Marketing operations is certainly not the sexiest part of marketing, but it is becoming the most important one. With businesses unable to keep pace with evolving consumer behavior and the marketing landscape, the pressure is on to put marketing operations—skilled people, efficient processes, and supportive technology—in a position to enable brands to not just connect with customers but also shape their interactions.
When done well, we’ve seen marketing operations provide a 15 to 25 percent improvement in marketing effectiveness, as measured by return on investment and customer-engagement metrics. Yet achieving that level of improvement is elusive for many. While marketers are embarking on a wide array of “digital transformations” to reshape their operations and business models, many of these efforts are stymied by marketing’s difficulty in delivering on its aspirations. For example, one recent survey found an astonishing 84 percent of marketers do not have a formal content strategy or distribution process to feed their growing bevy of marketing channels, and they lack any kind of formally managed content supply chain. Despite this, content budgets continue to increase.
This situation played out at one global consumer-products company, which saw year-over-year content spending rise by more than 25 percent as a result of its efforts to become more customer-centric. There was, however, no unifying strategy, governance, or system to create cohesion, reuse assets, or measure effectiveness across the company’s complex supply chain, which consisted of dozens of agencies, production companies, and media partners, producing material for websites, blogs, YouTube, social media, mobile, and customer-relationship management.
Establishing a center-of-excellence function to develop and manage a consistent content operating model across divisions resulted in transparency, new governance, and improved processes. That cut the time to generate content, stopped the growth in costs, and brought new discipline into managing the impact of content. As a result, marketing return on investment has improved by more than 20 percent.
Five steps to bring marketing operations into the digital era
Digital marketing operations involves the application of capabilities, processes, structures, and technologies to cost-effectively exploit and scale the interactivity, targeting, personalization, and optimization of digital channels. As the example of the consumer-products company shows, marketing operations has a critical role in driving bottom-line growth. That capability directly enables the speed, agility, iterative development, experimentation, and responsiveness that successful companies need to react to and shape the marketplace.
Marketers are aware of what needs to be done, and many are taking action. But that often boils down to implementing new technology platforms, adding head count, or increasing digital allocations within the marketing-spending mix. While these are important steps, they won’t solve the challenge. Fundamentally, modern marketing operations calls for the thoughtful, deliberate development of new processes, coordination, and governance.