Saturday, November 04, 2006

What is Marketing Operations?

Denise Peck, Vice President of Marketing Operations at Cisco, was interviewed by Women in Consulting, a non profit organization in 2005. The topic of the interview is Marketing Operations. You can find the interview here. It's a really good substantive discussion of MO from the perspective of someone who lives it.

I guess the first question is, "what is marketing operations?" I think the best way to approach this question is to start from the perspective of a traditional manufacturing company. In a manufacturing company, operations is responsible for analysis of processes, automation, quality control, and understanding how different actions result in outcomes. Operations people tend to be engineers, statisticians, or operations research scientists.

In a marketing group, MO does basically the same things. In a nutshell, MO is responsible for:

1. ROI and causality analysis
2. Systems and automation
3. Data storage, retrieval, cleansing and reporting
4. Process and analysis and redesign
5. (Sometimes) budget allocation and financial reporting

The question that always comes up is where MO starts and the roles of more "traditional" marketers begin. For example, a campaign manager might have created a great process for launching and tracking email campaigns. Where does MO come in? In my opinion, good marketing operations people:

1. Gather and filter best practices from around the company
2. Codify those best practices and communicate them out as policy, preferrably codified inside tools
3. Measure adherance to marketing processes

The danger with a role like this is that it can be perceived as overly bureaucratic. The way to get around this is with a focus on results tracking. This is such a huge issue for marketers today that anyone who can come in and truly prove incrementality by vehicle is going to an MVP in the organization.

I'd estimate that today about half of F500 companies have designated marketing operations departments inside marketers, with the other half distributing these functions across other groups. However, the trend is going towards defined MO departments, particularly in B2B companies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you've got the analytic, scientific, left-brained part of Marketing Operations equation covered, Andy, and that is certainly sexy to data-driven executives running technology and other types of companies. But there's a lot more to MO than numbers, bits and bytes.

Fundamentally, MO is both a COO and change management process within the marketing department. Technology, process and metrics are vitally important. But so is raising the stature and influence of marketing to a more strategic role, aligning with stakeholders both in and outside marketing, and winning buy-in for marketing initiatives (which should be funded in support of enterprise straegic objectives).

Just like there are a only handful of CEOs that can effectively balance technological depth with vision, business savvy and leadership, there are very few technologists who can successfully lead an MO function. If you find one, more power to you. But let's not forget that there are plenty of effective MO pros who can lead technologists that aren't technologist themselves. They might come with deep experience in one or a combination of the following disciplines: lead management, sales enablement, channel marketing, change management, knowledge management, organization development, customer experience management, strategic planning, research, project management, process design, campaign management, measurement, analytics, product management, and, of course, corporate marketing. This list is certainly not exhaustive.

The sexy stuff like technology specification, dashboard development and metrics definition is certainly not easy. Infrastructure never is. But the real challenge is building an ecosystem of support so you deploy the right technology for the organization, make better decisions that are backed by stakeholder buy-in and resources, and continously learn as a team from your experience so the MO of marketing in your organization is constantly adapting to capitalize on the opportunities in the market (while never losing the unique and genuine essence of that whch makes your enterprise different.

Gary Katz, CEO, Marketing Operations Partners