I’m not sure if this happens to you, but every time I try to talk to my parents about what it is I do in marketing ops, I get nowhere. Regardless of how I describe it to them, they always seem to walk away from the conversation with more questions than they started with. Do you have any suggestions for how to make it easier to understand?
Tim, don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a conversation with a friend or family member where I start telling them about my job while secretly wishing that they’ll say something like “Oh, marketing operations! Yeah, I’ve heard about that.” It just doesn’t happen. Instead, I either get to watch their eyes glaze over as I dive into why marketing ops isn’t the same as marketing, or spend way too much time answering questions until they finally have a sense of what it is I do. Neither is particularly fun.
With many of these conversations under my belt, I’ve managed to come up with a handful of strategies that seem to do the trick. Try them out and let me know how they work out for you.
- Keep it simple
Marketing operations is inherently a hard thing to describe—particularly to people who don’t have much exposure to this space. The fact that it’s a relatively new function, that it’s embedded in technology, and that it has so many moving parts makes it pretty hard to grasp at a surface level. That’s why I suggest keeping your descriptions as simple as possible.
- Avoid using jargon that might raise more questions. Remember, marketing ops is practically a different language, so you’ll need to use words that make sense to the person you’re talking to.
- Try not to get too deep in the weeds. The more detailed you get, the more things you’re going to have to explain.
- Connect the dots between what you do and other business functions. If you tell people that you organize information, do the work to understand customers, and manage things on the back-end, they’ll be able to paint a clearer picture for themselves.
With this in mind, I tend to say something like “I manage the software that allows companies to run their marketing” or “I help businesses understand how their investments in marketing convert to sales.” Simple, yet comprehensive.
- Use a metaphor
Another thing you can do is use a metaphor that makes marketing operations more relatable to what they know. Here’s one that’s worked quite well for me.
Marketing operations professionals are like the mechanics of the marketing world. Think about a factory line, for instance. The line is producing the different marketing materials (e.g. content and design) and there are machines (i.e. marketing automation software) that support that production. Those machines then need mechanics that set them up and fix them when they’re not operating properly. That’s what I do.
- If all else fails, stop trying
It’s always great if you can talk about your job with your friends and family, but at the end of the day, it’s OK if they don’t fully get it. The only thing that’s truly important is that you know what your job is and that you love doing it. As long as you can showcase that, your loved ones will just be happy that you’re happy—and there’s not much better than that.
You’ve got this,