Unite, supercharge and deliver better results with marketing operations

A career in marketing operations didn’t exist a few years ago but can be massively influential to a company now. Think Direct’s Shane Redding and managing partner at Sojourn Solutions Rebecca LeGrange weigh in on what marketing ops (MOPs) really is and why it’s key to driving digital transformation. 

Q. What does marketing operations look like as a function, and how does it fit into the wider marketing department or team?

Rebecca LeGrange (RG): MOPs works in partnership with the rest of the marketing team and is integral to creating the foundation from which they can execute and optimise. MOPs spans all areas of marketing, including content, campaigns, brand and social. Additionally, the role within marketing is to assist in brokering the relationships with other departments such as finance, sales and IT.

Shane Redding (SR): The role can be quite lean. I know many companies in which there’s one or two people who act as the glue between all the other stakeholders, not just with sales and marketing, but also with the data protection officer (DPO), wider operations and IT too. It will also depend on the structure and the culture of the business. The function usually has responsibility for data quality, ownership of lead processes, measuring current systems and their efficiencies, and onboarding new ways of working.

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

SR: Much of my work involves marketing transformation, sourcing and embedding MA and CRM systems as well as new digital tools – this requires strong alignment between sales and marketing. Often the MOP function will help with the processes that underpin this new way of working. My work involves creating data definitions, mapping lead flows and customer journeys and ensuring MOPs find some early quick wins in what may be a long project.

Q. How is a team with a marketing operations function, leader or team different from one without one? 

SR: A marketing operations leader can be not just a key support function, but instrumental in helping the CMO make major strategic decisions based on insight and data. They can really support a wider team to ensure a better way of working – this can sometimes be project-based.

Q. Is there a tipping point when marketing operations expertise becomes essential? When is that point and how do you spot it?

RL: I think a dedicated MOP resource or team is needed - especially when the MOP’s efforts across the existing team are preventing those team members from being able to complete other parts of their role.  At that point, it’s time to hire or promote a MOPs individual who owns all those areas. Evaluating those efforts across the team and where efficiencies can be gained, should likely be done by the marketing leader, possibly in collaboration with HR.

Q. 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?

SR: Possibly, but MOPs must also have the ability to understand the whole business as well as the customer view. 

RL: A genuine MOPs person must be looking at all activities across marketing with that lens, thinking about data, tech, process, people, results and strategy.  In contrast, a digital marketer, even a great one, will be focused on designing, executing and optimising campaigns in a much more specific way - whether it’s by brand, product, channel or business unit. 

Q. What does the rise of revenue operations mean to those in marketing ops? Is it a threat or an opportunity?

RL: It’s an opportunity for MOPs practitioners to work more collaboratively with their colleagues in sales or service.  For MOPs leaders, it’s an opportunity to impact more of the revenue engine and to be included in more of the conversations about how the organisation as a whole serves its customers.  Now is the time for individuals in MOPs roles to really grow commercial skills that will make them more relevant, not only in their current roles but also more valuable to any organisation in the years to come.

Q. Is a great marketing operations person likely to be a candidate for the organisation’s next CMO or marketing director?

RL: Yes, if there is a focus on marketing delivering value for the customer and the organisation. If they don’t have the skills around positioning or brand for examine, they can hire for those skills though they must just be a skilled enough leader to step aside and let others who have those abilities do those jobs.

SR: I’d also say yes, especially if the business is looking to pivot to a more accountable marketing function. However, the MOPs person will still need to have a wider skill set from brand to product, or at least ensure that their well-balanced team can deliver on this. 

Q. How is marketing operations as a function likely to evolve?

SR: There’s a lot of hype around it now – is momentum only going to build, or is it a fad and the role will be gone altogether in a couple of years’ time? Personally, I see this as a function that will expand – more companies will adopt MOPs and those who already have it will invest further. There are two driving factors - firstly, profitability, secondly, the increased role of tech and data in marketing. With tools such as AI requiring dedicated support not just from a tech angle but ethical and commercial too.

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