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How Marketing Ops Can (and Should) Be Seen as a Strategic Partner

Posted January 29, 2020
Scott Merselis

Building Business Acumen in a Marketing Operations Role

Business acumen is crucial for any marketer, regardless of their area of expertise. Being able to know the business, speak about it, and make strategic decisions to grow it is something that can bring visibility to marketing operations teams and truly make them stand out.
As marketing operations, how do you take what is sometimes technical in nature or in-the-weeds, and translate it into something that contributes to the growth of the business? As an established and successful Marketing Operations Manager, Scott has a few pieces of advice when looking to build your build business acumen.   First, don’t sugarcoat things, and keep it true — and definitely don’t spin things just so they look good to your executives. People will start to get skeptical of data over time if they continue seeing the same thing or result every time. What shows a lot of courage in a boardroom or with executives, albeit it sometimes challenging, is being able to say, “let’s deliver the truth, even if we’re wrong, and even if we failed.” Admitting that you know you may have failed takes courage, and knowing and communicating how you’re going to change it takes skill.
If you can say, “Here’s reality. Here’s what we should do. And here’s how to do it.” consistently and accurately, that’s the business acumen you need to have. The simple fact of the matter is, you’re going to get more respect if you hold your ground, are fearless, and don’t take no for an answer.
You have the answers. You were hired for a reason. Be steadfast in that.

Marketing Ops is Not Just Email (or Tech) Management

The marketing ops function may have started as mainly email or technology management, but those days are behind us.

And while marketing ops is and always will be centered around the technology that supports marketing, more and more Marketing Ops contributors are taking a scientific approach to marketing these days, and moving into a more strategic role in the business (which is where business acumen plays an important role).

Being in the weeds all day is not necessarily a bad thing, and there’s plenty of need for that. Some marketing ops people live for that! But today, marketing ops is being tasked with thinking about the business strategically, and tying data and results back to the success of the business.

Not just sending emails all day.

In Scott’s eyes, marketing ops should be more about answering the question, “where is the business going?”. Then, owning the reporting and revenue operations that support the answer to that question.

“That’s really what I enjoy is saying, ‘how do we come up with the answer? How do we predict a decision? How do we say we’re going to spend X amount of dollars and the outcome’s going to be that?'”

At Businessolver, revenue operations is focused mainly on aligning marketing and sales. With marketing on one hand delivering leads, and sales on the other hand receiving and working them, the RevOps team supports both by leading the charge of developing a true 360° view of the customer.

Process Documentation First, Technology Second

Far too often, teams jump to buying technology because they think it will fill a gap or fix a problem.  Since marketing operations can be a fairly reactionary role (i.e. “we know this is wrong — how do we fix it?”) it’s easy to look to technology or tools that may be the fix. But without first understanding where the gap is coming from, it’s difficult to confidently know that the technology will actually solve the issue. Building processes and documentation first is crucial. This way, teams will be able to review the process and look for any breakdowns that might be causing the problem.
“It’s about getting back to the basics — are we doing the right things? Are we following the right processes every time?”
Once you’ve determined the right processes (and more importantly, that you’re following them), then you can bring in technology that supports your business goals, KPIs, and what you’re trying to achieve. Otherwise, you end up with a big mess of tools that a) you may not understand how to use, b) you may not understand the purpose of, and c) may or may not get you where you need to go.  Remember — technology is not always a silver bullet.

Why Marketing Ops Thrives Off of Diverse Backgrounds

Diverse backgrounds are more welcome than anything in marketing ops. A good business and a good leadership team will understand that diverse backgrounds bring with them diverse thoughts, which push innovation. Since marketing ops is relatively new, it’s still a bit theoretical in nature, so it attracts people with diverse backgrounds that want to push their limits of creativity. Whether it be someone with a background in business or data science, marketing ops roles continue to grow and evolve as a function. Remember: marketing ops isn’t just about the tech, or knowing how to use it. It’s about the business.  People with diverse backgrounds are able to say “what does the business need?”, and bring that diverse background to look at it from a different perspective. Further, if they have the talent, skill, and resources to say, “okay, now here’s the process to get us there,” well, then, they’ve got all the fuel they need to be successful.

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