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Campaign Operations

Marketo Experts Should Not be Martech Gatekeepers

Cat Champoux August 10, 2021
Being a Marketo Expert can feel more like you're the opposing goalkeeper than a member of the team.

Marketo admins are the final checkpoint before a campaign goes out into the wild. But an unfortunate side effect is that some marketers may actually come to see you as a “blocker” or a “hurdle” and not so much as a valuable contributor to the campaign execution process.

Because of the pressure to deliver, I’ve seen marketers try and bypass Marketo experts completely. For example, some marketers download lists from Marketo and upload them in other third-party tools to send their emails via other platforms. In other cases, they’ll try to do it themselves, inside Marketo, before they’ve been adequately trained.

I don’t need to tell you that this starts a snowballing sequence of problems: tracking is impossible, you can’t be sure you’re adhering to privacy laws, branding is all over the place, and overall you’re prevented from doing your job successfully.

In this article, I’ll explore this thorny issue by covering:

  1. How Marketo Experts Became Seen As Gatekeepers
  2. What’s at Stake
  3. How Marketers and Marketing Operations Think Differently

We’ve all once complained to a colleague, “gosh, people just don’t read documentation!” But the core issue is this: people don’t follow processes when they don’t think it’ll make a difference in their outcomes.

Want to build a campaign process people will actually follow?

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How Marketo Experts Became Marketing’s Gatekeepers

The marketing operations function emerged organically alongside the martech revolution. Established marketers had not yet developed the skill sets to use the new tools. So naturally, roles were created to focus on the technological aspects of marketing — what I refer to as “marketing operations.” While other marketers continued to take care of tasks like content creation, events planning, etc. — what I refer to as “marketers.”

A quote from an excellent article by Dr. Debbie Qaqish illustrates this really well:

The best definition for Marketing Operations is anything the rest of marketing does not want to do! – Randy Taylor, LexisNexis

Now, if you share my definition of marketing ops, this is pretty problematic. Because this doesn’t do justice to the strategic insights and scalability improvements that you can deliver. And stats back up the idea that this continues to be a challenge: according to Gartner, 49% of enterprises lack marketing operations leadership!

I see evidence of this myself when I onboard clients to Jeto. I always start by asking them what their success metrics are as a team.

About 95% of the time, marketing ops KPIs are still tied to project completion rather than revenue-related goals. Teams are still struggling to live up to their strategic potential.

For marketing ops to become a fully realized function, your role needs to be intentionally-defined rather than organically emergent. Since that is often still not the case, it’s no wonder that technical marketers become seen as “blockers.”

Why Gatekeeping Is Bad for Marketing Operations

Marketing is a single function and it should be the happy marriage between technical rigor and creative testing. But the larger the enterprise, the more likely it is that you will have siloed teams taking care of creative/content vs. technical execution.

Interactions between marketing operations and marketers primarily happen when something breaks, or when marketing operations need to say no for one reason or another. Generally, marketing ops has greater knowledge and control , leaving marketers feeling frustrated and disempowered.

Over time, this dynamic becomes entrenched. Marketing operations come to see marketers as lacking knowledge and needing to be monitored and reigned in while marketers begin to see marketing operations as a hurdle to their success, rather than a partner.

This adversarial attitude is no one’s fault. It’s simply a consequence of the context. But that doesn’t change the fact that it generates a great deal of dysfunction and is a detriment to marketing’s overall success. Some team members may say they feel undervalued or paralyzed, like nothing they do has an impact. This leads to poor performance and job dissatisfaction.

I’ve always believed happy employees are high-performing employees, and dysfunction absolutely destroys job satisfaction. Instead of sliding into the role of “gatekeeping” marketing ideas, there should be greater collaboration to come up with ideas that are exciting, effective and scalable. So let’s talk about fixing the marketing operations-marketer divide.

How Marketers and Marketing Operations Think Differently

So how do we overcome the adversarial attitude imposed on us by context? Well the good news is, things have already begun to change in the industry.

The digital transformation at many enterprises is well underway. Data-backed marketing is no longer a buzzword so much as it is the norm. And technical knowledge is becoming less of a rarity. Not only are people successfully upskilling, tools are becoming more user-friendly as well, creating a more democratized martech experience.

But change is slow, especially at large enterprises with legacy systems and processes. Roles continue to be divided along the marketing operations <> marketing line. So I’ve taken the time to discuss with people on both sides of the gatekeeper divide about some of their frustrations, as a first step to bridging the divide.

Sidenote: I’ve created a framework to help you align with marketers and build a campaign creation process everyone will actually follow. It’s based on workshops I’ve run to help siloed enterprise teams align processes. 

Download It Here
What Marketers Should Know About Marketing Ops
  1. Program builds take time and there’s an order of operations, so it’s really helpful to have information that is complete before beginning. Marketo is the most flexible and scalable marketing automation platform for enterprises. But to leverage it properly folders, audience lists, reports, and files need to be organized in a certain way. So when incomplete information comes in for a campaign request, it can really slow down the process. Also, a lot goes into a program build to make sure no embarrassing mistakes happen: from list validation, to troubleshooting any user flow issues that emerge, to QA.
  2. Marketing operations are facilitators for marketing efforts, not just email senders. If the most significant interaction you have with marketing ops is when requesting program builds, it’s no wonder you forget what their other contributions are. In fact, marketing ops are often busy working on workflow improvements, data hygiene, and systems integration. Not to mention the role they play in sales <> marketing alignment.
  3. Marketing operations won’t have answers all the time, there’s a lot of open-ended investigation, testing, and validating. For some requests, turn around times are fairly predictable. But once in a while, an issue will emerge that needs to be investigated to find the source of an error or limitation. Sometimes, compromises and delays are necessary.
What Marketing Ops Should Know About Marketers
  1. It’s not accurate to say that non-MOPs marketers are “non-technical.” The future is digital! But it’s really an enhancement to the existing marketing function. Marketers have always sought to understand product-market fit, the competitive landscape, and to create campaigns that capture the attention of potential buyers. This in itself is a technical skill and that gets forgotten in today’s martech-driven world.
  2. Marketers care about data-backed decision-making, but they want to be on the same page about tracking & reporting. There’s a saying that numbers don’t lie, but they can! It depends on what gets tracked, what doesn’t, and how different touchpoints are weighted. So marketers want to be understood and be included in conversations about tracking & reporting.
  3. Creativity shouldn’t be devalued. Sometimes taking a creative risk means doing something that’s different, and maybe the numbers won’t back it up 100%, but can be supported by a hunch. It’s a good idea to take reasonable risks for the sake of creativity. So sometimes it’s worth having an open discussion about whether it’s right to bend (or even break) the rules.

Image Credits:

  1. Soccer team – Unsplash/Jeffrey F Lin
  2. Soccer goalkeeper – Unsplash/Jeffrey F Lin

Want to build a campaign process people will actually follow?

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