Seven marketing operations best practices
By Chetan Saiya, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Assetlink
With the proliferation of media channels, microsegmentation of customers and increased globalization, marketing is becoming more complex. This article lists seven best practices that marketing executives can use to significantly reduce the gap between expectations and results, and increase the returns from marketing spending.
1. Bring transparency into the marketing planning process
Top 3 benefits of marketing operations management:
- Get campaigns to market faster. Align all staff around a common marketing enablement infrastructure by streamlining and automating marketing processes as well as accelerating review and approvals.
- Enable more reuse of existing assets. Marketing collateral, advertisements, product photos and brand identity elements can be quickly accessed and customized online for real-time, one-on-one personalized communications.
- Achieve greater marketing accountability. Provide management with complete visibility into time schedules, budgets, cost overruns and more through graphical and interactive dashboards.
Challenge: Complete alignment between marketing plans and corporate objectives is difficult to achieve. As a result, marketing spending fails to deliver on an organization’s brand awareness and revenue growth objectives.
Best practice: Require various stakeholders to collaboratively and transparently work together in creating and approving marketing plans. Marketing objectives, target products, customer segments, distribution channels, a list of campaigns (along with key activities within a campaign) and expected results should be documented in a marketing plan. Once the marketing plan is approved, detailed milestone and deliverables for each campaign can be created by marketing managers. Such a process brings complete transparency, accountability and alignment into the planning process by providing full visibility into the objectives and schedules of each plan to all stakeholders.
2. Integrate budgeting and spending tracking into the marketing planning process
Challenge: The marketing budgeting process is under increased pressure for better visibility, transparency and accountability. Marketing typically is one of the largest budget items, yet most marketing organizations lack a consistent, clear way to integrate budgeting and spending tracking into their marketing planning and execution processes. As a result, they are challenged to ensure that budgets are appropriately allocated to each program; track program spending for each plan/campaign at a detailed level; and easily report on planned vs. committed vs. available funds for plans/campaigns.
Without this detailed visibility, it is difficult to put controls in place to reduce or eliminate negative spending surprises. It’s also difficult to realign marketing budgets mid-year because one cannot easily understand the impact of any realignment on current campaigns and overall marketing objectives.
Best practice: Integrate the budgeting and marketing planning processes, as well as the spending tracking and marketing execution processes. It enables marketing managers to define and track how much is budgeted, planned, already committed, already spent and remaining at an overall marketing plan or at a detailed campaign or activity/event level; track these numbers by month or quarter or fiscal year; and link them to specific G/L accounts in financial systems.
Instead of using multiple spreadsheets and reconciling them manually, a marketing operations management (MOM) system makes it easy to achieve these objectives.
3. Create and manage a detailed plan for a marketing campaign
Challenge: Most marketing organizations are challenged to ensure close cooperation and coordination between various internal and external teams that are working together on a campaign. In addition, they struggle to maintain an updated marketing calendar of key milestones, and roll up the planned vs. actual schedule for each task in the marketing plan.
Best practice: Address these issues by requiring marketing managers to create detailed project plans at the task and role level for each campaign, with the ability to roll up the information to report at any summary level. The marketing manager should define various tasks within a campaign and related deliverables, associate briefs and other essential documents with the task, then assign tasks and define the workflow for the approval process for the deliverables. This ensures close coordination between the project’s virtual team members and enables the marketing manager to reduce the cycle time and increase predictability in delivering the campaign on time and on schedule. While these details can be tracked in a spreadsheet, using a MOM system ensures that the assignment tracking process is streamlined and information is centralized so it’s easily accessible for all team members.
4. Manage and track spending commitments at a detailed level
Challenge: Marketers need to ensure purchase orders are issued to external service providers once the detailed milestones and deliverables for each campaign are created and approved. As a result, spending commitments on a project get automatically aligned with the specific deliverables, as well as overall budgets and targets. However, most organizations do not have an integrated view into detailed marketing plans and budgets. As a result, it’s a challenge to align third-party spending commitments with project deliverables, goals and objectives.
Best practice: Use a system that manages planned and budgeted amounts for each activity/event in a marketing plan before the plan is approved. Once the tasks and deliverables are defined, the system should prompt marketing managers to issue purchase orders to external vendors.
Once the purchase order is issued, the dollar amount of the purchase order should automatically be tracked as a “committed” amount in the campaign/activity/event listing. Similarly, when the invoice is received, the dollar amount of the invoice should be tracked as “spent” in the campaign/activity/event listing. While possible to do all this using manual spreadsheets, as the scope of the marketing operation grows, managing commitments and actual spending using spreadsheets becomes cumbersome. It is recommended that organizations use a MOM system to manage this process.
5. Manage project collaboration and execution
Challenge: Marketing organizations have typically managed their creative development process – which includes creating content and presenting it to the review team; markup and feedback from the reviewers to the content creation team; and approval of content and execution of the tasks in the plan – through a series of ad hoc meetings, phone calls, e-mails and hallway conversations. Lack of a transparent and integrated creative development process leads to longer review cycles and more revisions than required, which results in higher marketing costs and longer delivery times.
Best practice: Use a collaboration framework that’s enabled by technology (such as a MOM system) to manage project collaboration and execution. As a result, workflow capabilities of the system will move the process along and provide visibility to marketing managers.
For example, the marketing services teams use the system to assign tasks to external creative agencies and internal contributors and reviewers. These extended team members continually update the task status on the system. External creative agencies and internal contributors use the system to review and approve creative artwork. All stakeholders work together in a collaborative manner - resulting in reduced creative development cycle times, shorter review cycles, lower marketing costs and increased predictability in hitting milestones.
6. Share, reuse and leverage existing marketing assets
Challenge: In a large distributed organization, teams don’t have good visibility into existing marketing assets (such as brand logos, product photos, collateral, packaging material, etc.). As a result, money is wasted on new assets instead of reusing existing assets. Plus, it’s often difficult for sales and field organizations to find and use the right assets created by the marketing organization.
Best practice: Implement an easy-to-use digital asset repository system. Approved marketing assets can be easily stored, searched for, downloaded and printed by marketing, sales and partners. Guidelines for use and templates can also be associated with specific content.
Templates enable field marketing, sales and distribution partners to localize and customize any content for specific geographies, customer segments and customers. These capabilities promote sharing and reuse by sales and field organizations – delivering a better return on investment. Most MOM systems come with an asset repository.
7. Gain visibility into schedule and budget performance of marketing projects
Challenge: When the marketing organization runs its operations using manual and ad hoc processes, teams end up operating in multiple silos and visibility into the status of various activities is affected.
Marketing managers cannot get easy access to key operational metrics to measure the performance of their plans. Without such clear insights, it becomes difficult to remove the "credibility gap."
Best practice: Dashboards give the marketing organization instant visibility into key operational metrics, as well as the day-to-day status of various components of the marketing plan.
Visibility into planned vs. actual budget usage, as well as future commitments of any campaign/activity/event is easily available. Campaigns that are not meeting planned performance metrics (or are delayed) can be easily identified and proactive actions taken. Bottlenecks in the planning, content creation and content distribution processes can be easily identified and the process streamlined. While such dashboards can be created and tracked manually, it’s a painstaking process that can be difficult to keep up-to-date. MOM systems enable organizations to create and manage these dashboards in an automated manner.
As marketing processes become more complex, these seven best practices enable marketing organizations to significantly reduce the gap between expectations and results, and increase the returns from marketing spending.