You’ve been (unofficially) designated the Marketing Ops champion: Now what?
When I say “marketing” you probably think: audience-driven content, crisp copy, meaningful colors, intentional imagery. You know, all the creative, smart work that intends to convert leads into customers.
But the behind-the-scenes grunt work to build a process that turns said brilliant idea into an actual campaign? That often goes unnoticed. Process is one unsexy element—but there is something else that gets even less attention and is often outright uncomfortable: accountability. We keep teams accountable through the use of data.
Processes and data are necessary for creating a clear space for your writers and creatives. But they often aren’t what make most individual contributors tick. So who do these responsibilities fall to?
The de facto marketing ops (MOps) champion. This may be an official MOps role—or it simply might be you—the CMO, VP of Demand Gen, Head of Growth, Head of Product Marketing or any similar role in your go-to-market org.
Tying up your operations—your processes, data, team rhythms, and finances—is crucial for enabling your team to do the work they do best. However, it’s not easy when you have tens of other responsibilities on your plate.
So what do you focus on first?
This one’s for the Ops superheroes wearing 12 different capes
Lean in, and I’ll tell you a secret. 🤫
No one really knows what a marketing ops leader does—sometimes, even, a marketing ops leader themselves.
Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration. But Gartner’s research finds that the role is ill-defined, varying widely from company to company:
On average MOps leaders can be responsible for 12 different functions. “Marketing operations leaders seem to inherit a random assortment of responsibilities that don’t fall elsewhere or that multiple people work on and no one person owns,” the analysts wrote.
Between financials, research, team collaboration, lead management, and more, it is unclear across organizations which 4-5 functions are most important for MOps teams.
And that is among teams that actually have a dedicated MOps leader.
So what do all of the potential functions of a MOps team point to?
To put it simply, the role of operations creates freedom for marketing teams to create their best work efficiently and effectively.
Processes aren't just busywork, and data isn't just noise
Put simply, as an Ops leader, I want to see my team enabled to do their best work. This looks like:
- The coexistence of independent and collaborative work
- Flexibility of when and where work gets done
- The permission to rest and restore
- The freedom to make mistakes and improve
- Space to communicate clearly, without things falling through the cracks
- Visibility into the projects getting done, when, by who, plus how long they’ll take
- Peace of easily prioritized tasks
- Room to resolve issues swiftly
That all sounds great, but there’s a catch.
Achieving these goals requires accountability. Call it compliance, feedback, reporting—you name it. At the end of the day, we all need to understand where we’re hitting the mark and where we need to improve.
What the heck does accountability have to do with Ops?
If processes give us the freedom to get things done without a headache, data is what holds us accountable to the commitments we’ve made and to the improvements we strive for.
When we look at the 12 different functions a MOps leaders might need to fill, if the tasks aren’t enabling clear structures for quality or follow-through, then perhaps the functions need to be assigned to someone else.
But what if there is no “someone else” right now? What if you have been tasked with all the responsibilities of a MOps leader, even if it’s not your title? How do you manage the unmanageable?
How to survive if you’re nominated the MOps champion
A MOps champion wears a dozen hats and manages the minutiae of ‘how to get work done’ relentlessly. Make it easier on yourself by following these four tips that let you work smarter, not harder.
1. Focus on enabling your team to work efficiently and effectively
It’s the age-old debate in operations: Can you execute the highest tier of quality work while also being efficient?
According to research, the answer is…it depends.
“A whopping 76% of marketing leaders surveyed felt they could not fully maximize the impact of initiatives when also striving for efficiency,” wrote the previously mentioned Gartner analysts.
“Yet orgs with a marketing ops leader disagreed at a higher rate (7 percentage points) over those without a marketing ops leader — meaning, if they had a marketing ops leader, they felt it was more achievable to accomplish.”
You are the reason your team can create quality work, without going into overwhelm mode. (Go you!)
How do you create operational initiatives that strive for both impact and efficiency?
First—a simple reminder—dig deep into your intentions. Darrell Alfonso, Director of Marketing Strategy & Operations at Indeed.com, recommends creating strong “why’s” for each goal you set.
If the “why” is to genuinely improve the quality of the customer or team experience through efficiency and effectiveness, you are probably on the right track.
But let’s be real—with all of your functions, your “how’s” to your “why’s” are probably all over the place. I’m here to help you build out a strategy for filtering out shiny objects from the real deal so that you can narrow in on the most important “what’s” and “how’s.
- Start with the issues that are in your face and causing serious pain to either your team or your customers. (Note: This will require communication, record-keeping, and measurement systems in place and properly used by the team)
- Record them in a list that can be filtered by a few different factors, like priority, issue type, level of lift, etc. At Beam, we maintain issue lists at every basic level of our organization in our ClickUp workspace so this list lives alongside where the work will get done.
- Once you’ve identified the total “pain” score, you can prioritize which issues need to be discussed and solved first.
2. Keep it simple: Choose 3-5 responsibilities
Delegate, automate, or cut the rest.
For things to run optimally, it’s best to whittle your to-do list down. Curate a short list of responsibilities that will have the greatest impact on the goals you’ve prioritized.
List your key responsibilities, the description of the responsibilities, and how you will be measured or held accountable for those responsibilities in a role scorecard. This can be a sheet or a doc—it doesn't really matter.
Here’s a look at ours for inspiration, but the important thing is that it’s documented.
You and your manager or accountability partner can come to it and objectively examine how you're managing what you’ve been tasked with.
If you are asked to complete other tasks that seem like they have no owner, this documentation empowers you to say to the person making the request: “My priorities are to enable our team to execute in this [way] and this is my plan for accomplishing this. If I take on this responsibility, it will mean deprioritizing [X, Y, and Z]. Let’s talk about another solution for getting this done.”
(For pro-tips on setting expectations and delegating, I highly recommend this episode of BOSSY: With Tara and Katie.)
Now let’s say you have a very clear understanding of why some responsibilities are higher priority than others, but your team does not. Whenever you bump up a priority or initiative, try to communicate it in a way that will show the benefits for your individual team members (rather than the whole department or org).
Agency ops mastermind Maggie Kornahrens illustrates it clearly here:
If the team understands that your focus areas will ultimately help them have a lighter load, it makes planning out important responsibilities easier.
3. Put measurement systems and communication rhythms in place to identify top issues
Remember how we talked about prioritizing issues using measurement systems. What data do you currently use to rate your issues?
- Vibes: Gut instinct and team anecdotes
- Curious check-ins: You have access to views that let you see product or system usage, but you don’t have an owner who gives regular updates
- Committed champion data: Regular reporting from a team member assigned to measuring and encouraging compliance
I am no judge here. Wherever you are, use what you got.
But I’ll say: from my experience, when you go from 1 to 3, your life changes.
That jump requires work, though. Like, serious work.
I love this post from my friend, Kristen Kelly, Director of Operations at Proofpoint Marketing, where she shares how her team identified a key measurement in which they weren’t receiving reliable data.
Without proper time tracking behavior, it’s hard to track agency profitability. But more importantly for individual contributors, without proper time tracking, they might be assigned more work when they already feel like they’re at full capacity. This can have a huge negative impact on performance, productivity, and team culture.
The full post goes more into the “how” the team resolved a top issue.
But the key line for me is, “We weren’t appropriately leveraging our project management platform to get a baseline of projected time to complete work vs actual or utilization.”
Doing this is the key to getting any type of data from the appropriate tool. When you use proper organization and custom fields, you can use real-time data to better understand your team and customer experience.
Our goal at Beam is to hit an overall organizational score of 95% which is based on several different metrics, like velocity, projects completed, and project management compliance. Our friends at Zenpilot help us keep track of our performance on a weekly and monthly basis to make sure we are following healthy habits and following through on the commitments we’ve made to our clients.
Every week and month, we are focused on what we measure, so that we can constantly be in a state of doing what we’ll say we’ll do and committed to improving where we aren’t our strongest.
With data like this at our fingertips, we can identify our gaps, dig into what is causing the issues, and develop solutions.
Communication rhythms are essential for turning this data into follow-up actions.
Team communication rhythms can look like:
- 1 year marketing vision (with input from the whole team)
- Review how the past quarter went
- Establish next quarter’s goals
- Identify long-term issues that need to be addressed and create actionable plan
- Keep track of key metrics
- Manager: individual feedback meetings
- Resolve smaller issues
4. Once basic systems are in place, elevate your workflows with automations
In a recent conversation with Mark Huber, we talked about the rise of Shiny Object Syndrome—that urge to adopt every buzzed-about tech platform that’s sure to transform your marketing operations forever.
Mark cautions against that—and we agree. At a time when 71% of CMOs don’t think they have the budget to fully execute their strategy, you have to choose tools wisely. Since research shows that marketers only use 42% of the capabilities of their existing martech stack, that’s a natural place to start.
Explore untapped features and functionalities of your current tools instead of investing in new ones. Most SaaS companies have explainer videos and a knowledge base that will spark new ideas.
When it comes to AI and marketing automations, SaaS tools are offering more features directly within their workspaces. Someone recently asked me which tools we use for automations, and I responded, “mostly just ClickUp.”
ClickUp is not built as a main marketing automation software, and, yes, we also use Zapier to integrate different apps, but at this point in our development, we are getting a lot of value out of simply using what is available to us.
Using untapped automations within your primary tools will not only help you financially, but it will be easier on the team—less training time and frustration over another new tool.
Accepting the never-ending process of an ops role
A MOps leader’s work is never done: New processes are always being created, and old ones are always being improved. Issues become clearer as you focus on improving measurement.
A good leader in marketing operations doesn’t try to execute on every marketing idea thrown at them—instead, they put the processes and feedback structures in place so the entire team can accomplish their biggest priorities effectively and on time.
Make no mistake, this will take time, and process excellence won’t happen overnight. But better operations make for a more seamless work experience for team members and happier customers. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Are you a content leader wearing too many hats? Or are your processes for content creation on the backburner right now? We understand.
If you want help delegating some of your content strategy, execution, and distribution, while you get those processes up to speed, let’s chat. We’ve got all of the right processes in place to produce smart content on an efficient schedule.