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September 28, 2018

The New Role of Marketing Operations and Technology

By Chuck Leddy, Zylotech

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The role of the marketing executive has changed dramatically in the last decade. With the accelerating growth of marketing automation and other emerging marketing technologies, a key component of the executive’s role has become dynamically matching the organization’s marketing needs with just the right technological tools, while ensuring that the martech stack remains integrated.

Marketers have turned to digital channels because that’s where customers are and new technologies to track them. Marketing executives are using their marketing technology stacks in so many ways, including: (1) collecting customer data, (2) creating customer personas and segmentations, (3) communicating with customers, often in automated ways, (4) distributing and scheduling content across multiple channels, (5) nurturing/managing leads, and much more.

No more genuflecting to IT

Years ago, marketing executives might go hat in hand to IT, explaining their technological needs and asking IT to select and install the right marketing technology. In those bygone days, marketing executives waited for implementation, prodding IT leaders who were managing multiple projects from multiple business units (HR, Finance, etc.). Today, marketing executives are deeply involved every step of the way, typically taking the lead from the beginning (choosing the martech) all the way through implementation and far beyond.

Wearing many hats

In terms of managing marketing operations (MO) and driving technological change, today’s marketing executive requires new skills and new roles. Marketing executives act as data-driven process optimizers, work as data scientists who garner key insights from data in order to drive better decision-making, and serve as portfolio managers who deeply understand ROI. As MarTech advisor Debbie Qaqish explains, marketing executives are tasked with analyzing how their marketing operations are performing, much “like they are looking at a stock portfolio. Analysis and optimization of all current [MO] programs is an on-going and agile practice.”

Martech’s accelerating pace

A new set of processes has come into play for acquiring marketing technology. Perhaps the biggest challenge marketing executives face today is curation, finding just the right technology tool (among thousands) for just the right marketing task. There are currently 6,242 martech vendors (compared to 150 in 2011) in 48 categories offering a booming number of solutions. And since martech is evolving so quickly, it’s becoming harder to simply keep pace with what’s even possible, let alone implement (and integrate) new, cutting-edge martech capacities and solutions.

4 habits of highly-successful marketing executives

What makes a successful marketing executive today? Well, it helps to be an open-minded, fast learner. Marketing executives must also be masters of integration, data analysis, customer experience/CX, and marketing attribution (connecting activities to ROI). Here are four required qualities a great marketing exec needs:

1. They are team builders. Great marketing executives attract, assemble, manage, and retain talented teams. Of course, in a landscape of accelerating change, an organization’s talent needs can shift over time. Great marketing executives are continually assembling and tweaking their teams to align with evolving business needs.

2. They blend talent and tech. The marketing solutions of today and tomorrow blend people and technologies in ways that get optimal results from each. As technologies like AI and machine learning continue to evolve, “human + tech” blendings will become more dynamic and essential.

3. They are “business-first.” Great marketing executives think far outside their departmental silo, collaborating across functions as strategic partners in the C-suite in order to grow the business. They know that marketing isn’t about marketing, but about growing the whole business.

4. They learn to remain relevant. Great marketing executives constantly stay up-to-date, not only with technological change but with the behavioral trends of customers. The truth is, companies don’t even know what specialized skills or emerging technologies they may need to leverage in ten years. Great marketing executives know that agility and continuous improvement are the keys to success today and tomorrow.