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The Science Side of Marketing and the Emergence of Marketing Operations

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The world's markets are becoming more and more efficient as the demand to drive inefficiency out of companies continues to expand—and dramatically impact the marketing organization.

As the increasing complexities and the rate of change continue to accelerate, marketing departments are becoming the center of attention. As a result, we face both external challenges from competition as well as internal challenges around people, process, systems, and tools.

To rise to these challenges, marketing is undergoing a transformation to enable it to improve its operational and business performance. The stronger the linkage between what we envision in our strategy and what we execute in the market place, the more we can ensure that marketing is providing value.

As a result, there has been a movement toward creating a marketing operations role to drive the connection between marketing strategy and execution and actual results.

The Rise of Marketing Operations


As the need for a more transparent, efficient, and accountable view of marketing became increasingly more important, the marketing operations function emerged. For example, across the technology sector, organizations began staffing and/or expanding the marketing operations role in the last two years, according to IDC.

The purpose of the function is both to increase marketing efficiency and to build a foundation for excellence by reinforcing marketing with processes, technology, metrics, and best practices.

Marketing operations enables an organization to run the marketing function as a fully accountable business. Marketing operations is about performance, financial management, strategic planning, marketing resource, and skills assessment and management.

If you are considering developing a marketing operations function, this article outlines some of the primary responsibilities. As the role has evolved, it has come to encompass the following five main responsibilities:

  1. Defining and managing systems and tools
  2. Developing and implementing metrics, infrastructure, and business processes
  3. Establishing and communicating best practices
  4. Managing the overall marketing budget and budgeting process
  5. Identifying and deploying technology to support performance measurement and reporting

Let's explore each of these areas and try to understand how each role functions and why they are important.

Process, Systems, and Tools

Process is the foundation for alignment—and one of the critical complaints with marketing is that it lacks alignment with sales, finance, and R&D. Therefore, it is essential for marketing to define and establish processes that facilitate alignment with these areas.

The role of marketing operations in terms of process, systems, and tools is to develop and manage an integrated process that includes setting performance goals, modeling, planning, and reporting. A marketing operations function should ensure that the right processes are in place to support performance management and measurement.

In addition, the marketing operations personnel should be able to define and secure the systems and tools needed to enable marketing operations. These tools and processes will analyze and identify overlaps, gaps, bottlenecks, and redundancies in order to suggest process improvements. These improvements will in turn support marketing's ability to help the organization achieve its goals and objectives.

It also falls to the marketing operation's function to develop the infrastructure and marketing systems that will promote the effective use of technology throughout the marketing organization. It will be imperative for the marketing operations staff to define, document, and standardize core marketing processes and collaborate with finance, sales, and R&D to ensure organizational alignment around the processes and well as performance targets.

Metrics and Measurement Reporting

Marketing dashboards and marketing operations are often linked together. It's important to understand why. Today there really is no shortage of data. The gap is in our ability to use this data to gain a sustained, competitive advantage and to drive specific business outcomes. To be successful, marketing needs both accurate historical data and the ability to recognize patterns that link seemingly unrelated data points.

One of our key challenges in marketing is to develop a baseline for metrics that helps us better evaluate performance and drive marketing decisions. Marketers need to understand measurement and create a metrics framework that links marketing to a bigger business objective.

Marketing measurement is about more than just the finances and payback; it is about creating value and growth. Therefore, it is critical to have a function that helps define the measurement system, process, and performance targets. Marketing operations fulfills this role while creating access to the data needed to create dashboards.

Because marketing operations creates a repository of information and facilitates implementing the systems, support, and infrastructure, it provides a much-needed focal point for performance management. The difference between success and failure is really not the dashboard, or even the information reflected in the dashboard, but what we do with the information and how we use this information to make decisions.

This truly is the point behind marketing metrics and marketing performance management: to use metrics to fine-tune investments, to manage the marketing mix, and to provide guidance and governance for decision making.

Marketing metrics should reflect the company's priorities and objectives, and the dashboards created by marketing operations should guide effective and timely decision making.

Dashboards synthesize our knowledge and highlight gaps. They visually align tactics, strategies, and objectives with business outcomes. They serve as a visual representation and guides for performance.

Best Practices

Marketing operations helps set realistic expectation of performance and accountability. For marketing to take a leadership role in an organization, it needs a set of core marketing and change management processes and practices. These will help to ensure that the marketing personnel know how to best use the processes, systems, and metrics.

Marketing operations needs to be the keeper of techniques, methods, activities, and processes that are effective at delivering a particularly superior outcome or result. As the keeper, marketing operations is responsible for the knowledge transfer, skills development, and benchmarking needed to sustain success.

Marketing's best practices need to be able to span activities and tactical execution around marketing campaign management, marketing and sales effectiveness tools, Internet and direct marketing, and market and customer research, as well as enterprise marketing management, brand and marketing resource management, digital asset management, and marketing process management.

Conclusion

The trend of demanding that marketing have great accountability shows no sign of abating. The need to be able to tie marketing activities and investments to results will continue. As a result, there will be continued pressure on marketing executives and professionals to demonstrate our understanding of how we are driving a company's brand value, incremental revenue, and customer equity.

As marketers we need to focus on developing and enhancing the science-side of our skill set and leveraging marketing operations either as a function or a discipline to create a culture based more on facts than intuition. Even with a marketing operations function, a marketing organization cannot be successful without embracing a performance-driven culture.

Such a culture requires knowledge to be accessible to everyone on the team so that each person has a view into the entire scope of work and visibility into the processes, budget, execution, metrics, and reporting needed. A performance-driven culture has an unwavering belief that performance starts with accountability.

Marketers in a performance-driven culture never lose sight of the need to be both efficient and effective and realize that metrics and measurement practices not only are essential to tracking performance but also are the means for improving results.

Note: Make metrics history in 15 minutes by taking the VisionEdge Marketing annual marketing metrics and business performance survey. Participants can request a complimentary copy of the survey results summary and enter into a drawing. Follow this link to the survey.


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Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM

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