Marketing’s New Customer Nerve Center: Marketing Operations

As marketing ops goes front and center, columnist Scott Vaughan explains how your team leaders can evolve in their roles.


Previously, marketing operations was the “island of misfit toys,” as described by Sirius Decisions’ Craig Moore at the Marketing Operations Executive Summit last year. But with roots in strategic planning and budgeting, this department is increasingly focused on customer acquisition — and it’s becoming the marketing nerve center to drive marketing and customer technology systems and processes.

The need for and explosion of data we’re experiencing in marketing is a primary driver of the ascension and evolution of marketing ops. This is being further fueled as marketing brands bring ad and marketing technology in-house to both get their hands on and own valuable customer and marketing data.

Considering that 59 percent of CMOs who integrate a technology strategy within their overall marketing strategy have reported more targeted, efficient and relevant customer engagements, all eyes are on marketing ops to provide the tools, analytics, processes and metrics that often determine marketing’s ability to deliver.

Who would have guessed that marketing ops would be so cool?

As marketing ops evolves and ascends, it’s time to take a look at what marketing ops leaders can do to drive this shift.

The Rise Of Marketing Ops

In many organizations, marketing ops has the primary role of budgeting, planning, technology and data management. Now this former back-office function is front and center, expanding their scope to help marketing organizations navigate and integrate across marketing silos and functions to align much more tightly with their customers’ journey.

To meet the challenge, marketing ops is adopting and integrating technology like CRM (customer relationship management), marketing automation, ad tech, data management tools and analytics dashboards to measure holistic business outcomes like lifetime value and cost per sale.

The irony of this all is that this department is being tasked with processes and data, when the real need is for it to serve as a change agent with the organization.

As marketing transforms, processes, systems, people skills and allocations and investments all need to shift. Marketing ops is an unprecedented opportunity to drive and guide this shift as a confidante to the CMO.

The Evolving Marketing Ops Role

While this may seem like a daunting task, there are a few things marketing ops leaders can do to excel in this evolving role:

• Lead process change by organizing around the customer. Marketing ops often thinks of their “customer” as internal stakeholders. Yes, however, the fastest way to impact the top and bottom line is to discover, engage, create, serve and delight new and existing external customers.

Step back and look at your current marketing plan, processes, technology and resources — are they aligned with and focused on winning and making advocates out of your customers? If not, lead this effort by re-imagining and re-prioritizing the focus and resources.

• Drive decisions based on governed data. With customer and prospect data — a company’s most valuable asset and the lifeblood of today’s revenue-driven marketing mission — this means apply data governance to improve quality and moving beyond data management and reporting to analytics and insights.

While normalized data formats and developing dashboards aren’t exciting, they are essential to delivering higher-quality data so all marketers can gain insights, take action, and achieve better results.

• Shape the marketing technology infrastructure. Another growing area of responsibility for marketing ops lies in identifying tech providers and implementing the right systems.

Today, the variety of marketing and ad technologies is overwhelming to most marketing departments. As a result, these pros must partner up with their IT siblings, locking arms to make sure investments increase marketing’s capabilities without breaking the bank or hamstringing the organization in a perpetual state of tech adoption.

As marketing ops rapidly ascends the ranks and sheds its “misfit” reputation, some have even said the role will become the “Chief of Staff” to the CMO. However, if this is the case, many marketing ops executives and CMOs see this as a catastrophe waiting to happen. This would be too inward focused, rather than encompassing customer and market needs where the real impact can happen for marketing.

While the evolving marketing ops role offers lots of new-found responsibilities and opportunities, the marketing professionals with customer focus and ability to apply data-driven thinking will be the ones to set the tone for an accountable marketing organization.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Scott Vaughan is CMO of Integrate, a cloud-based, closed-loop marketing software provider, where he leads the company’s go-to-market and marketing strategy focused on serving its growing customer base of marketers. Scott’s experience and passion is focused on unlocking the potential of marketing, media and technology to drive business and customer value. Previously, Scott served as CMO and VP, Marketing Services of UBM Tech, a global information, digital media and events business comprised of more than 50 market-defining brands.

(Some images used under license from


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