Marketing teams have a series of moving parts that must work together to be successful.
Expectations are higher than ever for marketers to drive sales and provide direct value to businesses. Since there are many teams and goals within marketing departments, there has to be someone who focuses on aligning these parts behind the scenes. They must make sure everyone is working efficiently and effectively toward a common goal.
This certain someone is the entire marketing operations team.
What is marketing operations?
Marketing operations is all of the processes that go on behind the scenes of a marketing team. It encompasses the functions of the marketing organization, such as the people, systems, and technologies in order to ensure the marketing team is successful.
Together, the marketing operations team juggles many tasks to ensure things run smoothly in marketing departments. People within this team hold different titles and have a wide range of responsibilities. Dive into the details below to learn more about this crucial part of marketing.
What do marketing operations managers do?
As budgets continue to be cut, marketers need to keep proving their value. While marketing is still a creative industry, more so than ever, marketing is metric-oriented with a greater focus on driving revenue.
This shift has caused a need for more marketers that can enforce the process and track data and metrics, which traditionally was not a marketer’s main role. To fill this need, the role of the marketing operations manager was created to keep the creative-minded marketers on track.
Marketing operations managers are crucial to their department as they prove marketing value to stakeholders. Other responsibilities of a marketing operations manager include:
Developing career paths
Communicating metrics with upper management
The marketing operations manager has to collaborate with many different individuals when carrying out any of the above responsibilities.
What is a marketing operations specialist?
A marketing operations specialist works below the marketing operations manager to assist with keeping the day-to-day functions of marketing running smoothly and efficiently. In this role, the specialist will be responsible for documenting all of the metrics and become an analytics expert for the marketing team.
Additionally, this role supports the sales funnel by creating processes and getting approvals from the marketing operations manager. Other responsibilities of a marketing operations specialist include:
Analyzing marketing campaigns
Partnering with customer teams to create processes
Recording data and metrics
Supporting the marketing operations manager
Providing insights based on data
Handling requests for reports, sales tracking information, and data
Together the marketing operations manager and specialist work closely to ensure the marketing team is productive and successful.
Marketing operations stakeholders
There are four main stakeholders that the marketing operations team serves in order to prove that their team is efficient and working at a productive level.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO): The CEO expects that the marketing operations team grows revenue, measures the marketing ROIs, and aligns marketing with the rest of the organization’s goals and initiatives.
Chief Information Officer (CIO): The CIO expects that the marketing operations team is using software tools to the best of their ability, controlling costs, and evolving strategies to keep up with technology.
Chief Marketing Officer (CMO): The CMO expects that the marketing operations team aligns with sales, builds a marketing funnel, and creates a scalable process for the greater marketing team by using best in class technology.
Director of Marketing: The director of marketing expects that the marketing operations team works closely with the creative team to inform campaigns and then track the data and analytics of the campaign once it’s live.
These stakeholders hold the marketing operations team accountable and have a high-level understanding of the greater company initiatives and goals.
Must-have marketing operations processes
It’s a good idea to break down the best practices and processes of marketing operations to get the full picture of what they really manage.
These nine processes break down the responsibilities of the marketing operations team and can help guide your team in determining the areas of the marketing team that need oversight and alignment.
Data and analytics management
The creative team within marketing may not want to create reports based on data and analytics, but they rely upon these reports to inform their strategy.
Marketing operations is responsible for ingesting data and analytics and then creating reports for their teams. Oftentimes, the marketing manager creates the process for these reports to be created and then others can participate in the making of the reports as well.
Data and analytics are crucial in this day and age for marketers. It helps provide the reasons why they created the campaign that they did.
Example: Your company conducts a survey and the data shows that mothers between the ages of 37 and 45 are most interested in your product. You would then gather this information into a single report and hand it off to the creative director to help inform their next campaign. They may even have to pivot current marketing efforts based on those insights
There are many different assets on a marketing team. These assets include things like logos, creative designs, copy documents, blog posts, photography, and videos. And as you guessed it, this is another necessary process of the marketing operations team. They help to create, license, and store these assets.
Example:The creative team rebrands your company. You are responsible for collecting all of the new assets and messaging in one place for the entire marketing team to access as needed.
Marketing can comprise of up to 24 percent of company budgets. That is a huge portion of a budget, so managing the money is a crucial role that the marketing operations team plays. The marketing operations manager will split the budget as they deem necessary. Within a marketing team, there are usually different departments such as demand generation, content marketing, and the branding team. Budgets are split between departments as such.
Example: The demand generation team wants to run a Facebook ad campaign to gain more leads. The marketing operations team determines if that is within their budget and creates a process for requesting such asks.
Compliance and risk management
Compliance and risk management are especially important within the healthcare and tech industries. There are many rules and regulations that marketing teams must follow, such as prohibiting misleading advertisements.
There are also contracts that companies are bonded to with software companies, so you must be sure you’re compliant with their standards as well when using their software solution.
Example: Red Bull made a claim that it gives people who consume their energy drink wings with the slogan “Red Bull gives you wings.” Marketing operations would have oversight on this project and prevent an ad as such from going live.
Creative project management
Creatives and marketing operations must work together on every project to ensure everything goes smoothly. The marketing operations team has to be brought into the project at the beginning so that they can have oversight and control over the process from start to finish.
The only way a creative project can be successful and go smoothly is if there is a set process in place that’s designed by the marketing operations team.
Example: Your company wants to run a campaign around Pride Month and pitches the idea to the creative team. At that point, the marketing operations team should be brought in to create and enforce a process so that all deadlines are met and that expectations are exceeded.
Marketing technology management
The marketing operations team must assist in selecting, integrating, and optimizing the technology used by the marketing team. Then they must ensure that the technology is being used effectively. There should be documentation of the onboarding process of the technology as well. Since someone on the marketing operations team must be the admin for the technology, they must set up a system for requesting access and getting trained.
Aside from those responsibilities, marketing operations also manages the relationship with the vendor and audits the system efficacy at the time of renewal.
Example: Choosing CRM software that’s the best fit for your team and then handling the roll-out, renewal, and audit of the chosen software.
Quality assurance management
In order to ensure the marketing team is working efficiently, they must gather feedback from their team members about things that are and aren’t working within the department. From there they must make changes to address the widely acknowledged issues.
Example: After conducting a survey, you realize that the marketing department can’t easily access information because they have to keep going back through their emails to find documents. You then can implement a file-sharing system that houses all of the documents in one easily accessible space.
Lead management and demand generation
People use the terms lead management and demand generation interchangeably. While there should be an entire team dedicated to driving leads, the marketing operations team plays a role in evaluating conversion rates and ensuring that the team is working as effectively as possible.
Consider integrating an attribution software tool so that everyone can keep track of which touchpoints during the sales process are most effective and how the marketing funnel is working (or not working) to drive sales.
Example: Once sales close a deal, it’s hard to pinpoint if marketing had any part in the process. Marketing operations teams work to determine and track the value that marketing has on sales.
As mentioned before, content is an asset for the marketing team, so the marketing operations team is responsible for tracking and housing the content.
Additionally, marketing operations is in charge of creating editorial calendars and overseeing the content creation process along with the content managers on the team.
Example: The content marketing team needs a new peer review process because it’s taking too long for articles to get published. The marketing operations team can analyze why it’s taking people so long to get articles through peer review and suggest changes to apply to the process
How to implement a marketing operations strategy
Now you know all of the working parts and processes of a marketing operations team, but if you’ve never had this discipline on your team it can be tough to get started.
Follow these five steps to ensure you successfully implement your marketing operations strategy.
1. Align marketing strategy with company goals
Never create a project or role that doesn’t align with company goals. It’s easy to get swallowed up in the world of marketing and forget about the greater company goals.
Make your north star the company objective, and from there, ideate on a marketing plan. That way you can always back up your case by pointing out that it directly relates to the company initiatives.
From there, start to outline the responsibilities of the marketing operations team within the strategy.
2. Create a plan based on actionable steps
A detailed plan is necessary for a marketing operations strategy to be successful. Include timelines, project and task ownership, and tools needed for the plan. Marketing operations managers should be able to easily design a solid strategy because they have insight into the inner workings of the marketing team.
3. Define success
You cannot hit goals if you don’t make them. Make quantifiable, measurable goals that you can compare your work against.
That way, you can report progress to stakeholders to prove the value of marketing, and more so marketing operations. It’s always important to come with detailed metrics that tell a story of success rather than just listing off things you and your team did.
4. Inform the marketing team of your team’s purpose
This sounds obvious, but be sure the marketing team is aware of what the marketing operations team actually does and what is and is not their responsibilities. They are a crucial part of the team, but it’s essential to protect that marketing operations team from becoming overwhelmed by requests that aren’t their responsibilities.
Lastly, monitor performance across the marketing team. Go back to those goals that you defined earlier in the process and determine if you hit them or came up short. Then, adjust your plan so that the marketing operations team can remain a valuable part of your organization.
Set yourself up for smooth sailings
Marketing operations connects all of the dots within the marketing team and reports success up to the primary stakeholders. This department is necessary for marketing departments to be efficient and effective marketers.
With marketing operations, you can be sure your project deadlines are hit and your campaigns drive more sales.
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Deirdre O’Donoghue is a Content Manager at Nature's Fynd and a former Content Manager at G2. In her free time, you can find Deirdre fostering puppies or exploring the Chicago foodie scene. (she/her/hers)