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Megan Malone

Episode 34: The System for Superior Marketing Campaign Management, with Megan Malone

Megan Malone is a Founding Partner with Vici, a Philadelphia-based digital agency, and leads the Operations division. Megan has both a broadcast and digital marketing background working for the Philadelphia Eagles, Beasley Broadcast Group, and Cox Media Group. Megan has certifications from the Center for Sales Strategy (management, marketing strategy, brainstorming), a certification from Disney Institutes People Management, and was awarded the top 10 advertisers in Louisville from the American Advertisers Federation in 2012. She has managed millions of dollars of digital campaigns in her career.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The story of Vici Media Inc.’s growth from the time when Megan was the only employee
  • How Vici Media Inc. keeps track of over 100 media partners
  • The systems and processes that work best over multiple time zones so Megan can live in Phoenix while many of her employees live in Philadelphia
  • The system Vici Media Inc. uses for superior marketing campaign management
  • How Post-it Notes evolved into a system that really works for Megan and her employees
  • How Vici Media Inc. uses Trello to keep track of projects from start to finish
  • The flaws Megan found in Basecamp and how she found a system that worked better
  • How Megan determines a checklist of key steps that are needed to launch each product Vici Media Inc. offers
  • An example that shows why it’s important for checklists and systems to be constantly evolving
  • The importance of everyone in the business to be able to give input into systems
  • The 3-week itinerary Vici Media Inc. gives new employees and how that makes them feel more at ease on the job
  • How Slack helps Vici Media Inc. communicate with clients very quickly
  • The essential questions Megan asks when beta testing new products
  • Why it’s necessary to have a system to control chaos
  • How systems can help businesses work together from different parts of the country
  • What Vici Media Inc. is doing in the future to improve
  • Why you should never be complacent

Ways to contact Megan:

Podcast eBooks:

The Power of Two

Episodes 1, 2 and 3 collide to bring you summary of lessons learned and systems created around Vision and Key Initiatives that help drive success to companies and businesses.

The Transition to Automation

In Episode 25, Vera talks with Heidi Rasmussen, CEO and Co-Founder of one of Inc 5000’s fastest growing companies in America – freshbenies. This eBook highlights part of the conversation to bring out the best lesson in automation and on-boarding for startups.”


Welcome to System Execution, the strategy and system behind today’s successful companies. Systems can make or break your company but here we’ll solve your physical, technological, and psychological systems issues by connecting you with experts that have succeeded in overcoming those challenges in their own business and providing you the guidelines and tools you need to implement those same strategies for immediate results.

Now here’s your host Vera Fischer.

Vera Fischer: Today’s episode is sponsored by 97 Degrees West, the brand marketing agency located in Austin Texas. 97 Degrees West serves regional and national companies in the healthcare, finance, energy, and manufacturing industries.

97 Degrees West believes that an integrated approach to marketing that involves traditional and digital strategies that fit your customer’s buying journey yields the greatest impact on your bottom line. Go to www.97Dwest.com to learn more.

Vera Fischer: Welcome to System Execution, a podcast devoted to using processes and systems to drive to a better outcome for your business. I’m Vera Fischer your host. All businesses no matter the size relies on systems.

Some of these are physical systems such as a factory. Some are technological like project management software, while others are psychological systems such as checklists and organizational charts. Many of these systems will overlap in your business.

Today’s guest is Megan Malone. Megan is the founding partner of Vici Media. As she just said to me earlier, she is person number one which is super exciting. Vici Media is a digital agency that is based in Philadelphia and there in addition to being a founding partner Megan leads the operations division. She’s got a big broadcast in digital marketing background working for the Philadelphia Eagles, Beasley Broadcast Group, and Cox Media Group.

Megan also has certifications from the Center for Sales Strategy which is management, marketing strategy, and brainstorming, and a certification from Disney’s Institute of People Management. That one is my absolute favorite. Megan was awarded the top ten advisors in Louisville from the American Advertisers federation in 2012.

Welcome to System Execution Megan.

Megan: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Vera Fischer: Megan I’m really happy to have you here. We have not had the pleasure of having a guest in the digital agency, digital media space so I’m thrilled to hear about the system that you’re going to share with us but before we get started why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself. I just touched on a small portion.

Megan: Yeah. Yeah. I actually started this company about three and a half years ago so we’re very young. We now have 16 full time employees and we work with a little over 110 different media and agency partners across the country so what our big role is is managing really complicated digital campaigns and everything from advising people, training people, and then actually launching campaigns.

The biggest challenge that we always face on a day to day is how to we stay impeccably organized and we provide all of our partners with superior marketing campaign management which isn’t easy considering one digital campaign could have 50 different steps to get it launched on our end and you’re doing that times hundreds of campaigns at the same time. It’s been just such an evolution having gone from employee number one and only, which is me, three and a half years ago and going all the way to where we are now, it’s been pretty much a whirlwind.

It’s kind of a dream come true on my end because I’m not to the point of managing the company, working from home and I’ve got a seven and a half month old daughter that I can do my job and also pop in and out with her throughout the day. This entire experience has just been unbelievable.

Vera Fischer: I’m excited about that. I know that being able to stay home and work from home and be by your daughter is really important and I know that that’s important to some of our listeners out there as well so that’s definitely a vision of yes, you can actually do that.

How the Marketing Campaign Management System Works

Megan: Yeah, and I mean the fact of the matter that you pointed out earlier is that my company is actually based out of Philadelphia. I manage that team and I’m actually in Phoenix, Arizona. All the systems and processes we had to set up had to work across multiple time zones, thousands of miles away.

Vera Fischer: That background is really interesting just from the perspective of the systems and processes that you had to set up to accommodate all of those variables which is a great segway into what you would like to talk about today which is something that you touched on earlier, superior campaign management.

Let’s talk about that specific system and educate us on what that really means, superior marketing campaign management.

Megan: Yeah so the challenge with the campaigns that we bring to market is that a lot of different people have to touch a campaign so typically the way it works in my business is we have our media partners and they have their own clients. The media partners really are learning a lot about the strategy and the client needs during our initial meetings with them.

Then they reach out to us and we put together a list of requests for proposals that lead to media planners. Once they’re sold it actually goes to another person and that person is the campaign buyer who actually takes something online so if you think about it you’ve got your end client who is your agency or your media company’s client, then you’ve got your aid to your media partner.

You’ve got the person who is helping them put together the plan. You’ve got the person who is actually doing the buying for the plan and then you’ve got a dedicated trainer that’s for that market. That could be five different people touching one campaign which adds a lot of confusion. What we did was we actually started our company with no joke, post it notes.

We were posting post it notes everywhere to track how a campaign goes from an RP to a close and then every step along the way. Then for each step we would move that post it note along and take notes on it. Well obviously you can’t grow a business on post it notes. As much as I love post it notes it just doesn’t work.

What we did actually did was we tried out some systems that completely failed to do campaign management and then we landed with our absolute favorite system which is called Trello which is almost like a very hyped up superior online post it note system. We integrated that into all of our communication channels. We communicate through Slack. The two of those systems together are like the most important pieces of software that we use in our business by far.

If Slack and Trello went down on us we would be really hard up. Matter of fact I love these programs so much that I even wrote a blog called “A Look Inside Vici: How We Stay Organized” and I mentioned how much I loved both Slack, Trello, and then kind of separate from that, it doesn’t have much to do with campaign management but Clear Slide which is what we use for all of our sales and webinars as well.

Some of the Failures of Older Campaign Management Systems

Vera Fischer: So Megan tell me before you outline how you integrate those tools, what were some of the failures after the post it notes, which I love the post it notes because I know a lot of us out there do that and you’re the first one that’s fessed up to it so thank you very much.

Megan: Yeah we actually looked out for a bunch of project management systems and the one that most people in our industry use is called Base Camp. Base Camp tried to eliminate the amount of back and forth emails. What it sets up instead is a thread so let’s say that you have a topic in that thread, you can add attachments to that thread, you can have back and forths on that thread, and you can communicate on it but the problem with that was, and it was a big failure. It took us a lot of work to move away from it actually because we went all in.

The problem with it is a thread is great for grouping up communication but it doesn’t show progression of a project. You could check off check mark items and see what’s left on Base Camp but it was almost like too much communication onto a project so we ended up going away with it from that because in order to stay up to date with all the communication that was on one thread it actually sent you e-mails which was completely counter intuitive. It was supposed to get rid of emails. It ended up clogging up our email system even more and just really confusing the whole project management standpoint.

I think that Base Camp is probably better for people that are maybe building websites or doing graphic design, not so much good for project management and moving a project from one step to the next to make sure that you have a successful launch of a campaign.

Vera Fischer: Since all of your campaigns basically go through the same series of steps you may be hanging out at one step longer than the other depending on the campaign but how did you determine those key steps? Was it just through trial and error?

Megan: It was. We actually, our digital company sells a lot of different products including everything from retargeting to Facebook campaigns. Each product has it’s own series of steps in order to launch them. They’ve got different artwork, different coding that’s involved in each. What we did first was we outlined every product that we have and we have about twenty or so products.

Then from there what we did was we outlined what a successful launch of that product looks like even down to like due dates of when things were done. Then every time we found an error in that process, for instance let’s say that we were doing a retargeting campaign and we sent over what’s called a container tag. All that does is you install it on your website and it makes retargeting work. Like it actually makes someone follow you around and get stalked by that specific ad.

As an example when we launched that checklist item we never had a follow up that says, Was it installed correctly? So yes we were getting it to our client but if the end client forgot to install it and it never launched, that falls back on us too because we never checked.

What we do is we find the errors in our checklist and basically whenever there is an error we go back in and we try to be proactive on that checklist item to make sure that we don’t miss it again and we keep honing in on that. Our checklist have evolved to no joke, fifty to sixty checks that could be done before one campaign is launched, just one. It started working so well for us that we started putting everything into the system. We started putting out onboarding, like with brand new clients into the system.

Not even campaign management, on boarding new clients and making sure that they’re on every email that they need to be, that they have the latest webinar, that they’ve been through all the trainings, that they’ve received all their collateral from us. In order to do a good due diligence for all of our clients, because often times we don’t talk to the end client, we have to make sure we’re really on our game every time we get an RP or an IO because there’s a relationship involved there with our agency clients, with that end client that we have to very much protect. That’s what we do.

There’s a really dark saying that I say sometimes that for every TSA regulation there’s a plane crash and that’s really dark. I know that but it’s true. You have to learn from mistakes that you’ve made in order to create a new rule about how your system needs to go in the future and that’s how we got, that’s what we get the most compliments on that we’re just really on our game when it comes to all of this different types of campaign management.

How this Marketing Campaign Management System was Created

Vera Fischer: Megan did you come up with this process or was this a team effort?

Megan: It was a team effort. I rely so heavily on a couple, I have a lead team member in Philadelphia and her name is Kiri. I remember the day that I first hired her she was employee number two. I literally said, This is a mess. I need help.

Maybe at that time I was managing five or ten campaigns like nothing compared to what we’re doing now and I need you to figure out a system. She is the one that helped guide us through creating these systems.

What’s really brilliant about what she’s created and how we’ve all, now that she’s created it, once that started a few years back everyone has input on the system and how they think it should be better. Every team member, I don’t care if you’ve been there for a week or you’ve been there for the entire duration of our business.

Everyone can give input on how it can be better and ever since it started we’ve evolved it in such a case that we have clients who ask us to see our systems. We’ve done training on our own systems doing like a screen share and just taking them through how we stay organized, in businesses that have nothing to do with what we do. That’s a big sign that what we’re doing is successful and it’s a great system. It really is.

Vera Fischer: How long has this particular one been in use? Has it just been over the last couple of years or is it something newer?

Megan: We’ve been in business only about three and a half years and we got our act together very quickly with this so we’ve had this probably for the last two and a half to three years.

How New Employees are Educated on this System

Vera Fischer: How do you educate new employees on this system? Do you take them through a one on one? Do you throw them in and say, there it is, it’s self explanatory. How does that work?

Megan: People who thrive at our workplace thrive with systems and organization. The very first day that you walk in as employee, not only is everything pristinely set up at your desk, brand new computer screen, there’s a welcome sign, there’s a welcome package for you. There’s also an itinerary and it takes you through, no joke, the first three weeks of your job to the point of even before they walk in Day 1 we call them and tell them what to expect when lunchtime rolls around and where bathrooms are and what the dress code is. Anything to make them feel really comfortable.

I always found when I walked into a job having that completely laid out for me made me not feel insecure about not understanding what the position was Day 1. Part of the very first week of training they have to go through Trello training. They have to go through Slack training. Our Trello and all of our campaigns automatically import into our communication system which is Slack. We have a channel called Campaign Management.

That way anyone can go in and see at any given time what the last update on any campaign has been in because it constantly is feeding information into our communications system.

We used that communication system so that we can keep our inboxes completely clear of internal emails and that way our inboxes are only for clients and communication with clients so we can have really lightning speed communication. Then instead we can move all of our communication to our online messaging system Slack which talks directly with our organizational system which is Trello.

Vera Fischer: That’s really impressive Megan. Seriously. Especially the whole idea of when someone comes and they have the first three weeks laid out for them. I think that myself included I’m super envious.

How did you, did you have to have like a full two people dedicated to that? It just seems like so much work.

Megan: It is a lot of work. We even do training down to your inbox so like I said before you know interpersonal emails should not be a thing. You need to take them to Slack. How to keep your inbox clear and organized, we even do that with people. It seems insane but actually I learned that really early. When I worked with the Philadelphia Eagles that was my first job.

It was a really intense experience in that I was an intern for the Eagles and then of all the interns they hired out two people full time and I was one of those two people out of a big pool of interns so you really had to fight your way. I’m talking I made $6 an hour for a year. My boss at the time, he actually had a military background and I’m like the least militant person you would possibly meet but he taught me about something called flawless execution.

He was the one that also sent me to the Disney Institute for People Management because you can’t just be militant. You also have to know how to work with people so down to how our inboxes should be laid out something that you’re not getting just, I mean it’s really easy to get completely buried in emails from our clients.

It’s very simple but we like to have really fast communications so every time we noticed that someone was struggling with something or if they didn’t feel comfortable with it we added it back to our onboarding checklist. I think the big key is that once you put a system in place it’s not done. It has to be evolving.

If everything got wiped out and I had to start all over again it would be a nightmare because it’s evolved so much to the point of every time that we notice even that, we even do Outlook training for Calendar Requests with people because we realize that some of the college kids we were hiring from an internship, they didn’t know what Outlook was. They’d never used it before.

It’s important enough that every person regardless of whether you’re a founding partner or an intern goes through the same exact process all the way through and we’re very much dedicated to it.

Why A/B Testing is Important for Marketing Campaign Management

Vera Fischer: You had also mentioned Megan that you had something like 20 products so when you are bringing on a brand new product do you have to create that new system to go along with it for execution?

Megan: We do, so at any given time we’re probably Beta testing about three products. What I mean by that is we are testing something behind the scene without our clients knowing it or without doing a formal release of that product. Just A/B testing what they’re currently running and if this could be performing better.

We think of a couple of things when we Beta test this; how easy is this for our clients to actually communicate it to their end clients, how easy is this from a launching perspective on our end? Is it going to add a lot of additional steps to what our processes are currently in place or can we integrate them somehow?

We tend to favor products that not only do really well but they also fit in really well with the way that we can launch things so that we know if the setup is going to take many many day and it could potentially slow down something, we would consider not launching it because it doesn’t fit in.

Most of our clients are media clients and the biggest thing that they tell us that is very important is not only accuracy but also working very quickly. They have meetings that are coming up right away and they need things launched last minute and everything is a rush. It feels like everything is a rush. Because we know how urgent a lot of these campaigns are to our clients, having that system to control the chaos is completely necessary from emails all the way to campaign end.

Vera Fischer: That is so impressive and I’m really excited about this stuff. Out of curiosity Megan I have to know, if you’re based in Phoenix and the company is in Philadelphia, is that where all the other 15 people are?

Megan: Yes. We’ve got, well we’ve actually got a bulk of them are in Philadelphia. All of our media buyers, all of our peers, media planners, 8 or of them they’re all in Philadelphia. The rest of the team are actually also sprinkled throughout the country. The way that we sort of do this is we try to match up time zones.

I tend to work with Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zone clients since I’m out in Phoenix. Then the rest of our trainers are spread out in Louisville, Atlanta. We have Chicago. We have people that are kind of sprinkled throughout the country because one of the things that we do is we train people so having someone that’s close to their time zone is important. Also when we work with media markets we have to physically fly into that market so we have people on the road constantly outside the Philadelphia office.

For example we have four different trainers and I think three out of the four of them are on the road as I speak today and they’re out of office. Having us strategically around the country is important just so we can get in and out of markets really easily as well.

Vera Fischer: Megan, really as I’m interviewing a lot of different people on this podcast I’m really noticing that this is quite the trend. It’s becoming the norm to have so many people sprinkled throughout and not be in just one geographic location so it’s really interesting how you guys have figured out how to run campaigns with those tools out there so that you have that superior campaign management if you will.

Megan: Yeah. I think that that is, I notice that too. When I first moved out to Phoenix I was absolutely terrified. What did I just do, is what I just thought. I had to come out here with a position with my husband’s job actually and I just set up a company in Phoenix, or in Philadelphia, mind you because that’s where I used to live.

I was like, oh my gosh I need to fly back every quarter and I actually, when we started the company I started building a team out here in Phoenix too. We had two different groups. What’s funny is some of my Phoenix people actually moved to East Coast. They moved away from Phoenix. I don’t know if it was the heat or what but the most terrifying thing to me was setting up a company and then instantly moving away from it.

What I came to realize is there are so many tools out there now that just allow you to communicate as if you’re sitting next to someone in the same room. I never really feel like I’m missing something by not physically being there.

Now I think that I do try to get there a few times a year and meet with everyone face to face. I think that’s important but I think that we’re in a time now that a lot of people can effectively do their jobs working in jeans and then flip flops and maybe sitting out on the deck poolside.

As long as you have your computer and you’re connected to the internet and you’ve got a phone. I mean that’s really all you need to run a successful business. It’s crazy because I came from media; get dressed up everyday, high heels, makeup. The full to do. It’s been kind of an interesting transition and my feet definitely love all the new air on them now.

Vera Fischer: Well I will tell you Megan that while yes, all of those communication tools definitely can help you I also think it’s the people behind the tools and it’s the work ethic and the level of commitment and the fact that you’ve been able to build that team and have that process is a testament to the stick to-itness of you and those around you. That’s impressive.

Megan: Yeah, thank you. I mean you’re right. It does have a big trust factor because the big boss isn’t just sitting there making sure that you’re clocking in on time and leaving on time and that you’re acting appropriately at work. I do have lead out there and we’re extremely close.

Kiri was one of the best hires I’ve ever had in my whole life. Super smart, hardworking, and she does a great job managing that office as well. There is a big trust factor especially since some of the people that I’ve hired, I haven’t met them until they’re three or four months into the job and I’ve just talked to them on the phone everyday. There’s definitely that trust factor that you need to find those good people and make sure they’re doing a good job.

What’s Next for Megan and Vici Media

Vera Fischer: Well Megan you’ve provided some really great information around superior campaign management so I’m interested to know what’s next for Vici Media?

Megan: We need to get a better system right now than what we have for accepting requests for proposals and turning them into IO’s. What I mean by that is right now the way that it works is all of our clients log online to a portal. They fill out like a form and it’s just a simple WordPress form that emails you when someone requests a campaign planner.

If they sell it they have to go back in and retype in the whole thing, even if they sold the exact same thing that you’ve already proposed to them. For us there’s definitely a system that we need to incorporate in to make that entire experience for the customer a lot better so that everything, instead of just having to email a customer container tag or email them a keyword list that we build for a campaign, we want to have everything in one spot so it’s really really easy for our agency and media partners.

The next biggest thing on our horizon is we’re working with a group called TAP Analytics who is custom building us a system to do that. They are so dedicated to it and we’re so dedicated to it to the point that later this week they’re literally flying out to my house and sitting outside with me and my head woman in Philadelphia, Kiri, and we’re spending two straight days with programmers to make sure that we can make this become a reality for our clients.

Getting that next system launched is going to be the thing that hopefully three years from now is going to be the thing I look back on and I’m really proud of.

Final Advice and How to Connect with Megan

Vera Fischer: Awesome. That is so great. Megan I just am so glad that you shared the insight that you did around Superior Campaign Management but before we go let’s close out today’s discussion with any final advice you want to share and then tell us the best way we can connect with you.

Megan: Yeah absolutely. I think the advice that I would have is to anyone or wants to set up a system, especially when it comes to marketing campaign management, is don’t even stop evolving that system. Every time there’s an issue go back and reevaluate where that failure was in you system and try to fix it.

Don’t just chalk it up to, well it only happened once out of a hundred times so it’s okay. Don’t ever be complicit and think that the work is done because it can always get better. I’d say if anyone ever wanted to reach out to me and talk more about what we do you are more than welcome to email me because guess what, my inbox is very very clean. It’s clear. My email is Megan@ViciMediaINP.com.

Vera Fischer: System Execution fans, no matter how many notes you took or how often you relisten to this episode, the key is every successful business uses systems to drive to a better outcome. Megan thank you so much for sharing your expertise to our listeners today.

Megan: Thank you. The pleasure was all mine.

We hope you found this episode of System Execution enlightening. For free examples, case studies, ebooks, and more be sure to visit systemexecution.com/resources. Contribute to the conversation for reaching out to Vera directly on email at vera@systemexecution.com.

Until our next episode, thank you for the privilege of your time.




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