Marketing operations: Five core competencies you must master

By Jonathan Moran, Principal Product Marketing Manager, SAS

The race to be present in every possible channel means that your marketing operations team needs to do more for you to be successful in the marketing world. That team has a big role to play in your company’s transformation into a true digitally enabled and customer-centric organization.

Marketing operations can lead your entire marketing function to great effectiveness by retooling the processes for higher performance and then, monitoring the progress and measuring outcomes. And, in many ways, the marketing operations team will enable and integrate these enhancements as well providing your change strategies.

Editor's note: SAS has created an online assessment to help your company become the modern, data-driven organization it was meant to be. In addition to showing you how you score against organizations of similar size, we offer a range of resources to help you move your marketing strategy forward.

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Having marketing operations integrated into your marketing stack is essential to proving the value of the programs that you are executing. Here are the crucial areas where I see marketing operations teams making the biggest contributions toward a more modern marketing organization.

Having marketing operations integrated into your marketing stack is essential to proving the value of the programs that you are executing.

Marketing operations competency: Strategy and planning

Even though the legacy of a big, annual strategy and planning session at the start of each year still has a strong hold on many marketing organizations, that is being replaced by a more agile and when-necessary approach.

Even as you evolve your marketing practices, you still need to follow strategic objectives set by management and translate those objective into tangible and measurable goals. There is also a planning component for the many activities needed to achieve those goals (along with budgetary considerations).

You must be able to define target audience, channels and offers at the planning stage of any initiative to provide the needed inputs for conducting campaign management activities. This type of market planning capability begs for an integrated approach. In many companies today, marketing professionals can plan and budget for activities and campaigns but lack a way to seamlessly move information and data to other specialists for collaboration around creation and execution. Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and email threads just don’t provide the comprehensive integration needed.

In an ideal, fully integrated approach, you would be able to use your data as input for execution-related tasks, activities and messages. Your marketing assets would be tracked to provide insights such as links to the 10 best-performing assets according to channel, target audience/segments and create goals based on past activities.

Marketers could re-use these assets or use them as validation for developing new assets. This complete integration across all functionality would be a competitive differentiator.

Information on marketing parameters for measuring marketing success in terms of objectives, results, budgets and costs, etc. could move between channel specialists and more generalist marketers such as product or brand managers.

Marketing operations competency: Workflows

As a consequence of the proliferation of channels and devices, the need for content is increasing exponentially.  With the new, omnichannel standard, instead of massive campaigns literally hundreds of relatively small campaigns (with short turnarounds and delivery timelines) need to be developed and executed within days – or hours.

And with it comes an increased need for collaboration. This requires quick, informal and flexible workflows between marketing and content contributors and between marketing and external partners as well as other stakeholders (e.g., legal and supply chain).

What you’re aiming for is to deliver a consistent experience across all channels and devices. Standard workflows for the creation, review and approval of all content help greatly.

Marketing operations competency: Content

Speaking of content, your library of marketing content will need to be stored, managed, versioned, reused, reformatted and distributed to the various output systems. Your traditional web-to-print and asset management tools need to be replaced by a digital management system that can satisfy all of your channel and devices requirements. This ensures a consistent experience (with approved content) for all channels.

You will need a tight integration between the creation of the assets and their storing in your digital asset management system. This will enable you to track the performance of your assets using common metrics like click rate, conversions, revenue, etc.

You will also need the ability to adapt and reformat assets for your target channels to enable dynamic digital marketing. Marketers can customize digital marketing content by using templates and rules sets to create customized content using assets from the digital asset management system as their source. Having capabilities such as “asset insights” will allow brand marketers working with the next-generation solutions to understand where (channel and device) and when (activities, messages, and spots) their content is being used. This allows for better insight into asset performance.

Marketing operations competency: Journey and channel management

Journey and channel management is the purview of journey design, orchestration, optimization and execution whether it’s delivered in batch, near-real or real time and obviously is the centerpiece of any company’s customer intelligence capabilities. Being able to take insights from how a consumer interacts with a brand via contact and response data from activities is essential to optimizing marketing programs over time.

Marketing operations competency: Reporting and analytics

Many marketing organizations use reporting and analytics in the various tools and channels they inhabit. A unified and centralized analytics capability is better – not just for marketing operations but across all your functions – to assess all relevant data. The ideal to strive for is consolidation into a single platform. Reporting using a unified data repository with a common reporting and data visualization tool is essential. Having the ability to drill down to individual communication, task and interaction metrics by will help you to further separate you from your competitors.

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