As a B2B marketer, I’m used to a lack of respect for marketing within the company. For most of my career I worked in deep tech with people who ascribed to the “build and they shall come” philosophy which — surprise! — never happened. Marketing was seen as the frosting on the cake, not a core ingredient.
As marketing activities and results have become more measurable it’s getting easier to make the case for marketing being mission-critical to the success of any business. All good, right? Unfortunately not, as I’ve recently seen grumbling about how little respect marketing operations is getting within marketing. This is so dismaying.
Think Marketing Ops Is a Roadblock? Think Again
Marketing operations handles the nuts-and-bolts of marketing. It’s the team that makes stuff work: it reports on the analytics, finds and implements new products and track costs. It’s easy to put marketing operations into a tactical box and draw a distinction between what they do and the “more important” creative campaign work and strategy the rest of the marketing team does. It’s easy to get frustrated when you tell marketing operations you want a new tool and they say no. Our natural tendency when that happens is to label a person or team a roadblock.
If this describes your organization, you need to take a step back and make some big changes in attitude and approach.
The reality is this: Every single thing we do in marketing today is enabled by technology. Let me repeat, EVERY SINGLE THING. In addition, the majority of our marketing channels are digital, and leveraging them requires technology. Your ability to achieve your marketing goals is dependent on having the right technology in place to develop and distribute campaigns, measure the success of each campaign, and create the customer experience that will deliver the best marketing and business outcomes. Making this happen is complicated because the systems we use are dependent on having the correct and complete information about each customer and prospect in order to act. This requires an underlying data architecture that marries, appends and cleanses disparate data and distributes that data from system to system across the stack. This complex undertaking is a big reason why marketing operations pushes back when asked to add new products to the technology stack.
In a worse-case scenario, poor technology choices, sloppy integrations, and a lack of a coherent data strategy and architecture will bring your marketing program to its knees. The good news is this scenario is highly unlikely unless you did a terrible job hiring your marketing ops teams. The marketing ops people I know are highly competent, technically skilled and wizards when it comes to integrating complex systems. Chances are your team is the same and they are doing a good job of building and operating your marketing tech stack. However, if you keep them at a distance and consider them a roadblock to innovation you are missing an opportunity to turn them into a strategic asset by marrying your business goals to the technology they are sourcing and implementing.
Related Article: Marketing Ops’ Secret Superpower: Procurement
Marketing Ops Deserves Respect
One recommendation that’s come up to solve the lack of respect issue is for marketing operations to frame their conversations in the context of revenue and customer lifetime value growth. The thought being it would improve relations if marketing ops talked more about business and less about technology. Having marketing operations frame the output of their activities in the context of marketing and sales goals could improve relations and ultimately outcomes. But nothing is ever that simple and is it really necessary for marketing operations to change how they communicate?
The best strategy for success is to work in partnership with marketing operations. You describe what you need to accomplish — a.k.a. the why — and the desired outcome and then let marketing operations map out the best way to reach those goals. If you are working side-by-side towards a common set of goals you don’t need to worry about language choices because you’ll quickly find common ground and a common language and, best of all, you’ll find your better overall marketing results and increased capacity to innovate.
Related Article: The Marketing Technologist: A Superhero and Agent of Change
There’s No ‘Us vs. Them’ in Marketing
There’s no room for “us and them” in marketing — it should be one tightly connected team. An extraordinary amount of technology can be leveraged today to serve your marketing goals. Marketing operations is the team to harness that technology, and they’ll deliver the best outcomes for you by working in tandem with the broader team. The closer you are to your marketing operations team, the better you’ll do.
I hope this noise about marketing operations not being respected dies down soon. It doesn’t make sense. Marketing ops is a critical strategic asset and any marketer who doesn’t realize that will soon find it challenging to achieve their marketing goals.
If you want to dive into more information about the role of marketing operations, Dr. Debbie Qaqish of the Pedowitz Group has written an excellent book on this topic, “From Backroom to Boardroom.” She lays out a practical roadmap for developing a strategic marketing operations organization.
Anita Brearton is Founder/CEO and Co-CMO of CabinetM, a marketing technology discovery and management platform that helps marketing teams manage the technology they have, and find the technology they need. Anita is a long time tech start-up marketer and has had the great fortune of driving marketing programs through the early stages of a startup all the way to IPO and acquisition.