Marketing ops is your secret weapon

Anita Brearton
November 21, 2022

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

What sparked your interest in marketing ops?

In my career, I have run big marketing organizations. I was running them before there was such a thing as marketing ops. I have seen firsthand the difficulty of finding and managing technology. That is how I developed a soft spot for marketing ops. I value what they bring to the table. So much so that we decided at CabinetM to develop products that serve the marketing operations team. Looking at the growing marketing technology landscape we wanted to develop a platform to equip marketing ops to manage all those company tools and to make sense of that landscape.

How would you define marketing ops?

Marketing ops is really a secret weapon of CMOs. It is fair to say that marketing ops is what makes marketing work. Everything we do in marketing now is driven by technology. Every post we create, every ad we create, every video we create, everything we do is driven by technology and it’s the marketing ops folks that make all that technology work. 

For argument’s sake, if we left marketing ops out of a marketing department, then what would happen? Well, the cost of customer acquisition would rise, because the marketing team would use or buy disparate, underutilized, or redundant products. As a result the cost of those products directly impacts the cost of customer acquisition.

Secondly, marketing would struggle to achieve its objectives. And many objectives are nowadays increasingly framed in terms of growth in revenue and customer lifetime value (LTV). Technology is the underlying engine that supports the products and campaigns that drive growth. Without marketing ops, there would be a significant drop in revenue.

How do you see the role and value of marketing ops and its solutions over the last decade?

Ten years ago, cutting-edge companies were starting to put people in place that we would define today as marketing ops. Both big company CMO’s and their teams  complained that they couldn’t move fast enough. The reason was that IT would only let them introduce one new system every six months. They were blocked.

 That was the dynamic for a long time, but then marketing started to introduce SaaS products. For SaaS products marketing didn’t need IT. As a result, marketing started to take control of the purchasing and implementation process of technology. Another result is that companies started developing their own marketing technology. It is not unusual to see 20% of the Martech stack having been developed in-house. Regardless if it is developed by IT or externally, in-house means here: functionally designed by marketing ops. So now marketing ops has more control, but also hundreds of different pieces of technology that require coordination. 

What are the top three marketing ops trends for the next decade?

The marketing ops role will become even more critical. This is because there are major trends occuring in how we run marketing campaigns for which we need support from marketing ops.

  1. The first trend is personalization. By personalization, we don’t mean: “insert name here”. Personalization is about giving somebody an experience that is tailored to what you know about them and interacting with them on a very personal level.
  2. Then there’s predictive marketing. This is about identifying unique sets of target audiences and predicting how they will behave. 
  3. The third big trend is making marketing adaptive. If a customer is not behaving as expected, then marketing should be able to adapt smoothly. That implies marketing programs adapt to changing behavior. 

All three trends are completely dependent on having a data architecture. Data architecture and data management are really at the heart of marketing ops. Having said that, inevitably talent management becomes key. And that is actually a huge issue.

Gartner recently published a study stating that part of the problem with underutilized martech stacks is the requisite skills are not present. Earlier in my career learning new (technology) skills was a part of management training programs. In the bigger organizations that doesn’t seem to exist anymore. As we’re throwing all this technology at our employees, why don’t we not take the time to train them on how to use it? 

Interestingly enough, when the term CDP was introduced a few years ago, one of the key defining criteria for a CDP was that – as opposed to big data data management platforms – it had to be usable by the marketing department. It had to have interfaces that were intuitive to the marketing department.

What is the one thing nobody talks or writes about regarding marketing ops, but shouldn’t be overlooked?

There are two things and they’re both related.

The first one is career progression. Marketing ops is a relatively new function. Most people coming into marketing ops are coming in sideways. They’re coming in from other functions, while others come in from marketing automation. So what does it look like to progress in marketing ops? What skills do you need?

Then there is a second, very related requirement, which is soft skills. Soft skills are needed alongside technical skills. It is too easy to write “marketing ops/technology” on the job spec. To be really effective in marketing ops you also have to be a good communicator. You have to understand basic business strategy. Marketing ops people have to understand and describe processes. One of the things that I do see written about, is that the head of marketing ops is going to be the next CMO. 

As part of the career progression in marketing ops, understanding marketing strategy is a must. Because if you don’t understand marketing strategy, none of the rest of it will make sense. Strategy and technology will go hand in hand.

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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