What is Marketing Operations?






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Marketing Operations is an emerging field within the

traditional business marketing framework. This paper aims

to define Marketing Operations as a discipline within the

Marketing organization and illustrate the crucial role it plays

within the Marketing cycle.

Marketing Operations is an organiza-tional approach to creating demand for products and services. It focuses on end-to-end marketing optimization— from planning and budgeting to global execution and analysis—using tools, databases, automation, and best practices. Marketing Operations is a relatively new discipline within the Marketing framework. Research firms such as IDC and SiriusDecisions first recognized this emerging field about 15 years ago. Early adopters include high tech companies such as Cisco Systems, Symantec, and Adobe. Today, hundreds of companies across a variety of indus-tries staff a Marketing Operations role within the Corporate Marketing function. Marketing Operations professionals often are not classical marketers. Rather than PR or branding backgrounds, they might come from Finance, IT, Sales Operations and other analytical or process-oriented roles. Increasingly, Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) staff Marketing Op-erations teams with financial analysts, programmers, project managers, data gurus, and market researchers.

Typically, Marketing Operations is responsible for strategic planning and budgeting, marketing performance measurement, process development, professional development, and market-ing systems and data. This work either connects closely to, or includes, demand generation. It involves the alignment of Marketing with Sales, Business Units, and Finance and aims to define and pro-mote benchmarking and ‘best’ practices. Planning & Budgeting

Months of work go into building a com-pany’s annual marketing plan. Ideally, it is fed by cross-company functional plans that include objectives, strategies, measurements, and tactics. All functions require input from senior management on the company’s goals and strategic di-rection. In addition, the Marketing team requires input from:

• Development—on new products, or product updates, that will be brought to market in the coming year

• Sales—on revenue targets and what coverage model is to be deployed • Finance—on budget constraints, if any Planning & Budgeting...1

Performance Measurement...2 Process Development...2 Professional Development...3 Marketing Systems and Data...3 Technology/Mktg Automation...4 Benchmarking/Best Practices...5 Conclusion...5


Throughout this lengthy process, Marketing Operations interfaces with the other functions, manages a timeline for marketing input and deliverables, and helps build the final document—the Annual Marketing Plan.

The budgeting component of this exercise can happen from the top-down, bottom-up, or some combination of both. Often the executive team and/or Finance provide numbers within which each function must plan. Sometimes the executive team and/or Finance will ask each function what they believe they need for the coming year. Often, both happen simultaneously, creating a tug-of-war scenario that must be resolved before a budget agreement can be reached.

Research from IDC (IDC CMO Advisory Service) and SiriusDecisions ( SiriusDe-cisions’ Executive Edge: CMO), shows that how much a company spends on Marketing varies, depending upon their market, the company’s size, and the company’s stage of development. For instance, large, well-established semi-conductor companies spend approxi-mately 2% of revenue on Marketing. A similar Enterprise Software company would typically spend between 6 and 8% of revenue on Marketing. And a start-up that has a highly competitive product ready to launch may spend as much as 50% of revenue on Marketing. Companies such as IDC and SiriusDeci-sions can help companies understand their spending relative to others in their position and in their market.

Performance Measurement

Marketing Performance Measurement is a logical extension of the Planning and Budgeting exercise that happens before

each fiscal year. It is important that goals be measurable and personal. Everyone in the Marketing organization must know what they have to do to help the function, and the company, achieve its goals. Some companies use Manage-ment By Objectives (MBOs) to incent employees to meet goals. Other compa-nies simply use the Human Resources Performance Management process. Quarterly Operations Reviews represent another good way to monitor Market-ing’s progress towards its annual goals. At a Quarterly Operations Review, a CMO typically has direct reports present on achievements relative to the goals that were set. This is a good opportunity to update goals based on information gained during the quarter that has just ended. It is also a good way for Mar-keting leaders to stay abreast of their peers’ efforts to increase collaboration and eliminate redundant efforts. Dash-boards are commonly used to visualize the performance of a business. Just like the dashboard of a car, a marketing dashboard gives management a visual representation of results that correlates with the overall health of their busi-ness. The measures that make up a dashboard are called key performance indicators (KPIs).

Process Development

Marketing Operations professionals are increasingly expected to develop and optimize marketing-related processes such as the budgeting and planning process, the lead management process, supporting the process for integrating newly acquired companies, and the process for creating, reviewing, and dis-tributing a marketing asset. As a result of this push to improve performance by developing and optimizing process, flow


charts are now as prevalent in Marketing as press releases and ad copy. Several categories of technology have evolved to automate marketing processes (see “Technology/Marketing Automation”). Professional Development

Some CMO’s treat the Marketing Opera-tions leader as a Chief of Staff. As such, they are often charged with handling communication to the organization and the training and development of the Marketing organization. CMO communi-cations can include: Marketing all-hands meetings, annual Marketing meetings, internal and external CMO speaking engagements, email updates, and intranet postings.

Professional Development is a concerted effort afforded by the most strategic and best staffed Marketing Operations departments. In addition to providing training for the Marketing organization, it also involves defining job classifica-tions and career paths. The irony of this is that Marketing Operations profession-als are often tasked with scoping the cri-teria for classic Marketing roles—and yet there is a dearth of resources available to do so for Marketing Operations roles. Radford and other such HR consulting companies do not yet recognize Market-ing Operations as a unique discipline. Marketing Systems and Data Without data there can be no effective marketing. The quality of a marketing campaign depends entirely on the qual-ity of the data that it leverages about existing and prospective customers. ‘Database marketing’ is the term used for the marketing techniques aimed at leveraging data to deliver more highly personalized, relevant campaigns. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA)

sponsors an annual conference called The National Center for Database Mar-keting focused on just this topic. Database marketing emphasizes the use of statistical techniques to develop models of customer behavior, which are then used to select customers for communications. As a result, database marketers also tend to be heavy users of data warehouses, because having a greater volume of quality data about customers increases the likelihood that a more accurate model can be built. Data quality refers to the uniqueness, accuracy, consistency, completeness, timeliness, currency, conformance and referential integrity of a data set. Rela-tive to Marketing, quality data attributes accurate name, address, company, title, firmographic, demographic and prefer-ence information to the contact record for a customer or prospective customer. Obtaining and maintaining quality data is an ongoing challenge that often falls to Marketing Operations.

A comprehensive data quality effort involves the following steps:

Evaluating the condition of the exist-1.

ing marketing data.

Conducting a ‘spring cleaning’ to 2.

separate out duplicate data, dummy data (e.g. Santa Claus), as well as incomplete data.

Establishing a process to conduct 3.

routine cleansing of incoming and existing data.

Putting in place a process to 4.

augment data with new lists or purchased firmographic or demo-graphic data.

Installing a database or data mart in 5.

which to store all marketing contact data.


It is good practice to measure the quality of the data before implementing these steps, again upon completion, and then quarterly thereafter. Some relevant metrics include: the number of dupli-cates, email bounce-backs, percentage of dummy data, response rates, etc. An entire category of software compa-nies facilitate data quality management. Gartner lists DataFlux, IBM, Trillium Software, Informatica, and SAP Busi-ness Objects as leading data quality tool providers. Other related technology categories include ‘Data Integration Tools’ and ‘Customer Data Integration’. There is also a set of companies that sell data, or services to clean and enhance data. Some of these include: Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax, MarketWatch, and InfoUSA.

A related subject—and an area that requires a separate effort—is informa-tion privacy or data privacy. Data privacy refers to the legal issues that surround the capture, use, storage, and sharing of personally identifiable information. This has long been an issue for health-care and financial services companies. It is now a concern across all industries. To complicate matters, every country has a different set of legal and political concerns relative to data privacy (sam-ple list at http://www.informationshield. com/intprivacylaws.html). Global com-panies must be sensitive to the laws in every country in which they do business. Technology/Marketing Automation Marketing automation is the name given to software platforms designed to simplify processes for marketing organi-zations by automating repetitive tasks. Forrester and Gartner have marketing automation research practices. Each looks at the market differently.

Over time, Gartner has used 9 ‘Magic Quadrant’ categories to discuss market-ing automation technology. They are:

CRM Multichannel Campaign •

Management Data Quality Tools •

Marketing Resource Management •

Enterprise Marketing Management •

Enterprise Content Management •

Web Content Management •

Email Systems •

E-Services Suites •

CRM Customer Service Contact •


Forrester has, over time, referenced 13 ‘Wave’ categories in their effort to apply patterns to the evolution of this un-wieldy market. The Forrester categories are:

Brand Monitoring Solutions •

Cross-Channel Campaign •


Database Marketing Service Provider •

Enterprise Content Management •

Enterprise Marketing Platforms •

Interactive Marketing Agencies •

Listening Platforms •

Marketing Asset Management •

Search Marketing Agencies •

Web Analytics •

Web Content Management •

B2B Lead Management Automation •

Document Output for Customer •

Communications Management Email Marketing Service Providers •

In fact, there are 110 companies that have found their way onto either a Gartner Magic Quadrant or a Forrester Wave for marketing automation. It is easier to understand this chaos when you start with a simple picture of the parts of marketing that can benefit from automation.


Technology can help marketers manage assets, generate demand, and measure results. Within this framework, almost every new marketing automation tech-nology may be categorized according to this simple view of the world.

Managing the Development and •

Distribution of Assets: including budgets, plans, templates, videos, images, logos, etc.

Generating Demand: Segmenting •

the total market to identify logical targets for your product and service, engaging in a meaningful exchange of information with your target, providing them with enticing offers, sustaining their interest, and shep-herding the ‘ready’ to sales. Measuring Results: Measuring the •

component of every element of the process: the images, offers, cam-paigns, products, regions, etc..

Benchmarking & Best Practices Also referred to as “best practice benchmarking” or “process benchmark-ing”, benchmarking is a process used increasingly in Marketing to compare approaches in relation to best practice companies, usually within a peer group defined for the purposes of comparison. This allows organizations to develop plans on how to make improvements or adapt specific best practices, usually with the aim of increasing some aspect of performance. Benchmarking may be a one-off event, but is often treated as an ongoing process in which organiza-tions continually seek to improve their practices.


In the past few years, as the down economy brings CMO’s under increasing pressure to justify resources and dem-onstrate value to the business, we see a growing interest in bringing system and science to the art of Marketing. This system and science is Marketing Opera-tions and its emphasis is on building optimized, disciplined marketing orga-nizations. Bringing a variety of skills to the table and including non-traditional marketing backgrounds such as Finance, IT and Sales Operations, Marketing Operations professionals strive to identify and implement best-of-breed practices, tools and benchmarking. By participating in the entire process, from planning and budgeting to global execu-tion and analysis, Marketing Operaexecu-tions can systematically improve the

marketing organization’s performance via optimization of marketing processes, tools and data.

Across industries, around the globe, and in an ever more rapidly changing environment, management teams are Manage Assets Generate Demand Measure Results St ra te g ic P la nn in g B ud g et M an ag em en t Pr od uc ti on M an ag em en t A ss et M an ag em en t D at a M an ag em en t D ia lo g M an ag em en t C am p ai g n M an ag em en t Le ad M an ag em en t R ep or ti ng A na ly ti cs

For a list of vendors that support each of these functional areas, go to


intent upon making their companies more agile. They strive to build-in faster reaction times, quicker inventory turns, and product innovation, all in the service of surviving in a viciously competitive world. To make a corporation truly agile, it is essential to have a solid founda-tion on which to build the engine for rapid change. Part of this foundation is a disciplined marketing organization grounded in accurate and complete data about customers and prospects.

© 2010. Marketing Operations Works. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Larissa DeCarlo is the principal and founder of Marketing Operations Works, an operational consultancy focused on helping clients improve marketing’s performance by optimizing processes, systems and data.

Larissa has been involved in Marketing Operations since 2006 when she formed and managed the Marketing Operations group at Hyperion Solutions and co-founded MOCCA (Marketing Operations Cross-Company Alliance). MOCCA is a network (www.moccabayarea.org) that provides Marketing Operations profes-sionals with a forum for exchanging real-world ideas, solutions, and best practices. Today, MOCCA has more than 550 members from 250 member companies. Following the acquisition of Hyperion by Oracle DeCarlo led the MO activities at Blue Coat Systems.

As a consultant, Larissa has worked with Adobe, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cisco, Juniper Networks, Newell Rubbermaid, and Symantec.





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