Marketing Operations emerged in 2000, driven by rising pressure on marketing to provide greater efficiency, transparency and accountability. The function was officially recognized by analyst firm IDC in 2005 (source: MarTech Advisor).
Since that time, the Marketing Operations function has evolved and expanded, with wide ranging responsibility, from aligning IT, marketing and sales, to strategic planning and budgeting, process development, professional development, and marketing systems and data.
As an evolving function, it can be hard to find consensus on the definition of Marketing Operations. Analyst firm Gartner defines it as “the function of overseeing an organization's marketing program, campaign planning and annual strategic planning activities. Other responsibilities include technology and performance measurement and reporting and data analytics.”
As the definition and scope of Marketing Operations evolves, adoption continues to grow. Gartner's 2020 Marketing Operations Survey revealed nearly half (49%) of marketers surveyed have a Marketing Operations leader within at least one team.
If you’re among the other half of marketers who have yet to assign responsibility for Marketing Operations within your team, or if you’re trying to get a handle on how the Marketing Operations function could do more within your organization, it may be worth taking a closer look at what Marketing Operations is, and why Marketing Operations is important – not only for the success of your marketing organization, but for the company-wide impact it can produce.
What Is Marketing Operations?
One way to look at Marketing Operations is as a REESE’s Peanut Butter Cup kind of mashup: two great functions that function great together. The powerful combination of marketing (responsible for engaging and nurturing customers to increase sales and grow revenues) and operations (focused on reducing costs and maximizing efficiency related to business operations), results in an exceptional customer experience, grounded by efficiency and cost-effectiveness, all of which can position your business for market success.
As we examine the Marketing Operations function more closely, The Pedowitz Group cautions there is a distinction between Marketing Operations and Demand Generation functions, but admits it is not always a clear distinction.
In a recent report, Pedowitz suggests, “The division of functions between Marketing Operations and Demand Generation is very clear in some cases and less clear in others. The guiding principle for determining where a team should live is based on whether they offer a service that is more infrastructural and supportive, or more day-to-day customer and prospect engagement-related. Technology, data management, process and reporting/analytics are more infrastructure and support-related rather than day-to-day engagement-program related, and therefore belong in Marketing Operations.”
It’s not surprising then, that in Gartner’s survey, 39% of marketers considered “Campaign and Lead Management” part of Marketing Operations.
At Vya, we think of Marketing Operations as the enablement and execution arm for marketing, including data management and analytics, campaign and lead management, and performance measurement.
Why Is It Important?
Gartner’s research finds “the presence of a Marketing Operations leader helps those organizations strive for both effectiveness and efficiency without overt sacrifice of one for the other – in particular, without sacrificing effectiveness for efficiency. With a Marketing Operations leader, a marketing organization can achieve both.”
The importance of the Marketing Operations function is evident in how it enables the marketing department to scale as the organization grows – this is especially vital for franchisors that support hundreds or even thousands of local franchisees, or for banks as they grow through acquisition, often increasing the number of branches they manage overnight.
As an example, the marketing group at WesBanco Bank, a community-oriented bank with nearly 200 branches across a half dozen states, was straining to keep pace with the bank’s exponential growth. Marketing leadership determined the need for a marketing resource management solution to automate key processes that could help its marketing staff work more efficiently and focus on more strategic activities for the growing, distributed organization. The MRM solution enabled a 75% reduction in administrative tasks, which allowed WesBanco to reallocate marketing staff to proactive campaigns that help the organization grow for the future.
Closer examination of industry research further elevates the importance of Marketing Operations, linking it with an organization’s competitive advantage. Often, the lack of marketing operational technology impacts marketing’s ability to mobilize. According to Gartner’s 2020 Marketing Operations Survey, approximately 43% of marketers surveyed still do not use any kind of modern martech to manage key marketing activities, hindering the marketing team’s ability to meet objectives.
Without adequate marketing tools and technology, organizations can lose ground to competitors, simply because they are not operating optimally. A study by London Research revealed that more than half (53%) of content marketers surveyed said they waste too much time trying to find content assets that may or may not exist.
If your marketing team is challenged to meet objectives due to operational inefficiencies, your first step may be to dedicate resources to the Marketing Operations function. Viewing your department through a Marketing Operations lens can guide you to the right technology and process solutions.
Focus Even Without a Function
If you’re thinking your marketing organization is too small to devote resources to the Marketing Operations function, you may be surprised by how much value you can achieve with a focus on optimizing operations. All organizations can benefit from an intentional review of marketing execution processes. With a focus on this discipline, you will be better able to identify and address inefficiencies.
Identifying inefficiencies requires a close look at how your team allocates its time. Cornerstone Advisors surveyed mid-size bank marketing leaders and found they are not spending enough time on marketing strategy development and planning (57%) and corporate strategy development and planning (57%). And, only 30% of respondents believe Marketing spends the right amount of time on marketing analytics and analysis, and just one in five thinks Marketing is allocating the right amount of time to data collection and implementation.
When looking to find time to spend on strategy and analytics, it’s not simply a matter of shifting from other initiatives, particularly when the time allocated to other activities is appropriate and necessary. It is possible, however, to find time for the strategic by streamlining other initiatives.
Additional opportunities for improving processes, leveraging vendors and applying technology can be found by:
- Consolidating data and making it readily available through a graphical interface
- Enabling self-service for field reps to access marketing materials
- Eliminating the “promo closet” and the related maintenance that distracts marketing talent from high-impact projects
- Streamlining the process for distributing right-sized marketing kits to the field
- Streamlining approval processes and requests and managing them within a system versus email and spreadsheets
Understanding what Marketing Operations is and why it’s important can help you determine how this evolving function can work for your marketing organization and contribute to the overall success of your company.
If you are looking for more on how Marketing Operations can impact your business, I encourage you to take a look at Vya’s new eBook, “Building Competitive Advantage Through Effective Marketing Operations Management.” This eBook examines the fundamental role Marketing Operations plays in building competitive advantage, and why it is a vital function in businesses today and those of the future. Download it here for free.