In the 1960s, NASA had a room full of mathematicians whose sole job was crunching equations to calculate and then recalculate data to determine a trajectory for a space launch. They were known as “computers.” Running all the necessary numbers would take the team upward of three months, as well as specialized skills and advanced knowledge.
Today, running that same set of numbers takes a modern computer a few minutes. With the exponential increase in the ability to handle and process information, NASA is able to do more sophisticated work with higher accuracy and put their talent to work on much bigger challenges.
In marketing, we’re able to do the same thing. We have volumes of data on our customers and their behavior that’s made comprehensible by algorithms and computing.
But setting up systems to drive marketing efficiency, collecting data on what’s working and what’s next, and constantly using that insight to increase effectiveness is the task of a very elite team.
They are the rocket scientists of your organization.
They are marketing operations.
And if you don’t yet have a department of these specialized, information ninjas and marketing mavericks, we’re about to tell you why you need to change that, and just how to do it.
What We Mean by Marketing Operations (MOPs)
At the highest level, Marketing Operations (MOPs) teams are broadly chartered to work across functions within and outside of marketing to focus relentlessly on improving marketing efforts. They are simultaneously tamers of complexity and infusers of sophistication who transform not just marketing departments, but entire organizations.
Think about your current marketing department. Who, within it, is most likely to be able to answer these questions:
- What kind of data do we have, and what does it mean?
- What was the most effective money we spent this year?
- How do we spend more that way?
Many executives struggle to identify someone who can answer one of these questions, let alone all three. Typically, the answers are held across different people, on different teams. And the problem is that those people don’t come together with their individual pieces to see a big picture.
Marketing operations is like a special forces team.
It’s an elite cadre of people charged not with specific marketing tactics, but with the goal of looking at all efforts and making them more efficient, and more effective. MOPs is a centralized function, the source of data and insights for leadership decision making, and the basis for marketing productivity, agility and accountability.
They cross all roles, uniting the work of marketing.
Within the charter of a MOPs team, we’d expect to see three areas of intense focus:
- Enabling digital transformation
- Adopting business accountability by driving revenue and growth
- Leading customer centricity.
These three areas are important for MOPs because they are the transcendent ones. Not only do they cross marketing functional areas, but they also bleed out of marketing into other units. This makes them harder to tackle, but it’s worth it because these are the three areas that also make the biggest impact.
Enabling Digital Transformation
Marketing operation’s most important role is as strategic steward of intelligence, and typically that also means technology. For digital transformation, while technology tends to be the first concept organizations think about, it’s not the only hallmark that should be examined for successful change.
We’re looking to a MOPs team to engrain marketing technology into the enterprise as a whole, and then use insights to drive revenue. By driving connections deeper into the organization, more work is made possible, and more data is captured. Then, the data is mined for insights. The insights are put to work. The work pays off in increased revenue. And over a relatively short period of time, the technologies become ingrained.
It’s a lot like the shift that happened when we stopped doing complex math by hand, and turned the tasks over to computers. In the 1960s, it would take a team of people three months to calculate a launch trajectory for a NASA space flight. Today that work takes a few minutes or less.
Most organizations can access volumes of information, but it takes leadership from MOPs to make sense of it and find transformative insights within the data.
It sounds so obvious, but when you try to pull it off, you begin to understand the complexity. Our favorite example of this at the moment is intent data. We can get more insight than ever about what prospects are likely to do. But it has two big strings attached:
- Getting this data requires specific expertise and/or it’s expensive to attain.
- Once you have it, you need to know what to do with it.
A strategic marketing operations team tackles these problems. When the team is deeply ingrained in your organization, they dig deep for data. They integrate it with platforms to amplify insights with other data in other systems, and strategically work with vendors on the outside to curate a stunning array of insight. From there, it’s all about action.
Like a great connector, MOPs serves up the insights to the right teams–often sales–who can act on it and turn it into points of conversion to drive revenue.
Business Accountability To Drive Growth
Marketing organizations traditionally have to fight for budget, especially if you have not transformed into a revenue marketing organization.
That’s because when you and your executive team hand money off to marketing, it can sometimes be an act of faith. You know the money makes an impact…somehow. But you’ve got little more than logo-emblazoned swag to show results for the investment.
Marketing operations should include an element of financial accountability, so that every dollar invested in marketing has a forecasted return. Year over year, budgets are geared to the activities that build revenue, and your ability to see what those activities are is how you build your case for budget and growth.
Over time there’s an ironclad, undeniable benefit to this approach: marketing’s value is demonstrated in finite detail.
- Business case: fortified.
- Investments: returned.
- Future requests: granted.
- Your role in revenue: undeniable!
Leading Customer Centricity
Marketing operations puts one question at the heart of every activity: “how does this serve our customer(s)?”
This question is supported with two key elements: a customer profile or buyer persona, and a customer journey. And the answer is a blend of art and science.
Buyer personas clearly describe what levers need to be pulled to engage your customer.
The customer journey describes the sequence you need to pull the levers to lead to a sale. It helps you identify which behaviors or data points indicate a prospect isn’t right to buy so you stop directing effort at converting them. (Wondering if you need to update yours? Click here to read more)
Answering the call to put the customer at the heart of all activities is partially in the realm of tech geek to mine data and technology. And it’s a yet-to-be-recognized art form, in that it takes a lot of creativity to orchestrate a process that humanizes data, and gives it a personalized element that engages your prospect.
Much like directors move us with stunning films, painters inspire us with beautiful color, and musicians stir us with awesome music… marketing needs to create and connect with customers.
The Value of Marketing Operations
If you don’t have a MOPs team supporting your revenue acquisition strategy, you are leaving SO MUCH potential on the table. Let’s take a dive into why the MOPs team is the ace in your pocket and is absolutely instrumental in transforming marketing into a revenue growth engine for your company.
The strategic MOPs team runs marketing like a business. Much more than button-pushers and techies, a strategic MOPs team 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 in the following ways:
- 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
Related: Assess your own team’s maturity
Let’s take a look at each:
The Value To The CMO
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 team 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 MOPs teams also demonstrate more revenue contribution than companies without it. 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 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 statement and evaluates every expenditure to ensure the highest return. She / He also uses data to figure out where and how to apply limited resources to optimize marketing ROI.
Without a highly-functional MOPs team, none of these business processes would be possible.
Once the CMO begins to produce credible revenue and growth, marketing 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.
The Chief Marketing Officer has gained a voice and a seat at the table.
The Value 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, at least they are sure they know where that money is going. The rise of the marketing operations team is making the CFO do the happy dance as they enjoy, for the first time, transparency into the marketing P&L statement.
As the MOPs function continues to mature, it enables tangible and credible marketing results as measured in pipeline and revenue. Not only can marketers describe past performance, but they can also 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 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 MOPs team is how they create highly beneficial and synergistic relationships with sales. It goes back to the right-brain versus left-brain approach. Salespeople are very black-and-white and driven by one immediate metric: quota. When the MOPs team 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. Sales productivity improves, and quota attainment also improves. All of this is possible in partnership with a strategic marketing operations group.
Related: Key stages of successful lead management for stronger sales / marketing alignment
The Value To Other Executives
- A new tool for driving company growth
- A way to respond to the digital economy and the customer
The rise of marketing operations plays 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, marketing becomes a driver of revenue and company growth.
Executives are 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 MOPs 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 MOPs team, and it is possibly where they will have the biggest impact on the future of the business.
Selling Its Value
As you work to build out an effective and strategic MOPs team, you will need to enlighten many key stakeholders.
The strategic MOPs team 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.
Your stakeholders 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 team creates benefits in many ways and across many parts of your organization.
Are You Ready For MOPs?
Here’s a simple test:
- Is there a driving company need, and can marketing connect to it?
- Is there a belief that competitive advantage can be at least partially accomplished with technology?
- Is there an appetite for quantifiable marketing results?
In a post-COVID world, it’s hard to believe the answer to any of these questions would be “No.” It’s rarely a question as to if it should be done. The biggest issues come down to:
- Executive advocacy. Because of the wide-ranging need for cooperation, this must be mandated and driven from the top.
- What is the relationship between quantifiable results from marketing and business growth?
- How do we get there?
This isn’t a small endeavor, but it’s well worth it! Build on what ideas are percolating in your mind right now with some of the following: