Marketing Operations Grows Up: Why Unicorns Rule

In last month’s blog post I discussed at a high level the ideal marketing organizational structure for embarking on a Revenue Marketing JourneyTM. In this post we delve into the why and how to centralize Marketing Operations (MO). What are the benefits of centralizing the related functions, and what steps can you take to make this happen in your organization?

Marketing Operations Maturity

Some larger organizations have had centralized Marketing Operations for 10+ years, while others, usually smaller organizations, have either had the functions decentralized in marketing or they appointed a single manager or director to the role, with no direct reports. This range of organizational structure is due to the varying maturity levels of Marketing Operations within companies.

Marketing Operations

Initially MO may be a decentralized set of reactive responsibilities for technologies and perhaps metrics. In the most mature case MO is a centralized function, the source of data and insights for leadership decision making, the focus of customer experience information, and the basis for marketing productivity, agility and accountability. Where are you on the maturity curve? Do you know what you need to do to move forward in 2017?

Why Centralize Marketing Operations?

The MO function continues to evolve, but current responsibilities fall into the following broad areas:

  • MarTech strategy, selection, integration and optimization
  • Vendor management
  • Data management, governance and optimization
  • Process engineering and optimization
  • Measurement, analytics and reporting
  • Project management, training and education
  • Change management
  • And perhaps a global shared services group for campaign execution and content operations

Marketing Operations Group

We typically see firms move beyond the decentralized MO function and start to centralize when the following potential benefits begin to demand organizational change.

  1. Increased marketing efficiency and organizational agility
  2. Faster adaptation of marketing efforts in response to changing customer behavior, market conditions and business direction
  3. Improved revenue, margin, profit and market share
  4. Underpinning a shift from marketing being managed as a cost center to operating more like a business, with formalized best practices, processes, infrastructure and reporting
  5. Leveraging data to make market, customer, and product/service decisions that create value for customers and shareholders

The Usual Marketing Operations Evolution

The MO group will usually start with a focus on getting their arms around the ever growing set of marketing technologies. Then quickly they will recognize that this has to be done in the context of the data and the related processes. And it doesn’t take long until reporting, finance, project management and training get added to the mix. Learning to operate marketing as a business, with revenue accountability, processes, reporting and the related optimization mindset can be a significant shift for marketers who were used to operating as a creative cost center with no revenue responsibility. That’s why change management becomes part of MO, because you won’t get there unscathed if you don’t manage the shift effectively. Your Director of MO will usually assume this role in small to mid-size groups. The addition of a global shared services group to execute campaign builds, and content operations usually happens in larger organizations as a way to drive brand consistency and achieve economies of scale. It has implications for the Demand Generation Group, which we will discuss in the next blog post.

Your Steps to an effective Marketing Operations Organization

Your new hires, after a Director of Marketing Operations, are in the following order:

  1. Technologist – someone who can set the direction, lead governance and integration initiatives. They also take on vendor management.
  2. Data whiz. I am fraught to say data scientist because that may be overkill for smaller organizations, but that is where this role goes in larger organizations. Leverage this person for all reporting and analytics too.
  3. Outsource much of the process re-engineering – most firms won’t need a full time equivalent (FTE) to cover this role.
  4. Outsource your training, but don’t underestimate the value of it.
  5. Borrow project management resources from IT until the team has so many initiatives you need your own FTE.

MO depends on finding people who are both left-brain and right-brain. They can be analytical, but also creative. They are the marketing unicorns. They are getting harder to find because MO is growing so quickly. But this is an important milestone in your Revenue Marketing Journey, so please invest proper time and resources to set this group up with a great charter, and the right skill sets.



Rise of the Marketing Operations Function

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