As more businesses recognize the importance of marketing operations, expect to see this role grow. Smart businesses will have proactive leaders who allow marketing operations professionals be agents of change.
While many companies employ a variety of marketing strategies, and rely heavily on their marketing teams to create and execute compelling campaigns that drive sales and build brand loyalty, few companies fully understand the value of marketing operations.
In fact, according to research from Demand Gen Report, only one-third of companies have marketing ops.
Perhaps this is because marketing ops is a relatively new role, which businesses are only just beginning to recognize as the backbone of a marketing team. Marketing ops provides people, processes, and technology to marketing team members, enabling them to fully focus on their marketing efforts.
Indeed, good marketing operations professionals excel at three things: evaluating, implementing, and managing marketing technologies; properly measuring and assessing data to drive informed decision-making; and seamlessly aligning teams, technologies, processes, and projects. Marketing ops is a results-oriented, data-driven field, which reinforces marketing strategies with appropriate infrastructure, analysis, and practices.
It’s no small role, and due to the complex skill sets required of marketing ops professionals, they are uniquely suited to be the agents of change within their organizations. In fact, the key functions of marketing ops also happen to be key components in a good change management strategy.
Clear & Compelling Communication
Successful marketing always centers around one thing: clear and compelling communication. Change-oriented marketing operations professionals understand this and utilize it to sway opinions, encourage adoption, and evangelize new processes both within their organization and with external stakeholders.
As effective change agents, marketing ops leaders are always careful to make their communications clear.
Messaging is segmented by audience and tailored accordingly. The communications that go out to team members differ from those sent to stakeholders versus those sent to customers, the general public, the media, etc.
Marketing ops leaders also take care to highlight compelling data that supports the changes. Consequently, their change-oriented communications are grounded in analysis and information. With hard numbers and in-depth reporting backing the changes, team members and stakeholders alike are far more likely to accept the proposed changes. It’s hard to argue with cold, hard analysis.
Marketing operations professionals regularly align teams, technologies, processes, and even project management in order to better support an organization’s marketing team.
Due to their experience in cutting across departmental boundaries, eliminating silos, identifying pain points, and working cross-functionally, marketing ops fully embrace these aspects of change management.
Just as the proposed changes must be communicated in a clear and compelling manner, so must the processes for the changes, as well as who is responsible for leading them, and how each person involved in the processes will be held accountable. Good change agents are transparent, even when it invites challenges, scrutiny, or pushback.
Marketing ops are also well-suited to lead organizational change due to their understanding of and ability to advocate for the customer journey. The customer journey should always drive your organizational efforts, and ideally, is approached from all angles: sales, IT, customer service, order fulfillment, marketing, etc.
This comprehensive approach to the customer journey corresponds to executing a comprehensive approach to organizational alignment. Ops professionals will assess needed organizational changes, and take the lead in prioritizing which will have the largest impact and need to be tackled first. They’ll often lead the entire change management process, taking ownership and ensuring that measurable accountability (more on that in a bit) is tracked throughout the process so that there is certainty that the changes are working.
Additionally, marketing operations have an organizational-wide impact in and of themselves. Increased investments in marketing organizations turns into better leads, better conversions, and ultimately, better financial outcomes for the entire business.
Aside from their ability to communicate clearly and compellingly, and lead cross-functional alignment, marketing ops also find themselves as agents of change due to their data-driven, measurable, analysis-based decision-making processes.
All too frequently, leadership makes decisions based upon gut instincts. While soft skills are important, they can’t carry a successful change management process.
Instead, marketing ops backup everything with data. They establish KPIs and track them throughout the change management process, which ensures that the changes are actually working, and that all involved are executing their components. By basing decisions in real-time information, teams see quicker, more effective improvements.
Marketing ops also works to share data across silos. Too much information is lost between departments, instead of maximizing data to create actionable results for all segments of an organization. Thanks to their experience in alignment, ops leaders not only fluidly connect departments, but share data across them as well.
Smart change agents also establish operational metrics. Not only do they measure the success of a campaign, but they focus in on campaign execution. Applied across an organization, this data analysis helps companies refine their development processes and nail down timeliness, expenses, team member involvement, etc. improving future operations.
The Ability to Simplify
Complementing all of the above skills, marketing ops also excel at simplifying processes, technology, jargon, and more.
We know that people are resistant to change. The fear of the unknown holds us back, but so does a lack of understanding.
This holds especially true when complex technology is involved. For many legacy team members, new technology is intimidating. This complicates digital transformation even further, because team members who might otherwise embrace improvements, are too caught up in technicalities to see the big picture.
Successful change agents are able to cut through what often seems like overwhelming information and present it in a simplified way. They must be patient, persistent, and capable of making new technologies or processes attainable for the average team member.
Just as marketing operations leaders have to find ways to support marketing teams through challenging technical shifts and new strategies, so can the usher an entire organization through a digital transformation.
A Focus on Strategy
Throughout all of their efforts to lead organizational change, change agents must remain strategic.
Marketing operations - as their title implies - excel at supporting marketing teams through people, process, and technology, all of which enable marketing teams to achieve operational goals.
But truly successful marketing ops professionals also focus on strategic goals, such as enabling digital transformation throughout the organization, championing the customer journey, and driving changes that improve conversion and sales.
These leaders recognize the importance of operational outcomes, but realize that they are stepping stones to strategic outcomes, which have long-ranging impacts for an organization.
Varied Skill Sets
Perhaps most significantly of all, marketing operations professionals are excellent change agents due to their varied skill sets.
Marketing ops must continually stay up-to-date on the latest martech, best practices, and industry trends.
They must draw upon their knowledge of technology, marketing, data analysis, operations, process mapping, customer journeys, logistics, fulfillment, and more. They also need to know how to utilize each of these very different skill sets craft the right strategy to meet their goals.
Marketing ops leaders are great listeners, capable of asking critical, insightful questions that get to the heart of the problem, and then carefully hearing what team members have to say. Not only does this earn buy-in from those involved in the process, but it also helps define the change management strategy.
Furthermore, thanks to the ever-evolving nature of business, marketing ops leaders must be flexible, agile, adaptable, and willing and eager to be constantly learning. Similarly, change agents must be able to think on their feet and adjust strategies accordingly.
The Future of Marketing Ops
As more and more businesses begin to recognize the importance of marketing operations, expect to see this role grow and become increasingly critical for companies.
Marketing operations’ unique skills and background bring immense value to any company. Not only does their existence improve marketing teams’ efforts, but ultimately, it adds value for everyone: customers, team members, leadership, and stakeholders.
Smart businesses will have proactive leaders who clear the path for marketing operations professionals to do what they do best: be agents of change.
The ability to respond quickly and effectively - not reactively - to the rapid digital transformation that happens in today’s market will be the “make or break” factor for companies. Marketing operations need to be prepared to seize this opportunity to lead and inform change throughout organizations.
About the Author
VP, Marketing Global
Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.