Defining marketing ops

Dr. Ralf Strauss
November 16, 2022

This blog was adapted from BrandMaker’s: “Marketing Ops Now” podcast. Each installment discusses valuable ideas for both management and marketing executives. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.

“Marketing ops” is in the news – it’s on everyone’s radar, but what is it exactly.

We know it is critical to marketing success, but to manage and refine it, to dramatically increase its efficiency, we need to set clear boundaries that enable us to cater to short-term requests while hardening the long term infrastructure.
In our exploration we find that there are two key focal points of marketing ops.
When conducting the marketing tech monitor interviews two major domains in marketing were found.

  • The first is external. It is about customer centricity, everything that is related to ‘outbound’. How do I get the most out of the customer engagement and touch points?
  • The second is about all the internal processes. How do I get the most out of our marketing resources?

The five components of marketing ops

When defining the individual five topics, technology, people, process, data and budget, we also have to realize this. It is not only about the individual topics, but also about how we orchestrate them and mold them into a lean & mean data-driven marketing machine.


According to the Mof companies say they are ‘data ready’.
What’s missing is an overall martech data strategy, how do we integrate it, what can we learn?. We often structure data by channel – what are the right ways to aggregate data and how can I also generate personalized data that respects privacy? There is a clear need for data models.
Let’s have a closer look at data. It is not only touchpoint, customer or first party data, It is also performance data, operational data, and last but not least, also budget data.
Therefore, marketing ops needs to develop a sort of data strategy defining which sort of data elements are required. Implementing CDPs (customer data platforms) is not the solution if companies forget to define a data strategy. Developing a data strategy goes hand-in-hand with technology. It is about bridging the gap between available and required data points.


Often the martech stack of a company looks like a spaghetti architecture. It takes marketing ops, sometimes together with IT, to transform the chaotic spaghetti into nicely layered lasagna. We need to reconsider our martech architectures. How will we structure the application landscape over time, which applications do we need to implement and which ones might be sunsetted?
It is part of marketing ops to give the architecture a scalable structure, e.g. service oriented architectures, integration architectures, bringing all the different spaghetti pieces together.


Processes are needed to create the necessary alignment across the organization. However, in many cases processes are not clearly defined. These must be reengineered not only to handle todays’ requests, but to anticipate the future. Alignment with category management is vital.
Marketing ops should be responsible for defining workflows and service level agreements (SLAs) to align with suppliers as well as with other departments concerning promised outputs and delivery dates. But before we start defining workflows, we need to create clarity around our roles & responsibilities.


There is a broad range of roles and responsibilities in marketing. Clarity on roles & responsibilities is key, also talent and change management are crucial. This is where technology comes in. The applications that support our internal processes help us understand: “what the team has been doing. Where did we spend our time? Where should we put more focus?”.
We need a different approach and this is where marketing ops plays an important part. This is where change management comes in. Instead of sending over a 20 page presentation, marketing ops should demonstrate the new way of working and what the benefits are. Marketing ops needs to find clever ways to get people engaged and being supportive of new technologies and corresponding processes.


Marketing ops must become the keeper of the budget, and adopt the financial rigor that is required to manage this effectively  Often the budget information from the ERP system is not granular enough for the marketing team. From there it is often ‘spreadsheet chaos.’
The ERP view on marketing budget is sufficient for the CFO, but not for marketing. Take this example from a logistics company. They have a marketing spend of $120 or $130 million a year. Their budget is tracked by cost centers in their ERP system. But from there, in the countries and operations, even large sums of money are still being tracked on spreadsheets. It does not yield reliable data.
What is really needed is a structured yearly budgeting process linked to a budget tracking  view showing how much budget has been allocated, committed, and spent. To be truly agile it is crucial to know at all times how much budget is still available. Not only that, it is also essential to learn and understand what the best is.
This is where marketing resource management (MRM) systems support marketing ops’ budget management responsibilities.

Orchestrating marketing ops

Roaming the marketing ops territory is like “fixing the plane while flying”-metaphor. Corresponding with the two major domains in marketing we mentioned at the beginning, we find two different types of persons in marketing, each with a different, yet complementary, take on marketing.

Creative / ArtworkStructure / Technology
Ad HocOngoing
Short TermLong Term
External / CustomerInternal / Team
One OffRepeatable

Marketing ops needs to balance the two breeds similarly like an orchestra. One where everyone wants to chip in wants to be part of it. It is basically building platforms for new orchestras to support their next performance.

Please join us

BrandMaker’s “Marketing Ops Now” podcast series has officially started. In each podcast industry luminaries and deep thinkers share valuable marketing ops ideas for both management and marketing executives (some worth stealing).

For every podcast in the series we’ll do a blog post to share the highlights with you. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.

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