better marketing operationsIt’s always good news when Marketing Operations gets some well-deserved ink from the mainstream marketing media. Despite growing interest, there’s still comparatively little written about Marketing Operations and Google searches often take us to content that is way off the mark.

Yesterday, MarketingSherpa published Five Steps to Better Marketing Operations. MarketingSherpa’s Sean Donahue did a superb job chunking down Marketing Operations Partners’ 64-page benchmarking study, Journey to Marketing Operations Maturity” into an easily-digestible article. And he didn’t misquote me once. — Gary

Here’s the article:
New Research — 5 Steps to Better Marketing Operations

SUMMARY: With marketers required to operate more like a business unit, more are turning to a formal strategy to manage the function. We got an exclusive peek at new research and tactics on what to expect when creating a Marketing Operations approach.

Includes marketing’s biggest pain points and developing systems to address them. Plus, how to conduct regular MO reviews that will improve your marketing performance.

With pressure to make Marketing Departments more accountable for their actions and improve ROI, some companies have moved beyond informal strategic planning or campaign-by-campaignperformance analysis to a formal Marketing Operations (MO) approach to run their departments.

A formal MO approach may be even more important than ever. With the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer now fewer than two years, it’s hard for companies to establish the kind of institutional knowledge that MO activities can provide. “There’s lots of movement among CMOs, so it’s tough to make moves that might not pay off for several years. Marketing departments tend to operate with a short-term focus,” says Gary Katz, CEO, Marketing Operations Partners.

Katz and his team recently conducted a survey of 81 companies asking how they manage their MO functions, what their primary objectives are and the key challenges they face. The executive summary of the report, “Journey to Marketing Operations Maturity: Best Practices in Operations Reviews among Technology Marketing Organizations,” will be available at the Marketing Operations Partners Web site Aug. 25 (see hotlink below).

Katz gave MarketingSherpa an exclusive look at the results, and we’ve highlighted five tactics that marketers can use to improve — or establish — their own MO function:

Tactic #1. Establish a formal MO function

Some marketers take an MO approach to their activities by default, assuming responsibility for parts, such as campaign measurements and budget management. But tackling sophisticated practices requires companies to have a formal MO function, comprising the appropriate staff and backed with appropriate resources.

For example, while an informal approach can handle some basic tasks, a formal MO function allows marketers to take on more sophisticated activities, such as campaign automation and predictive analytics, according to Katz’s research results.

Three tips on creating a formal MO function:

#1. MO is not a one-personjob. You need a range of skill sets and job functions represented, including senior or VP-levelexecutives, project managers, IT experts and researchers or analysts.

#2. MO needs its own budget to undertake technology initiatives, hire consultants or outside experts and purchase research for strategic planning.

#3. Don’t make the mistake of expecting immediate ROI. Katz’s research shows that investments in an MO function should be viewed as a long-terminvestment and requires a three- to seven-yearpayback.

Tactic #2. Broaden the MO scope

Because there’s no standard definition for Marketing Operations, marketers are left to decide which activities to include in the MO function. It turns out that many define the scope of MO too narrowly, often focusing on a few areas, such as measurement and planning.

To make your MO more effective, broaden the scope to cover not only the marketing department’s activities, but also how the department interacts with the entire company. Katz’s research identified a group of companies as “best practice” firms based on criteria that included having a broad scope for MO activities.

Best practice firms included the following nine areas in their MO efforts:
o Measurement
o Planning
o Process improvement
o Marketing IT
o Budget and finance
o Marketing intelligence, including research and analysis
o Socialization and communications within the organization to get buy-in for MO activities
o Stakeholder alignment
o Sales alignment

In addition to these, 80% of best practice companies also included dashboards and scorecards in their MO functions.

Tactic #3. Align MO goals with biggest marketing challenges

To set priorities for your MO function, look to your biggest marketing pain points and develop systems and practices that address them.

The top three priorities identified by participants in Katz’s survey were:
o Measuring marketing ROI and demonstrating value, 73%
o Balancing marketing strategy and tactics, 60%
o Creating common goals for marketing success tied with other groups, 57%

Not surprisingly, when respondents were asked to describe their MO practices, the answers tracked closely with those challenges:
– 65% said they currently practice marketing accountability (setting specific commitments, tracking and adjusting performance, etc.) to helps measure and demonstrate ROI.
– 62% said they use MO to balance big-picture, strategic planning with day-to-day marketing execution decisions.
– 64% said they use MO to leverage the value of other groups in the company who have a stake in marketing decisions.

Tactic #4. Get buy-in from senior management and outside departments

Bringing an operations focus to your marketing activities needs more than simply a commitment within the department.Buy-in from the company’sC-level management was cited as one of the six key factors in MO success by the companies in Katz’s survey.

Senior-levelbuy-in includes the CMO or Marketing VP in charge of the MO function, but can also extend to the CEO’s reinforcement of MO activities as a key driver of company profits. With the support of senior-level corporate executives, marketing activities can be better aligned with the company’s strategic planning and goals.

Working closely with other departments is also essential to a sophisticated MO function. A close review and improvement of marketing functions must include scrutiny of the marketing group’s interactions with sales, HR, finance, IT and product development, among others.

Examples of cross-departmentinteraction cited by survey respondents include:
o Integration with the sales organization to tie sales objectives with MO goals
o MO personnel having early role with business units for product development ideas

Tactic #5. Conduct regular reviews to improve MO functions

Conducting formal reviews of MO operations is essential to achieving operational improvements. Reviews also can help balance strategic,long-termplanning withday-to-daymarketing execution. That’s why 85% of large and mid-sizedtechnology companies and 80% of other types of companies surveyed said they conduct regular MO reviews.

Typical topics covered in these reviews include:
o Annual or quarterly marketing planning
o Budgeting and resource allocation
o Creative issues and brainstorming
o Education and team development
o Marketing portfolio investment evaluation
o Operations optimization

Those reviews should be managed by a high-levelexecutive:
– 80% of large and mid-sized technology companies have reviews conducted by a VP or CMO.
– 85% of other companies have reviews conducted by a VP or CMO.

Quarterly or monthly reviews are the most common schedules:
– 60% of large and mid-sized technology companies hold quarterly reviews. 15% hold monthly reviews.
– 30% of other companies in the survey hold quarterly reviews. 20% hold monthly reviews.

Reviews should include participation from other departments. Presenters at MO reviews for large and mid-sizedtechnology companies typically include:
o Marketing, 90%
o Sales, 50%
o Finance, 30%
o General managers, 30%

Presenters at MO reviews for other companies surveyed typically include:
o Marketing, 60%
o Sales, 50%
o Finance, 25%
o General managers, 30%

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from the research report:

Note to readers: I did have one small quibble with the interpretation of the data on Tactic #5:

While it’s true that most MO reviews are conducted by a VP or CMO, especially in tech companies, it isn’t necessarily a best practice for reviews be “managed by a high-level executive.” In fact, turning over the reigns to an independent facilitator has significant advantages:

1. The VP/CMO can be an equal participant in the process
2. Independent facilitators are trained to focus on ensuring safety and broad participation, and are in a more natural position to operate with detached objectivity
3. The potential increases for dialogue to enter unchartered territory, enhancing the potential for innovative and “out-of-the-box” contributions

by Sean Donachue, MarketingSherpa