Marketing Operations 101

by Natalie Ward
, 5 min read
marketing operations

Technology is continually changing the world we live in.

Take a look at ways we now communicate. In just the last few years, we have seen an explosion of ways we share information. We express ourselves in a screenshot or share our thoughts in 140 characters or less. Hello, Snapchat and Twitter.


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It's reported that there are 340 million tweets every day. Communication has become more transparent and efficient—and in some ways (with all the self-publishing going on) keeps us all accountable for what we say and do.

Very similar to this evolution in communication, the marketing world we live in is constantly evolving and begs for those same metrics.

There is constant pressure to prove the value of marketing to the c-suite. There is a need to increase marketing efficiency (sounds like "do it better, cheaper, and faster"). Adapt. Be agile. Respond to changing customer behavior and needs with the right marketing automation and prove ROI.

With the proliferation of marketing technology comes the refined role of marketing operations. This emerging spot in marketing brings technology and business processes together.

Since the role was recognized in early 2005 by analyst firm IDC, it has evolved from overseeing simple business aspects to being a key player in the marketing space that provides accountability through data, transparency, and efficiency.

Michael Ballard of Lenovo summed up this change in marketing by saying:

"I think the definition of marketing operations is completely different now. You know if you asked me that question five years ago, I would define it as the person who oversees the budget and the calendars and all the paperwork.

Today it's really an IT department. You're managing a cloud infrastructure, and the role of the marketer in MO reflects how the role is changing.

Traditionally, marketing was the right brain, creative folks like Mad Men. Today, we have to use a lot more left brain than our right brain, and we're now trying to be more data scientists."

This explanation also reveals the fact that the duties included in the role are stretching the marketer persona. System engineering? Web technology and sales experience? Or even … gasp … a math degree in the marketing department?

It's true. In the report, "Rise of the Marketing Operations Function," Ashley Davis from Trend Micro says it well: "Marketing operations is the nerdy, left brain processes of marketing!"

A recent SiriusDecisions article explains that whether leveraging technology, coordinating functions, reporting on performance, or generating new insights, marketing operations is at the center of much of the marketing organization's activity.

Generally, the marketing operations role is responsible for managing various marketing technologies and automation platforms such as Marketo and Eloqua. But the emerging marketing technology stack now goes well beyond just marketing automation.

And this means that marketing operations becomes an increasingly strategic role—slotting itself at the intersection of marketing analytics and decision-making and revenue generation tactics.

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The 2014 VisionEdge Marketing/ITSMA study found that the role of marketing ops now includes:

  • performance measurement and reporting,
  • campaign analysis and reporting,
  • technology and automation and pipeline management,
  • budgeting and planning,
  • data management,
  • project management,
  • strategic planning,
  • organization benchmarking and assessments, and
  • competitive intelligence, analytics, and predictive modeling.

Whew.

Anyone working in marketing operations is balancing several roles. Whether it's a large company with a defined department director and analysts or a small business where the duties are rolled up into general marketing, there are bound to be some challenges.

It's no easy task to serve as an internal consultant for selection, development, and utilization of technology while also providing marketing analytics support that impacts decision-making and tactics for revenue generation.

So what is the best way to tackle the challenges that come with this emerging role?

Being a member of MOCCA may help, but start simple and focus on basic processes. Read on for three simple tips to help navigate marketing operations.

1. Organize Request Management

With a constant stream of requests from different departments, the ability to provide strategic recommendations, or even get work prioritized, can be a constant battle.

Sixty-three percent of marketers still receive work requests via email and 38 percent receive work requests in meetings. Without an effective way to identify priorities and manage work, a lot of time is lost sorting through work requests and understanding what should be your highest priority.

Start with centralizing all incoming work requests so there is one place to locate, track, and prioritize what needs to be done. Don't accept that quick convo in the hall or the sticky note on your computer as your newest actionable task.

Create a standard work request form with a generic template that is customizable and is easily accessible to anyone who needs your help. Design it to address all your questions and collect requirements to minimize chasing down missing details needed to complete the project.

One way this could be done: create an alias email account, like [email protected] Once you can find all your work in one place, choose a way to evaluate the priority of the requests, like using a scorecard or by the importance of the requestor. 

You can then assign work and set some manageable timeframes for each project with a real sense of workload and time needed to execute.

2. Gain Visibility and Better Productivity

A key step to managing multiple deadlines and projects is regular communication and visibility.

Thirty percent of a workday can be sacrificed to searching for metrics and status updates to deliver to senior management rather than managing deadlines and communicating with team members.

While marketing operations tactics help provide technology infrastructure to the organization, the department itself needs its own organized infrastructure to manage work.

Try using a solution where everyone can access projects and data in the same place. A work management solution can provide the real-time details that make coordination and assessment of all marketing ops efforts more streamlined and effective.

When you can locate project details in one place you will improve workflow processes, centralize communication, and simplify strategic planning. Not to mention—making those necessary status updates will be much easier.

All this organization will also help establish a framework to translate all your measurable data so you have a way to easily report actionable recommendations and you are aren't sacrificing resources and time finding the needed information.

3. Create and Use Templates

Because marketing ops conducts the benchmarking and assessments to determine what standards, best practices, processes, and skills are needed to help the marketing team, creating templates of repeatable projects and processes can be a valuable tool.

A template can simplify steps for cyclical work like reviewing processes for more tech onboarding or summarizing needs for budget planning.

It can also provide the ability to measure and report previous outcomes and leverage processes that were successful while avoiding undocumented past pitfalls.

With an historical log of templates available to reference, planning and project management can be optimized and offer additional built-in benefits like benchmarks and measurement.

As noted by Laura Patterson with MarketingProfs:

"Marketing ops has the opportunity to enable marketing to become more effective by developing and managing the processes for setting performance expectations, monitoring progress, and measuring results."


Watch our on-demand webinar, "5 Tips for More Efficient Marketing Operations," for more marketing operations advice.

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