What Is Marketing Operations? Everything You Need To Know In 2021
The modern day SaaS customer journey is long and nuanced. And the modern day SaaS marketing strategy needs to reflect that with a more holistic view of the customer lifecycle.
Today’s modern SaaS marketer is more of a juggler than a singular, focused act.
With all of the different priorities, projects, and platforms, there’s quite a few balls up in the air.
Think of any successful modern day SaaS marketing campaign.
It’s more than just your traditional Google Ads campaign. More than a few follow up emails promoting recent product updates.
The modern day SaaS customer journey is long and nuanced. And the modern day SaaS marketing strategy needs to reflect that with a more holistic view of the customer lifecycle. With brand awareness campaigns, lead generation, content promotion and remarketing, the list can get long fast. The more complex these disparate campaigns grow, the more important high level management and integration become.
Enter the need for Marketing Operations.
Without strong Marketing Operations there is minimal visibility into campaign performance, and thus almost no way to make informed investment decisions.
– Sean Madden | Marketing Operations, Directive
Marketing Operations allows businesses to connect and improve unique marketing efforts to make them more efficient and more effective. The reason so many Marketing Ops strategies fail is because marketing operations is no longer just a technical discipline. Looking at MOPs professionals as blind integrators and button pushers leads to aimless execution.
In this post, we’ll be covering just what properly aligned Marketing Operations includes and what the next evolution of modern day SaaS Marketing Operations looks like. This way you’ll be able to keep an eye on that juggling act of yours while also knowing where they heck it is you’re heading.
What Is Marketing Operations?
Historically, marketing operations has been a business function meant to oversee an organization’s marketing programs, planning, and strategic activities. But it’s time we all start evolving our marketing strategies to include a more customer-led approach. Helping more customers is the ultimate goal of any digital marketing plan, after all.
Marketing Ops – or MOPs – strategies ought to be tailored towards improving our marketing efforts’ ability to reach more customers, not blindly optimize systems. Thinking you can get by with random system optimizations is why so many businesses fail when they enter the SaaS space.
MOPs personnel go as unsung heroes with a “button pushers” rep because they’re too often aimed at “improving systems” without a properly aligned goal. Their responsibilities and value go far beyond just improving the connectivity between your SaaS SEO and PPC campaigns.
You can’t improve the efficiency of a system without knowing the right goal to optimize towards.
So what does Marketing Operations look like now?
At Directive, Marketing Operations is a revenue and marketing function designed around deep customer insights that optimizes systems, technology, and integrations towards an aligned goal that ties directly back to revenue.
The commonly misconstrued goal of marketing operations is efficiency. When what really matters is effectiveness. But don’t take my word for it – take the word of these SaaS marketing experts:
“One of the biggest mistakes MOPs professionals make today is letting technology drive strategy.”
– Darrell Alfonso | Global Marketing Operations, Amazon Web Services
“99% of marketing executives want to see their marketing operations improve”
– Sean Madden | Marketing Operations, Directive
“Mistakes with the [marketing-sales] handoff lead to lost time and money and could even jeopardize a sale. Because there are gray areas of ownership and contention, [it’s one of of the biggest] challenges that marketing operations faces”
– Tanya Chu | Global Reporting & Analytics, Splunk
Now, let’s get started looking at what an actual Marketing Ops professional handles on the day to day.
Marketing Operations Responsibilities/KPIs
So, how does Marketing Operations fit into modern day SaaS businesses? Where do they sit in the org chart? And what do they have to worry about in terms of Jobs To Be Done?
We’ll start backwards and work our way back from there.
What exactly does a MOPs professional do?
Consider the image below. MOPs professionals are system optimization masterminds who can integrate unique campaigns and customer flows into streamlined systems.
In terms of Jobs To Be Done (JTBD), you can look at the list below for the basic roles and responsibilities of most marketing ops professionals. What do these unique digital marketing positions have to focus on?
- high level project planning
- process management and optimization
- MarTech investments and integrations
- reporting and data enrichment
- brand building and consistency
- customer-led revenue alignment
You may have noticed one of the bullets on that list is bolded. And here’s why. Truly successful Marketing Ops aren’t defined by their ability to improve systems, but their ability to improve the customer lifecycle and generate more revenue. Which might explain why these revenue focused Marketing Ops sit so poignantly at the center of most SaaS org charts.
Given their connection to so many different Marketing and Sales functions, the KPIs MOPs personnel choose to chase often get blurred. This can be a huge problem. If you don’t know how to properly align your MOPs towards customer generation and actual revenue growth, then you’re really just burning your budget.
There are two [primary issues in modern SaaS MOPs]: 1) leadership and other teams do not know/appreciate the value that effective marketing operations can bring to the organization and 2) MOPs practitioners can sometimes become too granular and narrow in the results they deliver, when they should always think big picture and strategy first.
Global Marketing Operations, Amazon Web Services
Prioritizing optimization opportunities based on revenue potential and financial modeling is what distinguishes support team members from revenue drivers. And what distinguishes true leading SaaS brands from the myriad of SaaS companies flooding the search engines.
You know the big names we’re talking about. And it never hurts to learn a little from the best.
To keep your MOPs team on the right track, here are some NSMs from some leading SaaS companies for you to consider.
Now, you might be thinking with all of these high-level NSMs that Marketing Ops could be mistaken for Demand Generation. And many have tried to make the distinction:
This is what we so often hear, or, even worse[:] that MOPs Teams think MarTech only and Demand Gen Teams think leads only. If this is not the case in your Marketing department, count yourself lucky, because you’re on the right track.
– Stephanie Swinyer |Head Of Revenue Marketing, Integrate
But they’re still missing the point.
The real difference between properly aligned MOPs and demand gen is the direct tie back to increased revenue. Demand generation was a great step for digital marketing. But it’s had its day in the sun. The prize of successful demand gen campaigns is MQLs – leads. But the sad truth is that MQLs don’t consistently translate into sales and revenue. The pipeline never fully connects to revenue.
With MOPs systems, processes, and campaigns, there should always be a tie back to revenue. When executed properly, Marketing Operations prioritizes the right technological and system optimizations that make your marketing efforts more effective, not just efficient. When done right, MOPs helps you not only convert customers at lower costs, but convert more of the right customers as well.
Why Marketing Ops Is Vital For SaaS
Now, if you’re still working on some more traditional, D2C campaigns, you might be wondering what the value of cross-campaign integration is.
Why invest in high-level cross-campaign integration?
That stat alone should be enough to persuade most business owners. But just to drive the point home, we went and collected a few more quotes from SaaS marketing leaders each speaking to the importance of Marketing Ops in 2021. You can check out a few of our favorite quotes below:
“There is an existential battle between execution and evolution. Executives need to ensure there is always capacity to advance the transformation, not simply deliver this month’s tasks.”
– Sean Madden | Marketing Operations, Directive
“MO is the function that is accountable for driving efficacy on both sides of the balance sheet – both improved marketing results and cost reductions. The MO group is like a factory manager who is responsible for having the right tools and resources in order to get the product out on time and with quality.”
– Mark Maurits | Marketing Director, Microsoft
“Today’s hyper-growth SaaS companies are all about rapid scale. Marketing ops helps companies identify and repeat successful go-to-market activities in a repeatable, scalable way.”
– Darrell Alfonso | Global Marketing Operations, Amazon Web Services
But, if so many SaaS leaders believe in the power of Marketing Ops, why is it that so many cite frustrations or struggles with MOPs?
Why Traditional MOPs No Longer Works
As we mentioned earlier, the reason so many Marketing Ops strategies fail today is because marketing professionals refuse to evolve beyond their technical discipline. The current status quo of MarTech obsession and technical masterminds has marketers focusing on execution instead of strategy. And as the famous quote goes:
“Strategy without execution is useless — Execution without strategy is aimless.”
We like to go one step further. One step deeper. As in: your Marketing Ops strategy needs to be deeper than just “making your marketing systems more efficient.”
It needs to go deeper. Much deeper. All the way down to the customer experience itself. Truly customer-led Marketing Operations is a function designed around deep customer insights, not tools and tech. Let’s dive a bit deeper ourselves to see what this lack of depth can lead to with traditional Marketing Ops.
Strategic Fault: Department Misalignment
Ask yourself this: what is the ultimate goal of traditional demand gen and marketing ops?
But, as mentioned above (and worth re-emphasizing again here): MQLs don’t consistently translate into sales and revenue.
And with the high costs associated with Marketing Operations, misaligning your optimization strategies towards a goal that can’t directly increase revenue will always lead to frustration.
What’s even worse than that is that you fail to do what you actually set out to do by improving your marketing systems – help more customers.
This is the critical misalignment of most marketing ops strategies today: focusing too much on improving the systems themselves instead of the experiences of those they’re trying to reach.
Strategic Fault: MarTech Bloat/Aimless Audits
The second issue that most Marketing Ops professionals find themselves dealing with is somewhat to blame on the first. Focusing on the wrong NSMs and outputs can lead to you investing in tools that you don’t necessarily need in hopes of boosting those metrics.
Many Marketing Operations professionals make the mistake of blindly delivering requests without understanding their priority to the organization. There is always more production work to be done, but the best invest their time in the projects that will multiply the effectiveness of the entire marketing team.
– Sean Madden | Marketing Operations, Directive
Because of the inability to consistently and confidently tie MQLs back to revenue, marketing ops is often left to improve efficiency for efficiency’s sake. This often results in MarTech bloat that so many SaaS executives complain about.
“There are very few martech tools that perform all of the functions marketing professionals need to do their job [like] research, strategy, execution, [and] reporting. The ones that do offer all of those functions can be extremely expensive [and chew up] our already limited budgets. As a work-around, marketing professionals cobble together a system of tools”
There’s a reason such a large percentage of SaaS executives complain about MarTech bloat in today’s marketing world.
On top of that, the act of optimizing efficiency without a proper goal also leads to aimless audits for the MOPs professional themself.
“Be clear about the problem you are trying to solve, solve it, and then automate it. The old adage applies: “What you put in is what you get out.” Your Marketing plan should be outcome-based and customer-centric before you try to upload it into the application.”
Establishing which outcomes to prioritize is where your financial modeling needs to be on point. Just imagine having the ability to prioritize which individual optimizations will drive the highest returns. Having such a powerful budget calculator would almost be like a Marketing Ops superpower, wouldn’t it?
Strategic Fault: Budget Allocation Difficulties
One of the most common complaints of MOPs professionals is the difficulties allocating budget for new projects from the CFO or CRO. But the truth is there’s a good reason for their boss’s hesitation. Without accurate offline conversion tracking, financial modeling, and diligent reporting, properly connecting your MOPs projects’ success back to actual revenue growth can be difficult.
And if you’re falling prey to the classic demand gen misalignment, the lack of effectiveness given improved efficiency isn’t great for your performance report either.
Misaligned strategies can make things harder on the customer, the CFO, and the marketer all at the same time.
As the complexity of marketing increases and budgets tighten, marketing leaders are placing a greater emphasis on marketing operations.
The Solution: Customer-Led Marketing Operations
And so, Customer-Led Marketing Operations enters the scene. As opposed to the aimless optimization of traditional MOPs strategies, Customer-Led Marketing Ops aligns each initiative towards improving the customer experience and driving SQLs/revenue.
But what makes Directive’s customer-led approach actually different besides this goal alignment? Well, let’s dive a bit deeper, shall we?
For too long Marketing Operations has focused on servicing the marketing department only through execution. B2B SaaS has moved on from bland emails and landing pages. To drive qualified customers and revenue, we don’t need widgets – we need winning strategies.
Customer-Led Marketing Operations Strategy
Let’s get into what actually distinguishes a customer driven strategy from the traditional. We’ll dive into each of the six key differences that define a successful Customer-Led Marketing Operations strategy. Starting from the high-level financial modeling and drilling all the way down to the end customer experience itself.
#1: Analytics Illuminate Performance
Knowing the value of any marketing activity is key to making informed decisions. The goal is to answer the perennial question: should this campaign investment be reduced or doubled? This requires comprehensive analytics and insights.
To really be able to accurately answer that question, you need to have far more data than just how well your campaign is converting. You need to know the value of each conversion point, the cost to drive each customer action, and the ratio you need to achieve in order to sustain scalable growth for that campaign.
To know the true impact of any marketing effort, sales-enabled tracking is a must in order to get a more complete financial picture.
At Directive, we use our custom LTV:CAC calculator tool to reverse engineer every decision we make in order to prioritize our MOPs projects. For those of you who don’t know what LTV:CAC is – LTV stands for “lifetime value” per customer and CAC stands for “customer acquisition cost.” The LTV/CAC ratio compares the value of a customer over their lifetime, compared to the cost of acquiring them.
The higher you can get this ratio to climb, the better your strategies are paying off. We like to maintain a LTV:CAC ratio of 3:1, here at Directive.
You can watch our LTV:CAC video for a step by step walkthrough of how to use the tool.
#2: Customer Experiences That Convert
Campaign design is no longer about testing and hoping when it comes to Customer-Led strategies. Campaigns need to convert. More than that, they need to convert sales quality leads.
While old school strategies may have focused on increasing the number of emails their campaigns deliver, the customer-led approach is more sophisticated. As opposed to stuffing the pipeline full with as many blind leads as possible, we want to prioritize who we’re targeting to curate a truly customized customer experience. This way we can increase both the quality, and quantity of our leads.
A truly remarkable and memorable SaaS marketer understands that there is no longer such a thing as B2B. In today’s customizable marketing world, everything is B2C – or even better said, H2H: human to human.
Think of the traditionally sterile and distant B2B branding. It hardly drives you from apathy to action. Just take a look at the screenshot below. This is what you see when searching “B2B versus B2C.”
Now tell me…How are you supposed to distinguish these 12 different brands?
Instead, you need something that will leap off your page and into the memories of your ideal audience.
Curating a radically memorable and remarkable customer experience across a consistent and present brand is how you truly improve Marketing Operations.
#3: Managing Data Like An Asset
A robust database should be safeguarded like the valuable asset that it represents. This means that the days of third party data and guess work reporting are over.
Managing data quality, enrichment, and proper segmentation has now become a first-party responsibility. But what does this mean exactly? It means that – despite what your Product team may like to believe – your product/service isn’t for everybody.
Knowing who makes up your audience and your Total Addressable Marketing (TAM) can make each marketing activity more important and more impactful.
This means that the targeting of all the subsequent marketing efforts that fall under Marketing Operations need to improve.
You don’t just need to know the general industry your targeting, you need to know far, far more:
When developing a persona – and when building a TAM based on that persona – every datapoint matters. The more you know about your end buyer, their needs, their concerns, and their jobs to be done, the better you’ll be able to curate a truly helpful and customized customer experience.
And of course, you need to be able to properly manage all these data points. Knowing which tools will provide the most functionality for where you need it most is the first step. The second is knowing how to connect them all.
Customer Data Platforms (CDP) like Segment are great for integrating all of these different tools like Marketing Automation Tools, CRMs, and other disparate platforms. This way you can get a more singular view of your customer’s historical interactions with your brand.
#4: Leads Should Never Fade Away Quietly
It takes great effort to bring in new leads, so they should be carefully monitored and placed into the hands of the best people. This is where the technical side of Marketing Operations gets to shine.
Lead routing and lead management must work together with sophisticated nurturing programs to ensure no lead is left untouched. This comes from knowing which tools and technologies best enable your marketing and sales teams to engage with your end customers. And it isn’t a one-size fit all solution.
Each stage of the customer experience maps differently. Which means different levels of intent need to be matched with differing intensities of follow up, education, and action.
This is where the all-so-dreaded Salesforce integration comes into play. Knowing how to properly integrate, manage, and delegate incoming leads to the properly prepared sales personnel is one integral connecting point between all your marketing efforts and actual revenue generation.
To make sure you’re on the same page, we designed the graphic below to help you understand our approach to nurturing and lead routing.
#5: Technology Serves The Strategy
Take a moment to remember some of the quotes we covered earlier. One of the leading complaints of B2B SaaS executives and MOPs professionals alike is MarTech bloat.
This isn’t surprising given the number of MarTech options provided to modern day SaaS marketers. With the complex buyer’s journey of today’s B2B users, using the latest automation or tool as a crutch is far too tempting to the overworked MOPs professional.
But here’s a news flash if you didn’t know: Your customers (and your boss) don’t care how many tools you use. They care how well you can effectively and consistently communicate the value of your brand and offer.
Platform proliferation has inundated the marketing team with tools and gizmos that do not drive ROI. Before signing up for another platform, make sure that each investment is driving toward strategic goals.
How do you do this? Well, there’s a nifty LTV:CAC calculator we mentioned earlier if you don’t recall… (wink wink)
Benefits Of Customer-Led MOPs Alignment
Customer-Led Marketing Operations is about understanding where value truly lies within your marketing and sales efforts. It tailors your marketing strategy to your customer segments for the most effective go-to-market approach. It uncovers what is working, and what can work harder.
Each customer segment is optimized to better acquire, sell, and retain customers. Each action is driven by financial modeling and statistical confidence, allowing for a steady hand when deciding to pull the lever on increasing any given strategy.
And lastly, it realigns your focus – and your metrics – back towards what really matters: curating a remarkable and customized experience for your end buyer.
Marketing Operations isn’t about how many tools you have in your belt or how efficient you can make your funnel.
It’s about how you can effectively improve your customer’s transformative journey from apathy to action.
Implementing Customer-Led Marketing Operations in your SaaS business will allow you to better understand the value of each customer interaction, and revive your confidence in the optimization efforts of your marketing and sales team all together.
Seems like more than a worthwhile adjustment to me, how about you?
If you’re interested in learning more about how to realign your marketing and sales efforts towards true revenue and customer generation, check out Directive’s trademarked approach to SaaS Marketing that delivers on the promises demand gen forgot about: Customer Generation.
Customer-Led Marketing Operations begins with the customer in mind rather than merely attracting leads. With clearly identified target accounts every MQL should become an SQL!
Marketing Operations, Directive