As marketing departments grapple with reduced staffing levels and budgets, efficiency of the department’s operations becomes ever more critical to delivering against its objectives. This is where having a dedicated Marketing Operations function can help.
Marketing Operations, as defined here, is the infrastructure that supports the marketing department's ability to plan, execute and measure marketing activities. It involves the management of marketing technology, data, processes, people and budget. The Marketing Ops team serves as the hub to the spokes of all other marketing disciplines. It is the foundation of marketing execution, positioned to effectively prioritize and activate projects and budget at a strategic level.
From a marketer’s “I have an idea for a campaign” through briefing, channel recommendations, strategy and budget approval, vendor management, creative execution, operational and performance measurement, and retrospectives that feed learnings back throughout the campaign workflow, Marketing Operations is there at every step ensuring efficient execution and effective output.
What Makes an Ideal Marketing Operations Team?
The unique value proposition of the dedicated Marketing Operations function is that it is central, neutral, specialized, and accountable for continuous improvement of the organization – and, as such, delivers ROI and savings to the business.
In the hub-and-spokes model, Marketing Operations, sometimes referred to as MOPS, is the central hub to which all spokes connect. In activity planning and execution, specialists from across the marketing ecosystem – brand marketing, product marketing, performance marketing, channels, creative, media, creative, e-commerce, tactical execution, procurement – come through MOPS to communicate their requirements and to access the information others have provided. MOPS provides visibility and transparency to the information, ensuring that it is complete, accurate, and accessible.
The optimal placement for MOPS in a typical marketing organization is with the most senior leader of the function reporting directly to the CMO (or highest ranking marketing executive). Having a seat at the senior leadership table with other functional heads put MOPS in an unbiased position in the marketing department – neutral like Switzerland. Prioritization of human and financial resources at a strategic level becomes possible because MOPS has a view of everything that is being requested and being worked on in the org, and a mandate to do what is right for the business overall. In a recent Cella survey, 84% of marketers who responded cited balancing competing request priorities as one of their biggest challenges. A dedicated MOPS team well-positioned in the org is a key part of the solution.
A dedicated MOPS team is exactly that – dedicated only to MOPS ownership areas. It is composed of operational experts who specialize in tools, process, budget management, project management. It’s their day job! MOPS specialization in operations means that they do the worrying so that other specialists can focus on their own work. Marketers can spend more time marketing, not worrying about creating processes for aligning cross-functionally. Creatives can spend more time creating, not worrying about how to prioritize the work in their queue. Finance partners have a single source of truth to ensure accurate forecasts back to the business.
MOPS and Continuous Improvement
Placing the accountability for continuous improvement of the marketing org squarely in a dedicated MOPS function means, well, that it will actually get done – and that the improvements will be meaningful. A MOPS team should be responsible for continually and methodically reassessing and improving processes, policies, operational performance, data collection, reporting practices and optimizing how past learnings are being applied to improving future states. This isn’t to say that other marketing functions don’t have responsibility for improving their own performance, but their expertise is in a marketing discipline, not operations. Operations expertise is operations, not simply an aspect of all marketing disciplines. MOPS works collaboratively with other departments to identify improvement opportunities, set priorities and roadmaps, and drive and track progress.
The Return on Investment
A dedicated MOPS team can deliver positive return on investment and even savings to the bottom line. Time and money are saved when processes and workflows are clear and efficient. Faster turnaround times and increased productivity are achieved when the right tools for the work are implemented well. Improved performance results from data-driven decision-making at both the operational and campaign/asset levels. MOPS supports both levels with data and reporting. Campaign outcomes are improved when cross-functional collaboration and alignment are happening – and they are happening at the right times upstream. MOPS drives and supports those discussions by its place as the hub to the spokes.
Finally, a dedicated MOPS team not only supports the teams’ ability to deliver efficiently and effectively today, but it is responsible for looking forward and helping to future-proof the department for what is next on the horizon. Whether it’s new channels, tactics, technologies, automations, partnerships, measurement strategies, or wholly new approaches to work (ie., Agile), MOPS is peeking around the corner on behalf of the marketing department and laying the groundwork.
If your marketing department has experienced reductions in force or budget, or has a need to do more and better with less, consider making an investment in a dedicated Marketing Operations function. You, and your business, will be pleased with the ROI.
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