December 2, 2021

Marketing operations: A complete guide to what you need to know

Marketing isn't just strategy and creative development. It's mostly that, but behind the more "fancy" externally facing pieces of any marketing department are the workflows, processes, and people that execute the strategy, build the tactics designed to reach crucial business goals, and improve marketing initiatives over time.
Optimizely Team

Marketing isn’t just strategy and creative development.

It’s mostly that, but behind the more “fancy” externally facing pieces of any marketing department are the workflows, processes, and people that execute the strategy, build the tactics designed to reach crucial business goals, and improve marketing initiatives over time.

It’s less exciting than those award-winning TV spots or interactive digital ads. But at the same time, it’s what makes all of them possible and maximizes their chances of success.

That’s what marketing operations is all about.

Join us for a comprehensive guide on the topic, including crucial pointers to set up and optimize your own operations processes and team.

What is Marketing Operations? 

Marketing operations refers to the process of designing, executing, and optimizing policies that support a company’s overall strategy and goals. 

In other words, it’s all the logistical work needed to run effective marketing campaigns.

This marketing function sets the foundation for all efforts on every level, from building and running the MarTech stack to tracking and reporting on relevant KPIs. 

The Benefits of Strategic Marketing Operations Strategy

At its best, marketing ops prevents silos both around and within larger marketing departments. Without it, even routine tasks become difficult to accomplish and new marketing initiatives become almost impossible to scale.

It’s about simplifying complexity. That includes workflow management, but also a wide range of other processes ultimately helping to improve the entire endeavor.

Successful marketing operations teams:

  • ​Create and manage a comprehensive tech stack to ensure that all marketing technology brings the team forward and simplifies daily tasks along with larger strategies
  • Streamline data analytics, transparency, and reporting processes, building dashboards to better understand the success of marketing initiatives and their progress to goal
  • Review and manage tech-related processes like data segmentation, software permissions, email marketing setups, and more
  • Create and manage standard marketing operating procedures to ensure the repeatability of all tasks and create efficiencies that become independent from the people involved
  • Ensure the scalability of the entire marketing effort, thanks to a combined focus on workload, technology, and processes

Most of these processes exist in some form at almost any organization. It’s about formalizing them to optimize efficiencies and bring the entire department forward.

The Scope and Components of a Marketing Operations Strategy

The role of marketing operations in an organization differs wildly depending on how important leadership thinks it is. While it’s crucial for marketing efforts in general, it helps to create a more defined strategy that sets the scope and assigns responsibilities for everyone involved.

While the scope of this more formal process varies greatly based on organization and industry, it generally includes seven basic pillars:

  1. Project Management
  2. Process Management
  3. Technology Management
  4. Content Management
  5. Brand Management
  6. Data Management
  7. Customer Experience Management

Let’s break each of these down in more detail.

1. Project Management

Planning new marketing campaigns is a complex process. The creative will need developed, media placements purchased, and timing lined up just right to maximize efficiency.

And that’s before we even get into budget setting and performance evaluation.

This is where marketing ops teams can shine. They become the project managers in the department, keeping everyone honest and on track to make sure the strategy turn into actionable, optimized tactics with everyone working together to accomplish the same goals.

2. Process Management

Beyond high-level project management, individual marketing processes require just as much attention. Think about the steps that a centerpiece print deliverable, like a catalog, likely has to go through:

  • Confirmation on all facts and information to include
  • First draft of the manuscript
  • Copy edit of the manuscript
  • First draft of the design
  • Proofread of the design
  • Printing logistics, including a proof and press check
  • Distribution
  • Cross-channel promotion of the finished, distributed piece

And that’s before considering any processes in which third-party approvals are also required.

Other processes, from email campaign development to building a social media strategy, might have different tasks and steps required. The ops team can standardize these processes and ensure they’re executed consistently for maximum efficiency and scalability.

3. Technology Management

The typical marketing tech stack is nothing to sneeze at. Think about the technology your organization uses on a daily basis:

  • Your content management system
  • Email and marketing automation platforms
  • Project and task management solutions
  • CRM and contact management systems
  • Analytics and reporting platforms
  • Digital marketing ad platforms like A/B testing solutions

And that’s just the beginning. The number of MarTech solutions available around the world passed 8,000 in 2020, while the average large enterprise has more than 120 MarTech platforms in its tech stack.  

The ops team’s responsibility is to manage that stack. That, in turn, ranges from setting and managing user roles all the way to evaluating and potentially consolidating solutions to create budget and complexity efficiencies.

4. Content Management

In most organizations, members of marketing operations are not content creators. However, they do help to facilitate and manage the content created elsewhere in the department.

Visual content needs stored somewhere. Old blogs may need refurbished or put out to pasture. And of course, all content channels need a regular evaluation to ensure their continued optimization and success.

Ops teams partner with the content creators and experts on each of these tasks, ensuring a sustainable content strategy and execution over time.

5. Brand Management

Unless your organization has a dedicated brand management team, chances are its scope falls into larger marketing operations efforts, as well. That typically includes a number of steps:

  • Digital asset management to create a consistent, accurate library of brand assets
  • Legal brand compliance efforts, especially in industries like healthcare that come with strict regulations
  • Brand compliance with external stakeholders to ensure the brand is accurately represented by influencers, marketing partners, etc.

6. Data and Performance Management 

We’ve already mentioned that better data management is a key benefit of marketing operations. That actually splits into two broader categories:

  • Effective management of customer data, focused both on ensuring data privacy and building a strong CRM setup that allows for relevant segmentation in marketing campaigns
  • Effective performance management, which includes tracking KPIs, attribution of metrics to individual channels, and dashboard management to report on these analytics

Both of these categories are equally important to successful marketing management. With an effective marketing operations strategy in place, they can be built as part of a larger marketing data plan.

7. Customer Experience Management

Finally, especially advanced marketing operations teams tend to be the entity responsible for or at least involved in a broader demand generation effort. That includes both lead generation and lead management processes, along with a close connection to sales operations to ensure sufficient integration.

That process is best explained with an example:

  • Marketing ops builds and optimizes a marketing automation platform designed to create leads.
  • Leveraging other automation tools like the website and social media scheduling, new leads enter the funnel.
  • Marketing ops then establishes a cross bridge with the sales team, handing over leads when ready.

In other words, at their best, these teams are involved in the entire customer journey, always looking to improve integration and efficiencies to move potential customers through the purchase cycle.

The Roles and Skills that Make Up a Marketing Operations Team

Depending on the size and scope of your organization, the operations team can take on very different shapes and sizes. That said, some basic structures tend to be the norm regardless of those variables.

A marketing ops team is usually headed up by a marketing operations manager, who reports directly to the CMO or head of marketing. That standing allows for the manager to have an important role in the planning and development of any marketing efforts and campaigns, turning operations from an afterthought into a crucial part of the planning process.

The team members reporting to the ops manager typically fall into the roles that follow the marketing operations pillars outlined above: project managers to manage project, data analysts to manage data, etc. 

Crucially, not every pillar requires a dedicated team. A small marketing ops team of two to three people might combine many of the roles in just a few official positions.

On the other end of the spectrum, an entire team of brand managers might report to the head of brand management, who is part of the marketing operations leadership team.

Regardless of the individual setup, marketing operations teams all tend to share a subset of the essential skill set of successful professional marketers:

  • Exceptional organizational skills, allowing you to keep track of multiple intertwined projects and tasks
  • Communication and people skills, because everything that marketing ops works on will impact other marketers around them
  • Technology skills to effective manage the tech stack
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills to find areas of improvement and optimize efficiencies over time
  • Attention to detail, finding even small errors on anything from data to processes to be able to improve on them

And of course, the operations team also has to form a cohesive internal unit, working effectively together to push through large workloads and get everyone internally and externally on the same page.

How Marketing Ops Interacts With the Larger Environment

One could accuse marketing operations to be the organizers and caretakers of much of the “dirty work” that occurs in a typical marketing department. But that doesn’t minimize the importance that these roles play in a larger marketing strategy.

Ultimately, the operations team has two key external stakeholders: The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and the larger marketing team.

How Marketing Operations Works With the CMO

In addition to directly reporting to the CMO, marketing operations becomes the marketing organization’s organizational team. Organized the right way, it takes care of all the pieces that allow the CMO to focus on the big picture, trusting that the nuances leading to that big picture will be well-taken care of.

Take reporting as an example. With data pulled from the right sources, marketing operations can build dashboards that effectively measure, rank, and benchmark key metrics and trends.

The head of marketing can then take these dashboard to prove marketing success and ROI to non-marketers across organization. When a new campaign makes its way down the pipeline, the head can provide direction without worrying about individual task assignments.

How Marketing Operations Works With the Larger Marketing Team

To the rest of the marketing team, especially the creative team and channel experts, marketing operations paves the way to focus them on their key skill sets and responsibilities.

A graphic designer is a visual artist, not a project manager, and might struggle to move new designs through the right approval process. Similarly, a copywriter is a storyteller at heart who might not know how to operate the CRM well enough to actually plug their messaging into the right email marketing format.

Again, marketing operations can step into the void to take care of these tasks. The team becomes the connector between all areas of the marketing organization, ensuring not just efficient but also positive and productive teamwork focused on everyone’s core strengths.

Optimizing Your Marketing Operations for Sustainable Success

Understanding the nature and nuances of marketing operations is central to ensuring a smooth flow of project, processes, and technology. Still, you can take a wide range of steps to create and perfect your operations strategy, starting with the right software to minimize complications and optimize functionality.

That’s where Welcome steps in. As providers of a wide range of marketing operations software, we can help to not just simplify your marketing technology stack, but also improve the entire flow of creative and campaign development in the process.

From reporting and analytics to task and campaign management, and even digital asset management solutions Welcome eliminates the guesswork that holds back so many marketing teams.

Marketers from Twitter to Panasonic have used our solutions to unify their people, tech, and data. Ready to learn more? Get started with a free account today.