Why Your Marketing Organization Should Include a Marketing Ops Function

CEOs, CFOs, and COOs understand the value of operations management for supporting the development, production, and delivery of products and/or services. It is just as important to establish a marketing operations function to support the development, production and delivery of your marketing. Why? Because with the proliferation of marketing automation tools and increased pressure to prove the value of marketing, it makes good business sense for all but the smallest organizations to employ Marketing Ops management.

Perhaps you are wondering what is Marketing Operations? When we first explored the role of Marketing Operations (Marketing Ops) in our 2007 performance management study we learned that companies were beginning to add Marketing Ops to the marketing function to help ensure systems, processes, and tools were in place to support marketing performance measurement and management.  Essentially, marketing ops was about implementing and using systems to facilitate the scheduling and production of marketing activities.

Until about five years ago, the scope of Marketing Ops was typically marketing project management and marketing governance.   Over the past year or so, we’ve noticed that with marketing performance management moving to the front burner, the role of Marketing Ops has expanded. In the 2014 VisionEdge Marketing/ITSMA study, companies from all industries around the world revealed that the role of Marketing Ops now includes the following (in no particular order):

  • Performance measurement and reporting
  • Campaign analysis and reporting
  • Technology & automation & pipeline management
  • Budgeting and planning; financial governance and reporting
  • Data management
  • Workflow process development and documentation
  • Project management
  • Strategic planning
  • Organization benchmarking & assessments
  • Customer, market, competitive intelligence, research, and insights
  • Analytics and predictive modeling
  • Talent and skills development

Organizations where marketing has a strong emphasis on creating customer value are immersing themselves in data to make market, customer, and product/service decisions that create value for customers and shareholders.  As a result, the top roles for the Marketing Ops function among Best-in-Class (BIC) marketing group falls into six key areas:

  1. Customer, market, competitive intelligence, research, and insights
  2. Analytics and predictive modeling
  3. Data management
  4. Campaign analysis and reporting
  5. Budgeting and planning; financial governance and reporting
  6. Organization benchmarking & assessments


Source: 2014 VisionEdge Marketing/ITSMA MPM Study

As you can see, these exceptional marketing organizations place a strong emphasis on intelligence, insights, analytics, modeling and data management.  As a member of the C-Suite, if you are expecting your marketing organization to measure its value and contribution, then one way you can help ensure their success is to fund a marketing ops function.

If you have a Marketing Ops function that is primarily focused on campaign automation and financial governance now is the time to refocus this function.  Marketing Ops has the opportunity to enable Marketing to become more effective by developing and managing the processes for setting performance expectations, monitoring progress and measuring results. This requires a marketing ops function that can facilitate alignment, accountability, and agility.

By creating or expanding the Marketing Ops role and skill set to include performance targeting skills and process and technology optimization, as well as strategic capabilities to drive change, Marketing can reach the next step on its performance management journey. It is the Marketing Ops function that brings all of the components together to enable marketing to optimize performance and to serve as a Center of Excellence.

Your marketing organization’s operational arm should orchestrate these six capabilities:

1) Alignment: We know with statistical significance that BIC marketers take a different approach to aligning marketing with the business.  They connect marketing activities and investments to business results and take their alignment efforts beyond the sales function. Marketing Ops in these organizations facilitate the alignment process and oversee the development of a customer-centric marketing plan that ensures that the marketing investment portfolio supports measurable marketing objectives that will directly impact the business.

2) Accountability: BIC marketers have a framework for establishing the metrics to measure and report on marketing’s value, impact, and contribution.  They know which outcomes and metrics matter to the leadership team.  Marketing Ops drives the development of the framework and key performance indicators (KPI’s). They manage the mechanics of measurement, perform the analysis, and publish the performance results.  Marketing Ops translates marketing metrics into an actionable marketing dashboard that the leadership team and the marketing team can use to make strategic, tactical and investment decisions.

3) Analytics: In today’s fact-based environment, data and analytics are table stakes.  Marketing organizations need to be able to quickly synthesize data and gain actionable insights.  Marketers need the analytical muscle to build and use models to make smart investments and strategic decisions. Marketing Ops constructs and maintains an environment that enables marketing to better use data and analytics.

4) Automation: The technology available to help marketing measure and report on performance is extensive and growing.   From marketing resource management to business intelligence to data management systems, to reporting platforms, to scenario analysis tools, Marketing Ops selects, deploys and manages the automation and technology infrastructure to support the department. The deployment of a technology infrastructure, training, and change management all falls under the auspices of Marketing Ops and serve as the big “I” in terms of the infrastructure marketing needs to guide decisions, improve its capabilities, and prove its value.

5) Alliances: Much has been written about the need for marketing to form strong, more explicit, alliances with sales, IT, and finance, as well as with the service and product functions.  Marketing Ops is the conduit between Marketing, Sales, Finance and the executive team. It forms and manages these alliances so everyone on the team is “rowing in the same direction.” As part of its work, Marketing Ops should craft the operating level agreement that serves as the “rules and roles of engagement” for each of these partnerships and ensures that the liaisons from each group are included in appropriate meetings and decisions.

6) Assessment: Continuous improvement is at the heart of assessment and benchmarking. This can only be achieved within a culture where there is genuine concern, dedication, and a willingness among management and employees to improve. While the marketing executive sets the direction and vision for the team, Marketing Ops conducts the benchmarking and assessments to determine what standards, best practices, processes and skills are needed to help the marketing team realize its goals. Marketing Ops enables marketing organizations to become, and serve as, a center of excellence (CoE).

As you know, operations management takes an investment of talent, time, and money. So is it worth it? The Marketing ROI and Measurement study by the Lenskold Group/MarketSphere found that companies with Marketing Ops in place were twice (11% vs 5%) as likely to be high performing companies, i.e., companies who report having highly effective and efficient marketing.

A marketing operations function helps your marketing organization run just like any other part of your business.  It helps you fine tune your marketing efforts and helps you make better fact-based decisions about your strategic decisions and marketing investments. Read this free white paper to learn on how to use marketing operations to transform marketing into a center of excellence.  Participate in the annual MPM survey as a way to learn how others are approaching marketing ops.