Earlier this week I participated in a Target Marketing webinar with two talented marketing ops guys from Workfront (Jeff Cullimore and Brandon Jensen). The topic covered what traits to hire for and cultivate in a great marketing ops team. In this increasingly digital world that’s creating an increasingly digital — and complex — work environment, expectations for marketing operations have never been higher.
As your ops team works hard to make sure the entire marketing department runs smoothly, stays aligned, and has the data they need to be successful, your leadership can help them develop the confidence they need in their roles. Brandon, Jeff and I discussed these top eight traits of the most valuable marketing operations teams:
8. Driven to Be Efficient and Effective
Do you have a colleague who is forever trying to optimize their drive to work or to the airport, obsessed with getting feedback and improving results? That is a great trait to have in marketing operations because let’s face it, their job is to make the rest of marketing more productive in everything they do. They will help you drive documented processes across marketing, measure the effectiveness of those processes, look for leaks, and adopt agile marketing principles. They understand that new technology is supposed to help drive up productivity, scale operations and enable new capabilities. They don’t become enamored with the latest shiny object. When you interview people and want to see if they have this trait, ask them about a process they have optimized.
Marketing ops thrives on innovativeness. This is how you will outsmart your competitor’s marketing department. Being innovative goes hand in hand with risk taking, so create an environment where it is safe to experiment, take risks, and explore new ways of doing things. Ask your job candidates what risks they’ve taken professionally and how they innovated.
6. Always in the Know
In his book, “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell discusses three primary roles that every firm needs: a maven, a connector (aka networker), and a salesperson. He missed one, but I’ll get to that later. Having someone with networking skills is very useful in marketing ops. Let’s face it, management simply cannot be aware of all the goings on in marketing, sales and IT. Having folks who are plugged into initiatives and have an organizational awareness of their surroundings, helps ensure marketing ops stays relevant. Being in the know also applies to this next trait.
5. Tech Curious
I don’t want to call them geeks, but we all rely on our geek friends to steer us straight on tech purchases. Marketing ops needs at least one geek to sort through the 7000+ marketing technologies and select the right ones to help the organization grow. If you are hiring someone into the MarTech strategist role, test their knowledge and passion for the technology. What conferences have they attended? What would they recommend for you having reviewed your website? What tools did they eliminate in their last role?
Marketing operations must maintain a strategic perspective. They have to remain focused on the outcomes marketing is driving for, they must be customer-focused and knowledgeable of how optimal customer experiences can be achieved. Testing for this trait involves seeing if the candidate is capable of critical thinking. Give them a test, and see if they can tease out the situation, the complications, and arrive at a critical question that sums up the situation or test.
3. Highly Communicative
No brainer, right? Marketing ops serves the entire marketing organization, and customers, and in many cases the sales organization. Being good listeners, with the ability to solicit and understand their disparate requirements is table stakes to work in marketing operations. Testing for this trait in an interview is easy. Explain the marketing objectives to them, and then ask them to play it back to you. I.e. see how well they listened.
One of the primary functions of many marketing ops teams is that of reporting and analytics. You want someone who knows marketing KPIs, and who can help show the influence of marketing on the sales results. This trait goes beyond simply finding someone good at Excel or the use of a BI system. You need to find someone who can extract meaningful insights from data. Test for this by showing them some reports, data and charts, and ask they what insights they can glean form it. Do they understand that reports aren’t for ego stroking, they are created to help the business make better decisions?
1. Highly Collaborative
The final trait is that of being a great connector, someone who can help eliminate silos in organizations, in functions, in technology, and even in data stores. This person will not tolerate functions operating as silos and is a constant bridge builder. The bridges can be defined in processes or technology integrations. The point is that they understand the importance of marketing ops function holistically and that working together yields synergies. They are driven to achieve a shared set of goals.
Earlier I mentioned that Malcolm Gladwell missed one role in his startup triad. He shared that at their core firms had a maven, a connector, and a salesperson. The role he missed is that of the operations guru. This is the person who directs the firm on how to produce the products and services you sell. The maven cannot do this. The connector and salesperson cannot do it. You need an operations guru. And if you are in marketing…you need marketing operations gurus.