Marketing Business Acceleration Series: Fortune Favors the Curious 

Shannon Fitzgerald-Lussier
July 6, 2023
Justin Norris marketing business acceleration series

The marketing operations function should be a key player in helping CMOs make data-driven, strategic marketing decisions. Marketing operations can help CMOs run marketing like a business by using marketing business acceleration to optimize their planning, performance, and productivity.  

In our Marketing Business Acceleration Series, forward-thinking marketing professionals share how they’re elevating marketing operations in their organizations and proving business impact.  

In this interview, we spoke with Justin Norris, Director of Marketing Operations at 360Learning—one of the fastest-growing learning tech companies—about his thoughts on strategic marketing operations.  

What is your biggest priority in 2023?

Because our GTM strategy is primarily inbound, our number one priority is increasing velocity in the sales cycle. We rolled out an initiative that reduced the average response time for us to connect with a high-priority lead from over two hours to under 10 minutes. It was important for the business to make it easier for customers to buy at every step—creating a truly frictionless experience. Marketing operations played a critical role in making this happen. 

It’s pretty low-hanging fruit, but the actual mechanics of it are challenging. For example, routing inquiries across multiple time zones wasn’t easy given the target response time of 10 minutes. We are continuously questioning whether or not we have the right technology and processes to support our goal.  

How have you changed your marketing investments from last year?

We’re much more conscious of how much is spent on technology and if we have the right tools in our tech stack. Looking at the broader tech ecosystem, when companies were raising multiple hundred million dollar rounds every six months, it was easy to buy more and more tech. But the “more-tech” attitude has been very damaging for the industry. It’s led to a lot of wasted spend, bad integrations, and poorly maintained technology.  

Be smart and strategic about what you’re buying. Is it a nice-to-have or a must-have? Before adding the latest shiny, new technology to your tech stack, you need to understand the value it brings and if you have the resources to manage it.  

How do you ensure that MOps priorities are aligned to corporate goals and are making an impact on the business?

It’s not just a demand generation problem to think about how far off the numbers are for pipeline or revenue. Marketing operations has a very special vantage point to see bottlenecks throughout the funnel and proactively suggest solutions.  

Sometimes there’s a little bit of a “not my circus, not my monkeys” mentality between marketing and marketing operations. For example, if you notice that a lot of money is spent on low-intent eBook leads that don’t convert then speak up. It elevates your profile in the company when you start asking questions as part of revenue leadership (even if you don’t have that role yet). If you’re just in your own little cul-de-sac of technology and just triaging requests, you’re isolated from the business. The more you collaborate with other marketing leaders in functional departments, the more it becomes second nature to align with corporate goals.  

The other part of it is about how you communicate your priorities that are already aligned with corporate goals. With so much technical knowledge, it’s easy to get caught up in the “how” instead of the “why”. For example, if you implement a new routing system, then talk about how this will impact the KPIs that the business cares about. Don’t talk about the number of tickets. Talk about how this routing initiative increased conversions from MQL to SQL by X percent or the impact on pipeline. It doesn’t change how you’ve solved the problem at all. It just changes people’s understanding and perception of why marketing operations is solving that problem. 

How can marketing operations become more strategic?

Fortunately, 360Learning has a very ops-centric culture so it’s already engrained that MOps is performance-oriented and will proactively share insights and recommendations. But it’s not just about doing things right. You need to be doing the right things. It can be easy for MOps to always think about what’s most efficient, but you also need to consider what’s most effective.  

Your marketing operations department should be a strategic business function, not just a technology partner. Technology can easily be subsumed into a business systems function. And then where does that leave marketing operations? Along with a business-forward mindset, it’s about how you define the scope of the department and then communicate that within your organization.  

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