Four strategies for managing (and preparing for) critical system downtime

July 26, 2017 Matt Heinz

It’s not a matter of if, but when.  Eventually, that which you count on day in and day out might not be there. It might no longer work. It might be stolen or obsolete or simply fail to work.  What will you do?

Yesterday was a good reminder not to take everything for granted, and to be prepared for near-disaster (no matter how short-lived those problems may be).

For much of yesterday, Marketo was down.  The B2B Twitterverse almost melted.  For B2B marketers who rely on Marketo to execute daily, it was a pretty rough day.

By press time this morning, most marketers were back in action.  But what did yesterday’s #marketopocolypse teach us?

1. Have a crisis plan in place beforehand
PR professionals have built crisis communication plans for decades.  You can’t predict what will happen, but you can design up front a chain of communication to ensure all parties know what’s going on.  This is particularly important for critical systems like Marketo, CRM, ERP platforms, etc.

2. Develop back-up plans if possible
If Marketo is down, what’s your alternative strategy?  Do you wait until it’s back up? Use a separate system to execute outbound campaigns?  Temporarily switch to different landing pages?  Not all of these are feasible so quickly, but your crisis plan can outline and/or prepare you to switch to plan B in some cases to keep the trains running (and leads flowing).

3. Actively alert and over-communicate with impacted (mostly internal) parties
It’s not your fault when a third-party system goes down for a period of time, but it IS your responsibility to keep impacted parties aware of what’s going on.  This largely applies to internal parties, but can include partners as well (more on customers & prospects in tip #4 below).

Think of a delayed airplane.  Do you want the pilot to go radio silent while you’re on the tarmac wondering what’s going on, or do you actually appreciate over-communication in that situation?

Tell affected parties what you know, what you don’t know, and when you expect to get back to them with more information.  Even if you have NO new information when you get back to them, they will know you are on top of the situation and doing everything you can to make it better.

4. Don’t panic or overreact
This is perhaps the most important reminder when the you-know-what hits the fan.  The skies aren’t falling.  Marketo won’t be down forever.  If you miss some leads this morning, the world will not explode.  It’s likely that by the time you create that alternative landing page, your system will be back up.

This doesn’t make the situation less stressful, but it’s still important to put the situation in context amidst the chaos of the moment.

This includes communicating externally (to email recipients).  Let’s say you sent an email 30 minutes ago and your marketing automation platform just went down.  If you put up a blog post or social update apologizing, you just made the problem bigger than it needs to be.

In other words:

  1. Be prepared
  2. Over communicate
  3. Take a deep breath
  4. Ride out the storm and get back on the train

Sierra Summers, a good friend of mine currently running marketing for People.ai, emailed me the following last night:

“In the 10 years I’ve been using marketing automation systems, this was a first. For something that I rely on so much to go dark, it is a reminder that this CAN happen.  We as marketers have to prepare for this more often, do drills, have back ups of our most important lists.”

Hindsight is always 20-20.  Just be ready when (not if) it happens again.

The post Four strategies for managing (and preparing for) critical system downtime appeared first on Heinz Marketing.

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