The difference between Marketing and Operations
Marketing and operations are two essential functions that must work together in order to drive the success of any business. Whilst the two must be aligned in order to achieve business goals, placing Marketing within Operations can lead to negative consequences such as slow growth or even decline.
The two departments have fundamentally different goals and use different metrics and strategies; this, combined with other factors, can lead to conflicts of interest, lack of accountability, and poor decision-making that is not in the interests of the business on the whole.
This article reviews the types of conflicts that can occur and the ways in which organisations can ensure the two departments can work effectively to deliver the best results.
The Root of the Conflict
Marketing objectives include knowing what consumers want, promoting the company’s products and services, and generating as much revenue as possible, while operations seeks to deliver on the fruits of marketing’s labour while keeping costs down and processes efficient. These goals, whilst at a high level being aligned, can conflict one another in various ways.
While increased sales is usually the sign of success for marketing, operations are often focussed on reducing costs. Executives need to think carefully about this. Both goals are important for financial success but decisions at the top of each department must be focussed on their unique goals.
Marketing is growth focused and needs to spend money in advance. If a product is due to be launched six months later, for example, marketing needs to have the budget to begin promoting its launch as early as possible. This means making decisions based on insights, research, historic performance and expertise. Many different activities would come under such a campaign and it would take time for the company to see the results – but, if planned well, the results will come.
Operations, on the other hand, often expects to see immediate returns and if they do not, may assume the campaign is ineffective and the marketing budget should be cut. This renders marketing less capable of bringing about results because they do not have the funds; and from there, it’s a downward spiral because the two departments have an entirely different focus.
To make it worse, it is often hard to pinpoint how specific actions (such as a social media post) are leading to sales. The customer journey is complex, as is measuring ROI. Attribution modelling and other techniques can help but can never prove the entire picture, especially with recent changes in privacy.
Social media and content marketing also help businesses achieve other goals such as brand awareness, customer service cost reductions and play an important role in PR and wider conversion – it’s not simply a matter of mapping every activity to a concrete figure (even though one should aim to be as precise as possible regarding measurement).
Marketing is future-focussed while operations are often focused on immediate and directly traceable data points. Both of these mindsets are right in their own discipline but do not fit into one department.
COOs therefore often look to marketing to cut budgets. This may put a small sum back into the business but will usually remove much more from new business in the short and long term.
Separating marketing and operations while maintaining a focus on the collective vision allows each team to focus on what they do best whilst still striving to meet the overall business goals. In addition, when each team is responsible for their own area, they can optimise their processes and procedures to deliver the best results possible which will lead to improved quality, increased efficiency, and reduced costs.
How to Maintain Alignment Between Operations and Marketing Objectives
Teamwork is the key. Large businesses should focus on ensuring matrix reporting lines and virtual teams are created to bring the key priorities together. Also adding roles within marketing to oversee operations ensures efficient growth.
How to Optimise Your Marketing Budget
When organisations are trying to keep costs down, the marketing budget is often the first to get slashed. This approach is not effective, especially for companies that are struggling to stay afloat during difficult times. In fact, where possible, it is usually smarter to increase investment in marketing during a recession.
Another issue that arises is the approach to budgeting; finance departments will not always be thinking about marketing in the dynamic terms that are required and may not be as flexible in allocating funds as marketers would like.
Organisations must find a way to overcome these issues, and separating marketing from operations is the first step in ensuring that marketing strategy gets the funding it needs. Regular meetings between marketing and finance are helpful to ensure a mutual understanding can be developed about each department’s expectations.
How to Get Finance to Allocate More Budget
Thinking from the perspective of finance departments is also helpful in presenting one’s case. This means communicating the department’s needs with precision. In addition, measuring the ROI of marketing activities on a regular basis is important for getting executive buy-in and the more precise the measurements, the clearer the value will be. As mentioned, it is complex to measure the ROI of certain activities but the more data that can be presented, the better.
Optimising marketing operations in a way that cut costs is another tactic to gain buy-in from finance, through initiatives such as using marketing automation software. Finance will appreciate the fact that marketing is on-side about any budgetary concerns, which may lead to more favourable outcomes in future.
How Can Communication Help Align Marketing and Operations?
When separating marketing and operations, it is vital to establish effective communication channels between the two teams to ensure progress towards the common goal. It is also important to establish clear communication guidelines regarding what each team is responsible for communicating and when they need to communicate it.
Both departments should have access to the same data when it comes to decision making; some organisations will need to review their martech stacks in order to make that possible. It is also well worth training staff to understand the needs of the other department. Operations should have the means to thoroughly understand customer needs and marketers need to understand genuine operational constraints.
How Can Marketing Operations Officers Help?
Adding a Marketing Operations role is a more effective way to ensure the two departments can cooperate without becoming entangled. These professionals manage activities including budgeting, planning, execution, and evaluation.
They are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day activities of marketing, while having a foot in the door of various other departments, including sales, customer service, product development, and of course, operations.
They may also be involved with:
- Strategic planning
- Lead management
- Managing expenses and ensuring campaigns remain within pre-defined limits
- Monitoring the effectiveness of campaigns
- Contributing to the development of pricing strategies
- Optimising and scaling marketing processes
- Researching and implementing new marketing technologies
- Data management (ensuring that data is accessible to operations and other departments)
- Helping various marketing personnel to achieve their objectives
- Building strategic partnerships with external stakeholders including suppliers and distributors
These individuals need to be extremely financially literate with strong negotiation and project management and organisational skills in order to ensure marketing gets the funds it needs, spends those funds effectively and has strong processes and reporting frameworks in place.
Marketing and operations must be aligned in order to meet business objectives. However, companies that place marketing – one of the most significant drivers of success – may not be given sufficient priority.
As well as budgetary issues, conflicts of interest, and a lack of oversight of business goals (which leads to poor decision making), combining marketing and operations prevents organisations from making adequate progress towards their objectives.
Separating the two departments makes it easier for marketing to flourish, serving as a central player that coordinates the activities of other departments. It also allows each department to focus on what they do best and optimise their own processes.
Establishing regular communication between the two departments is a must if they are to work together effectively, and each should understand the needs of the other. By ensuring employees are on-board with the collective vision, the two can work in harmony towards both their own objectives, and the collective.
Another option to make collaboration smoother is to introduce a Marketing Operations role into the team. Their responsibilities are broad, spanning from budget management to lead management to the introduction of new technologies. These professionals bridge the gap between marketing, operations, and other departments, helping to ensure all parties are aligned.
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