It’s Time to Elevate the Marketing Ops Role

This blog was adapted from BrandMaker’s Marketing Ops Now podcast. Go here to listen to the 25-minute podcast between Scott Brinker and Frans Riemersma.

Elevating the marketing operations role is not a purpose in itself; it’s a way to drive company value. There are three main ways that marketing ops can drive value, coinciding with some marketing operations definitions we shared in a BrandMaker podcast last year.

In order to drive company and customer value, a marketing ops leader should strive to do these three things:

  1. Elevate the marketing department as the strategy execution driver.
  2. Elevate the company as the customer data custodian.
  3. Elevate the board room as the customer storyteller.

Marketing ops as the strategy execution driver

On the one hand, marketing operations helps directly formulate the marketing strategy. It also has a supporting role in the execution.

Back in the day, marketing ops professionals were tasked with generating marketing and board reports, either ad hoc or on a quarterly or monthly basis. Their tech-savviness allowed them to pull the right data from the right technology. They were in a pole position to understand what customers were actually doing, what they were looking to do, and how they were understanding the product.

This technology-supported report generation role has evolved over time. Nowadays, marketing operations professionals support their marketing teams with self-service reporting capabilities. This enables the marketing department, including the marketing operations team, to become more experimental and hypothesis-driven. It empowers the marketing team to detect potential opportunities in the market and build a case for what those opportunities might be.

These capabilities have also allowed marketing ops to contribute to strategic plans right from the start, rather than just at the operational execution level. They are now equipped to elevate the execution plan to higher—and more realistic and scalable—levels.

In turn, strategy execution is becoming more of a synonymous term for marketing operations. With businesses becoming increasingly digital, the strategy execution cycles also become increasingly shorter. There is a continued compression of the cycle time between opportunity, idea, plan, and execution. No longer lasting five years, the cycle times between strategy and execution are becoming tighter. Therefore, it is incredibly important for marketing ops leaders to come to the table in the strategy formation process.

Marketing ops as the customer data custodian

The increasing importance of technology and data helps not only drive shorter and better strategy execution cycles but also enables the company to better understand the customer experience.

After all, customer experience does not stay within just marketing or sales. Companies need to observe the customer through the lens of the entire business. Thus, marketing ops needs to align and connect with other departments, often through data points (of which marketing ops is the guardian). All the combined data will help the organization understand what customers are trying to solve for when using products and services or when interacting with the brand.

The combined data will end up in a cloud data warehouse ecosystem, which requires data conventions and definitions in order for it to operate smoothly. Marketing ops contributes to customer- and campaign-related definitions in particular. This is a precondition for correlating campaign data with sales operations data, as well as financial data further downstream. It also shows and influences the way in which the organization has a shared understanding of the customer.

An increasingly popular way to streamline this process is through big ops, wherein marketing operations teams up with those in other operations, like sales ops, customer success ops, product ops, and revenue ops. This creates a universal layer of data and business analytics across multiple departments.

Marketing ops as customer storyteller

In the board room, the role of marketing ops is all about a well-told customer truth, making sure the customer is brought to life for everyone at the table. It is the customer story illustrated and backed up with data.

This is nothing new, but the component of a data-backed story is. It fuels the stature and authority of marketing as a function, helps the board members get a clear picture of how the company brings value to its customers, and helps determine how to strategically position the company from its competitors. It is putting the customer at the heart of the company.

A marketing ops leader who’s really able to bring the customer to life and provide that support to the CMO is immensely valuable. They support the CMO to tell data-driven customer stories and deliver real strategic leadership to the C-suite.

Steps to take

Where do we start, you ask? How can you shape the marketing ops team, even if you have no mandate or budget? First, it’s important to understand that nothing is stopping you from influencing the strategy today. Here are some hints on how you can earn your board room seat by going from “backroom to boardroom,” as Debbie Qaqish says.

  1. Build an analytical and operational architecture. Start with strategy that has already been established. Assess the marketing dimensions of the strategy, and then build a framework that highlights marketing’s contribution to the strategy. Co-create, define, and agree with other teams on campaign types, the KPI framework, and the customer data model.
  2. Collect all the customer data at hand. You don’t need new technology to create a 360-degree view. If you haven’t created that view with your current data, then how do you know what data points you’re missing? Also, you will find that only three to five data points really make a real difference in your understanding of the customer.
  3. Step outside your department and visit other teams, like sales, customer success, or customer support. There’s a good chance that they’ll say that you’re the first marketing person to show up in their department. This exercise is incredibly rewarding, as it highlights to everyone in the company what data is and isn’t there. It will foster a mutual understanding.
  4. Craft the customer journey and continuously improve on it. Explain how to better connect the internal teams to be able to respond to the customer experience as a company.

Here’s a little story: A marketer was hired by a European retailer as a data scientist. He learned on his first day in the office that he had no access whatsoever to the right data. IT was owning the systems and the data in them. He started by collecting small data samples, crafted journeys with what he had, and showed what incredible hacks and improvements could be made. He ended up reducing 75% of marketing’s promotions while uplifting the revenue by the tens of millions of dollars, which certainly got everyone’s attention. Three years later, all departments in the company gained access to the customer data, creating a data layer now called “Data Candy Land.” Now that sounds like a great place to work and live.

For more on this topic, check out our Marketing Ops Now podcast.

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