5 Ways to Better Marketing Performance with Marketing Operations
By Holger Schulze
In my last post “5 Steps to B2B Marketing Success” we established a simple approach to improving success in B2B marketing, starting with understanding your audience, building a strong value proposition, mapping out the buyer’s journey, building compelling messages and content, and finally, investing in robust marketing automation.
Increasing Pressure on Marketing
But how do you ensure that all this happens at peak efficiency, you are meeting your goals, and providing solid quantifiable return on your marketing investment? Today, in many organizations the executive suite is demanding proof of ROI and CEOs are asking the marketing function questions like: What is your economic value add to the company? Where is the return on the millions of Dollars invested in marketing? What happens if I cut your budget by 20 percent? Or add 20 percent? Many CMOs inability to answer these questions in a satisfactory manner has lead to their average tenure of less than 2 years in US companies, the shortest of any C level executive role. The old adage that 50 percent of marketing budget is wasted, the question is which half, just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Contrast this with your sales organization - typically the most measured and performance oriented part of the company. No wonder you get a culture clash between marketing, often focused on activities without clear link to the bottom line, and sales determined to make quota by selling product. The result is misalignment between CMO and CEO, marketing and sales, marketing goals and company goals. Absent strong alignment behind a set of clear measurable objectives, nobody in marketing is really accountable.
Marketing Operations to the Rescue – A 5 Step Program
I believe this challenge is quite healthy as it provides strong incentives for marketing to become a truly performance driven and business critical function of the company. This is where the field of marketing operations (MO) has received a lot of attention lately as a new marketing function designed to create cross-company alignment, performance visibility, and the foundational systems and processes that enable marketing to scale, become more effective and efficient, and contribute to company goals. Such a systematic marketing operations approach brings structure, process and accountability to the marketing function. It also establishes institutional knowledge on how marketing is done - this is important considering the high turnover in many marketing departments and the resulting loss of institutional knowledge. Marketing operations is basically injecting left-brain thinking into the traditionally right-brained creative marketing function. This can be intimidating at first. So let's take a look at how we can break marketing operations into smaller steps and tactics.
Step 1 - Establish a Formal MO Function
Marketing is getting more complex with new technologies such as social media, new tools like marketing automation, and higher performance and ROI expectations. A formal MO function can make sure that best practices and systems are implemented marketing wide so that marketers can take on more sophisticated projects, such as campaign automation, without having to worry about underlying processes, analytics, and metrics. The analytical skill set and experience required for marketing operations are hard to find in marketing folks that have entered the field because of their creative talent, so having a dedicated MO person, and eventually MO team, with the required analytical and marketing process skills makes perfect sense.
Step 2 - Define the Scope of MO
MO adds value to marketing by creating an ecosystem that enables marketers to excel and allows them to focus on their core competencies while being in sync with the requirements of the company and its stakeholders. MO typically includes planning & budgeting, performance measurement, reporting and dashboards, marketing best practices, sales alignment, and automation of processes such as campaign management, to name a few. While marketing operations focus is on the overall performance of the marketing department, it would be a mistake not to include the other departments marketing interacts with. MO has an opportunity to align marketing goals and processes with departments such as sales, finance, and development for example to make sure that critical dependencies and expectations are managed, that goals are aligned and marketing provides value to the company.
Step 3 - Align MO Goals with Biggest Sales and Marketing Challenges
In order to establish MO, justify the investment and show its positive impact on the company, MO has to address the biggest sales and marketing challenges and bring about change. A survey by Gary Katz, CEO of Marketing Operations Partners, shows the marketing priorities in many organizations. First, "measuring marketing ROI and demonstrating value", with 73 percent of respondents selecting this issue. This goes back to the premise that current lack of demonstrated marketing ROI is causing problems for marketing departments in terms of budget funding and CMOs staying power. Second, "balancing marketing strategy and tactics" - over 60% of survey respondents say that they are having trouble aligning day to day activities with big-picture strategy and company goals. MO is designed to address this issue. And third, 57 percent of respondents said that "creating common goals for marketing success that are tied with the goals of other groups in the company" is a major challenge. Here, marketing operations can help by creating a goal framework that starts with corporate goals and cascades them into department and individual goals, and aligns goals across the organization with departments that have a stake in marketing's success, particularly the sales function.
Step 4 - Get Buy-in from Senior Executives
Without senior level buy in from the company's C-management, MO is not going to be successful. MO requires support and collaboration not only within marketing but with other departments to be effective.
Step 5 - Conduct Regular Performance Checks and Improve MO over Time
This ties back to the idea of continuous improvement that the Japanese perfected in manufacturing with Kaizen and other quality management systems. With regular reviews of actual performance against goals, marketing operations can quickly identify areas for improvement, opportunities for resource re-allocation, process changes, and further education. Dashboards, as the "glue" between strategy and execution, can provide leading and lagging indicators to correct issues and take action before they grow into bigger problems downstream.
What is your experience with marketing operations? Does your marketing organization have a dedicated MO function, and if so, what are your success stories?