What is the Role of Marketing Operations?

NOTE: This post was originally shared on tenfold.com*

The television series Mad Men portrays the bustling world of advertising in the 1960’s when it first rose to prominence as its own driving force. Over the last ten years, a similar seismic shift in marketing has taken place. For decades, many corporations had their own marketing departments, often relegated to the end of the supply chain and then responsible for moving products designed by engineers and executives who were often out of touch with the market.

Marketing Operations (MO) is a next-level concept engaged in the actual process of creating, manufacturing and promoting products. A marketing operations department is likely to be a wild blend of creative left-brain thinkers and buttoned up right-brain statistic ninjas, all working in harmony towards a common goal.

1.  Various Roles of Marketing Operations

As a department, Marketing Operations is involved with much more than just ‘marketing’. At Estée Lauder, for example, marketing operations start with creative teams conceptualizing new beauty products in anticipation of both demands and trends. From the initial concept, Estée Lauder’s MO team then oversees materials sourcing—such as finding fair trade ingredients or new non-allergenic materials—as well as product testing, brand naming, and design. The team also gauges demand by polling retailers and sets projected inventory and delivery dates. From there, each project is handed off to manufacturing, accounting, and various other departments until it arrives in warehouses for shipping. Meanwhile, the MO plans product launches and brand promotions.

At some companies, MO plays a bigger role at the end of the production process—but nearly every department is involved at some stage of the company’s brand process. Other roles include strategic planning, lead management, process improvement, budget management, stakeholder analysis, quality testing, and data management. MO thus has a much broader sweep, taking care of the ‘business of marketing’ and not just the creative aspects.

2.  Factors Driving the Creation of Marketing Ops

The term ‘marketing operations’ was originally coined by analyst firm IDC in early 2005 but only entered the mainstream corporate lexicon around 2011. Several factors contributed to the rise of MO as an integrated unit in company culture. Savvy corporations began consulting the marketing department before introducing new ideas to get important insights on demographic trends, competitive pressures, and customer feedback.

What was once considered a revolutionary idea—including the marketing team from the beginning—created a loop that improves and informs company branding from concept to delivery. Now, with ever-increasing pressure on companies to provide transparency and guarantees, MO departments have also moved into designing company workflows, providing training, and establishing company standards.

At Thomson Reuters, the most widely used news distribution network in the world, the Marketing Ops team was intensely involved in crafting the company’s branding mission. The marketing team at Thomson Reuters is responsible for clarifying its values to clients and employees in the realms of journalism and intellectual property rights, as well as the finance and legal industries to which it provides proprietary software.

3.  The Real Purpose of Marketing Operations

The word ‘operations’ in the title is just as important as ‘marketing’. Marketing Operations evolved as a way to help companies be more transparent, efficient, competitive, profitable, and accountable. Early adopters of this over-arching role include Cisco Systems, Symantec, and Adobe. Today, hundreds of companies across multiple industries draw their employees and recruits from backgrounds in branding, finance, technology, accounting, and sales.

The defining purpose of Marketing Ops is to create alignment and order within a company. MO teams are often responsible for creating work systems and workflows through every business unit, as well as overseeing deadlines and cooperation. In essence, although the MO team is often involved in tactical analysis and deployment, its main mission is that of strategy. A strong Marketing Operations department becomes the hub of the company, where people, processes, metrics, and goals are brought into alignment.

4.  Oversight of Long-Term Goals

One of the key roles of Marketing Operations is to help define the company’s long-term goals and then provide the oversight necessary to keep a company on course. This involves everything from making sure the company is following through on marketing strategy, to ensuring a strong return on investments. As with traditional marketing teams, this means a continual focus on key performance indicators (KPI’s). MO may also be in charge of those KPI’s related to budgets, distribution, data flow, and procurement. Another key role is ensuring that the company stays ‘on brand’ at all times.

The word ‘branding’ used to mean what colors represent the company’s product, and what values are included in a (frequently vague) mission statement. Today, branding is a complicated and powerful field that affects the very essence of a company’s identity. Some MO departments will review everything from the company’s mission statement to its year-end investor portfolios to ensure that a company’s overall brand remains intact.

5.  Planning for Market Penetration

Of course, despite its many responsibilities, Marketing Operations is still about marketing. While overseeing a multitude of tasks, MO will also have a flourishing creative department working on print collateral, media campaigns and event planning. The integrated nature of Marketing Operations allows it to assimilate information and feedback from multiple company modules that were once in their own silos. MO can see which products sell faster than others or have seasonal fluctuations, enabling the team to anticipate demand for inventory. Coordination with accounting helps MO analyze which products are most profitable, and why. Data from warehousing and distribution can identify bottlenecks. MO can then work backward from an anticipated launch date to include more time for possible delivery glitches.

6.  Responding to Changing Market Trends and Requirements

Marketing Operations is also the catcher for the company’s tech awareness team. MO keeps abreast of improvements and competition in CRM, data analysis, and marketing and then translates that knowledge into actionable improvements.

Agility is key when it comes to staying ahead of the competition in 21st-century marketing. Online commerce means most companies are selling globally 24/7, which requires highly responsive customer service teams, real-time traffic and revenue reporting, an understanding of advertising exchange algorithms, and the ability to spot fresh opportunities.

As an example, Estée Lauder’s trend-setting MO Department gave one of its more mature brands, Bobby Brown, a digital makeover in 2013 by launching a YouTube channel called ‘I Love Makeup’ targeted at millennials. As Forbes reported at the time: “As the first brand to take such a step, it will be watched closely by everyone.”

7.  Identifying New Markets

The marriage of data and strategic planning make it easier for a company to identify and evaluate a variety of new opportunities like exports, franchising, additional product lines, and mobile advertising. However, the growing impact of digital marketing also has complications: every country has different legal and political concerns regarding data privacy, and it’s MO’s job to sort that out.

8.  Optimizing Marketing Channels

MO allows a company to exercise both versatility and specificity in its choice of marketing channels. A department can put different people or teams in charge of direct selling, wholesaling, digital marketing, print media, mobile advertising and so on. This allows each team to drill down into what works (or doesn’t) in each channel, while still functioning as part of a cohesive department that collates and analyzes data from all channels.

9.  A Typical Month in Marketing Operations

While the scope of the department’s role can be quite involved, individual responsibilities are generally clearly defined. The ultimate responsibility is supporting other teams or individuals. A data analyst would likely lend support to the sales team and working the CRM, then move on to A/B testing and analysis of email campaigns and finally, refine data and feed it into current ROI reporting.

At least twice a week, data teams might meet with their creative counterparts to get their input and answer questions. Data teams can share which types of franchise leads respond most favorably, and ask creative teams for tailored messaging to those demographics — or Creative may ask Data to assess various mobile advertising exchanges and pick the best ones for geo-targeting and fill speed.

Twice a month, both teams might meet with a larger strategic planning group that reports directly to decision makers. These meetings may focus on preparing year-end reports, assessing new markets, or creating workflow templates and training materials across the company.

10. The Future of Marketing Operations

According to a 2009 Lenskold Group study, companies with a marketing operations department are twice as likely (11% vs. 5%) to enjoy more “effective and efficient” marketing and are more likely to outgrow their competitors. In a survey conducted by the CMO Council and software company Alterian, 60% of respondents said the transformation of marketing operations is an essential area of focus, regardless of company size. In the Lenskold study, 59% of respondents reported having a dedicated Marketing Operations person or team.

For those seeking a career in marketing, MO may be a very smart choice—new hires are likely to get intensive experience in the discipline of their choice, while still being exposed to, and working with, teammates in other disciplines.

For companies small and large, Marketing Operations provides the integration and insight necessary to compete in a world of rapidly accelerating data and intelligence.


*approved for sharing with my audience by Ira Padilla

The Marketing Operations Playbook – aligning Sales and Marketing in one document

The Marketing Operations Playbook – aligning Sales and Marketing in one document

Alignment across the company is one of the most valuable and important elements to organizations succeeding. It’s just like the rowing team in the featured image of this post … if you don’t have the team rowing together you’re not going to win the race. I know this article specifically called out “marketing and sales alignment” in it’s title but in reality this is applicable to the entire organization.

Staying aligned within an organization is hard — particularly if you’re in a fast-paced environment where every day feels like a fleeting moment — and supporting alignment within a rapidly growing company (particularly the marketing and sales teams) can be extremely fulfilling and challenging at the same time.

One of my favorite activities to improve marketing and sales alignment is to build the Marketing Operations Playbook [MOP]. The remainder of this post is to share what that is to me and how I build them… let me know what you think in the comments!

What is a “Marketing Operations Playbook”?

The Marketing Operations Playbook is meant to serve as the organizations official document on the processes, procedures, and tools for handling all the people that move through the Marketing & Sales funnel.

The Marketing Operations Playbook should also act as an anchor for the organizations lifecycle program. This means all new and existing employees should be able to refer to the MOP to have a clearer understanding of how a record will move through the lifecycle stages of the business.

Tip: Because every business will have unique departments, roles, tools, and terminology it’s important to build out the MOP with stakeholders from across the organization to ensure nothing is missed.

Why Build a Marketing Operations Playbook?

One of the reasons I build MOP’s in my organization is to support employees. The Marketing Operations Playbook clearly defines all the tools, systems, and processes a new (or existing) employee should know. The clearer an employee is on the systems and processes that are in use, the easier (and faster) it will be for a the new employee to ramp up.

Ultimately, It’s all about ramping up with speed and efficiency. Any good manager or business owner will tell you to spend time training your employees and get them ramped up quickly. The sooner they are more autonomous the better.

What’s in a Marketing Operations Playbook?

There are some pretty common questions that come up when a company is growing, particularly if you are growing fast. Some of the ways a MOP can help is when employees need answers to common questions like:

  • What is the difference between an iMQL and MQL?
  • What tools do we use for CRM and Marketing?
  • How do we manage marketing campaigns?
  • How are lead sources attributed to records?

Although every organization is different, I believe there are at least 9 key elements that should always exist in the standard MOP.

  1. Demand Generation Tools
  2. Sales Tools
  3. Internal Communication Tools
  4. Lifecycle Management
  5. Lead Source Attribution
  6. Opportunity Source Attribution
  7. Marketing Campaign Management & Reporting
  8. Internal Document Management
  9. Definitions / Index

Below I’ve expanded on what goes into those 9 elements (in no particular order) that I have often placed in my MOP.

The Standard Marketing Operations Playbook Elements:

Demand Generation Tools

Use this section to define any and all demand generation tools your organization is using. Include as many tools as your organization has in place and be sure to ask your team and other colleagues if you have missed something.

Once you have them all listed, take the time to individually define what the purpose of the tool is and how your organization is using it.

Tip: If you have multiple tools and managers and maybe multiple stakeholders, it’s also helpful to add the Manager of the tool and the stakeholder(s) involved. Something like this:

[Name of Tool]
Manager: Mike Rizzo, Marketing Person
Stakeholder: Bob Smith, VP of Marketing

Sales Tools

Be clear about the tools you’re using in the Sales organization. This is the same methodology used in the “Demand Genration Tools” section but specific to the Sales team.

It’s extremely important to be thorough, so if you’re not sure what tools are being used by the sales team, ask the head of sales and any of the sales reps what they use to do their job.

Some examples of tools you might list are:

  • CRM (Salesforce, SugarCRM, HubSpot)
  • Prospecting Tools (Salesloft, etc.)

Tip: Even if you think you’ve covered all the tools, don’t hesitate to ask a few sales reps what they use. You might be surprised and discover some overlapping tools within the organization. Your technology budget will thank you when you find those 🙂

Internal Communication Tools

Although this doesn’t feel like something that should be in the MOP, I would argue that a full understanding of the ways people communicate is essential to aligning the team (and the company).

I personally like to list the tools used at my company for internal communications. Some of those tools that fall into this section might be:

  • Skype
  • Slack
  • G-chat
  • HipChat

Again, more clarity around what people should be using for specific actions means less friction between the organization.

Lifecycle Management

Be clear, be thorough. Explain each stage of the potential customer’s lifecycle like you were talking to a five year old…. okay maybe not 5, but try to make it really easy to understand. I like the way HubSpot describes their lifecycle stages so I often use their descriptions.

Lead Source Attribution

Every lead comes from somewhere. Use this section to define how you’ll attribute leads to the source they were driven from. Each company will have a different approach to lead source attribution so it’s important to take the time discussing how leads will be counted against their source. You’ll probably want to involve a few stake holders to make sure this is accurately captured. Those involved are often leading Sales and Marketing and a few mid managers from each department.

Opportunity Source Attribution

Although this is more commonly outline in a Salesforce implementation, it’s still valuable to clearly define when an Opportunity should be left at it’s old originating source or changed to a new source.

Marketing Campaign Management & Reporting

I use this section to clearly outline where campaigns will be managed (in more depth than the “demand generations tools” if they overlap). I also cover the following:

  • Naming conventions
  • Conference and Event Lead Management
  • Multivariate Campaign Tracking
    (for later stage companies typically)

Tip: It’s never too late for a good naming convention. If you haven’t established naming conventions for your campaigns yet (or anything for that matter) I strongly recommend doing so.

Internal Document Management

I like to use this section to make it really easy for the organization to understand where to locate files within the Sales and Marketing org. Sometimes this section of the MOP is a more complex digram that explains when documents should and should not be shared with external vendors and customers (and how to do so). While other times this section can just simply outline where to find certain types of files for certain types of activities.

Some directions and links to the folders you might have in this section could be:

  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive
  • Box
  • etc.

I’ve been fortunate to use Google Drive for all of our internal file organization so internal linking between the Google Doc and the Google Drive file / folder has been a breeze.


This is probably one of the most beneficial sections out of the entire Marketing Operations Playbook. I leverage this entire section to place all of our definitions and links to important documents. I’ll even repeat the definitions I had previously placed in other sections like “Lifecycle Management” just to make it easy for anyone to jump in and find what they’re looking for.

In most word documents you’ll be able to have a Table of Contents at the top of the page to link to the elements within the document itself. If you’re using Google Docs it’s as easy as “Insert > Table Of Contents”


Most importantly: Don’t forget to update the MOP!

Over time the MOP should be updated with any changes/updates to the processes and tools your organization is using. These updates are crucial to maintaining one source of truth for all employees to reference.
If you have any questions or comments please let me know.