10 Ways to Get Started With Marketing Ops
Marketing ops is a challenging, yet exciting role for any professional that is tuned into the art of marketing campaigns, and also the backend ‘plumbing’ that is required to prove they work. In the Salesforce Marketing space, marketing operations has a huge potential as a career path.
Salesforce is a flexible platform, with multiple ways a company could customize their own Salesforce org. This means that every org you may encounter will have a different ‘flair’: different objects in the data model, different automated processes, and also its own unique teams of users grouped by role. And that’s before you even get to the marketing automation tool.
Whether you’re thinking of stepping into a marketing operations role, or hope to blend operations into your current marketing role, these are some key aspects to work on to get started.
What is Marketing Ops?
You may hear the classic definition of Marketing Ops involving people, process, technology, and data – this is true!
To contextualize these four words, you can think of Marketing Ops as conducting an orchestra, each member of the team is playing their own instrument, but it’s up to you to ensure they are playing the correct notes, at the right time. Bringing it back to a marketing ops context, individual team members have their specific skills, and you take a helicopter view to help them work together effectively.
When speaking about the career transition to other ‘ops’ personas in the ecosystem (namely sales ops, RevOps, and DevOps), a phrase I use consistently is: “You’re already doing ops, you just don’t realize it!” I have a broad operations role, covering marketing, content, sales, and HR. I started our company’s operations from zero, and building marketing operations from the ground-up has been challenging. These are the things I wish I knew…
1. Get Comfortable With Stakeholder Communication
Marketing is a cross-functional role – in other words, we frequently design campaigns on behalf of, or in collaboration with, other business functions. For example, an up-sell campaign targeting customers who have reached 90% product utilization would involve sales, customer success, product teams (for the data), and others.
Of course, it’s not always plain sailing. All ‘moving parts’ should be ironed out at the first opportunity, and differences in opinions, and requests to change part-way through a project, should be handled diligently.
This is where ‘objection handling’ comes into the picture – in other words, how do you handle and respond to a situation where someone strongly disagrees with your proposal, and at worst, becomes disruptive to the progress. The best course of action is to remain calm, let the person objecting have their say, and be sure you have a chance to respond to their sentiments. Directly referencing their concerns in your rational response should help to quell the friction.
Communication, and other related soft skills, are tested in the Salesforce Business Analyst certification exam.
2. Map a RACI Matrix of Your Team
RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. It’s a matrix that delineates who is responsible for what in the context of the business analysis effort.
Each person can ‘own’ their remit, with the right people involved in the decision making checkpoints. This mitigates the risk of conflict, people feeling left ‘out of the loop’, or ‘dropping the ball’ on a task or part of the process. We use RACI here at Salesforce Ben, and it gives me peace of mind that team members can work autonomously, yet come together collaboratively when required (less meetings in your calendar, anyone?).
There are a couple of other benefits for RACI to highlight:
- RACI shows the distribution of responsibilities visually, which may reveal where one person may be overburdened, and could be supported by another team member with parallel responsibilities becoming the ‘accountable’ team member.
- With the RACI distribution, you can see where you need to fill skill gaps – either hiring someone new, or encouraging existing team members to upskill. This helps to anticipate where you need coverage in a frequently changing technology environment.
You can view one example of a marketing team RACI matrix in the guide below:
3. Listen Closely for Pain Points
Even if you are not attending the major planning meetings with stakeholders, there’s always the opportunity to listen more (and talk less). When people in the organization (or your customer base) open up about their sentiments, it’s all too easy to try and phase out any talk of what’s wrong.
In a sales context, this is known as “happy ears”, only listening out for the positive, and even exaggerating a snippet of positive or neutral news. Don’t end up with “happy ears” – take criticism about a current way of working as an opportunity to improve, showcasing your skills along the way. Validating others’ criticism (through investigation) and advocating for improvements will give you visibility within the team.
4. Play Around With Process Mapping
They say “a picture speaks a thousand words” – and this is certainly true of process mapping.
Marketers are working with processes that span a cocktail of systems and people.
Process mapping helps marketers to visualize complex ideas instead of using words. Not only is this important for controlling all of the marketing ‘moving parts’, it’s the key to stakeholder alignment across other teams in the organization.
These diagrams can take multiple formats depending on:
- What kind of process you need to show.
- Who the intended audience is (the diagram would look different for the leadership team vs the technical implementation team).
- The level of detail the diagram should ‘drill down’ to. You’re likely to leverage universal process notation (UPN).
My preferred mapping tool is Lucidchart. I’ve used this for years, but having enabled members of my own team on it, I understand that it can be challenging to lay out a process that seems to be shooting off in multiple directions! There are Lucid Builder Badges that promise to “develop and share your expertise of the Lucid Visual Collaboration Suite”, including Whiteboarding Foundation, Diagramming Foundation, and Verified Lucid Admin if you want to expand your process mapping prowess further.
5. Understand the Marketing to Sales Handover
Team alignment isn’t only for when executing campaigns. Smooth Marketing Ops relies on consensus agreement around processes – like the conversion processes/marketing-sales hand-off.
Each organization is highly likely to design this differently from the next organization. Do prospects go marketing qualified (MQL) → to sales qualified (SQL)? Or is there a sales acceptance (SAL) stage in between?
The design is dependent on multiple factors, including:
- How strict the qualification criteria is.
- How much customer decision needs to go into purchasing your product/service. (This in turn impacts…)
- How long your sales cycle is.
Don’t leave gaps where a prospect could end up ‘floating’.
At what point do prospects become ‘qualified’? There’s scoring (the numerical activity-based criteria), and grading (the letter that represents how close a prospect is to your model buyer.
These are both viable ways to base marketing qualification on; although, using them together in a ‘blended’ model will be more impactful, avoiding the sales team that picks up the leads from wasting their time.
It doesn’t stop there. You should be constantly evaluating the reliability of the criteria you select for sales handover – in other words, what was the outcome of the prospect? Did the Lead end up ‘unqualified’, or the Opportunity ‘closed lost’, even though on paper they seemed a good fit to the marketing team? One way I’ve monitored this is by using Salesforce dashboards.
Remember to always take ‘unqualified’/’closed lost’ reason into account, as that enriches the information on why they weren’t a good fit.
6. Learn What Orchestration Means
Extensible orchestration is a term that has been on the tips of Salesforce marketing experts’ tongues over the past two years, but what does it actually mean? Let’s break it down…
- Orchestration: Most commonly related to a musical conductor’s intentions, it is to plan and coordinate the elements (instruments) of the situation (the orchestra) to produce the desired effect (harmonious music).
- Extensible: Designed to allow the addition of new capabilities and functionality.
Extensible and Orchestration come together in a Marketing Cloud and Pardot (Account Engagement) context to improve how marketers coordinate the elements (data sources, content, workflows) of their situation (teams, channels) to produce the desired effect (single profile of an individual, actionable engagement data) – and be able to add elements without disrupting their situation.
- What are the entry points for data? (E.g. prospect form submissions, integrated systems, manual input by internal users.)
- What is the data’s destination? (E.g. Pardot/Marketing Cloud campaigns, Salesforce, an integrated system.)
You don’t have to write blocks of code to integrate platforms and tweak their connections. Vendors on the market, such as Tray.io, Zapier, Workato, give you a low-code, visual interface to build integrations. Try them all out, and see which one you prefer.
7. Balancing Data Quality and Quantity
You can’t work in ops without appreciating data. Data is your currency – you capture it, process it, and it reveals insights that are key to the organization’s progression.
Simply capturing more data (quantity) does not make you a good marketing ops professional – instead, there needs to be a focus on how complete, accurate, and up to date that data is (quality).
How does it need to be formatted to make it useful to everyone in the organization, and for different systems to accept and be able to process the data? This is data transformation, and relates back to point #6, where systems need to respect what each other needs – the microservices mentioned should be leveraged to transform data.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on duplicates…
- Complete Guide to Salesforce Duplicate Rules
- 10 Rules of AMPSEA: Pardot Allow Multiple Prospects with the Same Email Address
8. Campaign Attribution
Campaign attribution (AKA Campaign Influence in a Salesforce context), is perhaps the trickiest Salesforce marketing feature to wrap one’s head around. However, Campaign Influence overlaps between three of the marketing ops principles (I found it hard to stick only one label on this key aspect):
- Process: How are marketing assets that generate prospect activities related to the campaign records that record the engagement and cost to run the campaign? When assets are being created by the team, are they being related correctly to Campaign records?
- Technology: Which features (in this context, Salesforce features) tie together? You have all of these in the mix to consider: Prospects, Leads, Lead conversion, Contacts, Campaigns, Opportunities, Opportunity contact roles.
Data: In light of the two points above, how accurate is campaign attribution data? Are you looking at reports that are fundamentally flawed? Get comfortable in how to interpret the data (Influenced Opportunities on Campaigns, and vice versa, Campaign influence on Opportunities).
Salesforce reports are an indispensable tool for some reporting use cases, however, you will likely want to ‘slice and dice’ data differently at some point in your marketing career. Although analytics tools involve a steep learning curve, they open up valuable insights lying hidden within your marketing data. Being able to self-serve insights is such a productivity boost for any marketer.
Options to learn how to do this involve learning B2B Marketing Analytics (a Pardot/Account Engagement add-on), or Marketing Cloud Intelligence (formerly known as Datorama).
10. Before and After States
The initiatives that marketing operations put into place may deliver value fast, or may be an incremental improvement, over time. Following on from point #9, to measure the impact of operations, it’s important you are able to pinpoint the before, or ‘as is’, state, and compare that to the after ‘current’ state. That’s the only way you will be able to demonstrate the value of even seemingly small improvements you’ve implemented.
Bonus: Your Career Path
When planning your career path, which direction do you want to head? Do you want to develop as a generalist, or dive into a particular area and become a specialist?
Many people in the Salesforce community believe that you can blend both. They don’t, however, mean you need to exhaust yourself keeping up with every aspect and update for every specialization – this isn’t about spinning plates and fighting fires! Instead, it is possible to have an understanding of all marketing ops principles, and that ‘bird’s eye’ view of your organization’s operations, while also becoming specialized in one or two areas.
For example, you could have a broad understanding of all the moving parts involved in running successful marketing operations, and be deeply knowledgeable in microservices, Marketing Cloud CloudPages, or B2B Marketing Analytics, for example.
In a rocky economic climate, specializations will make you stand out in the job market, and indispensable to an organization that desperately needs your deep expertise in a particular area.
This echoes the Salesforce specializations guide, which encourages professionals to combine their generalist knowledge with a particular specialization – and the list isn’t exhaustive, look around, and you will begin to notice different opportunities to specialize.
When speaking about the career transition to other ‘ops’ personas in the ecosystem, a phrase I use consistently is: “You’re already doing ops, you just don’t realize it!” These ten ways to get started can be blended into your current marketing role – or if you are pursuing a career in marketing ops, dedicate time to grasping all of these aspects.
Finally, another bonus! Many of these skills and concepts mentioned are covered in the Salesforce Business Analyst certification, one that I’ve invested time in advocating. Read how this credential is relevant in advancing Salesforce marketing careers: