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What Does Scalable Marketing Ops Look Like?

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Nate Smitha

Nate Smitha, VP of Consulting Services at Etumos, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Nate shares where people new to marketing operations should start, how successful companies think about marketing operations, and why B2B should embrace the customer data platform.

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Nate Smitha

Based in Seattle, Nate is the VP of Consulting Services at Etumos.

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New to Ops? Start Here

Marketing operations is a relatively new profession. Only in the last five years has it become "normal" for an organization to include marketing operations in its growth strategy. With the pandemic forcing companies to convert physical events into digital, marketing operations gained much more recognition as an essential business function.

Now that marketing operations has gained some mindshare in every corporation (and new marketing tools are created faster than we can adopt them), it's a great time to jump in and learn.

"Identify an opportunity to get into marketing systems and jump right in. I think that's how most of us got into it.

"I think a barrier to entry in marketing operations that is frustrating to see is a lack of exposure to marketing automation tools. In the absence of an administrator login at your current company, learn as much as you can about the business process that these tools are meant to facilitate, read product documentation, and join communities. A community is the best place to start while you're trying to find your first opportunity.

Operational Pillars

"A community is a good thing for anybody to join, whether you're just getting started or you've been in the space for a long time. It's a place to share the challenges that you're facing or celebrate the wins. One of the best things is when you can show off the good work that you're doing. It inspires everybody else."

While many of us have fallen into marketing operations on accident, more people are making a conscious choice to make a career move. This is a great thing and something veterans of the profession encourage. Many marketing operations communities exist, and we encourage you to join at least one of them to benefit from a community of veterans willing to mentor newbies.

"I would call out MOPs Pros. It's a community that folks should absolutely join, but find a community out there like MOPs Pros that help you self-educate once you find an entry role at a company that's passionate about allowing you to learn and grow."

Whichever community (or communities) you join, look for people with experience willing to freely exchange information about systems, processes, and best practices in any community you join.

"Pardot and Salesforce have free Trailheads (online learning programs) you can dive into. Marketo has public product documentation. Marketo also has regional and national user groups. Right now, everything's virtual. You can jump into as many user groups as you'd like."

Marketing Operations Pillars of Excellence

If you've listened to the Revenue Marketing Report, you know that many of us take issue with expecting one person to do every aspect of marketing operations alone. There must be a plan to scale operations with the rest of the business. Not rewarding a talented ops professional with the resources necessary to do every job well is a terrible idea.

That doesn't mean you should pass up on someone who is multi-faceted.

"The decision isn't to not to hire the unicorn. We all strive to be the unicorn. They're someone who has a great breadth and can develop deep expertise in multiple areas. They never stop learning.

"What I see work well is when companies can build a team out around a unicorn and give that person management opportunities and the agency to grow the team quickly."

There are several different functions in marketing operations, and each of them requires specialization and even different personality types.

"We break out marketing operations into subcategories, which is necessary to allow each person a 40-hour workweek. The Four Pillars of Marketing Operations are Platform Operations, Campaign Operations, Marketing Intelligence, and Marketing Operations Development. As a company grows, there's room for several positions with even more specialization within those pillars."

Nate Smitha (2)

As a company grows, it's necessary to do things more efficiently. Trial and error are okay when a business is forced to be scrappy with minimal resources. As more resources become available, the expectation is that people will begin to specialize so that each function can become more productive.

"It's fine to have someone in the early stages who is a generalist. But if we're thinking about scaling campaign production, it can't all sit with that one person. When you look at really mature organizations, there are QA specialists, campaign build specialists, architects, campaign project managers, and program managers leading a sprint process. At Etumos, we've set up these specializations so our folks can continue to grow. They can be the best at campaign production without having to completely shift gears and go into platform operations or pure project management."

There is a steep cost to piling every task on one person. There aren't enough hours in a day to do everything well. It's frustrating to feel like you never have the time to learn things or finish a task to the best of your ability, and these factors play a big part in the high burnout rate we see in operations. Finding people who can specialize and compliment your unicorn means your key resource sticks around longer.

Still not convinced there are benefits to hiring specialists? Consider that it takes more than 23 minutes to context switch. If you expect one person to do everything, they waste a lot of time jumping from one task to another (up to 6 hours PER DAY).

A Marketing Automation Platform Can’t Do It All

I've seen many executives pushing their employees to find a platform that can do it all. They would rather purchase addons to Salesforce than pay a lot of money to additional vendors who may do specific things better than an all-in-one solution.

Even with Pardot being owned by Salesforce, there are still problems with data showing up as expected. And even with Einstein, there are a lot of limitations to Salesforce's reporting. They limit joins, complex data transformation, and database size to protect their servers.

Which is completely understandable. But executives should understand these limitations make it very difficult to understand your market and impact it.

Why not just a marketing automation platform

"Very few mature organizations can be supported solely by a marketing automation platform today. They were intended and still strive to do at all. Some have more robust ecosystems, and they're continuing to purchase and develop more features. Reporting is a common shortcoming for marketing automation platforms. Data transformation, ETL processes, data calculations, and data management are all very limited in marketing automation platforms.

"Customer data platforms (CDP) bridge the gap we see from the reporting perspective. There are a lot of great reporting solutions that work best when paired with a data warehouse or CDP."

If you try to force a CRM or marketing automation platform to be your single source of truth, things get expensive fast. You'll need to use more custom objects and automated workflows to try to unify the data. You'll also see your tables fill up quickly (particularly if you're piping web activity and intent data into your system), which gets very expensive.

"CDPs can consolidate the customer profile, both as a roll up on the person level and the organization. A great example that we've been working on internally is centralized preference management and privacy and compliance management. These processes involve signals within the CRM and the marketing automation platform. With a CDP, you can store the information from your systems, standardize it, and then make it accessible to the rest of the organization.

"Within lifecycle or then lead management, the greatest opportunity for improvement with a CDP is qualification. We're constantly seeking to abstract our targeting and pull all of these demographic and behavior signals together into different calculated scores that we've used for a long time as thresholds (either predictive or more traditional). A CDP gives you an awesome opportunity to calculate multiple models and see what will work better. You can look at conversion rates and have the flexibility to move from model to model.

"There are a lot of like paid media (digital advertising) platforms. Marketers have to undertake manual processes to get information that isn't apples to apples out of one system and into another to show ROI. Often, there isn't engineering or IT support to help them standardize and automate the process.

"I'm not advocating developers come in and build a lot of custom processes. They should streamline what's in place today and create automation so that other parts of the organization can access reliable data. That is the trend that we should all be striving to move towards."


For more recommendations around best practices and hiring for scale, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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