5 steps to marketing operations maturity: Going beyond “just” martech

By Chuck Leddy

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ve probably heard about the growing importance of marketing technology. But martech, by itself, doesn’t solve the challenges today’s marketing teams confront. Tech helps, of course, but marketing teams often lack the skills, insights, resources (whether internal and/or external), strategic alignment, and more to get the most out of the various platforms and countless martech tools that are now proliferating across the marketing landscape (even reaching under those rocks).

The “maturation” of marketing operations

The role of marketing operations is to connect the dots, to identify and integrate the right martech that “plays nice” with your existing martech stack and helps drive your strategic goals, not just for the marketing team but for your entire organization. Marketing operations oversees the selection, deployment, and management of martech platforms and ensures that your B2B marketing campaigns and programs have the “right” tools to succeed.

Sounds simple when you say it, but it’s harder to do. Marketing operations is still emerging as a “maturing” function at many organizations and has yet to even show up at others (can an entire organization live under a rock?). In short, the full potential of marketing operations has yet to be realized.

A recent webinar (available free on-demand), “How to enable marketing operations to unlock excellence in your martech” was organized by B2B Marketing and hosted by its Editor-in-chief Joel Harrison. The webinar brought together B2B marketing experts to discuss what “maturity” in marketing operations looks like, and how to make it work within your organization. Panelists included Sojourn Solutions managing partner Rebecca Le Grange, as well as Shane Redding, Consultant, of Think Direct and Jack Wildt, senior manager of demand generation operations, of ON24. What follows are the main takeaways they shared:

  1. Define the role of marketing ops

Le Grange began by recommending that B2B marketers “begin with the end in mind,” working their way back from the outcomes they seek. “It all begins with, and depends upon, what you want marketing operations to do. Marketing leaders need to define that first.” Going on a big spending spree and buying the latest “cool martech” won’t help marketers unless they have a clear idea of what concrete outcomes they seek to drive and how martech can help them reach their destination.

Redding agreed, explaining that “marketing operations and martech isn’t one-size-fits-all. You need to consider the culture, the strategy, and the goals of each organization. First figure out exactly what you want marketing operation to deliver,” then figure out how martech fits in with your existing technology and ways of working.

  1. Never forget: Marketing ops isn’t “just” martech

Wildt said he helps marketers who may get overly excited about the possibilities of whizbang technology by serving as “a necessary wet blanket.” He sees his role as a human reality check: “We have to be realistic about what the technology can actually accomplish,” he said. “Sometimes, the martech doesn’t interact well with existing marketing tech stack.” and otherwise doesn’t deliver on its promised ROI.

Le Grange agreed that marketers sometimes need pushback on their high hopes about what martech can do. “I’ve seen clients who’ve gone out and purchased martech to “solve” certain challenges, such as lead generation or improving the CX (customer experience), but inevitably that new martech is just one piece of the solution that needs to be integrated with other factors too.” It takes a more holistic approach for martech to be optimized, she noted.

  1. Align marketing ops across the org

New martech needs to “play nice” with a marketing team’s existing tech stack, but also needs to be strategically aligned with other organizational functions, such as sales. Le Grange pointed out the importance of supporting cross-departmental collaborations. “Part of what marketing operations should enable is interfacing with other departments like sales, finance, IT, and beyond. MarkOps needs to help broker these key strategic relationships. Marketing teams cannot work in a silo, instead they need to share data and connect with the entire organization.”

Redding offered an example: the need to connect specific marketing activities to downstream outcomes like more inbound phone calls. “To see the full value of those marketing activities, you need to have information sharing that closes the loop and connects marketing activities with outcomes.” Wildt agreed, adding that “marketing and sales needs to be aligned and share data, because neither can be successful without the other.”

  1. Be ready to learn and get help

Martech is changing so fast that no marketer can keep up with all of it. That said, marketers need to be continuous, tech-savvy learners open to trying new things. Depending on the “maturity” of your marketing operations, you may want to develop certain in-house capabilities, perhaps by offering training or educational resources to your marketing team. There may be other times when you have to “go outside” to bring in needed expertise and resources.

As Le Grange put it, no B2B marketer “needs to be ‘the’ expert in any specific technology, but you should be willing to try and learn, to understand how any single technology fits into how everything works together.” Redding added that marketing leaders must continually consider “what expertise you want in-house and what expertise you should be outsourcing, because sometimes outsourcing enables you to scale your marketing operations faster and smarter.”

  1. Evaluating the “right” martech depends on the organization

All the panelist agreed that the martech your marketing team “needs” depends upon the maturity of your marketing operations, the capabilities of your team, and the strategic needs of your organization. Wildt offered this formula for evaluating martech: first, identify your goals, then figure out how any new martech interacts with your existing tech stack, finally, evaluate whether you have the appropriate internal resources to implement the new martech/way of working or whether you need to bring in help from outside.”

Le Grange added an important, final reminder: “never forget that change management involves people, not just martech. When you overlook the impacts on your people, your tech-only ‘transformations’ can result in failure. Bring the people along too.”

Want to learn more? Sojourn Solutions Managing Partner Rebecca Le Grange will be speaking at B2B Marketing’s Get Stacked event on March 21 (UK: 21 March). Get Stacked, held in London, brings together industry experts and over 400 tech marketers to discuss all things martech related.