The Rapid Ascent of Marketing Ops

rise of marketing operationsWith its roots in strategic planning and budgeting and its increasing focus on customer acquisition, Marketing Ops is quickly becoming the customer experience nerve center. Ops leaders are driving the tech systems and processes to automate, measure, and manage all things marketing.

With Sirius Decisions Summit taking place this week in Orlando, Florida, it’s the perfect time to take a deeper dive into the current state of Marketing Ops and project where it’s headed (Sirius Decisions is credited with coining the “Marketing Ops” term).

Marketing Ops isn’t just an essential part of marketing’s efforts, its influence now spans across the business. Marketing is charged with discovering, creating and delighting customers in the customer-led, always-on world we live and compete in. The Ops teams’ ability to provide the tools, analytics, processes, and metrics to scale often determines marketing pros’ ability to deliver on revenue goals. This power also comes with a few not-so-flattering labels such as “gate keepers,” “governors” or the “Gestapo” of marketing.

“It’s ironic that marketing is now embracing the engineering mindset that for years we resisted, bringing left brain thinking into a traditionally right brain world," says Gary Katz, Chairman of Marketing Operations Partners, “We are making up for lost time.”

In many organizations, especially larger companies, Marketing Ops has the primary role of budgeting, planning, and accounting. They’ve been adding the roles of customer acquisition, automating processes, digitizing the operation, and measuring holistic outcomes like lifetime value and cost per sale. One of the biggest themes, particularly in B2B, is sales and marketing alignment. This means establishing Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with sales leadership, directly building sales pipeline, and accelerating — faster, cheaper, better — lead conversion and velocity. To meet the challenge, Marketing Ops is adopting and integrating technology like CRM, marketing automation, data management tools and analytics dashboards. These are big wins for marketing as they can show they’re contributing to the business.

While many marketing organizations are somewhere between kick starting this shift and mastering their effort, marketing just may be getting mired in the weeds trying to be Ops ninjas and losing sight of marketing’s full potential. Marketers must be able to craft and communicate a compelling, differentiated story without losing the engineering and financial optics mindset that’s winning over the C-suite team. This requires a new type of leader in the Marketing Ops arena.

“Increasingly, Marketing Ops is starting to bridge the gap between marketing and other business functions”, says Katz, “They’re putting marketing into a language most business pros and colleagues can understand.” Katz thinks of the Marketing Ops leader as the Chief of Staff to the CMO.

To make this transition and advance marketing’s real potential, Marketing Ops is tackling a new set of topics with their marketing siblings. These pros are figuring out ways to improve the customer experience by engaging audiences in a more personalized manner. This new form of storytelling and engagement requires a content marketing and social media strategy to help re-imagine how and where brands messages are delivered and conversations are started. This shift takes new levels of talent, technology, and actionable data to fuel the potential.

It’s a huge task for Marketing Ops to rise to the challenge and enable data-driven marketing with an impactful customer experience that delights customers and moves markets. To do this, Marketing Ops pros need to be change agents, seamlessly integrate the people, process and technology, and as Mr. Katz emphasizes, “have the maturity to equally balance data points and underlying motivations and passions to make a difference.”

Marketing Ops plays an even more powerful role in marketing’s road ahead. We’ll be participating and contributing wherever and however we can to their success. It’s the right focus for marketing, for brands and for the customers we serve.

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