Our previous article, "Marketing Operations: Solving Marketing's Seven Deadly Sins," provided a glimpse into the motivation of admired technology companies to address their biggest marketing challenges by employing an integrated, end-to-end Marketing Operations (MO) methodology

MO is an emerging discipline with the potential to significantly increase performance and accountability in complex marketing organizations. It addresses the "seven deadliest marketing sins" that plague organizations of all sizes by leveraging a strong front-end infrastructure to reinforce marketing strategy and back-end programs and tactics.

This article identifies those characteristics that signal an organization's readiness for MO and answers these questions: What does that organization look like? What are its primary pain points? What is its vision for the future? What pressures are driving it to consider undergoing substantial change?

MO Readiness: A Checklist for Your Company

To see whether your company is a good candidate for MO, check all the characteristics listed below that apply:

  • My company is midsize or larger.
  • My company's marketplace is dynamic and highly competitive.
  • My company's marketing has evolved into a complex and multidimensional function.
  • My company has a significant marketing budget.
  • A diverse mix of programs and resources are funded to reach a breadth of audiences (segments, sales channels, internal and external stakeholders, etc.).
  • My company faces government and regulatory compliance pressures.
  • My company's marketing processes have evolved to the point that they are no longer well coordinated or even well understood.
  • My company values best practices but lacks process, technology, and metrics to achieve them.
  • My company is pressuring marketing to assume a more strategic role.
  • Within my company, many believe that marketing must deliver greater value for the company's investment.

If you checked half or more of the above statements, your company is a great candidate to benefit by leveraging the power of Marketing Operations.

MO Readiness: Where Do You Feel the Pain?

If your company is feeling some pain, you're probably acutely aware of it. Arriving at an accurate diagnosis, however, requires a careful examination. Before reviewing the checklist below to identify localized pain points, first consider the general health of your marketing effort. Does marketing currently receive wide recognition for its strategic leadership and bottom-line contribution? Is marketing in complete alignment with your company's strategic goals and other key functions? Can marketing clearly measure its success and demonstrate ROI to your executive team?

Marketing Operations is specifically designed to address these corporate pain points:

  • Marketing focused on firefighting and tactics rather than on strategy
  • Marketing experiencing difficulty measuring ROI and demonstrating value
  • Marketing success tied to other groups that have different or even conflicting goals
  • A corporate environment that fails to support collaboration and consequently loses opportunities for synergy
  • Employee defections that jeopardize continuity and place at risk institutional knowledge and expertise
  • Marketing processes that too often constrain internal efficiencies and effectiveness instead of enabling them
  • Poor coordination of shared processes across functions
  • Difficulty assimilating and integrating programs, systems, and resources obtained from corporate mergers or acquisitions
  • Marketing often on the defensive, needing to justify its role and contribution to C-level executives

If you resonate with two or more of the above statements, your organization may be in enough pain to be ready to embrace Marketing Operations.

MO Readiness—What's Your Vision of Marketing's Contribution?

In a perfect world, marketing operates as a very creative, fast-paced, results-driven function that stays close to the customer and its other stakeholders. It is not only aligned with the company's strategic goals but also helps define them. It is well integrated with other corporate functions and takes full advantage of the power and discipline of a strategically designed Marketing Operations infrastructure.

The MO infrastructure layers into the marketing function those processes, metrics, and technology solutions required by an efficient operation that delivers outstanding value on a consistent basis. Such an MO infrastructure enables informed decision-making, accountability, sustainability, visibility, teamwork, strategic thinking, and repeatable best-practices execution.

A marketing organization is ready to think seriously about embracing MO when it feels internal and external pressures to make systemic changes because it has not been delivering on its vision and has consistently failed to achieve its operational goals:

  • The CEO considers the CMO/Marketing VP to be a valued strategic partner.
  • Marketing is fully aligned with other company functions and stakeholders.
  • Marketing efforts accelerate new product adoption, strengthen customer relationships, and increase market penetration rate.
  • Marketing leverages metrics and dashboards to measure and track results, and continually improve them.
  • Dashboards rapidly and accurately inform decision makers.
  • Metrics are aligned with corporate goals and increasingly drive marketing expenditures.
  • The marketing team is energized and highly effective.
  • Employee and customer loyalty are consistently high.
  • High return on marketing investment is clearly recognized companywide.

Unless you've checked at least half of the above statements, there is a large gap between your vision and your current reality. Your company is ripe—or more than ripe—for MO.

Table: Assessing MO Readiness

MO Prospect Characteristics MO Drivers MO Vision
Midsize or larger Unmanageable complexity Valued strategic partner of CEO
Dynamic, competitive market Firefighting, tactical focus Marketing aligned with stakeholders
Complex, multidimensional function Difficulty measuring ROI, demonstrating value Marketing drives innovation, market penetration
Significant budget Conflicting goals despite interdependence Marketing leverages metrics
Diverse programs, resources, audiences Poor collaboration, synergy Dashboards inform decision-making
Compliance pressures Employee turnover Metrics drive spend decisions
Poorly coordinated processes Constraining processes Team energized, effective
Ineffective or no dashboards Shared but uncoordinated processes High employee and customer loyalty
Pressure to become more strategic M&A integration challenges Recognized for high ROI contribution
Not delivering expected value Marketing on defensive  

Marketing Operations: The Bottom Line

Bringing the benefits of Marketing Operations into your marketing function should be considered an evolutionary process. MO is both a serious commitment and a great opportunity. Like all change initiatives, it requires careful and comprehensive thought and exacting implementation. Key players in marketing and other cross-functional organizations, such as sales and product development, need to be invited into the process early on and need to stay involved to achieve stakeholder ownership and buy-in.

The effort, however, yields impressive rewards. Marketing Operations has the power to reposition and re-energize a company's marketing function, moving it past stubborn barriers to unprecedented levels of performance and success. Leveraging the discipline and rewards of an MO approach places marketing in the perfect position to influence strategic decisions and help increase corporate revenue, decrease costs, and sustain high levels of customer and employee satisfaction. In short, Marketing Operations, when thoughtfully implemented, has the potential to transform a "marketing function" into a "marketing powerhouse."

In future articles, we'll look at the best practices of Marketing Operations pioneers.

MO Readiness: Making the Assessment

If you've completed the above checklists, you probably have a good idea whether learning more about Marketing Operations would be worthwhile. But it's also true that it can be tough for marketing insiders to have a clear and objective view of their own operation.

That's where professional can help to assess your organization's readiness to move forward with a new MO.

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image of Gary Katz

Gary Katz is chief strategy officer of Marketing Operations Partners, a consulting firm that helps marketing organizations become value centers through accountability, alignment, and agility. He is also CMO of the Marketing Future Forum, dedicated to bridging silos in marketing teams, organizations, and supply chains.

LinkedIn: Gary Katz