David Raab is Founder of CDP (Customer Data Platform) Institute and Principal of Raab Associates. With nearly 30 years of experience analyzing marketing trends, tech and data, Raab is one of the most trusted resources for practical advice that helps advance today’s marketing organizations. This year, he joins an esteemed panel of judges to help identify 33 Marketing Ops Game Changers who are driving their oranizations forward.
Raab recently took some time to share his views on the Marketing Operations role. It seems perhaps many ops pros are so inundated with implementing marketing technology and building complex workflows that they’re not able to full exercise their data-driven and analytical talents.
What’s the most important role that Marketing Ops plays in today’s customer-centric, data-driven marketing world?
David: Their most important role is to ensure that marketers can actually take advantage of the capabilities provided by their company’s marketing systems. It’s up to marketing ops to translate marketers’ ideas into practical reality. Keeping the systems running is important too, but that’s secondary: there’s no point in running systems that don’t get used effectively.
Which of the following is most essential for Marketing Ops pros to master: business strategy, data and analytics or technology?
Data and analytics. There are plenty of people who know about business strategy, although it’s certainly important that marketing ops people understand marketing strategy so they can be sure to execute programs that are consistent with it. Technology itself should be handled by IT, martech staff, or vendors; in most cases, the details of technology aren’t something that marketing ops needs to understand to do their jobs. But there’s no one else who will pay close attention to data, and often data knowledge is a key to successful analytics as well. Much of the time in analytical work is spent on data prep and knowing how to do that requires intimate familiarity with the source materials.
What’s the most under-valued skill of a good ops pro? What trait do many hiring managers neglect to look for?
I’d go with people skills. Marketing ops people are often in the middle between marketers, IT, vendors and other groups. It’s essential that they translate between them and often that they avoid or correct misunderstandings. Managers who worry about proficiency with marketing tools or experience in their company’s industry can easily overlook the softer skills.
It’s a new year. What’s next for Marketing Ops?
I fear their job will become harder because there will be still more systems to work with. This may force them spend more time on technology that they should have to.
What are some of the pitfalls you frequently see marketing ops practitioners falling into?
They sometimes get bogged down in complicated programs – like complex campaign flows – that take up so much time to maintain that it’s hard to work on newer and more innovative projects. There’s also a tendency to use the tools they know best for everything, even when other tools would be better for a particular task. Of course, they’re balancing the time it would take to learn a new tool with the time to get something done using the tool they already know. The cost of learning a new tool is also increased by the risk that the new tool will turn out not to do what’s expected or not to do it much better than the familiar tools. So they have lots of reasons to be conservative.
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