What Is Marketing Operations? (aka Marketing Ops)

What Is Marketing Operations? (aka Marketing Ops)

In this episode of the Leverage Your Spark podcast, we’re answering a very fundamental question for modern marketing teams: What is marketing operations? You may not be familiar with this term, or you might have heard it used, but if you are in marketing, I’m betting you’ll get crystal clear really fast about what this is as read this blog.

Listen to Season 3: Episode 1

Defining Marketing Operations

Certainly, I have my own definition of Marketing Operations, but it is helpful to start with industry definitions.

Marketing operations (MOPs) is an umbrella term describing departments and the people whose responsibilities include:

  • Facilitating marketing activities.
  • Training and supporting marketing staff.
  • Budgeting for, selecting, implementing, and administering marketing software.
  • Architecting the marketing software “stack.”
  • Making data accessible and useful to marketing colleagues and others (e.g., sales and customer service).

It’s a little dry but, still, a reasonable overview. Let’s dig a little deeper.

According to the chiefmartec.com/MarTech 2020 Career Survey, marketing technology and operations personnel were responsible for the following 5 areas at least 70% of the time:

  1. Designing, running, and implementing marketing campaigns.
  2. Training and supporting marketing staff on using marketing software.
  3. Operating marketing software as an administrator.
  4. Researching and recommending marketing software.
  5. Designing and managing internal workflows and processes.

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

How I Define Marketing Operations

My definition of marketing operations is the team that can implement, fix, expand, and scale marketing success. And much of that these days has to do with technology.

A great analogy for marketing ops (and you know I love analogies) comes from Darrell Alfonso, who heads up marketing operations for Amazon Web Services:

“Marketing ops is like the pit crew, and sales and marketing are the race car drivers. Marketing operations replaces the wheels, tunes up the engine, refuels, keeps an eye on all the instrumentation, and constantly talks to the driver to find out what he or she needs. An effective pit crew enables a driver to focus on winning the race and not on things like if his or her car will fail during the race. The more planning, guardrails, and smart processes we have in place, the faster marketers can go.”

Oh yeah, every race team needs a pit crew, and marketing definitely can feel like a race.

How Marketing Ops Relates to Your Business

The term marketing operations has been around since the mid 2000s. And until pretty recently—I’d say in the past few years—it was something fairly exclusive to large companies. But that is no longer the case.

Marketing operations is critical for businesses of every size because it increases efficiency and drives results in marketing organizations. It builds the foundation for continuing success by reinforcing marketing strategy with metrics infrastructure, business processes, best practices, and reporting, which encompasses what I like to call smart business. Marketing operations emerged as marketing has evolved and is now a vital role for marketing teams to be able to keep up.

Marketing Operations and Its Relationship to Marketing

Cue the modern marketing team trying to execute campaigns and drive the visibility, attraction engagement, and conversion forward. Well, the fundamentals of marketing haven’t changed. We still need a strategy, clarity on who we’re talking to, messaging, copywriting, graphic design…all still necessary and relevant. How those assets get used and campaigns deploy is where complexity comes in. And that’s why marketing operations is key to businesses that are trying to scale marketing and grow at a rapid rate.

Marketing operations is just a new way to define and carve off functions that every marketing team needs. You know, having a pit crew instead of asking the driver to get out and check the tires. Because even though there are exponentially more channels, and those channels are changing exponentially faster, marketing isn’t likely getting additional resources at the same rate. Understanding and putting each member of the marketing team in a position and role to maximize their zone of genius, keep them in their lane, and support them with a marketing operations team means that you can execute, measure, learn, and iterate at a rate that will support the growth you’ve been tasked with.

Keeping Marketing Ops in the Mix

Understanding marketing operations as the “pit crew” of your marketing team allows marketing leaders more clarity in the roles of their team and unburdens creative roles of the implementation, fixing, expanding, and scaling that is at odds with their talents and most effective use of their time. Increasing the effectiveness of your marketing and marketing team enables the iterations and activity needed to achieve the marketing objectives necessary for company growth.

Not sure where to start with improved efficiency for your marketing team? It can be as simple as assembling information so tasks can be delegated and completed faster. I’ve created the Website Quick Reference template to help teams like yours pull together the technical details for your website to avoid delays and whoopsies when dealing with the website. Grab your free template here.

In the next episode, we’ll wander a little deeper into why you maybe haven’t heard of marketing operations and further demystify this new critical role for growing companies.

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