There’s a phrase that gotten a lot more popular among marketers in recent years: marketing operations.
With more ways to reach audiences online, marketers are juggling more channels than ever.
Shiny object syndrome, lots of different marketing tools, growing teams... All of these things contribute to confusion around where things are located and who’s doing what.
Marketing operations aims to solve these common struggles with better tools and processes. This guide shows you exactly how to improve your marketing ops with specifical, tactical strategies you can implement right away.
What’s in this guide:
- What is marketing operations?
- Marketing operations versus marketing management
- Marketing operations jobs and responsibilities
- How marketing ops interacts with other marketing roles
- 3 marketing operations software to try
- 7 ways to immediately improve your marketing ops
What is marketing operations?
Marketing operations involve improving collaboration workflows, overseeing production, controlling costs, planning resource allocation, and reporting results. Marketing ops professionals possess not only management skills, but also technical abilities that allow them to analyze tech stacks for improvement.
In any department or industry, operations management includes planning, overseeing, and cost control.
A marketing ops professional might work with inbound, outbound, or product marketers. In large companies, there will be at least one marketing operations person for each team.
For example, a marketing ops specialist assigned to the inbound team will help streamline content production, speed up workflows, reduce unnecessary manual work, prioritize channels and content formats, and make sure that content is moving along as it should. This person might also pull analytics from multiple strategists and content creators to report to the VP of marketing or CMO with comprehensive stats from that team.
Marketing operations vs. marketing management
If you’re curious about the difference between marketing operations and marketing management, here it is: ops pros tend to have more responsibility when it comes to choosing and rolling out software, solving problems, and reporting on results.
Meanwhile, managerial-only jobs are more likely to focus on moving production forward in already-existing systems, but not necessarily on validating and improving those systems.
So, while marketing operations have management responsibilities, this field also elevates the manager's role towards even more decision-making and procedural change. What’s more, a marketing ops expert is expected to be much more technical. They’re comfortable setting up omnichannel customer journeys in HubSpot and Marketo. On the otherhand, a manager might oversee the content creation for these journeys, but they might not be comfortable with the technical setup.
Marketing operations jobs and responsibilities
A LinkedIn job search for marketing operations yields over 11,000 results in the US alone.
By analyzing some of these postings, we can see that the most common responsibilities include:
- Own the technology stack
- Report on programs and campaigns
- Work with RevOps for GTM alignment
- Ensure proper routing of leads
- Ensure accurate attribution
- Streamline publication of content across channels
- Improve audience segmentation
- Integrate and analyze data sources
Most marketing operations specialists are expected to have at least 3 years of experience, to be analytical thinkers, and to love diving into data.
What do marketing ops professionals make?
According to ZipRecruiter, marketing operations specialists make an average of $64,772 per year. Only 5%of employees with this title earn $91,500 - $98,000. However, people with the title of marketing operations manager earn an average of $85,624 per year, with 9% earning $109,000 - $120,499. A marketing operations specialist might work under a marketing operations manager, or they might be a more junior hire in a company without other marketing ops employees.
How marketing ops interacts with other marketing roles
For best results, marketing ops professionals should offer support, rather than serve as top-down, authoritative managers. Marketing ops people regularly interact with strategists, creatives, and other subject matter experts. For that reason, they should consider these collaborators’ opinions when making decisions.
Serving as a supporter and orchestrator, a marketing operations professional should align collaborators’ work to the go-to-market strategy. And, they should discover what pain points these collaborators are having so they can resolve them. The marketing ops person will also integrate all of this work and data to create cohesive, and targeted campaigns.
When done right, a marketing ops employee should make others on the team feel greatful that the technical and procedural work is taken care of, so they can focus on what they do best. Ultimately, this role should enable and empower others, and unlock productivity across the team.
3 marketing operations software to try
Marketing operations software pulls in collaborators into one central platform. This helps improve transparency and efficiency.
Here are 3 different marketing operations platforms to consider. All of these tools can be used together. StoryChief can help you publish and promote content faster, ClickUp can help you manage non-content related marketing, and Aprimo can help you automate customer experiences using all of the content and assets that you have.
StoryChief is a content operations software that speeds up content marketing workflows. It offers features for briefing, assignments, content calendar management, reviewing and commenting, approval workflows, publication, and promotion. StoryChief can distribute one piece of content across multiple platforms and promotion strategies, including CMS publication, social media, email newsletters, and employee advocacy channels.
And with a simple, enjoyable UX, it also cuts out distraction and overwhelm so content teams can get more done. With all content collaborators in one place, there’s a lot less manual work, and it’s easier to see where content is in the production lifecycle.
ClickUp is a project management tool. While not specifically designed for marketing, its features can be adapted for marketing purposes. It offers kanban boards, spreadsheets, docs, and task management all in one place.
It can’t instantly publish to your CMS or social media channels, and it’s not designed for content creation. Compared to StoryChief, that makes it a bad fit for content marketing teams, but it can be used for other types of marketing, such as paid search or video creation.
Aprimo is a digital asset management and customer experience platform that integrates with other marketing tools to make it easier to create personalized customer journeys. It also offers resource allocation features so marketing ops managers can more easily plan out what everyone is working on.
7 ways to immediately improve your marketing ops
Whether or not there’s a dedicated marketing ops person on your team, you can still improve your marketing workflows. Unfortunately, when there isn’t a hire dedicated to this, marketing ops suffers. The result is content getting stuck in the process, unrealized potential, and unmet ROI goals.
Follow these steps to improve your ops:
1. Survey the marketing team
First, you need to send out a survey to your marketing team. Create a Google Form (or use your favorite survey software), to ask these open-ended questions:
- Do you feel supported to do your best work?
- Please list all of the software tools that you use daily
- Please list all of the software tools that you use weekly
- Please list all of the software tools that you use monthly
- Do you feel confident that your work aligns with business goals?
- How satisfied are you with our team’s approval workflows?
- When your work gets stuck or blocked, what factors are most likely causing the issue?
- Can you think of a type of software that we should be using?
- Is there software that the team isn’t utilizing to its fullest?
Add any other questions that come to mind. Ask employees to answer honestly. So that you can ask follow-up questions, don’t make the survey anonymous.
2. Discover and address blocks
Next, you’ll need to analyze the survey results. You might also want to schedule 15 or 30-minute meetings with everyone on the team to dig deeper into their responses. Try to discover the most critical and persistent blocks, whether that’s a busy employee who slows everything down, or a lack of integration between important software systems.
If the problem is a busy or ineffective employee, you’ll need to figure out to support that person, or remove them from the process that they continue to slow down. For example, it may be that a VP or CMO needs to release control and allow a content manager the freedom to release content without having to approve every single word. Rather, maybe that person could approve topics but not the actual content pieces. Or maybe they can be removed from that marketing channel altogether.
3. Onboard the right software
Next, it’s time to onboard software that will support employees and boost their productivity. These tools might include a marketing operations platform, digital asset management system, project management software, customer journey automation software, and marketing analytics software.
For best results, you want to hit the right mix of all-in-one platform tools and niche tools. For example, when it comes to publishing content or automating customer journeys, you’ll want a robust platform with lots of features in one place so you can consolidate as much work as possible. But then, you might also need micro SaaS apps, such as something to keep track of UTMs.
Inside the StoryChief dashboard, administrators can login to get an overview of current stats and see recent team activities, like comments or publications.
By using a tool with a content briefing, approvals, and publication all in one place, you can get a bird’s eye view that just isn’t possible when working in lots of other tools, or docs and spreadsheets.
So, use the data that you collected from the survey (Step 1) to assess what your team is currently using, and what isn’t being utilized to the fullest. Then, consolidate these tools as much as possible.
4. Adjust approval workflows
With these tools in place, you’ll need to retrain marketers in how they ask for approval. For example, if you onboard a content operations platform like StoryChief, that means that content writers will no longer ask managers for approval via Slack, email, or project management software comments. Instead, they will send a request for review and approval via StoryChief. This will trigger an email notification.
When the manager logs into StoryChief, they’ll be able to see all of the content currently pending their approval. This way, all of these requests don’t get lost in their inbox, and they can check in on them and handle them in bulk.
5. Get upfront approval on concepts before delegating them
One of the smartest things your team can do is to get approval on as many things as possible before actually delegating tasks. For example, when managing virtual events, our friends at Drift work in a team of 3-4 people to create very robust briefs with the event theme, landing page copy, and some invite emails ready to go. This way, when they assign out design, copywriting, and media buying work to other teammates, everyone is already on board with what to say and how the assets should look.
When marketers are working on big projects, make sure they get sign-off from the CMO on as much as possible before divvying up tasks. This will make approvals much faster down the line.
6. Set KPIs for achievements (not just results)
As marketers, we get hung up trying to measure results. We want to see conversion rates, leads driven, and sales driven. This is obviously incredibly important. But these things can’t happen without production- or achievement-based metrics first. For example, in addition to setting a goal for 100 product-qualified leads per week to come from your blog channel, you might also set a goal to publish 3 blog posts per week.
Marketing ops should measure not only results, but also the efforts that lead up to the results. This way, you can set benchmarks for production and productivity. If the team fails to meet these KPIs, then you can troubleshoot why that is. Maybe you have an issue with approvals, or the team isn’t using the best tools. Or maybe your creatives are getting pulled in too many directions, and you need fewer people in charge of delegating to them.
7. Continue to get feedback from all collaborators
Always prioritize feedback from the team. Every 6 months, send the survey from Step 1 to the marketers on your team, and consider doing 1:1 interviews with them as well, so you can get to the bottom of any issues.
You could also set up an ongoing marketing operations feedback form. Simply ask for the team member’s name, email address, and comment. Check that form monthly to discover helpful recommendations and issues that need resolution.
While marketing operations often falls on one person’s shoulders as a job title, it is a team effort. You need to set the right systems in place, and get everyone onboard to utilize them.
Want to publish and promote content faster? Checkout our content operations platform.