Why demand generation and marketing operations should be united – but distinct – teams

The relationship between demand generation and marketing operations recurs as a topic of conversation with surprising frequency. Percassity's Simon Daniels discusses why these two functions need to be united but still separate with their unique goals.

On the face of it they are entirely separate components of the marketing function, with distinct objectives, skillsets and dispositions, yet they often seem to be conflated or referred to in one breath. This is disingenuous, as those contrasting characteristics point to the need to keep them separate and focused on their unique goals. 

Marketing operations should be a centre of excellence, enabling and driving go-to-market strategy and execution, focused on developing and maintaining marketing infrastructure and capability rather than front line activity. Marketing operations should encourage the demand generation team’s adoption of leading practice in terms of data-driven programmes, marketing automation adoption and analytics. In turn, demand generation itself should look to marketing operations for the provision of tools and infrastructure crucial to its success.

This should be a symbiotic relationship, with each function expecting and demanding the best from the other and ultimately acting in lockstep towards a common goal. The responsibility of marketing operations is to deploy the most appropriate marketing technology, data-driven approaches, efficient processes and effective measurement so that demand generation can focus on positioning, messaging, content and execution. At the same time, demand generation should push marketing operations for delivery of the most appropriate tools and infrastructure, together with guidance on its adoption, to ensure their maximum effectiveness. At their best, the dialogue between the two functions combines “did you know you can do this” with “how can we do that” in a virtuous cycle of innovation and improvement. 

By maintaining this focus, leaders of these respective functions contribute to their own effectiveness. Demand generation has clear outcome-based objectives in terms of qualified leads, conversion and revenue contribution while marketing operations is more project orientated. (This creates its own challenges in terms of measuring marketing operations’ contribution, a topic perhaps for a subsequent post!) In turn, the individuals comprising these teams tend to have different dispositions and aspirations, necessitating different management approaches. Marketing operations and demand generation leaders themselves also exhibit contrasting characteristics, which while not necessarily mutually exclusive may be best channelled into specific specialities.

All that being said, where the right individual is in situ or other circumstances point that way, it only makes sense to combine marketing operations and demand generation. Not every marketing function is big enough or sufficiently resourced to maintain separate teams and capable marketers coming up through either function will make effective leaders of a combined entity. This might also make particularly good sense for a high performing individual following a development programme where experience of both functions is required, perhaps to determine which specialism ultimately to pursue. Where scale or resources allow however, marketing operations and demand generation should be separate and complimentary functions within marketing, exploiting their respective specialist capabilities, maintaining focus and working closely together towards shared objectives.

I’ve no doubt that the demand generation and marketing operations relationship will remain a topic of conversation for as long as they both continue to be relevant to marketing itself. Perhaps the one thing that could consign the discussion to history is the growing prevalence of revenue operations. This seeks to combine marketing, sales and customer operations into a single entity outside of marketing and certainly demand generation.

More than likely we’ll have the chance to discuss this and more during the forthcoming B2B Marketing webinar, "Why now is the time for revenue ops" in which I will be participating. Join us if you can!