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With the increasing complexity in marketing, marketers are less able to prove the ROI and are not able to be 100% accountable, despite the promise that digital channels allow better tracking and provide more transparency.
The issue is not that technology does not allow it, but that there are too many tools available for marketers.
This is indicated in the graphic below, showing 947 different companies providing marketing technology software.
With such a proliferation of tools, marketers find it difficult to be organized, to streamline their operations and to track marketing performance consistently and seamlessly, cross-channel and across markets.
This is aggravated by marketing operations technology vendors claiming that their technology will solve all the problems that marketers are facing.
Based on such promises, marketers adopt workflow and resource management systems and expect that their operations will all of a sudden become more efficient and that they will be able to report accurately on the performance of marketing activities.
Unfortunately, these benefits don’t always materialize.
In reality, marketing operations is not just about implementing workflow and resource management tools. It’s about organizing the end-to-end marketing ecosystem, mainly the good old cliché of people, process and technology.
Rolling out a marketing operations platform without changing anything around it, will not produce the expected results.
To be successful, marketers have to invest time and resources (people and financial) to define a solid and integrated marketing operations strategy, then they have to invest even more time and resources to roll it out across their organization and ensure all parties adopt it.
So what does a marketing operations strategy look like?
Going back to the good old cliché, it’s about identifying who are the people involved in the marketing delivery, what standard toolset they will use and how they will go about delivering marketing programs through these tools.
There are so many touchpoints to reach the consumer, across multiple channels, that the marketing team has expanded to include more people hired directly by the brand, as well as more agency staff assigned to service the account, and account and technical support staff on the technology vendor side.
The issue is that with the rise of so many digital channels, where marketing campaigns are executed by specialist agencies and technology providers, the number of stakeholders in the marketing delivery process has increased exponentially.
So the first step in defining the Marketing Operations strategy is to get a very clear view of who are these team members and to understand the type of work they are doing.
This will provide an understanding of how many internal and external stakeholders are involved in the marketing delivery process, what type of access they need to marketing tools, and who needs to be on-boarded onto the new system to ensure it delivers on the expected benefits.
The common mistake many brands make is that they define processes based on the workflow in the platform being used.
However, marketing technology platforms are designed to fit the needs of many organizations, and, even though a certain level of customization is possible, the platform-driven workflow might not necessarily meet the organization’s requirements.
Depending on the number of internal and external stakeholders, and policies in place (corporate, brand and legal at a minimum), the process might need to be more sophisticated and may require steps to be done outside the tool, or in other systems.
Process definition therefore relies on a clear understanding of the brand’s requirements, the stakeholders and the policies governing how marketing activity is delivered, and should not be mainly driven by the workflow in the tool.
If we look at people and process requirements together, we can start to see what changes are required for a successful implementation of a marketing operations strategy.
By identifying all stakeholders in the marketing delivery chain, and by designing processes that meet the brand’s requirements and policies, marketing leaders can set roles and responsibilities for specific individuals.
This creates an environment of transparency and accountability, where mistakes can no longer be hidden.
Technology is not limited to implementing a marketing operations platform. It actually extends to all the platforms needed to deliver the campaign across channels.
Take for example the launch of a microsite for a new product, in multiple markets. There are several platforms that have to be taken into account, including, at a minimum:
- The content management system where the microsite will be created.
- The tracking system that will measure traffic on the microsite, across the various local versions.
- The marketing operations platform to manage the workflow of building the microsite in its various local versions, along with other channel-specific activities.
While Marketing Automation tools come with the promise of full integration of the campaign execution, they do not allow tight controls for delivery within a particular area.
In our example here, human intervention and manual steps are still required to create the content and to build the tracking. In parallel to that, implementing a standard Marketing Operations tool across the various markets cannot alone ensure consistency in delivery.
The brand will need to adopt a global standard toolset, such as a content management system and a tracking system, and enable its local markets to access and use these tools, within the boundaries of pre-defined processes and policies.
So how do brands practically manage the work in all these tools?
Let’s simply go back to the People and Process components.
Implementing a standard toolset for content management and tracking requires the same effort of identifying the stakeholders and defining the processes and policies as was done for the marketing operations platform.
And this effort has to be repeated for every channel used to reach the customer, whereby each of these channels may have its own specialized team of internal and external stakeholders.
Building a marketing operations strategy and having to define the people-process-technology ecosystem for each channel may sound daunting.
However, brands that invest the time and effort to create an integrated marketing operations strategy across all channels and markets create an environment of transparency and accountability where campaign performance is measured more accurately and the cost of delivery is substantially reduced.
This is not a one-time effort though. The marketing landscape is evolving rapidly and constantly, new channels keep popping up and along with that, the number of stakeholders, platforms and policies.
As a result, the marketing operations strategy has to evolve along with all these changes, and the focus is always three-fold: people, process and technology. Marketing organizations that rely on such a strongly integrated foundation are able to reap the benefits and achieve marketing excellence.