As marketing technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, marketing operations has also evolved into an important specialist role.
And this week’s guest believes businesses must begin to take marketing ops more seriously if they want their wider marketing team to reach its full potential.
In this episode, Karla Wentworth talks to Matt Dodgson about why marketing operations should be seen as the foundation of any successful marketing team today.
Who they are: Karla Wentworth, Founder and Managing Director of Vantage Clever.
A bit of background: Karla has an impressive 25 years of experience supporting large businesses with marketing operations. She launched her own consultancy, Vantage Clever, in 2019. In her spare time, Karla is also a keen golfer.
Where you can find them:
Here you’ll find some of the best advice from the podcast that you can easily digest and learn from.
Marketing operations is still somewhat of a misunderstood concept for many businesses.
Unless you’re a marketing ops professional, it’s unlikely you’ll have a proper grasp of what it really involves. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a crucial component of a modern marketing team.
Karla said, “Marketing operations has a definition that has not been written yet, which is why people are still asking the question of what it is. It’s difficult to answer. Some people think it’s MarTech, and technology, and they wouldn’t be wrong. There are probably more than 9,000 MarTech tools out there. So, it’s definitely technology, but some people think it’s administration, supplier management, paperwork trails, just driving efficiency through processes. And some people think it’s insight, reporting, analytics. I believe it’s all of that.”
So, with such a broad range of responsibilities and skills involved, it’s clear to see why Karla believes marketing ops is so important today.
She went on to explain, “I believe 80% of marketing is made up from operational tasks, and that’s all the way through technology, process, driving efficiency, insights, right into your strategy. And then the other 20% is the creative strategy. So, in answer to your question, what is it? It’s a lot of marketing, but still yet to be defined.”
Digging a little deeper into why every business should be paying marketing ops more attention, Karla emphasised the need for specialists performing dedicated roles within a marketing team.
She said, “If you field a football team of 11 strikers, it’s going to be a really ineffective team. The front end might be good, but at the back it won’t be. It’s not rocket science. You need a strong defence and a great goalkeeper that’s keeping you safe. Then you need a midfield building up and moving things forward and lining up your striker. And the star strikers are your creative marketers, the people that really want to get those campaigns out there.”
And it’s an analogy that makes a lot of sense, especially with modern marketing teams having to handle more complexity, data, tools, and technologies than ever before.
Karla also warned that you’ll find the talent of your brightest stars diluted if they’re expected to take on responsibilities that don’t align with their skills. So, a marketing ops role is crucial in enabling other specialists to perform their roles to their best abilities.
Naturally, Karla was quick to point out that every business doing any kind of marketing should be practicing some form of marketing ops. That may not include hiring for a dedicated role, but it should at least be on everyone’s radar.
However, there is a certain stage she identified as the right time to start looking at someone who can fill that role as a specialist.
“You should be looking at marketing operations once you get to a certain size as a business,” said Karla. “By that, I mean a business that wants to produce effective marketing and wants to understand how its marketing has worked. Not somebody that’s kind of doing it off the side of their desk and they think it’s helping revenue somewhere.”
“Once you really want to get into the data that sits behind your marketing and let it influence your marketing, or if you want to automate some processes and get some time and resource back, that’s when you need to start thinking about operations.”
Karla also had a suggestion for how early-stage businesses should approach building an effective marketing team from the ground up.
She said, “I think there should be a CMO, and then the first hire should be a marketing ops person. Remember what I said about 80% of marketing being marketing operations activity? But how many companies fill their marketing departments with that in mind? They don’t.”
And that’s a nice tie-in to the earlier point about the need for a balanced team full of specialists. No one wants to see their most talented people’s skills being diluted.
With that in mind, it’s important to try to structure your marketing team so everyone is playing to their strengths. It seems marketing ops, in many ways, is the foundation of that.
Karla continued, “Having that strong team means you’ve got to hire at least one person that understands marketing operations and can make it happen. So that one hire, I’d suggest is not just a tool user or a tech user, I’d suggest it’s somebody that understands the breadth of marketing operations and can really understand how to make an impact in marketing – and the business – by adopting the skill-sets and the methodology.”
▶︎ Further Reading – The Essential Guide For Hiring B2B Marketing Operations Talent
Businesses need to begin to recognise marketing ops as a vital component of a successful marketing team.
Karla said, “A lot of companies that have marketing operations people, who are doing the roles and have the skills, and may be not even called that. I’ve seen marketing ops people in different departments in the business, like insights and data intelligence, and arguably it’s all the same thing if it’s contributing to marketing activity.”
“What I would say, is if you really want to see success from your marketing operations team you need to get them a seat at the table.”
And why’s that? Because marketing ops can be instrumental in overall business improvement and success, according to Karla.
She added, “Marketing operations is real business improvement. It’s there to find efficiency in processes. That’s business improvement. It’s there to read data, analyse it, and understand how you can replicate winning campaigns or prevent wasting money on ones that don’t work. That’s all business improvement. But you have to feed marketing ops people with all the data that they can then turn into something useful for you. Anybody who has a marketing operations team, get them a seat at the table.”
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