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Marketing Operations (A-Z Guide): What It Is, Key Roles & Pillars Of Success

by Katie Oberthaler

18 July 2019

A few years back, the Marketing Operations role didn’t exist. Instead, the marketing department drafted in Project Managers to help run and coordinate their more extensive campaigns.

Nowadays, things are a little different:

But Marketing Ops is more than just project management, as you’ll discover in this article.

We’ll take a look at what Marketing Operations is, the essential qualifications required for the role, and the best tools for the job.

What Is Marketing Operations?

Marketing Operations is a relatively new function in the marketing organization that enables the department to operate efficiently and deliver the desired business outcomes through people, processes, technology, and data.

While traditional marketing skills like strategic and creative thinking are still required, there’s also a need for more technical and analytical skills to oversee the ever-increasing technology and data that marketing departments manage.

You can think of Marketing Operations as the engine that drives results in marketing organizations.

According to Gartner: “Marketing Operations should serve as a core function for marketing, providing cross-functional coordination, communications, and reporting.”

(Image Source: Gartner 2018)

5 Pillars of Marketing Operations

The Marketing Operations team in any organization should cover the following five tasks:

Marketing Project Planning

Marketing Operations relies on project and program managers to develop new marketing strategies and manage complex digital projects to clearly defined success metrics.

Any campaign planning, cross-tactical execution planning, budget setting, and performance review meetings should include the Marketing Operations team.

Some companies have separate marketing teams for email, search, social media, events, etc., so marketing operations can ensure each silo is working together.

End-to-End Creative Process Management

Marketing Operations is responsible for governing the various marketing processes. It’s one thing coming up with new ideas, but it’s another creating a system for everyone to follow. With the right processes and accountability in place, each marketing team can execute their programs more effectively and efficiently.

Marketing Technology Infrastructure

Marketing Operations is expected to manage the multiple marketing platforms, such as the website, eCommerce solution, review and approval software, content management system, plus the integration with related technologies.

They’ll also oversee the technology for AdWords, product analytics, A/B testing, social media, and ABM marketing to ensure alignment across the business.

And then there’s always going to be new marketing technology. The marketing tech landscape has grown from 150 solutions in 2011 to 7040 in 2019:

martech-landscape-2011-2019_600px

(Image Source: ChiefMarTec 2019)

So the marketing ops team will always be involved in the evaluation and selection of new software to streamline processes and improve performance across departments.

Marketing Data and Analytics

The Marketing Operations team is responsible for developing the marketing data strategy so that marketing as a whole has the necessary insights to build high-performing campaigns.

A key component of Marketing Operations involves checking the analytics, reporting, and team dashboards to measure the effectiveness of each channel and the overall performance of the marketing program. Depending on the size of the business, it may be their responsibility to action the data or inform other members of the marketing teams.

Brand Compliance and Risk

Last but not least, it's vital for Marketing Operations to manage the review and approval process of marketing materials to ensure compliance, especially in highly regulated industries like healthcare and financial services.

For instance, Advocate Health Care was fined $5.5m for a violation of HIPAA regulations – all because an employee left of an unencrypted laptop in their unlocked car, exposing the data for over 4 million patients.

Regulatory laws protect consumers from being misled or lied to by businesses. Plus they safeguard consumer privacy rights, monitoring how companies collect, store, and use consumer data. For example, the new EU GDPR had 200,000 cases reported in its first year resulting in fines of €56m, most of which came from French data watchdog CNIL's €50m fine for Google.

The FCA has strict guidelines regarding financial promotions so that financial services providers stay compliant on social networks and websites.

For example, the risk warning text in this banner ad is non-compliant because it’s too small in comparison to the surrounding promotion text:

(Image Source: FCA.org.uk)

But by using approval workflow software with a step for lawyers to review and comment on the creative content, you can ensure all guidelines are followed and disclaimers added to avoid any litigation risk.

Once a business is tarnished with a bad reputation, it can be hard to recover. Therefore, it’s imperative that companies empower Marketing Operations with the authority and tools to manage risk and compliance, and ensure they adhere to best practices for marketing privacy.

4 By-Products of Successful Marketing Operations

Team and Project Organization

Marketing Operations is the lynchpin that holds the various marketing teams together. Without them, teams operate in silos, and there is a distinct lack of cohesion to their efforts. But Marketing Operations ensures each marketing program and campaign are executed according to the agreed plans and processes.

Data Transparency

Marketing Operations ensures there is nothing hidden from the business. All stakeholders can make informed decisions based on the data that’s been collected and analyzed by the marketing team.

Process Repeatability

Part of the Marketing Operations remit is to improve processes and programs so that everyone can work more effectively and efficiently. Better still, is that these processes are repeatable, which saves more time and money in the long run.

Workload Scalability

Marketing Operations not only creates repeatable processes and programs but also gives the whole organization a chance to plan for the future. With transparent processes, the best technology, and the right data, they can define strategies and build programs that are scalable and predictable for future growth.

Key Qualifications to Look For in a Marketing Operations Manager

Thinking of hiring a Marketing Operations Manager for your company? Here are some of the crucial skills and qualities to look for:

Personal Skills

The role of Marketing Operations Manager is a technical and analytical position, rather than a creative one. Therefore look for someone with an analytics/systems background rather than traditional marketing skills.

You want someone who is:

  • Accurate, systematic, and methodical.
  • Able to organize and prioritize tasks and projects.
  • Makes an excellent team player and has strong interpersonal skills.

Technology Expertise

Managing the technology stack is probably the most important function of Marketing Operations. Managers need to:

  • Evaluate, implement, and manage the many marketing technology systems and integrations with related technologies required to launch and run campaigns.
  • Optimize and audit existing systems.
  • Design the roadmap and strategy for new products and solutions.
  • Manage technology vendors.

Data Optimization and Governance Knowledge

A Marketing Operations Manager needs to interrogate the data, make recommendations, and drive actions:

  • Ensure marketing data is being properly collected and connected with other systems such as a CRM.
  • Manage data cleansing and research new ways to enrich the data.
  • Ensure business meets best practices for marketing and data privacy.

Analytics and Reporting Experience

The Marketing Operations Manager should be numerate with the ability to produce reports and derive valuable insights and analysis for the business as a whole.

  • Manage analytics, reporting, and team dashboards to measure the effectiveness of the marketing channels.
  • Measure team-wide efficiency by role, step, or project.
  • Provide insights to stakeholders in the business.

Process Optimization

Optimizing marketing processes is a key skill to enable the business to grow and scale:

  • Review and update existing processes.
  • Design and create new operating processes.
  • Define the marketing objectives for each campaign.
  • Advise campaign managers on builds, segmentation, and personas.
  • Ensure campaigns meet standard processes and quality standards.

Project Management Skills

Your Marketing Operations Manager will be involved in the planning, monitoring, and evaluation of various projects:

  • Manage complex digital projects.
  • Manage change programs with key stakeholders.
  • Manage spend vs. budget reporting for projects, including ROI reporting on activities.
  • Manage risks and compliance.

Teaching and Supporting Skills Development

It’s vital the marketing department grows, so your Marketing Operations Manager needs to:

  • Help the organization evolve its marketing practices and adopt new solutions.
  • Educate the marketing team on technology processes and best practices.
  • Mentor individuals from the marketing teams.

As you can see, it’s quite a comprehensive list. But how do these skills get used in the real world?

Marketing Operations Toolset

Here are five tools that the Marketing Operations department can use for collaborating, budgeting, processing, reviewing, and reporting.

Collaboration

The Marketing Operations team runs multiple projects and programs, so they need a tool that organizes campaigns, tasks, and teams in one location.

Example KPIs/metrics to watch:

  • Team workload.
  • Number of tasks created and completed.
  • Time spent on tasks and projects compared to the original plan.

Asana is the work management platform teams use to stay focused on the goals, projects, and daily tasks that grow business.

Here’s how it can help Marketing Operations:

  • Get organized - Plan and structure work, and then assign tasks to team members with priorities and deadlines. Store and share notes, files, and conversations in one location.
  • Stay on track - Monitor the progress of different tasks, and, if required, reassign or reschedule tasks to balance workload in the team.
  • Hit deadlines - Create visual project plans so you can pinpoint risks and eliminate roadblocks.

Budget

Marketing Operations requires robust software to streamline its budgeting process and increase accuracy.

Example KPIs/metrics to watch:

  • Improved accuracy
  • Quicker budgeting rounds

prophix
Prophix creates accurate budgets in a fraction of the time it would take using spreadsheets alone.

Here’s how it can help Marketing Operations:

  • Increase accuracy - Prophix automatically collects data from other systems and condenses all the relevant metrics into one budgeting platform, so there’s no need for time-consuming and error-prone manual data input.
  • Improve collaboration - Team members from different departments can enter their forecasts and requirements into one tool when you’re building annual budgets.
  • Mitigate risk - Switching between multiple platforms and using individual spreadsheets can lead to errors. Prophix has built-in controls to mitigate incorrect formulas and values.

Process

Marketing Operations requires repeatable processes so that everyone can work more effectively and efficiently.

Example KPIs/metrics to watch:

  • Track team performance and productivity
  • Process completion rates
  • Proof status
  • Achieved deadlines
  • Volume and frequency of content access

 

Process Street is a simple, free, and powerful way to manage your team's recurring checklists and procedures.

Here’s how it can help Marketing Operations:

  • Create procedure documents - The simple drag-and-drop interface and intuitive keyboard shortcuts let you create structured documents quickly.
  • Collaborate on workflows - You can create checklist workflows with activities for team members and receive notifications for completed tasks.
  • Integrate with apps - You can use the Zapier integration to connect with over 1000 apps that can automatically schedule and assign workflows or can be updated when you complete actions in Process Street.
  • Capture structured data - You can use forms to collect structured data in your checklists. Either input the information manually or receive it from third-party apps.

Review and Compliance

Every piece of content in every marketing campaign or project needs reviewing at least once to comply with brand guidelines or legal and data requirements.

Example KPIs/metrics to watch:

 
Ziflow is an online proofing tool that helps deliver marketing projects faster by streamlining the review and approval of creative content.

Here’s how it can help Marketing Operations:

  • Improve collaboration - Reviewers can see and reply to each other’s comments, which avoids duplication and miscommunication, and results in less rework and fewer versions before final approval.
  • Centralize content review - Marketing teams can see when to review content, and at-risk documents are flagged automatically.
  • Compare versions - any two versions of a proof can be compared side by side, regardless of their original file format. Plus, the proofs are synced, so moving one version automatically moves the other one.
  • Audit the trail - All comments, replies, and attachments for each version are maintained for review or auditing so that you can demonstrate marketing compliance.
  • Automate tasks and reminders - Creative and production teams can focus on high-value, high impact work, while Ziflow takes care of the background tasks like conversions and sharing, file management, and notifications.

Reporting

Reporting is a primary component of any Marketing Operations system as stakeholders throughout the business need to measure current campaigns and also plan for the future.

Example KPIs/metrics to watch:

  • Marketing campaign ROI
  • Cost-per-lead
  • Lead quality (qualified vs unqualified)

 

 

Google Data Studio unlocks the power of your data with interactive dashboards and visual reports that inspire smarter business decisions.

Here’s how it can help Marketing Operations:

  • Consolidate your data - You can pull data from multiple third-party solutions like spreadsheets, Google Analytics, Google Ads, Google BigQuery, and more.
  • Explore your data - You can transform the raw data into the metrics and dimensions you require to create easy-to-understand reports and dashboards – without any coding or query knowledge.
  • Empower your teams - You can share the reports and data visualizations with your business so they can plan accordingly. Stakeholders can compare, filter, and organize the exact data they need in one reporting solution.

Conclusion

Now you have a better understanding of how Marketing Operations improves the processes and systems in their department and provides all-round visibility to other parts of the business.

Get your company in line with marketing operations software from Ziflow.

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