The advances in marketing technology are happening so frantically, many would say it’s headache inducing. For many B2B companies, however, it’s been a huge boon, and the rise of marketing operations is to thank for that.
If you’re unfamiliar, the marketing operations role covers a broad array of marketing technology management, from process and workflow design, to reporting and analytics, to planning and budget allocation.
In essence, marketing operations is about maximizing all of the various technology and data capabilities to more efficiently and more effectively drive greater customer growth, and ultimately, revenue.
There are three key functions for marketing operations to perform, as we've covered previously. Now it's time to look at the evolution of marketing operations to understand its history and future.
The Evolution of Marketing Ops and Marketing Attribution
Taking a step back, five to ten years ago, if there was a marketing operations role in an organization, it was seen as an “island of lost projects,” as Sirius Decisions refers to it. It was where the geeks looked for and experimented with their tech toys and tried to make them fit into the organization.
The next phase of marketing operations was to be the marketing problem solver -- a “we’ve got a gap here, go find the best solution that solves it” kind of person.
As far as what marketing operations does today, those functions were previously (and still today in smaller or less sophisticated organizations) handled by several different roles, often across marketing groups -- demand gen, marketing analysts, strategists, and sometimes even the CMO.
But the requirements of the role are increasing, and therefore, is more frequently requiring specialization. And so today, it’s grown to be a separate role in itself -- it’s become more proactive and strategic.
As technology and data increasingly dominate the B2B marketing sphere, the effectiveness of this role is increasingly becoming a key differentiator between successful companies and not successful companies. Companies that can track and collect meaningful data, and integrate their resources (both tech and human) towards the same goal, are more likely to succeed. Their product is better, their marketing is better, and their sales is better.
Meanwhile, the role of marketing attribution has ascended due to the same proliferation and growing impact of marketing technology.
Previously, attribution was a nice-to-have. Connecting each and every marketing effort to sales was kind of a pie in the sky idea -- knowing which channels were driving leads was seen as good enough. Once a person became a lead, it was the sales team’s responsibility to educate and convert them into a customer. Most of the decision journey happened after the lead initiated contact with the company.
But now, customers are completing two-thirds to 90 percent of the purchase decision before contact (according to Forrester). That, combined with more customer touchpoints (more data) than ever before, means that the customer journey is even harder for marketers to understand -- a big problem for marketers.
“When marketers are able to see all the way through to revenue -- the long-term value of customers -- marketers are able to think about and treat their audience as people, not marketing leads.”
Marketing attribution handles that, by showing how each and every marketing effort contributes to the customer journey, all the way down to the sale.
With attribution, marketers are able to make sense of the growing customer touchpoint data and turn it into actionable insights. It contributes to better analysis of past efforts as well as better execution going forward. Just like marketing operations, attribution is now a key player in the strategy and planning process.
It’s really no coincidence that the B2B marketing operations role is rising alongside the growth in marketing attribution -- they go hand-in-hand.
Marketing Ops and Marketing Attribution: The Translator
Moreover, not only does marketing operations have to perform a broad array of strategic marketing and technology roles, they must also be able to communicate (translate, even) what’s going on in marketing with sales, finance, and IT in terms that are meaningful to them.
The marketing operations role is charged with being able to communicate across silos and across departments. They’re tasked with aligning teams internally, ultimately, to serve the customer better.
On the marketing tech side, that’s the role attribution plays in the marketing tech stack -- it is all about connecting (traditional) marketing data to sales data, so that the everyone is aligned with the same goals (customers) and every team’s data speaks the same language. With attribution, marketing can speak to their results in terms of revenue, just as sales always has.
When marketers are able to see how their efforts coordinate with and contribute to the efforts of the sales team, the prospective customer is better served. When marketers are able to see all the way through to revenue -- the long-term value of customers -- marketers are able to think about and treat their audience as people, not marketing leads.
“The effectiveness of this role is increasingly becoming a key differentiator between successful companies and not successful companies.”
The rise of marketing operations has been swift, and as marketing technology continues to mature and evolve, so will the ops role. As both marketing operations and marketing attribution are tied to the growth of marketing technology, and emphasize an internal alignment with sights set on revenue and customer growth, it makes sense that the two will forever be linked.