I bet many of you reading this article are stumped by the question, “What does your marketing operations training program look like?” Why? Because the overwhelming majority of marketing departments do not have such a training program. Any training that does occur is typically haphazard, informal and certainly not measured.
The most training I ever see for a marketing operations department is centered on technical certifications — if that. An effective marketing operations (MO) organization powers the transformation of marketing from the pens-and-mugs department to a revenue-and-growth driver. This article explores why the training gap exists, the skill mix required for today’s MO group, and the elements of an effective MO training program.
Why the Gap?
I have always been mystified by the enormous training gap in B2B marketing and in marketing operations. A few years ago, I was working with a friend who had been the chief learning officer for several global enterprise organizations. I asked him, “Why don’t we see more formal training programs anywhere in marketing?” He paused and responded that like sales, most marketing training was a responsibility of the function and not part of what corporate HR handled. I still see this in organizations today and it’s as if no one wants to take responsibility or recognize the value in training.
Either way, this gap represents the on-going sub-optimization of what a marketing operations organization can actually deliver. And the skills gap is growing larger every day. Just look at how challenging it is to find talent. Most of my clients take at least six months to find talent and even then, new employees don’t have everything they need.
To put an exclamation point on this topic, Gartner recently reported CMOs are now spending a larger proportion of their budgets on technology than on internal staff. According to Gartner’s 2018 – 2019 CMO Spend Survey, marketing technology will take 29 percent of expenditure in 2018, compared to 22 percent in 2017, while staff costs will account for 24 percent of budgets, down from 27 percent last year. We are continuing to increase the spend on technology, but are spending less on internal staff. On what planet does this make sense?
The Skill Mix
We all know that hiring for the marketing operations team is probably the most challenging type of hire in all of marketing. After all, where do you find candidates that have technical and analytical skills, who have marketing experience and knowledge, who understand process engineering and are effective communicators and consultants? There is a reason we call these people “unicorns”— because they mostly do not exist. And, if they do exist, you probably can’t afford them!
Best of breed MO organizations have a good mixture of all of these skills. The technical and analytical skills are obvious, the other three skill sets may not be as obvious. Let’s discuss those. I’ve seen MO functions that lived in the IT group in an organization and I’ve seen them act like IT professionals and not marketing professionals. This is a disaster waiting to happen because the MO group frequently has to lead other parts of marketing in adopting and using technology and data to drive business results. If the MO group does not understand ABM or lead management, and can’t suggest ways to optimize these core activities through the use of technology and data, it’s like two people in a room that speak a different language.
The best marketing operations organizations are great at process re-engineering and can speak process language and then operationalize process through data and technology. Finally, I can’t say enough about being effective communicators and consultants. The MO organization sits at the cross-roads of multiple functions and because of their unique position and access to data and insights, constantly communicates new ideas, new processes and new ways to achieve results. They also act as consultants as they listen to problems and present and implement solutions. Taken all together, this is a tall order. So, what’s an organization to do? Build a professional MO training program.
The Marketing Operations Training Playbook
The Pedowitz Group experienced this exact problem. We work with organizations to improve the marketing operations function as it matures from being a loose group of people and technologies to becoming the enabler of marketing accountability, digital transformation and customer-centricity. We found it very difficult to hire the unicorns needed to work with our clients so we created our own Marketing Operations University. Here is what it looks like.
Step 1: Skills Checklist
We created a skills checklist for the different roles in marketing operations we needed to hire. Some roles were more technical like our MO architects. Some roles were more strategic like our MO strategists. And some roles were more execution-oriented such as our MO engineers. We also knew that there was a baseline of skills required regardless of the role.
Step 2: Creating the Playbook
Once we had our Skills Checklist, we next created our Playbook. The Playbook consists of training required for all and the role specific training for each individual. When a person joins our company, they receive a Playbook that has been created just for them. From Day 1, they have a 12-18 month training plan designed to help them achieve Rockstar status as an MO consultant to our clients.
The first part of the Playbook includes training required for everyone. For example, we have training in all of our work productivity tools for everything from WorkFront to Lucid Charts. We also have “Day in the Life” videos so new hires can see what their colleagues experience on an average day. These videos are particularly valuable as they. like most MO professionals, have to keep lots of plates spinning.
Beyond these basics, we also require all of our MO consultants to attend a 2-day onsite communications class (written and oral) and a 3-day onsite consulting class. In both cases, scenarios, role plays and examples are tailored by role. We put our consultants into realistic situations to practice and apply these skills. They learn how to ask great questions. They learn how to listen and how to interact with clients who are happy and not so happy. They learn how to summarize and present information for improved consumption and clarity, thereby reducing problems and reworks. These skills are constantly reinforced through our culture.
In addition, the Playbook includes role-specific training such as technical certifications, project management or “tours of duty.” A tour of duty might be appropriate for a technically-oriented MO consultant who does not have much practical experience in marketing. We would have this individual work with our internal marketing team or be part of a client team to learn marketing skills such as ABM or lead management.
Step 3: Tracking Training Progression
Our training is delivered via live classroom, virtual classroom using Jubi, participation in team meetings and client sessions. We use WorkFront to track all time spent in training. The Playbook comes pre-baked with the time allotments for each training item so we know how much time each employee spends in training. In addition, all managers can see how their employees are progressing.
Our decision to identify the MO skills needed and then to design a tailored Playbook for all of our MO consultants has paid big dividends. First, our employees see that we value training and they see the investment we are making in their future. Second, we benefit as a company by uplifting our MO skill set so that we are more successful as a business. Third, our clients benefit not only from our technical acumen, but in how we understand their business and their needs and can better operationalize those needs to drive business results. At the end of the day, doesn’t this describe the role of MO?