Marketing operations presents an important enterprise opportunity

Frans Riemersma
November 21, 2022

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

Marketing ops “makes marketing happen” and as such has become increasingly important to the enterprise and its marketing organization. Management is increasingly looking to marketing to create engaging and differentiating customer experiences.

68% of CMOs say that marketing is the growth driver of companies (The CMO Council and Deloitte.)

Not surprisingly, 83% of CMOs now consider MarketingOps part of RevOps to drive revenue (SalesHacker).

Defining marketing ops

With 80% of marketing team’s hours spent “making marketing happen” (a.k.a. Marketing Ops) it deserves a definition. As CMOs are finding out, it is huge and important. As marketing leaders we need some ‘handles’ to manage the marketing ops space.

We did our homework and explored the web for practical definitions. Here are the most succinct and the most actionable:

Marketing operations is the function of overseeing an organization’s marketing program, campaign planning and annual strategic planning activities

Keeping the marketing organization aligned and productive.
Forrester / Sirius Decisions

Marketing operations is all of the processes that go on behind the scenes of a marketing team.

Three elements that define marketing ops

In our podcast we learned that almost all definitions of marketing ops have three elements in common.

  1. Marketing ops works behind the scenes
    Marketing ops supports the marketing organization.
  2. Marketing ops works cross departmental
    Marketing ops enables the alignment of marketing with other departments and supports its peers in sales ops, customer success ops, rev ops, also coined as big ops.
  3. Marketing ops works cross functionally
    Marketing ops covers topics like people, process, technology, budget, and data.

Some definitions lean more towards one of the three elements. If we would plot them together the following picture emerges.

Marketing ops purpose: mimicking the customers’ fluidity

Today’s customers perceive that they are doing business with a brand or a company as a whole. They do not do business with the individual departments, even though departments often operate on different sides of the wall, tossing things over internally, sometimes even stick bombs.

Because customers’ needs are fluid, these internal walls don’t work. The client expectations demands fluidity of a company. Marketing ops should connect the different departments and functions. It should fuel the company’s fluidity that is needed to respond to customers’ needs. The success of marketing ops is how well the company mirrors the clients’ fluidity.

With businesses becoming increasingly digital, collaboration is key. This is what largely defines the nature of marketing ops: it should be collaborative. Therefore, we can conclude that one of the marketing ops core responsibilities and capabilities is to streamline internal collaboration to enable mimicking the customers’ fluidity.

Marketing ops capability: providing the guardrails for marketing

To cater to the need for collaboration, marketing ops has to develop certain capabilities. One of them is a change management skill set, since alignment inside and across departments is a key competency.

Just like any modern leader today, marketing ops managers certainly need change management skills. As marketing undergoes seismic changes and as the pace of change continues to increase, change management is probably the single most important challenge of the 21st century.

Another capability is mastering cross functional skills. In order to bring different team together it is important to understand multiple marketing or even business skills. In essence a marketing ops manager should be a “jack of all trades” by nature.

These skills allow marketing ops to operate as a cross departmental gatekeeper for the marketing department. Marketing ops managers should be responsible for creating the guardrails for marketing, i.e. a governance framework.

Such a framework helps to leverage capabilities as much as possible. What are the acceptance criteria for on- and off-boarding an agency, supplier, process, talent, system, budget line item, campaign, KPI, etc.?

A marketing ops manager should ask her/himself: “What are our compliance, consistency, journey, alignment, planning, budget, measurement standards?”. Marketing ops managers should be able to explain to the organisation how to benefit from the marketing ops architecture, such as data, people, processes and tech.

Marketing ops teams have succeeded when they have constructed a worry-free environment for the marketing organization. Or even better: to empower marketers to be the best marketers they can be.

Can fluidity and governance be combined?

How does marketing ops bring the customers fluidity on the one hand and the organizational governance framework on the other hand together? Are these two not each others’ opposites?

All too often rapid agile iterations result in a disconnect between operations and strategy. The agile way of working should always line up with the strategy. That is the responsibility of marketing ops. Marketing ops is the capability that supports the execution of the marketing strategy, while the governance framework ensures marketing strategy is being executed well (according to agreed standards like compliance, consistent, security regulations, etc.).

A marketing ops metaphor

Maybe this metaphor helps define marketing ops. It often feels like building a ship while sailing the seven seas.

  • CMOs & marketing managers are the captains at the helm of the ship that define the destination. They set the marketing strategy in line with the company goals.
  • Marketing Ops managers are the navigators, showing the options on how to sail to that destination. They ‘ll use a KPI framework to give rapid feedback to adjust course when drifting off.

Share on
Uptempo-FacebookFace Book Uptempo-LinkedinLinkedin Uptempo-TwitterTwitter

You may also like:

Marketing Business Acceleration Series: ROI... but First, Taxonomies
Helena Lewis NI marketing business acceleration
Marketing Business Acceleration Series: ROI... but First, Taxonomies
It's Time to Elevate the Marketing Ops Role
marketing ops role
It's Time to Elevate the Marketing Ops Role