The term marketing operations have a variety of different meanings. To some, it means activities like advertising, email, and social, while to others it means content, the customer journey, branding, etc.
In my experience, the practice of marketing operations involves planning, strategizing, and performing activities that achieve the marketing objectives set by the CEO or the Board of Directors (to spread a message, to raise awareness of products, etc). However, doing marketing operations and managing marketing operations are two different things.
As an experienced marketer, manager, and business owner, my perspective of how to organize and manage marketing operations has evolved. In my early days as a marketer, I relied on fast tactics with quick decision-making. After experiencing business failure, I turned to creating strategies and applying different methodologies — but slow and steady doesn’t win the race.
Consider a spectrum where one side resembles fast execution and the other, deep strategy. If you spend too much time deeply strategizing your marketing efforts, you’ll miss opportunities to build brand awareness. Spend too much time executing and you run the risk of failing to intercept a market, losing the ability to gain sustainable market share. The sweet spot is in the middle, but getting there is hard.
After reflecting on my experience of rapidly building and scaling small businesses, I’ve categorized my experience with marketing operations into 4 dimensions (The 4 Dimensions of Marketing Operations). These dimensions can be used as a framework to help marketing managers organize and sort their marketing activities and strategies.
The 4 Dimensions of Marketing Operations
Generally speaking, the activities marketers do each day consist of planning, developing brand awareness, and generating leads for sales teams. But when put into practice, the execution and consistency of these activities become difficult to maintain and manage. Which projects should you select? What meetings deserve highest priority? Where should you allocate your time, money, and people? In all, marketing becomes a busy job.
To ease the pace of marketing operations and to help marketers select better projects to tackle, I’ve developed The 4 Dimensions of Marketing Operations. These dimensions were made in mind for entrepreneurs and small business marketers who struggle to manage how to promote their businesses.
Using these 4 dimensions will give entrepreneurs the ability to split, segment, and manage daily activities and prioritize the greater needs of their businesses. The 4 Dimensions of Marketing Operations are:
- PR & Communications
- Brand Awareness
- Lead Generation
- Success & Renewals
1. PR & Communications
The first dimension is called PR & Communications and focuses on the public relations of your organization. Public relations helps businesses gain exposure at a corporate level — not at the product/service level.
New announcements, shared reports, earning statements, competitive direction, etc. These are the areas in which a company, founder, or president shares information about the company’s vision, mission, and direction. PR & Communications can come in the form of releasing an annual progress report, sharing news of new partnerships and alliances, or even venture capital announcements.
2. Brand Awareness
The next dimension of marketing operations is Brand Awareness. Brand Awareness is a branch of what forward-thinking CMOs call revenue operations. Essentially, revenue operations consist of brand awareness, lead generation, sales enablement, and sales operations. The concept of revenue operations focuses on combining efforts around marketing and sales. However, sticking with how things operate today, we look to brand awareness to help people understand and consider the products/services our companies sell.
Starting off with a great question: How are you building awareness, recognition, and brand recall for your organization?
Some activities for Brand Awareness include billboards, logo placements, running YouTube ads, sponsoring events, and publishing content.
To the small business owners, here’s one of our most popular articles on building brand awareness on a budget: Poor brand perception? Here’s how to turn it around.
3. Lead Generation
The third dimension of marketing operations is Lead Generation. This is typically the most critical piece for small business owners and marketers. Without leads, there are no sales. Without sales, there is no revenue. Without revenue, there is no cash flow (and operations cease to exist).
In balancing your daily marketing activities and choosing what project to prioritize, ensure your website, events, emails, call-to-actions, and content are yielding new marketing qualified leads for your sales team to engage.
Start into Lead Generation by using website opt-in’s like ‘schedule a call’, ‘book a meeting’, or ‘download our service catalogue’. When you start to make enough cash flow, try cycling a portion of your budget into advertisements to re-engage previous website visitors. A lot of people drop off the conversion cycle hence why it’s a good place to catch leakage (revenue).
For B2C e-commerce companies, try integrating content into your product pages such as sizing charts, buying guides, etc.
4. Success & Renewals
The last dimension of marketing operations is Success & Renewals. This is the piece of marketing that draws on the success of your product or service. These marketing activities highlight things like the customer experience, your solution’s fit with the customer need, and the benefits realized by the customer. Going even further, your success activities might include showcasing a connected hub, network, or group of people who share in the usage of your product or service.
In all, these activities inspire trust and renew the belief in your product or service — your customers come back and/or refer others to your business.
Putting this into practice, how might you share the success and benefits that your customers have realized? Typical assets marketers create for success and renewal include case studies, customer stories, and testimonials.
Whatever you decide to do, try to make it spectacular and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
Managing activities — What should I prioritise?
In most businesses, the dimension of Lead Generation is the life-blood of an organisation. However, Lead Generation becomes much easier with Brand Awareness. The dimension of Success and Renewals feeds into Brand Awareness, which helps fuel the Lead Generation dimension of your business. As for PR & Communications, this dimension keeps conversations about your business alive. When a founder steps into the spotlight to reveal their company’s new direction, people begin to talk about the organization on a deeper level. This is where gossip, polarized views, controversy, support, and love to come into play. Emotions will ignite, and grow interested in your business (but keep in mind, PR can also burn and destroy your business).
My ultimate recommendation of which dimensions to focus on depends on the cash flow situation of your business.
Early-stage companies with a big budget ($1,000,000+)
For companies that have a lot of money, I’d suggest they spend roughly 60% of their budget on the Brand Awareness dimension. The reason why is that every dollar spent on brand awareness is making the conversion process easier and more trustworthy for acquiring new leads. Increased brand awareness also yields brand recall which reinstates an organization’s messaging or product/service, building trust (even if the consumer doesn’t know it).
For the remaining 40% (60% going to the Brand Awareness dimension), I’d suggest splitting it into the Lead Generation dimension (30%) and the Success & Renewals dimension (10%).
By investing in the Lead Generation dimension, you can build, tweak, and optimize the way your business earned inbound inquiries. This will yield a more sustainable and consistent flow of leads to the sales team; enabling your business to grow and expand. For the 10% being invested into the Success & Renewals dimension, these activities will close the loop between your Brand Awareness, Lead Generation, and Success & Renewals dimensions of your business model. The customer stories, experiences, and case studies you can draw from customers will help reinforce your top-of-funnel brand awareness efforts and add a layer of support to your lead generation efforts.
With the recommendations above, run your operations this way for a fiscal quarter then review the results. This is the game of sales and marketing — it will never be perfect, but always aim for improvement
Early-stage companies with no budget ($0-5,000)
For companies that are essentially starting up, your best bet is to focus aggressively on the dimension of Lead Generation. The reason for this recommendation is two-fold, (1) it places an urgency for you, the owner, to figure out who your customer is, what they want, what they value, and what constitutes being a “good” lead, and (2) the success of figuring out your lead generation activities will yield flow to your sales team (likely you) to which you can earn cash flow.
The moment you cross the threshold of flowing qualified leads to your sales department, shift your marketing efforts to the dimension of Success & Renewals. The reason is this: as a young business with limited resources, you don’t have the trust and brand reputation that companies like Google have. This means you’ll have to work harder to show your solution works and that the customers you’re serving are people that others can relate to.
Not making traction? Follow this recommendation
Before I share this recommendation, know this is for entrepreneurs who have truly reached a dead-end with their lead generation efforts. The purpose of this recommendation is to get short-term cashflows up so that efforts can resume on the Lead Generation dimension.
If you have been trying to build and refine your lead generation machine, but have nothing to show for it, I advise you to start developing your relationships with people who can bring you leads. To a certain extent, the idea overlaps with the notion of affiliate marketing. Your partner will want clear and straightforward access to traffic and leads analytics, and luckily there is affiliate software that does help. Check out iDevAffiliate. This business activity revolves around the concept called strategic alliances. Essentially, you want to find a part of your product or service’s value chain and partner with current providers.
An example of this can be described with Marketing Qualified’s operations. When first setting up our business, we partnered with existing agencies to offer services related to Hubspot and data analytics. This allows the partner agencies to outsource Hubspot work to us, a small partner, who they know would offer high-quality, specialized work. If an agency charged a client $150 per hour but outsourced Hubspot work to us for an adjusted rate of $60 per hour, the agency makes money on the arrangement for facilitating the project requirements.
Would this arrangement make Marketing Qualified sustainable? Possibly. Would it increase the results of our inbound efforts? Likely not (unless massive word-of-mouth was achieved). Would we be able to rely on this for growth? Sure, until the partner prioritized training internal staff in Hubspot.
The result of partnerships during early-stage business development is short-term cash flow. Once you have money to spend, it’s wise to invest it into the activities that will resume activities on your inbound efforts. For small companies, this is things like investing in online courses for your staff, hiring specific services, doing in-house SEO with SEO software, running remarketing ads, and developing amazing content and opt-ins on your website.
Review your marketing performance quarterly
Weekly and monthly reports are good, but it’s wise to review performance on a quarterly basis as well. The reason is simple: quarterly reports help managers catch consumer trends for sales and marketing. Think of Christmas. At Christmas, the B2C industry kicks into high gear and PPC rates become more competitive. Also during this time, B2B companies gear down for the New Year.
If measure performance on only a weekly basis, B2B marketers would panic during the week of December 25th (very low amount of traffic, ad traffic, and sales). If measuring performance on only a monthly basis, B2B marketers would be led to false beliefs that they don’t have the customer journey right, or that people are seeking another solution.
The quarterly report will give you a healthy look at the patterns happening in your industry. Did traffic and results for your B2B company start to fall around mid-February? Maybe it’s related to Valentine’s Day. Did you see a similar trend occur around the end of March? Maybe it’s related to Easter.
Business owners often assume their sales and marketing are going to grow steadily over time (saying they’ll achieve 15% growth month-over-month even into Holiday seasons). This is possible but unlikely. The bottom line is this: account for your holidays and trends in the B2C market.
Conclusion and next steps
There you have it — 4 Dimensions of Marketing Operations (congratulations for reaching the end). The next big step to take is to review your own marketing activities and what you’ve done so far.
- Can you organize and sort your activities into the 4 Dimensions of Marketing Operations?
- Is there a particular dimension of marketing operations that has been neglected?
- In what ways could you adjust to realign your marketing operations?
This article should give you a healthy start to optimizing your marketing operations.