Marketing Operations for the Win: Championing Complex Campaigns

With so many different elements contributing to complex campaigns, it can be difficult to know how to troubleshoot for success. These MOPS pros weighed in.

BY: Alexandre Pelletier

PUBLISHED: 8/4/2020

Wouldn’t it be nice if campaigns always ran according to plan? (Wishful thinking, right?)

Whether it’s the first time integrating a new component, navigating multiple layers of approvals, the sheer volume of campaigns running simultaneously, or unforeseen challenges from the effects of the pandemic, complexities add up quickly. Before we know it, that seemingly simple campaign can feel off the rails.

Add in the increased workloads for marketing operations overall, and the need for a process that accommodates these complications becomes imperative to executing complex campaigns with agility and grace. In a recent conversation, Deven Ravel, Naomi Liu, and Helen Abramova weighed in on some of their past experiences with complicated campaigns. And what better way to learn how to roll with the punches, than from the collective knowledge of these seasoned marketing operations heavyweights? Experience, after all, is the best teacher.


Troubleshoot Your Strategy


“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson

Marketing strategy can carry the best of intentions, yet still have massive holes when it comes to the reality of executing a campaign effectively and on-time. Unclear directions from above, a lack of documentation, misunderstanding of an appropriate timeline, and resources blockers can all contribute to frustration and breakdown within complex campaigns.

“Sometimes certain requirements may seem insignificant on paper, but impact the entire way that a campaign is structured or built,” commented Naomi Liu, Director of Global Marketing Operations at EFI. “If those requirements aren’t mentioned at the beginning, or you get them piecemeal during your build, it’s easy for them to escalate into big issues down the line.”

Truly, so many of these more painful complications can be prevented with a deeper dive during the strategy phase. However, oftentimes the first time that marketing operations sees the strategy for a campaign is when they are asked to execute and build.

“Who is the one creating the campaign brief, and how is it being submitted?” questioned Deven Ravel, Director of Ecosystem Management and Business Development at Workato. “Someone may write what looks like the perfect brief and get budget approved, but when people start sliding in other requests, before you know it, the campaign itself looks significantly different and scope creep becomes a problem.”


Helen Abramova, 3-time Marketo Champion added, “There are different levels of accuracy or precision to any strategy. There is obviously the overall strategy to consider, but then it also breaks down into what it means for each specific unit and team. It’s critical not to miss certain technical aspects early on, which is why it’s important to involve marketing operations at this stage.”


Investing more time in your campaign brief sets the stage for clear objectives from the start, cuts down on scope creep, and identifies issues early before they escalate. However, it’s also about who is involved at this stage– bringing marketing operations in early can be a critical component to success in laying the correct groundwork during complex campaigns. But, marketing operations should be prepared to advocate for themselves to make this happen.


Communicate, Communicate, Communicate


Remember the telephone game we played as kids? By the time the message made it to the last person, it was usually undecipherable or completely different from the original.

This happens in organizations, too. Many times what the initiator of a campaign envisions compared to its interpretation from the marketing side can be…off. The resulting miscommunication leaves both sides feeling like they’re speaking different languages.

Gaps in communication cause frustration, delay, and misunderstandings of expectations. As the architects of campaign builds, it’s up to marketing operations to bridge this gap in communication– whether it be with high-level executives or another department within your organization. To mitigate these gaps, put yourself in their shoes and ask: what is their end goal? What steps can you take to help get them there?


“Marketing operations needs to be a good advocate for itself,” Helen emphasized. “To do that, we need to translate our objectives and needs into business language in order to communicate more effectively with our stakeholders.”

Though communication (or miscommunication) can certainly be a pain point, when approached proactively, it positions marketing into an expert role. As Deven pointed out, “Marketers can become advisors to the business if they’re able to communicate that operational mindset.” This may also take a bit of internal education on the role that marketing operations plays, but when done right, it can help to both manage expectations from other teams, and become an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and value.


No Random Acts of Marketing


Of course, executives need to understand the effectiveness of marketing efforts, meaning your reports should be structured in a way to communicate value and business objectives. This is where the importance of data comes to the forefront– but it should start even before the build.

As you construct your campaigns, Helen recommended considering questions of, “What should the end report look like, and what are the stakeholders going to be looking for?” By working backwards from these end goals, you can then use data to appropriately influence and build a given campaign for success.

“You should be sending people information that they want, at the time that they want it,” Naomi emphasized. “These days we have so much information around our audience, demographic specifics, and buying signals. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be leveraging that data to be targeted in our communications.”

“Data hygiene is obviously hugely important to this– duplicates are the bane of every marketing operations person’s existence. Dirty data, data hygiene, data churn– these are the things that keep me up at night,” she joked.


Bob and Weave: Dodge Hazards and Roadblocks


Let’s be honest– who hasn’t made a mistake in Marketo before? Or hit a roadblock that throws everything off schedule? Unfortunately, errors happen. When they do, credibility, reputation, and loss of time are most often at stake.

Though everyone is operating on tight timelines, building in added testing can end up saving your team a lot of time and grief, especially with complex campaigns, in the long run.

“Before I leave the house, I’ll sometimes find myself checking repeatedly that the stove is actually off,” chuckled Naomi. “In all seriousness, I take a similar approach before launching a campaign. You want to make sure that you’re testing everything. For each stage in the process, you need to have sign-off and approval within the review. There should be checkpoints and approvals at every stage.”

Helen added that, “Rigorous testing, particularly on different devices, can really help to cut down on mistakes.”

Creating a process that prioritizes testing, like this Pre-Launch Checklist, can help marketing operations catch costly mistakes before they happen.

It’s darn near impossible to anticipate every potential complexity that can come into play during the campaign process. However, we’ve likely all encountered recurring issues that seem to pop up in different campaigns. By getting more granular (and involved) during the strategy phase, forging proactive communication within your organization, using data to speak to business objectives, and prioritizing testing, marketing operations can mitigate and anticipate some of these pain points, and become more agile in the process.