Marketing Operations often starts out in an organization at a tactical level: overseeing a technology deployment, analyzing data, measuring activities, coordinating suppliers and partners. It's natural to look around and think about whether you'll always be stuck in the weeds.
In actuality, the primary value of the Marketing Operations field is indeed strategic, not tactical. Like everything, there are necessary tactical dimensions to it, but in most companies the strategic value of Marketing Operations is only just beginning to be tapped into. This year you can make great strides in positioning the Marketing Operations role as a strategic necessity, as you help build strategic capabilities among the whole Marketing organization.
"Strategic" simply means something is directly aimed at achieving what a whole organization, system, or venture depends upon. It's high-level, out of the weeds, steering the ship, future-oriented, and widely empowering.
Here are 5 ways Marketing Operations can become strategic.
It's all about connecting: goals, people, metrics, processes, and data.
1. Connect to Enterprise Goals
Context is the mantra for making something strategic. When everyone sees a clear connection between what you're doing and what the enterprise wants to become you'll be viewed as adding strategic value.
Take a look at your corporation's strategic objectives and find a way to articulate the connection between each thing Marketing is doing toward them. If you find it a bit difficult for any Marketing endeavor, that's probably a sign that things are becoming tangential rather than value-adding, at least from the viewpoint of key stakeholders who hold Marketing's purse strings. Keep the strategic connection front-and-center for everyone so they'll rise to the occasion in that strategic context.
2. Connect People
People will always be the source of innovation and productivity, and people working in silos is not strategic, especially when silo work outputs are mis-matched, duplicated, reinvent the wheel, or get scrapped.
Take a look at who's doing what, keep your ear to the ground for opportunities to introduce people to each other, and help them find simple ways to coordinate and collaborate together. It will always be easier and more successful when you suggest people connections in the context of striving for enterprise goals as common ground and shared vision.
3. Connect Metrics
Metrics shape perceptions and behaviors, so they're powerful toward helping the enterprise become what it wants to become — or not. One of the most overlooked opportunities to get more strategic value from your metrics is to connect them across a Marketing process.
Take a look at a Marketing area that's closely tied to enterprise goals, and dissect what that Marketing area does: tracking outputs might be obvious, but how about tracking the inputs that area relies upon? And what about the early warning signals that tell you whether that area is on-course or in danger of veering off course? Connect those metrics from inputs to warning signals to process outputs to market performance, and you've got a strategic machine that’s eye-opening and empowering to doers and stakeholders alike.
4. Connect Processes
Processes that are well-designed and connected can free-up resources, improve work-flow, and keep everyone accountable to one another. Broken processes cause lots of waste: precious time and budget, patience, lost opportunities, turnover, blind spots, and so forth. Silo processes face the same risks.
Take a look at everything Marketing does as a flow, and see what epiphanies emerge. For example, the Market Research function's outputs may provide important inputs to the Demand Gen function’s processes, which may provide important inputs into Sales processes, which may provide important inputs to the Market Research function. Not everything is circular, but a lot of things could probably have more connectivity and flow than your current processes are allowing. Connect processes within each functional area, and between functional areas, and you'll find new ways to create strategic value.
5. Connect Data
Data spells power when it's connected to paint compelling pictures, to see insightful patterns, and to show connections between X, Y and Z. In and of itself, any data point may be useful, but when you connect data, the value can become exponential.
Take a look at various sources of similar data and see what emerges when you connect disparate sources to see more angles on the data. Take a look around the company at other functional areas that may have data that could augment yours. For example, design teams often collect certain types of customer data, and the branding teams collects related customer data: why not share across groups? There's a treasure trove of strategic direction to be gained by busting data silos.
Yes, busting silos is an awesome path toward making Marketing Operations strategic. It will propel others' perceptions of you as being strategic more quickly than anything else, short of being crowned champion of a strategic initiative per se. Silo-busting in the ways described above is something you can do without waiting for a formal decree.
Make it your goal in 2015 to connect goals, people, metrics, processes or data, and you'll likely find your Marketing Operations career path taking on a whole new meaning for you and the entire Marketing organization. Making Marketing Operations strategic is an adventure you'll enjoy, and you'll find it to be instrumental to both the enterprise's future and your own career.