If you haven’t heard of marketing operations, sometimes affectionately referred to as “MOPs” you will soon. Since the inception of marketing, we have always viewed it as a soft skill, focused on brand building, creative ideas, and content hooks. However, the rise of complex marketing software has created a growing need for more technical skills among marketing professionals, and it's not going away anytime soon.   

The Rise of MOPs 

Marketing operations is a discipline that specifically focuses on the more technical aspects of marketing and how to efficiently and effectively employ a cohesive martech stack. Back when the ideal marketing mix consisted of print, radio, and television, there was no need for the advanced integration, data analysis, or segmentation that we see today. If you had a message, a target industry, and a basic geographic area, you were set! However, with all things in marketing, and in society, digital innovation changed the game.   

As Rolodexes became CRMs (Customer Relationship Management) like salesforce.com, and billboards became emails, the need for more technical marketers became apparent. Today it is essentially mandatory to have some form of a marketing automation system, as part of your martech stack, that connects to your sales database so that you can coordinate campaigns and market to leads in a cohesive fashion.  Marketing automation systems are so complex running them requires having a person whose sole expertise is that particular platform. I’ve never met anyone that “kind of” knows Marketo, and if you have, they are lying. Marketing technology has not-only grown in its complexity, but there is a huge variety of it as well, with over 3,874, different types of martech software being used by companies today. Each with unique options for compatibility, with not only each other but every sales tool! It is no wonder marketing operations is the fastest-growing subset of marketing occupations.  


What’s Next for Marketing Operations? 

Demand for marketing operations professionals is only anticipated to grow. We surveyed 500 tech executives about their marketing activities and 72% say their company has increased or significantly increased demand generation activities since the start of the pandemic. By using digital solutions to replace in-person sales, marketers have found more effective ways to create leads. In this same survey, 85% of tech executives said the move to a digital sales & marketing process has had a positive impact on client satisfaction. Another key trend we are seeing is that CMOs are now more than ever focused on results. With budgets tightening after a tough year, impressions and buzz are not enough to sustain a marketing budget. According to our survey, 93% of tech executives think tying marketing efforts to ROI will be important or very important in 2021. 

Marketing operations professionals are essential if you are intent on gathering precise analytics. According to our Head of Digital Marketing, Morgan Wallace, to “understand your ever-changing audience, you need to build an analytics-based system that not only anticipates their needs but even predicts them.” For most companies having a martech stack that predicts customer needs is still a ways away.  However, building toward that level of efficiency is what will differentiate the winners from the losers in the long run.  


Humans Vs. Automation 

So, if marketing has become so technical, why do we still view it as a "soft skill"? Do we need “creative types”, or can we just automate everything? The role of automation in the future of marketing is something experts have been grappling with for a while. Our answer, you need both technical and creative skills. In an increasingly transactional world, where customers are bombarded by every type of content at warp speed, what is going to stand out - authentic & human messages.

The average American sees between 4,000-10,000 ads a day, yet there are most likely only a few ads you can remember from the past month. Don’t believe us? One of the first ad campaigns that pops into my mind from the past few months is the progressive “Becoming Your Parents” campaign. This ad was so memorable because the content was authentic and spoke to the universal fear that doing something as mundane as reading a book about submarines will turn you into your parents. However, this ad didn't stand out purely because of messaging magic, there was also data and analytics driving the approach. Millennials represent that largest cohort of home buyers, and this ad created a message that spoke to this age group effectively and memorably. This ad campaign utilized the secret sauce of data analytics and creativity to achieve the almost impossible task of standing out in today's highly saturated digital landscape. 

There have also been cases where over-investment in the newest tech has backfired. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, artificial intelligence software like 6sense was exploding. However, when everyone started working from their home, tracking based on IP addresses became irrelevant, which made these tracking solutions less useful. Relying too heavily on the latest tech can have negative consequences. In our recent survey, 88% of tech executives had trouble pivoting their messaging as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. If 2020 has taught us anything it is that we need our marketing teams to remain agile, and flexible, which is difficult if you are relying too heavily on automation.  

Developing Skilled Marketing 

Looking to the future we need both technical and creative skills. We need people that can create an authentic and captivating story, to stand out in today’s digitally distracted world. Yet, we also need people that can take that story and create an omnichannel experience that drives easily trackable ROI. While experts continue to debate whether soft skills or more technical skills are more valuable to modern marketing it is clear to us that in today’s digital landscape, you need both precision and originality to survive. 

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