Marketing Operations is a relatively new discipline within the Corporate Marketing function. Its existence was first recognized 15 years ago[when?] by research firms such as IDC and SiriusDecisions. Early adopters were high tech companies such as Cisco Systems, Symantec, and Adobe. Today, hundreds of companies across a variety of industries staff a Marketing Operations role within the Corporate Marketing function.
The scope of responsibilities varies across Marketing Operations teams and so, therefore, does the definition. Here are definitions of the discipline. Examples include:
- IDC: The purpose of the Marketing Operations 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.
- SiriusDecisions: Marketing operations is responsible for the capture and dissemination of marketing information to the enterprise, be it performance metrics, data or strategy/planning and initiatives and budgets, as well as the systems and processes that help generate this information in a systematic, predictable fashion. It drives both visibility into – and productivity for – the marketing organization, which in turn benefits the functions that work with marketing on a regular basis.
- MarketingProfs: 5Ts = Total Strategy, Techniques and Processes, Tracking and Predictive Modeling, Technology, Talent.
Typically, Marketing Operations is the function responsible for marketing performance measurement, strategic planning and budgeting, process development, professional development, and marketing systems and data. This work either connects closely to, or includes, demand generation. It also involves the alignment of Marketing with Sales, Business Units, and Finance. Marketing Operational professionals are not classical marketers. Instead of coming from PR or branding backgrounds, they typically come from Finance, IT, Sales Operations and other analytical or process-oriented roles.
Planning & Budgeting
Months of work go into building a company’s annual plan. Ideally, it is fed by functional plans that include goals, objectives, strategies, measures, and tactics. All functions require input from senior management on the company’s goals and overarching strategies. In addition, a company’s Marketing team requires input from:
- Development – what products will need to be marketed in the coming year
- Sales – what revenue must be achieved and what coverage model that has to be enabled
- Finance – the budget constraints
Throughout this process, which typically lasts for several months, Marketing Operations interfaces with the other functions, manages a timeline for Marketing input and deliverables, and helps build the final document – the Marketing annual plan. The budgeting component of this exercise can happen from the top down, bottom-up, or some combination of both. Sometimes the executive team and/or Finance provide numbers within which each function must plan. Sometimes the executive team and/or Finance will ask each function what they believe they need for the coming year. And sometimes both happen creating a tug-of-war scenario that must be worked out before agreement can be reached on the budget for the coming year. According to subscription-based reports from IDC (IDC CMO Advisory Service) and SiriusDecisions (SiriusDecisions’ Executive Edge: CMO), how much a company spends on Marketing varies, depending upon their market, the company’s size, and the company’s stage of development. For instance, large, well established semi-conductor companies spend approximately 2% of revenue on Marketing. A similar Enterprise Software company would typically spend between 6 and 8% of revenue on Marketing. And a start-up that has a highly competitive product ready to launch may spend as much as 50% of revenue on Marketing. Companies such as IDC and SiriusDecisions can help companies understand their spending relative to other companies in their position and in their market.
Marketing Operations professionals are increasingly expected to develop and optimize marketing-related processes such as the budgeting and planning process; the lead management process; the process for integrating newly acquired companies; and the process for creating, reviewing, and distributing a marketing asset. As a result of this push to improve performance by developing and optimizing process, flow charts are now as prevalent in Marketing as press releases and ad copy. Several categories of technology have evolved to automate Marketing processes (see “Technology or Marketing Automation” below).
A company will often say that its people are its greatest asset; but when it comes to Marketing, that may not be true. Data is arguably Marketing’s greatest asset. The quality of a Marketing campaign depends entirely on the quality of the data that it leverages about existing and prospective customers. ‘Database marketing’ is the term used for the marketing techniques that are aimed at leveraging data to deliver more highly personalized, relevant campaigns. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) sponsors an annual conference called The National Center for Database Marketing focused on just this topic.
Database marketing emphasizes the use of statistical techniques to develop models of customer behavior, which are then used to select customers for communications. As a consequence, database marketers also tend to be heavy users of data warehouses, because having a greater amount of quality data about customers increases the likelihood that a more accurate model can be built.
Data quality refers to the uniqueness, accuracy, consistency, completeness, timeliness, currency, conformance and referential integrity of a data set. Relative to Marketing, quality data attributes accurate name, address, company, title, firmographic, demographic and preference information to the contact record for a customer or prospective customer. Obtaining and maintaining quality data is an ongoing challenge that often falls to Marketing Operations. A comprehensive effort involves the following steps:
- Evaluating the condition of the existing marketing data
- Conducting a ‘spring cleaning’ process to separate out duplicate data, dummy data (e.g. Santa Claus), and incomplete data
- Establishing a process to conduct routine cleansing of incoming and existing data
- Putting in place a process to augment data with new lists or purchased firmographic or demographic data
- Installing a database or data mart in which to store all marketing contact data
It is good practice to measure the quality of the data before implementing these steps, and then measuring again when done, and every quarter thereafter. Some relevant metrics include: the number of duplicates, email bounce-backs, percentage of dummy data, response rates, etc..
An entire category of software companies facilitate data quality management. Gartner lists DataFlux, IBM, Trillium Software, Informatica, and SAP Business Objects as leading data quality tool providers. Other related technology categories include ‘Data Integration Tools’ and ‘Customer Data Integration’. There is also a set of companies that sell data, or services to clean and enhance data. Some of these include: Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax, MarketWatch, and InfoUSA.
A related subject—and an area that requires a separate effort—is information privacy or data privacy. Data privacy refers to the legal issues that surround the capture, use, storage, and sharing of personally identifiable information. This has long been an issue for healthcare and financial services companies. It is now a concern across all industries. To complicate matters, every country has a different set of legal and political concerns relative to data privacy (sample list here -http://www.informationshield.com/intprivacylaws.html) Global companies must be sensitive to the laws in every country in which they do business.
Technology or Marketing Automation
In some companies, usually larger companies, Marketing Operations can include responsibility for Marketing Automation and in others, Marketing Automation is managed by functions such as Demand Generation. Marketing automation is the name given to software platforms designed to simplify processes for marketing organizations by automating repetitive tasks. Forrester and Gartner have marketing automation research practices. Each looks at the market differently but expansively. Over time, Gartner has used 9 categories to refer to marketing automation technology. They are: ≥Quality management evolution
- CRM Multichannel Campaign Management
- Data Quality Tools
- Marketing Resource Management
- Enterprise Marketing Management
- Enterprise Content Management
- Web Content Management
- Email Systems
- E-Services Suites
- CRM Customer Service Contact Centers
Forrester has, over time, referenced 13 categories in their effort to apply patterns to the evolution of this unwieldy market. The Forrester categories are:
- Brand Monitoring Solutions
- Cross-Channel Campaign Management
- Database Marketing Service Provider
- Enterprise Content Management
- Enterprise Marketing Platforms
- Interactive Marketing Agencies
- Listening Platforms
- Marketing Asset Management
- Search Marketing Agencies
- Web Analytics
- Web Content Management
- B2B Lead Management Automation
- Document Output for Customer Communications Management
- Email Marketing Service Providers
In fact, there are 116 companies that have found their way onto either a Gartner Magic Quadrant or a Forrester Wave for marketing automation. It is easier to understand this chaos when you start with a simple picture of the parts of marketing that can benefit from automation. Let’s break it down. Technology can help marketers manage assets, generate demand, and measure results. Within this framework, almost every new marketing automation technology can be typecast according to this simple view of the world.
- Managing the Development and Distribution and Assets: including budgets, plans, templates, videos, images, logos, etc.
- Generating Demand: Segmenting the total market to identify logical targets for your product and service, engaging in a meaningful exchange of information with your target, providing them with enticing offers, sustaining their interest, and shepherding the ‘ready’ to sales.
- Measuring Results: Measuring the component of every element of the process: the images, offers, campaigns, products, regions, etc..
Marketing Performance Measurement
Marketing Performance Measurement should be a logical extension of the Planning and Budgeting exercise that happens before each fiscal year. The goals that are set should be measurable and personal. Every person in the Marketing organization should know what they have to do to help the function, and the company, achieve its goals. Some companies use Management By Objectives (MBOs) to incent employees to meet goals. Other companies simply use the Human Resources Performance Management process.
Quarterly Operations Reviews represent another good way to monitor Marketing’s progress towards its annual goals. At a Quarterly Operations Review, a CMO typically has direct reports present on achievements relative to the goals that were set. This is a good opportunity to update goals based on information gained during the quarter that has just ended. It is also a good way for Marketing leaders to stay abreast of their peers’ efforts to increase collaboration and eliminate redundant efforts.
Benchmarking & Best Practices
Also referred to as "best practice benchmarking" or "process benchmarking", benchmarking is a process used increasingly in Marketing to compare approaches in relation to best practice companies, usually within a peer group defined for the purposes of comparison. This allows organizations to develop plans on how to make improvements or adapt specific best practices, usually with the aim of increasing some aspect of performance. Benchmarking may be a one-off event, but is often treated as an ongoing process in which organizations continually seek to improve their practices.
Marketing Operations Cross-Company Alliance (MOCCA ) is a professional network for Marketing Operations professionals. It is intended to facilitate the exchange of best practice information. MOCCA is a community for sharing practical experience between Marketing Operations professionals. MOCCA aims to create both professional development for members and development of the marketing operations profession. MOCCA provides as exchange forum for real-world ideas, solutions, and best practices.
CMO Communications & Organizational Development
Some CMO’s treat the Marketing Operations leader as a Chief of Staff. As such, they are often charged with handling communication to the organization and the training and development of the Marketing organization. CMO communications can include: Marketing all hands meetings, annual Marketing meetings, internal and external CMO speaking engagements, email updates, and intranet postings.
Organizational Development is a concerted effort afforded by the most strategic and best staffed Marketing Operations departments. In addition to providing training for the Marketing organization, it also involves defining job classifications and career paths. The irony of this is that Marketing Operations professionals are often tasked with scoping the criteria for classic Marketing roles – and yet there is a dearth of resources available to do so for Marketing Operations roles. Radford and other such HR consulting companies do not yet recognize Marketing Operations as a unique discipline.
- Beal, Barney. (2009) Gartner: Now is the time to buy marketing resource management (MRM) software SearchCRM.com.
- Fishbein, Seth. (2009) “A Preview of IDC’s 2009 Tech Mktg. Bechmarks: A Focus on Marketing Automation.
- Vancil, Rich; Gerard, Michael; Fishbein, Seth. (2008) IDC CMO Advisory – Marketing Performance Measurement 2.0 Best Practice
- Collins, Kimberly. (2008) Establish a Marketing Operations Office Gartner.
- Curley, Jeff. (2008) The Tools of Marketing Operations American Chronicle.
- Patterson, Laura. (2007) The Science Side of Marketing and the Emergence of Marketing Operations MarketingProfs.
- Ott, Adrian. (2007) Beyond the 4Ps: The 5Ts of Marketing Operations MarketingProfs.
- Tech Vendors are Rapidly Adding New Marketing Operations Staff. Though Organizational Impact is Still in the Early Stages of Development, IDC Reveals (2007) Business Wire.
- The Science Side of Marketing and the Emergence of Marketing Operations
- Gerard, Michael; Vancil, Rich. (2006) The Marketing Operations Function: Is It Evolving Fast Enough? (IDC document #204647 and IDC presentation #204649)
- http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=IDC_P7136 - IDC's CMO Advisory Service provides marketing executives and their operations counterparts with deep research and industry wide best practices to plan program and people investments, prepare marketing operations, mobilize resources, and measure results.
- http://www.mo-cca.com/ - MOCCA: Marketing Operations Cross Company Alliance – a professional network for marketing operations professionals
- http://www.marketingoperationsworks.com/ - Marketing Operations Works – an operational consultancy focused on improving the performance of marketing operations’ processes, systems, and data
- http://www.siriusdecisions.com/ - SiriusDecisions provides research and advisory services focused on the operational intelligence sales and marketing executives need to maximize top line growth