How to Focus on 7 Marketing Operations Must Haves (Ninjas and Gurus Not Included)

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How to Focus on 7 Marketing Operations Must Haves (Ninjas and Gurus Not Included)

Marketing operations sure aren’t sexy, but man, are they essential. So, when we ask people what makes for amazing marketing operations, and we inevitably hear the answer that a “ninja”, a “rockstar” or a “guru” must be present somewhere, we get a bit concerned.


Cause ninjas and rockstars are pretty cool, but I’m not sure they’re 100% essential (my apologies to David Bowie and the Ninja Turtles).


However, you lose the person who pulls the list from the database and the QA specialist who puts your campaign through the wringer before it’s deployed? That spells trouble, my friend. Trouble in River City.


There is a perception that there must be that one person who just makes it happen. This so-called ninja whose magical abilities get all the focus because they alone produce results. He is hands-on with a high-tech aptitude. She’s critical to building and executing processes. In short, this person is the “must have” who singularly possesses the secrety-secrets that make best marketing operations happen.


What happens if you haven’t figured out yet which staff person or freelancer that is yet. Or, worse, that person is you and you haven’t shared your secrets with your team or you don’t have the time anymore to actually execute because you’re focused on strategy. Finally, why does this person have to be a ninja or a rockstar? (Myself, I’m terrible with the nunchuks and can’t rock out the guitar to save my life.)


Most importantly, why do you only have one?


Awesome marketing operations teams don’t need a ninja or a guru. They need the following seven must-have traits spread throughout. These can be wrapped in one person, but we suggest hiring and building a larger and deeper bench. Why? Because one person likely cannot simply do it all well, because supreme marketing operations mean money, and because there’s an old adage about not putting all of your eggs in one basket.


Let’s shift our focus and get at our must-haves (no ninjas or rockstars included)


MUST HAVE: Understand Marketing Technology

There are a lot of marketing technology solutions out there that integrate, automate, manage, acquire, nurture, post, etc. Someone on your team needs to have a working knowledge of what’s the latest in the marketplace, what’s coming around the horizon, and most important, what solutions are the right fit for your company’s marketing operations.


Bright and shiny does no one any good if you aren’t able to maintain and build the appropriate marketing tech stack that supports your demand generation machine. Get someone who loves to seek out, test, then make recommendations. This same someone or someones should also have an in-depth knowledge of your optimal business process goals so that they can continue to bring you closer with each tool they suggest and help your team adopt.


MUST HAVE: Excel at Marketing Automation

It’s not enough to get the latest or best tool. You must also use it well. Amazing marketing operations teams have automation architects who set the stage and make the system as comprehensive and easy to use as possible. They can manipulate your system so as to best scale and adapt for efficiency and effectiveness. By mapping the customer journeys and building in if/then bridges, your team can create modular setups that can be increased and agilely shifted as your customer journeys shift.


What do we mean by modular setup? You create a setup that is both robust and scalable from the beginning. This way, your technology setup can be improved on at a later time without breaking any of its component parts and will allow your team to maximize their time and energy. With the right setup, you will be able to generate the most engagement, contact nurturing, and revenue possible, making for a happy (and successful) marketing team.


MUST HAVE: Love Reporting and Analysis

What good is all that work if you don’t know what you’re working towards or measuring what worked or didn’t work. You must have measurement KPIs in place so that you can gather and use data to gain insights, solve problems, and plan strategies and operations.


Find someone who wonders what would, could or should happen and then follows through on the experiment. From using your data to infer predictive analytics, calculating average customer value and lifetime value of a customer, to deciding whether a A/B or MVT test is best for that headline or lead page. What matters is that you must continue to collect data to report what happened and analyze what’s next.


MUST HAVE: Desire Data Integrity and Clean Databases

Cleanliness is next to godliness, or so they say. Why? Because if your data is beyond spotless and your list is kept up to data, your deliverability, your impact, and ultimately your bottom line should see better conversions and results. You’re wasting your time sending to people who won’t open your email, click on your link, or move further into the funnel.


MUST HAVE: Calm and Collected Calendar Master

This might be one of the most important must haves of the list. Sending your marketing messaging when you say you will is paramount. Why? Because you said you would.


The teammate who excels at knowing when and ensuring the team is prepared to meet crucial deadlines is also the person who is likely your best fit to manage the overall internal campaign calendar and help make sure everyone else is on track. Never underestimate the value of a good marketing project manager.


MUST HAVE: Understand Short and Long Term Budgets and Cash Flow Knowledge and Narrative

This is another must have that is crucially important. Many people ask “why does marketing operations spend all that money and or have that size of a team?” The short answer: because we help make and keep money. It’s one thing to say it, though. It’s quite another to be able to justify it through cash flow and demonstrations that outline EXACTLY how your marketing operations department is aligning with the company budget and financial goals.


The person who helps you most here is someone who gets both the forest and the trees. This person is also extremely diplomatic and agile on their feet, because they must re-frame the money conversation into the narrative that fits for whomever he or she is speaking with at the time. Just like you tell stories to your customers, you must also tell stories internally to ensure optimal marketing operations aren’t disrupted through facing a lack of qualified team members, tools, or training.


MUST HAVE: Excel at Cross-Functional Teamwork

It takes a village. We mean it when we say no one person can do it all well. Why? Because marketing operations are like a car’s electrical systems. They’re not sexy, and you likely don’t even consider them when you go to purchase a new car. But when they fail, the entire driving experience is disrupted.  Sure, there are fail safes in place to ensure that the car doesn’t completely stop, but issues are noticeable and eventually degrade to the point where you must park it somewhere.


Marketing operations also don’t make sense by themselves. Continuing the electrical systems analogy, the currents in a car travel the electrical system and encounter and power the main charging station, your starting and ignition circuits, plus there are other circuits that connect to power lights, electric motors, the sensors and gauges of electrical instruments, heating elements, magnetically operated locks, the radio and so on.  Each tangent is important to creating an optimal driving experience. Marketing operations work and excel in an nearly identical manner, with resultant ripples or impacts to and from marketing strategy, IT, analytics, products and programs, R&D, sales, web, technology, and communications. You must not only coordinate to ensure successful system and process integration. You must coordinate and work together to ensure an optimal customer experience.


If possible, have someone who can always be your marketing operations ears and voice at those pop-up meetings that seem to happen. And don’t wait for the invitation. Make it a goal to be so omnipresent that the other departments don’t feel like they should start saying how the plan should be executed without you there, because it doesn’t feel right. Because otherwise, this happens:


C-Suite: “We want to do X by Y.”


Person who doesn’t actually do marketing operations but is connected kind of and wants to make a good impression on C-Suite: “Oh yeah I’m sure we can totally do that. Let me talk to so and so”


Marketing Operations Leader: “Yeesh, that’s a [insert not good] [outcome]. I wish we had known sooner or been invited to that meeting.”


Marketing Operations Executor: “Yeah, there’s no way we’ll be able to do this well AND make that other mission-critical deadline. Let’s get out the duct tape and hope for the best. I’ll order the pizza and call my wife again to let her know I’ll be late” 


I’m convinced we’ve given these marketing operations enthusiasts these titles of ninjas or gurus because it makes business process improvement roles sound sexier. Operations, unfortunately, is a space where there isn’t a lot of perceived flair, but there should and can be a lot of talent if we focus (and the flair is a nice side-benefit). Develop a team that lives to make the donuts. And not only make the donuts, but to make them faster, better, and more-cost efficient than the other guy.


What are your suggested marketing operations must-have? Let a comment below.

About the Author

Lindsay (@redlmb) is the CEO at redlmb management solutions, a consulting and training firm that helps companies and organizations build savvy teams, operations, customer service, technology, and events and marketing know-how.

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