2021 Marketing Operations Report: How MOPS helps organizations navigate change

June 18, 2021 Chuck Leddy

Our 2021 MOPS Report clearly shows that companies with a defined MOPs unit are better at navigating change and implementing new initiatives than organizations that lack a defined MOPS function. Whether change arrives in the form of a global pandemic, digital transformation, or evolving customer behaviors/expectations, having a defined MOPS function enables an organization to effectively pivot when needed. This post, part of a multi-post series that digs into the details of our 2021 Marketing Operations Report, explores how MOPS can help future-proof any organization by enabling agility when it comes to people, processes, and technology.

MOPS: Enabling faster learning cycles

Marketing operations is a multidimensional function encompassing data management, lead generation, technology optimization, performance measurement, and more. At its most basic, MOPS is about helping organizations optimize their marketing. MOPS requires an “optimization mindset” that’s willing to develop hypotheses and experiments, monitor the results, analyze lessons learned, apply those lessons, and keep on moving forward based on what performance data is showing.

MOPS isn’t just an infrastructure of processes and technologies, but also a facilitator of continuous learning. The feedback loop that MOPS provides is the best tool for adapting to change. During the global COVID-19 pandemic, for example, organizations with a defined MOPS function proved to be much more adaptable and significantly outperformed their peers because they were willing and able to pivot their marketing approaches based on rapidly-shifting market demands.

MOPS: Ideas aren’t enough

It’s great when B2B marketers have new ideas, but ideas by themselves are not sufficient. Organizations also need the capacity to test, monitor results, analyze performance data and transform data into actionable insights, report key metrics, and connect ideas and actions to actual revenues. MOPS enables all of those capabilities, giving organizations the foundation for agility and change-readiness.

As Sojourn Solutions managing director Rebecca Le Grange explains it: “MOPS enables organizations to fine tune marketing in order to support change rather than starting from scratch every time customer behavior or expectations change. MOPS is about improving processes and measuring results.” MOPS gives your organization a laboratory to experiment and test ideas.

Data as fuel for change

Organizations that have faster cycles of experimentation and learning are simply better at adapting. Decades ago, marketing campaigns would be launched with a “big idea” in mind, but performance metrics could take a full year to arrive. You’d make a big bet, investing massive budgets on campaign execution, and then wait months (or a full year) to see the results. And, yes, you could tweak the next campaign based on what you’d learned in a prior (failed) campaign, but the cost was losing the big bet you’d placed a year ago. Meanwhile, the market kept moving and changing -- by the time you’d learned your “big lesson,” customers had already changed and moved on, so the lessons you’d learned at great expense were learned too late.

MOPS enables the opposite of this older approach: it allows marketers to test ideas at smaller scale and “fail small” when it comes to results and budgets. Campaign approaches can be tested in rapid cycles, data can be collected immediately, analysis can happen within days or weeks (not months and years), and less budget can be allocated to approaches that don’t work. Marketers can discard, scale up or tweak more ideas in a shorter time frame. Failing small allows marketers to constantly pivot based on what the data is showing, moving constantly towards better. Marketing within a MOPS framework is like using a GPS when you drive, guiding you where to go.

As the 2021 MOPS Report explains, data is key to finding your way amidst change: “[s]tandardized approaches to data . . .make companies better able to cope with change. In 2020, existing trends in the B2B buying process accelerated. Executives described unusual rates of digital adoption, increased customer churn as well as unfamiliar behaviors from existing customers.” Despite these challenges, organizations with a defined MOPS function simply iterated and pivoted their way to better results, while organizations without a MOPS function had to guess, rely on hunches, and hope for the best. 

Having a lab available for testing, as MOPS provides, leads to better results. “Marketing organizations with an operations group were in a superior position because they were better able to rapidly test new solutions,” says the Report, “they were 50% more likely than their peers to say their organization is very strong at building experiments to test insights in the field.”

Organizational alignment and change management

Big changes that impact customers don’t just happen in one area of the business, but typically encompass multiple areas such as marketing, sales, IT, customer success, and beyond. MOPS enables the building of those key internal, interdepartmental relationships in order to drive change.

MOPS “acts as a conduit and translator with other departments, such as helping to align sales with the integration of CRM and insights tools. This [MOPS] function can be vital to ensuring broad support of initiatives both before and after their implementation,” says the Report. Whenever change initiatives happen, MOPS is there to offer a standard approach, a workable framework for testing, and a structured approach to building key relationships across all relevant departments. Do these capabilities help change happen more effectively? The 2021 MOPS Report answers a resounding “yes.”

MOPS develops the roadmap for change

Among the multiple roles of MOPS professionals is helping organizations anticipate change and develop a roadmap for getting from here to there. MOPS is on top of technology trends and how those trends align with the organization’s strategic goals. The technology roadmap that MOPS helps build isn’t about buying “cool” technology but about finding the right technology to serve an organization’s larger strategic goals.

The pace of change in business technology and customer behavior has never been faster than today. As the Report makes clear: the role of MOPS is “to track and analyze the innovation in technology trends with business goals and the technology roadmap for context and to maintain an ongoing conversation with IT partners about what’s necessary today and what’s emerging for the future.” Developing change-readiness is a big part of the MOPS function.

To learn more, download and read the full 2021 MOPS Report. 

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