The MarketingSherpa website has published ‘5 Steps to Better Marketing Operations‘ (restricted access). It discusses the rise of Marketing Operations (MO), a field which is trying to formalise and quantify marketing, and something that I was introduced to at JD Edwards in the early 2000s. MO arose as a response to the executive view that marketing was not measurable and therefore not manageable.
The steps are:
#1. Establish a formal MO function
This means that MO is not a one-person job, and should have its own budget. It also mentions not making “the mistake of expecting immediate ROI … research shows that investments in an MO function should be viewed as a long-term investment and requires a three- to seven-year payback.”
#2. Broaden the MO scope
In order to be effective, broaden the scope of MO to cover not only the marketing department’s activities, but also interactions with the entire company.
Best practice firms included the following nine areas in their MO efforts:
o Process improvement
o Marketing IT
o Budget and finance
o Marketing intelligence, including research and analysis
o Socialization and communications within the organization to get buy-in for MO activities
o Stakeholder alignment
o Sales alignment
In addition, best practice companies also included dashboards and scorecards in their MO functions.
#3. Align MO goals with the biggest marketing challenges
o Measuring marketing ROI and demonstrating value
o Balancing marketing strategy and tactics
o Creating common goals for marketing success tied with other groups
Some companies using MO mentioned that they “practice marketing accountability (setting specific commitments, tracking and adjusting performance)” to measure and demonstrate ROI. Others said they use MO “to balance big-picture, strategic planning with day-to-day marketing execution decisions.” MO was also used to make better use of “other groups in the company who have a stake in marketing decisions.”
#4. Get buy-in from senior management and outside departments
o Integration with the sales organization to tie sales objectives with MO goals
o MO personnel having an early role with business units for product development ideas
#5. Conduct regular reviews to improve MO functions
Typical topics covered in these reviews are:
o Annual or quarterly marketing planning
o Budgeting and resource allocation
o Creative issues and brainstorming
o Education and team development
o Marketing portfolio investment evaluation
o Operations optimization
If you have never experienced MO, reading the above sounds like more marketing speak. It is definitely for larger organisations and you usually have to go through the stages of marketing accountability. At JDE, it required quite a culture in marketing to get us started, but that was the post-Y2K and -9/11 era, and marketers realised it was needed to help us survive in our jobs.
Many companies are going to find getting MO systems difficult, in the same way that HR managers struggle to justify investment in HR systems. Also, marketers are traditionally not a measurement-bound group of people, unlike sales, and therefore are likely to resist. Furthermore, few marketing managers will have a clear idea what measures to employ.
I’m not sure how many recent marketing-oriented graduates from SA universities have had the exposure to this new type of system, and whether it is generally taught at universities yet.