Is Your Marketing Organization Ready To Change Its MO?

It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether your company is ready to implement “Marketing Operations.” As described in “7 Deadly Sins” (also in this chapter), Marketing Operations (MO) is an emerging discipline with the potential to significantly increase performance and accountability in complex marketing organizations. It leverages a strong front-end infrastructure to reinforce marketing strategy and back-end programs and tactics.

This paper identifies the characteristics that signal your organization’s readiness for MO and answers these questions: What does that organization look like? What are its primary pain points? What is its vision for the future? What pressures are driving it to consider undergoing substantial change?

MO Readiness: A Checklist for Your Company

To see if your company is a good candidate for MO, check any of the following characteristics that apply:

  • My company is mid-size or larger
  • My company’s marketplace is dynamic and highly competitive
  • My company’s marketing has evolved into a complex and multidimensional function
  • My company has a significant marketing budget
  • My company has a diverse mix of programs and resources are funded to reach a breadth of audiences (segments, sales channels, internal and external stakeholders, etc.)
  • My company faces government and regulatory compliance pressures
  • My company’s marketing processes have evolved to the point that they are no longer well-coordinated or even well-understood
  • My company values best practices but lacks process, technology and metrics to achieve them
  • My company is pressuring marketing to assume a more strategic role
  • Within my company, many believe that marketing must deliver greater value for the company’s investment

If you checked at least half of those statements, your company is a great candidate to benefit from the power of Marketing Operations.

MO Readiness: Where Do You Feel the Pain?

If your company is feeling some pain, you’re probably acutely aware of it. Arriving at an accurate diagnosis, however, requires a careful examination. Before digging into the specifics, first consider the general health of your marketing effort. Does marketing currently receive wide recognition for its strategic leadership and bottom-line contribution? Is marketing in complete alignment with your company’s strategic goals and other key functions? Can marketing clearly measure its success and demonstrate ROI to your executive team?

Marketing Operations is specifically designed to address these corporate pain points:

  • Marketing is focused on firefighting and tactics rather than on strategy
  • Marketing experiencing difficulty measuring ROI and demonstrating value, causing it often to be on the defensive, needing to justify its role and contribution to C-level executives and investors
  • Marketing success tied to other groups that have different or even conflicting goals
  • A corporate environment that fails to support collaboration and, consequently, loses opportunities for synergy
  • Employee defections that jeopardize continuity, place institutional knowledge and expertise at risk and contribute to high customer churn
  • Marketing processes that too often constrain internal efficiencies and effectiveness instead of enabling them
  • Poor coordination of shared processes across functions
  • Difficulty assimilating and integrating programs, systems and resources obtained from corporate mergers or acquisitions, leading to duplicated effort, loss of momentum, lack of focus and resistance to change

If you can relate to two or more of those statements, your organization may be in enough pain to embrace Marketing Operations.

MO Readiness: What’s Your Vision of Marketing’s Contribution ?

In a perfect world, marketing operates as a very creative, fast-paced, results-driven function that stays close to the customer and its other stakeholders. It is not only aligned with the enterprise’s strategic agenda but also helps define it. It leads the customer experience and innovation processes. It is well-integrated with other corporate functions and takes full advantage of the power and discipline of a strategically designed Marketing Operations infrastructure.

The MO infrastructure builds into the marketing function the processes, technology, guidance and metrics required by an efficient operation that delivers outstanding value on a consistent basis. Such an MO infrastructure enables informed decision making, accountability, sustainability, visibility, teamwork, strategic thinking and repeatable best practices execution.

A marketing organization is ready to think seriously about embracing MO when it feels internal and external pressures to make systemic changes because it has not been delivering on its vision and has consistently failed to achieve its operational goals.

Marketing Operations: The Bottom Line

Bringing the benefits of Marketing Operations into your marketing function should be considered an evolutionary process. MO is both a serious commitment and a great opportunity. Like all change initiatives, it requires careful and comprehensive thought and exacting implementation. Key players in marketing and other cross-functional organizations, such as sales and product development, need to be invited into the process early on and need to stay involved to achieve stakeholder ownership and buy-in.

The effort, however, yields impressive rewards. As Figure 1 shows, Marketing Operations has the power to reposition and re-energize a company’s marketing function, moving it past stubborn barriers to unprecedented levels of performance and success. Leveraging the discipline and rewards of an MO approach places marketing in the perfect position to influence strategic decisions and help increase corporate revenue, decrease costs and sustain high levels of customer and employee satisfaction. In short, Marketing Operations, when thoughtfully implemented, has the potential to transform a “marketing function” into a “marketing powerhouse.”

MO Readiness: Making the Assessment

By this point, you probably have a good idea whether it would be worthwhile for your company to learn more about Marketing Operations. But it’s also true that it can be tough for marketing insiders to have a clear and objective view of their own operation. That’s where professionals can help assess your organization’s readiness to move forward with a new MO.

Solving Marketing’s Seven Deadly Sins

Busy corporate marketing groups can be so focused on tactics and firefighting, they jeopardize their marketing investment. Overreacting to events, tackling symptoms rather than underlying fundamental problems and jumping to please the boss can prove fatal. Crippled marketing efforts can leave promising companies in the dust or, at least, handicapped at the starting gate.

Admired technology companies are leveraging Marketing Operations to improve performance and measure ROI as they refine their marketing organizations. Marketing Operations is an emerging discipline that increases efficiency and drives consistent results in complex marketing organizations. It builds a foundation for excellence by reinforcing marketing strategy with processes, technology, guidance (including rules of engagement, knowledge management, marketing intelligence and best practices) and metrics.

While Marketing Operations is uniquely suited to tackle marketing’s most challenging problems in Fortune 500 companies, you don’t have to be a Cisco or an Adobe to benefit. The following describes the seven deadliest marketing sins that plague companies of all sizes and how Marketing Operations addresses them:

SIN #1: Ill-Defined Metrics

Today’s corporate marketing departments must justify their existence. The need to measure results is inevitable. However, the instincts and skills that make a corporate marketing professional great – a bias toward action, verbal and written acuity, and a talent for relationship building – often don’t translate into an ability or willingness to scientifically and objectively evaluate success.

Broken systems and the unwillingness of the organization to pay for marketing measurement also conspire against the effort to define meaningful success metrics.

SOLUTION: Marketing Operations ensures that correct processes are in place to establish meaningful metrics at the front end of the marketing process, enabling success measurement processes at key intervals and as each program concludes.

SIN #2: Slammed Resources

The prevailing attitude of “doing more with less” can leave key people discouraged, overwhelmed and near burnout – eventually, leading them to circulate their resumes. For organizations, the consequences are costly mistakes, high turnover and collapsed programs when key people leave and missed opportunities to leverage important but ownerless programs.

SOLUTION: Marketing Operations addresses resource limitations by ensuring that workload is effectively allocated, roles are clearly defined, interdependencies are understood, team members feel satisfied with their jobs and valued-added programs and associated resources can be justified to executive management.

SIN #3: Sketchy Institutional Memory

Successful marketing programs depend on accurate information, a historical view into past successes and failures, and the ability to recognize patterns that link seemingly unrelated data points.

Unfortunately, in many marketing organizations, this crucial knowledge is scattered all over the company. It’s in the heads of individual workers, on shelves, on hard drives and in long-forgotten filing systems. Often, when people leave, a big piece of organizational knowledge goes with them. Information loss is a huge productivity killer for marketing teams, and trying to regain this lost insight wastes previous marketing investments.

SOLUTION: Marketing Operations facilitates knowledge sharing, creates an enduring repository of information and encourages decision making based on fact, rather than on hunches or gut feelings.

Sin #4: Constipated Creativity

The best creative solutions come from the collaboration of many brains. The age of the “individual-contributor/director” has led to constrained creativity. When the entire creative burden falls mostly on one corporate marketer, thinking out of the box can be severely impacted. Creative synergy results from many minds thinking as one.

SOLUTION: Marketing Operations enables the creative process to benefit from the synergy of team.

SIN #5: Dysfunctional Team and Supplier Relationships

Team collaboration is a real challenge in stagnant, mature – and even dynamic – organizations typically modeled on competition, power and control structures. Over-reliance on legacy systems and tools also perpetuates this problem. At a Marketing Operations symposium I attended, one MO leader at a large financial institution proudly shared how his department was using Excel spreadsheets to capture knowledge that required more than 100 columns in width. Many companies are stretching the capabilities of everyday resources like Excel well beyond their intended capabilities. This misuse of technology only perpetuates the siloed nature of organizations and the rampant over-dependency on individuals who closely protect their specialized knowledge as a source of power, potentially leaving the company in the lurch when they are unavailable or decide to leave the organization. Real collaboration and traceable decision-making processes are fantasies in such companies.

Problematic supplier relationships are also an indicator of trouble. Most successful companies can point to numerous strong, long-term marketing supplier relationships they consider to be integral to their success. Likewise, a pattern of failed supplier relationships is often an indicator of marketing department failure, rather than poor vendor performance. Unfortunately, companies that have had consistently bad relationships with outside vendors and suppliers often react by bringing everything in-house. While this strategy may provide the illusion of control, it allows marketing managers to deflect the blame for failures, rather than teaching them how to manage their outsourcing program by taking responsibility for the results. In addition, this “Band-Aid” strategy won’t scale with the organization as it grows.

SOLUTION: Marketing Operations helps set realistic expectations and mutual accountability between suppliers and the organization, thereby increasing the effectiveness of outsourced partners by empowering them to act as an extension of the internal team.

SIN #6: Poor Fiscal and Tactical Decision Making

Budgets are never set in stone. Often, it’s a “use it or lose it” situation. For some managers, it’s “misuse it and lose it anyway.” Unfortunately, many corporate marketing departments end up leaving program budget on the table or allocating it to the wrong initiatives. This “catch-22 marketing budget dilemma” occurs because:

  • It’s very time-consuming to manage the budget effectively, especially in companies with broken financial systems;
  • Each marketing-spend decision creates more work for the one-person or small-team marketing department in terms of project management, measurement, supplier management, etc.;
  • Doubt persists about the ability to successfully justify the expenditure to management;
  • Focus is instinctively on high-visibility marketing activities and C-level executive requests over good fiscal management;
  • Most marketing types are inclined toward creativity rather than finance . Poor budgeting processes and kludged financial/marketing systems also contribute to perpetuating this sin.

SOLUTION: Marketing Operations facilitates implementation of the system-support infrastructure and financial management discipline needed to protect valuable marketing budgets.

SIN #7: Inadequate Marketing Portfolio

Many companies align their fate with the success of too few marketing programs, whether it’s lead generation, public relations, trade shows or advertising. Overreliance on any one particular program can derail a company, especially if a key program unexpectedly loses momentum. In the meantime, programs that could have had strong leverage never get a chance to prove their mettle and are forever relegated to the “B” list. Classic examples include customer references, lead nurturing and leveraging investments in analyst research and consulting subscriptions.

In addition, poor intelligence about program ROI creates a challenge in sustaining the right marketing mix.

SOLUTION: Marketing Operations puts the means in place to launch potentially high-value marketing programs that would otherwise never get out of the starting gate, and understand the contribution of each marketing program in the context of the overall marketing portfolio.


Implementing a Marketing Operations program takes buy-in from key executives and the commitment of the entire marketing team. However, considering the positive results and high return on investment experienced by Fortune 500 companies and those that wish to emulate them, it is well worth the eff ort.