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The marketing operations dream team

Simon Daniels plays marketing operations fantasy league and unveils his dream team

On the recent B2B Marketing

How to enable marketing operations to unlock excellence in your martech

webinar, a question was asked about what the ideal marketing operations role should be. This got me thinking about what a complete marketing operations team would look like were I starting with a blank piece of paper.

In reality of course, there’s no such thing as “the one true way”, since it will depend on the composition of the wider marketing function itself together with the objectives in a specific situation (as was discussed on the webinar). In addition, it’s more than likely that a marketing operations team will be built based on existing individuals and perhaps some new hires. As a boss I once had liked to say, “there’s no such thing as the perfect organisation, just the best organisation of the right people”. All that said, I thought it might be fun to play marketing operations fantasy league and put together my dream team…

Marketing automation/marketing technology

Depending on the size of the overall marketing function and the headcount available, this might be one position or split in two. (It could even be a manager position with specialists reporting into it covering different aspects of the martech stack.) Marketing automation though tends to be the hub of the stack and an individual focused on it is crucial. The core responsibility in this respect is maintenance of whatever marketing automation platform is in place, ensuring smooth operation (including CRM integration), addressing any issues arising and managing routine software releases.

The real value of the role though is driving adoption and best practice on the system among the go-to-market teams using it for campaign execution. This is very much a balance between service provision and driving innovation, providing both support and assistance to end-users of the platform, and also developing templates, frameworks and best practice guidance to ensure the envelope is always being pushed. I should say that I’m assuming this is not a “production” role; in other words, marketing operations in this scenario is not building and executing marketing automation campaigns based on submitted briefs, but acting as an infrastructure provider and support function to front line teams. A discussion about the merits of these alternative approaches could be the topic of an entire blog post in itself, so I’ll come back to that another time! (Or download Andrew Freeman’s Get Stacked presentation ‘

Demand Centres – Building & Optimising a Scalable Marketing Engine

’ where he discusses these approaches.)

As I say, this role may also incorporate a wider marketing technology remit or there might be additional headcount. Regardless, although obviously there’s a limit to what a single person can get across, management of all the other marketing technology is equally crucial. In essence the approach is the same, ensuring trouble-free operation, user adoption and best practice across the tech stack. There’s likely to be liaison with IT too, ensuring alignment between martech and overall technology policies and deployment. The objective is always to ensure that marketing is best placed to exploit the available technologies without needing to be concerned about their delivery and maintenance. Finally, new martech selection is also an important aspect of the position, as additional or replacement solutions are added to the stack.

Audiences and insights

Once again, this might be two roles or combined into one position, but the contribution to the marketing operations team and marketing itself is crucial. Essentially, this is about data and analytics (I like the term “audiences and insights” as it’s more reflective of the outputs rather than the activities. The audience part concentrates on the prospects and clients/customers comprising marketing activity and is concerned with data quality, acquisition and compliance. Insight is about reporting, profiling and understanding the audience and activity data available to the business.

Every organisation is presented with the challenge of “bad data” and one of the first steps to bringing it under control is to put someone in charge. (That’s not to say responsibility for data management is anything other than collective – let’s get into that another time too!) That’s the first concern of audience management, working across marketing, sales, customer service and IT to ensure completeness, validity and recency of marketing data. Next is understanding where marketing data is coming from to feed campaign activity, likely to include web and social media capture, event registrations and possibly other external sources. Assuring data quality as this audience data is captured is crucial, together with identifying any gaps in the attributes about individuals that need to be completed. Across all of this of course, maintaining compliance with appropriate legislation is crucial, not least the all-dominating GDPR but similar regulations elsewhere in the world as well. As with data quality this is by no means a lone activity and should involve the entire organisation with this position playing a leading role.

The insight side of the equation is all about drawing value from this data together with marketing and individual performance measurement. At a basic level this means standardised reporting, dashboards and scorecards to track and measure campaigns, funnel status, lead generation and handover, pipeline value and deals. Key to this is ensuring a common view of these metrics based on agreed KPIs and avoiding duplication of effort across marketing with everyone coming up with their own reports, with the inevitable multiple views of the truth that will arise. Building on this operational reporting is where the real insight delivery takes place, seeking connections in the data that point to the most effective campaign tactics, the best performing audience segments and where marketing resources should be focused. This role should also be leading the deployment of the ever-more prevalent predictive analytics and AI tools that enable increasingly sophisticated insights to be obtained.

Web platform and strategy

Management of the underlying platform or CMS (content management system) for the corporate website is a crucial and often overlooked responsibility for marketing operations. It’s certainly the case that IT should be firmly involved in the maintenance of the website from a technical standpoint, but marketing should have ownership over it’s functionality and development to ensure the platform and site meets its objectives. Web marketing strategy then builds on the platform, ensuring search engine and conversion optimisation and analytics best practices.

Management of the platform could almost be characterised as a “devops” or development operations role, capturing business requirements, determining priorities and coordinating development resources (internal or external). Inevitably there will be competing demands on the development of any site and limited resources for their delivery, requiring deft management. Devising a coherent roadmap for these developments is a crucial element of this position, together with the roll-out, training and adoption of new functionality as it becomes available.

Web strategy is concerned with leveraging the platform, ensuring the optimum user experience and ultimately maximising conversation rates. This also entails responsibility for search optimisation, spanning the technical, content and UX considerations this encompasses. Web strategy should also incorporate analytics and reporting – likely in conjunction with the insights role – to monitor and enhance website performance. Sometimes, elements of this role might fall into a digital team rather than marketing operations, leaving the position to focus on the underlying infrastructure itself.

Business analyst

Alright, this one might be a bit of a stretch even in my fantasy scenario, but I’m sure you don’t mind humouring me… As I see it, marketing operations is all about data, technology and process; so far, we’ve covered the first two of these with the roles outlined, which just leaves process. This is where a business analyst would step in, developing a detailed understanding for the campaign execution, response capture, lead handling and pipeline tracking processes that exist within marketing and finding ways to optimise them.

There’s certainly no shortage of work to be done here, and process is frequently the last thing to be properly considered. This role should be an expert in workflow mapping, requirements gathering and documentation, as well as perhaps being familiar with lean, agile and other techniques and approaches. They would help teams understand their own needs and express them clearly to form the basis for improving existing and creating new processes.

It doesn’t actually need to stop at process though, as an analyst would be invaluable for scoping any new martech initiative in terms of requirements gathering and business case development. This could extend also to reporting and insight needs assessment, acting as a complete cross-team resource for marketing operations.

Take me to your leader

Well, that covers the team itself in my fantasy scenario, with the whole caboodle reporting into a head/director/VP of marketing operations. The exact title itself isn’t important – some organisations reserve “director” for actual board members, others give out vice presidencies to anyone with more than two year’s service! Ideally though it should report directly to the head/director/VP of marketing or the CMO and be part of the marketing leadership team alongside demand generation, digital, corporate communications and any other key functions. This ensures marketing operations has an equal voice with the rest of marketing, contributing to defining strategy as well as how it will be delivered operationally. The head of marketing operations should be working closely with the other functional heads, establishing their priorities and high level requirements and feeding them into the team. At the same time, the overall head of marketing should be kept informed of the challenges and opportunities that face marketing operations. (And such a marketing leader might want to download my talk at Get Stacked where I covered some

questions CMOs should be asking about their martech stacks to make sure they know what’s going on.

)

Have I missed anyone or included a role that seems out of place? I deliberately haven’t included “pure” digital specialists, such as paid or social media as they tend to be found in their own separate teams, but marketing operations can certainly sometimes have this responsibility too. And as I mentioned, my dream team here is very much about strategy, infrastructure and enablement leaving go-to-market teams to build and execute. Not merely teaching people to fish, but building them a better fishing rod too!

 


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