The marketing operations (MO) function has emerged due to the need for a more transparent, efficient, and accountable view of marketing. Its growth was initially driven by the proliferation of marketing technology and increased pressure from the C-suite to prove the value of marketing and contribute to the revenue. The purpose of marketing operations is to increase marketing efficiency and organizational agility. Agile Marketing organizations are able to adapt their marketing efforts, quickly and successfully, in response to changing customer behavior, market conditions and business direction to the benefit of improved market share or customer value.
The scope of responsibilities varies across Marketing Operations teams and so, therefore, does the definition. Typically, MO is the function responsible for marketing performance measurement, strategic planning guidance and execution, budgeting, process development, professional development, and marketing systems and data. The role is increasingly responsible for affecting change in the marketing organization. This work typically connects closely to, or includes, demand generation, and involves the alignment of Marketing with Sales, Business Units, IT and Finance. MO professionals′ career paths sometimes originate in Finance, IT, Sales Operations and other analytical or process-oriented roles. The MO function enables the marketing organization to shift from being viewed as a cost center to operating more like a business, with formalized best practices, processes, infrastructure, and reporting.
This injection of left-brain thinking into the typically right-brained-heavy Marketing function has led to the need for marketers to expand their skill set to include technical and analytical skills in addition to the traditional marketing skills. These newer skills include the ability to allocate resources based on strategic objectives and demonstrated performance; acting as an organizational interface to the parallel role of Sales Operations. Marketing Operations aim to coordinate and optimize marketing resources.
The rise of the MO function was first observed by analyst firm IDC in its annual Tech Marketing Benchmarks study early in 2005, with a detailed analysis and framework for the staffing requirements and responsibilities for this role′s contribution to the marketing organization. The 2006 IDC CMO Technology Benchmark Study found that the headcount allocated to MO was about 2.5%. This was the first time MO was specified as a stand-alone function in the IDC studies. By the end of the 2011, the allocation of marketing operations staff had more than doubled to 5.3%.
In 2007, the Marketing Performance Management Study by VisionEdge Marketing found that companies were adding MO to the marketing function to help ensure systems, processes, and tools were in place to support marketing performance measurement and management. Also in 2007, the Journey to Marketing Operations Maturity study by Marketing Operations Partners published an MO framework with marketing strategy and guidance supported by ecosystem alignment, leading to marketing processes and metrics supported by technology and infrastructure management. By 2009, other marketing studies began to incorporate questions about MO. The 2009 Lenskold Group/MarketSphere Marketing ROI and Measurement Study found that companies with MO in place were twice (11% vs 5%) as likely to report having highly effective and efficient marketing.
The role of MO is expanding, especially within marketing organizations serving as value creators and agents of change. Within these organizations, MO is moving beyond campaign automation and financial governance to facilitate accountability, alignment, and agility. Some CMOs treat the MO leader as a Chief of Staff. As such, they are often charged with handling communication to the organization and overseeing the training and development of the marketing professionals.
While it is the responsibility of every marketing professional to engage in performance management, MO brings all of the components together to systematically optimize performance.
The 2014 Marketing Performance Management Study conducted by VisionEdge Marketing/ITSMA found that the role of Marketing Operations now includes the following:
- Analytics and predictive modeling
- Budgeting and planning; corporate governance and reporting
- Campaign analysis and reporting
- Customer, market, competitive intelligence, research, and insights
- Data management
- Organizational benchmarking and assessments
- Performance measurement and reporting
- Project management
- Strategic planning
- Talent and skills development
- Technology & automation and pipeline management
- Workflow process development and documentation
Best-in-class marketers can be characterized as value creators because their primary focus is on using data to make market, customer, and product/service decisions that create value for customers and shareholders. As a result, MO organizations are actively recruiting and developing people with the following skills, in priority order, in order to create greater value:
- Customer, market, competitive intelligence, research, and insights
- Analytics and predictive modeling
- Data management, project management, and change management
- Campaign analysis and reporting
- Budgeting and planning; financial governance and reporting
- Organization benchmarking and assessments
Technology can help marketers manage assets, generate demand, and measure results. For many organizations, MO is responsible for evaluating, maintaining, and using the various marketing technology components whether stand-alone single point solutions or integrated together. The marketing technology landscape can be confusing, and the acronym alphabet soup used to describe these technologies only adds to the conundrum: DAM/MAM (digital asset or marketing asset management), MOM (marketing operations management), MAP (marketing automation platforms), and MRM (marketing resource management). Marketing technology ties together metrics, customer touchpoints, and stages of the customer lifecycle management in order to optimize its performance and agility in creating growth. Marketing technology platforms can be organized into four broad categories:
- Market and Customer Intelligence and Insights for using data and analytics to identify customer and market opportunities. These technologies support automating intelligence gathering, such as social media monitoring/monitoring and business intelligence tools. The purpose of these tools is to turn market and customer data into actionable insights.
- Customer Interaction and Engagement for acquiring and keeping customers. These technologies facilitate creating and monitoring customer interaction and support the customer-buying journey. This is where many organizations have made most of their current and rather extensive technology investments. Most marketing/email campaign automation, customer relationship management, contact management, demand generation and lead management, and sales force automation tools fall into this category.
- Project/Workflow/Operations Management for managing the work of marketing. These technologies enable marketing to manage projects and produce work by enhancing marketing efficiency and productivity. Marketing resource management, digital/marketing asset management, content management and curation, and project management are examples of technologies that fit into this group.
- Performance Management for improving and proving the value of marketing. These technologies help monitor, measure and communicate marketing′s value, impact, performance, and contribution to the organization. Technologies that illustrate this category include marketing attribution, analytics, marketing reporting and dashboard tools, marketing models, alignment and accountability tools.
A list of marketing technology vendors by Scott Brinker has shown the category from 947 vendors in 2014 to over 1,800 in 2015.
Formative underpinnings of MO
- 1920s — The Golden Age of Radio spurred Market Research to help advertisers understand customer demographics and competitors. This led to market segmentation and targeting, a widespread practice in Marketing Operations today.
- 1931 — The consumer packaged goods firm Procter & Gamble (P&G) established dedicated Brand Management teams for an end-to-end view of products, markets, and customers. Today, in companies like Clorox, Brand Management and Marketing Operations are inseparable practices that strive to align brand messaging with brand performance.
- 1961 — The Marketing Science Institute was founded, advancing foundational marketing concepts and research streams, such as marketing orientation, brand equity, marketing ROI and new product development.
- 1974 — Peter Drucker, in his book, Management: Responsibilities, Practices, proclaimed that the aim of marketing is to ″make selling superfluous, . . . to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.″ Today, companies like Autodesk, Microsoft and VMware are realizing that vision by integrating customer insight and business intelligence into their Marketing Operations scope.
- 1979 — The Institute of Management Sciences and Operations Research Society of America launched a series of annual market measurement and analysis conferences. Measurement and analysis today has evolved from a market focus to a holistic endeavor encompassing markets, customers, pipelines, campaigns, resources, processes, technology, teams and much more.
- 1979 — Computer Shopper Magazine invented ″bingo cards″ to track ads and notices from the periodical to a sale. This practice was adopted by product-focused trade journals in the late 1980s. Modern marketers have many more tools at their disposal to close the loop between initial impression and purchase.
- Marketing textbooks added chapters on marketing metrics and organization structure, leading to big corporation experimentation with marketing ROI business models and marketing mix analysis, as well as the introduction of barcode readers, and database marketing.
- Some public relations agencies adopted a business model aimed to guarantee results and be paid according to the advertising equivalent value of publicity. While this approach appealed to some executives who wanted their agencies to have more skin in the game, it failed to tie the resulting publicity to actual business results and caused incentives friction between PR professionals and journalists.
- Marketing mix modeling was adopted widely among consumer packaged goods firms. Computer software was developed to model brand switching and consumer preference intent, using economic modeling such as logit analysis, which was invented by Bernsen in 1944.
- The unveiling of electronic point-of-sale devices such as bar code readers began the marketing information revolution.
- Database marketing became a driving force in direct marketing, with roots going back to 1967 when Kestenbaum Consulting was credited with developing new metrics such as customer lifetime value, RFM scores (recency, frequency, monetary), and applying financial and economic models to marketing.
- Integrated marketing communications originated in the late 1980s and gained popularity in the 1990s.
- Peter Senge′s landmark book The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization influenced executives′ thinking about systemic management and mental models, practices that are at the core of how Marketing Operations can enable integrated marketing from the inside out and transparent decision-making.
- Bain & Company′s 1980s research quantifying the financial advantages of customer retention spawned strong interest in a closed-loop view of marketing results. Concepts such as brand equity, customer equity, customer value management, customer lifetime value, customer relationship management, and customer loyalty were embraced in the language of marketing. Demonstrating accountability for marketing resources also gained widespread interest at this time. Integrated marketing communications emerged to bridge the alignment gap between messages and imagery, content and supply chain, marketing investment and accountability.
- Consumer packaged goods firms grappling with the complexity of stock keeping units (SKUs), bills of materials (BOMs) and channel management began to look to automating these cumbersome manual processes. Initially, large companies such as P&G and GE addressed this problem by developing proprietary solutions in-house.
- Email marketing gained ground, and with it, privacy concerns grew. Invasion of privacy, and spamming complaints, led to the 2002 European Union Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications and 2003 U.S. CANSPAM Act. Facing potential fines of up to $15K USD per individual recipient violation, marketers are influenced to change their e-mail ″batch-and-blast″ behaviors by more conscientiously focusing on respect (opt-in, opt-out, e-mail preferences), relevance (right content for right audience at right time) and relationship (placing customer buying journey at center of campaign strategy).
- Commercial marketing automation software initially introduced by Unica (now part of IBM) in 1992, took its initial step toward mainstream use with the market entry of Aprimo (now part of Teradata) in 1998 and Eloqua (now part of Oracle) in 1999.
- 2003 — The term ″enterprise marketing management″ (EMM) became widely recognized with the publication of the book, Enterprise Marketing Management: The New Science of Marketing by Sutton and Klein.
- 2004 — The idea of combining process, metrics and technology into marketing practice was introduced in the book, The New Marketing Mission: How Process, Metrics and Technology Can Unleash Growth by Hastings, Wade, Duggal, Saperstein.
Formal creation of MO
- Analyst firm International Data Corporation identified the rise of the Marketing Operations function in its annual Tech Marketing Benchmarks study.
- The first article citing Marketing Operations was published by Gary Katz in MarketingProfs: Marketing Operations: Solving Marketing′s Seven Deadly Sins.
- Marketing Performance emerged as a hot topic with the publication of the book, High Performance Marketing: Bringing Method to the Madness of Marketing.
- The Digital Asset Management and Marketing Operations Management Symposium, organized by Henry Stewart Events, was held in Los Angeles and included a Marketing Operations Management track, created by Beth Weesner, Endaf Kerfoot and Kieron Osmotherly, and chaired by Gary Katz. It was repeated in the fall of 2006.
- A standing-room-only crowd in Silicon Valley attended the Marketing Operations: How It Will Transform Marketing Forever roundtable, organized by Adrian C. Ott, chair of the Harvard Business School Association of Northern California. Panelists from Symantec, Cisco and BEA described best practices and how it worked in their organizations.
- The first marketing operations consultancy was established, Marketing Operations Partners, by Gary Katz.
- The first professional association focused on advancing practitioners and the field of Marketing Operations, the Marketing Operations Cross-Company Alliance (MOCCA), was established by Larissa DeCarlo of Hyperion, Chris Ewert of Adobe, and Mikel Irizar and Damon Moss of Symantec.
- The first framework formally defining Marketing Operations was described by Adrian C. Ott as 5 Ts that support all of the marketing functions: total strategy, techniques and processes, tracking and predictive modeling, technology, and talent. It was published for The Silicon Valley American Marketing Association's Thought Leadership publishing contest: " The 5Ts of Marketing Operations. This work was based on the 2006 HBS Northern California roundtable and her work in Silicon Valley. Later that year, the 5T framework was published to a wider audience in Marketingprofs where the framework has been subsequently published in several marketing books and adapted into marketing operations models and university classes.
- The first benchmarking study, Journey to Marketing Operations Maturity, was published by Marketing Operations Partners and became the framework for marketing operations practice at many companies, including Walmart.
- The Marketing Operations Efficiency & Effectiveness Conference was held in New York by Henry Stewart Events, with the Marketing Operations track chaired by Gary Katz. The same organization and chair held a similar event in Los Angeles, called the Marketing Operations Symposium, which was repeated in New York in May 2008.
- The first training course on Marketing Operations was conducted in Hong Kong by Gary Katz, who drove creation of the first conference focusing on the profession of Marketing Operations, The Marketing Operations Symposium, held by Henry Stewart Conferences and Events.
- The first university-level course on Marketing Operations was introduced by Gary Katz at University of California—Santa Cruz (UCSC) Extension in Santa Clara, California.
- Marketing Operations, in the context of Marketing Resource Management practice, was introduced for the first time in a book by Jansen and Riemersma, Marketing Resource Management: The Noble Art of Getting Things Done in Marketing. Efficiently.
- Marketing Operations as a strategic concept was featured for the first time as a chapter in a book, Marketing 2.0: Bridging the Gap between Seller and Buyer through Social Media Marketing by Borges.
- Marketing Operations was featured as an essential enabler of Marketing Performance Measurement in the book, Marketing Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization by Patterson.
- International Data Corporation cited Marketing Operations at the fastest-growing profession in Marketing and the fourth most-staffed function of Marketing in large corporations.
- Marketing Operations was credited as ″The Marketing Technology Department″ by research firm Sirius Decisions.
- The blog MarketingGovernance.com was established to extend the influence and impact of the Marketing organization through the strategic practice of Marketing Operations.
2012 — The Marketing Operations Cross-Company Alliance established its annual Executive Forum.
2013 — The Marketing Operations Executive Summit was launched. Marketing Operations was cited as essential to establishing a Revenue Marketing Center of Excellence in the book, The Rise of the Revenue Marketer: An Executive Playbook by Qaqish.
2014 — A new conference, the Marketing Operations & Technology Summit represented the field more broadly than automation/analytics/metrics by others to-date, to include career path, capability-building, organizational agility, customer experience, and cross-organizational collaboration.
- "Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2015) - Chief Marketing Technologist". Chief Marketing Technologist. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
- "The 100 Year History Lesson On Marketing Operations and MarTech". www.bizible.com. Retrieved 2016-01-05.