TLDR: Is leadership considering a new structure for your marketing operations team? Learn about the suitability of in-house, agency, and hybrid marketing ops models.

You have three models to consider when structuring a marketing operations (MOPs) function:

  • building a fully in-house team
  • outsourcing MOPs entirely to an agency, or
  • a combination of the two.

Each approach can suit the ambitions and needs of your business. The best fit depends on the resources at your disposal and the scale of your MOPs maturity.

In this Tough Talks Made Easy, you’ll learn how each operational model can suit your business.

If your organization’s responding to changes in budgets and personnel, or your marketing leaders are redefining what they want MOPs to accomplish, now’s a great time to discuss the strategic aims that each model supports and the circumstances in which they can work.


Why change business models?

There are several scenarios where exploring different ways of structuring a MOPs function makes sense.

For example, let’s say:

  • Your current setup isn’t yielding the results your CMO wants to achieve. But, your competitor – who uses another operational model – is solving relevant problems and gaining the benefits you desire.
  • Your MOPs team might perform well, but tighter budgets, staff changes, or new growth prospects make it favorable to shift business models.
  • MOPs is an emerging area for your business, without much being established. You’ve completed some projects and have a few pieces of marketing technology. Your marketing leadership see potential to further develop your capabilities.


“A structural shift can help to accomplish your goals.”


A structural shift can help to accomplish your goals if leadership wants to:

👉 troubleshoot performance issues

👉 adapt to financial and operational circumstances, or

👉 increase the caliber of your MOPs function and its contributions to growth.


The three MOPs models

1. The in-house marketing operations model

Structuring MOPs solely as an in-house operation will likely need the most substantial support from your organization. This includes cultural recognition and financial backing.

Internal MOPs teams thrive in environments that perceive and respect marketing operations for its inherent value.

In other words: Your organization doesn’t undermine the marketing ops team with the continual expectation to prove the ROI of its existence.

Otherwise, the team needs a proven leader within the company and industry who can effectively establish the value of MOPs. This internal recognition is critical as it means healthy budgets for investment in digital maturity and growing the team’s headcount and skillset.

Key benefit: Greater access to key stakeholders within the organization which can influence the direction of a campaign or streamline communication.


2. The full-agency marketing operations model

Changing the status quo early in your MOPs maturity is a tall order.

Marketing operations concerns the analysis of marketing behaviors and their impact on revenue. It’s a distinct extension of Marketing that overlaps with Revenue, Operations, and IT.

As a result, many organizations are uncertain where MOPs should sit internally, and in some cases, they’re playing catch-up with the value that MOPs provides.

Sounds familiar? Consider a full-agency model to reach your full your MOPs function potential.

Businesses often have larger budgets for agency assistance than for building internal teams. While leadership may recognize the need to develop your marketing ops capabilities, outsourcing the function is likely an easier sell financially.

Key benefit: Using an agency partner to get projects off the ground provides evidence of the true value MOPs can bring. You can use this evidence to justify the headcount budget to build a team in-house.

Going the agency route also makes sense if your company has struggled to fill open, in-house MOPs positions.

In a job market where the demand for MOPs professionals outstrips the supply, in-house teams are often stretched thin across a breadth of strategic and tactical responsibilities.


3. The hybrid marketing operations model

Hybrid models can benefit small teams short on bandwidth and facing skill gaps. Partnering with an agency means accelerating your work and extending your reach to more ambitious projects. You can drive growth and develop the sophistication of your MOPs function.

Another choice to consider is between centralized and decentralized structures.

In a centralized function, one team manages the entirety of your company’s MOPs, whether that takes place in-house or at an agency.

Decentralized structures see multiple business units or departments use marketing technology to execute on their particular MOPs needs. Marketers around the business may use software like Knak to build their own emails, or have access to a marketing automation platform to build or even deploy their own programs.

Key benefit: In this scenario, an agency can provide additional lift for the single person or lean team running point on a department’s projects. Agencies can also help to create stronger connections and alignment between MOPs and an organization’s general Marketing team or support the work that marketing end users do in a platform.


Assessing the fit

Many organizations see their MOPs maturity begin with either a sole in-house or full-external model.


“The most viable path depends on the resources and hours you have available.”


Based on past experience, your marketing leadership might be strongly for or against using an agency. The most viable path depends on the resources and hours you have available.

Factor in your budgets for hiring and agency support, the expertise of your in-house team, and the available time your team can use to branch out into new MOPs initiatives and capabilities.

From there, businesses typically blend in-house and agency marketing operations, then fluctuate between a hybrid model and a sole in-house team.

You’ll experience a natural ebb and flow of agency needs as your MOPs maturity develops. After you’ve established MOPs to a point where you can bring someone in-house or grow your team, a marketing ops agency can still support you when your team ramps up enough to again need extra help.

At any given time, the ‘best’ model of structuring Marketing Operations is the one you deem most likely to achieve your growth ambitions within your financial situation. And this will shift over time.

Wherever you are on your MOPs journey, agencies can support your business at scale, within the budget and headcount on your side.

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