Driving Growth by Leveraging Strategic Demand & Change Management

The NWEA Case Study

Nov 22, 2021 12:00 pm12:30 PM EST


Find out how not-for-profit organization, NWEA, leaned on an orchestrated change management approach to turn their challenges with tracking results, a disconnected tech stack, and a fragmented lead qualification framework into a sophisticated demand generation engine that provided an 87% increase in total opportunity pipeline value for new business...all in less than a year.

BWG Connect, Adobe & ANNUITAS invite you to participate in an interactive discussion with your peers to discuss shaping the future of eCommerce through Digital Transformation.

As always, there will be no sales pitches and there is no cost to join.

Discussion Topics

  • How do you begin the change management journey - How do you make it an organizational priority 
  • How do you identify risks and implement appropriate strategies 
  • Addressing challenges around tracking results 
  • Driving ROI through implementation for change management 
  • The NWEA Case Study

Event Partners

Guest Speaker

Jennifer Harmel

COO & Principal at ANNUITAS

Jennifer Harmel is the Chief Operating Officer and Principal at ANNUITAS, a company that empowers businesses to drive predictable, sustainable sales growth through Digital Demand Transformation. She leads the strategy and technology practice areas at ANNUITAS, ensuring that teams build best-in-class solutions for global enterprises and high-growth technology companies. Jennifer has over twenty-five years of experience in driving Demand Generation efforts for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies in the US and Europe to governmental agencies and small start-ups.

Crystal Miller

Sr. Director, Demand Generation at NWEA

Crystal Miller is the Senior Director of Demand Generation at NWEA, a research-based, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators worldwide by creating assessment solutions that precisely measure growth and proficiency. She leads Demand marketing with a responsibility for driving business growth and educational impact in partnership with sales. Crystal’s marketing career spans 15 years across the education and technology industries, serving in acquisition marketing and leadership roles at KinderCare Education and Tripwire before joining NWEA.

Event Moderator

Aaron Conant

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution. BWG has built an exclusive network of 125,000+ senior professionals and hosts over 2,000 virtual and in-person networking events on an annual basis.

Please enter your information below to request a copy of the post-event written summary or recording.

Event Information

Nov 22, 2021 12:00 pm - 12:30 PM EST

Event format

Roundtable Layout
Featuring 20+ executives, where everyone can contribute, ask questions and learn from peers
On-Topic Discussions
Q&A format, moderated by BWG Connect with group interaction throughout
Make Connections
Opportunities to network before and after


What is BWG Connect?

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution. BWG has built an exclusive network of 125,000+ senior professionals and hosts over 2,000 virtual and in-person networking events on an annual basis.

Key Discussion Takeaways

Does your business struggle with nailing down your perfect buyer and tracking your digital marketing results with a disjointed tech stack and a dysfunctional or nonexistent lead qualification process? NWEA, a not-for-profit organization, was once like you until they embarked on a Digital Demand Transformation journey using the change management approach.

Their efforts paid off. And within a year, they recorded over 50% increase in the quality and quantity of their leads, driving new business opportunities and growth. Ready to find out how NWEA leveraged strategic demand and change management to potentially do the same for your business?

In this virtual event, Aaron Conant is joined by Jennifer Harmel, Chief Operating Officer and Principal at ANNUITAS, and Crystal Miller, Senior Director of Demand Generation at NWEA, to discuss change management and Digital Demand Transformation. They highlight the challenges that made NWEA require change management, the five steps they implemented, and their results one year later.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Jennifer Harmel and Crystal Miller talk about why NWEA needed ANNUITAS
  • How NWEA began its Digital Demand Transformation journey
  • Why strategy and content experience is crucial
  • Solving content and channel performance tracking issues
  • Optimizing for ROI through change management
  • Getting your team to embrace change management
  • Crystal shares the Digital Demand Transformation results NWEA experienced

Discussion Transcription

Aaron Conant 0:18

Happy Monday, everybody. My name is Aaron Conant. I'm the Co-founder, Managing Director of BWG Connect. And we're a networking and knowledge sharing group with 1000s of brands who do exactly that we network and knowledge share together to stay on top of the newest trends, strategies, pain points, whatever it might be, that are shaping the digital landscape as a whole, I connect with 20 Plus organizations each week to stay on top of the newest trends, strategies, pain points that people are trying to solve for. And when the same topics come up over and over again, we host an event like this. So a couple housekeeping items, before we get started. Number one, you have any questions along the way, drop into the chat drop into the q&a section, or you can always email it to me Aaron Aaron@BWGConnect.com in the the other thing is, you know, we're starting just you know, three to four minutes after the hour here, we're trying to wrap up at least a minute to go before the end give you time to get on here 1230 without being late, without we're going to go ahead and kick it off. You know, change management, you know, is a very interesting space. And it's almost like this, like cliche that people start using left and right all over the place. And there's a lot of questions around what is it? What does it mean organizations that are doing it? Well? How do we handle this as a whole as an organization. And so we got some great friends, partners, supporters of the network with Jennifer and Crystal, and we're gonna go ahead, you know, Jennifer, I'll kick it over to you. If you want to do a brief intro on yourself in the organization. Then we'll tailor Crystal, and then we'll kind of you know, jump into the content here as a whole. Does that sound good?

Jennifer Harmel 1:46

Sounds great. So hi, everybody. I'm Jennifer Harmel. Happy Thanksgiving week. Thanks for joining in on what is it a short bit lovely week, I cannot wait for Thanksgiving. And I am the Chief Operating Officer and one of the Principals at ANNUITAS. And we are we're a little bit unusual in that we're part consulting firm. But we also consider ourselves a bit of a tech implementer as well as a digital agency. And so we work with clients just like NWEA and Crystal Miller here. We're going to dive into the details there. But we've been working with Crystal in her organization over the last couple of years across all of those facets and I'm really excited for her to share with you the fantastic phenomenal job she did and driving the change management workstream in NWEA, which was a huge factor in making her her program successful.

Crystal Miller 2:38

Yeah, hey, everybody, I'm Crystal Miller, I'm the Senior Director of Demand Generation and NWEA. I've been with the organization now for four years in multiple capacities. And I'm excited to share our story, today's it definitely an orchestration. So Jennifer is kind and complimentary, that it was a team effort across our teams, you know, outside perspectives, etc. And I'm really looking forward to kind of diving into into those details. You know, we're, I'm here today to share with you about our case, study our journey, our approach. And I really do hope in our short time together today that you'll take away a few things that you're going to find useful in your own journey, journey around that strategic demand initiatives and, and probably most importantly, the change management that goes along as a part of that journey. Before we before we dive in, I just I know, Jennifer talked a little bit about ANNUITAS. But I wanted to also give you a little background about NWEA who we are and what we do. So we're a research based not for profit organization, and we support students and educators worldwide. Our mission literally is to partner to help all kids learn. And so we do that by offering solutions. We do assessments, personalized learning, learning and improvement services. And we also provide curriculum and instructional connections that use our data to really help guide students growth and proficiency. And at the end of the day, what NWEA does so well is provides this ecosystem where educators can make these really confident decisions around ultimately improved equitable outcomes for students. So it's such a great mission to be a part of, and it was a pleasure doing the work to help drive business growth for this organization. Before we actually talk about the approach and some of our successes, let's back up, rewind two years ago, and talk about some of the key challenges that we went we're going into Now there were there were more than three challenges. I'll tell I'll give you that. These were some of the big ones. Our team at NWEA at the time we were really struggling to consistently track and understand which one of those marketing investments were committing to close one revenue, we have a ton of content, a large library with marketers and sales we do a lot of in person well, more virtual events these days, and lots of other multiple marketing channels in the mix. But it was very difficult for us at the time to predictively drive up, understand what was driving growth was kind of an unattainable goal for us, actually, at that time, and it just required so many hours of analysis to to understand what was working and what wasn't. We also were kind of operating under a fragmented less than ideal lead qualification framework. So what that really means is that every single inbound inquiry that that we were generating as a marketing team was being passed to sales, regardless of the quality and I'm sure many of you have been there before. Now, in addition to that, we had a pretty disjointed technology stack. So at any moment, there really was no guarantee about which data in one system or the other was most up to date, and which view was accurate. And so what that meant for us both marketing and sales is that we didn't have that visibility that we really needed to understand the journey that we were on and the journey that our buyers were on. So, again, not knowing which investments were generating leads that were most likely to convert a, you know, either to opportunity, let alone close one. So those were some of our biggest challenges at the time. And of course, you know, with with that has impact so not knowing which of your marketing dollars, was having the most success and effort could could ultimately end up being wasted dollars. Uh, well, same for sales, you know, working every single inquiry that comes to you is not necessarily going to drive impact. And I'm sure again, you know, that, um, and then, of course, no source of truth for data. So in today's 1520 minutes time, I'm going to boil it down to five steps we all know it's complete is not that simple. But, um, what we'll talk about and share, Jennifer and I, kind of the big buckets, or the big bodies of work that allowed us to be successful moving from strategy to implementation. in business and in life volts, I can speak to both of these, but I'll talk about business today.

You need an objective consultative position. And so, three years ago, we were at a crossroads road. And we all knew that we wanted to accelerate the growth, we want to know what levers were, were really driving that and we needed to get better alignment cells. So at that time, we brought ANNUITAS in to really helped guide us with their third party insights and perspective. They facilitated us through workshops through the strategy and implementation and brought expertise along the way, alongside our team, which, which really, you know, again, a partnership it takes, it takes everyone to kind of float, float to the top. And so we set off and we focused on getting strong alignment. And one of the first steps we did as a team was really, we spent a lot of time quite honestly, if I if I had to, if I had to say one thing about mapping an entire buyer journey, it's worth it. Getting the strategy work through in a really comprehensive way. Particularly since many of our teams internally hadn't work together like this before. We needed to spend the time together, step by step, understanding the journey, hearing each other's perspectives, and observing kind of that observing and developing a new respect, quite frankly, for each other's expertise and function internally with the facilitation of these workshops. So like I said, we map the entire buyers journey. And that framework really did ground was grounded in by research and a lot of qualitative interviews outside and inside Industry Insights. And it allowed us to develop the foundation for that for our next three to four steps. Again, I would I would just emphasize, never understand your estimate that value of spending the time just doing the strategy alone, it really helps with with the implementation phase, and I'll talk a little bit more about that in a second. So once we completed that buyers journey, we set out to align content that would address all the audience segments and the stages of that buyers journey. Now our Content experience was created. And it was based on three conversation nurture tracks. And those were aligned to three tiers of buyer segments. Now, behind the scenes, the logic and the experience that a buyer has, with these tracks is personalized. And it's based on behavioral response across multiple digital channels. And so it was built so that US NWEA could both measure and track every touchpoint along that journey. Now, this visual, you know, it's not readable at all, but it will give you a sense of the number of content pieces, our team developed in order to meet the needs of that program. The good news at is at NWEA, we have no shortage of content at all. So this was actually not one of our own challenges. Luckily for us, in this in this key step. So step one, and step two, you know, a part of that process, then we built on in this strategy phase and dug in. And, you know, looking at how we develop logic and strategy in order to improve our lead qualification process. So we use progressive profiling, again, that multi channel touch point tracking that allowed us to see activity throughout the buyers journey and a scoring model behind it all to really ensure that our qualified lead warm, and are qualified lead hots, that eventually got assigned to our lead development rep. were indeed qualified and ready to do that as a sales accepted opportunity that got passed to our sales team. Jennifer, is there anything you want to add? Here are two?

Jennifer Harmel 11:50

Yeah, yeah, I was just about to interject there. The one thing that I would add, I'd say, I'd say step two, and step three, working in tandem. So all of that great content, and then having a lead qualification process. Really, we think of the model is perpetual, right. So it might look like a ton of content, but the thing that you have to remember is that people can come into the conversation at any point, they can leave the conversation, they can go backwards, they can leapfrog forward. And so you have to have a lot of content ready and served up to meet them wherever they are. And so like I said, between the content and the scoring model that allowed us together with a tech stack that we're going to talk about here in a minute, that allowed Crystal and her team to have visibility into exactly where people were, in their process, right, by what kind of content? Have they digested? What was their underlying score? And so that, again, it was truly a perpetual engine and not something that you are constantly having to, you know, add new content or come up with fresh content every week or every month.

Aaron Conant 13:01

Yeah, thanks. That's so important.

Crystal Miller 13:05

So, so building on top of that, and kind of talking, talking to our marketing, or tech stack, in general, we did make, we made quite a bit of advanced advancement in this space. So you know, we have the logic for the lead management and the progressive profiling defined, we had that robust scoring model that was developed. So then we were able to connect our technology between our website Marketo, and Salesforce in a much more sophisticated way than we had previously. Here, we really leaned in here with ANNUITAS and their team to develop this and to kind of advance in get some technical expertise. Jennifer, you want to add anything here, too? I think this is a

Jennifer Harmel 13:51

yeah, this is your I mean, you guys had a great tech stack to start with, right? You had Marketo and Salesforce, and they were talking to each other. But we made like you said, we made advancements to that to solve your number one problem was your inability to track what was working and what wasn't, right. And so now today, because of the process and the underlying tech stack that is fairly sophisticated, you're able to see exactly which channel is performing and what's not down to the level of which content piece on which channel is performing the best. So now you have some very, very sophisticated reporting that is enabling NWEA to make those constant tweaks to the program to improve it.

Crystal Miller 14:40

Yeah, absolutely. I know our team. Our team really enjoys digging you into content performance and channel performance. It's it's fun to be able to make decisions based on based on what's working what's not right. Um, I wanted to save a few minutes here because I think that that Step five is really step one through five in terms of change management, and it was such a pivotal part of, of the, the work that we've done over the last two plus years to to make this a success. Um, you know, these icons and these words, I think, don't do it justice. But if I can unpack this a little bit, what I would say about making this a success is, you know, having the skills and the expertise and, and all of that is so important in on your teams and how you go about doing the work. But I think one of the things that really, really helped us as a organization kind of have the tenacity and do the hard work over a fairly long period of time, is focus on people. You know, the last few years have been what should I say about it, honestly, um, you know, we, it was more than just hard work right, with With so much going on in the world. But we made sure that this wasn't just a marketing initiative, or sales initiative, it was aligned to our overall business growth. And so it was a business than it should have at the end of the day, and not owned by only one department that really helped a lot. We had intentional phases to move from alignment to strategy, alignment of strategy, excuse me, and then to implementation. So over the course of a 12 month period, we had intentional time that focused on strategy alone. And so, you know, sometimes get in the motion of executing or wanting to act, and it really is important when you want to get alignment, and get be quicker to implementation to to spend the time doing the strategy up front, kind of talking through through the research talking through the steps we just went over. So that you can go. So you're not doing a lot of rubs because of misalignment when you're in that implementation phase. And that was, that was a key for us, in terms of, of really, really working the process and making it successful. Some of these are real tactical, but it's so important to remember that consistent weekly work sessions, kind of day in day out, just just putting the time in and being really diligent, I think, breaking things down down into smaller goals, it really, it makes a difference, right? Again, like think about any life goal you want to you want to have breaking it down week by week makes it achievable. And this, this isn't any different. Reviews and communication. So we were really strategic with how we wanted to communicate across the organization and ensure that nobody was guessing what was going on. So we had reviews with our executives, we had reviews with all of our stakeholders, we had weekly leadership meetings. And yeah, it sounds like a lot of meetings, but they were so critical to our success in ensuring that we were all moving together as a very, you know, large core group working on this project across multiple departments. And then like I said, um, you know, the last few years have been more than just, you know, working remotely, it's been, it's been a big change in the world. And so celebration of milestones was key. I found myself many times spending a lot of my effort on focusing on people, and, and kind of building momentum around celebration of where we were and where we're going. And that really, really made a difference in in us being successful. You know, respecting other people's perspective and bringing that in to the conversation, by no means watering down our solutions or our recommendations, but having actually sometimes difficult discussions, and of talking it out and getting down to to where we need to be in order to be aligned.So important.

Aaron Conant 19:10

Any way what I really love, there is like the beginning focus on people and celebration of milestones. Like those go key. Right. So it brings up just a question. I know, we want to get to results, but have questions come with come in, around, you know, getting the right people on board. Yeah. Right. Like how do you get the right people in the organization on board across the board? So hey, you know, it's not just a celebration of the team and celebration for the company.

Crystal Miller 19:36

Yeah, absolutely. I think. I think that's, that's key, you know, people building kind of building alignment is what I think is getting the right people. So, you know, NWEA we we have a culture where people are, are, are very much driven to come work for the organization because we are mission driven and we you know, there's You have a story around education. And so, um, for us, it was really nice to be able to tap into into those, you know, those core values of the people that we work with, and then, you know, where we're getting the right people in terms of expertise, I think this is was an opportunity for us to, to find consultancy with ANNUITAS and where we may not have a specific skill, you know, having having an extension of our team to be able to do the work across the board is been really successful

Aaron Conant 20:30

as well. Yeah, I think I'll keep that or you know, Jennifer, I know you guys work with a ton of people. I mean, in this change management space, which is probably one of the most difficult right, launching a new marketing campaign, getting a new agency, you know, whatever this might be, is it this is so different. Getting the right people in the room timing, you know, any other thoughts would be would be great.

Jennifer Harmel 20:56

Well, yeah, I mean, it's not for the faint of heart, right? I mean, it doesn't happen overnight. And you have marketing and sales and it and perhaps other parts of your organization all involved, and I think absolutely getting the right people in the room. But, but I didn't identifying your cheerleaders internally who can help you with that change? And also identifying perhaps any naysayers? Because they're always are right, and figuring out how do you get them on board? And how do you make them feel like they're part of the the change instead of just having the change? inflicted on them? Right. And, and Crystal, like I said, you know, before I Yeah, we do work with a lot of companies to drive demand transformation. But I can't say that everybody has the change management aspect, down. And NWEA really did with the constant communication and the safe space on a weekly basis to talk about risks, right, and talk about issues and collectively come to the table with, you know, solutions, so that we didn't lose momentum. And we never lost sight of that end goal that Crystal was talking about. It was just it. It was, again, just a masterful execution of change management.

Aaron Conant 22:15

So I know jump to the next slide with a couple results, too.

Crystal Miller 22:18

Yeah, sure. I mean, what is success without some good results? My goodness? Um, no, we're, we're excited about the results. You know, within one year's time, I mean, we were able to show 200% improvement in engaged to close one, right, so we went from 35%. And we moved to 2.35%. We also, were able to attribute a three times increase in average deal size for marketing generated won opportunities in less than a year. And that, that is always exciting, whether you sit on the marketing or the sales side, right. And then 40% 47% improvement in marketing, qualified leads, facilitate sales accepted opportunity. And this, you know, this was important for us, because like I said, at the earlier we we were trying, we were sending everything over as an organization to our sales team. And that that just does not have impact at the end of the day. So being able to truly vet and handover qualified opportunities for sale seems a huge, huge win.

Jennifer Harmel 23:26

And again, all within a year, which is pretty amazing. It's not like you're selling shoes, you know, it's not a transactional sale. So those numbers are indeed I mean, I see a lot of these numbers. And these are, these are really fantastic, especially given the timeframe.

Aaron Conant 23:44

years really fast. It's pretty Yes, their Crystal? Oh, well, because I think we're rapidly approaching, you know, digital 2.0, if not 2.5 and 3.0, where it's not just enough to have the right tech stack, it's not just enough to be doing the right things is are you doing them as an organization or not? Right? Is it like yours versus everything tied together on the back end, or this completely disjointed? The next level of companies that are going to exceed and outperform the rest of their, the, you know, the competitive set, or maybe the ones that get this in place, and it's just interesting, you know, even a year and a half ago, this change management piece, rarely showed up in my conversations, right? Almost 30 a week with organizations from start up the fortune 100 up every vertical and now it's showing up all the time. You know, it's just incredibly interesting. I know we have like three minutes left, I think that's where a lot of people are gonna have to get this in place. It's how does the organization as a whole view it and how do we all get on board and then, you know, have the celebrations along the way? Um, you know, so we got about two minutes left Crystal, key takeaways for people on the line today.

Crystal Miller 24:59

Yeah, guys. Focus on that change management, I think it's key to your success. It really is a, break it down. celebrate those milestones along the way, those sub goals are as important because at the end of the day, they become your one large goal. And you look back and you say, oh my gosh, we did it all. Awesome.

Aaron Conant 25:22

Yeah. And anybody we can connect you with Crystal after the call, we're, you know, saving up some time for sure, kind of walk through what's going on in this space and how they did it. Because there, it they just did it fantastically. And, you know, Jennifer, kick it over to you, if you want to kind of wrap us up with key takeaways. And again, you know, a new so they're great friends, partner support as the network, we're with a ton of brands in it, this change management piece is something you'll need to tackle, I encourage everybody, you know, put 30 minutes on the calendar, and just walk through what they're doing, you know, the insights that they're seeing in the things that they're doing for a lot of organizations in the network as a whole. But, Jennifer, you want to kind of wrap us up here. Key takeaways.

Jennifer Harmel 25:59

Yeah, I mean, I'd say in addition to the change management, I go back to something Crystal said at the beginning, which is the importance of that foundation, you know, understanding your audience, and spending the time to do the research and develop the strategy, you can have the best tax tech pack in the world, but that's not going to drive digital transformation. And so don't skimp on that. And then 110%, about the change management. I mean, we could have probably shared 1000 slides do today with you today, if this was super, super high level, hopefully just to pique your interest to whet your appetite. But I think, you know, both of us or either of us are happy to dig in a little bit more with any of us. You have questions afterwards.

Aaron Conant 26:41

Awesome. Well, thanks, Chris. Oh, thanks, Jennifer. Yeah, I think you're right. I think this could have been an eight hour like, actually be like, I'd really want to walk through step by step but, you know, again, encourage anybody you know, have a follow up conversation with Crystal or Jennifer. They're great friends, partner supporters and network as a whole. With that. I think we're gonna wrap it up right here on time. Hope everybody has a fantastic Monday, a great Thanksgiving, everybody. Take care, stay safe and look forward to having you at a future event. Thank you, Jennifer

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