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What’s Next for Marketing Operations?

In our recent Benchmark Study, 55% of respondents told us that since the beginning of COVID-19, their Marketing teams have been overwhelmed with requests for new campaigns. Unfortunately, they’re not getting any additional budget or resources to help meet the increased demand. 

Enter Marketing Operations. 

Though it’s a fairly new field, Marketing Operations, or Marketing Ops, has become the catch-all designation for the team that handles all of the non-creative aspects of marketing. And while it’s hard to spell out everything a Marketing Ops team is (or should be) doing, there are some key areas where they can have a major impact on the overall success of your marketing efforts.  

To help break this down, we had a chat with Warren Stokes, Warren Stokes, 2020 Marketo Engage Champion and Senior Consultant at Kniva. Here are his thoughts on the current state of Marketing Ops and what he thinks is key to greater Marketing efficiency. 

Knak: Thanks for joining us! Let’s get right to it – Marketing and Marketing Ops teams are busier than ever. Why is it so critical to have a strong Marketing Ops team in place? 

Warren Stokes: The role of Marketing Ops is to enable Marketers to do their jobs. I’m all about the creative aspects of Marketing, so when you have a strong Marketing Ops team, it leaves more time for creativity. Marketing Ops is basically IT for Marketing – people don’t realize the level of technical ability that’s required to utilize the systems that are available.  

K: So what are teams getting wrong in the current climate? 

WS: Creativity is taking a hit right now, especially since one major channel – events – has been removed. Teams have forgotten what it means to be creative. Marketing and Marketing Ops should be at the forefront of creativity, but in general, they are far too risk-averse. 

K: We hear from a lot of our fellow marketers that the approval process is a major frustration. Any thoughts on how to improve it? 

WS: The main cause of slowdowns here is people overthinking their roles and stakeholders micromanaging. In reality, what matters is the results, so teams would do better to spend time analyzing results instead of worrying about process. Platforms like Knak support the idea of getting emails out quickly, and that’s what teams need – to get emails out quickly so they can get the results and see what’s working. 

K: What do you think Marketing and Marketing Ops teams should be doing to ensure a strong partnership? 

WS: Communication is really important here. Marketing should be responsible for the ideas; Marketing Ops should have a deep understanding of the systems they need to make those ideas a reality. I think this happens in three ways: 

  1. Hold Lunch & Learns – Marketing Ops should be holding these regularly to share what they’re testing and learning. If they can demonstrate the capabilities of the systems that are in place, Marketers will have a better understanding of what’s possible, which leads to better ideas.
  2. Work together to push Marketo further – General conversations about ideas should be happening regularly. If Marketing has or sees a great idea, Marketing Ops should know how to make it happen in Marketo or any other automation platform. When the teams work together, they can push automation further. 
  3. Get regular feedback – Get feedback on opportunities that have been created. Get feedback on Marketing’s performance. How did that campaign go? Did you get leads from it? If you know how a campaign performed, you might not do it again in the future, or at least, you’ll know how to improve it.

K: Does your advice change based on the size of the organization you’re working with? 

WS: No. Look, I’m passionate about enabling creativity. My advice for any marketing team, small or enterprise level, is to figure out what you’re trying to do as a business and find out if your marketing efforts are working. If you can develop creative campaigns that hit home, you’ll generate income no matter what size your business is. Also, on a personal level, if you can’t find out how to market your product/service, then you’re in the wrong job.

K: From a Marketing Ops POV, how long should it take to onboard a new system? 

WS: Instead of setting a deadline, set a timeline with clearly defined milestones. Your milestones can be anything from getting users set up to the point where Marketing is using the system to create 90% of their campaigns. The details will vary depending on the system, but don’t let your timeline get fuzzy – stick to the milestones you’ve set based on your understanding of the system. 

K: In your experience, what’s the business value of a Marketing Ops team? 

WS: A good marketing ops team is like an accountancy: they’re going to save your business money by finding processes that minimize cost. They can take a look at the number of hours you’re investing in campaigns and quantify the ROI. 

If you don’t have a good understanding of how long your campaigns take to create, you won’t know if the opportunities you’re creating are worth the effort. Marketing Ops justifies marketing efforts  – it delivers business savings for both time and cost. 

K: What do you say to Marketing Ops teams that are overwhelmed right now in the midst of increased demand for campaigns? 

WS: If they’re struggling to keep up, they need to make it known to the senior stakeholders. But listen: more campaigns are not the answer. A while back, I compared our 2019 mailings to our 2020 mailings, and I discovered that we had emailed the same database 15x more this year than last. Hitting up that same group over and over was damaging our reputation, and it goes without saying that the campaigns were underperforming. 

We showed the example to our senior stakeholders. We said, “Here’s the problem; here’s our resolution – we’re going to do better segmenting so we get better results.” 

Your campaigns don’t get magically better because you send them more, so if you’ve increased emails to the same database more than 5x, you’re looking at a bad 2020. The basics still apply: You need well-crafted ideas and a good target. Do it correctly and with quality, so even if your campaign is surrounded by noise, it will out-perform everything else.   

K: Any advice for those just getting started with their Marketing Ops strategy? 

WS: Marketing Ops is a fairly new discipline, and it changes so much. Approach it like a systems roll-out – figure out the goal of the team, and find out how many hours things take and whether you’re getting a return. Justify your existence. 

The right relationship between Marketing and Marketing Ops means less money spent and more freedom to be creative.

Tania Blake is Knak’s Marketing Manager, where she’s known for her strong attention to detail and unique ability to balance "process" with "getting stuff done". When she’s not juggling a million and one projects, you can find her cooking up a storm, doing yoga, or hanging out with her family.

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