The following article was recently published in the Business Marketing Association’s national newsletter, The B2B Marketer, and the timing is opportune as I’ve just finished reading the manuscript of Bernie Borges’ book, Marketing 2.0: Bridging the Gap Between Buyer and Seller on the Social Web. In hindsight, from the insight I’ve gleaned from Bernie, the below article is really about Marketing Operations 2.0. So, I snuck in a little reference to that in the headline and at the end of the article. Marketing Operations(2.0): MObilizing Marketing for a Web 2.0 World by Gary Katz

Web 2.0 has transformed how most organizations do marketing from the outside in. It provides us with:

  • New channels and tools to more efficiently reach our audience
  • A collaborative platform to engage and dialogue with customers and other stakeholders
  • A greater focus on organizational integrity and transparency (often due to external scrutiny)
    Marketing Operations (MO) is the yin to Web 2.0’s yang.

It provides:

  • New initiatives and tools to strengthen operational muscle and agility
  • A holistic framework to mobilize cross-functional alignment and accountability behind Marketing strategy
  • A greater emphasis on organizational integrity and transparency (ideally due to a proactive desire to align external messaging with performance, before the organization is scrutinized)

While Web 2.0 provides the state-of-the-external transportation system (the latest version of the Information Superhighway), MO provides the internal transportation system and supporting infrastructure. This includes:

  • The entire vehicle – including the engine and other subsystems (the means of transportation)
  • The highways, roadways and bridges (the integration elements)
  • The traffic controls, signals, rules of the road, law enforcement (marketing/brand governance)
  • Mechanics equipped with testing, calibration and alignment tools to maximize the vehicle’s performance (optimization)
  • Driver’s education and training (competency development)
  • The roadmaps and navigation resources to get from here to there (strategic direction/shared vision)

You get the picture.

No ,surprisingly, savvy executives are embracing MO because they see how it can help them (the navigators) and their program managers (the drivers) to plot the optimal course to reach their destinations in the new world of Web 2.0.

Defining Marketing Operations
As a relatively new discipline, it’s important to have a common understanding of what is meant by Marketing Operations.

Marketing Operations is a comprehensive, end-to-end operational discipline that leverages processes, technology, guidance and metrics to run the Marketing function as a profit/value center, growth driver, change catalyst and fully-accountable business.
MO reinforces Marketing strategy and execution with a scalable and sustainable enabling infrastructure. In addition, MO seeks to nurture a collaborative,well-aligned ecosystem, both within and outside the Marketing department, to drive achievement of enterprise strategic objectives.

A key vision for Marketing Operations is to help transform the Marketing function from a service organization (think marcom shop or tactical vehicle) into a vital strategic partner for the CEO and the rest of the executive team.

To accomplish this lofty objective, MO needs to help Marketing substantially raise its game. Here’s how:

  • Convert insight to value
  • Accelerate the Sales and Buying process
  • Scale the Marketing function for growth
  • Deliver the enterprise strategic agenda
  • Maximize customer profitability
  • Demonstrate measurable Return on Marketing

Convert Insight to Value
Many companies are guilty of under-investing their marketing intelligence. Even those organizations that invest heavily may lack confidence in the integrity of the data or data source.  Knowledge gaps are prevalent, as insight tends to stay in the field. Disagreement over how to interpret a “fact” is the norm. Often, because executives don’t hold one another accountable to explain the assumptions underlying their thinking processes, the modus operandi is “gut feel” and seat-of-the pants decision-making. Power and authority tend to rule the day, not necessarily the best business case.

MO uses tools such as gap analysis, win-loss analysis, SWOT analysis, competitive and industry benchmarking, surveys and customer advisory boards to document key lessons, anticipate market/customer shifts, benchmark against best practices, better understand where customers are in the buying cycle and create innovative,customer-driven products and services. Marketing needs to be more than a data aggregator. Marketing needs to be a key center of business intelligence for our enterprises – an integral resource to empower them to make the best decisions possible, to become learning organizations.

Accelerate the Sales and Buying Process
Marketing is typically vested with generating sales leads, but often is seen as guilty of providing Sales with unqualified leads. The result, according to Sirius Decisions, is that only 20% of the ”leads” from lead generation programs are followed-up by Sales, 70% of which are disqualified. Shockingly, 80% of those “disqualified” leads buy anyway, within 24 months – from the company, or worse, a competitor.

A key role of MO is to ensure that the campaigns and sales tools Marketing develops are geared toward enabling Sales to help its customers to buy.  We must actively work to align the prospecting, selling and buying processes. We need to take ownership of lead nurturing – proactively identifying and addressing the “low touch” prospects that are not ready to buy today and need to be nurtured through the sales funnel. Tools such as lead scoring methodologies and automated permission-based lead nurturing systems and processes enable Sales to focus on “high-touch,”ready-to-buy qualified leads. We can also apply this same nurturing strategy to the customer reference challenge. We can build a pipeline of qualified customer references that support both Sales and Marketing requirements and ensure that our customer reference assets are a renewable resource. By providing this type of value, MO can help the Marketing-Sales brotherhood become a true partnership, rather than an antagonistic relationship.

Scale the Marketing Function for Growth
As companies grow, they tend to become increasingly complex, and, correspondingly, inefficient. This tends to lead to poor resource utilization, siloed thinking, duplication of efforts, ineffective knowledge transfer and a variety of other ills.

MO must tackle this challenge by conducting regular ‘health checks” to determine investment leverage areas, uncover inefficiencies and define a prescriptive or “shared vision” (depending on the need) roadmap for change. It is incumbent on marketers to take responsibility to manage what seems like “unmanageable complexity,” using all the tools at our disposal as appropriate: charter definition, roles and responsibilities clarification, rules of engagement, process mapping and design, business cases, best practices documentation, knowledge management, centers of excellence and, of course, marketing automation. Marketing automation is listed last on purpose. Most companies lead their Marketing Operations efforts with marketing automation (CRM, campaign management, Marketing Resource Management, dashboards). The tough lesson learned is that technology is a means, not an end in itself, and that the most successful marketing automation deployments are holistic in nature. They are specified and built from a comprehensive understanding of the enterprise’s knowledge, its cross-functional processes, its culture and its business objectives. Marketers must ensure that marketing automation investments are embraced and utilized – through executive-level sponsorship, education, socialization and enlisting stakeholder champions and data stewards.

Delivering the Enterprise Strategic Agenda:
Marketing has a significant opportunity to play a more influential role at the enterprise strategy table. In order to do so, priorities must be aligned with the enterprise strategic agenda.

Through methodologies such as messaging alignment, building shared purpose and vision, and marketing governance aimed at helping the organization “live the brand,” a vital role in linking strategy to execution is created. Perhaps most importantly, through education and socialization to achieve buy-in for new Marketing initiatives, change is catalyzed both in- and outside Marketing to overcome employee ambivalence, confusion, resistance and passive-aggressive behavior that can be unintentionally or consciously transferred to customers, partners, press, analysts and other target audiences. In short, MO can raise the stature of Marketing from a perceived cost center and a resource drain to a valued strategic partner.

Maximizing Customer Profitability
Thanks to the level playing field the Internet provides, customers are becoming more sophisticated than ever. As a result, it’s continually more expensive to entice new customers in the midst of exponential fragmentation of advertising technologies and venues.  Companies that can retain high-value customers have great advantages in cost reduction, market share, price premium and profitability compared to those companies that focus on customer acquisition alone.

Some of the approaches used in MO to optimize customer profitability include Customer Lifetime Value and Customer Franchise Value calculation; capturing Voice of the Customer through advisory boards, user groups, blogs, surveys, complaints and other forums; mobilizing customer-facing resources to meet customer expectations; and refocusing resources to win back at-risk customers. A key part of a marketer’s value proposition is linked to the contribution toward helping our enterprises to retain their best customers and give them the best customer experience possible.

Demonstrating Measurable Return on Marketing
Most executives view the ability to demonstrate Marketing’s value, the return on Marketing, as the Holy Grail for MO.Over the past decade in particular, company executives have demanded, with growing intensity, clarity in the return on investment related to marketing expenditure. In many companies, this has put Marketing in a defensive position to prove its value to the organization, to quantitatively select marketing projects with the highest expected return, and to prove the necessity of funding its marketing strategies and staffing levels through compelling business cases – often with a short-term orientation.

MO is vested with overcoming this challenge through strategies such as metrics definition; linking CEO-level goals and to activity-level goals via a cascading methodology; identifying and tracking leading and lagging indicators through dashboards and balanced scorecards; tracking and managing individual and team performance; and fine-tuning forecasting with predictive modeling. By putting operational focus on the measurement process, MO enables Marketing to be more accountable and in better control of its charter, its resources – and ultimately – its destiny.
The Potential Impact of Marketing Operations in Organizations

Since it is still in its relative infancy, Marketing Operations is often viewed in a limited way – as a service organization or an efficiency vehicle or “the process police.” This narrow view of Marketing Operations reinforces and perpetuates the status quo of Marketing. What we need is a new modus operandi for Marketing, and a holistic, strategic approach to Marketing Operations can be the vehicle for change.

It’s hard work and it will be a challenge to unlearn some of our old ways of thinking, but a new modus operandi for Marketing in organizations holds great promise for executives and marketers alike.
If you’re a marketing professional:

  • You’ll be in a stronger, less vulnerable position when budgets are scrutinized
  • You’ll be part of a learning-oriented environment where you’ll develop the fundamental skills and enabling infrastructure to operate effectively, stay accountable, and benefit from Marketing Operations-driven improvement programs, such as new competency development

You’ll be happier, better utilized for your unique talents and more motivated to stay with your organization
If you’re a CMO, you’ll be blessed with:

  • An injection of left-brain thinking into the typically right-brained Marketing function
  • The means to shift your enterprise’s priorities from short-term fixes to long-term strategic initiatives, increasing your likely tenure.
  • An operational partner – a Chief of Staff – that is solely focused on optimizing your scarce resources, making course corrections, measuring results, and winning enterprise-wide support

If you’re a CEO:

  • Your cross-functional teams – Marketing, Sales, IT, etc. – will work in greater collaboration and alignment, mobilizing your resources
  • Your employee turnover and, consequently, your customer churn, will decrease
  • Your Marketing function will contribute more substantially toward your top- and bottom-line growth, achieving your enterprise strategic agenda and helping you win in the market

Resistance is futile. It’s in your best interests to fully embrace a holistic, strategic view of Marketing Operations (Marketing Operations 2.0) today. No matter what role you play in your organization, MO is the best means to navigate toward your personal, team and enterprise goals in the new world of Web 2.0.