The Golden Age of Marketing Operations is Now — Here’s What to Know

Two professionals review a marketing operations dashboard

An outdated definition of marketing operations may just refer to the management of the teams, tools, and projects that make up a marketing team. But we’ve entered a Golden Age of MarkOps in which technology and data take center stage. According to a 2020 Gartner survey, the management of MarTech, vendors, and research — in other words: data and the people, tools, and processes needed to extract value from it — are now top-line accountabilities for marketing operations leaders. 

Creative ideas, enormous personalities, and three-martini lunches characterized the Golden Age of Advertising. But as technology emerged in the early 2000s, it became clear that brands couldn’t rely solely on slick marketing glossies and catchy jingles to build awareness and drive revenue. 

The ability to collect, store, and analyze massive amounts of data marked the beginning of a new era, one that introduced an essential function within B2B marketing organizations — marketing operations. Like the “mad men” of advertising, a strong marketing ops team is vital to marketing’s success. 

It’s time to embrace marketing operations as a vehicle for massive business growth. To do that, we’ll help you understand what marketing operations entails, why it’s important, how to create a marketing operations strategy, and what the future holds for marketing operations professionals. We’ll wrap up by suggesting a few marketing operations thought leaders to follow. 

Table of Contents

What is Marketing Operations_What is Marketing Operations? 

Marketing operations is a broad term used to describe the end-to-end management and optimization of a business’ marketing processes. Marketing operations professionals leverage data, analytics, infrastructure, best practices, and business processes to support and execute the organization’s overall marketing strategy

Businesses with solid marketing operations can consistently execute efficient, effective marketing campaigns at scale while delivering measurable results. 

While the chief marketing officer (CMO) is ultimately responsible for marketing operations, many modern B2B organizations have a dedicated chief marketing technologist (CMT) — or similar title — to oversee the operations function. Their paramount responsibility is ensuring marketing technology’s alignment with business goals. 

The marketing operations department has a wide range of responsibilities to deliver the best possible results from every marketing investment. Here are a marketing operations team’s core functions: 

  • Marketing strategy planning and development: Support marketers with strategy, budget setting, execution, and performance review for all marketing activities and campaigns. 
  • Process management: Provide oversight, processes, and automation to ensure marketing programs run seamlessly.
  • MarTech management: Design the technological vision for marketing. Evaluate, select, integrate, and manage the organization’s marketing stack and ensure it remains aligned with business goals. Onboard and train users on all technology and manage relationships with the vendors. 
  • Data and analytics management: Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure campaign performance and marketing ROI (MROI). Provide those insights to stakeholders to prove value, shape future campaigns and inform overall marketing strategy. Continually monitor performance metrics and adjust processes as necessary to meet marketing goals. 
  • Content management: Design, collect, manage, store, and enable seamless sharing of content assets and metadata to ensure consistent brand messaging.
  • Brand compliance and risk management: Maintain oversight over branding and marketing assets to ensure messaging complies with brand standards and industry regulations such as GDPR.
  • Lead management: Manage leads through the stages of the customer journey and attribute conversions to specific marketing efforts.


What Marketing Operations Professionals Do 

Creative and innovative ideas will always have starring roles in any marketing organization. But marketing operations’ supporting role is essential — it enables the marketing organization to drive sales and provide real, measurable value to the business.  

The responsibilities of a marketing ops professional are wide-ranging. A typical marketing operations team has two roles.  

Marketing operations manager

Marketing ops managers are responsible for proving the value of marketing to stakeholders and making strategic decisions regarding team and tool functionalities. Responsibilities include:

  • Hiring and training new marketing team members
  • Setting the operational budget for the overall marketing strategy
  • Developing and fine-tuning marketing processes
  • Creating processes and workflows that enhance marketing’s productivity
  • Choosing and implementing the marketing technology stack (content management systems, marketing automation platforms, email marketing tools, CRM)
  • Planning campaigns, providing project oversight, and enforcing deadlines
  • Overseeing the design and implementation of social media marketing campaigns
  • Facilitating training and user adoption of marketing technology
  • Providing data on campaign performance to stakeholders
  • Ensuring exceptional data quality at every point of tracking and measuring

 

Marketing operations specialist or analyst

Marketing ops specialists report to the marketing ops manager and perform day-to-day tasks that support the marketing organization. Typically, a specialist monitors campaign metrics, implements new marketing processes, and maintains marketing technology. Other duties include:

  • Interfacing with business units to create and perfect processes
  • Managing marketing automation platforms (HubSpot, Marketo, etc.) and CRM (Salesforce, SAP, etc.)
  • Maintaining processes that ensure campaign and lead management best practices
  • Uncovering trends, identifying KPIs, and performing hypothesis testing
  • Compiling data, offering insights, and providing recommendations to improve future marketing campaigns
  • Creating and maintaining a unified taxonomy to ensure consistent data across marketing activities
  • Monitoring campaign performance and optimizing as needed
  • Fulfilling requests for reports, revenue tracking information, and other metrics to quantify the business impact of marketing activities

Both roles require detail-oriented, analytical professionals with MarTech expertise. And given what a vital factor marketing operations is in determining a business’ success both roles are in high demand.

Why are Marketing Operations Critical to Business Today? 

Marketing operations flip the script on marketing as a cost center to marketing as an avenue for amplifying and multiplying revenue opportunities. 

Often brands will put a lot of effort — and dollars — into creating killer content, clever ad copy, and innovative marketing techniques. But many fail to support these efforts from a tactical perspective. 

Investing in marketing ops not only maximizes a business’ creative investment, but it provides the basis for an agile marketing strategy which, in a nutshell, enables brands to identify high-value marketing programs worth pursuing. 

That reliability to drive revenue is why marketing ops is critical for modern business operations. Here’s how a marketing operations team and operations manager helps brands grow. 

Enhance the customer experience: Marketing ops helps brands implement a customer-first mindset, a necessity to attract and retain prospects and customers. In addition, it functions as a bridge between marketing and other customer-facing departments to provide a streamlined, omnichannel, and personalized customer experience.  

Improve marketing effectiveness: Marketing ops can drill beyond the basics and make sense of data through insights. Marketing leaders armed with this information can make informed decisions about marketing strategy and focus on marketing channels and activities that drive revenue and growth. 

Ensure scalability and predictability: Marketing ops essentially provides a window into the future through its data- and process-driven approach. Launching a campaign is less risky knowing that marketing operations has taken steps to ensure marketing processes, programs, and strategies are repeatable, scalable — even predictable. 

Deliver measurable results: Effective marketing ops can measure and track virtually any metric — engagement, leads, marketing channel, cost of leads, click-through rate, etc. Marketing operations helps define marketing KPIs, how they’ll be measured, and puts the tools in place to ensure maximum return on marketing investment. 

Which Business Units Does Marketing Operations Support? 

Successful marketing operations teams can bring together traditionally siloed departments within an organization. With carefully selected technology and data-driven insights, marketing ops promotes collaboration and the collective pursuit of cross-departmental objectives. 

Marketing ops primarily supports two business units.  

Revenue operations (RevOps): Marketing ops provides essential support to RevOps, whose paramount goal is maximizing an organization’s overall revenue potential. Solid marketing ops teams ensure marketing processes and programs are aligned, efficient, and effective. They also provide data and insight to inform future strategy, allowing RevOps to provide revenue transparency, predictability and accountability to stakeholders.  

Sales Operations (Sales ops): Marketing ops supports Sales ops’ goal of driving sales growth by facilitating sales and marketing alignment. Integrating a CRM and marketing automation software is essential, improving communication and promoting collaboration between the teams to support sales efforts.  

In addition to supporting RevOps and Sales ops, marketing operations is accountable to the following key stakeholders.  

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Marketing ops must ensure they drive revenue and align marketing efforts with the business’ goals.
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO): Marketing ops must demonstrate the return on marketing investment (ROMI) or impact on revenue and pipeline growth. 
  • Chief Information Officer (CIO): Marketing ops must show that MarTech tools are being leveraged effectively and strategies are evolving with technological advances. 
  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO): Marketing ops must ensure they’re aligned with the sales team and that marketers are leveraging automated, scalable processes supported by best-in-class technology.  
  • Director or VP of Marketing: Marketing ops must demonstrate they’re working closely with the creative team to design and monitor campaigns and gather insights to inform future marketing strategies.

What Does the Golden Age of Marketing Operations Look Like? 

The modern B2B digital marketing landscape is hyper-competitive and constantly changing, but marketing operations has solidified a permanent role in determining a brand’s success. An effective marketing operations strategy — and talented marketers — can unlock new ways to attract, engage, and retain customers. 

But marketing operations professionals must be agile, collaborative, and impactful to keep doing so in the future. Here’s how to be…

Agile

Changes within the business environment are inevitable, which means some previous indicators of success will no longer hold true. So here’s what it means to be agile:

  • Recognizing when to reassess and implement new marketing processes, metrics, and standards for success. 
  • Producing expert-level digital marketing assets and campaigns quickly and cleanly to meet customer demands.
  • Eliminating operational silos that prevent optimal performance, accurate tracking, and measurement of campaign ROI.

Collaborative

Fostering collaboration,consistent communication, and support for the creative process is key to success in the hyper-competitive digital economy. Here’s what it means to be collaborative: 

  • Breaking down barriers between the marketing team, sales team, and other business functions.
  • Identifying untapped opportunities and methods for marketing the brand, then devoting time to pursue them.
  • Eliminating standalone systems and disjointed processes in favor of unified technology solutions that support collaboration from the idea to its delivery.
  • Increasing visibility and transparency across teams by constantly tweaking and improving operational and marketing processes.

Impactful

Delivering relevant, impactful, personalized content is more important than ever to differentiate your brand. Here’s what it means to be impactful:

  • Prioritizing the collection of first-party customer data to create more targeted, analytics-based campaigns. 
  • Leveraging technology to create a best-in-class customer experience, not only to attract customers but to promote maximum retention.
  • Developing high-quality content to support the self-service B2B buyers who conduct 57-70% of their product research before involving sales. 

With these principles as a guide, you’ll be able to create an effective marketing operations strategy that’s better prepared for whatever the future brings. 

 

5 Steps to Create a Marketing Operations Strategy 

Whether you’re building one from scratch or building upon something already in place, here are five steps for creating a solid marketing operations strategy. First, of course, you’ll need to earn the buy-in of stakeholders and build a talented team to implement your strategy.

 

1. Define goals

The goals of your marketing operations strategy are not the same as your marketing strategy as a whole — but that’s a good place to start.

Evaluate your existing marketing plan. Are the programs you’re working on today delivering desired results? Which campaigns have been successful in the past? Are there insights or efficiencies you haven’t been able to capture? Collecting and understanding this information will clarify what you hope to achieve with a new operational strategy. 

 

2. Identify areas for improvement

If you’ve identified clear, actionable goals, the next step is to identify existing gaps. Examples include:

  • Missing functionality within your MarTech stack
  • Incomplete implementation or lack of training on existing tools
  • Communication barriers between marketing and business units
  • Lack of alignment between sales and marketing
  • Use of ineffective marketing tactics
  • Poor quality or inconsistency of the customer data layer across systems
  • Deficient lead management processes

 

3. Establish a plan

Once you determine which areas need improvement, you can identify technology needs and prepare accordingly. Your first order of business is creating a standardized process for communicating and tracking to help your team work and communicate with each other and other business units. 

Establishing data standards and enacting rigorous data governance makes sure you maximize the value of any data that enters your MarTech stack. Since a marketing operations strategy likely involves a large, possibly global team, it’s crucial to ensure any team can read, analyze, and draw insights from any other team’s data. 

Once you’ve determined processes, consider the specific key performance indicators (KPIs) that will define success for each specific process. These KPIs should support your larger MarkOps strategy goals. 

Also, consider how you’ll manage and optimize the performance of live marketing campaigns to meet those standards.  

 

4. Integrate into teams and processes

Now that you’ve established a plan, it’s time to integrate marketing operations into the organization. Examples include:

  • Implementing and training users on a marketing automation tool
  • Launching a new content marketing and creation strategy
  • Holding a weekly status meeting with campaign stakeholders
  • Implementing a SLA between marketing and sales 
  • Defining a handoff process for leads
  • Launching an email marketing campaign

 

5. Automate and track campaigns

Marketing operations’ effectiveness is dependent on the tools you implement to support your marketing campaigns. Tracking tools allow you to collect and analyze key metrics to optimize campaigns while automation tools streamline and maximize impact

Together they can have a dramatic effect on conversion rates and revenue. Ensuring you can provide that value will solidify your strategic role in the organization. 

 

How to Measure Marketing Operations Effectiveness

Measuring the effectiveness of your marketing activities is essential to improving your overall marketing strategy over time. Key performance indicators (KPIs) vary by company and strategic goals. 

Below are typical KPIs for marketing operations. Of course, some campaign metrics are available automatically through website analytics tools or social media platforms.

  • Conversion rate: Also known as goal completions, conversion rates measure your efforts in compelling a specific action or completing a call to action (CTA), i.e., click on a link, download a marketing asset, provide an email address, purchase a product, etc.
    Conversion rate = (conversions/total visitors) X 100
  • Bounce rate: The percentage of users who visit just one page, then leave your site. High bounce rates indicate low-quality content that doesn’t compel or promote engagement.
    Bounce rate = (single page visitors/total number of visitors) X 100
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA): The total cost incurred to acquire a single customer.
    CPA = campaign spend/number of conversions
  • Cost per lead (CPL): The total cost incurred to attract a single lead over a given time period.
    CPL = campaign spend/total number of new leads acquired
  • Lead value: The estimated revenue a lead will convert to via Sales, based on closed deals.
    Lead value = Value of sales/total number of leads
    Or
    Lead value = Average sale value X conversion rate
  • Sales cycle: The length of time it takes for a lead to turn into a customer, including marketing and sales touchpoints. With more effective marketing operations, sales cycle will decrease.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): The number of instances an ad, link, or site is clicked on versus the number of impressions. High CTRs reflect well-placed, persuasive copy.
    CTR = total number of clicks/number of impressions
  • Revenue generated by channel: The total revenue generated by a specific marketing channel during a given period, i.e., paid social, email marketing, GoogleAds, etc.
  • Revenue generated by marketer: The total revenue generated by marketing activities per marketing employee during a given period.
  • Return on marketing investment (ROMI): A subcategory of ROI, ROMI measures the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Hopefully, your ROMI exceeds 100%.
    ROMI = (revenue – marketing expenses/marketing expenses) X 100

These are tangible KPIs that are easy to measure and attribute to marketing operations’ efforts. Other KPIs that reflect efficiencies gained are also important, such as onboarding rate, brand perception, data integrity, and MQL to SQL rates.   

 

9 Marketing Operations Leaders to Follow 

Staying on top of trends and gleaning insight from B2B marketing operations experts can help inform your business’ marketing operations strategy. 

Here are nine marketing operations leaders to get to know.

  • Darryl Praill: Thought leader and chief officer of revenue operations at VanillaSoft, an industry-leading sales engagement platform. 
  • Sara McNamara: Award-winning marketer and marketing operations solutions architect at Salesforce, the number one CRM platform.
  • Anita Brearton: Marketing expert and founder of CabinetM, a marketing technology management company.
  • Daniel Murray: Senior manager of marketing operations for ServiceTitan and host of The Marketing Millennials podcast.
  • Kyle Lacy: SVP of marketing at Seismic and published author and speaker on marketing and digital trends.
  • Darrell Alfonso: Amazon’s global marketing operations leader and a seasoned MarTech instructor. 
  • Scott Brinker: Author, speaker, and overall expert on MarTech drawing on his experiences as VP of platform ecosystem at HubSpot and editor of chiefmartec.com. 
  • Chris Willis: Speaker, Marketo expert, and MarkOps leader for Trimble, an industrial IT, software, and hardware company.
  • Sheryl Schultz: Founder of CabinetM, a MarTech management platform, as well as a successfully exited marketing strategy consulting firm. 

Enjoy a few gems from this group of savvy marketing operations perspectives.

Next Steps: Investing in Marketing Operations

Investing in marketing operations supports effective end-to-end marketing strategies and drives revenue and growth. 

So how do you kick off the process and begin investing in marketing operations?

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