Exploring The “Grand Central Station” Marketing Analogy (And More) With Erin Koschei From Laerdal Medical [AMP 163]

Is your marketing workflow bogged down with urgent requests, inefficient software/systems, undocumented processes, and manual tasks that could be automated? How can marketing leaders implement work management solutions to help high-performing teams, especially when it’s a matter of life or death? Today’s guest is Erin Koschei, digital marketer at Laerdal Medical. Erin describes how to efficiently and effectively manage the "Grand Central Station" marketing analogy.  

Some of the highlights of the show include:
  • Resusci Anne: Laerdal Medical creates, manufactures, and sells resuscitation mannequins and medical simulation trainers
  • Saving More Lives: No one should die or be disabled unnecessarily
  • Grand Central Station: Laerdal’s marketing teams communicate and collaborate on content campaign components
  • Plan ahead by prioritizing projects based on company goals, initiatives, products, and providing the right information to customers at the right time 
  • Flexible and Supportive Team of Friends: All hands on deck to help when needed
  • CoSchedule: Best option for teams to communicate, plan, get organized, meet deadlines, and increase visibility 
  • S.M.A.R.T. Success: Set specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals that show value contributed by teams and individuals to stakeholders 
If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

Exploring The “Grand Central Station” Marketing Analogy (And More) With Erin Koschei From Laerdal Medical

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You’re listening to the Actionable Marketing Podcast powered by CoSchedule, the only way to organize your marketing in one place, helping marketers stay focused, deliver projects on time, and keep their entire marketing team happy. Nathan: I recently stumbled across an article from analyst firm, Gartner, about marketing work management. In it, the author says, “Marketing’s daunting workload is bursting with urgent request, inefficient systems, undocumented processes, and lack of automation. Marketing leaders can implement marketing work management processes and solutions to increase efficiency, effectiveness, visibility, and control to obtain high performance teams.” Marketing work management is an interesting topic to me, especially as I hear more and more marketers who act as internal marketing agencies for their larger business units. Sometimes, we may think of ourselves as Grand Central Station of sorts for marketing work. Managing that work efficiently can be intimidating, unless you embrace processes and collaborate well across the entire marketing organization. That’s why we’re chatting with Erin Koschei today on the Actionable Marketing Podcast. Erin is the Digital Marketer at Laerdal Medical, an enterprise that may be best known for its resuscitation mannequins, among many other product lines which you can hear from Erin in a little bit here. Today, Erin is peeling back the curtains so that we can understand their marketing processes, get a little deeper glimpse into how the marketing team works together at Laerdal and how they plan ahead. I’m Nathan from CoSchedule. Now let’s get AMPed with Erin. Hey, Erin. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today. Erin: Hey, thanks for having me, Nathan. Nathan: Thank you for being here. Let’s just start this off by telling me a little bit about Laerdal Medical. Erin: Laerdal Medical is a company that creates, manufactures, and sells a variety of different resuscitation mannequins and medical simulation trainers. At Laerdal, first and foremost our mission is really helping same lives. That’s at the heart of everything that we do. Our vision is just that we believe that no one should die or be disabled unnecessarily during birth or from sudden illness, trauma, or medical errors. Essentially, that’s the reason that we make all the products that we do because we want healthcare professionals and the healthcare community to be able to train the best that they can so that when they’re faced with a situation where a real patient is in trouble, they know what to do and they’re ready to take action. If you or any of the listeners have ever taken a CPR course, you might have used a Resusci Anne and that’s one of our products. That’s probably the most recognizable for the common person. That’s Laerdal. Nathan: Actually, I do think that I have used that mannequin when I took a CPR course. Such a small world. Erin: Yeah and if you’ve ever listened to the Michael Jackson song, Annie Are You Okay, that’s about us. Nathan: Oh? Well, that is a really fun fact, I would say. It sounds like it would be pretty fun working for Laerdal. The mission to save lives feels like a really feel good thing and you guys are obviously doing some really great works there. I’m curious then. What does a day in the life of the digital marker look like at Laerdal? Erin: My day-to-day, as I’m sure many digital marketers’ day-to-days are, really varies. Some days I might be doing one thing, some days I might be doing another. It really depends on what my team as a whole is working on. My supervisor likes to say that the digital marketing team is like Grand Central Station. Everything comes through us and we have our hands in all these different places. Personally, I tend to focus a lot of my time on our social media strategy. I also collaborate with our content team, design web pages, email campaigns, and I’m the admin for our CoSchedule calendars. Nathan: Very fun and good reason to be chatting with you today, Erin. I love that analogy of Grand Central Station. Would you mind explaining that to me a little bit more? Do you guys field a lot of requests or what does that look like? Erin: The way that our team is set up is that we have an overall marketing team that’s about 20 people. Then, it’s broken down into a digital team which is myself and 3 other people. We have a content team and we have several products teams that really sink their teeth into particular product lines and focus a lot on marketing those products. About half of our marketing team might be super focused on a particular product. My team has their hands sort of in all of the products and all of the campaigns. It can be anything from a resuscitation mannequin, to a patient simulator campaign, to something that’s 100% content awareness fund campaign to events. All of those requests come through us and we help bring the campaign ideas to life. Nathan: That’s really fun. I’m curious about the way that that flow works. Does it start with the product team and then go to content or digital? Or maybe could you walk me through what a workflow looks like? I’m very curious. Erin: Generally, how it works is whoever the campaign initiator is will have a kick-off meeting and pulling all stakeholders. For us, a stakeholder in a campaign could be anyone from our Director of Marketing, to someone writing a content piece to an article, to our video guy who’s making a video, to the digital team, and then maybe some of the product marketers that might be involved further along the line. We all come together, kick off the campaign, figure out what components are part of that, and assign that to individual stakeholders involved. Nathan: Campaign initiator, I love that term. I was wondering where do the ideas for those campaigns come from? Is that from that initiator or is that someone outside of marketing? How does that look? Erin: We tend to enter the year with a plan in mind. Our plans might be based on product launches that we know are coming up or particular topics that we know our customers are really interested in, that we want to dig deeper into, and provide good learning resources for them, or it might be when an event is coming up. We try to have a good idea of what our year looks like laid out before the year begins and that dictates the campaigns that we then work on. Nathan: We got a little bit off-script from some of the questions I wanted to ask you, but maybe that’s a good tie-back into a project prioritization. I know you mentioned that you’ve got the different projects that go through Grand Central Station and then get it divvied out among those stakeholders in the kick-off meeting. How does that look like even before the kick-off meeting? Like the prioritization of those projects. Could you fill me in on that process? Erin: You’ll have to forgive me my answer for this will probably be pretty short and top-level because I’m not super involved in that process, but I can tell you a little bit. Like I mentioned, we try to have a good plan for the year in mind when we start, and for 2020 that’s coming up in less than two months, so we’re starting to plan for the next year now. Really, how we prioritize projects that comes to what are our company goals, what are the initiatives that we have coming up for the next year, how can we best support not just ourselves but the company overall in our mission, and getting the right information to our customers at the right time. Nathan: That’s a great answer if you ask me. Thanks for that and yeah, it makes sense. That’s on someone else’s radar, so to say, but that seems like a very good answer to that question. Prioritize based on goals and initiatives for the year. I love it. Along with that, it sounds like you guys do a really good job about being proactive. Looking at 2020 in advance, that is awesome. Your whole career ahead of that year, too. I assume that, if you’re like some other companies out there, there comes this point where there’s some urgent request or, “Hey, can I get this now? How do you guys balance some of those things? Like balancing that urgent work with your prioritized or planned projects? Erin: At the end of the day, plans are just plans. They’re not always reality. I think we always have to keep that in mind as a team. Sometimes, work shifts, priorities change, something more urgent may come to light, and when that happens, our team tends to be really flexible when those urgent matters arise. What’s good is we all actually like each other and we like to support each other. When something urgent comes up, it’s really all hands on deck to be able to meet whatever request is or shift campaigns around, to work on whatever what’s more urgent and help each other to get the work done. Nathan: Nice. I really like that. A team of friends, so to say, huh? Erin: Yeah. Nathan: It’s so fun coming to work every morning when it’s like that. Erin: It does, yeah. We like each other. Nathan: You mentioned this earlier. Since we’re talking about your team, 20 people across the marketing team, but your on the digital side, correct? Erin: Yes, I’m on the digital team and that is support people. Nathan: What kind of roles are on that team? Erin: We have a supervisor of our team and he’s the senior digital and technology manager, I believe. I am a digital marketer. We have a digital and events marketer who really focuses a lot on the digital marketing side of events, and then we have the digital marketing designer on the team and he really focuses on how everything that we put out looks and works. Nathan: Makeshift marketing is the hacked together mass of generic task management tools and marketing-specific software that simply doesn’t integrate or connect well together. It just doesn’t work well together. It usually leads to an inevitable spreadsheet or five, to coordinate all the moving parts of marketing. That typically ends up in one person knowing how the spreadsheet works, but no one else really does, meaning that that document becomes outdated and inaccurate very quickly. At CoSchedule, it’s our mission to end makeshift marketing. CoSchedule is a family of agile marketing products that help you complete more work, deliver projects on time, improve your value. If you’d like advice on how to improve your team’s work processes, our blog is a really helpful resource for all things marketing work management, project management, and beyond. So, check out the blog at coschedule.com/blog. Now, let’s get back to the show with Erin. You had mentioned that there’s a content team. Do projects flow through you or that team? How does that collaboration work? Erin: We work really closely together. We actually have a bi-weekly meeting time where we start every other Friday. We just have an hour where we can hash things out together and brainstorm together. Our content team is two people. There’s the content marketing manager and then our content marketer. Between the two of them, they really produce most of our articles, ebooks, checklists and all that kind of stuff. Nathan: Nice. That’s great that you guys make sure that there’s an avenue for communication between teams and that’s really smart. So, content marketing in writing articles, does that work flow into you guys? Through you, the digital marketer, and then to your designer? Or are they pretty self-sufficient over there? Erin: It depends on the type of content. Let’s say it’s a web article, like a blog. We have a job request system in place. They would put in a request in the system with the content already written and with the design of the blog that they have in mind. Then, the digital team will take the words and make it the web page. Our CMS isn’t like the WordPress kind where it’s easy for someone to log in and do it themselves, so we support them in that way. Nathan: Nice. That makes sense. The request goes back to Grand Central Station, right? Erin: Yup. Nathan: Excellent. Let’s just talk about your team, specifically, digital marketing. How often do you guys meet and collaborate together? Do you do actual scrums in the morning or stand-ups? What does that look like? Erin: We all sit right next to each other. If we need to chat, everyone is right there. Formally, we have every week, an hour set aside to just come together and talk about what each of us individually are working on, what our priorities are, if there’s a way that we can support each other, things like that. We also have individual time with our managers to go over more of the little details. Since we’re all right next to each other, it tends to be more of an organic collaboration than a scheduled time. Ethan: Nice. I like it. That probably just goes back to your point that you guys are pretty tight or you mentioned that you guys are friends. That probably makes for the communication pretty easy and open. Erin: Yeah. Nathan: One of the things that I wanted to ask you about, Erin, is that at CoSchedule, we’re nerds and we did some research on marketers and how organized they are. We found out that marketers who are organized are more successful. That was in a report that our friend, Ben, did on our team called, The State of Agile Marketing Management and Strategy. I was wondering if you could let me know a little bit about your process there. What do you find is the best way to help your team to get on track or on task and hit those project deadlines? Erin: That was actually one of the reasons that we ended up going with CoSchedule as a tool. We had sort of been using CoSchedule as a team. I started at Laerdal about 2½ years ago now and when I started, we weren’t using CoSchedule at all. We onboarded it maybe two or three months later and then between then and April of this year—a year-and-a-half—the team was kind of using it but not really. We realized earlier this year that we had a lot of different Excel sheets and avenues for communication, some things are here, somethings are there, and that’s obviously not the most organized approach for planning our communication. We basically re-onboarded all of our team onto CoSchedule and came up with a plan for getting everyone in there more, putting everything on the calendar, and using it more proactively for planning. That’s really helped us increase visibility a lot and also just get more organized. I would say it’s hard for any marketer to be 100% organized, but using CoSchedule has probably been the number one way that we’ve been able to increase organization across the team. Nathan: Nice. That’s really exciting to hear, obviously, from my perspective. One of the things that you have mentioned was just increasing visibility. Can you walk me through that? Was that something that you were wanting for your own team? Visibility into just what other people are doing? Or was that for stakeholders outside of digital marketing? Why is that important for you? Erin: Being on the digital team, I had the benefit of seeing a wider deal of what was going on across our whole department in terms of marketing, but not everyone on the team had that benefit. There were people who were very much in their area of marketing. They were very focused on that, but they might not have been able to see what people in other areas of the team are working on. At the very least, adding all of our projects into CoSchedule has allowed the team to be able to say, “Hey, I might be working on this campaign, but I can see that my teammate is working on this and this email is going this day.” That might influence when I want to contact a similar customer group with my own messaging. It’s just helped people see that there’s more going on than what’s in their world and to be able to plan a little bit better. Nathan: Yeah, definitely makes sense to me. It might be even connected to my last question for you here today, Erin. I was just wondering about measurement or showing your value. How do you show value of what your team is up to the leadership and stakeholders? How do you go about literally showing that? Erin: I may have mentioned earlier that one of the things that’s important to us is really tying back what we do to our overarching company goals. They don’t differ much annually, but we take a look at them every year and they’re sort of reset every year. Once we know what the company goals are, we’re able to set our goals as marketers and make sure that what we’re doing ties into those. That’s really the first way that we help to show our value and show that the work that we’re doing matters by tying into the company goals. We also like to use the SMART goal methodology, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, and SMART goals are measurable. With a SMART goal, you always want to make sure that you’re setting your goal to be something that can be measured at the end. We’ll often set a goal and say, “We want to, for example, increase awareness by increasing web traffic to a specific page by 10%, let’s say.” That way, at the end we can take a look and say, “Over the time period that this campaign was running, did we meet that metric that we set for ourselves?” Debriefing is really important to us and it’s important from a marketing perspective, but it’s also something that we really preach to our customers. When they’re doing a simulation in the medical world, it’s great to do that, but at the end of the debrief is just as important because you want to talk about what you did right and what you didn’t do right so that you can improve next time. For us we like to bring that into marketing and take a look at a campaign once it’s over. Did we need our goals? What went well? What didn’t? How can we learn from [...] and do better next time? Nathan: That’s a great advice and a great place to end this episode. Erin, I just want to say thank you so much for being here today and for sharing all of this with us. This was great. Erin: Great. Thanks, Nathan. Subscribe to the Actionable Marketing Podcast
About the Author

Nathan is the Head of Content & SEO at SimpleTexting. He's a demand generation enthusiast, content marketing advocate, and team player. He enjoys spending time with family and friends, running ultra marathons, and canoeing in the Boundary Waters in Minnesota. Connect with Nathan on LinkedIn.