Future of Marketing Operations: 5 Threatening Challenges

Mirko Holzer
CEO of Uptempo
May 29, 2023

In recent reflections following a thought-provoking industry event, I identified five challenges that point to significant opportunities for growth in the future of marketing operations. This blog outlines these challenges, urging you to join this transformative journey.

Think of this as a call to marketing leaders to explore new concepts and embrace a new model for the operational side of marketing.

1. Marketers are drowning in data 

Data, data everywhere. The transition from analog to digital created an explosion of data over the last 30 years that continues to accelerate today. The numbers are staggering:  

  • According to Forbes, 90% of the data we analyze was created in the last couple years. 
  • There are 99K searches on Google per second.
  • Brands have spent $116B to capture that search traffic.

And then there’s mobile data, social data, and ecommerce data to consider. Marketing is experiencing a transition from being a social science to a data science. From a purely creative pursuit to a scientific one.

With that transition comes power, influence, and respect. Marketing is a growth engine, powered by increasingly sophisticated tools.

The sheer magnitude of big data is a problem for marketers trying to manage the customer experience across every touchpoint. So, we’ve turned to martech (marketing technology) to make sense of it all. But it hasn’t answered all of our questions.

2. The explosion of martech has overlooked how to run the business of marketing

We’re still experiencing what we call the rise of martech—the totally unrestrained proliferation of marketing technology, tools, and services. In 2011 there were a mere 150 tools. Today there are more than 12,000. That’s 6,500% growth in the last 10 years alone, as documented by Scott Brinker and Frans Riemersma.    

All of that money spent, and yet where are the investments in how we run the business of marketing? The operational domains of planning, budgeting, work, and content?

These are still being run on spreadsheets, PowerPoints, and Word documents.  

I find it frankly shocking that the most popular tool among marketers—used by more than 70% of marketing professionals at least 10 hours per week—is Excel. Some of the biggest brands are still relying on tools from the 80’s to manage millions of dollars and global campaign plans. Which leads to the next challenge…

3. Marketing may have gone digital, but it hasn’t experienced a “digital transformation”

The reality is marketers are automating very little in terms of running marketing. It’s a massive imbalance that has real negative consequences, especially for CMOs. Leaders are struggling to get visibility into how the function is performing against a plan, or into the state of the budget.

We call this the “fog of marketing” a state of dysfunction that plagues the vast majority of marketing teams today. One CMO described trying to change plans as “trying to turn a container ship by putting your hand in the water.” 

How is agility possible in this state? How can marketers hope to react to market disruptions and changing customer preferences, much less anticipate them? They cannot. The typical response to look to invest more heavily in martech tools (often without sufficient planning).

4. Investments in marketing operations are happening in the wrong places

According to Forrester, 64% of marketing leaders plan to increase ops spend this year.   

The problem is, not all that investment goes to the best places. Many marketing ops teams are focusing on the configuration of martech tools instead of giving CMOs visibility into how marketing plans are being implemented by dispersed teams.  

Siloed data is just a scattering of snapshots that are disconnected from critical dependencies. The marketing ops function only fixes problems instead of anticipating opportunities as a strategic advisor to the CMO.  

Once data sources are connected, they can form a complete picture to help inform critical decisions and help teams operate more strategically. The represents a huge opportunity for marketing operations to be more forward-looking. 

5. The role of marketing ops is about more than the day-to-day

Marketing operations must play a strategic role in the service of the CMO because it creates the framework for how marketing teams do their jobs.  

The very success of marketing requires marketing operations to be at the center of managing the people, processes, budgets, and plans. This is why so many organizations are investing in strategic expertise to tackle the problem.  

Forrester’s latest report on marketing ops says, “80% of high-performing B2B organizations reported that they have a chief of staff to the CMO, of which 85% also serve as the marketing operations leader.” The rise of the chief of staff to the CMO role is an interesting trend that has emerged in response to this need. 

This chief of staff to the CMO role is the champion in 10% of our overall customer accounts and in every one of our new customer accounts so far this quarter. B2C is following suit: There are active job postings for a marketing chief of staff at Pinterest, Wayfair, Deloitte, Capitol One, L’Oreal and many others. 

The opportunity for growth: a new operating model

What’s the fix? It’s certainly not more ops, or more martech. These challenges require a new operating model, one that clears the fog surrounding marketing operations. 

We call this new operating model marketing business acceleration. Marketing can optimize planning, performance, and productivity. Marketing teams can make better decisions, measure everything and move faster to capture market opportunities.  

It liberates CMOs by providing clarity on the financial and business impact of marketing programs, the success of strategies and tactics, and the ability to course-correct, capture new opportunities, and fund innovation.

Marketing business acceleration in action

Over 200,000 employees at one of the world’s largest furniture retailers previously used spreadsheets to share marketing plans and content for their 445 stores in 32 countries. Their processes were inefficient and inhibited the company’s potential for future growth.  

But they achieved visibility by centralizing their plans and work management into a single system accessible to everyone. They significantly reduced manual tasks and the possibility of human errors, so marketing operations could focus on strategic work.  

Now, over 90% of all customer-facing activities are captured within a single solution. Marketers have immediate visibility into the effectiveness of commercial and marketing activities across all markets. They can see campaign results by sales, stock availability, and store and product performance by market in real time to make changes as needed. 

The new model is working at scale at a number of our enterprise clients and it can work for your organization too.

You can read more about this new operating model in our new ebook: The CMO’s Primer for Marketing Business Acceleration.

Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on Mirko Holzer’s LinkedIn.

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