Employees in marketing operations roles can have a variety of titles, including marketing operations specialists, marketing operations analysts and marketing operations strategists. Though, no matter their title, they have a very important role within your organization.
What is Marketing Operations?
Marketing operations is everything that happens in your marketing automation and CRM platforms to enable the delivery of the right message at the right time to people who are interested in your products and services.
Marketing operations lives behind the scenes. While marketing operations specialists aren’t sending the email, they’re making sure it’s sent to the right person. While they’re not guiding someone through the sales funnel themselves, they’re ensuring that that process happens as smoothly as possible. While they aren’t customer facing, marketing operations specialists are ensuring that the members of the marketing team who are interacting with prospects are poised for success.
Without marketing operations, it becomes much more difficult to target the right clients, ensure your team understands which buyer’s stage a prospect is in and group prospects into different personas. If you don’t have marketing operations happening, marketing becomes a very manual process, and it’s almost impossible to scale.
Marketing operations involves three essential steps: system creation, quality assurance and optimization.
One of the main responsibilities of marketing operations is qualifying leads so your marketing team can effectively hand them off to sales, specifically the sales operations team. This is accomplished through lead building and management, which is the primary purpose of system creation.
Once a prospect enters your business, you want them nurtured and routed properly to ease each transition in the sales process. For marketing operations specialists, this means first segmenting contacts into similar sets of individuals that care about the same things. Then, they group them into personas and determine which stage of the customer lifecycle prospects are in.
To determine which stage contacts should be classified as, marketing operations specialists need to know the desired outcomes of their team. They should meet with key stakeholders to determine what a lifecycle designation means for everyone involved and what information will be necessary for team members to do their jobs.
For instance, a marketing operations specialist would want to meet with members of the sales team to discuss what constitutes a sales qualified lead (SQL) and what information sales will need to progress SQLs through the sales process.
Information gathered from key stakeholders, though, is unlikely to present clearly defined metrics that will help place prospects. Marketing operations must break down this high-level information into usable pieces of data that can define the necessary properties of a lifecycle stage.
Basically, coordinating executives’ desires with raw, accessible information, marketing operations specialists should add substance to otherwise vague data, making it usable for front-end team members. For instance, if an executive says they want to work with “large corporations,” marketing operations needs to further define this by determining what exact employee threshold “large” designates.
Once the system is built, marketing operations checks on its output. Is the system accomplishing what it was designed to? Are there areas that need improvement? In working through these steps, marketing operations continues to optimize its processes, making everything more efficient.
Quality Assurance (QA)
One way to ensure efficiency is through Quality Assurance (QA). Marketing operations specialists receive feedback from their team members about what is and isn’t working, and they proceed to fix the system based on the feedback.
For instance, a marketer on the team might realize they sent an email to an improper contact because the contact was mischaracterized in the system. It is marketing operation’s job to troubleshoot, determining if the contact was included based on a one-off scenario or a deeper issue that needs resolution across the board. From there, they should proceed to correct the problem.
A marketing operations specialist should always be aware of how the system is working. They should optimize constantly, asking how they can make things flow better the next time the system is used.
A core aspect of optimization is setting up feedback loops. Of course, as they are refining the system, marketing operations specialists should be cognizant of any issues that may arise in terms of QA. A good way to stay on top of these issues is with a ticket system where users can fill out a “ticket” with feedback about a problem they noticed.
Sometimes, the issues are not related to the functionality of the system but are a result of how marketers are using the system. So, to properly optimize, marketing operations specialists need to educate marketers on how to use different software.
Reporting is another feedback loop. It allows marketing operations specialists to dig into what happened over past periods that could inform future functionality of the system. In seeing and diagnosing issues from the past, specialists can better prepare for the future.
It is noteworthy that marketing operations specialists diagnose issues, but they are not always responsible for fixing them. For instance, when analyzing the sales funnel, marketing operations might realize the MQL-to-SQL conversion rate is lower than it was previously. In troubleshooting the issue, they could notice a number of things that are positively or negatively affecting the conversion rate.
Maybe your marketing team was leveraging content at a specific stage in the funnel and fueling conversions as a result, but now they are no longer using that content. In discovering this, marketing operations could reach out to suggest that the team should start using the content again or produce more usable content in that area. In this way, marketing operations can create action items for the rest of your marketing team.
Overall, marketing operations can optimize marketing efforts by increasing adaptability, scalability, timeliness, transparency and accountability.
Marketing operations involves gathering information from key stakeholders, simplifying that information into usable chunks, creating systems and, once those systems are in place, doing ongoing QA and optimization to ensure everything is performing as it is designed.
Most marketing operations systems are built to qualify contacts so they can be handed off to the sales team. Here at New Breed, we heavily invest in this marketing-to-sales handoff. The more unified marketing and sales are in your business, the smoother the transition of contacts down the sales funnel will be. For a better-optimized business, marketing and sales should be connected. Marketing operations bridges that gap.
Guido is Head of Product and Growth Strategy for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.