Marcel Duy, Product Director, Digital Business Planning at IKEA
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 Jessica Kao, Senior Director, Marketing Operations and Martech at Cloudflare—a global cloud platform designed to make internet applications more secure, private, fast, and reliable—about her thoughts on strategic marketing operations.
I‘m focused on digital transformation, so we can scale the company’s growth from a billion to five billion over the next five years. And we can’t scale without a solid foundation of marketing technology and processes. Our marketing operation team’s vision is to be the accelerant for marketing, and the next 12-18 months are focused on building that.
I do this by treating marketing operations like a product. I have a product manager that runs our organization because we’re an internal agency that offers capabilities and services—and that is a product. We own all the technology and the processes that make marketing “go”. We have a road map to understand what capabilities we want to enable for the marketing organization, similar to how a tech product has a feature road map.
I think more companies are discovering the total cost of ownership. Buying the tool is usually less than 50% of the actual cost. You can have the right tools, but if you don’t have the right people with the right expertise to execute your plans, you’re going to get less ROI out of your tech. You need people who understand how your ecosystem will work—and qualified talent costs money. You can’t buy your way out of your problems with more tools. Every house needs an architect—and there’s not a lot of experienced architects running around. I think more orgs are investing in the people resources they need to make MOps as strategic and efficient as possible. The order has 100% got to be people, processes, and then technology.
I think we’re also using a more long-term lens when we look at martech spending. We’re trying to determine what the use cases are for a tool today, but also asking ourselves “What will the use cases be in three years?” Something might solve a problem today, but if we duct-tape it together now, it won’t scale. We have to anticipate what our needs will be in a few years and build a tech stack that’s future-proof when we make investment decisions—and what the long-term costs will be if we don’t.
I’m always working from my 12-18 month marketing ops tech road map (aka my digital transformation playbook). When I present my requests, I’ll explain the new initiatives and capabilities I want to introduce, plus a list of nice to haves. I also tie each investment to top-down goals our CMO has set or demand generation goals. It’s all about rationalizing the martech stack and explaining how we’re maximizing utilization of it.
You have to show how you’re building a digital revenue engine and demonstrate what you’ve achieved in the past few quarters. A lot of MOps people talk about MQL scoring, lead routing, and data capture. But the C-suite speaks revenue first. They want to hear about increasing lead velocity, getting quality leads to BDRs, and pipeline contributions. So make sure you’re showing how you support marketing lead engagement, opportunities, pipeline, and conversion.
I expect everyone on my team—no matter their level—to be strategic. That simply means having a goal and figuring out what we should do to reach that goal.
To do this, most MOps folks need a mindset shift. We have to stop being order takers and become strategic leaders. We add value by providing guidance on how to maximize engagement. Nearly every marketing program runs through our fingers, so we have a unique view of what’s working—and what’s not. We have to shift our language away from “What do you want to do?” to “Here’s what our data says will help you achieve your goals.” Instead of asking what people want for dinner, we need to give a short menu of options.
This isn’t to say there isn’t a service aspect to what we do, but offering strategic guidance is different. Think about how best-in-class products are built. They don’t build every feature each customer asks for. Yes, they use feedback to make the product better—but they’re the expert in the driver’s seat. Marketing ops needs to do the same thing.
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