Monday, May 16, 2011

Marketing Operations can save your life. Or at least your marketing sanity.

By Mark Helfen

If you've been in marketing for a while, you know that the job can range from merely difficult, to completely impossible.
  • It's hard to manage the individual parts of the marketing mix.
  • It's very hard to do well
  • It can range from hard to beyond hope to control, or even influence all of the other parts of your organization that have to work in sync to make your marketing strategy effective.
Or to paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, marketing gets no respect.

At last weeks SDForum marketing SIG, Gary Katz outlined the answer to these problems - the effective implementation of Marketing Operations. Katz is founder of Marketing Operations Partners, a consulting group that helps companies get their marketing operations in shape.

He began by outlining a long list of the problems marketing faces, which if not exhaustive, was at least exhausting.

A few select ideas:

  • Katz asked five brave volunteers take a 20 question self assessment test of "how your organization is doing.... related to marketing operations." The first question was whether the rest of the organization has clear objectives and understands the outcomes that marketing is targeting. In your humble bloggers opinion, there are few companies where every department puts marketing's objectives first.
  • The rest of the questions covered what might be categorized as marketing and general organizational best practices. The 5 test subjects reported final scores in the 60s, out of a possible 100. (All 20 questions are included in the presentation, on the SDForum web site.)
  • Marketing information is in overload mode, with way to much data, and little ability to assess its validity, much less turn the data into action that could be agreed on across the corporation.
  • The lack of a dashboard to summarize information for senior executives.
  • People, specifically marketing people, are just plain too busy.

While the list is long, the basic idea is that the corporate marketing strategy needs to permeate and influence, if not control, all parts of the company, to assure that customers get a consistent message, and the actions of the business actually match that message. need to live your brand.

But all the news isn't grim. Implementing a successful marketing operations function will go a long way to resolve the difficult.

Marketing Operations is a relatively new idea, first defined by IDC. Here is an extract of their definition:

The purpose of the Marketing Operations function is both to increase marketing efficiency and to build a foundation for excellence by reinforcing marketing with processes, technology, metrics, and best practices. Marketing operations enables an organization to run the marketing function as a fully accountable business. (You can see the complete definition, and other versions, on Wikipedia, here. )

Katz discussed an equally long list of solutions, described as Marketing Operations 2.0, as a response to the list of problems he started with. Here are a few selections of how an effective marketing operations function can help:

  • Benchmark best marketing practices. Determine the resources that competitive, or at least similar businesses are investing in marketing, and compare with your marketing budget.
  • Calculate customer lifetime value. Understand how much business individual customers are likely to with your company, and use this information to make informed decisions about investments. Not to mention that having this (and many other) facts at hand increases the credibility of marketing and helps drive the implementation of marketing operations corporate wide.
  • Live the brand. The task is to persuade all parts of the company to act in ways the match what we say about ourselves.
  • "Make sure your message has some integrity," said Katz. Make sure you company can actually deliver what it says. "We're all getting tired of brand promises that don't deliver."
  • The big idea is to turn marketing into a profit center, like other operational departments. By having enough information and control of the companies revenue generating behavior, marketing can establish a return on marketing investment.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:

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