3 duties of a customer-focused, revenue generating SMOPS organization

Whether you call it SMO, smarketing ops, or SMOPS, the combined sales and marketing operations function represents the next evolution in revenue marketing. Not only does SMOPS substantially improve revenue growth, it also creates a clear line of sight to the entire customer lifecycle, thereby facilitating real customer focus and customer engagement across the organization. This line of sight also enables a flawless experience for your customer across every part of your organization. 

So, with all the goodness brought about by a SMOPS organization, what are the various roles and responsibilities? Where does SMOPS come from and how does it differ from having separate sales and marketing operations organizations?

Three main responsibilities: Tech, process and data with a twist

The key responsibility of a SMOPS organization is the optimization of technology, process, and data to drive more revenue. Sounds like something any singular ops group might do, right? I’ve seen this as the charter for many marketing ops groups and certainly many sales ops groups. The twist is that SMOPS takes a holistic perspective to optimize technology, process and data across the entire customer lifecycle. This responsibility and approach is a game changer for any organization. 

In addition to the broader approach, how SMOPS executes on technology, process and data is also unique. The number of technologies used by marketing has grown exponentially over the last few years. It’s now common for a small marketing department to be using 15-20 different pieces of technology. Given this new tech reality; selecting, implementing, integrating and optimizing the tech stack is a critical role of the SMOPS team. The same might be said for the separate sales and marketing operations groups. The twist is that now one team is looking at the tech stack for both marketing and sales and for any part of the organization that touches the customer.  This tech stack is integrated and operationalized around a single and complete view of the customer life cycle. This is the tech stack on steroids.

With one consolidated tech stack now in play, the SMOPS team becomes a master of process. The massive inefficiencies brought about by trying to work across functions run by different leaders with different agendas and different goals disappear, or are at least greatly minimized, in a SMOPS organization. Instead, a single function works under one charter to make quick and decisive changes that result in vast improvements in efficiency and effectiveness. Rather than having bickering and infighting over who owns what and when and how changes can be made, the SMOPS team serves as the neutral party using data to make better process decisions. 

The third responsibility of a SMOPS team is all things relating to good data and clear insights. Given the line of sight to the entire customer life cycle, the SMOPS team has access to data that creates a holistic picture of client behaviors, wants and needs. This type of insight, when provided in almost real time, helps the entire organization adopt a true customer focus and make better decisions. 

There are reams of studies in both the professional and academic world that demonstrate how a customer focus helps a company gain competitive advantage, especially in highly competitive markets. Yet, it's amazing to me how many companies I see who 'talk' about customer focus yet fail to operationalize the strategy. This is what's so exciting about the SMOPS organization – it's the way to operationalize a customer focus strategy. Now, that’s a twist.

SMOPS derivatives

In conversations with SMOPS leaders, there seems to be two main types of SMOPS derivatives – either marketing ops takes over sales ops, or sales ops takes over marketing ops. For marketing, it begins with a need to get their hands on the administration of the CRM system in order to do more effective reporting and to make changes more quickly in response to the business. For sales, it begins with the need to apply a revenue lens to the entire customer lifecycle. One other derivative I’ve seen is having the SMOPS group report to the COO. Regardless of where the function resides – reporting to sales, marketing, both, or the office of the COO, the benefits of the combined function is stronger than maintaining siloed functions.

How SMOPS differs from siloed organizations

In many ways, companies today have digital strategies based on revenue and customer engagement, but have yet to fully operationalize these strategies with the right structure. Current siloed structures represent legacy thinking that will not work in our 'always on' world. As long as these siloes continue to exist, teams will struggle with responsiveness, change, data, insights, politics, and power – all at the expense of the customer and gaining competitive advantage for the firm. Combining key operational elements of sales and marketing to create one, complete line of sight to the customer is a game changer. 

These customer lifecycle operations groups might also be extended to customer support, engineering, etc. The breadth and depth of analysis and response in an almost real-time context differentiates the SMOPS team from siloed organizations. As far as revenue achievement, SMOPS leaders are all about the number and see their organization as the best way to make it happen.

Getting started

Like many innovations in business, most organizations that possess a SMOPS team are small and agile. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to break down well-established siloes. So, what are a few things you can do to get started – given that you buy into the concept? Here are three steps.

  1. Set up a cross-functional task force to review SMOPS as a possibility – it will not be done lightly.
  2. If your company is strong on customer focus as a differentiator, use this strategy as the reason to review the possible benefits of a SMOPS organization.
  3. Get a strong executive advocate. You'll need to work with an executive who has power to make something happen.