The Importance Of Marketing Operations

Sep 3, 2021

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In the latest episode of the B2C Lead Generation Podcast we catch up with Darrell Alfonso from Amazon to dive deep into what is involved in marketing operations and why it is so important.

We cover a range of really interesting topics, from the challenges he faces managing marketing ops at such scale, to the differences between B2B and B2C marketing and mar-tech stacks, to why it’s so important to de-silo marketing and sales.

Below are some extracts from the key ideas discussed in our conversation with Darrell, but be sure to check out the entire podcast for loads more brilliant insights from a world leader in this area.

To get us started Darrell, could you explain what your role in global marketing operations is?

Darrell Alfonso: Happy to! I work in Marketing Operations for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and that is the cloud computing division of Amazon. And the best way to think of my team is, we own the marketing technology that supports thousands of marketers all across AWS and all across the world, and what we really try to do in the form of governance, training, system performance, platform operations, all of that kind of thing, is to really enable the thousands of marketers who are using these different platforms to create exceptional experiences for our customers.

So that’s kind of the mission statement for the team.

We’ve often found that marketing operations as a role can be misunderstood slightly. Have you seen this?

I have a lot of thoughts on this. First of all, marketing operations itself is really hard to define. My personal definition is the art and science of executing great marketing. So the executional arm of marketing, which is pretty broad. But if you think about it, say you have a small team of one, two, three people, where does the marketing stop and the marketing operations begin? It’s kind of tough to figure out because, especially for small companies, you’re doing both. You’re doing both the strategy of trying to figure out what the messaging is, the creative positioning, the offer of your product or services, and you’re at the same time executing it. And you’re sort of thinking about it, oftentimes, in the same way. Like “Hear’s a strategy” and “How are we going to do it?” right?

Now, as your company increasingly matures, as companies grow in size, these things naturally separate. From the strategy side, to the executional side. And that’s one of the key reasons why I think marketing operations is actually a little bit hard to define, that mixed with the fact that people also get marketing automation and marketing operations confused.

The way that I think about it, marketing operations is one of the categories of sub-categories of mar-tech and marketing operations people, one of their key responsibilities is to operate mar-tech.

It’s really interesting. We work with many huge brands and have very rarely heard them use the term marketing operations.

Yeah, I talked to a woman that worked for Dell, and we were comparing notes for marketing operations and she told me that 90% of her job was budgeting and spend management. And what that means is, marketing operations, especially at these more mature companies, it means something different.

‘Operations’ itself is a very, very vague word, you know? My favourite example is the idea of a Chief Operating Officer. The word operations is in there, but what does a Chief Operating Officer actually do? Everything! They’re making sure the business operates! The CEO sets the vision and the strategy and hires the executives and really sets the course for the business. The COO really gets things done, and that’s the nice way that I’ve always thought about operations.

One of my favourite functional definitions: Marketing operations owns the tools, processes, and the metrics that support great marketing. I think that’s a much more tangible definition.

What are some the of the challenges you face in terms of managing so many different things under the umbrella of marketing ops?

I think I would be out of touch with reality to not acknowledge that marketing ops people are often drowning in the amount of things they have to do. But here’s how I think about prioritisation: the first thing you really want to think about in the hierarchy of priorities is customer experience and customer value. That’s the one that should come at the top. I think a lot of people forget that. When they come to your website are they data protected? Did they have a good experience when seeing your content across the channels. Do they have a good experience when they receive your emails? Are they relevant, timely, personal? Those are all things that are customer first.

Then in the hierarchy comes your internal stakeholders, which I’m sure marketing operations across the world are keenly aware of, it’s your sales and marketing stakeholders. They have their marketing goals. Sales have their goals that they want to achieve. And the want to get to those goals as fast as possible and as efficiently as possible.

After that there is what I like to call fortification. And fortification is, do you have everything set up for success to support you in the long term?

Those three things can help you prioritise your work. If you have three things to do is there one of them that affects the end customer? If so, that is the first thing you should focus on and you should lead with that. Given that’s taken care of, the next thing is servicing your internal customers and making sure they have a good work experience. At the same time, you have to allocate time each month to making sure that you have a robust set-up, system wise and process wise, and you are much as possible trying to eliminate technical debt.

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