An article on how the role of strategic marketing operations has become critical to business growth success.
General Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Commandant of the Marine Corps) was quoted as saying;
“Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.”
This is so true. Without the tanks on the battlefields, or the troops in the right place at the right time, or the drones with batteries that fit, there is no victory. Being in a firefight (albeit scary as hell) is a minor part of winning a war.
You can apply this thinking to many areas. In this case, business growth ‘war’.
A business cannot grow without the right operations being in place to facilitate that. Strategic Marketing Operations, if done well, can result in a business performance gain of 15-25%.
This post will explain what is meant by strategic marketing operations, how to develop as a marketing operations professional and how to configure a growth marketing team to deliver for the business. It’s not just about growth marketing anymore
Scaling a business is not about growth tactics, it’s about well oiled marketing operations.
Over the years I have worked with so many businesses, trying to help them grow. What I have come to appreciate is that the one function that makes or breaks the chances of finding and exploiting opportunities does not come from a lone technical growth hacker, or one great marketing tactic. It comes from a well tuned marketing operations role, one that encompasses the overall management of:
- Data quality and analytics accurace
- Performance management
- Testing and experimentation frameworks
- Budget and resource allocation
- Marketing systems
- Strategic research and definition
- Training and the development of best practices
- Process management and development
- Agile marketing process
I have said many times that a growth hacker will not solve your business problems. I have often advocated that what people really need to grow businesses is growth marketing as a process. Some might refer to this as agile marketing.
However, I think I was wrong. Growth marketing is a process, but what about strategy, budgets, recruitment and training? What about general management and the use of technology. Who owns this? This is where the function of marketing operations might come into place.
What is strategic marketing operations?
The role of marketing operations used to be boring and tucked away in the back office. Making sure the data was being pushed into the right places in the right format, ensuring processes were being adhered to and developed was a ‘back office’ role. It was the creatives and the superstar growth hackers that were getting all the glory on the field.
But as businesses have started to demand more transparency and accountability from marketing when it comes to driving value and return for the business; the role of Marketing Operations has begun to move from the back office to CMO’s right hand person. As Scott Brinker says in his post on the same subject, you can view this role as the ‘Chief of Staff’ in the marketing department.
Marketing Operations’ main focus is to drive operational efficiency and develop organisation agility. Agile marketing is becoming the status quo.Simply put, Strategic Marketing Operations is a critical role Click To Tweet
The role has a massive requirement for managing technology and data to deliver performance and value, whilst being focussed on developing the soft ‘squidgy’ parts of a marketing function; training, development and hiring.
The role is also critical to ensuring strategies are being discussed, developed and then interrogated from a data perspective. The role is not responsible for coming up with the strategies, just that they are being worked on and implemented in line with business strategies.
This diagram shows how 3 core areas within the role of marketing operations integrate. The sweet spot is right in the middle, where all three; marketing, technology and operations overlap (sourced from Chiefmartec.com).
To provide a little more clarity I have broken these down below:
- Communicating the business strategy to the marketing team.
- Ensuring marketing strategies are being ideated on, implemented and interrogated.
- Agreeing on what KPIs are relevant, measurable and who is accountable for what.
- Ensuring KPIs are the right ones for the business strategy.
- Making sure performance metrics are visible, communicated and discussed.
Analytics & Data Analysis
- Analytics frameworks are implemented.
- Working to make sure data validity is high.
- Building and implementing a data strategy to ensure collection, storage, security and interrogation of data in order to add value to the business.
- Advanced business intelligence and insight analysis.
- In order to build our marketing strategies it is paramount that market research is undertaken and communicated. Therefore competitive analysis, demand quantification, and pricing economics are a few core areas of research that need to be undertaken and always on.
- Don’t get sideswiped by a competitor, make sure you have your eyes on your competition and their competencies, over the short, medium and long term.
- Businesses can automate a lot of their marketing, resulting in lower error rates, higher ROI and better customer satisfaction. Deciding what the requirements are of such technology and then making the right choice for the business is important because future changes are expensive.
- How to store your data in a way that is valuable for the business is paramount. Therefore it’s important to know what data is required, and how it will be accessed for advanced analytics. This will obviously affect what database setup a business selects.
- Data is useless without analysis. Running a process of constant insight analysis is critical. You must ensure these learnings are shared with decision makers instead of ending up in silos. Over time a company wants to automate this insight analysis using data modelling and machine learning, which provides scale.
- Understanding the legal ecosystem and any large changes that are going to affect the business.
- Deploying compliance programmes to mitigate legal risks for business (i.e. GDPR brings in a potential 4% annual revenue fine for businesses making it an executive level issue!)
- Peter Drucker was famed for saying “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
- Leadership as a marketing operations professional is not just about pushing for efficiency and develop organisational agility. It’s about being an agent of change within the business.
- A good MO leader will ensure the business is focussed on the future and actively working to capitalise on opportunities as they arise.
- Identify required human resources to deliver on the marketing strategy.
- Recruitment agency selection / job advert publication.
- Interview process that are comprehensive and yet non-invasive for the current team.
- Referencing process
- Once you have the right talent, you need to keep them up to date and on top of their game. Therefore building both a culture and opportunities for a individuals in a business to upskill is critical.
- This is also a huge incentive and motivation for the team.
Agile marketing development
Marketing is more like software development than ever before, and requires new processes to manage it. A continuous deployment, agile approach to marketing operations is vital to remaining flexible to market and customer changes.
- Requires a defined process that is actively managed.
- Testing and experimentation framework
- Experimentation in critical in marketing these days, and a framework within which to work is required.
- AB testing, channel testing, tactical testing, product feature are 4 core components to marketing these days
David Edelman brings in one more core dimension in his post; governance.
Governance in this instance relates to how the business will:
- Pilot new technology
- Share data across the organisation
- Manage external resources (freelancers and agencies)
With such a proliferation of technology it can very hard to keep on top of what is being used in the business. Getting to grips with this as a process is critical, because the role of Marketing Operations needs to ensure the marketing technology stack integrates across the business, is in line with the product and business strategy and does not put the business at risk from a compliance perspective.
Businesses are moving toward self-authored data strategies (ie those that enable front-line staff to query data and find insights, helping them make better decisions about their jobs). This means that a marketing operations role needs to ensure the right data is shared with the right permissions around the business. It is important to provide enough data to enable employees to make better decisions, but not enough the business is exposed to data breaches.
Finally, working with multiple agencies can be really hard work, and the inevitable ‘land grab’ that occurs between agencies is hard to avoid. Therefore, having a well defined specification of agency roles, requirements and specifications is important. This is, again, the role of marketing operations.
What goes a good growth marketing team consist of?
With this proliferation of data and technology the new marketing function is is a totally different animal to when I started my career in business growth and marketing!
Now we agree (I hope) that Marketing Operations is critical to the success of any business growth initiative, I want to outline what the supporting team looks like. This is how we have designed the team over at Rebelhack to deliver maximum value for our customers.
It obviously goes without saying the Marketing Operations role is responsible for building and training the team.
- Marketing operations
- Marketing strategy development
- Marketing process development
- ROI development
- Budget and resource allocation
- Marketing Technology
- Head of Marketing Technologies
- Marketing Automation
- Marketing Integrations
- Marketing Data and Analytics
- Head of Data
- Database Management
- Digital Analytics
- Market analysis
- Head of Performance Marketing
- Channel Marketing
- Social media
- Growth hacking
- Experiment design and deployment
- Product Optimisation
- Head of Organic Marketing
- Technical SEO
- Content Strategy and creation
- Social media organic
- Head of Sales
- Business development
- Lead closure
With a proliferation of data, technologies and available channels marketing can easily become fragmented. However customer expectations are even more rigorous these days, with a decrease in brand loyalty and a mass of information readily available to a customer before they even speak to a sales or customer representative. Marketing is getting operationally hard to manage.
A fragmented marketing function will simply not be able to compete in the new marketing landscape of today, let alone where we are going to be tomorrow. Building flexibility and change management into the marketing organisation is going to be crucial to remain competitive.
Marketing Operations is the new ‘golden boy’ of business growth, and is responsible for bridging the gap between technology, marketing and management. Companies that focus on building a solid marketing operations role into the business can expect to see more transparency and increased returns on all their marketing activities.
Can businesses afford not to invest in strategic marketing operations? Simply put, no.
If you’re interested to know more about how we operate the growth and marketing functions for our customers, and how this could help you increase ROI just contact us.