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It’s been almost a decade since the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 racetrack came on the scene in Austin.  While the facility has hosted many of the biggest names in music and sports, it’s the Formula 1 race that unleashed tremendous excitement and added a new dimension to our city. Before this, I wasn’t familiar with car racing and all that it entails.  One of the many things I found fascinating was the pit crew and the role it plays in enabling the car to push its limits.

In automotive racing, pit strategy is critical to success.  When a car is running at over 100 miles per hour, it travels approximately 150 feet per second.  That means, during a ten-second pit stop, a car’s competitors will gain approximately one-quarter mile over the stopped car.  A good pit crew and pit strategy make all the difference in the time performance of the car and the racer.  As I think about the concept of the pit crew, I realize Marketing organizations can benefit from establishing a role that enables it to operating similarly.

Balance Efficiency and Effectiveness to Run Faster and Be More Agile

Consider how the speed at which Marketing must operate in today’s environment.  We need to run faster and be more agile than ever.  Marketing Operations (Marketing Ops) is the key function that enables Marketing to be more agile, keeps the machine running, and enables the organization to successfully compete.  Marketing Ops can serve as the Marketing team’s pit crew carefully orchestrating the pit strategy to balance out efficiency (time lost in the pit) with effectiveness (ground gained on the track).

When running like a pit crew, a Marketing Ops function helps the entire Marketing organization realize the expected Return on Investment (ROI) from investments in data, analytics, technology, processes, and talent resources.  As the pit crew for the organization, it transforms and maintains Marketing as a center of excellence.  Organizations invest in Marketing Ops to primarily achieve 3 things:

  • Ensure Marketing strategies are executed seamlessly
  • Create, manage and track Marketing processes
  • Analyze and develop metrics to improve effectiveness and reduce inefficiencies and the associated performance reporting

Push the Limits of Your Marketing Engine

The vision, scope, and charter of a Marketing Ops function can vary.  For some organizations, the Marketing Ops function is responsible for strategic planning and alignment, financial management and reporting, workflow definition and management, performance measurement and management, change management and innovation adoption, and marketing technology.  In other organizations, the role may be different, in some cases primarily serving tactically, for example supporting campaign automation and tracking, or budget tracking.  And finally, in some organizations Marketing Ops is a dump station – the place where things are done that no one else wants to do.

If you choose to the pit crew approach for your Marketing Ops, then this team must plan the strategy before the race.  Pit crews consider important metrics, such as the rate of fuel consumption, fuel weight, cornering speed, rate of tire wear, the effect of tire wear on cornering speed, the pit road length, and road speed limit, and even unexpected changes in weather conditions.  Marketing Ops enables Marketing to use metrics in the same way, for example, which levers deliver the greatest results in terms of qualified opportunities, accelerated product adoption, increased share of wallet, and improvements in customer lifetime value.

Pit crews work offensively and defensively.  And a Marketing Ops resembling a pit crew, would proactively manage data, analytics, processes, planning, and tools that help identify customer wants and needs, decide on which markets and customers to pursue, what messages and channels to use and when these will occur, what service and adjustments are needed throughout program execution or how to modify the strategy due to unexpected changes in market and competitive conditions.  Just as the pit crew needs to be prepared and equipped to perform any service from the simple to complex on the car during the race, Marketing Ops needs to be prepared and equipped to perform any service or adjustment to support the Marketing team and its internal stakeholders in product, sales, service, and delivery. Marketing Ops functions that operate like a pit crew need strength, agility, and speed.

This is a very different view than the Marketing Ops that run more like a service station crew.  As a service center, the emphasis is on the word service.  In addition to pumping gas (refueling), the service station attendant performs basic care services such as washing the customer’s windows and checking the oil and water levels. In some instances, these centers might provide oil changes, tire repair services, engine repair, and parts service and replacement.  A service station typically has little visibility into which customers and cars they will serve that day or what kind of services they will be asked to perform. Marketing Ops organizations behaving as a service station work on-demand supporting whatever requests come their way with little opportunity to strategize or plan.  As a result, an Ops organization that operates like service stations are better served with skills and tools that provide basic turn-key services on demand.  Successful service stations and like-minded Marketing Ops organizations need exceptional customer service, supply/inventory management, financial management, and general maintenance skills- very different skills from the pit crew. In general, the service station is reacting – reacting to problems and specific requests made by the customer as they arise.  The service station team rarely can be proactive.

Ten Questions to Outline Your Framework

As you and your team consider your Marketing Ops function, deciding whether you are a pit crew, or a service station may provide some guidance.  Once you make this fundamental decision, you can build your framework accordingly. The framework should include the function’s mission, scope, charter, role, and milestones. These ten questions will help you outline the framework:

  1. What is the purpose of the Marketing Ops function in our organization? Why do we need one?
  2. What will be better or different because of this function?
  3. What is the umbrella philosophy of the function?
  4. What areas/processes will be covered/delivered by the function? (i.e. planning, financial management and oversight, marketing technology, workflow management, data and analytics, performance management and reporting, talent development, marketing culture)
  5. Which of these areas/processes will the function own? Drive? Support?
  6. Who are the stakeholders and/or customers: Internal to Marketing? External to Marketing (IT, Finance, Sales)? External to the organization (suppliers, customers, and partners.)?
  7. What will the specific measurable objectives for the organization be?
  8. What essential skills, characteristics, capabilities, and resources are required to achieve these?
  9. What are the tasks and associated milestones that will enable the organization to achieve its purpose?
  10. How will the success of the function be measured?

Once you have a framework for your Marketing Ops function, develop a plan for communicating this information to the rest of the Marketing team and other stakeholders. This step will help the organization understand where and how the function fits.  I need to declare our bias.  We far prefer Marketing Ops run like a pit crew and we hope you do too.

Hope you found this episode of What’s Your Edge? Helpful. What’s Your Edge? is the creation of VisionEdge Marketing.  VisionEdge Marketing, founded in 1999, helps our customers solve the most difficult problems when it comes to using data, analytics, process and measurement to accelerate growth, create customer value, and improve performance. We always welcome hearing from you.


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