You have a product to sell or a service to offer, so what do you do next? You market!
Marketing goods and services as a practice has been around as long as civilization itself, however, the concept of marketing as we understand it today has its origins in the Industrial Revolution, when scientific and technological advances began to change our society. This is also the time when buying things became more convenient than making them on your own. Factories allowed the mass production of inventions never imagined before, which proved to be very profitable. And soon enough, the race between businesses was in full force. Optimizing production was not enough. To get a bigger piece of the pie, businesses had to outweigh the competition.
From that moment on, the evolution of modern-day marketing boomed and saw five distinctive eras: the production era, sales era, marketing department era, marketing company era, and relationship marketing era.
Here, we’ll leave the marketing philosophies aside and focus more on the practical aspects that directly answer the question: As a founder, what do I need to know about marketing operations?
We know you can’t rely on word-of-mouth referrals to sell products as the competition will take up all the space for growth. So, how do you flourish? Keep reading to find out how efficient marketing operations can make your returns match your business goals.
The term marketing operations is a broad concept that collectively describes all the activities that help the marketing team do its job. Also known as MO or marketing ops, this concept defines the marketing process behind the curtains. It’s the backbone of your marketing team, allowing a seamless workflow that drives results. In other words, we can say that MO is the end-to-end optimization and governance of all marketing responsibilities within the company.
The end goal of marketing ops is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing processes. These processes are mainly broken up into three areas: people, technology, and data. The marketing ops team makes sure that marketers are on the path to excellence by taking care of organizational matters such as:
And, while the core marketing team almost always consists of marketing specialists, marketing ops require many areas of expertise. This team might include financial analysts, project managers, market researchers, data scientists, programmers, etc.
The need for such a multidisciplinary environment stems from the growing market demands. As the field of marketing evolves, professionals feel the pressure to expand their skillset beyond traditional marketing. They need to be analytical and tech-savvy to take advantage of new opportunities.
To better understand the function of marketing operations, let’s take a closer look at all the tasks that fall under their auspice.
Marketing operations is a new field that’s rapidly evolving. And, while this speaks volumes of its importance in today’s business world, it becomes that much harder to precisely define it and list every aspect that it involves. For instance, finding two marketing ops specialists with the same skill sets and responsibilities is almost impossible.
However, based on the three main functions in marketing operations (people, technology, and data), we can lay out the foundation of marketing ops skills and responsibilities.
If we focus on marketing processes as a chronological timeline, then we can categorize marketing ops activities in three phases: planning, scaling, and measuring.
The first phase is planning, where marketing ops are responsible for:
The second phase is scaling, where marketing ops are responsible for:
The third and final phase is measuring, where marketing ops are responsible for:
On the other hand, we can also talk about the scope of marketing ops by focusing on the team members, their roles, and skills. We’ll explain this approach in greater detail further in the article, when we discuss how to hire the right people when developing your marketing ops team.
Hopefully by now you have a clear idea of what marketing operations are and how the responsibilities of the marketing ops team fit in the company context. However, you might still wonder: Why would I create an additional team for handling marketing operations? Isn’t my core marketing team enough?
The current trends in the business world lean toward the creation of separate hybrid teams for some of the company’s goals and purposes. The best example of this tendency is seen with the emergence of growth teams. Read our article about “What makes up a growth team?” to learn more.
Whether we’ll see a complete overthrow of traditional departments in companies in favor of these new interdisciplinary teams is still not clear. What’s clear is that building teams such as marketing ops and growth teams is an extremely valuable business strategy.
On the topic of marketing ops specifically, 93% of B2B marketers believe that the marketing ops function is critical digital transformation, which is impressive because a few years ago, this function did not exist.
The reason behind this dramatic turn of events is that the online space became even more dominant. On top of that, the world is facing a pandemic that probably changed the way we do businesses forever. Almost all marketing is 100% digital, which means that you need a team that knows how to take advantage of the sophisticated technological solutions for your digital marketing needs. You need people with analytical, technological, and marketing skills!
And, since technology is absolutely necessary for carrying out marketing activities online, marketing ops is a great way to make sure this digital transformation is fully optimized.
Another way to illustrate the importance of marketing operations is to describe the benefits of hiring a marketing ops team in your company.
If you are convinced that you need to hire a marketing ops specialist, or maybe even build a marketing operations team, then the next logical question we need to address is how to find the right person - or people - for the job.
In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the roles within a marketing operations team, as well as the roles and responsibilities of each team member. But, remember, you can always choose to hire one person who’ll work as part of your core marketing team, or develop a team with different areas of expertise. Think about your budget and company’s needs before you make a final decision.
Every team needs a leader, which is why we’ll begin from the top of the hierarchy. Marketing ops managers or directors are the ones who oversee everything: the tools you use, the metrics you follow, and the processes each person is responsible for. These people should have a lot of practical experience in management, but also possess specific marketing operations skills, such as campaign management and project planning, because they’ll be given the authority to set the workflow. Integrating the knowledge and expertise of other team members into a seamless process is yet another crucial skill, so make sure they have leadership skills and can empower the team.
The other roles can also be seen as areas of expertise that every manager should possess.
We’ve said multiple times that technology is a big part of marketing today. So much, that even a new term was coined: martech (marketing technology). The concept describes a range of software and tools that help businesses reach their marketing goals and optimize marketing efforts across all marketing channels. To achieve this, you need people who are extremely tech-savvy - like programmers and developers - to cover the whole marketing infrastructure. The skills tech experts need to have include: strategy, integration, implementation, and infrastructure. For instance, tech experts need to be familiar with:
Just like tech experts, you also need data experts. These are the people who know all the nitty-gritty details of analytics tools, can use them to your advantage, and identify the right KPIs (key performance indicators) for your current goals. Data analysts will be acting on the insights that the tools provide, so they’ll work closely with the tech experts and even possess tech skills themselves. More specifically, data experts need optimization, reporting, analytical, and measurement skills. Some of their responsibilities will include:
The alignment professionals are people who have experience with project management, professional development, integrations, and cross-department communication. They’re responsible for the optimal alignment between marketing processes and the company’s operational functions on multiple levels: operational, tactical, and strategic. To put this in other words, these will be the people who’ll make sure there are no discrepancies in the workflow of different departments with marketing processes. For instance, it would be their responsibility to delay a promotional campaign if the developers are still working to resolve bugs in the product. Some of the responsibilities and overseeing activities of alignment professionals include:
Once you have the right people onboard, you need to know a thing or two about creating a strong marketing operations strategy.
The first thing you should consider are current problems. Since we know by now that marketing operations cover a wide range of expertise, think how those skills can solve current problems in your company. The problems might concern customers, employees, or stakeholders. It’s probably best to identify several problems or risks in each one of these areas.
The second step is to transform your current problems, risks, or needs into measurable goals. For instance, if stakeholders want to better understand their returns, your goal for the marketing ops team might be to visualize results and deliver easy-to-follow reports.
Then, map out the stages that will help you reach those goals. Each stage should be a precise action that brings you one step closer to a specific goal.
The fourth step is something we’ve already implied: it’s identifying whether each action is a step in the right direction, and whether that step is sufficient for your current goals. To do that, you need to identify KPIs. Key performance indicators are metrics that measure how successful your strategy is.
Finally, divide the responsibilities among team members and assign tasks to your core marketing team. With this step, the creation process is completed, but the management process begins. From here on out, the marketing ops function is to oversee the execution of the strategy and refine it when needed.
Finally, the last thing we’ll briefly discuss is how to measure the effectiveness of marketing operations. This is not as exciting as building a new team, but as a founder, it’s absolutely crucial. If you don’t see an increase in revenue before and after you build your marketing ops team, then you’re wasting money by paying more people for the same results.
To prevent such a scenario, keep in mind the following metrics:
In addition, by comparing these metrics with your previous results you can measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. This sort of evaluation will allow you to see how the involvement of your marketing ops affects your overall marketing results.
Marketing operations are essential for the growth of companies today, when almost all business transactions are done online. Regardless of how you feel about it, technological advances are slowly taking over, and businesses need to quickly adapt, because otherwise they will stagnate and barely survive. For now, marketing ops is the bridge that helps businesses safely make this digital transformation.
In this article, we’ve covered the basics of what exactly marketing operations are, what the benefits of building a marketing ops team are, how to hire the right people, and a few things you need to know about building an effective marketing ops strategy.
However, you shouldn't stop learning here. Visit our blog to check out other articles on this and similar topics. And, if you have a specific question or problem in mind, don’t hesitate to contact us through our website. Our team back at Redwhale would be happy to get in touch with you.