Are you ready for marketing operations?

With 93% of B2B marketers telling us that marketing operations is needed to drive digital transformation, Simon Daniels, Marketing Operations Consultant at Percassity Associates, tells us all about his role and why your business needs someone just like him.

Marketing is digital. Digital requires martech. Martech needs to be operated. It was with this hypothesis in mind that we launched the second annual survey examining the B2B marketing operations landscape, soon to be published in full. As a heads up, you won’t be surprised to hear that it unearthed a growing appetite for marketing operations. In fact, a near conclusive 93% of B2B marketers said the function is important or even critical in delivering digital transformation. 

Marketing operations is a perfect example of a profession that didn’t exist just a few years ago. Yet now, over two-thirds (67%) of B2B companies have in place either a whole team headed up by a lead or an individual running marketing operations. A further 21% have the best intentions of launching one soon. 

We sat down with Simon Daniels, marketing operations consultant at Percassity Associates to find out more about the role, its objectives, benefits and whether it might be right for your business. 

How do you work with marketing operations practitioners in B2B organisations?

In my capacity as a marketing operations consultant, I work in a project and sometimes interim capacity, most often for marketing leadership or sometimes augmenting an existing marketing operations individual or team. Usually, I’m focused on a specific issue that is being experienced, such as lead process alignment, data governance or reporting and analytics. I’m also often involved in initiatives to select a particular marketing technology solution, such as a marketing automation tool or website CMS.

What does marketing operations look like as a function? How does it fit into the wider marketing department or team?

Marketing operations is the infrastructure layer for marketing, leveraging data, technology and process to drive demand generation and revenue growth, partnering with stakeholders to proactively deliver both guidance and leadership.

How is a marketing team with a marketing operations function, leader or team differ from one without one? What are the relative advantages or disadvantages?

Marketing operations brings focus to the crucial elements that ensure efficient, effective and measurable marketing activity. In marketing teams that don’t have a dedicated MOPS resource, there can be a reluctance to pay sufficient attention to data governance, process optimisation and technology deployment and so on, due to the pressures of delivering campaign results. This is ultimately self-defeating as problem can mount up that slowly degrade overall marketing performance.

Is there a tipping point when marketing operations expertise becomes essential? And when is that point/how do you spot it?

I always say that if you’re doing marketing, you’re doing marketing operations. Clearly, a lone marketer in a small business is going to have to span everything, but as soon as a team of 2-3 or more starts to develop, there’s no reason why an individual couldn't be dedicated to marketing operations. Even a more junior role can provide great support to make sure everything is configured and working properly, and handle the date-to-day activities of data management, campaign set-up and execution and reporting, leaving others to handle more mainstream marcoms activities.

Where do great marketing operations people come from? What skills and attributes do they need? Can any marketer be a good ops practitioner, or does it take a certain type?

Historically, MOPS specialist might have originally been involved with database marketing, CRM or marketing analytics. More recently, marketers with experience in digital and web can take up a broader MOPS role. Today, it’s perfectly possible to start a marketing career in MOPS, learning the technology, process design and analytics skills that form the role from scratch. MOPS requires a technical disposition, ability embrace complexity at pace and to bring a methodical and considered approach. It’s not always glamorous but the satisfaction is in knowing that you’re key to ensuring a well-honed marketing machine. There’s no reason anyone in marketing might not exhibit these capabilities, but you have to want to do it, rather than perhaps higher-profile campaign management etc.

What’s the difference between a highly tech-savvy and enabled marketer, and a genuine marketing ops person? In other words, are marketing ops people just great digital marketers?

As discussed, a genuine marketing operations person is dedicated to supporting the wider marketing function and providing a vision for how it should work. Knowing programs are running smoothly, maximising the available technology and being able to demonstrate their value are what motivates MOPS. This is different to pure digital marketing execution, which in turn encompasses different skills and competencies.

Is having internal marketing operations people or resource the only option for B2B marketing teams? Is there another way that they can access the related skills and attributes?

There are certainly plenty of consultancies and agencies that can provide marketing operations guidance, services and support. A growing team without dedicated resource may find it easiest to work with an external partner to fill this gap. However, it’s important not to become dependent on outside resources to the exclusion of building in-house capability. The best mix is internal expertise supported by an agency or consultancy for specific advice or a particular project, together perhaps with day-to-day “production” support – campaign building and so on that can be labour intensive and effectively managed with good processes.

Is a great marketing operations person likely to be a great candidate for the organisation’s next CMO or marketing director? If not, why not?

There’s no reason why an experienced MOPS practitioner could not move up to a leadership role, in the same way as any other marketing discipline. Like a CMO stepping up to CEO though, it would be important to ensure a good range of experience outside their immediate specialism. In particular, experience planning and executing demand generation programs, including outbound, digital and social activity would be crucial. Look for a role that combines MOPS and demand gen as a stepping stone.

How is marketing operations as a function likely to evolve? There’s a lot of hype around it at the moment –is momentum only going to build, or is it a fashion thing and this role will be gone altogether in a couple of years’ time?

It’s difficult to see the core function of marketing operations disappearing, even if the name or specific responsibilities evolve. Modern marketing inextricably involves data, technology and process and this has to be managed properly, especially at scale. MOPS leaders may start to adopt a more strategic remit within marketing or even take on a “chief of staff” role supporting the CMO.

What does the rise of revenue operations mean to marketing ops people? Is it a threat or an opportunity?

This is certainly a direction in which the function could evolve as the operational aspects across sales, marketing and customer experience become ever more critical. In considering adopting such a structure, businesses, and MOPS leaders approached for such roles, should be clear what the actual remit is. I’ve seen many sales and marketing operations roles for instance that are actually sales ops with a bit of marketing automation thrown in. True revenue operations will be a properly balanced blend of all these functions and recognised for the contribution it makes.

What would you say to someone who thinks marketing ops could be an ideal next step in their career?

Go for it! As discussed, if the machinery of marketing and ensuring world class execution and accountability are what motivates you, then marketing operations is the place to be. MOPS are the drummers and bass players of the band, not necessarily up front doing showy guitar solos but without whom the whole thing would fall to pieces. Grab some sticks and start keeping time!

A practical guide to marketing operations

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