The Dip & the Myth of the “Failed Implementation”

I’m noticing a trend.

People hate their implementation partners.

On at least a weekly basis, a prospective customer or a Salesforce AE with a red account will come to me with a story of a “failed implementation.”

“We implemented 6 months ago, and we’re barely even using it.”

…they say, with an implied (or sometimes direct) accusation against their implementation partner.

I nod gravely, affirming their tale of woe.

But honestly — a ”failed implementation” isn’t always to blame for the current state of affairs.

What a REAL Fail Look Like

Don’t get me wrong.  There are plenty of shitty implementation partners in the ecosystem.  But the basic Pardot stand up tasks are… well, pretty basic. When I audit other consultants’ implementations, sometimes I see:

  • Incomplete configuration
  • Sloppy/rushed builds
  • Inconsistent set up

…but most often I just see a pretty normal Pardot org.  Sometimes with some pretty solid content and campaigns that the customer has built out after the partner moved on.

So why does the client feel like a failure when from a systems perspective everything is good to go?

Introducing the Dip

When companies first onboard with Pardot, they’re psyched and ready to take over the marketing automation universe.

But then… reality hits.

Things aren’t as shiny and sexy as Salesforce said.

Successfully running automated campaigns is hard.

The sales team refuses to call on those gosh darn leads.

No one is contributing content.

They’ve hit what Seth Godin calls the Dip.  Or what some management consulting and Six Sigma people call the “Valley of Despair.”

The dip is that feeling that things aren’t working with the current state of affairs.  You’re frustrated, and you’re not sure if you should fight through it or throw in the towel.

Why People Hit the Dip Post Pardot Implementation

Hitting the dip is not a failure.  If you’re nodding your head and can relate to the above, let me say this again – THIS. IS. NOT. A. FAILURE.

You’re not doing anything wrong.  It’s a natural part of the process.

The most common reasons I see customers struggling to power through the dip is one of these missing ingredients:

  • Clean data
  • Content
  • A champion driving internal support
  • Team bandwidth
  • Technical skills
  • Processes worth automating

Coming Out on the Other Side

Once in a blue moon, when a company hits the dip, it means that Pardot may not have been the right fit.  But much more often, it means it’s time to double down, recommit, and persevere – not jump ship.

I love all my custys, but my favorite companies to work with are those that come to us at this particular moment.  They saw the vision of how their business could be transformed by marketing automation, they made an investment, they took the first steps — and they’re at the point where they’re ready to get serious and take things to the next level.

This is a turning point.  And it’s fun.

Can You Avoid the Dip Altogether?

Honestly?  Probably not entirely.

Not trying to be a Debbie Downer here. There are just natural ups and downs when adopting any new product.

A few things can help make it better and feel less drastic:

1) knowing that it’s coming

2) working with a partner on a managed services/retainer basis to help you rally through it.

…because the other side really is worth it.

2 thoughts on “The Dip & the Myth of the “Failed Implementation””

  1. I agree with you … kind of … I think the expectations of how hard it will be are rarely ever set correctly. When doing Pardot or Marketo or Eloqua onboardings, there are a lot of little technical things that are outside the hands of Sales/MOps teams – like SPF and DKIM records. So after a major internal hurdle to get politcal sign off on the project, you then have a major cross departmental project to get it all setup and hooked up right, THEN you have a damn week of doing UAT and onboarding testing to make sure you did that right (then another week fixing what you just found) … and THEN you get to The Dip. You’ve now got to do the hard work of using this complex machine you finally purchased and setup … I think The Dip is setup fatigue – especially because most folks didn’t understand how hard setup would be.

  2. I agree that the key here is EXPECTATIONS. I understand these days everyone wants quick and very cheap turnarounds but the work needs to be done on both sides for it to be successful. Also communication is huge during the process. The problems we had were that we didn’t know Pardot very well so didn’t know what to expect and were relying on our implementation team to give us some tips on what to expect before we ran into each issue…but instead we seemed to just have to face them after finding the issue which meant a lot of wasted time and effort. Live and learn I guess.

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