Way back, or so it feels, when we were looking at marketing trends for the year 2021, community was a big one. Building a community, being a connector based on common ideas and interests, was high on the list of marketing ideas that would be of impact.

Mike Rizzo started the MO Pros communities back in 2017 to provide a space for marketing operations professionals to connect with one another. In the past couple of years this thriving community has jumped from a couple dozen to a couple thousand.

I wanted Mike’s insight on the trends and the ideas driving the marketing operations industry.

Joey: For those who are new to the idea, how would you describe the marketing operations role?

Mike: Marketing operations is about creating efficient and scalable processes that help stakeholders achieve business goals. The role of a marketing operations professional is to effectively and efficiently leverage an organization’s technology, whether new or existing, to align the teams’ and business’ goals.

Would you think of marketing operations as a new industry or one that’s always existed but is only now being recognized?

I think marketing operations as a role has been around for well over a decade but is only now starting to reach a stage where it’s becoming a department or at least a major pillar within the marketing department – depending on its size and scope.

Early on, martech solutions and major marketing automation platforms (MAPs) like HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot and Eloqua were building products to solve a particular set of needs for the marketing department.

These products, especially as they became more feature rich and evolved to touch on cross-organizational activities, created demand for professionals who could maximize the potential of the technology.

This is now what many marketing automation and operations professionals work on daily.

Why do you think it’s happening now? What is driving this demand?

Today we’re seeing a massive growth in the supply of marketing and sales technology and with it a great growth in demand for experts to implement the solutions.

Besides the general increase in stack complexity and variety, two key factors are leading to the intense increase in the need for the marketing operations professionals.

  1. Professionals who have been implementing tech stacks for the last 10+ years are feeling the growing pains and are fixing and improving on either their mistakes or the mistakes of others.
  2. The C-suite is FINALLY starting to recognize how messed up and expensive failed tech stacks can be. Generally, this can be because of how digital transformation has been accelerated, but also because older tech stacks can be destroying productivity and leading to higher turnover.

We are at a tipping point.

Seasoned marketing operations professionals know there’s a better way to implement marketing and sales technologies. On the flip side, the C-suite is starting to ask for investments in technology to be measured, methodical in selection and implemented with a diligence that won’t require the organization to do a “rip and replace” every other year.

How would you describe the importance of marketing operations role to the average organization? If you don’t have markops covered, where are you going to feel the pain?

You want someone that can implement solutions that scale with the business, help you hit your goals with minimal tech-induced pain and perhaps most importantly, knows what to watch out for down the road.

Think of the marketing operations professional as your mechanic.

Personally, I have not worked on enough cars nor taken the time to study them. So I am NOT qualified to work on my car. If I wanted to do something that keeps it running a lot longer and perhaps saves me a lot of money down the road, I wouldn’t be doing the work myself — I’ll hire an expert for that. I can also ignore the flashing engine light or not go in for regularly scheduled maintenance. But in the end, it will often be costlier.

Marketing operations professionals are the mechanics of your marketing stack. You can hack your way around using technology all you want – but you’ll eventually want a professional to take ownership. If you don’t have Marketing Operations covered earlier then you’ll feel the pain later.

Most marketing operations people out there today didn’t study marketing operations – or am I wrong? What’s the typical marketing operations background? How does one start in marketing operations?

You’re not wrong. The educational system is completely missing the mark when it comes to real-world marketing operations.

I would say there is no “typical background”.

You’ll see people who have just done “email marketing”. That’s where I started and led me to the discovery of tools like Pardot, Act-On and HubSpot. You’ll see college graduates with degrees in Mathematics. There are plenty of other consultants who are completely self-taught.

I would say there are some personality traits that are super consistent – at least in my experience – among the best in marketing operations:

  • Problem solver
  • Intellectually curious
  • Systems thinker

It would seem keeping up with the pace of innovation is a prerequisite for the marketing operations professional. This is especially challenging because implementing solutions at an enterprise scale can be daunting. How does one stay ahead of the curve, particularly on the tech side?

I don’t think you need to stay fully ahead of the curve. You just need to be informed enough that you can advise and then dig in deeper where needed.

When you’re informed about the details – just enough – you’ll know when it’s the right time to go deeper and pull that knowledge into a conversation. Over time, as you gain confidence in the role of marketing operations, you’ll also know when it’s okay to say “I think this is something we should look into further – I’ve read something recently and I can report back.” It’s okay to take charge and not have the answer immediately. In fact, it’s expected.

And with regards to staying “ahead of the curve” – I’ll shamelessly plug that you join a community for marketing operations professionals, like MO Pros.

Besides MO Pros, which is a great community, what are your top 5 sources of inspiration for someone getting started or looking to keep up to date on all things marketing operations?

You are definitely right about the MO Pros. Check out our community, our Slack Channel, and the Ops Cast (our podcast). Otherwise, five sources that provide me endless inspiration are:

  1. FWD: Thinking by CS2 is a great podcast and videocast on all things b2b marketing and marketing operations.
  2. Highway Education is a boot camp for entry level marketing operations.
  3. Martech.org has so much great content on marketing technology.
  4. Chiefmartech.com and Scott Brinker wherever you can find him.
  5. Marketing Ops Confessions from the folks at MadKudu.

What are your peeves with the marketing operations stack of today – where is there a desperate need of improving?

There isn’t a “marketing ops” stack – there is just a marketing stack that needs to be managed. This is my pet peeve 🙂

Otherwise it’s important that we stop adding more “tech” to the marketing stack and use our collective wisdom and creativity to build products that enable and support the MO Pro. I’d love to see fewer tools that are smarter.

Speaking of the stack – any favorite tools you’ve discovered recently that you think every marketing operations professional should take a look at?

Given my lucky position as a community manager and founder of the MO Pros of creating “NO Bullsh*t Demos” I get to see a lot.

My favorite tools I’ve learned about lately are:

Thanks for the shoutout – you are definitely right about ReviewStudio.

On a slightly different tangent – you’ve built and continue to nurture a vibrant community for marketing ops pros – with MO Pros. What advice do you have for building a strong community?

I only have one tip.

Be authentic and true to why your community exists.

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