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Marketing operations for growth and performance marketing teams

Article originally published in February 2023 by Stuart Brameld. Most recent update in February 2023.

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Marketing operations helps to turn your growth marketing strategy from a plan, to execution etc

If there’s one word that sums up the role of marketing operations, it’s effectiveness of your marketing team. Let’s dive in.

What is marketing operations?

Marketing operations (aka MOps or MarkOps) is ….

“Marketing operations is the function of overseeing an organization’s marketing program, campaign planning and annual strategic planning activities. Other responsibilities include technology and performance measurement and reporting and data analytics.”

Gartner

According to The State of the Marketing Ops Professional 80%+ of companies have a dedicated marketing operations individual or team (up from 65% in 2021).

Why you need marketing operations?

Have you seen the MarketingLand graphic from Mark Ritson and Matt Dillon? We are huge fans!

Here’s why: It does an excellent job of laying out a successful marketing route, which most savvy marketers know begins with understanding your target audience.

Marketing operations is the oil that makes everything in marketing land run smoothly — particularly within larger teams. If MarketingLand is about diagnosis, strategy and execution, marketing operations is about supporting these core activities for optimal performance.

Now, why is this support for marketing activities so important that 15% more companies incorporated it in 2022 compared to 2021?

For one, recent shifts in customer behavior, economic conditions, and board expectations have caused CMOs to go all in on the pursuit of operational excellence. They need more to be done with even fewer resources, hence, the need for near zero-waste performance.

Also, fast-changing events with global impact—like COVID-19 or the Russian invasion of Ukraine—have led to a shift from growth at all costs to sustainable and efficient growth. More than ever marketing is now about driving business outcomes, not vanity metrics.

If you want marketing to have a seat at the revenue table alongside CEO, CRO, CTO, etc., you need to have KPIs focused on pipeline and revenue. Marketing should own a percentage of the pipeline number.

What are the benefits to marketing operations?

We’ve hinted at a few earlier but there’s more:

  • Effective MarkOps create cost optimisation initiatives. This in turn increases the need for a marketing operations leader role to sustainably support the budget-efficient performance of your marketing department.
  • Identify and fix operational weaknesses in marketing and measure progress against your organisation’s overarching goals and strategies.
  • Upgrade your marketing processes from over reliance on spreadsheets to optimised and more productive MarTech solutions.

So, how exactly does MOps make this happen? Or is this all just fancy board table talk to please stakeholders?

What exactly does marketing operations do?

Traditionally, marketing ops has centred heavily around technology and marketing automation platforms in particular (think: Salesforce, Hubspot, and Marketo). It was focused on things such as lead management, database management, lead routing, lead scoring, pipeline forecasting, etc.

This is starting to change. The scope and role of MarkOps is widening significantly and is now a huge remit beyond just managing a technology platform.

In fact, the scope of marketing operations individuals and teams varies hugely— lots of roles. We have outlined some of the more popular in-scope activities below (hat tip to the smart folks at Gartner).

Gartner defines marketing ops to include these functions:

  1. Strategy and planning facilitation and effective communications
  2. Campaign and lead management
  3. Process optimization and governance
  4. Data and analytics optimization and governance
  5. Marketing technology selection, integration, optimization, governance and adoption
ActivityComment
Technology & Systems– Responsible for the MarTech (marketing technology) stack — platforms and systems
– Maximise ROI on tech spend and new capabilities
– Support and empower teams with technology, tools, and technology strategy
– Leverage automation and integrations for improved productivity
Data & Analytics– Provide visibility and data to support decision making and attribution
– Build and maintain dashboards, data lake, marketing data warehouse, reports, etc.
Processes & Project management– Ensure processes are clear and well-defined with continuous improvement and better execution
– Provide more responsive and agile marketing operations with Marketing project management software
– Enable a cycle of continuous planning, evaluation, and refinement in marketing instead of static 12-month planning models
– Support response to change, dealing with work requests, removing obstacles, and ensuring things run more smoothly
– Handle process design and management. lead scoring, lead tracking, hand-off, etc.
Alignment– Improve alignment collaboration between marketing and sales as well as IT, finance, and other teams
Communications– Manage and support comms within the marketing team and with other teams and stakeholders
– Maintain internal stakeholder satisfaction
– Reduce silos within the business by understanding and sharing what is being done in marketing
Goal & KPIs– Own and manage overall strategy and planning
– Ensure marketing goals, KPIs, and other metrics are aligned with business goals and strategic plans
Finance & budgeting– Manage and optimise spend across the marketing org
– Promote intelligent use of budget to make the most of marketing dollars
– Demonstrate marketing ROI and headcount performance
Vendor management– Manage internal and external resources, including agencies and contractor relationships and partnership
– This also includes agency management — creative agencies, surveying vendors, etc.

To run all these varied functions and responsibilities without hiccups but with top-rated efficiency, a marketing project management tool is a critical component.

Why does your organisation need marketing operations?

Your organisation needs marketing operations to increase the effectiveness of your marketing team, helping to go past just optimising for efficiency and drive actual business impact.

You might think, “But after all I’ve read above, it seems to me that everyone in our marketing team is already handling the MarkOps function in one way or the other.” This isn’t going to work because marketing and growth teams are often overly focused on execution and lack in operational excellence to drive the marketing ops engine.

You need a dedicated marketing ops leader. That comes with improved flexibility and responsiveness. Plus, you get to aim for effectiveness not efficiency.

Note: We have talked about some of the challenges here before in terms of outputs over outcomes; the trade-off between efficiency and effectiveness.

Is RevOps (Sales Ops + Marketing Ops) the future?

“The new reality is that sales and markeitng are continuously and icnreasingly integrated. Marketing needs to know more about sales, sales needs to know more about marketing, and we all need to know more about our customers.”

Jill Rowley

What Jill described above is the current reality of Revenue Operations, where marketing, sales, and customer service departments work together to hit goals around common KPIs. RevOps keeps these three departments together to ensure full accountability and seamless team up.

If you dig deeper into this idea, you can see this cannot be possible without marketing ops. In fact, it plays a strong role in enabling RevOps to track things end-to-end (from sales through marketing to customer success) and unveil performance across the entire funnel.

We’re talking about things like visitor-to-lead conversion all the way through to closed/won revenue.

Why’s it necessary to operate this way? If you lack alignment among these three departments, you’ll struggle with attribution. What’s the source of opportunities? Who gets credit for deals? Aligning with finance is even a vital ingredient.

When done right, you can enable trust between these departments and execute projects and campaigns effectively. You can also ensure the revenue machine runs smoothly and as efficiently as possible.

You need MarkOps to enable RevOps to function as intended.

Final thoughts

Given the current economic environment, what opportunities exist to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your marketing operations?

“Marketing operations leaders are becoming increasingly common. Gartner research says 49% of surveyed marketers have a marketing operations leader in at least one team. “

https://www.gartner.co.uk/en/marketing/research/marketing-operation-survey-2020

Marketing operations resources

The video below is a great discussion between Michael McKinnon (author of The Marketing Operations Handbook) and David Lewis (BDO Digital).

In addition, here is some additional recommended reading and resources on marketing operations.