For businesses looking to stretch their marketing dollars, marketing operations is a hot topic. In order to keep up with the current speed of business, organizations need to leverage technology and gain insight into customer needs and business performance. 

And while marketing operations has quickly become the fastest-growing role in business, there are still plenty of questions surrounding this relatively new field: What is marketing operations, and why bother with it? How does it fit into the broader marketing discipline? Is there a conflict between operations management vs marketing? And what strategies can businesses use to improve their marketing campaign results? 

What is Marketing Operations?

First things first: what is the role of marketing operations? A typical marketing operations director or coordinator has many responsibilities, including measuring and evaluating marketing performance, strategic planning, budgeting, developing and improving the overall marketing process, selecting and implementing marketing technologies, and providing professional development for the marketing team. So the operations and marketing relationship is really that of a partnership. Marketing ops focuses on behind-the-scenes activity to ensure processes are running smoothly and campaigns reach their goals. 

Digital marketing operations may be a relatively new field, but its beginnings can be traced back to the 1920s. This infographic shows its evolution, and growing importance to various marketing disciplines:

The History of Marketing Operations (#Infographic)

Popular Marketing Operations Tools

As with any branch of the marketing world, there are a zillion options when it comes to marketing operations software. In fact, in his annual Marketing Technology Landscape super graphic, Scott Brinker of identified a whopping 3,874 marketing technology solutions. 

If you want to zoom in for a better look at the landscape, you can view a hi-res version here: 2016 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (PDF)

To save you some time looking through thousands of tools, we've rounded up some of the most popular software used by today's marketing operations managers:

  • Kissmetrics: Build customer funnels and sort website visitors into groups based on common actions and triggers so you can understand how potential customers are engaging with your site. 
  • Unbounce: Use A/B testing to discover which features, website elements, or marketing messages are most successful when it comes to eliciting a desired response from potential customers. 
  • Hubspot: Analyze and improve landing pages and forms to collect the right information from potential customers and automatically plug them into the appropriate nurture tracks. 
  • Clicktale: Heat maps track website visitors’ mouse movements, clicks, and scrolling to determine which parts of your site they’re paying the most attention to — and what’s being overlooked. 
  • SEM Rush: See top organic keywords, keyword rank, and search volume for keywords that are driving organic traffic to your competitors’ websites, and discover opportunities for gaining ground. 
  • Wrike: Give your teams a collaboration and work management tool for organizing incoming requests, delegating tasks, and tracking project progress and results. 

Get 10 more must-have marketing operations tools, plus details on the metrics you should track, here: Marketing Ops Tech & Tools for a Customer-Centric Organization

Marketing Operations Strategies

Most bad marketing decisions come down to one simple mistake: not having the right information about your target audience. This is where marketing operations strategies become an essential ingredient to marketing (and business) success.

A common myth about marketing operations is that it’s all about crunching numbers and automating processes. In fact, a good marketing operations analyst has the skills to interpret a mess of numbers and fill in those knowledge gaps. They use their data-driven insights to help the marketing team improve customer experience and boost engagement.

Marketing operations also focuses on improving processes and cross-team collaboration. By coordinating the various arms of the marketing organizational structure and product management roles, marketing operations management can connect the dots between strategy and execution. They can ensure that inbound and outbound campaign messaging is aligned, content managers are on the same page as the Lead Gen team, and all efforts line up with the CMO’s priorities and business objectives. 

Ultimately, marketing operations works to combine processes, metrics, and technology to support the entire marketing organization. 

For more marketing ops strategies, both the CEO and the Chief Strategy Officer of Marketing Operations Partners give their best tips here: 7 Secrets of the Best Marketing Operations Teams

The Future of Marketing Operations

In an effort to make their marketing efforts more efficient and effective, more and more companies are turning to marketing operations. And in turn, marketing operations teams are focusing on a central goal: value creation for customers, employees, and business owners alike. This focus will continue to make marketing operations a global discipline used by successful organizations worldwide. 

The Road to Successful Marketing Operations By Diederik Martens from MarTech Conference

Ready to Get Started with Marketing Operations?

If you think your company needs a full-fledged marketing operations department in order to have effective marketing operations, think again. You can improve your marketing operations today, with resources you likely already have. 

Radius provides advice on identifying someone within your current marketing team that would be a good fit for taking on some marketing operations responsibilities, Emmsphere explains how you can improve your current marketing operations processes without spending a dime, and industry leaders offer 10 suggestions for marketing operations success.