Moneyball your marketing ops team

Major League Baseball’s spring training recently opened, and as a baseball fan it’s one of my favorite times of the year. Full of optimism, it’s my first opportunity to see new players who have joined my favorite team over the off-season, and speculate about which up-and-coming prospects from the minor leagues might be ready to make the leap to the big league.

Thinking about what my perfect roster would look like got me thinking about what it takes to build a winning baseball team. How would that apply to building a great marketing operations team?

The five essential MOps roles

The mandate for marketing operations is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the marketing department through people, process, technology and data. When building a marketing operations team, an ideal situation is to have dedicated roles focused on each of those pillars. For most marketing operations teams, that results in five essential roles:

  1. Marketing Operations Manager. Oversees the entire marketing operations team and ensures that the team is working towards the overall goals of the company. They are the primary point of contact for the CMO and other senior leaders in the organization and are responsible for developing the team’s strategy, managing budgets, and ensuring that the performance of the marketing department is effective and meeting targets.
  2. Marketing Technologist. Manages the marketing tech stack and ensures that all systems are integrated, as well as trains team members on how to best utilize new and existing technologies. This role must have deep expertise in platforms such as CRM, marketing automation, and analytics tools.
  3. Marketing Automation Specialist. Manages the marketing automation platform and ensures that it is integrated with other systems in the marketing tech stack. This role creates and executes email campaigns, lead nurturing and scoring programs, and ensures that all campaign data is accurate and up-to-date.
  4. Data Analyst: Analyzes marketing data and provides insights to the marketing team. This role creates dashboards and reports that provide actionable insights to the marketing department and other stakeholders in the organization.
  5. Project Manager / Process Specialist: Manages the project lifecycle from start to finish and optimizes workflows. Ensures that all projects are delivered on time, within budget, and meet the quality standards set by the organization. Focuses on helping the organization meet their productivity goals.

The size of your marketing team will likely determine how specialized these roles can be.

In a smaller organization with less headcount, you will need to have more generalists who can do a little bit of everything. For example, you may not be able to hire a dedicated data or process specialist, so everyone on the team may have to figure out optimizing their own reporting and processes. But if you are fortunate enough to be in an organization with more resources, hiring for these dedicated roles will enable those resources to dive much deeper into their areas of expertise.

Dig deeper: What is marketing operationsand who are MOps professionals?

Experience plus skill-sets

When a general manager is putting together a baseball team, they’re looking for the right mix of experience and complementary skill-sets. If there’s a shortstop that excels defensively but is a below-average offensive player, then there needs to be another above average batter in the lineup to balance out that weak spot. But no matter the players’ individual strengths, they all have to be bought into the team’s philosophy and underlying style of play.

Those same team-building philosophies apply to putting together your marketing operations team. First, you need the right blend of technical expertise and hard skills. Striking the right balance in this area is even more critical if you’re on a smaller team with more generalist roles.

For example, imagine you’re on a three-person marketing operations team that consists of a marketing operations manager, a marketing automation specialist, and a marketing technology specialist. All three of those resources have robust experience around demand generation and are skilled in campaign planning and lead generation, but everyone on the team only has basic Excel skills and lacks expertise in data analysis.

In that situation, it may prove difficult for the team to effectively communicate the impact of their demand generation programs, because they would struggle to build the type of robust reporting and dashboards that would demonstrate the positive impact they are making on the organization.

On a small team like this, hiring T-shaped employees is importantbut even more critical is making sure that everyone on the team doesn’t share the exact same “T”. When building your team, you must ensure that your resources don’t overlap with their depth of knowledge concentrated on the same skill(s), thereby leaving holes in other skill-sets where you need coverage.

Dig deeper: MarTech’s marketing operations experts to follow

Inter-personal skills are important

However, there is another aspect of team building where you do want to make sure there is heavy overlap amongst all team members, and that is in the soft skills and personal characteristics.

Going back to our baseball analogy, in Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball,” the Oakland A’s transformed their team by ensuring that everyone on the team was focused solely on getting on base. It became their core team-building philosophy, and every player they added to the team had to embrace that style of play.

When building a marketing operations team, there are a few characteristics that everyone on the team, no matter their role, absolutely has to have.

  • Business acumen and strategic thinking: Everyone on the marketing operations team has to have a solid understanding of the business objectives and be able to think big-picture about how to achieve those goals. Evaluating every decision based on its potential to impact those goals is the key to the team’s success.
  • Adaptability: In a fast-paced and constantly evolving marketing environment, marketing operations team members need to be adaptable and flexible. Priorities change quickly and conflicting demands from various stakeholders requires marketing operations professionals to be able to pivot quickly.
  • Problem-solving: Marketing operations teams face a lot of challenges: data cleanliness across multiple platforms; decreasing or flat budget and resources despite increasing demand for the team’s services; optimizing processes in an environment where people may be resistant to change… the list of challenges is long and constantly growing. This requires marketing operations team members to be skilled at finding creative solutions to solve complex problems.
  • Customer-centricity: In order to design campaigns and experiences that will resonate with the target audience, marketing operations team members need to be focused on the customer experience and have a deep understanding of customer needs and preferences.

A team that shares these core characteristics has the right foundation in place to become a powerful marketing operations organization. If your team is still facing challenges, such as talent gaps in certain skill-sets that or being understaffed, it may be a multi-year journey to get to exactly where you want to go.

Still, you can be confident that your team is headed in the right direction.  Just like a baseball team, your team may steadily progress from being a playoff contender, to a playoff team that has an early exit, to eventually winning it all. And with the right culture in place, it might not take as long as you think. This could be the year that it all comes together for your team. After all, spring is the time for optimism.


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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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