whatever. Qualifying questions, things like that. And that's great to capture because as you're going through and working deals and things like that, you wanna be able to refer back to that information. But, wherever you want to, we actually try and eliminate or consolidate fields to make sure that we are leveraging default fields. 'Cause in most cases, you know, we talk about house-swap. We talk about sales-force as well. The systems are really built to operate a certain way. So, for example, sales force is a really good example of this, is you have that division between leads and contacts. And what we see a lot of times is sometimes companies will come in and then, kind of, forego leads altogether. And go straight to the contacts and the accounts. But what ends up being missed there is you lose the power of sales-force being able to find the marker and kind of, the split between, you know, what are our success rates for conversion. So, you wanna make sure that you're leveraging the default fields as much as you can. And then outside of that, you're also wanting to look at the fields themselves and try to define as much as possible. And what I mean by that is, you know, fewer single-lined text fields and more drop-downs and pick-lists.
KD: I think that the classic example is like, state. Right? Do you type in Massachusetts or Mass or MA? But you know, drop-down ensures consistency across answers?
BK: Yeah. It makes it easier in two ways. One, from a user experience standpoint. You're gonna be giving your sales reps and other users a really more straightforward approach to how they can enter the system and you're gonna have an easier time managing, you know, data integrity and compliance. On the second side of it, is when you go back to build your filtered views and lists and reports. If you wanna apply those filters you're gonna have a lot more deliberate selection there. You're not gonna kind of miss gaps. So, just the same example you just used, you know. If you put in a filter for MA, but some people type it in Mass, you're gonna miss all those Mass records, if you're kind of using open text fields. So we look at the use of the objects, the default fields, and then the organization of the data within those fields in terms of value sets to make sure everything is kind of, concise and deliberate when you're going to build the reports.
KD: Where does this fall in the larger client engagement? Is this one of the immediate tasks, like an onboarding or a client kick off? Like, let's get our hands on all of the data and the structure on the back-end to clean everything up if needed before we can get things going?
BK: Yeah, that is a good question. So I mean, usually when we're approaching clients they want us to, so we do both advisory services and outsourced work. So we'll actually act as an extension of the marketing team or the sales team. And a lot of times they're like "Hey, we just need more activity. We need more labor" and things like that. And sometimes we'll walk into an environment and we'll be like "Well, you're maybe missing some pieces." And really it's always gonna be infrastructure first because infrastructure is gonna dictate business intelligence. And then business intelligence is gonna dictate, you know, where should we allocate our resources? Should we put more people on the phones? Should we invest more in, you know, paid advertising channels? That sort of thing. So there is really an order of operations to it. I would say, if you were gonna take it to the broadest level you're gonna want to establish behavioral policies first. Like, internally how should people be approaching the sale and what steps should they take and things like that. Understanding the questions that you wanna ask and what the information you want to get in terms of your regular reporting. And then the next step would be, how can we maybe add onto the system's kind of default environment to support those previous 2 objectives. And then from there, then you're gonna get into execution and kind of tweaking and optimizing from there.
KD: How would you split, or what's the rough estimate percentage of clients that have you on that advisory role for this, versus the implementation or the execution of it?
BK: A lot of our full service engagements, we end up saying "Hey, look, we need to do a full assessment." I mean, the way that we sell our services we actually do a deep-dive audit prior to signing someone on for a full service engagement.
KD: Got it. So this comes in before the contracts are signed.
BK: Yeah, we need to make sure we know what we're walking into and make sure that we're really taking the right course of action.
KD: Have you been burned before that kinda mandated that as the process?
BK: Yeah, we have had people kind of circle away from the initial audit. You know, it usually tends to be our smaller clients that are, you know, just really highly price sensitive for that. But we've also worked it out the other way where it's like, okay, "let's shelve out outsourcing services because really this isn't the best plan for you right now. Like, you don't need to deploy more resources, you need to just kinda tweak what's already available.” And then we sell that first part of the engagement and kind of work on that for a few months and get them. Or weeks, or however long it would take.
KD: Sure, right. It depends on how big of a disaster it is in the back-end.
BK: Yeah, make sure that they have a visual into, you know how is their funnel progression working? Making sure that they have a really really precise idea of source attribution for everything that's coming in as well. And we kind of treat that as its own project and just sell that engagement first.
KD: Oh, very cool. If there is any, what's the distinction for this audit between, like, contact properties versus company properties, deals, like knowing that there's just a ton of different categories of properties inside of HubSpot, or any tool that your clients may be using? Does the process change in regards to that category?
BK: So most of the clients that we are dealing with are following a B2B sales process. So it's going to evolve from finding a cold prospect which you're usually going to be, if you're talking in terms of a sales force, talking about just the leads object. No other relationships involved there. And you're working that person through and qualifying really at the contacts or the personal level. Once you have qualified contact identified and you have some semblance of an idea of, okay, this person's the right fit and they some intent to purchase as well. Then you're gonna move on and you're gonna kind of use the account as your control center. Because ultimately it's the company that's buying your product. Not that person, right? Once you finish that second layer of qualification usually this would be, like, a handoff between like an SDR Sales Development Representative, to like an AE, like an account executive. You know, they verify the quality and they say "Yeah. These people do want to move forward. We do have a way to deliver services or products to this group, so let's spin up that opportunity." And then at that point you're working just in the opportunity and kind of maintaining everything from there.
KD: How much coaching comes into that exact process, right? Because everyone's gonna use a system in their own unique way. But how much hand-holding, or how much training or coaching goes into having your clients leverage the tools in that sort of process?
BK: Plenty. I would say it comes up a lot. Usually it's kind of that division of, you know, are we working a person at this point or are we working on an account? And it's really gonna come down to how heavily are you communicating with an individual to kind of gather information. And that's gonna be all your prospecting activity. And how much are you kind of, working with the team more broadly in identifying solutions. That's gonna be your company levels. So, yeah, we do have to teach on that a little bit. I think people, different businesses, will come in account based marketing or sales strategy. They might be pulling company names first and then finding the contacts. But really you're working the person from the beginning. Until you know that that quality is the way that, you know, at the level that it should be you're really gonna be working just people from that point.
KD: Sure. It makes sense. What would you say is the distinction between having someone migrate systems and now they need an audit of the data that being migrated, versus legacy use of this system, but they just formed bad habits, versus somebody trying to build a practice from the ground up. Do you play in all 3 of those realms? If not, or if so, what do you see as the big differences there as the service provider.
BK: Yeah, so we're just trying to find the right long term solutions for our clients. So, I mean, it's depending on what the sort of makeup of the sales process is going to be. For example, people end up being a lot more comfortable with like, NetSuite or they might have an ERP or something like that in their infrastructure already. Usually they have that paired with sales force. We don't wanna shake up that whole process because warehousing and supply chain management and all that stuff and, you know, that's a whole other beast that goes outside of just the sales process, right? So fulfillment, we don't really play in that category and we don't want to disrupt that. So we try to, in those settings, you know, work within the legacy environment as much as we can and just point out areas where it's like "This wasn't defined right." Or, you know, "You need to have your values kinda parsed out in a different way." And as much as can, doing some additive work rather than corrective work. 'Cause it's much easier to just pick something up new and maybe have somebody be like "Oh, here's an extra check-box to check while you're going through you thing." Then there's to say, "You did it that way."
KD: "Now you're doing it this way."
BK: Yeah, "We're gonna shift it."
KD: What's an example of an additive piece that you've done for a client? Like, what would that look like?
BK: Yeah, any sort of, so we introduce it usually and HubSpot fortunately does this automatically. We introduce tracking for, like, the became-dates we call them. So the became a lead, became an MQL.
KD: Oh, very cool. Yeah, right.
BK: We also introduce an SAL stage as a middle mark because we are sometimes doing appointment setting or, like, pre-qualification. And then SQL, et cetera. So we introduce those date stamps and we leverage obviation so that as a sales rep is going in and updating their activity they're saying "Hey, this is the latest pass, you know. We set a meeting. Okay, let's mark that date-stamp. Let's update that life-cycle stage." And that's all just going to happen in the background. And it adds a lot to the reporting side. But it doesn't really shake up the sales-user experience. On the other side of that, you know, sometimes people will be approaching lead status in the way that they would approach sort of a life-cycle stage.
KD: Sure. The confusion as to the distinction between the two basically? Yeah.
BK: Yeah, so if you're going in, and I'm a sales rep and I'm coming into my system and I'm saying "Hey, what do I have to do today?" You wanna work backward from your furthest priority, furthest part of your sale, back to the coldest people, right? And that's gonna be mostly activity based. So you wanna say "Okay, who do I need to do my second-pass follow up with? Who do I need to do my first pass?" You know, something like that. And lead status is really gonna be more effective defined as an activity based sort of sequence, then it is going to be, you know, how qualified is this person? And that's gonna be really effective, especially is your hiring new sales teams and sales team members and scaling up. It's really easy for them to be like, "What do I have to do next?" Then it is for them to understand, really, fully like, is this person qualified or not? It's just a more difficult, kind of definition there if you have less experienced employees.
KD: Sure, yeah. So I mean, the long and short of it, it's not even just auditing how they're using the data or how their information is structured in the CRM. But it sounds like there's also a piece of sales consultancy as well.
KD: Because you have to align those 2 to eventually just reach the maximum impact on some of this reporting.
BK: Yeah, the way that we usually kinda close the deals on these systems audits is we say, "Hey, listen. We're not talking about, you know, shaking up your data and just giving you some new dashboards", right? That's kind of what the take-away is but really we're talking about building on user-experience for your sales team. And kind of retraining and building understanding. It's an educational process, much as it is a delivery of the final
KD: The final output being a dashboard.
KD: That makes sense. Talking about the dashboard actually, let's just assume in this hypothetical scenario the audit is going really well. All of the data feels really good. The sales process aligns with how the data is supposed to be inputed and used, et cetera. What are some of the most successful, or most impactful reports that your team has been able to put together? Like, what are some of your favorite reports that clients seem to really enjoy or love.
BK: Yeah. It depends on who you're talking to. So I mean, your VP of sales is going to really be interested in monitoring activity. Monitoring production, per rep. So breaking out activity types and then the results for those activities. And doing groupings based on, depending on how big the team is, by territories or something like that. If you're talking about your VP of marketing or even your, like your CRO. They're definitely going to be interested in attribution reporting. So in Salesforce you gotta do a lot of work I think to find some of those fields. We actually found one of the most competent combinations of platforms is Salesforce with HubSpot. Because HubSpot is so proficient at detecting inbound sources and things like that. More so than, you know, maybe part on or something like that. So that's a really powerful combination. And then obviously HubSpot and standalone is more than capable of doing that. But you do have to do a lot of, you know, upfront work with sales force in defining the value sets. Making sure those mappings are correct and doing all of that sort of stuff. HubSpot is great with it's newer attribution reporting that it introduced. So in professional you have those contact attribution reports that are looking, more specifically, not just at the sources but also the content types. And having not just first touch, but multi-touch attribution. Which those models have been killer. Any time we bring those up people are like "Oh, I didn't even know that." And then at the enterprise level obviously you're getting that dollar level out of it with the revenue attribution. So that's definitely been a game changer. We've been looking more closely at that and trying to upsell our current customer base on, you know, "Hey, take a second look at these reports because it's all done for you." You can kinda answer that question really quickly of, you know, where do we put our marketing dollars?
KD: Yeah, one hundred percent. No, you're spot on. I only have like, one or two questions for you. The first one of these being, let's just say I'm an agency or service provider or partner listening in, and the light bulb has gone off. Being like "Man, I don't do enough data consultancy or, like, any data audits of my clients." What's the easiest place or how should I, like, get started if I wanna fold that into my practice.
BK: Sure. I would say, before you get started with anything, you don't really need to be a tech wizard to do those sorts of things. 'Cause usually a lot of what people need is they just need a pointer on, like, what's the plan going to be. And the way that we structure them, we have 3 phases that we always, you know, abide by. We have our planning and sort of approval phase. So we're gonna do that review of your data set and everything. Make sure we have the definitions right, make sure we understand everything.
KD: How much time do you think that takes? Like what is the average time commitment for that sort of?
BK: I'd say, so we usually break it out into weeks. Because you get variables. I mean, I've walked into a client where they had, literally, like 400 custom fields they had put into their schema for like an accounts object in their sales force. So that took a long time to dig through. But typically it's gonna be about a week. Let's say, you spend 10 hours each week, right? Your planning phase is gonna take 1 to 2 weeks. Your implementation phase is gonna take another week. And then your sort of, roll out and training phase. You can probably do that across a week. If you wanna bundle some, like, training videos or something like that. But as we said, you know, it's gonna be really related to behavioral training and user experience.
KD: So that's the difference between implementation and roll-out? Roll-out is behavioral training. The implementation is actually, what, applying the recommended changes?
BK: Yeah, it's technical. Like creating new fields and changing value sets and things like that. So we introduce in those 3 phases, so, if you have kind of an understanding of like, "Okay. As we're doing this we wanna minimize risk as much as we can." that's gonna keep you out of hot water. It's gonna keep you aligned with your clients expectations, along the way. And I'd say that's the first look. Is just making sure that you have clear communication, you have documentation of your change logs, and everything that you're making as well. Because if anything gets disrupted you wanna go back and try to undo that as quickly as you can to help anybody.
KD: Where do you guys track that?
BK: We usually just use a spreadsheet that we monitor along the way. But we also use project management tools. We recently have been on Asana which worked well enough. We recently also implemented Mavenlink. We're currently in transition right now and our team is moving over there. But Mavenlink is really great in terms of getting that extra element of budgeting and things like that. Our CFO loves it.
KD: I was gonna say, do you use time-tracking in Mavenlink as well?
BK: Yeah, we do, we do. It's a little bit different. We were doing Asana with, like, a combination of Toggl. Or some people I know have been using, like, Harvest and things like that for a while. But yeah, it's a little bit different because in Maven you have, like, time-sheets. Yeah so, sorry, back to the original question, I think was what, you know, recommendation can we give. You know, really nail down the plan. Set the expectations. Be really communicative along the way, and get upfront approvals on everything. Just make sure that you're talking to the right person. You know, a VP of sales might be like, "Hey, this is what we wanna see. Can you introduce this and, like, add this field?" and things like that. And it might be, you know, an operations person who kind of has been working in the background, maybe as a, you know, part-time admin.
KD: The person that makes the request doesn't necessarily—
BK: —then he's gonna be like "Whoa, whoa whoa!"
KD: Yeah, right.
BK: Yeah, so you don't want to interrupt any work flows and things like that. But as long as you kind of stick to those phases and make sure you're planning up front, I'd say that's probably the best place to start. Yeah.
KD: Perfect. Final question. So we ask this, we close every episode with this. Not related to the topic at hand, what is the weirdest part of agency life?
BK: Oh. The weirdest part of agency life I would say.. Ooh man, that's a stuffer. The weirdest part of agency life is just making sure that you can balance your time and deal with fires. And also make time for the structured stuff that you have in your regular ongoing projects.
KD: Sure, yeah. The push and pull of reactive versus proactive.
BK: Yeah, yeah. So, talking about project management, we have adopted sort of a Frankenstein version of a Sprint model, an agile model. And we have a set block of hours that we just reserve and keep on the side as kind of, flex-hours. And then we have our set hours that are more structured for certain projects and things like that. And it takes a while and it's an ongoing process but if you can stick with that and you can kind of, keep that balance and everything and make sure you have certain time for client billable work. Certain time for ongoing research, and then certain time for kind of, internal innovation projects and things like that. And you might divide that up by team. That's something that's a little bit different but it's something that's really important, because as agencies if we're doing advising we gotta be at the forefront of the knowledge on everything.
KD: Yeah, no. You have to have time for those innovation type projects. The research. Yeah, that's a great answer. Cool, well that's it for me man. Thanks so much for coming, coming on. But this has been Agency Unfiltered.
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