By Mirko Holzer
Today's CMOs are overwhelmed by an endless stream of budgetary, resource, and turnaround pressures. To manage all these competing pressures, CMOs can no longer rely on tired marketing tools that aren't designed to deliver the scale and orchestration required to meet the challenges of the digital age.
Instead, CMOs are increasingly looking to their marketing operations tools and teams for answers. Marketing ops is a powerhouse group of professionals in charge of all the technological infrastructure, data, and processes that enable their organizations to run effectively and optimize their marketing ROI.
In fact, according to "The 2021 State of Marketing Operations," a new, independent research study produced by Dimensional Research and commissioned by BrandMaker, 62 percent of CMOs want their organizations to spend more time on marketing operations. That means marketing operations is now a higher priority than brand-building (41 percent), campaign management (35 percent), and pipeline and lead management (26 percent). Even more revealing is that 73 percent of marketing leaders say that marketing operations is the No. 1 priority for their organizations, ahead even of marketing strategy (55 percent).
But why exactly are senior marketers leaning into marketing operations? For starters, marketing ops is increasingly the engine that powers all other marketing efforts. It is the difference between marketing organizations that can quickly and smoothly respond to marketplace challenges and opportunities, and those that cannot.
This kind of agility is a must for enterprise marketing teams that need to think differently, react quickly, and execute campaigns flawlessly to succeed in today's fast-changing business landscape.
Marketing Ops Takes Center Stage
It's fair to say that marketing operations is no longer the backwater of the marketing department. It is taking a central role in the intelligence, development, and management of the marketing function. This wasn't always the case. In the not-too-distant past, marketing ops was overlooked and under-appreciated. It was where recent college grads were stuck to prove themselves in the marketing department. It wasn't where CMOs were spending any of their time.
But increasingly complex market conditions, global operations, and sudden disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic now demand that marketers be able to respond to new realities at a moment's notice. And that's putting marketing operations at the forefront because it is the key to agility, collaboration, and customer focus.
The BrandMaker study revealed, however, that a staggering 94 percent of marketing executives believe that inefficient marketing operations is preventing them from effectively responding to ever-shifting market environments. Specifically, 39 percent of marketing executives say that inadequate technology is hampering their efforts to transform marketing operations.
Going a level deeper, 33 percent of CMOs and marketing leaders say that their teams struggle to integrate information from across the organization into meaningful insights to aid decision-making. Additionally, 34 percent report that a lack of access to real-time budget visibility clouds their ability to redirect budget to where it is needed to effect change. Meanwhile, 28 percent of respondents find it difficult to adjust campaigns for optimal global impact. And 29 percent say their current processes are inflexible, which impedes collaboration and quick decision-making.
The Impact of Ineffective Marketing Ops
These days, CMOs have come to recognize ineffective marketing operations can impact the business in dramatic ways. It can lead to missed opportunities for seasonal or other time-specific programs. It can make it extremely difficult to adequately shift resources and respond to market changes. It can slow the pace of critical content creation due to time-intensive review processes. And it can make it difficult to track information and gain a comprehensive view of a brand's performance.
That's why 99 percent of marketing executives want to see their marketing operations improve, according to the BrandMaker research study. The biggest area of improvement, cited by 51 percent of respondents, was better integration of marketing technology stacks to gain visibility and control across standalone systems. Campaign management was another area of improvement, with 46 percent of marketing leaders citing the need to easily deploy and adjust campaigns in response to market feedback and changes. Yet another improvement highlighted by 25 percent of respondents was the removal of data silos to enable speed-to-information and ROI.
Hiring a Marketing Ops Dream Team
One surefire way to improve marketing operations is by bringing on board team members who have the technical and analytical skills needed to take a systematic and measured approach to managing and optimizing operations. For the most part, marketing execs are quick to point out that marketing operations is not their forte, with only 38 percent saying in the BrandMaker research report that it was their core strength.
This underscores the need to hire team members who can thrive in a marketing operations role, but what do these people look like?
Compared to traditional marketing team members, 42 percent of marketing execs said individuals working in marketing ops were more logical and less emotional, and 42 percent said that they were more likely to want a structured management style. However, 24 percent of respondents admitted that these roles are harder to hire because the skills needed are not typical of most marketing positions.
An Integrated Approach to Marketing Ops
Another great way to improve marketing operations is by implementing a single, integrated platform to optimize and automate the end-to-end marketing value chain. Such a platform can bring much-needed collaboration, visibility, and agility to marketing ops, as well as the ability to manage, measure, and continually improve marketing ROI. Additionally, a single, unifying platform addresses the complexity of marketing organizations by removing silos and providing friction-free orchestration.
As the industry strives to move forward from an unprecedented period of disruption and uncertainty, the underlying challenges of optimizing performance in increasingly complex organizations will remain constant. Organizations that think bigger about the role and benefits of a strong marketing operations structure and function will be better equipped to embrace agility and face the future with confidence.
About Author: Mirko Holzer is the CEO of BrandMaker, a partner in the ANA Thought Leadership Program.