The digital era has provided marketers with the ability to measure and analyze the outcomes of their efforts. No longer a company’s “arts and crafts” team, marketing departments are leveraging metrics and systematic management techniques to generate real business value. Marketing Operations spearheads this focus on back-office data analysis, strategic planning, budgeting and the use of marketing technology to perform these duties. It has become marketing’s nerve center, controlling systems and processes to influence, measure, and manage all things marketing.
Marketing Operations is, however, a dynamic role, varying from organization to organization. We interviewed Leslie Cocco Alore, Sr. Manager, Global Marketing Operations & Automation at Iron Mountain, to glean a few expert insights from a marketing operations pro.
Q: Marketing Ops is a quickly growing, specialized role that requires a specific skillset. What’s your story? How did you end up in your position?
I started out as a marketing generalist in an organization that was new to the concept of marketing. I was seeking a way to measure the impact and ROI of marketing at the time when we were pushing a lot out, but not measuring much beyond the standard metrics (opens, CTs, page visits, etc.) I was actually originally inspired at an Eloqua conference where they promoted the concept of Revenue Performance Management (RPM). I went home and said to my boss “I want to measure our demand funnel and our ROI!” And he said make a plan, tell me what resources you need, and do it. And I did…very successfully.
After that I was hooked. I was an RPM evangelist and become engaged in a network of others like me. Recruiters found me and since then I’ve been sought out by companies looking to bring best practices and operational discipline to their marketing organization.
Q: What are a few of the key opportunities/challenges Iron Mountain is currently facing, and in what ways is your team leveraging new technology and associated processes to drive success?
My current organization is really good at measuring the contribution marketing makes to the pipeline. The challenge we have is developing integrated programs that measure the marketing story beyond a single tactic. We know that it takes many touches and interactions over time to turn a prospect into a lead and a lead into an opportunity, but we don’t know what the right mix is, and we haven’t done a great job of making those touches flow together into a story that brings the lead along. We know it happens, but it happens because our audience navigates their own way through – we’re not owning and shepherding their experience.
We are now working to integrate the vendors and technologies we rely on for inbound tactics into our marketing automation platform so we capture people and move them through the buyer journey in an intentional and mutually beneficial way. This includes processes and technologies that enable sales to carry on with the story when a lead is passed to them. We don’t want our audience to have a fractured experience between marketing and sales.
We’re looking at technologies that add value to both parties, with our website and our marketing automation platform serving as the foundation to managing our inbound, lead nurturing, funnel automation, lead scoring, etc. Supplementing this, but equally important are technologies that allow us to integrate with content platforms, webinar and event tools, and predictive lead scoring.
Q: People, processes and technology comprise the marketing triad. If you were in charge of overhauling a marketing team/operation, in what order would you tackle these three elements.
People, processes, and technology. In that order. Actually, it’s probably be more like: people, processes, people, technology, processes, people. Human capital is the backbone of a successful ops team. You need a team with the skills to understand and execute the technology and processes, and without that you’re fighting a losing battle.
I’ve seen companies do this time and time again: technology, people, processes. Purchasing a super robust automation technology doesn’t do you much good without having someone in place who can implement it, develop the necessary operating processes, run it and optimize it. Furthermore, you should determine your operational process goals before selecting a technology that can support it. Technology supports operational processes, not vise verse. Of course, you will need to develop processes specific to the technology you select as well. Additionally, you’re not going to stand up an entire team all at once…or you shouldn’t. You have to assess your needs and capabilities along the way. Invest in training and involve your team in the development process, so they have a stake in it. Just like any change management situation you have to slowly build, communicate, empower and reinforce the vision.
Q: You’re looking to hire a new Marketing Ops pro: What are the three most important traits you look for in a team member?
Analytical, adaptable and hungry.
Analytical is an obvious one. I need someone who can look at the parts and the sum of the parts and make sense of it. Heck, common sense will get you a long way, but I want someone who’s going to drill in and seek to measure, understand and improve.
Adaptability is critical, because marketing is a fast-paced, ever-changing ecosystem. Someone who gets comfortable with a technology or process or methodology and settles into their ways isn’t going to make it. They will be unhappy and a hindrance to growth. I believe the marketing operations team should be at the forefront of trends, not sitting around “keeping the lights on” and waiting for other marketers, or sales, or leadership to come up with new ideas and make requests. You’ve heard the expression “Change or die”…I’d take it a step further and say “Lead change or die!”
Finally, I want a hungry marketer – someone who seeks to learn and grow; who follows trends; is excited about bringing new ideas to the table; and is not only willing to, but pushes to try new things. As a leader I seek to ignite passion in my team – if they come to my table hungry, I will feed them, but I will also encourage and enable them to hunt and forage and feed themselves.
Leslie leads a global team of marketing automation and operations professionals, and is responsible for MAP and CRM integration, data, and processes to support internal marketing teams. She also consults on and oversees deployment of integrated multi-touch programs aligned with marketing best practices.