Why Are Marketing Operations Teams Failing?

Author: Rahul Khosla | Categories: Consulting, B2B Online Excellence, Digital Marketing, Digital Strategy

The purpose of marketing operations is to bring efficiency, scale, and accountability to the marketing organization. Ultimately, an exceptional marketing operations team should assist organizations to reach broader audiences and grow revenue. To put in simple terms, marketing operations run marketing. For this reason, it's not difficult to see why marketing operations are a vital and rapidly growing function for many organizations.

How Marketing Operations Is Failing Marketing

Unfortunately, marketing operations professionals are failing the very marketers they are supposed to support. Marketing operations are expected to bring efficiency, scale, and accountability to marketing departments, but none of those things are happening consistently. In my experience working with over 100 Fortune 1000 organizations, I see a general pattern where these teams failing to meet expectations. The key areas of concern include:

  • Agility of Service: Marketing in today's fast-paced viral environment has to be delivered faster than ever before. Customer and organization demands have made the speed and agility of marketing a key factor for success. For the most part, operations teams are finding that they are unable to keep up with the required speed of marketing. Marketing operations teams are generally ill-equipped with skills, resources or tools to execute marketing programs quickly.
  • Lack of Insight: Marketers rely on their marketing operations teams to collect and present customer insights that can aid in optimizing customer experience and campaigns. Operations teams are not coming through with these insights, making it more difficult for marketing managers to see data on their metrics to make informed decisions in time. Marketing Operations seem to rely solely on tracking vanity metrics, such as bounce rates and website traffic, which do not give a true perspective of whether marketing is working or not. They do not capture a single view of the customer across websites, emails and social media to understand what drives customer behavior and the true needs of customers. 
  • Inability to Scale: Marketing operations teams are largely unable to deliver content and experiences at scale. They lack governance and self-service for marketers, which limits the ability to create experiences at scale. Instead, everything is linear—operations and technology have to be involved in campaigns, slowing down the process. This lack of scale tends to create large backlogs of work, which causes friction with stakeholders.
  • Unclear Definition of Success: There is lack of clarity on what success looks like. The common perception is that they are the doers and are supposed to keep the lights on, yet they do so much more. Indeed, marketing ops teams are responsible for the very infrastructure that drives demand and revenue. Very few marketing operations teams have clear KPIs and scorecards with targets they have to meet.
  • Inability to Manage Risks: Risk management is a primary objective of marketing operations teams, but significant risks remain. The key reason is lack of clearly documented governance standards and processes which include security standards and content governance. As an example, very few conduct ongoing vulnerability assessments or have clear rules and controls around who can publish content on their corporate websites.

  • Marketing Teams are Trying to Do Too Much: Marketing Ops teams today have to juggle more of everything: more channels, more types of content and more stakeholders. Most teams are falling short of these growing demands. They do not have the breadth of skill sets modern marketing requires.

The Six Responsibilities of High Performing B2B Marketing Operations Organizations

To create a high-performing marketing operations organization, marketing must first define what the marketing operations organizations must do. As mentioned previously, the typical expectation is for marketing ops to manage the digital infrastructure and keep the lights on. This expectation is doing marketing a disservice. The six responsibilities described below are the pillars of a successful marketing operations team, and each must be in place for marketing services to serve its intended function.

1. Run Digital Infrastructure Efficiently to Support Scale

Almost always, the top responsibility for marketing operations teams will be the management of the entire digital marketing infrastructure. This infrastructure includes the website, marketing automation, marketing analytics, social media platforms, and more. The infrastructure should deliver an engaging Customer Experience (CX) and should be integrated across your organization so that it can be adapted and scaled for use with any marketing channel. Now more than ever, the infrastructure must scale as marketing and organizations grow and expand globally. Marketing operations should adopt cloud technologies, which bring scale inherently.

2. Deliver Business-Critical Insights to Optimize Customer Experience and Marketing

What good is a team that drives marketing if it can't provide the insights that marketers will use to improve their campaigns and content? Marketing operations teams should capture a single view of a customer and provide cross-channel insights. These services allow marketers to understand customer behavior quickly. Marketing teams should not be putting together a holistic picture by pulling channel-specific insights manually, as the effort to do so is significant. Against a single view of the customer, marketing can better understand and deliver personalized experiences across channels. Finally, this information should make its way to marketing teams in a self-service model that supports real-time reporting.

3. Create a Governance Model to Run Operations at Scale while Ensuring Business Risk Is Managed

Running an organization's digital infrastructure must support multiple lines of business, numerous product teams, and multiple geographies. In order for this scope to be possible, a marketing operations governance model must be in place. Content management, data governance, and technology selection processes must be a priority to prevent the publication of erroneous content or data. Content management is a system of processes and standards that allow organizations to create, edit, and publish the right content. When a large team of marketers have access to content and publish frequently without a content governance plan, the organization is at risk of incorrect content being published. Data governance provisions ensure that data is protected and secured with rules and controls in place to ensure the appropriate people have access to data. Standardized processes to select technology ensures that all technology is bought strategically and aligns with a roadmap to support the customer experience. With such processes in place, marketing teams work with a self-service approach without creating risk.

4. Generate Demand at Scale

To generate demand at scale, marketing teams need a standardized process for demand generation, lead management, and campaign reporting. This standardized system allows marketing teams to use consistent best practices to generate demand.

5. Enable Marketers through a Self-Service Model

Self-service must be the mantra of marketing operations teams. Marketing is a fast moving function. Marketers are under pressure to publish content efficiently and frequently, to run campaigns faster, and to gather insights and optimize experiences in real time. Efficiency is key to marketing success. If marketers need technical support for all of their work, it slows down their ability to execute their functions and impacts results. Web content management, analytics, social media, and marketing automation are all platforms that should be self-service. Marketing ops should also enable teams through training and easy-to-use tools. Once trained, marketing teams can use self-service tools effectively.

6. Ensure You Have a Roadmap That Continuously Improves Operations and Optimizes Customer Experience in Your Organization

Marketing operations, when working correctly, should be all about growth and improvement. As such, all marketing ops teams should collaborate with a fundamental Establish-Grow-Optimize model as they implement and improve their services. The "Establish" step constitutes most of what I've covered so far: running the digital infrastructure, creating the governance model, and setting up self-service. The "Grow" step includes the services that an active marketing ops team should be able to provide once it is up and running—including demand generation, customer insights, cross-channel marketing, SEO, and integrating the marketing ecosystem. The "Optimize" step, finally, should take the services in the "Grow" stage and improve them, using analytics and other insights to improve CX, tweak cross-channel campaigns, and boost revenues.


A marketing operations team can and should be able to run and drive marketing, as the definition of the role says it should. However, you cannot simply set up a team, tag it with the "marketing operations" buzzword, and hope to see results. On the contrary, the success of marketing ops is bred from company-wide collaboration, consistency of vision, benchmarks for success, and intuitive systems. Using the tips and pillars described in this blog, your organization will be able to avoid the common pitfalls of marketing operations and devise strategies to reach more people, improve the customer experience, and enjoy larger profits.