How the C-Suite Benefits from a Strategic Marketing Operations Function

marketing automation

Written by Debbie Qaqish

October 17, 2018

As the marketing operations (MO) function continues to mature and extend influence into every part of the organization, it is time to review how key stakeholders benefit from the MO function. More specifically, I’d like to examine the benefits of a strategic marketing operations function.

The charter for a regular marketing operations group is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing in people, processes, technologies and data to achieve stated goals. This type of organization serves a core function for marketing, but it typically reacts to a strategy set elsewhere, rather than setting it. The strategic MO function is characterized by leadership, vision, cross-functional value-creation and transformation through operations.

The strategic MO group runs marketing like a business. Much more than button-pushers and techies, a strategic MO function is instrumental in transforming marketing into a revenue and growth engine for a company. As this change occurs, benefits accrue to the CMO, the CFO, the sales organization and the executive team. Let me explain.

The value of the marketing operations function to the CMO

  • Deliver on financial goals and ROI
  • Run marketing like a business
  • Enjoy more credibility across the organization
  • Earn a voice and a seat at the table

A fundamental flaw in typical CMO thinking has a big impact on performance. As they try to lead the charge to transform marketing from a cost center to a revenue center, they have been trying to make this change by applying right-brained thinking to a left-brained problem.

This is probably why few CMOs report any type of long-term financial metrics. The moment technology invaded our world as consumers and as marketers, the need for left-brained thinking became apparent. Yet, for many CMOs, their first foray into the technical and revenue accountability world was implemented with the wrong mindset and skill set.

The lucky CMO now has a second chance. The strategic marketing operations function can provide the required left-brained competencies, along with the mindset and skill set for technology, marketing and business acumen. Some people call these left-brained marketers (LBMs) marketing technologists; some people call them data scientists.

The LBM possesses a combination of general marketing skills, business acumen and deep technical and data analysis skills. Working in a marketing operations structure, the LBM is dedicated to technology (integration and optimization), data (understanding and producing shareable and consumable insights) and process optimization.

Companies that have highly functional MO groups also demonstrate more revenue contribution than companies without this function. The melding of technology, data, marketing and analytics allows the CMO to gain transparency to how marketing efforts impact the pipeline and closed business. Any CMO who can produce credible revenue numbers and also forecast marketing’s impact on revenue is supported by a highly effective MO team.

Because of the MO group’s focus on data collection and analysis, the CMO has access to all the numbers to run marketing like a business. This kind of CMO runs a profit-and-loss (P&L) statement and evaluates every expenditure to ensure the highest return. This CMO also uses data to figure out where and how to apply limited resources to optimize marketing ROI. Without a highly functional MO team, none of these business processes would be possible.

Once the CMO begins to produce credible revenue and growth, the CMO gains credibility with the entire executive team. The CMO is perceived to be an equal and becomes more actively involved in the formation of company-wide strategies. This type of CMO has gained a voice and a seat at the table.

The value of the marketing operations function to the CFO

  • More business predictability
  • More control

Historically, the CFO would rather stand in a cold shower tearing up $100 bills than sit down and talk about marketing budgets. In the CFO’s mind, marketing is nothing but a money pit. The rise of the marketing operations function is making the CFO do the happy dance as he enjoys, for the first time, transparency into the marketing P&L statement.

As the MO function continues to mature, it enables tangible and credible marketing results as measured in pipeline and revenue. Not only can marketers describe past performance, they can now forecast future performance. This transparency and data-driven process allows the CMO to understand and work with marketing numbers to better impact overall company performance. Finally, the CMO has more control over a very large budget and can weigh the outcomes.

The value of the marketing operations function to sales

  • More revenue and quota attainment
  • More competitive sales team

It’s no secret that marketing and sales have a checkered past. For too long, each group lived and worked separately with no reason to work together. Once marketing began to embrace marketing automation tools and customers started becoming digital, marketing began engaging with sales. Unfortunately, this engagement often yielded poor results. Reasons included marketing not understanding sales and sales not understanding the new digital possibilities.

One exciting effect of a strategic MO group is how they create highly beneficial and synergistic relationships with sales. I asked a VP of MO why he could create such a relationship while traditional marketing struggled. His response was that the MO group worked with data and facts, not gut instinct.

It goes back to the right-brain versus left-brain approach. Sales people are very black-and-white and driven by one immediate metric: quota. When the MO group uses data to analyze current processes and then uses technology to implement those improvements, the sales team is the ultimate winner.

By providing real-time customer information to sales, the sales team can be more competitive and win more deals. By providing real-time customer information to sales, the rep is more knowledgeable and can close larger deals. Sales productivity improves, and quota attainment also improves. All of this is possible in partnership with a strategic marketing operations group.

The value of the marketing operations function to other executives

  • A new tool for driving company growth
  • A way to respond to the digital economy and the customer

The rise of the marketing operations function is playing a key role in enlightening the executive team on the possibilities of using marketing as a new revenue and growth tool. As marketing operations embrace technology, data and analysis with the goal of achieving business objectives, the function of marketing becomes a driver of revenue and company growth. I’ve seen companies use marketing as their almost singular growth engine, and in those cases, marketing was supported by a strong MO group.

Every executive I know is consumed with how to do business in the digital economy and with a customer who is now in firm control. Technology has changed both our personal lives and our professional practices to the extent that what worked in the past for executives does not and will not work in this engagement economy.

The MO team is sitting on top of a world of customer data that can be mined and analyzed to produce key customer insights for better decision-making. No executive likes to make key business decisions without data; and, while gut instinct may work in some cases, given the speed of business today, real-time data is needed. This is the ultimate role of the MO team, and it is possibly where they will have the biggest impact on the future of the business.

Selling the value

As you work to build out an effective and strategic MO function, you will need to enlighten many key stakeholders. The strategic MO function works across disciplines, and getting other groups’ buy-in and nurturing relationships is critical. Take the time to examine who needs to be a part of your empire-building and then be ready to educate them.

I have found that most folks outside of your organization are willing to partner if you can be clear about what’s in it for them. Use the information here and from other sources to build your case. The strategic marketing operations organization creates benefits in many ways and across many parts of your organization.

Get to selling! And reach out about our marketing operations consulting if you need help.

As previously posted in MarTech Today on 3/23/18.

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