Why You Maybe Haven’t Heard of Marketing Operations

Why You Maybe Haven’t Heard of Marketing Operations

Are you like me and get that FOMO feeling when you hear a term with which you’re unfamiliar? If one of those terms is marketing operations, fear no longer because that’s the topic we’re covering today.

The world is changing at a crazy rate; it’s just hard to keep up. If you haven’t heard of marketing operations, aka MOPs (worst acronym ever) or marketing ops, there’s no need to worry. In fact, the term is relatively new.

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The History of Marketing Operations

Early in marketing, there was just a handful of channels. And while there were technical competencies associated with those channels, they weren’t rapidly changing. If we think about the TV show Madmen, which highlights the advertising industry in the ‘60s, there were just a few channels: direct mail, retail, print ads, radio, and television. That was about it. And those channels weren’t changing very rapidly. TV went from black and white to color. There were some advancements in printing; ads could have more color and direct mail could be die-cut.

Fast forward to today, where not only are new channels being introduced with frequency (Hello, TikTok, Clubhouse, and whatever’s coming next), but the channels themselves continue to change at a dramatic rate. It is a full-time job just to keep up with changes in the Facebook Business Manager.

Even at the turn of this century, digital marketing was considered a separate channel that included websites, email marketing, and digital ads. But it didn’t take long before every aspect of marketing included some kind of digital component, and digital marketing is at this point completely integrated with every channel.

The First Definition

IDG first defined the term marketing operations in 2005. It became necessary because of the meteoric proliferation of marketing software applications and the related need for experts to select, deploy, and operate them. According to chiefmartec.com’s Scott Brinker in his latest Marketing Technology Landscape, the number of applications increased from just 150 in 2011 to 8,000 in 2020. That’s a 5,200% increase in 9 years, and it’s not slowing down.

Marketing Operations in Business Today

While traditional marketing skills, such as strategic and creative thinking, are still required for marketing teams, there’s also a need for more technical and analytical skills to oversee the ever-increasing technology and data that marketing departments manage.

Marketing operations is a relatively new function in the marketing organization that enables the department to operate efficiently and deliver the desired business outcomes through people, processes, technology, and data.

Mid-size businesses are only recently really feeling the need for marketing operations as they use and add more software apps. Large businesses created marketing ops roles 8–10 years ago partially due to their scale—using more apps because of their size—and partially due to their development and use of many internal custom applications.

It’s not uncommon for small and medium businesses to have 25–50 marketing software applications in their martech stack, while enterprise-level organizations can have more than 250, according to stack management firm CabinetM.

Why You Need to Understand the Role of Marketing Ops

Because of this rapid change, marketing operations has usually been the last thing organizations realize they need. Many factors contribute to this blind spot, including the traditional structure of marketing teams and marketing leadership programs and education lagging behind industry realities.

Thus, organizations historically bring on marketing ops as an afterthought: a reactive last-ditch effort to try to fix chaotic data and processes.

Marketing leaders are beginning to understand that facilitating tech and data is the key to scaling and optimizing marketing. Dave Gerhardt, former Chief Brand Officer at Drift, commented that were he to start over, his first or second marketing hire would be a marketing ops role.

Support Marketing Teams Keeping Them in Their Own Lanes

Understanding the tech and data needs of your marketing initiatives and resourcing those needs with an expert instead of attempting to smush that onto the existing marketing team’s roles is the first step in benefiting from marketing operations.

Unburdening creative teams by pairing them with marketing operations teams means not only more effective and efficient marketing, but also happier team members. It also means better performance for the whole organization.

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.

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