A successful marketing endeavor requires a team of people with very specialized skill sets working together to achieve a common goal. Along the way, they’ll be using a host of complex tools that don’t always communicate well with each other while receiving a sea of data that may or may not be helpful. They’ll also need to use that potentially unreliable or irrelevant data to decide how to adjust their efforts in the future. If this sounds like a big challenge, that’s because it is.
Most marketing professionals don’t talk about the job this way, but the real-world requirements of assembling a marketing apparatus so that all the pieces point in the same direction are daunting. And issues like deciding which tools to use and what data to pay attention to are big obstacles teams must overcome every day.
These inherent challenges are why many organizations have added marketing operations roles that carry broad responsibility to align and optimize their marketing efforts to achieve improved results.
What is Marketing Operations?
From a broad perspective, marketing operations govern the people, processes and technologies a marketing department uses to pursue its larger goals. Drilling down a bit, the marketing operations role defines the “how” of a marketing department by deciding issues like how it executes a strategy, how it measures results or how it uses data to inform future decisions.
The marketing operations role can take on many different forms, depending on the size and makeup of an organization or its teams. It could be a dedicated role if the organization is big enough or conducts concerted marketing and sales efforts. Marketing operations could even consist of a team of people. In some organizations, these duties fall to a c-level executive, like a chief marketing officer, chief operations officer or even a chief technology officer. Marketing operations can also serve as a conduit between sales and marketing to ensure the two departments work towards aligned goals.
The Elements of Marketing Operations
Regardless of the size or makeup of an organization, marketing operations focuses on how a team can be more efficient and effective in several different areas, including:
The most important element of any marketing department is the people. Marketing operations establishes critical people-related standards like headcount, roles and responsibilities, outsourcing and budgeting. Marketing operations also identifies employee gaps, forecasts future workforce needs and creates a strategy for filling them.
Another critical role for marketing operations is evaluating and designing the workflows and systems that enable the team to do its best work as efficiently as possible. A process could be as simple as creating templates for repeated workflows or creating automations that eliminate certain types of work. Processes could also include more complex undertakings like project planning and data management. However, the overarching goal is to minimize low-value work as much as possible so people can focus on high-value, high-return tasks.
Marketing operations also leads in building and maintaining the department’s marketing technology stack. This process involves identifying the tools people are already using and determining if the team has the needed technology in place to execute strategy and measure results. Another important element involves regularly reevaluating technology to ensure it continues to meet the department’s needs and objectives. Common marketing technologies include: data analytics, customer relationship management tools, content management systems or social media management software.
Marketing work is much less effective when you aren’t measuring your results. That’s why marketing operations is often responsible for identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) and the tools and methods the department will use to measure them. While no data source is perfect, marketers must be consistent with the measures they use to judge success, and it’s up to marketing operations to establish those standards.
Analysis & Planning
Measuring results is one thing, but deciding what those results mean and how they influence future strategy decisions is another. Marketing operations drive these tasks by moving initiatives through a repeated process of data interpretation, strategy recalibration, execution and measurement, with results judged against previously established KPIs. When marketers repeat this process again and again, incremental improvements eventually add up to impactful results.
Creating Marketing Guideposts
Marketers can quickly become misaligned and ineffective without someone leading the way. An established marketing operations approach can fix this by creating guideposts governing how the people, processes and technology interact to achieve the department’s goals.
Gone are the days of stumbling around in the dark, chasing metrics that don’t really matter. Instead, marketing operations aligns the department so that people with different specialties use the right technology within effective processes to pursue impactful results. With those factors aligned, all marketing endeavors become more efficient and effective.