This blog post looks at the role of ‘marketing operations’, or ‘marketing ops’ and what it does.
We ask 'what are marketing operations’ responsibilities within a business, and what function does it fulfil?'
At SME level marketing operations is still a relatively new concept.
The need for marketing operations is being felt within more and more businesses, even if those very businesses aren’t aware that marketing operations is exactly what they need to move forwards at speed.
To help to appreciate the role that marketing operations plays already in numerous businesses, it might help to consider what the responsibilities of the function are. Just what is marketing operations in charge of?
The four key responsibilities of marketing operations
Most of what marketing operations does fits into four main ‘buckets’ of responsibility.
1. Manage data; from CRM to ROI
There’s few businesses out there without some level of data problem. Even if you have the correct system in place data can quickly become incomplete or out of date.
Marketing operations takes control of data, implementing processes and controlling projects that result in accurate data, so the wider marketing department can act on appropriate insight. And with that mention of processes...
2. Create and automate repeatable process
Marketing ops loves processes. Marketing operations works to identify where a process could streamline how you do business and then often manages that process to ensure its accurate completion.
Think of the simplest marketing process: writing a short blog or email. It shouldn’t take very long and yet how many marketing campaigns are held up by simple content tasks over-running or not being completed properly? A good marketing operations function would initiate a process to get your content marketing up and running at a much quicker pace.
3. Strategise and align
Marketing operations keeps track of the bigger picture. Whilst marketing produce campaigns and generally work in marketing, marketing operations works on marketing.
If something is missing that’s preventing marketing from fulfilling the bigger picture, then marketing operations should know about it first and put something in place to fix the problem.
4. Fulfil technology and knowledge requirements and gaps
If something is moving slowly within the marketing department then the chances are that there’s a technology or knowledge gap. Marketing operations is there to solve that problem.
If you need a new email marketing system, for example, then marketing ops can carry out review and procurement, rather than using up the time of your skilled and creative marketing team.
If your website is holding you back then marketing operations may even be able to put a new template or redesign in place, without waiting for a designer, so you can get moving quickly.
Marketing operations as enablement: if all of the above are taken care of, what should happen?
When thinking about the responsibilities of marketing operations it can help to think about the outputs. If you have a marketing operations function working for you then what tends to happen?
Marketing as a whole moves quicker
Marketing operations is enablement. Don’t think of it as part of the marketing department; think of it as the enablement department.
When all hindrances and hangups are removed, things happen quicker, happier, in a more productive way. Less time is wasted, more fun is had and more results are gained.
There’s no such thing as a question that can’t be answered internally
Marketing operations is technical expertise whereas your marketing department is creative expertise. They’re two different disciplines; just ask your graphic designer and web developer. One of those people makes sure your website looks good, the other one makes sure that what the designer designed, actually works. Marketing operations creates answers and adds in technical expertise to your marketing team.
Problems resolve faster
If you need a website template change or something fixing in the code behind an email template then, in all likelihood, marketing ops can do it for you. Again: that means you move quicker, without needing to wait for a support desk or developer to get round to helping you. Problems aren’t problems any more, because a member of your team can sort them out.
Marketing spend more time doing what they’re good at
Too many people in marketing departments spend time doing jobs they’re not good at. Data management, systems reviews, tinkering with code that they ‘sort of’ know.
We all have our strengths. It’s a broad generalisation, but marketing people tend to be creative and speed-oriented. Marketing operations people tend to be analytical and detail-oriented.
Together they’re a match made in heaven to get marketing moving in the right direction.
Capacity within marketing is significantly extended
Because one of marketing operations key roles is process and procedure driven, you’ll start to find that capacity as a whole is increased as a result of the responsibilities marketing operations take on.
Not only will they take unnecessary work away from your marketing team, they’ll also help marketing to work smarter, not harder. That will free up resource and, along with making things move more quickly, that means you’re in line for a huge bump in marketing capacity, without adding any extra resource.
The role of marketing operations: make marketing go!
Think of the traditional role of operations within a business. If you have an Ops Manager or Ops Director, their role is to make things run smoothly. They look after all of the ‘hygiene’ needs of the business; from literal hygiene like the facilities and roof over your head, to the supplies and logistics needed to make a working day happen.
Marketing Operations is exactly the same, but with a dedicated focus on making marketing go and removing barriers that prevent marketing growth. Marketing ops is already a familiar function within large-scale enterprise businesses and it’s coming to an SME near you!