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Marketing operations (A-Z guide): The benefits for creative teams

12 min read
Katie Oberthaler

Marketing operations and creative operations keep the wheels of creative productivity churning. Building and investing the background processes that move creative work to the next stage of development is just as important as the creative assets and ideas themselves.

Creative and marketing departments have traditionally relied on creative operations or project managers to help coordinate complex creative projects. However, effective marketing operations involvs more than just achieving creative requirements. The best marketing operations managers know how to leverage technology, big data and project management to drive and optimize the delivery of creative work.

In this article, we’ll look at the key elements for running a successful marketing operation team, the skills required to lead a marketing operations team, and the best tools for the job. We’ll also explain how marketing operations can improve project management for creative teams.

What we'll cover

What is marketing operations?

Marketing operations includes the people, processes, technology, and data that support marketing strategies and campaigns. A marketing operations team oversees those components.Marketing operations teams help marketing departments operate efficiently and cohesively. Marketing operations also ensure that teams have access to the best technology for executing their processes.

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

Ultimately, marketing operations reduce inefficiencies that copywriters, designers, digital marketers, video producers, and other agency creatives encounter in their daily work processes. They help streamline client communications and project delivery, saving time and money, and increasing client satisfaction.

What does a marketing operations team do? 

Creative project planning

Marketing Operations Managers develop new marketing strategies, manage complex digital projects, and define success metrics. They may be solely in charge of these functions or oversee a marketing ops team.

Key responsibilities include defining budgets for campaigns, setting benchmarks, and regularly assessing team capacity. 

Some companies have separate marketing teams for email, search, social media, events, etc. Marketing Operations Managers ensure all teams and systems are working together.

End-to-end creative process management

Marketing Operations Managers implement processes and ensure accountability by defining who is responsible for each step in a creative workflow or marketing strategy.

Marketing technology management

Marketing Operations Managers may oversee marketing automation platforms, creative collaboration software, content management systems, and the budget and marketing strategy for Google Ads. They also research new technology that could improve processes. And then there’s always going to be new marketing technology. The marketing tech landscape grew 5,233% between 2011 and 2020.

 

 growth of martech landscape from 2011-2020

Data and analytics governance

A key component of marketing operations management is checking the analytics, reporting, and team dashboards to measure the effectiveness of each channel and the overall performance of the marketing program. 

Compliance monitoring

Marketing Operations

 

Managers often monitor the review and approval process for marketing materials to ensure brand and regulatory compliance. They may use approval workflow software with a step for lawyers to review creative content, so they can ensure it aligns with necessary guidelines.

The benefits of marketing operations for creative teams

Burdensome administrative tasks, poor communication, and unclear review workflows often interfere with the creative process. Marketing operations management can help boost efficiency (and happiness!) for creative teams by implementing standardized, predictable workflows; thus automating redundant tasks.

Improving creative processes

Growing agencies or teams that have never thought through their processes may end up tackling each project or campaign in a different way each time. With the neverending amounts and type of content that often need to be created just for one marketing campaign, keeping the development and launch of creative assets organized requires standardized operating processes. Marketing Operations Managers can document and implement repeatable marketing processes that eliminate chaos and confusion during creative development. 

Ensuring the right technology is in place 

Creative teams may need a variety of technology to accomplish their goals — project management platforms, design tools, marketing automation, and document management systems, for example. A Marketing Operations Manager can ensure that all of this technology is compatible together, with cross-platform integrations that improve efficiency and flow marketing assets between systems for approval and deployment.

Marketing Operations Managers can also research emerging tech that might provide additional benefits, test its use cases, and train the team how to use new tools.

Defining creative project responsibilities

The “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario can hinder the creative process. Marketing Operations Managers  assign responsibilities to ensure everyone knows their role and no one is duplicating anyone else’s efforts during the creative process.

Tracking progress of deliverables

Marketing Operations Managers define project milestones and monitor progress. That means they don’t have to interrupt creatives to ask for updates (unless someone misses a deadline.) Having a marketing operations team also removes the responsibility of follow-up and project coordination from the creative and marketing team, so they can get back to creating new work, rather than  chasing down feedback and follow-ups on their projects.

Managing marketing collateral and brand guidelines

When a creative needs to find a client’s branding guidelines or boilerplate language for a piece of content, they should be able to find it quickly. But that can’t happen without organization. A Marketing Operations Manager can create a system for storing and categorizing marketing collateral, so everyone knows exactly where to find information. This is often accomplished with a digital asset management solution and can be tackled in a number of ways.

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. Look for someone with a mix of analytical and interpersonal 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 good judgment.

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 strategy for new products and solutions.
  • Manage technology vendors.

Data optimization and governance knowledge

A Marketing Operations Manager needs to analyze data, make recommendations, and:

  • Ensure the right tools are in place for collecting marketing data and integrating 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 skilled at producing reports and extracting valuable insights. They should know how to:

  • 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 experience

Optimizing marketing processes is a key skill to enable the business to grow and scale. A candidate should be able to:

  • 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 follow standard processes and meet quality standards.

 Project management skills

Your Marketing Operations Manager should be able to:

  • Manage complex digital projects.
  • Manage change programs with key stakeholders.
  • Manage spend vs. budget reporting for projects, including ROI reporting on activities.
  • Identify compliance risks.
  • Implement a marketing strategy and define KPIs.

Leadership and training skills development

A Marketing Operations Manager needs to:

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

Marketing operations toolset

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

Asana

asana app dashboard overview screenshot with decoratives

Best for: Company-wide collaboration

Asana is the work management platform teams use to stay focused on the goals, projects, and daily tasks that grow the 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 workloads.
  • Hit deadlines. Create visual project plans so you can pinpoint risks and eliminate roadblocks.

Prophix

prophix landing page main page software screenshot

Best for: Budgeting

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. There’s no need for time-consuming and error-prone manual data input when managing marketing ops.
  • 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 controls to mitigate incorrect formulas and values.

Process Street

process street main page screenshot blue background

Best for: Process management

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 1,000 apps that can automatically schedule and assign workflows.
  • Capture structured data. You can use forms to collect structured data in your checklists. Either input the information manually or retrieve it from third-party apps.

Ziflow

Grab the attention of teammates, clients or reviewers

Best for: Creative collaboration

Ziflow is a creative collaboration software that streamlines the review and approval process for creative and marketing content. With robust automated review workflows, extensive markup capabilities and support for virtually any file format, Ziflow offers marketing teams a full-scale environment for managing the marketing operation requirements during creative development. 

Here’s how it can help marketing operations:

    • Team-wide collaboration. With Ziflow, reviewers can collaborate directly on creative assets, which prevents duplication and miscommunication, and results in less rework and fewer versions when developing marketing assets.
    • Centralized content review for many file formats.Marketing operations teams must coordinate a wide range of asset types, from video to web content to advertising files. With Ziflow, marketing operations managers can facilitate the review and approval of many file types in one place, centralizing the progress of entire marketing campaigns.
    • Audit trail. Ziflow preserves all comments, replies, and attachments for each version of a file, automatically creating an audit trail of changes and decisions around marketing content.
    • 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 file management and notifications.
    • Integration inside your creative workflow. Ziflow integrates natively with project management and creative apps such as Asana, Monday.com, the Adobe Creative Suite, and more, linking all the discussion on marketing assets directly to related project structures. This helps close the loop between project tracking and asset review and approval.

Google Data Studio

Google Data Studio landing page - Your data is powerful. Use it.

Best for: Reporting

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, and Google BigQuery.
  • Explore your data. Marketing ops teams can transform the raw data into the format you need to create easy-to-understand reports and dashboards — without any coding or query knowledge.
  • Empower your teams. You can share reports and data visualizations with your business so they can plan accordingly. Stakeholders can compare, filter, and organize the exact data they need.

FAQ about marketing operations

What’s the average salary for a Marketing Operations Manager?

The average national salary for a Marketing Ops Manager across geographies and industries is around $85,000 with an upper salary range of around $120,000.

What is a Marketing Ops Specialist?

A Marketing Ops Specialist manages the day-to-day details of data or program management in marketing operations and reports to the Marketing Ops Manager. They are often responsible for executing system and marketing data integrations, managing ad buys and databases, implementing new MarTech solutions, and tracking data and program reporting. This is a data-heavy, entry- to mid-level role with a base salary of around $61,740, depending on industry and organization size. 

When should a company hire a Marketing Operations Manager?

Companies typically choose to hire a Marketing Operations Manager when they don’t have the internal resources to manage their technology or improve their collaborative processes. 

Conclusion

A well-defined marketing operations strategy provides an organizational backbone to the creative work of marketing teams. 

Marketing and creative ops ensure that the right process and technology are in place within a marketing team to move creative work through required deadlines. Having a marketing operations team or manager can take an incredible amount of administrative work off of the marketing team by organizing assets throughout all stage of development, following up collaborators, and standardizing the flow of work for complex marketing projects.

Get more tips for improving marketing operations with our free ebook "10 Things You Should Automate Today for a Better Marketing Workflow."

Katie Oberthaler

eBook: 10 Things You Should Automate Today for a Better Marketing Workflow

Discover the top areas for actionable marketing operations improvements, such as optimizing file conversions, file and folder organization, and production workflow designs.

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