Next up in our series of 5 F’in’ Fundamentals, Jeff Clark has his sleeves rolled up, an oily rag, some duct tape and a can of WD40 in his hand as he’s in the engine room tuning up your marketing machine.

Dear CMO,

What capabilities do you have to execute your marketing plan? Are they aligned with your marketing goals? Do they work like a well-oiled machine? Do they produce results? Answering those questions is the job of marketing operations.

What’s the gap between the machine you need and the machine you have? Marketing ops can pinpoint the gaps and propose the roadmap to optimizing the machine.

The capabilities to do the job, i.e., the parts in your machine, can be categorized in the familiar terms of people, process, technology, and data. I add analytics to help us answer those questions above. 

Is your marketing machine able to get the job done?

Ideally, you have built your marketing machine guided by your master plan, with everything in place to succeed. But strategies changes and companies grow. Sometimes you are hired to fix a “broken” machine. So, you must constantly evaluate your capabilities to ensure that your team can get the job done.

In early-stage companies, marketing operations often starts with one or two admin-level staff to the focus on tech, data, and/or reporting. As the marketing department and its charter grows, then ops must grow with it. Mature marketing operations teams work with your leadership to identify execution gaps, which may exist in your processes, data, technology, or skills across the team.

The following outlines the capability categories and briefly cover how marketing operations can help you fine-tune the machine.

#1 – Data

The first fundamental capability of marketing is data. Who are our customers and our prospects? Can we email them? Did anyone respond to our campaign? Typically, the first hire in marketing operations will be serve as data administrator to source the data needed to run marketing automation systems and build reports. As you mature, you progress you’ll need the skills of a data steward or data scientist to unify your data resources to handle complex issues around customer engagement and experience.

#2 – Technology

Our primary means of audience engagement is digital. Our non-digital engagement is recorded in CRM and event applications. It’s all technology, and someone needs to manage it. You need the tech skills to sew the systems together to ensure process efficiency and consistent engagement with your target audience. The first hire, the partial FTE with your data admin, is a Marketing Automation Admin. If you have invested, perhaps over-invested, in a stack of technology that is making things easier to execute, your ops team will need inventory and assess the health of the tech stack. What’s working, what’s not, and where do we need invest more.

#3 – Analytics

You got a handle on the tech. You got the data. So, can you tell me how we’re doing?” It’s natural to turn to ops for reporting (e.g., leads and stages, email stats, web stats), Marketing ops can provide unbiased reporting of your team’s progress. Eventually, you want an ops team to have the skills to provide insights, i.e., “What are the numbers telling me?” You and your team need trusted analysts to help track progress on goals and give you the insights that they need. This requires thinking about various roles from reporting admins to marketing analysts. Eventually, you will require data scientists to help you mold data to suit reporting needs.

#4 – Process

Everything in marketing runs on a process from creative production to opportunity tracking. Then why is this the most under scrutinized capability in marketing. Marketing ops can help to document, assess, and optimize processes working with the process owners on your leadership team. They need an analytical, unbiased assistant to help make them more efficient.

For processes that run across corporate functions, e.g., planning, product launches, or change management, marketing operations can provide detailed, unbiased project management. In mature companies, ops can operate as the Project Management Office.

#5 – People

People (read skills) are marketing’s key capability. Where HR struggles to help, Marketing Ops can provide the skills gap analysis and operationalize the enablement plan for the team. Marketing operations is experienced in technology training and data enablement, so let them loose on whatever skills enablement is required for your team.

We should note that the marketing operations function and its own capabilities can be found in various places. They may be distributed across other teams, like digital, content, and regional teams. We also see the marketing and sales operations consolidated into a revenue operations team serving both functions.

The important thing is to have the operations capabilities covered, and if distributed across teams, they must collaborate closely to ensure efficiency and consistency of execution.

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

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