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Types of Marketing Operation Models

  • Nick Donaldson

    Nick Donaldson

    Director of Growth, Knak

Published Apr 12, 2024

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Marketing Ops leaders are the type of people to think deeply about all aspects of their organization, from their marketing technology stack to how their team is organized.

While to the outside world, the most creative and imaginative marketing campaigns seem to materialize out of chaos, marketing ops pros know that order and process unlock creativity, not hinder it.

Process isn’t a four-letter word: it’s the way top MOPs teams distinguish themselves and add value to their organization. A fine-tuned process makes it easy for everyone on your team to know their role, who to ask for help, and how to ship marketing campaigns.

In this post, we’re going to look at marketing operating models and how they differ when it comes to campaign creation. Ready for a deep dive? Let’s go.

Types of Marketing Operating Models Explained

There are 6 types of operating models for marketing operations.

  • Centralized Model
  • Self-Serve or Distributed Model
  • Decentralized Model
  • Functional Model
  • Campaign-Centric Model
  • Outsourced Model

Centralized Model for Streamlined Decision-Making

A centralized team or department making decisions, potentially supported by a Center of Excellence for best practices. All campaign creation and distribution is handled by one team that coordinates with other teams.

Centralized Model for Streamlined Decision-Making

Attribute

Centralization

Description

All decisions around a campaign are centralized and made by one team.

Attribute

Control

Description

A single team or department runs operations and decision-making.

Attribute

Flexibility

Description

The model is less flexible due to the centralized control but makes up for it in consistency.

Attribute

Responsiveness

Description

Usually moderately responsive, but depends on the efficiency and maturity of the centralized team.

Attribute

Speed to Market

Description

If the central system is fine-tuned, it can be quick. Centralized models can be prone to bottlenecks.

Attribute

Scalability

Description

Moderately scalable but can be limited by bandwidth, headcount, and resourcing allocated to the central team.

Attribute

Cross-functional Collaboration

Description

Collaboration is facilitated through the central team.

Attribute

Technology Integration

Description

Technology is managed by the central team who will deploy and provide access to other teams.

Attribute

Primary Advantage

Description

Centralized teams can ensure a high degree of consistency and uniformity in campaign execution.

Attribute

Potential Drawbacks

Description

Susceptible to bottlenecks and may lack responsiveness to opportunities that arise that require quick action.

Attribute

Best Use Cases

Description

For organizations looking for strong brand control and consistency across all markets.

Self-Service Model for Autonomous Teams

Marketing functions spread across various stakeholders, using technology for coordination and enforcement of processes. Each marketing team has a high degree of autonomy, but adopts a similar process and/or technologies to ensure consistent quality.

Self-Service Model for Autonomous Teams

Attribute

Centralization

Description

Users have broad access to a centralized system and decisions made within the framework of that system.

Attribute

Control

Description

Typically MOPs control the system infrastructure and users manage their campaign and marketing activities.

Attribute

Flexibility

Description

Users have a high degree of flexibility in designing and executing on marketing campaigns.

Attribute

Responsiveness

Description

A self-serve model gives teams the ability to adjust on the fly and implement novel campaigns quickly.

Attribute

Speed to Market

Description

Direct access to tools and systems means the time from concept to execution is reduced.

Attribute

Scalability

Description

Highly scalable and can support a range of activities and fosters independence among various teams.

Attribute

Cross-functional Collaboration

Description

Collaboration is achieved through technology, where shared tools and resources are distributed to all users.

Attribute

Technology Integration

Description

Self-service platforms utilize marketing technology to its fullest to enable everyone on the team.

Attribute

Primary Advantage

Description

Self-service teams are able to act quickly and with a high degree of autonomy. At its best, self-service can continuously deliver high quality content with minimal delay.

Attribute

Potential Drawbacks

Description

Investment in technology, such as technology, staffing, and budget, and requires proper governance to ensure systems are used effectively.

Attribute

Best Use Cases

Description

Technologically-savvy marketing teams; organizations that want to evolve from decentralized models to enable each team.

Flexibility in Decentralized Marketing Operations

Each team in the organization either has the skills required to execute MOPs or those teams are supported by an ops manager or small team. Team members may have multiple hats depending on the jobs to be done.

Attribute

Centralization

Description

Low degree of centralization with decision-making and execution spread across various, and sometimes isolated, teams.

Attribute

Control

Description

Each team operates independently and with autonomy, with or without a supporting marketing ops manager on their staff.

Attribute

Flexibility

Description

Teams are adaptable by nature and able to respond to the needs of their market.

Attribute

Responsiveness

Description

Local teams can react quickly to changes given their proximity to their specific markets and high degree of autonomy.

Attribute

Speed to Market

Description

Teams can act quickly without waiting for approval from a centralized function.

Attribute

Scalability

Description

Teams are developed asynchronously and unevenly depending on the requirements of each market.

Attribute

Cross-functional Collaboration

Description

While collaboration is often encouraged, it’s not centrally managed or required.

Attribute

Technology Integration

Description

Each team may use a different technology stack to execute campaigns and run their marketing operations.

Attribute

Primary Advantage

Description

The agility and ability to tailor marketing requirements to local market needs.

Attribute

Potential Drawbacks

Description

Potential for teams to go off-brand, use disparate tools, or create inefficiencies due to duplication of efforts.

Attribute

Best Use Cases

Description

Organizations supporting a large number of field marketers or a diverse line of products that require tailored approaches.

Functional Model for Specialized Marketing Teams

Teams organized by functional or product-based structure, with teams focused on specific areas (e.g., digital, content, analytics), by product-line, or by market. Requires strong coordination and combines elements of both centralized and decentralized models.

Functional Model for Specialized Marketing Teams

Attribute

Centralization

Description

May combine elements of both centralized and decentralized models Technology may be centralized, but with teams organized around local markets or product lines.

Attribute

Control

Description

As organization of teams is functional or product-based, control is divided among specialized teams.

Attribute

Flexibility

Description

Teams are flexible within their own functions but are aligned by the overall strategy.

Attribute

Responsiveness

Description

Relies on coordination between different functional teams; usually moderately responsive.

Attribute

Speed to Market

Description

Can be quick within functions but requires alignment and coordination among collaborative teams.

Attribute

Scalability

Description

Functions can scale independently but need to maintain inter-function alignment usually through a centralized or technological framework.

Attribute

Cross-functional Collaboration

Description

Strong coordination needed between functional teams for cohesive output.

Attribute

Technology Integration

Description

Technology plays a key role in optimizing performance and coordinating campaign execution.

Attribute

Primary Advantage

Description

Each team is able to focus on what they do best within their function while collaborating and coordinating with other teams as needed.

Attribute

Potential Drawbacks

Description

Functional models are susceptible to siloing. Effective communication is required to maintain efficiency.

Attribute

Best Use Cases

Description

Organizations with distinct product lines or markets that need specialized attention.

Campaign-Centric Approach for GTM Success

Teams are organized around specific campaigns or initiatives. Similar to agile marketing and the functional model, this model may focus more on GTM motions like supporting product-led or sales-led initiatives that require long-term investment.

Campaign-Centric Approach for GTM Success

Attribute

Centralization

Description

Variable centralization as teams are assembled around specific campaigns but may work independently on other initiatives.

Attribute

Control

Description

Teams are tasked with executing based on campaign requirements and given control over their own initiatives.

Attribute

Flexibility

Description

Campaigns are tailored to specific goals and each campaign may vary in approach and execution, thus teams remain flexible to address various needs.

Attribute

Responsiveness

Description

Teams are inherently adaptable and iterate based on campaign performance and feedback.

Attribute

Speed to Market

Description

Fast for campaign and Go-To-Market (GTM) motions.

Attribute

Scalability

Description

Scaling this model depends on the scope of campaigns and resource allocation; it requires close monitoring of available resources.

Attribute

Cross-functional Collaboration

Description

Campaign success depends on input and collaboration from various functions.

Attribute

Technology Integration

Description

The requirements for technology and functionality is often owned by the individual campaign teams.

Attribute

Primary Advantage

Description

Campaign objectives and KPIs are at the forefront. This focus allows teams to focus on high-quality campaigns.

Attribute

Potential Drawbacks

Description

Requires coordination to keep in alignment with the broader marketing strategy.

Attribute

Best Use Cases

Description

Suitable for organizations that have a strong project management culture and that require intense, focused marketing efforts for product launches or sales initiatives.

Outsourced Model for Using Expert Service Providers

Organizations rely primarily on third-party agencies or service providers for marketing operations. Organizations may still employ one of the other models, and outsource a core function of marketing operations, such as email design, depending on the relationship.

Outsourced Model for Using Expert Service Providers

Attribute

Centralization

Description

Depends on which functions are outsourced, how coordination is managed, and the technologies in use.

Attribute

Control

Description

Third-party agencies and/or service providers are given control over a defined operation.

Attribute

Flexibility

Description

Outsourcing can make it easy to scale operations up or down on an as needed basis, accessing specialized skills with reduced in-house costs.

Attribute

Responsiveness

Description

Generally less responsive but depends on the service level agreements (SLAs) and the efficiency of the service partner.

Attribute

Speed to Market

Description

Variable, but can be fast if the service partner has the capacity to deliver quickly.

Attribute

Scalability

Description

Third-party providers can scale within their own functions much more quickly than in-house teams.

Attribute

Cross-functional Collaboration

Description

Internal teams need to collaborate with service providers often through a limited number of points of contact.

Attribute

Technology Integration

Description

Dependent on the in-house staff and the technology used by the service provider.

Attribute

Primary Advantage

Description

Access to specialized skills and potential cost savings by not maintaining full in-house capabilities.

Attribute

Potential Drawbacks

Description

Loss of control over the marketing process, reliance on service providers, and potential challenges of coordinated campaign efforts.

Attribute

Best Use Cases

Description

Organizations that need to augment capacity or access specialized skills not available in-house.

Strategies for Effective Campaign Creation

To rephrase the Anna Karenina principle from Leo Tolstoy’s novel:

“All successful campaigns are alike; each unsuccessful campaign is unsuccessful in its own way.”

Successful campaigns all incorporate these elements into the process:

  • A request for asset creation based on the campaign plan
  • Design and creation of campaign assets by marketing creatives
  • Formal collaboration and coordination throughout the process
  • Rigorous testing and quality assurance for campaign assets
  • Launch the campaign using your marketing automation platform

There is a lot of flexibility between the campaign creation process and your chosen marketing operating model. The efficiencies and opportunities of switching models may be hard to visualize if you haven’t thought about this topic before. For example, many of our customers are successful at using a self-serve campaign creation model after having worked with an outsourced model.

Let’s take a look at three examples of how this works in practice.

Campaign Crafting in Centralized Models

In a centralized model, the essence of campaign creation lies in the consolidation of decision-making within a central team. This approach ensures that all campaign ideas are not only thoroughly vetted but are also aligned with the overarching marketing strategy, eliminating any ad-hoc or inconsistent efforts. The beauty of this model is its streamlined coordination, where a singular point of coordination significantly simplifies communication channels. This simplification is crucial for managing timelines and deliverables efficiently.

Centralization extends beyond just timelines and deliverables; it encompasses the very messaging and branding of the campaigns themselves. The centralized model excels in ensuring that every piece of content, every campaign asset, is not just created efficiently but is also perfectly in tune with the brand's style guides. This fine-tuning is vital for maintaining brand consistency across all marketing initiatives.

However, the model is not without its challenges. Centralization can sometimes lead to bottlenecks, especially in situations where the centralized team is not as responsive or flexible as needed. This rigidity can, at times, stifle creativity due to stringent approval processes. Despite these potential pitfalls, the centralized model has mechanisms in place to ensure smooth operations.

Campaign Crafting in Centralized Models

The marketing operations and marketing automation platforms play pivotal roles, especially during the collaboration phase, to ensure that the process from content request to campaign execution adheres strictly to brand guidelines and utilizes the efficiency of the technology and workflows in place. The operations team, in this context, acts more as coordinators, ensuring adherence to the process rather than critiquing the content from a design perspective.

Outsourcing to decrease internal workload

Outsourcing campaign creation introduces a dynamic where organizations leverage the expertise of external agencies or service providers. This approach not only augments the in-house capabilities but also taps into specialized skill sets that might be lacking within the organization. A significant advantage of this model is its inherent flexibility and scalability, particularly beneficial when an agency can take on more work, allowing the organization to scale its marketing efforts for special campaigns without the need for additional in-house hires.

However, this model hinges on the effective coordination and communication with external partners. Any lapse in this area can lead to bottlenecks, potentially slowing down campaign creation if the agency is not prioritizing the organization's needs adequately. Despite these challenges, quality control typically isn't a major issue with reputable agencies, as they are expected to follow the brand guidelines closely.

The workflow in the outsourced model sees a collaborative effort right from the request stage, with both agency and in-house teams working in tandem. The agency takes the lead in the content creation stage, spearheading the design and development of campaign assets. Throughout this process, there's an ongoing collaboration and revision phase where the in-house teams ensure that everything aligns with their expectations.

Outsourcing to decrease internal workload

The marketing operations team may play a role in directing traffic, especially as assets are delivered and integrated into the marketing automation platform. This integration often triggers a secondary quality assurance process, ensuring that the campaign assets not only meet creative standards but also function seamlessly within the staging environment of the marketing platform, leading up to the final execution of the campaign.

Self-Serve Models for Martech Mastery

When executed well, there is an elegance in self-serve models. It has the ability to empower teams to autonomously initiate and manage campaigns creating an environment for innovation and agility. Teams can respond rapidly to changes in the market, capitalizing on opportunities that other teams can’t account for in their slower, more traditional process.

The cornerstone of the self-serve model is its integration of marketing technology. The software is only part of the significant investment in martech; teams must prioritize training and process to maximize the benefits of their martech stack. This enables teams to independently create, test, and launch campaigns while adhering to brand guidelines and internal quality control processes.

Despite its benefits, the self-serve model poses a risk of rogue campaigns, where assets created by individual teams may deviate from brand guidelines. Thus, the role of technology is pivotal in centering the process and ensuring compliance with brand standards. Governance and guidelines are essential to prevent teams from “coloring outside the lines,” a potential drawback this model shares with the decentralized model.

Self-Serve Models for Martech Mastery

In terms of workflow, the operations team has a lighter touch, with most of the technology and decision-making powers resting with the direct teams, such as regional marketing teams. The operations team intervenes primarily during the revision stage to ensure compliance with processes and guidelines, with the final execution and coordination resting on their shoulders in partnership with the marketing teams.

Marketing Technology as an Operational Linchpin

It may seem like stating the obvious, but marketing technology plays a key role in any marketing operation model. Held against the light of creating campaigns, it’s evident that tooling and process are part of the modern marketing operations model.

For teams that use modern setups like self-service models, martech often enables marketers to play a greater role in campaign creation. No-code landing page and email tools, as one example, allow for asset creation within the brand guardrails put in place by marketing operations teams.

Marketing technology is the linchpin of marketing operating models. From requesting and creating assets to distributing content and analyzing the campaign results, the tech plays a pivotal role. Marketing operations teams need to think deeply about the technology; and, they need to think deeply about how the teams they support use that technology.

Understanding the marketing operating model – whether it’s putting a name to something you already know well or deliberately shifting your model – is a critical step in knowing how to enable everyone on your team to deliver high quality campaigns.


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  • Nick Donaldson

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    Nick Donaldson

    Director of Growth, Knak

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