01 Get On the Hook for Analytics
It’s easy to get panicked by an enormous backlog and spend your days on system improvement and process. However, Darrell noticed that taking responsibility for crucial reports naturally led to more strategic thinking and, eventually, the ear of the executive team.
“I always recommend that people try to get into the habit of practicing strategic and critical thinking. The first thing that came to mind when building that muscle was getting on the hook for reporting and analytics.”
Darrell recommended that marketing operations provide key reports for marketing leadership or (ideally) the broader business for monthly business reviews and quarterly business reviews. Building budget and revenue plans are an excellent way to participate in meetings with finance, which opens the door to conversations marketing operations otherwise wouldn’t be privy to.
“When you become accountable for reports, you automatically get into a more visible position. You get exposed to business leaders and the key business problems. You start to naturally learn more strategic thinking almost through osmosis by just being part of those meetings. They start to ask the real hard questions, and I think it wakes you up to what’s important.”
Without understanding business goals or problems the business faces, it’s challenging to prioritize or think through what can be done to solve issues.
“Let’s say you’re working on an ebook, and then you sit down with leadership, and they say, ‘Hey, we have to move the needle by 6% this quarter, or we’re going to have to make layoffs.’
“It can really shake you. We have to hone in on what’s important to make an impact versus what we have been doing willy nilly.”
With a deep understanding of data comes power or, at the very least, knowledge.
“When you’re involved in these reporting meetings, and when you’re delivering the reports, you naturally get asked what we can do about a problem. What are we going to do about these issues? How can we, how can we solve this?”
You don’t need to have an immediate answer (stalling for more time is better than making an assumption). Still, good operations professionals will learn to anticipate the questions and get a jump start on the research needed to answer future questions. You’ll also learn to guide the conversation to keep everyone focused on the most critical issues.
We all know people who are distracted by inconsistent formatting or an MQL fluctuation of three units. That formatting makes your reports look professional, which, like it or not, gives you more credibility.
Don’t give them a reason to focus on anything other than the relevant insights. Participate and offer your observations. You’ll be the only person in the room familiar with the data you are presenting. If you have a knack, you’ll soon be viewed as a valuable consultant to the business.
02 Listen & Align With Leadership
“One of the mistakes that operations folks can make is creating their own roadmap. A priority list is important. However, you must have alignment and buy-in from the different departments. It needs to come from your leadership at first and then from cross-functional teams—especially sales, CS, sales ops, and lead management groups. In the worst cases, some teams may even go completely rogue. They work on things that might be important operationally but provide very little value to what’s important to the business today.”
A great example of this is a company with the objective of keeping expenses down. The business already has a sizable market share, and most of its additional revenue is coming from existing customers.
If marketing operations isn’t aware of this, spending a great deal of time on old prospect data or implementing top-of-funnel paid advertising will be viewed as a waste of time. Leadership is going to wonder why marketing operations didn’t get the memo.
“There are so many different kinds of problems. You want to make sure that you’re working on the most important one.”
Being informed is a two-way street. If your business team leader doesn’t communicate the key priorities for the business unit, they aren’t setting up their team for success. Sometimes this is an innocent oversight or under communication. Sometimes it’s a little more intentional, and operations needs to almost elbow its way to a seat at the table.
“I think this is getting better now, but leaders have to understand and respect the value that operations brings. Sometimes we’re the last invited to the party. Leadership tells sales what to do, tells the marketing specialist the mission, and then, suddenly, marketing operations is getting a bunch of stuff thrown at them, and they have no idea why or how it’s all related. And that’s completely wrong. If you invest in operations and you strategically use operations, it can be a big differentiator because a lot of companies don’t.”
This problem can often be solved by setting a recurring meeting with your marketing leader at the beginning of the business day. It may be worth coming in earlier if your CMO is an early bird. Catching them before their ten-hour streak of meetings means you get their full attention before they get pulled in different directions later in the day.
If they don’t want to tell you marketing’s key objectives, that’s a different story.
This isn’t to say executive leadership should be aware of everything marketing operations does or micromanage the team.
“Everyone should be empowered to make decisions based on their expertise and based on the scenario. For example, I should make decisions around achieving better database health or better operational excellence within MarTech. I’m talking about top-level alignment on goals and how each team supports those goals, whether directly or indirectly.
“As marketing operations people, we have to advocate for ourselves. We have to do the internal selling of our value and the results of our work. We also have to commit ourselves to be strategic and business partners versus just operational people.”
03 Get Good at Translating
“In operations, you have to learn how to communicate the more technical terms and know what’s day-to-day for us in operations may not be broadly known. You’ll need to speak to these in terms of the practical business impact and in terms that leaders in other departments will understand.”
It is critical for us in marketing operations to speak the same language as the leadership team. If we’re talking about productivity to a CEO, they expect to talk about revenue or units moved. Not lead volume. Using business terms in the wrong context impacts your credibility with finance, the CEO, and other members of the company.
Learning how to align with the most critical initiatives and establishing a solid business case for projects that highlight how your projects align with those initiatives will go a long way in reducing pushback from your leaders and the broader organization.
“The way that we do that at Amazon is through what we call narratives. They’re business reports highlighting the business justification and provide background information, risks, and opportunities. So it’s like a mini-SWAT analysis that everyone reads and then meets to ask questions about.
“Business reports forced me to think about my audience and providing the information relevant to the issue so that other stakeholders can contribute or at least understand where we’re coming from and how we need their support to help get there. For example, often, leaders don’t know why database health is essential. Duplicates and missing data don’t seem like a big deal. But it matters when it comes to segmentation, personalization, entering new markets, or account-based marketing. Leadership wants to do all of those things, and it’s our job to help them understand that a healthy database is necessary to do them well.
“Great marketing is predicated on having good data.”
Another benefit to forming business reports is that it forces people to look at what other people do all day. “It encourages empathy. What kind of shared goals do we have that can help them see my perspective? You can’t just go around telling people that they need to fall in line. I don’t think you’re going to get very far with that attitude.”
For more great advice on advancing your career in marketing, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.