A complete guide to marketing operations

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July 17, 2020

Team collaborating on operations management

What powers a strong marketing team? You can have boundless creativity in your campaigns and content, exceptionally talented people and a healthy budget and still be missing a key to success.

To enable long-term sustainable growth in your marketing team, having strong marketing operations is essential. And without it, you're at risk of hitting major roadblocks.

But what really is marketing operations? And how can your team get it right? Here's our comprehensive guide to help you understand the ins and outs of marketing operations management.

 

What is marketing operations?

Marketing operations (also called marketing ops) is how a marketing team is run. It consists of the processes, technology, data and people that power a marketing strategy. It's the "getting things done" work behind the scenes that keeps campaigns on track and optimizes a marketing team's performance over time.

In smaller teams, marketing operations is often handled by the Marketing Manager, but many larger teams have a designated Marketing Operations Manager.

A Marketing Operations Manager will:

  • Have technical oversight of the marketing stack and evaluate new systems, oversee implementation and training, and maintain proper use of marketing apps.
  • Establish, maintain and scale processes for marketing campaigns, lead management and team performance.
  • Implement and optimize reports on marketing and sales performance, efficiency and impact in line with the company's overall goals.
  • Analyze marketing and sales data to develop insights and make recommendations on areas for optimization throughout the entire pipeline.
  • Monitor and maintain data quality within the marketing database and the bridge to sales, often in parallel with a Sales Operations Manager.

 

Building your marketing operations strategy

There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach for marketing operations. How you choose to do marketing operations management depends on the size of your organization, your business model and the industry you serve.

All businesses will need to consider the core components of effective marketing and priming these for success, however. These include:

  • Processes
  • Technology
  • Data
  • People

For a larger corporation, these components are all still important, but the bigger the company, the more complex the operations. There's more data to handle, more processes to refine and often a more comprehensive tech stack.

Whether an organization is big or small, there are also some traits that all good marketing operations strategies have. Let's dig into those now.

 

What great marketing operations strategies have in common

For your marketing operations strategy to create the most impact, it needs to be built with these key ingredients for success:

  1. Reliable marketing apps that your team loves using
  2. Processes that enable your team to do their best work
  3. Budget management and tracking
  4. Clean, up-to-date data that's integrated between apps
  5. Clear training and documentation of all apps and workflows
  6. Strong alignment with sales processes, data, technology and people
  7. Solid reporting processes that deliver valuable insights
  8. Having the right people in the right role

Here's how to implement these best practices for effective marketing ops in your organization and pave the way for the highest marketing performance.


1. Reliable marketing apps that your team loves using

A marketing stack that works for your team is a pivotal part of managing your marketing operations. This usually includes platforms or an all-in-one marketing system for:

  • CRM
  • Marketing automation
  • Email marketing
  • Analytics and reporting
  • Project management
  • Communication

Getting your marketing stack right fast-tracks the success of your team, so it's really worth the time and effort to research and implement the best apps for your team.

Now, this doesn't mean maxing out your budget on the most expensive shiny platforms on the market. What matters is choosing the best-fit apps: those that enable your team to do their best work faster, more efficiently and with more enjoyment.

With SaaS comparison sites like G2 Crowd and Crozdesk to help you find the best software, it's easier than ever to create a huge marketing impact on a budget.

 

2. Processes that enable your team to do their best work

To get the best results from the marketing apps you use, you need clear processes in place. These include processes for:

  • Manual workflows your team follows to work effectively and collaboratively, such as creating a new blog post or preparing a marketing campaign.
  • Automated workflows that work behind the scenes to streamline repetitive tasks and carry out processes based on if-this-then-that rules.

These processes should be clearly documented to make it easy for anyone to adhere to them, especially if they're new to the team.

As part of effective marketing operations management, regularly look for opportunities to automate workflows.

When done well, automation enables:

  • Greater personalization and segmentation
  • More timely outreach to prospects
  • Time and cost savings for your team

Every quarter or so, it's worth asking yourself and your team where you are wasting time and which processes and tasks you can automate for more effective marketing ops.

 

3. Budget management and tracking

It's not always the most exciting part of marketing, but everything hinges on effective budget management. Your team can't do everything at once, and nor can you afford to overspend on campaigns or hire too fast.

As a core part of your marketing ops, you need a budget plan that supports your current priorities and enables your team to reach their goals most effectively.

This includes budget allocation for:

  • Software
  • Freelancers
  • Onboarding costs
  • Advertising spend
  • Additional campaign costs
  • Team development and education
  • Event attendance and hosting

To help you with your budget planning, CoSchedule offers some useful tips for building an effective marketing budget. Spend management apps like Spendesk can also help you stay on track of team expenses.

 

4. Clean, up-to-date and integrated data

One of the most important steps to perfect your marketing ops is understanding your marketing data, where it's managed, and how it communicates with other apps.

To organize your data and harness its potential in your marketing campaigns, you need to look closely at each app and identify:

  • The data you are collecting in each app
  • How this data should interact with other apps

By looking at both your overall marketing stack and the individual apps inside it, you can decide how best to sync your tools to enrich the data in each app.

A good way to do this is to sync customer data two ways between your marketing apps to ensure that every app contains the most accurate, comprehensive and reliable information.

However, before syncing data between your marketing apps, make sure that the data is clean and up-to-date.

An effective data clean-up includes fixing or removing:

  • Duplicate contacts
  • Wrong or fake email addresses
  • Contacts who don't want to hear from you
  • Other emails that have hard-bounced

 

5. Clear training and documentation for all apps and workflows

When overseeing marketing operations, one of your core priorities is to ensure that everyone else can follow the right processes. You can't expect this to magically happen: it requires clear training, documentation and frequent communication.

Some teams use a wiki or a tool like Notion to store all information and how-to guides for team members to follow best practices and find answers to their questions. Here's an example of how the presentation app Pitch uses Notion, with user-friendly sections for topics such as 'Marketing Roadmap' and 'Q1 Goals':

Pitch marketing team documentation using Notion

 

In your team's knowledge base, you can include:

  • How to use your marketing apps
  • Data management best practices
  • Details of automated workflows
  • Brand guidelines
  • Content style guide
  • FAQs for reporting and KPIs
  • Housekeeping information for budget and HR processes

 

6. Strong alignment with sales processes, data, technology and people

One important truth of marketing operations is that it isn't just about marketing. It's essential to create strong alignment with the other teams in your organization.

A key part of any Marketing Operations Manager's job is to maintain collaborative processes and data integration with the most important ally of all: sales.

For the strongest alignment with sales, your operations strategy should eliminate silos and include:

  • Regular meetings between sales and marketing to keep both sides up-to-date and working collaboratively.
  • Integrated sales and marketing software stacks that sync relevant data in both directions.
  • Shared reporting dashboards that transparently show the performance of sales, marketing, and the bridge between them.

 

7. Solid reporting processes that deliver valuable insights

Marketing ops is essentially about enabling everything else in your marketing team to run smoothly. It sets the foundations for campaigns to attract the most attention, messages to resonate with a contact at the perfect time, and lead generation to scale.

As KPIs increase throughout your team, it's important to have an easy way to visualize your marketing impact. Remember that the best marketing reporting is:

  • Easily accessible on any device
  • Transparent
  • Accurate
  • Always up-to-date

The simplest way to achieve this is with a cloud-based dashboard that is updated automatically and enables anyone in your organization to see your marketing impact.

With reporting tools like Google Data Studio and Supermetrics, you can integrate your performance data from all marketing apps and channels for centralized reporting in one place.

 

8. Having the right people in the right role

Even though marketing operations can seem to be mostly about data, tools and processes, it's also about people.

Without the right people in the right roles, your marketing strategy cannot succeed – even with everything else perfectly calibrated.

After all, you can't automate creativity, messages that resonate, and 1-1 human contact.

As you refine your marketing operations strategy, keep thinking about how to get the best people in the right roles and how to keep them there, too. This requires building a strong team culture that enables every team member to thrive in their roles according to their own definition of success.


How to measure the effectiveness of your marketing operations

Remember the four core pillars of strong marketing operations: technology, data, processes and people.

By setting the groundwork for these four pillars to work together effectively and with frequent optimization, you can prime your marketing team for the highest performance.

Here are some simple metrics to check if your marketing team has strong operations:

  • Your campaigns are launched on time and on budget
  • You have processes in place to help you hit your KPIs
  • You are using powerful and reliable apps
  • Your team is happy and employee retention is high
  • Your data is accurate and reliable
  • You have clear reporting workflows in place

For a quick boost to your marketing ops that also delivers long-term impact, get started with PieSync to sync your apps. By enabling data to flow two ways between your marketing apps and across other areas of your organization, your marketing operations has the best data framework to work on.

About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.