What does “best practices” in Marketing Operations (MO) look like, and how do industry-leading companies operate and integrate this highly valuable function? We polled more than 80 marketing leaders to find out.
Four factors that survey participants say have contributed significantly to their MO success:
- Clarity and consistency across the organization—shared practices, a well-defined road map and enabling infrastructure, reinforced by clear and pervasive communications that keep everyone on the same page.
- Executive advocacy and support to champion the value of the MO function in achieving the organization’s objectives.
- A culture of accountability and alignment that fosters buy-in at all levels and rewards productive behaviors consistent with the desired vision.
- Processes and technology that are fully leveraged to achieve and sustain operational excellence.
To get an in-depth understanding of current MO functions, this benchmarking study solicited feedback from more than 80 technology companies. Participants were primarily CMOs, VPs of Corporate Marketing and Marketing Operations Directors with high-level marketing responsibilities at some of Silicon Valley’s most recognized Fortune 100, 500, and 1000 enterprises.
What Is Marketing Operations and Why Is It Important?
Marketing operations (MO) is a term that is sometimes used differently across organizations. We define MO as a thorough, end-to-end operational discipline that leverages processes, technology, guidance, and metrics to run the marketing function as a profit center and fully accountable business. The goal is to do two things exceedingly well:
- Drive the achievement of enterprise objectives by reinforcing marketing strategy and tactics with a scalable and sustainable enabling infrastructure
- Nurture a healthy, collaborative ecosystem both within and outside the marketing department that optimizes Marketing’s value and fuels enterprisewide success
In this article, we will focus on responses to one question summarized in the Journey to Marketing Operations Maturity — Best Practices in Marketing Operations Series benchmarking study report. We will see what bubbles up to the top for those marketing executives working “in the trenches” as they identify their most critical success factors.
Question: To what combination of factors do you attribute your MO success to date?
1. Clarity and Consistency Fuel MO Excellence
To achieve “best practice” status, clarity and consistency across the organization are critically important. All key players need to be operating with a common vision and road map that fosters consistent business practices, relevant metrics definition, and audience-appropriate reporting.
The best-performing companies have an enterprisewide dashboard at a corporate level, with each functional area setting goals and measuring performance for their key deliverables that cascade up to the enterprise strategic objectives. In short, success is driven by integrated processes, an enabling infrastructure, clear and pervasive communications, and ongoing metrics that are consistent and meaningful to the organization leadership.
2. Executive Buy-in and Advocacy
Clearly, survey respondents feel that their MO function can thrive only in an environment of executive advocacy and support. In the best-case scenario, MO is tightly integrated with Sales Operations and is highly regarded within the organization for its value and contribution.
Ideally, an organization’s CMO or top-ranking marketing executive views himself or herself as the internal client for key strategic as well as tactical MO deliverables, and these are considered an essential part of the overall management team’s agenda.
To achieve “best practice” status, constant reinforcement by the CEO and other members of the C-team is key. The MO function needs to be recognized as a valuable strategic asset at the company level (which is an earned role). It needs to share companywide visibility with other core functions and be an integral part of quarterly reviews and dashboards that are managed by the CMO and rolled up to an enterprise level.
With full executive buy-in and support, the MO function should be sitting at the table with other functional executives, actively participating as new directions are being debated, new product ideas are being developed, and strategically important projects are being funded.
3. Nurturing a Supportive Culture
Along with an enabling infrastructure and strong executive advocacy, respondents also credit a supportive culture for their MO success. Support is often a function of how effectively Marketing “cleans up its own act” first and then branches out to interdependent functions to role-model effective collaboration and educate groups such as Sales, Finance and IT on the “What’s In It for Them” in supporting key MO initiatives.
In “best practices” organizations, the MO team is highly regarded and fully supported, and its contributions are widely recognized. A culture of accountability and celebration steadily builds momentum and grassroots support. MO and Sales Operations are tightly integrated and work synergistically to achieve mutual successes and deliver bottom line results.
In the words of one survey respondent, “Business units appreciate MO’s proactive stance and contributions…and milestones are both celebrated and widely promoted as points of success.”
4. Process Refinement and Automation Bring Bottom Line Benefits
As “best practice” companies implement or refine their Marketing Operations processes, they see increasing opportunities for cost savings and efficiency gains. They can identify and eliminate sources of waste resulting from poor planning, redundancies, and expedited execution. They can break the inertia around bottlenecked programs and get sponsorship to move strategically important efforts forward.
In their own words, survey participants report:
- “Things are smoother because we’re all on the same page.”
- “We’ve implemented an annual operating plan and strategy with bottoms-up and tops-down forecasting, creating common repeatable processes and templates.”
- “We’re becoming more effective and efficient, and have a good process for stopping what does not add value.”
Process automation also plays a key role in streamlining Marketing Operations in many organizations:
- “We are fairly aggressive compared to our competitors in our integrated marketing approach regarding Web, print, and face-to-face customer contact.”
- “With Salesforce.com, we can show Sales exactly which campaign generated the lead, what was sent, etc.”
- “We have been putting in backend infrastructure like a lead management module on top of PeopleSoft CRM that collects and tags 80%-90% of leads generated.”
With MO process refinement and automation, marketing operations’ contribution can be positioned to grow steadily over time.
A successful Marketing Operations journey requires clear goals, an enabling infrastructure, credible metrics, executive support, cross-functional cooperation and alignment, process refinement and automation.
These MO drivers are well within the control of senior management. They can help an organization unleash the power of Marketing Operations when combined with an in-depth understanding of MO fundamentals, guidance from a trusted outsource partner as needed, and effective and sustained execution.
Call to Action
If your company is facing challenges in any of the areas discussed in this article, or if you are thinking about creating a marketing operations function or increasing the effectiveness of the one you already have, you should start with a “current state assessment” that will help you evaluate the overall health of your Marketing and/or Marketing Operations function today.
Doing so will help you zero in on those areas that represent your most difficult challenges as well as your greatest opportunities for bringing the significant benefits of MO best practices to your organization.
About the Study: Based on hours of face-to-face interviews and an extensive online survey, insights have been published in a 63-page report, Journey to Marketing Operations Maturity—Best Practices in Marketing Operations Series, available in the ClearAction Value Exchange.
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