Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Part 1


Marketing is changing. No longer the reserve of right-brain creative types, modern marketing is increasingly being driven by data.

Marketing operations is emerging as a critical function that blends process, analysis, and data with a creative, holistic approach to customer engagement.

As marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) software have become mainstays, the marketing operations discipline has evolved to manage:

  • The technology necessary for demand generation.
  • The data required for analytic and attribution models.
  • The creativity needed to test and refine new marketing tactics.

Most importantly, marketing operations professionals now have the responsibility of defining and implementing customer data management processes and infrastructure. It’s a big responsibility and a huge opportunity to give marketing the control and accountability the discipline has been sorely lacking.

If marketing operations leaders can make it happen, this “closed loop” approach gives both marketing and sales professionals (working with their colleagues in IT) the power to test, optimize, and prove the effectiveness of their work more precisely than ever before.

Part 2

The Job

New Challenges

The core challenges of marketing haven’t changed much over the years: creating brand awareness, acquiring new customers, retaining and growing the customer base, generating and converting leads, and optimizing budgets.

But as digital marketing matures, we’re seeing traditional challenges take on extra layers of complexity, and new issues arise making marketers’ lives difficult:

Channel proliferation: Mobile, social, search, email, display, native advertising—adoption of new channels shows no sign of slowing down.
Fragmentation: The average enterprise uses 97 applications1in the marketing department alone—each one streaming new data into its silo. And as the number of applications rises, it becomes even harder to maintain high data governance standards within each application.
Low visibility: It is hugely challenging to get a clear view of the entire customer journey. As a result, it’s difficult to know what works when—and why.
Dizzying acceleration: As marketing becomes more reliant on real-time insights from customer data, reaction time to opportunities needs to be equally quick.
Poor data quality: Bad data is unreliable, leaving analysts spending a disproportionate amount of time wrangling the data instead of gleaning insights from it.

While the number of tools at our disposal have never been greater, in many ways, marketing is more difficult than ever before.

1 Netskope Cloud Report June 2016

The Right Job for the Times

The marketing operations job description includes these core activities:

  • Unite the marketing ecosystem – break down silos, connect your world, de-fragment the chaos, and make the marketing activities efficient.
  • Operate the funnel – run the marketing automation tools, deploy lead scoring, build attribution models…make demand gen activities actually generate demand (that converts).
  • Track marketing performance – tuning analytics to measure and compare the effectiveness of marketing activities.
  • Own the data as a strategic asset – take responsibility for the data that fuels your entire marketing machine.
  • Connect marketing to other functions – with process and tech links into sales, IT, finance, customer care, and product teams.

Many of these jobs may be shared among different members of the marketing team. But there’s real value in uniting them under the remit of the marketing operations discipline—one that owns the specific operational challenges that hold so many marketing teams back.

The Role of Marketing Operations Include:
Analytics and predictive modeling Performance measurement and reporting
Budgeting and planning; financial governance and reporting Project management
Campaign analysis and reporting Strategic planning
Customer, market, competitive intelligence, research, and insights Talent and skills development
Data management Technology & automation and pipeline management
Organization benchmarking and assessments Workflow process development and documentation
Source: The 2014 Marketing Performance Management Study, VisionEdge/ITSMA

Why Marketing Ops Is Important

If the single biggest challenge facing every marketing team is fragmentation (and we think it is), then marketing operations is the most important job in the department.

When you can’t scrutinize all your marketing activity, you can’t identify what’s working and what’s wasting time and money. That’s when marketing problems become business problems.

And even when you have a complete view of every individual marketing campaign or channel, you can’t claim to know the full story if your vision is blinkered by silo walls.

Marketing operations gives you the comprehensive view you need. And it goes further than just breaking down silos within marketing. It means connecting your efforts in marketing and beyond, to any point of engagement between your organization and the customer.

If you can do that, you’ll never have to rely on hunches again. You can map customer journeys from start to finish and track data points throughout. So when you have marketing budget to invest, or you need to cut costs, you know where you’ll get the best returns.

A Hybrid Profession

On the face of it, a lot of marketing operations best practice looks like back-office data management. But it’s so much more than that. When it’s done right, it’s the closest you get to your customer without shaking their hand.

The people in your marketing operations team have the power to change your customers’ experience of your brand for the better. And measure the effect.

It takes a special breed of person to get it right: a hybrid professional. One who combines expertise in marketing technologies and data, with a deep understanding of the business goals and internal processes.

A great marketing ops pro can speak meaningfully about marketing performance to people from all departments and backgrounds. And they know how to listen out for the right information too.

If you’ve got this kind of person working for you today, you’re one of the lucky ones. If not, you’ll want to hire someone fast. And if you’re the one leading the entire marketing department, the first item on your to-do list should be to establish your marketing operations capability. (For help covering this and the others on your to-do list, you might like our Ten Principles for Data-Driven Marketing eBook).

"Marketing is now embracing theengineering mindset that for years weresisted, bringing left brain thinkinginto a traditionally right brain world."

Gary Katz, chairman,
Marketing Operations Partners

Imperatives for Agile Marketing Operation

Agility is one of the most important dimensions of marketing operations success. The best marketing ops people are those who create platforms and processes that let the team respond quickly to new opportunities, whip up unanticipated use cases, try out experimental reports, and test new hunches.

The old-school, hard-coded approach just can't rise to the challenges of modern, data-driven marketing. Here are some key principles of agile marketing operations.


Think cloud

Chances are, your main marketing and sales apps (marketing automation, CRM, analytics) are already in the cloud. Agile marketing ops usually take a cloud-first approach. There are still plenty of good reasons to use on-premise software, but cloud will increasingly become the default for marketing ops pros.

Get a complete customer view

Data from your web analytics should be visible in your marketing automation, and the journeys tracked in both should pass over into your CRM when you hand over to sales. A total view of your customers and their journeys means robust integrations, using the APIs of your key apps.


Own your data

You can’t leave data locked up inside third-party apps. You need to own it. That means capture and store pretty much everything, even if you’re not sure about how to use it right away. It also means storing it centrally—ideally in a marketing data lake (see our Naked Marketing blog series for details).

Evangelize data hygiene

Your entire team needs to use the same campaign codes, IDs, and tags to describe your programs and customers. If they’re not consistent, the data can’t join up and your visibility fractures. You need to be the head cheerleader and chief traffic cop for best- practice metadata governance. (Check out our quick eBook that explains how “just enough” data governance across your business helps to ensure that the data you get is clean and trusted.)


Validate contact data

Contact data is the essential identifier and your only means of getting in touch with prospects and customers. But most marketing databases have shockingly bad contact data. Even if the data started out in good shape, up to 25 percent2of contact data becomes out of date every year. Operations people stay on top by validating emails, postal addresses, and phone numbers on entry into the database (often as the web form is submitted) and then verify in batch mode periodically. (Read our eBook for more about bad customer contact data and how you can fix it.)

Bring along your stakeholders

The marketing operations role today is essentially a change management one. You succeed if you get your key stakeholders on board early and keep them aligned as you go forward. That means listening hard, designing solutions to their toughest problems, and communicating early and often to keep them on board.


"The marketing operations leaderbecomes the CIO of marketing.Dealing with the marketing systemsand the way that marketers use themis a role for marketing operations."

Craig Moore, director, Sirius Decision

Q&A: Laura Wang

We know what we’re talking about. Not too long ago, we embarked on the marketing operations journey ourselves. In this video, Laura Wang, Informatica VP of Marketing Operations, talks about ways that businesses can build their marketing operations chops.

Part 3

The Tech

The Marketing Operations Stack

Optimizing marketing operations takes more than a team that’s comfortable with CRM, analytics, and marketing automation. You need people who know their way around the full marketing technology stack.

Scott Brinker, editor of marketing blog, runs the annual Stackies Award, recognizing the best marketing tech stacks visualizations. The deck of the 2016 winners will give you an idea of how varied these stacks can be. View the SlideShare to view the 2016 Stackies Award Winners.

Clearly, there are as many possible marketing tech stacks as there are companies. And it’s the job of marketing operations to make sure the tech fits the organization—and runs smoothly day-to-day.

"Marketing tech is in a fascinating place andthere are hundreds of enabling apps, tools andplatforms. But turning that potential into realmarketing capability is about process andpeople and organization—there’s not enoughdiscussion about that in the MarTech space."

Scott Brinker,

Working With IT

Marketing operations is where marketing strategy meets marketing technology. It’s now essential to develop close relationships with your partners in the IT department.

While it’s easy to spin up a new, cloud-based marketing application without the help of IT, it’s impossible to do the most important

things without a close alliance between IT and marketing ops. Only with IT’s help can you:

  • Integrate your many marketing apps – using APIs or direct integrations.
  • Create a central data store – a place where all your data lives, ready for analysis or deployment.
  • Define standards and processes – creating foundational data governance and making high-quality data available to all users, apps, and departments.
  • Secure your data – making sure it complies with all policies and regulations.
  • Build the right tech stack – that’s both agile and resilient.

The days of an adversarial relationship between IT and marketing are over. The only way to succeed is to be joined at the hip with your colleagues in IT.

Where Marketing Operations Is Going

The marketing operations role is developing fast. Here are five key trends that are shaping the discipline:

Data ownership

While today’s marketing operations professional can get by with an understanding of the core marketing applications, tomorrow’s leaders will be those who manage their data as the strategic business asset that it is.

And while today’s data wrangling is often a manual task (with spreadsheets and pivot tables), tomorrow’s will leverage the power of tools and automation, including:

  • Data Integration – fast, repeatable ways to integrate different data sources.
  • Data Quality – cleaning, de-duping, validating, and verifying key data.
  • Data Enrichment – using third-party sources to add value to your data.
  • Data Preparation – making data ready to use by non-technical marketers.
  • Data Mastering – using master data management tools to create a single view of the domains that matter most (customers, channels, products, etc).

The Marketing Data Lake

The data warehouse is the workhorse for many organizations, and will remain critical for many business functions, such as finance. But some digital marketers are finding it too restrictive for their needs.

The data lake is a new kind of data store that’s optimized for the kinds of multi-structured and unstructured data that marketing collects, such as clickstreams and social media feeds.

Crucially, a data lake lets you store your data in its native format and structure it only when you need to (“schema on read”). With a data warehouse you need to structure your data first, before you know exactly what you’ll want to do with it (“schema on write”).

Here’s a quick comparison:

Data Warehouse Data Lake
Data Types Structured Structured, unstructured or multi-structured
Database Schema Schema-on-write Schema-on-read
Cost Expensive storage or appliances Low-cost storage, commodity components
Ideal for Penny-perfect, super-secure analysis, such as financial reporting Agile analytics and decision-making for marketing, product development, support, etc.
Agility Bringing in additional data is often complex and requires an IT project. Answering new questions different from what the warehouse was built for may require restructuring. As long as the data is already loaded it’s easy to add new reports and queries, combining the data in any way.
Time to insight Introducing new data or running a new report will take IT resource and lots of patience—getting meaningful results could take weeks and months. Thanks to the agility mentioned above, and the fact that non-technical users can make new queries themselves (without the help of IT), you get insight much faster, in days to weeks.

Check out our new book

The Marketing Data Lake

Written by Franz Aman and Anish Jariwala
- all about our own marketing operations odyssey.
It's a great read


Next-Generation Analytics

A new generation of marketing analytics applications and platforms have sprung up to answer the toughest questions in marketing—and to take advantage of new advances in IT, including:

  • The public cloud – platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure that let you spin up new storage and compute resources as needed.
  • Hadoop and Spark – open source technologies that distribute and optimize complex operations quickly and at low cost.
  • Data visualization tools – that enable fast, agile reporting and rich dashboards, such as Tableau and QlickView.
  • Predictive algorithms – that crunch enormous amounts of data to analyze propensity to buy.

These technologies combine to create new opportunities for business analysts to predict, forecast, and report with greater depth and accuracy than ever before.


Today’s marketing operations professionals are learning that they can’t service every demand from the marketing team–but they can’t wait in line for IT either. Success will depend on empowering the non-technical marketers across the department to access and manipulate data for themselves.

Self-service platforms will accelerate common processes that marketers need to do–from ingesting data to preparing, integrating, and reporting on it.. The idea is to let marketers test hypotheses and create new use cases quickly and easily, with minimal support from IT.

Convergence of customer-facing disciplines

Marketing operations teams are already aligning closely with their colleagues in sales. In the future, the same will happen with customer service departments and even product teams. The same customers are interacting with all of these disciplines. So it makes sense that these teams share a single view of the customer and can see the customer interactions across all four functions. The marketing ops role is critical in bringing about this larger convergence.

Part 5


The Rise of Marketing Operations

There’s no longer any dispute: the marketing operations role is growing fast—in importance, impact, and influence.

This trend will only accelerate as marketing channels and apps continue to proliferate, marketing fragmentation gets worse, and marketing data becomes even more central.

That’s why new CMOs place such a premium on attracting and keeping great marketing ops people. And why an operations skills shortage is already becoming clear.

If you’re in marketing ops, you’re entering an incredibly exciting, challenging time. A time when you can make an enormous impact on the success of your marketing activities, and of your entire company.

And if you’re a CMO or senior marketing leader, it’s time to take marketing operations seriously.

Part 6

Marketing Operations Resources

Informatica data management tools:

Marketing Operations experts