Marketing Operations Hiring Practices
Hiring for marketing operations is one of the hardest things a company can do right now. And with such a nebulous job description, it’s hard to know what the marketing operations profession really is. Add in a varied team structure, and things are even more confusing.
But it doesn’t have to be. Marketing operations is the backbone of all marketing, from digital to trade shows and print. They help you streamline processes, run your marketing automation tools, and align with sales and the greater RevOps infrastructure at your company.
Coming from a strong agency background, Garrett has years of experience in marketing operations. With certifications and great connections, he made the transition from full-time work to freelancing, where he’s hit the ground running.
But, that wasn’t always the case. Garrett spent enough time navigating the marketing operations talent landscape to learn a thing or two, especially when it comes to what hiring managers need to avoid in this hot, fast-moving talent marketplace.
“I think one of my biggest takeaways is that just a few weeks ago, I got a reply back from some in-house job that I applied for in December and interviewed in January. And it was like, yeah, thanks but no thanks. We’re moving at a faster pace than that now. We can’t go that slowly in a sense.
“What I felt though during the interview processes themselves, you almost have to have somebody in the room that has that marketing operations background knowledge, and I’ve worked for a ton of brilliant VPs of marketing, Directors of Marketing folks. But, like most of them will admit, they’re not the most tech savvy.
“Maybe they’ve never used a marking automation tool hands on. They don’t come from a marketing operations background like ourselves, so a lot of it was just a solo leadership level position, and that’s great, but we’re not really asking the right questions to get the most out of. Is this person really qualified? Can they help me return this investment, if I’m gonna hire a full-time marketing operations person versus just trying to put a more junior person in house or take it external freelance.”
But, what do you do when you don’t have marketing operations in-house? How do you ask the right technical questions? It’s simple—hire a contractor for a few hours to come in and vet your candidates’ marketing operations chops.
“I would say on 8 out of 10 interviews, 80%, there was not somebody there to even ask the right questions from a technical perspective. Hire somebody off Upwork for three hours of their time. If you were doing three interviews, you can ask questions about scenarios specific to various areas of competencies when hiring prospective candidates. It can be as simple as ‘do you know what a V look up and pivot table is in Excel’, or it can be as complicated as like, okay, well, ‘why would you never want to put a company placeholder in the company field?’ And obviously because that’s gonna show company placeholder and the default value you try to overwrite it with won’t show, cuz you put placeholder in there.
“There’s different scenarios I like to ask and it’s super important to be a good fit with the company. You have to tie it into what demand generation, lead generation is, all that’s driving revenue, all that good stuff. But it ultimately came down to me as this person ultimately is very good at what they do, but you know they’re not asking me the right questions and why that concerns me is like, if this is gonna be my perspective boss, are we gonna end up in a place where, you know I’m dilly dallying my thumbs, and we’re not moving things forward. or am I gonna move up in a place where we have disagreements because there may be a misunderstanding of the tech and what’s needed and how long things take.
“To have somebody there vetting out those types of scenarios, asking the right questions, and even hearing how that person’s talking about whatever it may be, dynamic content or, ask ’em about define this, define that it’s easier than we make it out to be. We just don’t do it. We don’t ask the right questions.”
The entire interview shouldn’t be technical, though. Your marketing operations team is going to be doing more than just handling technical work. They’re there to support your entire marketing function, so a lot of that comes down to finding the right fit, too. So don’t forget to sell the position as well.
“It can’t just be an interrogation if you will, of does this person know? If they feel interrogated or you’re talking through this long project or multi-step project they’re doing on the weekend, they’re still trying to work with interviewing you. So I think it’s a fine balance for sure, but it’s like a feeling in your stomach, that this person at least knows their core stuff and then you can build up from there. We don’t need to know all the different attribution models and all the real complicated stuff, but we do need to know the core and build from there.”
It’s also good to ask questions to see how a prospective candidate does with problem solving and requirement gathering. Are they going to be able to ask the right questions once they’re a part of your team, or are they going to need to be steered in the right direction constantly?
Marketing Operations Careers & Certifications
There are a lot of marketing certifications out there, and many people who have them. But sometimes, there just hasn’t been enough work behind the scenes to make their skill sets truly provable. People can cheat on certificates, speed through courses, and rush through without thinking about the consequences.
So at the end of the day, being a strong marketing operations professional relies on having a holistic understanding of problem solving, marketing automation familiarity, and being able to learn the tech stack.
“You really need to understand what you’re clicking and what you’re building. And I know that comes over time. And in regard to the certifications, I was actually well into the agency life before I was certified in anything, to be honest, and doing it well. I had a boss who said, ‘being certified doesn’t mean you know the respective tool, to be honest.’
“It’s difficult because when somebody waves a piece of paper and gets in there and then you realize, if I’m literally telling you step by step what to do and you’re not reaching out, even being a good Googler is a pro trait, but reaching out on slack channels, communities, asking the right people the right questions – this is what marketing operations is to its core.
“Take away all the technology you need to know. That’s really what it is, because there’s gonna be something new every day and the technology’s gonna change. There’s gonna be Q1 updates and summer updates. So you gotta adapt to it and be that type of person.
“I described it as being the tenacious one, but don’t sit around and wait for something to happen. Don’t sit around and wait for a project manager to come to you and tell you to do X, Y, Z. That’s not gonna be a recipe for success. Forget about that role in that position, but your personal success, you know, if you want to do marketing operations in the long run.
“In regard to having the certifications again, I do have all myself, but it’s about, again, knowing that core knowledge. Now the MarTech stack, the sales tech stack, it’s exploded. You couldn’t possibly get certified in everything and keep up with all certifications all the time.
“But what you can do is know the core basics, there’s gonna be across Pardot, HubSpot, Marketo. There’s a lot of similarities. There’s certainly differences in nuances. There are different companies. But you know, do you know how to build list logic and do you understand fields and custom fields and do you understand field types, making sure that’s selected, do you know where to look for Salesforce syncers, if it’s connected to the Salesforce, and you know, that’d be different, but you know, how do you handle those syncers, maybe the same in terms of the processes you put in place to actually block them in the future, once you find them and clean ’em up.
“Across the board, let’s just take a project lead scoring attribution, a database cleanup, all the tools needed, but how do you handle those types of projects? And that has nothing to do with the certification or a specific tool. We gotta create an agenda or even an outline, there’s audit workbooks per se. But you know, documentation is probably super understated with how important it is. If you can document it well and then reuse it in the future, you’re saving yourself a lot of time and favors. Now it has to be obvious when you go back and use it, but when you have that core, okay, I can handle this line of projects.
“Here are my long term projects, here’s probably my medium term wins. And then like here’s quick wins and you can get that from an audit. You can get a person to say and look at it like, not from a tool perspective, but what is wrong with their marketing automation or what is wrong with their sales process? Do you understand what the funnel is? Is the lead routing appropriate? We’re talking about all that really higher level stuff and then how they’re running it.
“You’re not gonna have two clients really with the same tech stack. It’s all about understanding sales sequences, it goes on and on in terms of what you can teach yourself really. Find somebody in the respective field to teach you. But it’s about knowing those core concepts and you’ll pick up the tool. It’s just software. If you know logic or statements, your field types, it may be slightly different how to do it, but that’s what you need to do and know those core concepts.”
Reputation Matters for Career Paths in Marketing Operations
Reputation is everything in marketing operations. But it’s easier said than done to get buy-in from your marketing team and leadership. What marketing operators really want is to be trusted and heard, treated like the subject matter experts they have worked hard to become.
“I’m not asking VPs and CMOs much, they have a ton going on. But I am asking them to trust me, trust my opinion. I’m not the person particularly, nor are a lot of marketing operations people, to just say something unless you really think we should do it this way, because it’s the best way to do it. If there’s a person on the other end saying well no, I think we should do it this way, and the reason is they just think it’s the best, there’s a big difference. You don’t know whether the technology is going to cause problems down the line, building the model in this way, whatever it is.
“Trust that person, if you’re going to hire them, especially for a full-time role. You need to trust them. Having control over a marketing operations professional, they don’t like it — especially if they know what they’re doing.
“We’re kind of a unique bunch, because we know what we’re doing. We’ve been through the bumps to get here, in the sense that we’ve all made mistakes that have made us better, especially in the beginning of our careers.
“So when you have somebody, I totally respect the boss-employee relationship. You obviously need to be respectful but if it comes to a point where the person higher up on a marketing level isn’t respecting your opinion on a weekly basis, over and over again, or there’s things said like, ‘I’m higher than you and this is the way we do it,’ something like that.
“Marketing operations has become more respected over time, and it’s only going up in terms of that nature, in terms of respect rankings. I think it’s the reason why we’re in the hiring situation we are, but its important to let your marketing operations professional do what they do best.
“If you don’t hear from the marketing operations person, that means things are probably doing pretty well. When they start pinging you a lot, that means probably, things are happening that are crashing or causing issues. But trust that person, because I think what’s happening now is marketing operations professionals know they can go elsewhere. And they know they can even go freelance if they really wanted to. There’s tons of positions and the demand outweighs the supply.”
Loop Marketing Operations Into a Project Early On
“Would you rather have that person, especially in the beginning to say, hey this isn’t going to work—we have to do this. We have to bring a zap in here or whatever it is. But by the time it gets to you, it’s just like, okay, build this out. And it’s like well, we didn’t really go through these prerequisites together, did we?
“In the beginning, just pull the marketing operations person aside and get them 30 minutes to ask questions with the client and a few other key stakeholders, that’s all.”
When you trust in your marketing operations team, your organization will benefit from their strategic know-how of all the logistical sides of your campaign. By including marketing operations professionals early on in conversations about campaigns, you set yourself up for success.
Hiring for marketing operations is such a difficult task that Garrett has launched his own business aimed at training and building up marketing operations teams, so you can move away from costly agency engagements and hiring headaches. To learn more about Poppy’s Tech Aid and how they can help your marketing operations team, visit their website.
As for Garrett, you can connect with him on LinkedIn.
For more about marketing operations hiring practices, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.