Marketing Operations and Operational Process blog series
Series introduction: Marketing Operations is a complex mixture of people, processes, and technology all working together to prove - and improve - the value of marketing to your company, your customer, and your employees. While the technology and people components of this “Marketing Operations Triangle” get a lot of attention, Operational Process deserves much more focus as a driver of value. In this blog series, we’ll be giving it the attention it so richly deserves.
I’ve been a Director of Marketing Operations for a couple of organizations, and currently hold the role for a global software provider. As someone who’s worked in Marketing Operations (primarily centered around Marketing Automation Platforms) for the last decade, I notice that when people think about Marketing Operations, they generally frame it narrowly around technology and more specifically, Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs). But Marketing Operations goes far beyond the MAP, so it needs to have an effective way to manage all the projects within a marketing organization.
Campaigns, content assets, and templates all live in many different places. Keeping track and coordinating all of those different pieces, pulling in people and processes - all while keeping the human element firmly in mind - is what holistic project management is all about.
Getting it right enables the creativity that got so many marketers interested in marketing in the first place. You need enthusiastic, open-minded creatives involved, but you also need an effective workflow, operational processes that are optimized, and obviously your martech (including your MAP). That’s why it’s so important to me to get Marketing Operations and all of marketing to move towards this holistic project management concept, which I’ll describe below.
Start with the end in mind, and think holistically
We don't want to start developing a project “just” by looking at the outcomes we seek to deliver at the end. Holistic project management isn’t just about asking “how many email opens do we want to get?” Or “how many deals do we want to close?” It's essential to consider the human element:
- Which marketers will be working on this project, and what are their strengths and capabilities?
- What will the workload and workflows of these marketers look like?
- What will they test or experiment with and how will we measure how those experiments went?
You need to see the whole project experience from beginning to end, including the people and the other project enablers such as technology and process.
When I think about holistic project management driven by Marketing Operations within marketing, a few key considerations come to mind:
- Productivity is an obvious one, so what will the project’s output and impact be and what will success look like?
- Resource management asks how much time marketers are spending on tasks and what tasks they’re prioritizing. For example, since the pandemic began I’ve seen a huge increase in meetings. I'd like to see us revert back to a reduced number of meetings, with marketers doing more of the actual work.
- Reporting and measuring, with the goal of optimizing and improving everything we do.
Doing the right things, instead of everything
Marketing Operations and other members of the marketing team need to say “no” and need to prioritize what’s driving real business impact. You really can have too many ideas floating around and have too much going on at the same time, which diminishes focus and quality. The antidote? Having visibility into people’s workloads and having capacity planning within the marketing function. That’s super important for preventing marketer burnout, prioritizing the work that adds the most value, and enabling more creativity.
Marketing must be able to say “here's what we're recommending and here's why in terms of alignment to business outcomes, goals, objectives, etc”. – and connect that purpose to who's available and when, and how they execute the work in a way that’s sustainable for people. That might sound “fuzzy” but it’s absolutely mission-critical for proving and improving the value of marketing.
Change management: mindsets matter
The “mindset” part is really important for holistic project management. Yes, we need the right tools, processes, and workflows, but marketing enablement also includes collecting feedback from all marketers to know what they need from Marketing Operations in terms of enablement - training, tools, dashboards and whatever else.
Having a change management process driven by Marketing Operations within Marketing means showing people what the change will look like and continuously communicating the benefits of moving towards a new way of thinking and a new way of doing things.
- We know that most people are resistant to change;
- Other people may automatically embrace any change;
- And still others prefer to take a “wait-and-see, I won’t stick my neck out” approach.
As Marketing Operations professionals, we have to help the whole of marketing (and beyond) see the benefits of being process-oriented, of understanding how to prioritize and improve how they spend their time.
One thing I do as a Marketing Operations leader that’s really helpful is participate in the change initiative myself, so I’m not talking from an outsider perspective. You can then say, “I applied the new process or workflow and here are my thoughts, does anyone have suggestions for improvement?” That humanizes the conversation and helps people be more open about sharing feedback.
Holistic project management means bringing the human back into how we improve operational processes. People often have amazing ideas that they’re hesitant to share, and we need to uncover that lost value.
Personas for understanding your marketers
In marketing, we have buyer personas that help inform how we position and message our products and services to different types of buyers. For Marketing Operations to be effective, we have to think about marketer personas - the ways in which marketers prefer to be communicated with and/or engaged with us.
You can’t talk to a change resistant marketer who’s been around the block for 20 years the same way you’d talk to a young marketer who just finished school and embraces all forms of change. The resistant person might have gone through dozens of change initiatives over the years with mixed degrees of success. The young marketer who embraces change may also be blind to some of the potential challenges or obstacles ahead. They have different wants, needs, and experiences. You may need to adjust what you say and how you say it, as well as how you listen, depending on the marketer persona.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to build and/or optimize holistic project management to benefit your organization, contact us today.