In the past, being a marketer meant being the “right-brain” of the business. Their primary role was to be innovative and foster new ideas to drive business to the company. But there’s more to marketing than beautiful logos and catchy calls to action.
Without processes and systems, marketing teams and projects become disorganized and inconsistent. So the modern marketer has to be equally left-brained and right-brained.
Marketing operations (MOps) is the answer, and more companies are actively hiring for this position. Nearly half of marketers already have a MOps leader on their teams.
If you want to learn what to look for in a MOps leader (or how to become one) then continue reading. In a previous article, we dove into defining marketing operations. Now we’ll discuss the background of a high-performing MOps professional, what the role entails, and which skills you need to succeed.
Table of contents
- What Is Marketing Operations?
- What Makes the Marketing Ops Role Important?
- How to Tell If Marketing Ops Is the Right Career for You
- What Skills and Tools Do You Need for Marketing Operations?
- Sample Profile of a Marketing Operations Manager
- What Does a Day in a Marketing Operations Role Look Like?
- Marketing Operations Professional Career Path
- Working In-House vs. an Agency
- Where to Find Jobs in Marketing Operations
- Now’s a Great Time to Pursue a Marketing Operations Career
- Start Building Marketing Skills of the Future
What Is Marketing Operations?
Marketing operations is the process of managing the day-to-day activities of an organization’s marketing department. It includes planning, organizing, directing, controlling, and evaluating the marketing efforts of the company.
A marketing operations manager often oversees the entire marketing technology ecosystem, including advertising, public relations, sales promotion, customer service, and other areas. The job requires a strong understanding of marketing campaigns and strategies, and the underlying skill used to get the job done is systems optimization.
A marketing operations position, therefore, requires expert knowledge of marketing technology. MarTech helps measure and monitor performance and metrics to ensure campaigns reach target goals, as well as enables automation and personalization, and last but not least, MarTech is what helps marketing scale.
To give you an example, here’s a MarTech stack that a MOps professional builds and manages, as visualized by our WYSIWYG stack builder:
Finally, let’s also use a quote from Mike, about the role of marketing operations:
“At some companies, MO plays a bigger role at the end of the production process—but nearly every department is involved at some stage of the company’s brand process. Other roles include strategic planning, lead management, process improvement, budget management, stakeholder analysis, quality testing, and data management. MO thus has a much broader sweep, taking care of the ‘business of marketing’ and not just the creative aspects.”– Mike Rizzo, Community-Led Founder of The MO Pros
What Makes the Marketing Ops Role Important?
The role of the marketing operations manager is fast-growing. It’s the future of marketing for businesses that want to drive results and ensure consistent growth.
Sales. Customer success. Customer support. Marketing. These teams play a critical role in a company’s success. But even with the best teams, a business isn’t sustainable if silos exist.
The answer lies with having a defined MOps role that acts as the glue and North Star for all departments. It’s vital for companies that want to scale.
Without a marketing operations leader, it’s challenging for businesses to know what marketing strategies work, or which to eliminate. This would lead to wasted resources and missed opportunities.
The companies that do invest in marketing operations talent can ensure they’re using the best software and processes, and that their data flows through integrated stacks that inform marketing automation or personalization. As a result, the company gains a competitive advantage.
How to Tell If Marketing Ops Is the Right Career for You
Taking the job as a marketing operations leader is hard and rewarding. The skillset takes time to build. The work may be for you if you already have a good understanding of marketing and have a healthy curiosity about the technical side of operations.
It’s also a role worth considering if you have skills in development and engineering, and want to learn how to use your abilities to optimize MarTech stacks to boost marketing.
You know marketing operations is the right fit for you if you desire to solve integrations and automate campaigns for 10X output. The work needs people who love fixing and improving stuff. Think about whether you’d want to solve challenges such as:
- Underutilized marketing automation systems
- Siloed analytics
- Conflicts between sales and marketing
- Misunderstood customers
- Leaky funnels, overarching deficiencies in marketing infrastructure or a slow pace of execution
- Populating insights for stakeholders
What Skills and Tools Do You Need for Marketing Operations?
Marketing operations professionals are the problem-solvers in a company. They build their knowledge across departments. A useful list of soft skills is compiled in Gartner’s Marketing Operations and Organization Survey. They title it “challenges”, we see it as the MOps day-to-day:
We also find that talking about frequently used tools and platforms is a great way to describe the skills needed for MOps.
Some of our favorite tools are listed among our technology partners, but there’s no specific software you must learn. You don’t just become a skilled MOps professional because you have your Marketo certification or any other individual certification. It’s more about a toolbelt than one tool or one platform. So let us walk you through the relevant areas of knowledge, and the software that pertains.
Analytics gives you the ability to analyze large amounts of data. You use statistical methods to identify patterns or trends that measure the performance of marketing channels and campaigns.
The most popular tool used is Google Analytics. The number of websites that have it counts in tens of millions. Another website analytics tool is Hotjar.
You also want to be familiar with product and user analytics tools like Amplitude, MixPanel, or Appsflyer.
- Business Intelligence & Reporting
BI is a lot like website analytics, but for business operations. Reporting and taking action on the insights is a key part of the field. Popular BI tools are Power BI, Google Data Studio, Chartio, or the data exploration classic Tableau.
- Marketing Automation, Email and Personalized Messaging
Marketing automation can help you speed up repetitive tasks. But it also enables you to act on data in ways that you couldn’t pull off if you were to do it manually. So we believe that everyone setting up marketing automation should have a deep knowledge of marketing strategy.
Think of the example of your CRM registering a touchpoint such as a customer checking out a product page, and your campaign tool sending out an email based on that page view.
Our favorites include Autopilot, Active Campaign, SendGrid, Customer.io, Drift, Braze, or Pardot. Automation platforms that are less specialized and modern, but still very popular, including Marketo, Eloqua, and HubSpot.
- Ad Platforms
Advertising will continue to be a key part of big marketing efforts, and you can only improve what you understand. And retargeting is an effective way to grow conversion rates that you want to master early on. We recommend gaining first-hand experience in advertising on Google, Facebook & Instagram, but also LinkedIn or display networks.
- A/B Testing
You only have the certainty in what works best if you test it properly. Most analytics, automation, and ad platforms provide some A/B testing capability. You can also use specialized tools such as our Statistical Significance Calculator for Cross-Channel A/B Testing (a Chrome extension).
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
You’ll want to be able to understand the CRM systems, troubleshoot the issues, and plug CRM data into an integrated marketing stack. The idea is that customer data should flow seamlessly between your MarTech tools, so it can be used to improve marketing.
Salesforce is the golden standard of CRMs. You’ll also come across Salesloft or HubSpot.
When building CRMs, you’ll be talking to the sales teams. Work on your interpersonal and communication skills.
- Data Enrichment
There’s nothing like when you can take a lead that lives in your CRM, run them through an enrichment tool, and magically add a ton of customer detail into their profile. Clearbit is one example of what we like to use.
- Data Warehouses
You’ll get ahead thanks to understanding platforms like Snowflake and BigQuery on Google Cloud, and learning how to optimize them to lower commuting costs and speed of data queries.
- Customer Data Platforms (CDP)
Sometimes also referred to as customer data infrastructure, CDPs are the backbone of your MarTech stack. They’ll let you connect multiple MarTech automation platforms and make data flow.
Our favorite is Segment, a long-time technology partner and client of ours. Another one is mParticle.
- Tag Management
The tool that manages your tracking and MarTech tags will always be at the core of your stack. We use it in almost all of our stacks, Google Tag Manager (GTM) has become the industry standard. Another strong one is Tealium.
- Development & Engineering
MOps people are not developers. But understanding development helps you work with developers, and that’s important whenever you want to build something custom in your stack. If you can also do simple engineering tasks yourself, you’ll be more self-sufficient, and developers will respect you more whenever you need them.
How to Learn This Many Skills and Tools
You need to practice and build your toolbelt over time. The perfect scenario is when you are in marketing already, and take the initiative to improve how your campaigns, platforms, and tools work together. There’s always a need for more automation and optimization. The time is easily justified by the savings or the incremental revenue you will help create.
Many of the tools have free plans that take you far and let you try advanced features. Go ahead and play in a sandbox, so you can break things without consequence. Learn more and more tools. Set up more and more solutions or improvements. Gain more and more to speak for you.
There’s also the community at The MO Pros. They have a lively Slack channel, a resourceful website, mentorship opportunities, and more. To take it a step further, apply for a job with McGaw.io. The positions are remote and we build training plans for the people we hire.
Sample Profile of a Marketing Operations Manager
You can see in the list above that the breadth of skills and tools is vast. The depth of knowledge of each also needs to be substantial. But, every MOps professional is different. We’re all in different stages of our careers, and it’s valuable that we all like and know different tools. Nobody is perfect, nobody in MOps will ever be complete, and we all come back from a variety of backgrounds. You’ll even find people with majors in history, language, teaching, or finance.
The most important thing is that you actively work on your continued growth and learning. To inspire, here’s an example description of a MOps manager that has worked on the team of one of our clients. We made up the name:
Tasha Renaldo, Cross-functional analytical manager at a small business loans provider
- Marketing strategy lead
- Underwriting strategy lead
As the company’s leader in marketing analytics, Tasha empowers all of her marketing team with data. She is McGaw.io’s point of contact as we establish the company’s marketing infrastructure. She has made it very easy for us to gain access to tools, people, and data. With a background in the insurance and finance industry, Tasha has a wealth of experience dealing with a lot of data. She has spent most of her career working with BI tools and raw data. She seems to be less familiar with some of the newer web analytics tools out there.
She is currently spearheading the Google Analytics 360 weblogs project, in her quest to solve the company’s data woes. Her primary focus is to make sure she can enable her company’s teams to get insights quickly without being dependent on her to run reports.
What Does a Day in a Marketing Operations Role Look Like?
Mike said it well in his article about the role of marketing operations:
“While the scope of the department’s role can be quite involved, individual responsibilities are generally clearly defined. The ultimate responsibility is supporting other teams or individuals. A data analyst would likely lend support to the sales team and work the CRM, then move on to A/B testing and analysis of email campaigns and finally, refine data and feed it into current ROI reporting.”— Mike Rizzo, Community-Led Founder of The MO Pros
It’s not uncommon for a MOps professional to sit at the top of the hierarchy, dealing out tasks to their marketing team. And also get their hands dirty setting up automated emails campaigns that send off an email once a Salesforce contact reaches a predefined lead score.
Here’s an overview of some of the tasks you may perform daily as a MOps professional:
- Coordinating projects with clients
- Ideating strategies to achieve project goals
- Selecting the best tools and strategies to achieve the client’s goals
- Diagnosing issues with current Martech stacks (looking at configurations, setup, and integrations to determine how to optimize them for success)
Finally, to give you a list that’s detailed and close to exhaustive, check out this packed table:
Marketing Operations Professional Career Path
There’s no formal degree, certificate, or course offering marketing operations training. For some, this is great news and for others—not so much. If you’re looking for hand-holding and strict guidelines to follow, then this path may not be for you.
It’s an excellent career choice for those who don’t mind learning from hands-on experience. You’ll deep dive into various platforms and tools, creating and tweaking processes, and aligning marketing teams and technologies.
There’s no specific career ladder to climb either—you can enter this field from various walks of life and career points. Some may reach a MOps role after heading a team of marketers for five or so years. Others may stem from a developer’s background after several years designing and optimizing Martech tools for an enterprise. Coming from finance is a common path for analytical marketers, too.
Here’s an idea of what the journey may look like for some:
- Studying digital marketing (course, school, or experience)
- Starting a marketing role with a genuine interest in solving problems in marketing
- Learning analytics to determine performance issues
- Promotion to marketing manager
- Learning MarTech tools and how to optimize them for efficiency
- Learning how to integrate tools/platforms to make performing marketing tasks seamless
- Building systems for scale and growth
- Promotion to marketing operations
- Overseeing multiple marketing teams and finding ways to align everyone and eliminate silos
“I always wanted to become Marketo certified because that’s the sort of thing people do when they’re in that role as a Marketo adimin — it’s like a feather in my cap. But as a I progressed into more leadership roles, I realized there are so many tools in the marketplace, and what’s this one certifiec as it relates to Marketo, going to do for me?
I want to learn more tools. A certification is great, but at the end of the day, it’s really pointless. I’ve met plenty of Marketo-certified people who don’t know what they’re doing. The idea that there’s only one way to do things or fix things, or that there’s only one way to get somethign done, is just not viable in the marketing operations world.”— Franklin Bear, Director of Marketing Operations at McGaw.io
Working In-House vs. an Agency
You worked in marketing and acquired the technical and analytical skills to build amazing marketing operations. Now, it’s time to decide whether you want to work in-house or within an agency.
Both come with pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Working In-House
There are perks to working at a company where you’re the main marketing operations person, and you’re devoted to one project full-time. The work is typically more consistent, you don’t have to hunt down clients, deal with sales calls, or learn a new company when you switch to a new project.
Being the insider will give you an understanding of the company that helps with offering tailored recommendations. You’ll likely have an easier time getting budgets and approvals for your ideas.
On the downside, having all your eggs in one basket is a financial risk. Especially so in a new field that is still undervalued by some decision makers.
Pros and Cons of Working in an Agency
The immediate benefit of working in a marketing operations agency is that it diversifies your portfolio. You get a chance to meet and work with business leaders across various industries and sizes. This gives you a broader understanding of what works for certain types of companies, so you can make informed recommendations to future clients in similar situations.
You’ll grow faster, and with the right agency, you’ll also be able to specialize deeper. Further, you’ll typically get more recognition when you’re in a team where there are other skilled professionals who can do what you do.
At McGaw, our team members have access to a team that bounces ideas off each other weekly. On a continued basis, the team’s senior marketers offer mentorship. This tends to propel your growth and knowledge substantially.
On the downside, it can take time to learn the inner workings of each new client. There’s also the risk of making the wrong recommendations, especially if you don’t take the time to really understand the company and how it operates (or should operate). Be ready to take extra time and precautions.
Where to Find Jobs in Marketing Operations
Marketing operations is still a fairly new career field, so you may not find an abundance of postings on job boards that use the specific words “marketing operations” in the job title. But don’t let this deter you—there are plenty of companies needing MOps. Some just don’t know it yet.
Frank’s experience is that once you get to a certain level of MOps experience, the jobs come to you. As an agency, we often experience that a company has a huge need for the work that needs to be done by a MOps expert. They might just be calling it something else.
If a job offer hasn’t come to you yet, look for positions in one of the usual ways:
- Specialized job boards: Check out the job listings on The MO Pros, or the careers on McGaw.io
- General job boards: Search for marketing operations jobs on Glassdoor, or Indeed
- LinkedIn: You can use the search post feature to find prospects. Type in “marketing operations” into the search box and click “Posts.” This will show you posts from businesses talking about the term. You can narrow your results by searching for something like “looking for marketing operations” or “need marketing operations specialist.” You can also look through LinkedIn’s job postings for “Director of Marketing Operations” or “Marketing Operations Manager”.
- Communities and conferences: Get active on The MO Pros Slack, or the analytics community classic, the Measure Slack. Better yet, attend the MarTech conference.
- Network referrals: The size and quality of your network matter. Be proactive about connecting with other marketing operations professionals, CMOs, VP of Marketing, and other people that can lead you to potential job opportunities and referrals.
Now’s a Great Time to Pursue a Marketing Operations Career
There’s a lack of leadership in marketing operations. This means room for you to establish yourself. According to a 2020 survey conducted by Gartner, 81% of marketers don’t report directly to a senior leader who oversees their organization’s digital strategy:
Instead, they’re spread among multiple departments like sales, customer service, and marketing. This creates confusion and disorganization, as well as missed opportunities for brands (check out Mike’s article about the MOps survey highlights for even more context). And this leads us to our next point.
Companies Are Struggling to Focus on Results and Efficiency Simultaneously
Some businesses focus on efficiency, while others are driven by results. The reality is you need both to ensure continued growth. Unfortunately, companies are struggling to prioritize both simultaneously due to not having a MOps professional onboard.
Gain a Competitive Edge by Learning the Skills Needed for Tomorrow
Marketing operations are the future of delivering sustainable growth for businesses. So pursuing a career in this field will make you the hot commodity of tomorrow. This gives you a competitive edge. The same Gartner survey shows that the companies begin to see MOps as a critical asset to their organization, and they also begin to understand the nuances of the role:
Start Building Marketing Skills of the Future
Marketing is about staying one step ahead. This means staying abreast of the latest trends, best practices, and tools. It also means acquiring the necessary skills to set yourself apart.
By learning marketing operations skills, you gain a competitive edge for yourself, and any company you work with.
So level up your MOps skills and seize the future of marketing.
About The Author — Dan McGaw
Dan is an award-winning entrepreneur and speaker. He is the founder and CEO of McGaw.io, a marketing technology and analytics agency, and the creator of UTM.io, a campaign management and data governance tool.
Named one of the godfathers of the MarTech stack and one of the original growth hackers, Dan has decades of experience in digital marketing, technology, and analytics ecosystems.