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Nailing the Basics of Marketing Operations

Posted April 27, 2022
Tim Fitzpatrick

Including Marketing Operations in the Conversation

Tim Fitzpatrick is a Marketing Coach and Consultant at Rialto Marketing. Tim fell into marketing by joining a company his father started, and soon after, he fell in love with marketing. He then took a detour into real estate before coming back and starting his own firm.
For Tim, marketing is fun, dynamic, and always changing. But he’s noticed that marketers and marketing operations professionals don’t always work together effectively. Despite the high amounts of empathy and understanding marketers have for customers, their internal communication with marketing operations is often not up to par. People fall through the cracks and get left out of important conversations. “Whether it’s a small company or a large company, the problems are still the same. The problems, frankly, become much worse with a larger company, because there’s so many more moving pieces. “Marketing Operations isn’t typically included in foundational conversations. I think they should be. I think marketing and sales can become very disconnected at times. I think it’s easy for that to happen, but if we’re going to be successful, we all need to be on the same page and we all need to be talking.artandscienceinmarketing “So if we’re not including everybody–like marketing operations or sales–in these strategic marketing conversations, we’re only getting a small part of the puzzle. We’re not getting all the pieces. We need to create a cohesive and solid strategy. “This reminds me of what somebody once told me from an operational standpoint in regards to thinking about making a decision as an executive for your business. The first person you need to bring into that decision is the person that your decision is going to directly impact day in, day out. “As executives, I think it’s so easy for us to forget that we really need to bring marketing operations in–not only so that we make the right decision, but also so that we have their buy-in. In a smaller company, if I’m ordering a copier–and I did this all the time when I was in my distribution business–I’m not using the copier all day. There’s plenty of other people that are. I need to get them involved and ask, ‘Hey, what are the problems with our current copier? What do we need? Guide me through this process. I need to make the final decision, but I need your input in order to make a good decision.’” Remember to include the people who are impacted directly by the decisions being made. This approach helps business leaders include stakeholders that may otherwise feel excluded or ignored. And, when it comes down to it, they’re often the ones affected most by the decisions in the first place. Asking questions allows everyone’s input to be valued and heard.

Marketing Operations Should Be Empowered to Ask the Right Questions

Thinking ahead and anticipating issues is a large part of marketing operations. But sometimes it’s hard to ask the right questions, especially when it comes to uncovering the bigger picture. “Marketing operations may be a little hesitant to ask the questions that they feel they need answered to make a decision. And when that happens and there’s a problem, they get blamed. They shouldn’t, but they do. They’re the scapegoat. “If I was in a marketing operations position, I would want to be asking these questions, one, so that I could do a better job and be more effective; and two, just to head some of these things off at the pass. If the executives that you’re working for care, they will take the time. Especially when you explain, ‘Look, I can’t be as effective as I possibly can without understanding some of the higher level strategy behind what I’m doing.’ “Some of the things that come to mind for me–and this obviously is going to depend on the specific campaign or project that you’re working on–but let’s just take it from a level standpoint. At first I want to understand, what’s the target market? Who are the ideal clients that we intend to attract with this? “Everything from a marketing standpoint starts with your target market and your ideal client profile. You can’t create messaging or get in front of the people you intend to attract until you first know who the heck they are. Then I would want to dig into, what are the goals for this particular project? What does success look like? “What’s the overall plan? Why are we doing this specific project? How does this specific project or channel support the overall plan?” Next time you feel overwhelmed by the questions coming from your marketing operations team, remember that they’re just trying to understand the greater impact your actions will have on overall company (and marketing) health. “Now that I know the information I need, what are the important metrics for us to track to determine whether this is successful or not? There’s so many different metrics.thegameoftelephone“It’s mind-boggling. Look, I was a math major. I can get analytical. I love the numbers, but a lot of the numbers marketing uses don’t really mean a whole lot unless they are converting people into new customers. Leads that turn into customers. That’s really what it all boils down to.” In marketing, it’s easy to get lost in data. “I run into a lot of people who have been investing in marketing that say, ‘We’re doing all this stuff, but we don’t really know what’s working and what’s not.’ And in my mind, the reason that happens is because you’re not tracking anything at all or you’re not tracking the right metrics. “The definition of a lead for one company may be totally different for another. We really need to define what threshold a lead needs to meet before they get handed over to sales. “To be an effective market operations person, you have to understand what that typical buyer journey is and your company’s entry level offer. You have to understand all of that in order to do your job effectively. Without it, you’re flying.” When you can see the bigger picture–how the journey impacts the buyers–it’s easier to measure and track success. Start somewhere, and don’t be afraid to keep it on the simple side.

Keep It Simple.

“It is very easy for us to overcomplicate things. It’s much more difficult to boil the data down into its simplest form. “The more complex we make a sequence of campaigns, the harder it is to diagnose where the issues are. And frankly, it makes it harder to implement effectively. So if I’m in marketing operations and I’m being told, ‘Hey, this is the path and this is what we want to do,’ I’m going to be looking for every way that I can make the campaign as simple as possible. “If you can’t give leadership the results because it’s so damn complex, it will make you look bad. In that case, complexity is serving no one. I would always default to too simple rather than complex. Some of the most successful people I have seen in marketing keep things incredibly simple.” When in doubt, simplify it.

Be Open to Marketing Operations’ Feedback

As marketing operations professionals know all too well, it’s easy to be made out as the bad guy. We’ve heard it all. Killer of marketing’s dreams. The gatekeeper of campaigns. The process troll. We know processes, metrics, and systems all matter. But how can we convince the rest of the marketing department to care? “I don’t know if we can necessarily motivate anyone to change their perception, but I think we need to communicate why we’re asking. For example, ‘I’m not asking you to do this just because I want to create busy work. I’m asking about this because I want this to be successful.’ If we’re working for a company, we, as part of a team, want to be successful. “When I was in distribution–when I was the first full-time employee–I had visibility into everything. As we grew, my visibility into certain things became less and less and less. As executives, we don’t have visibility into everything we need, and we rely on people who have their feet on the street or a better pulse on what’s happening. “We, as leaders, have to be open to feedback. And to the marketing operations professionals who act as the feet on the street, we need to communicate the importance of feedback. When somebody corrects me, I will say, “Oh my gosh, thank you. I thought it was this way. The last time I saw this, it was this way. Now you’re telling me it’s different. I appreciate that. Because that information now is something that we can use to point our strategy in the right direction.’ Make your voice heard and tell people why you’re asking a lot of questions. “As marketing operations people, I don’t think we should be afraid to voice what we need to. You need to let people know when something looks off even if you may not be able to impact the actual decision. The end decision may not be up to you. But I don’t think you’re doing your job if you don’t voice your concerns and share the information that the entire team needs to make decisions. “If you put it out there and they make a decision, well you can’t do anything about that. But at least you can say, ‘Hey, I told you about X. Here was why we brought it up. You made the decision to go down this path. And that’s okay. It wasn’t my decision to make. I was simply trying to communicate the information I’m aware of that I think is gonna be valuable for you to make the best decision moving forward.’”

Don’t Skip the Basics of Marketing Operations

You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times before: “Nail the basics.” However, we repeat the mantra because we run into issues because corners get cut. Sometimes, it might feel easier to not speak up when someone is trying to take a shortcut, but there are consequences to staying silent. “When we skip the basics, we waste time and money. That’s the bottom line. “Now, from a marketing operations person standpoint, if I’m getting blamed for some of the things that are happening, that’s a problem for me in my career.Honestly, I think there’s a far greater risk not voicing your concerns or talking about the information that you have than there is keeping your mouth shut.NailingtheBasics“If you keep your mouth shut, maybe it’s easy at the time, but it’s going to come back to haunt you. If something you touched doesn’t work, you may be the one who gets blamed, even if it’s not your fault.” People have expressed lately that making decisions by gut is “good enough” in marketing. Tim says there are times when we need to rely on data. “If you’re tracking the right metrics, the metrics don’t lead you astray. They are what they are. However, the data is only as good as the input. “But you must rely on metrics to make certain decisions. When it comes to marketing, I think there are people who are very good at following their gut, but the tactics that work in marketing change all the time. We need to outline the metrics that we’re gonna track that will help inform our decisions. Otherwise we’re just guessing. We’re throwing spaghetti up against a wall, hoping something’s going to stick. And that’s not a good long term strategy.”
For more guidance on the dynamic between marketing and marketing operations, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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