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Marketing Operations (MO) are data scientists, portfolio score keepers and process re-engineers. MO will acquire new responsibilities as more B2B organizations realize the power of marketing in affecting revenue growth. Debbie Qaqish explores the ever-growing responsibilities being adopted by this critical function

Admittedly, I was a bit late to the marketing operations (MO) party, not in terms of technology, data and the need to bring the associated skills into marketing. Rather, my tardiness was in terms of the broader and more strategic impact of marketing operations on marketing as a whole. I conducted my first series of interviews with marketing operations leaders in 2015. Then and now, the set of roles and responsibilities are in a constant state of flux. However, one thing is very clear. Marketing operations is gaining more responsibilities every day and in most cases, marketing is delighted to give these responsibilities to this function. This blog will explore the ever-growing set of responsibilities being adopted by the marketing operations function.

Seismic Shift in Technology

Clearly, the first set of responsibilities requiring marketing operations focus were those related to technology and specifically marketing automation. Once these systems came onto the scene, marketing gained incredible power and possibilities at their fingertips. I’ve had many conversations with marketing leaders about the need to find talent that could optimize the use of these systems. Hiring the right person to run these systems was the first step towards a marketing operations capability.

Inherent in the adoption of marketing automation processes (MAP) and as part of the blossoming landscape of technology options, was the beginning of several capabilities for marketing operations: technology capability, data management capability and measurement/reporting capability. The technology capability includes awareness of what is in the market and being able to make recommendations based on need. This is a key capability as marketers are drowning in technology options. The technology capability also includes buying, integrating, administering and optimizing systems. This is what most people think of when they think about marketing operations. As responsibilities expand for the MO team, some are running the systems as well. A great example is marketing automation. In the early days of MO, MO bought, integrated and optimized the system while a demand gen team actually used the MAP to run programs. More and more, we are seeing this responsibility migrate to the MO team.

A key expansion of the MO role in terms of technology is creating a martech blueprint that supports the business objectives. It was only a few years ago that marketers began to map out and render their martech stack. Yet, given the average marketing team uses close to 20 different pieces of technology, what could be more important? The martech blueprint represents the operationalization of strategy.

Rise of the Data Scientist

I first heard the term “data scientist” uttered by a marketer in 2008. We were working with a major sports team and they had an entire marketing operations group that mined data before it was cool. In general, MO’s first set of responsibilities in terms of data included data hygiene, use and access. An important expansion of responsibilities in data includes optimization and insights. Last year I published an article for Dun & Bradstreet’s publication Perspectives titled – What Kind of Datanista are You?” The piece looked at the four stages of how marketing uses data beginning with how marketing does not use data and ending with how marketing turns data into cross-functional, consumable insights used in decision-making. As more and more companies jump on board with customer-centric strategies, expanding the role of MO to include a data to insights capability is becoming more common.

The Portfolio Score Card

In addition to the technology and data capabilities, MO is also experiencing expanded responsibilities in measurement/analytics/reporting. In the early stage of MO maturity, MO was responsible for using the current systems to track metrics and provide reporting. MO in this sense acted as a provider of a service. As MO became more mature and the needs of the business also expanded, MO adopted more analytics and optimization responsibilities. Now, some MO teams are responsible for looking at how marketing is performing like they are looking at a stock portfolio. Analysis and optimization of all current programs is an on-going and agile practice. Those programs performing well continue with more funding. Those programs not performing well receive attention or are defunded. Taking a portfolio approach allows MO to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing.

Process Re-Engineering

More and more I hear MO leaders discuss the role they play in cross-functional process re-engineering. This expanded role goes beyond mapping fields in systems based on what they are told to do. MO is now taking a leadership role to map more efficient and effective processes. Key processes I see include segmentation, lead management, content operations and campaign effectiveness. Unlike traditional marketing, the MO group is better positioned to lead these process re-engineering efforts because they understand the possibilities from the technology. This understanding is the foundation for much improved process optimization. In addition, because MO has analytical capabilities, they continue to review and optimize the key processes, rather than “set it and forget it.”

For many marketing operations leaders, once the basics are in place (systems and data) process re-engineering is a natural next step in the expanding set of MO responsibilities. Part of the re-engineering and on-going improvement of processes is best practices. If I had a dime for every time I’ve told a marketing team they need to catalog and share best practices to improve and accelerate performance, I’d be a rich woman. This is an important expanded role played by the MO group. Finding the baseline, creating internal benchmarks, comparing to external benchmarks, publishing the scorecard and looking for ways to continuously optimize performance transforms MO from button pushers into strategic business leaders.

It’s clear that marketing operations is a dynamic, fast growing and essential part of today’s B2B marketing organization. It’s also in a state of flux as marketing attempts to keep up with both the new marketing technologies and the resulting changes. You can talk with 10-20-100 different marketing operations groups and get just as many perceptions about their responsibilities. I predict that MO will continue to acquire new responsibilities as more B2B organizations come to realize the power of marketing in affecting revenue and growth.

If you are you ready to start driving revenue, check out this interactive white paper on the “Rise of Marketing Operations” here.

In my next article, I’ll explore more expanding areas of MO responsibilities including budgeting/planning/management, execution/project management, vendor management and collaboration.