Marketers / Marketing Ops

How to Interview Stakeholders (+ Translate Into Salesforce Marketing Ops)

By Lucy Mazalon

How often do you check-in with your stakeholders? As marketers, our stakeholders are both internal and external to our organization: you’re taking what prospects/customers need at every stage of the customer journey, while simultaneously supporting multiple teams across the organization – namely sales, but also service, customer success, and others.

In this age, and with Salesforce marketing tools (i.e. Account Engagement and Marketing Cloud) it can often feel like we have multiple paths we could take. These ‘paths’ could relate to messaging, channels (how you engage), what counts as engagement, and overall sentiments with the experience a prospect/customer has with your brand.

I previously wrote about how I believe the Salesforce Business Analyst certification is relevant for marketers. “Customer Discovery” is one of the heavily weighted sections of the exam that certainly comes in useful in a marketer’s day to day work.

“As marketers, we’re constantly required to translate ideas between our business and prospects/customers, while vying for buy-in between internal teams.”

Salesforce Business Analyst Certification: Why Should Marketers Care?

Building Out Personas

If you’ve ever built out personas, you’re on the right track. Personas are archetypes that contain a set of shared demographics, needs, wants, and objectives. These could easily apply to internal stakeholders, as well as customers:

  • What are their responsibilities as a [role]?
  • Which problems do they face in their daily work?
  • What motivates them, and drives them forward?
READ MORE: Guide to Building Customer Personas Into Pardot

Getting this information down ‘on paper’ is a good thing. But, if you don’t have a direct ‘pulse’ with your customers/stakeholders, how will you know your static personas still reflect reality?

This is where business analysis skills come in to be incredibly useful. Unless we are working in large enterprises, it’s likely that we don’t have a business analyst to support our processes. From customer discovery, requirements gathering, testing – through to monitoring success metrics – these are all skills that marketers can work on nurturing.

Developing customer personas is typical of the marketer’s remit in order to outline the ideal customer profile (ICP). Your ICP is the sum of your customer personas. Eventually, you will be able to segment your marketing database by persona, and therefore, be very specific in your marketing communications to send prospects on the correct journey.

Interviews are a great starting point. You can interview the customers themselves, or your colleagues who work with high-value accounts, ranging from loyalists to detractors.

READ MORE: Calculating Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) with Salesforce

But, it doesn’t stop at just interviewing customers. Marketing is a cross-functional role – in other words, we frequently design campaigns on behalf of, or in collaboration with, other business functions.

Team alignment isn’t only for when executing campaigns. Smooth Marketing Ops relies on consensus agreement around processes – like the conversion processes/marketing-sales hand-off. That’s why you need to understand your colleagues (as personas) as much as you understand prospects and customers.

What is Elicitation?

Elicitation is a fancy term for the various techniques you can use to gather business needs from stakeholders, e.g. focus groups, observation, prototyping. What people don’t see is how much business analysis they’re already doing.

You may think : “I talked to the salespeople and they told me what they dislike about Salesforce”. Well, that’s eliciting requirements! Interviewing is one elicitation method. This involves having a direct conversation with your subject (be they a customer or stakeholder) about their previous and current experiences with your brand.

Being opinion-based, in interviews, you’ll be collecting qualitative data, which is unstructured and somewhat unpredictable. From there, you will be working with the mass of data, attempting to draw findings from it. By conducting interviews in different contexts, you would have picked up an instinct for good elicitation.

Interviews are an ideal method to:

  • Develop ideal customer profiles (ICPs): Can be a two-prong approach, i.e. ask customers and internal stakeholders (your colleagues working with the accounts).
  • Improve user experiences: From websites and portals, to marketing materials, there’s plenty of information that usage data can’t reveal to you.
  • Gain buy-in for a project: Interviews are a forum for others around the organization to share insight on processes, and even raise concerns. This insight should feed into the change management to ensure that changes to Salesforce are launched and adopted properly.

Tips for Impactful Interviews (With Customers or Stakeholders)

When you pause to think about it, there are many ways in which both your internal and external stakeholders will share similarities.

Here are some tips that start with identifying who to interview, what types of questions to line-up, how to validate the sentiments collected in interviews, and more…

1. Identify Who to Interview

‘Analysis’ can seem like such a vague term. Breaking it down into the three types of analysis Salesforce recommends – enterprise, stakeholder, strategy – will help you to set the foundation, and navigate interview questions more confidently.

Enterprise Analysis:

Trailhead defines this as “understand[ing] an organization’s structure, including who reports to whom, and the functions and interactions of departments within the organization.” (source). Get hold of the organizational hierarchy, or map out your own understanding, then validate alongside the organizational hierarchy – the latter will be a useful exercise in highlighting your initial misinterpretations.

Ultimately, you will be looking to understand the layers of influence and decision-making between people. For customer organizations (i.e. Account records in your Salesforce org), there are a number of tools available, such as Squivr (an interactive org chart tool) Salesforce Recommended Connections (which shows which colleagues have the strongest connections to that individual), and revenue intelligence platforms, e.g. Revenue Grid. Without budget or bandwidth to introduce new tools, good ol’ Lucidchart is sufficient here.

Above: Squivr an interactive org chart tool for Salesforce.

Stakeholder Analysis:

The Project Management Institute defines a stakeholder as “an individual, group, or organization, who may affect, be affected by or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project” — ask yourself, who has an interest in, or may be affected by, the issue under consideration? Make a list, or map out a stakeholder wheel. Internal examples of stakeholders are managers, individual contributors (i.e team members); external examples include customers, partners, suppliers.

Source: Explore Techniques for Information Discovery, Trailhead.

Strategy Analysis:

Trailhead defines this as “observ[ing] the current state and defin[ing] the future and transition states that will address the business need. This is a gap analysis—identifying what is different between the current and desired state.” (source). In the case of marketing, you will be getting to the bottom of how a person is currently being limited, and what they desire to improve their work life, and how they can contribute to the overall success of their organization.

For example, if your product/service targets customer service managers to better manage which agent customer queries should be assigned to, their pain point could be that complex cases are being assigned to inexperienced agents. For the manager, they personally want to eliminate the headaches of constantly monitoring and reassigning cases, whereas at the organizational level, the aim would be to optimize the agents’ time and improve customer satisfaction.

With the findings from this combined analysis, you will be prepared to commence interviews with the knowledge that:

  • The right people are being interviewed.
  • There are invisible lines of influence (now ‘on paper’).
  • There is a pain point, the interviewee has personal motivations, and also a motivation to contribute to the overall success of the organization.

Now, you just need to ask the right questions, in the right setting, to unearth these motivations.

To answer the question “who to interview?”, you should include participants from around the stakeholder wheel, and for internal teams, include participants from all levels of the organization hierarchy.

This scenario illustrates how this point is key. During a discovery session, the sales manager was not able to give enough detail on the challenges the sales team currently face. What did you overlook? No, it’s not that the sales manager is underqualified, or that you didn’t prepare enough. Individual contributors within the team should have been invited (i.e. sales rep/s).

2. Choose the Appropriate Method

To gather information directly from individuals you have three options – interview (on person, face-to-face), focus groups, surveys.

You may start with conducting interviews or focus groups. However, you may begin to suspect that some participants are not forthcoming with information. Moving to surveys is a good method to collect facts and sentiments in a neutral forum. This comes back to the invisible lines of influence in an organization’s org chart, for example, a sales rep may not feel comfortable sharing their true opinions in front of their manager, for fear of judgment.

Even if you had interviewed the sales rep individually, they may find the face-to-face aspect unnerving, to have their opinion ‘on record’; surveys can be anonymous, and so are a great method to keep in your ‘back pocket’.

3. Plan Open-Ended Questions

Your job is to get the participant talking, in order to gain information on the problem that needs solving. We’ve all had experiences in conversations when the other person has responded with a simple “yes” or “no” – especially when the conversation is related to challenges that people don’t like to admit.

Interviews should be a judgment-free zone. It’s important that you build what’s known as “rapport” – simply put, reassure the participant that your only intention is to use the information to better their work life.

So, how should the questions be designed, in order to get the participant talking? Open-ended questions invite the participant to answer with more information (and also can’t be answered with a single word, like “yes” or “no”), for example: “What are your thoughts on the current state of Lead management in Salesforce?”

This open-ended question could be answered with the following response:

“I experience a variety of challenges when working with Leads in Salesforce, including having a lack of information about the Lead, too much information to populate before moving the Lead into the ‘contacted’ status, and a lack of visibility into whether the Lead should belong to an Account that already exists. However, the path and guidance is a helpful reminder for new-starters, and the score and grade helps us to prioritize which Leads to contact first.”

To this, you, as the interviewer, could ask a follow-up question: “Which data points would you like to see on a new Lead record that currently aren’t populated automatically?”

Let’s contrast the open-ended question in the example below with a closed-ended question that could have been asked: “Do you like how Leads are managed in Salesforce?”

While participants who are keen to improve the current state may expand their answer, you are risking that a participant may opt for a single word answer, leaving you without information and neither a way to build on the response with follow-up questions. Closed-ended questions are useful for gathering opinions rapidly, for example, on a range of prototypes (i.e. mock-ups of a future solution).

Remember: Open-ended questions, with follow-up questions, and avoid close-ended questions.

The danger with open-ended questions is that the interview ends up going on a winding path. Your role is to control the pathway the interview is traveling on, so that you can cover the questions which will give you answers containing the information you need.

However, balance this control with allowing the participant to expand on their points. Just don’t let the conversation veer on too far a tangent if there is a time restriction (naturally, you should always respect participants’ time, and help them to protect their own).

4. Validate Interview Findings

So, you conducted an interview or held a focus group with the right people in the room, but you didn’t feel like you went deep enough into their issues. What can you do now (to take matters into your own hands)?

Validate the information from interviews further, and even uncover more unspoken information by leveraging other elicitation methods. Two that come to mind that fit this description are interface analysis and observation:

  • Interface analysis: In the context of people, this involves analyzing how people interact with the systems they use. For example, a participant may have raised a concern with how adding Contact Roles to Opportunities requires too many clicks – you can walk through the experience ‘in their shoes’ to get a better understanding.
  • Observation: This involves looking over the participants’ shoulders as they go about their daily work. This not only validates the sentiments raised in the interviews, but also can fill in any gaps you felt may have been skimmed over in interviews. Of course, this isn’t exactly feasible with external stakeholders – there are activity tracking apps you can install onto websites or apps that track scroll and click behavior, such as Crazy Egg and FullStory. It’s worth noting that leveraging any automated apps won’t give you the opportunity to ask clarifying questions as users interact, e.g. “why did you choose to click there?”.

5. Investigate Further

To gain a full picture into what you need to do (i.e. the requirements), you should also tap into a number of wider sources – not only people, but also sources of data to enrich your findings – for example, reports in your Salesforce org, Salesforce Admin tools (for Salesforce user experience improvements, there’s Salesforce Page Analyzer and Salesforce Optimizer), analytics from data lakes, and industry analyst reports (e.g. Gartner).

6. Define Success Metrics

How will you know if, and when, a project has been successful? Your participants will have hinted at what success looks like to them, but it’s best to clarify.

Will it be a quantifiable metric, like the time it takes to convert a lead, or the number of clicks to place an order on an eCommerce site? Equally, you may get suggestions that the success metric is qualitative, such as the way the content during the onboarding process for a product/service they are unfamiliar with makes them feel reassured.

How to set yourself up for recording success is covered in the next set of tips.

Translate Interview Findings Into Marketing Ops

You have the qualitative evidence, now time to use the information to make impactful changes in line with what prospects/customers and internal teams desire.

User Stories

For marketers, the challenge is two-fold: to meet internal user needs and customer demands.

User stories are much like creating personas. The difference is that user stories are snapshots into what the persona wants to achieve in a given scenario, to reach a specific outcome. While this sounds vague, luckily user stories follow a set structure:

As a < who >, I want < what > so that < why >.

For example: As a managed services customer, I want to review our hourly usage and view remaining hours on-demand so that I can budget accordingly for the next quarter.

Or: As a marketing manager, I want to approve new campaigns created in Salesforce so that I can ensure all campaigns align with the marketing plan before they are worked on.

User stories come with multiple benefits, such as helping to prioritize the order that requirements are worked on (i.e. ‘easy wins’ that will bring high value for a relatively low effort), and make the testing phase more effective.

READ MORE: How to Write User Stories for Salesforce: What We Learned From Writing 1000

Map a RACI Matrix of Your Team

The stakeholder analysis (and optionally, the stakeholder wheel) gave you an overview of who should be considered when making changes. Now, it’s time to map out who in the team is responsible for what in the new reality, so that processes can be maintained.

RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. It’s a matrix that delineates who is responsible for what.

Each person can ‘own’ their remit, with the right people involved in the decision making checkpoints. This mitigates the risk of conflict, people feeling left ‘out of the loop’, or ‘dropping the ball’ on a task or part of the process.

There are a couple of other benefits for RACI to highlight:

  • RACI shows the distribution of responsibilities visually, which may reveal where one person may be overburdened, and could be supported by another team member with parallel responsibilities becoming the “accountable” team member.
  • With the RACI distribution, you can see where you need to fill skill gaps – either hiring someone new, or encouraging existing team members to upskill. This helps to anticipate where you need coverage in a frequently changing technology environment.

You can view one example of a marketing team RACI matrix in the guide below:

READ MORE: Pardot Project Management – Framework to Improve Your Planning

Process Mapping

They say “a picture speaks a thousand words” – and this is certainly true of process mapping.

Marketers are working with processes that span a cocktail of systems and people. Process mapping helps marketers to visualize complex ideas instead of using words. Not only is this important for controlling all of the marketing ‘moving parts’, it’s the key to:

  • Confirm the steps in the process, based on what you ‘discovered’ in the interviews.
  • Compare the ‘as is’ process with the proposed ‘to be’.
  • Stakeholder alignment across other teams in the organization. Make it clear to other teams what happens, and when – a classic example is the sales team’s concerns that marketing communication is contradicting/overlapping with how and when sales people are communicating with customers and prospects.

These diagrams can take multiple formats depending on:

  1. What kind of process you need to show.
  2. Who the intended audience is (the diagram would look different for the leadership team vs the technical implementation team).
  3. The level of detail the diagram should ‘drill down’ to. You’re likely to leverage universal process notation (UPN).
READ MORE: Universal Process Notation (UPN) for Salesforce Processes Mapping


Following on from process mapping, you’re now armed with the information you need to start defining how various systems should be integrated. This is to ensure that the right data is in the right place, and in the right format.

Zooming in on the last requirement, that data be in the right format: this could involve data transformation to make data usable to both Salesforce (as a database and with various automations) and Salesforce users.

Campaign Attribution

Campaign attribution (AKA Campaign Influence in a Salesforce context), is perhaps the trickiest Salesforce Marketing feature to wrap one’s head around.

Proposing changes to marketing processes requires that you pay attention to how this will impact campaign attribution. A simple example could be adding additional whitepapers to a campaign – are those marketing assets associated with the correct campaign?

It’s always easy to add, add, add – but ensure you take stock of what is actually being included in Campaign Influence. Could you be looking at reports that are fundamentally flawed?

Test, Test, Test

Testing takes a huge chunk of time in the process of launching changes.

Whether that’s testing a campaign flow on behalf of prospects, or internal system enhancements for the marketing team, marketers need to take this stage seriously. Compare the new experience to the points participants raised during the interviews, and use the user stories to determine whether the new solution is ‘acceptable’.

“User acceptance testing is end-user testing performed in a sandbox or test environment to verify that a project or enhancement works as intended, and what was originally requested is actually being delivered.”


User acceptance testing (UAT) is the last stage of the project/build before deployment. Applying the appropriate structure to UAT will also prevent downstream impacts on other teams (e.g. the sales team).

Meet Success Metrics

One aim during the interviews was to understand what ‘success’ looks like from the point of view of the interviewee. Ways to monitor these metrics should be set up in order to compare the before (‘as is’) state, and the after state. These could be one, or a combination, of:

  • Quantitative metrics: Metrics represented by numbers, e.g. the number of logins to the customer portal, the time for a Lead to go from “new” to “converted”. Dashboards, whether those are created in Salesforce or you need to advance to B2B Marketing Analytics, can provide you with the evidence that the changes were successful.
  • Qualitative metrics: Data that captures sentiment, e.g. satisfaction, affinity to a new landing page design. Further interviews, or surveys, is how you can capture the evidence in these qualitative cases.
READ MORE: How To Run An NPS Survey With Pardot (Account Engagement)


As marketers, our stakeholders are both internal and external to our organization; you’re taking what prospects/customers need at every stage of the customer journey, while supporting multiple teams across the organization.

This guide has been long and winding – but I hope it’s also been useful for you! Here’s a recap…

Tips for Impactful Interviews (With Customers or Stakeholders):

  1. Identify Who to Interview
  2. Choose the Appropriate Method
  3. Plan Open-Ended Questions
  4. Validate Interview Findings
  5. Investigate Further
  6. Define Success Metrics

Translate Findings Into Marketing Ops:

  • User Stories
  • Map a RACI Matrix of Your Team
  • Process Mapping
  • Orchestration
  • Campaign Attribution
  • Test, Test, Test
  • Meet Success Metrics

The Author

Lucy Mazalon

Lucy is the Operations Director at Salesforce Ben. She is a 10x certified Marketing Champion and founder of The DRIP.

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