How do I help my parents understand what I do for a living?

Hi Joe,

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?

Thanks,
Tired Tim


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.

 

  1. 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. 

 

  1. 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. 

 

  1. 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,
Joe Pulse

How Do I Build a MOPs Team?

 

Hi Jo,

After several years in a single-person MOPs team, my company is now willing to invest in growing MOPs. Encouraging as it is to have initial support from leadership, this will be my first time in charge of building out a team.
How can I hire, structure, and lead a MOPs team effectively? What should I account for in my plan?

Thanks,
Leading Leah.

Congrats on getting buy-in, Leah. By giving the green light to growth, your company is showing they take the success of MOPs seriously. Creating a team from the ground up is no mean feat, but as a new and rapidly evolving function, building and leading a team in the MOPs space comes with a few unique challenges to plan around.

Here’s a rundown of the key considerations your strategy should address:

  • Competencies: While the tools and processes in your organization will determine some of the fine print, the essential mix of skills in a MOPs team broadly breaks down as follows:
    • A people leader who understands marketing technology platforms
    • A day-to-day owner of each marketing system and tool
    • A data expert to own reporting and data warehousing, with expertise in BI tools (e.g. Tableau)
    • Someone to handle day-to-day deployment and requests from Marketing, building campaigns, emails, and other tactical pieces
    • Depending on your budget for headcount, multiple functions can live in one individual; for example, you might own admin or reporting while leading the team.

  • Role design: Whether you’re hiring one person or several, indicate in the title if each role is a generalist or specialist position, and to what extent the position’s deliverables roll uphill and have the candidate interfacing with C-Suite. A smaller team might have a MOPs Manager (wearing all hats) and a Junior MOPs Specialist in support; in larger organizations, you tend to see Senior Directors and VPs of MOPs along with Managers of Martech and Analytics. Note how those roles suggest degrees of seniority and focus.


  • Attracting candidates: The benchmarks of expertise in MOPs are different from more standardized functions like IT. It’s not uncommon to see job postings for senior MOPs leaders that ask for 10-15 years of experience—in a function that hasn’t existed for that long. Without prior experience hiring in MOPs, collaborate with HR to research the correct compensation and realistic skillsets for roles in the space. We’re in a candidate-driven job market right now, so your offers need to be compelling to poach top talent.


  • Nurturing internal talent: For the same reason, recognize and reward effort. Don’t overlook junior colleagues from adjacent teams (e.g. Marketing, IT) who want to learn new things. Some of the best professionals get their start after an organization gives them the chance to grow, so keep an eye out for ambitious internal candidates.


  • Leadership initiatives: MOPs people are driven to excel and willing to take a swing at things; you want to harness that competitive nature in productive ways. Your team should understand what success looks like, so share high-level KPIs for the organization that cascade downwards to Marketing and MOPs. Encourage your team to create job descriptions for more senior roles above them. This accomplishes a few things: clear upward career trajectories will incentivize people to dress for the jobs they want, and if your team is displaying these advanced competencies, it’ll help in negotiating promotions, training, and raises with HR.
  • Role design: Whether you’re hiring one person or several, indicate in the title if each role is a generalist or specialist position, and to what extent the position’s deliverables roll uphill and have the candidate interfacing with C-Suite. A smaller team might have a MOPs Manager (wearing all hats) and a Junior MOPs Specialist in support; in larger organizations, you tend to see Senior Directors and VPs of MOPs along with Managers of Martech and Analytics. Note how those roles suggest degrees of seniority and focus.
  • Attracting candidates: The benchmarks of expertise in MOPs are different from more standardized functions like IT. It’s not uncommon to see job postings for senior MOPs leaders that ask for 10-15 years of experience—in a function that hasn’t existed for that long. Without prior experience hiring in MOPs, collaborate with HR to research the correct compensation and realistic skillsets for roles in the space. We’re in a candidate-driven job market right now, so your offers need to be compelling to poach top talent.
  • Nurturing internal talent: For the same reason, recognize and reward effort. Don’t overlook junior colleagues from adjacent teams (e.g. Marketing, IT) who want to learn new things. Some of the best professionals get their start after an organization gives them the chance to grow, so keep an eye out for ambitious internal candidates.
  • Leadership initiatives: MOPs people are driven to excel and willing to take a swing at things; you want to harness that competitive nature in productive ways. Your team should understand what success looks like, so share high-level KPIs for the organization that cascade downwards to Marketing and MOPs. Encourage your team to create job descriptions for more senior roles above them. This accomplishes a few things: clear upward career trajectories will incentivize people to dress for the jobs they want, and if your team is displaying these advanced competencies, it’ll help in negotiating promotions, training, and raises with HR.You’ve got this,
    Jo Pulse.

How Do I Find the Best MOPs Leader?

Hey Jo,

I’m trying to find the right person to lead our MOPs team—and I don’t know where to start. It feels like there’s a lack of MOPs leaders in the market, and I don’t want to hire someone just for the sake of it. What should I do?

Thanks,
Hiring Hilary

 

Hi Hilary, great question. Unfortunately, this is a challenge that MOPs hiring managers are facing across the board. The thing is, our sector was originally built to meet the needs of the marketing automation platforms that have emerged over the last few years. As marketing teams adopted these technologies and reshaped how they did things, they gave certain individuals the opportunity to take ownership and become specialists in them. This means there are only a handful of people who have long-term experience with the tools and data analysis requirements that sit at the heart of MOPs.

In addition, because we’re still in the early days of MOPs, we’re only just starting to see educational programs and degrees focused on building the skills required for this area of marketing. In short, when it comes to building a strong and experienced MOPs talent pool, we’re still playing catch up. It’s not all doom and gloom, though! There are still ways for you to find the right MOPs leader for your team—you’ll just need a little creative thinking and patience.

First off, really think about what impact you want this person to have. As a function, MOPs encompasses multiple projects and capabilities, and they may not all be right for your business. When I have intake calls for a MOPs leadership hire, I ask the team what projects they’re doing in the next 90 days (e.g. rolling out Marketo instances), and pull the key skill sets from that. The bonus? You won’t have a laundry list of requirements on the job description that might put people off from applying.

Now that you know what the team needs, craft a clear picture of the candidate you’re looking for. A MOPs leader needs to have the right balance of technical and business acumen. They need to be able to understand the technical details while also using big-picture thinking to make decisions and guide their team. Part of this balance also requires managing expectations with executive stakeholders so that MOPs team members feel they have the space to do their jobs. Most of all, they need to be constant learners that aren’t afraid to break the status quo.

The MOPs space is always changing—it looks totally different today than it did six months ago—and leaders need to be able to adapt quickly while also being brave enough to lead some of those changes themselves.

If you ever feel that you have to compromise on a hire, my advice would be to compromise on platform experience, not project experience—technologies can be learned, after all. Also, remember the 80% rule. If you’ve found someone that doesn’t quite meet all the requirements, but has strong leadership potential and learning abilities, take a chance. They might be just the right person to lead your team to their next big success.

Now, this one is important. Before you go to market with this role, make sure what you’re offering is appealing. In this market, candidates have the power to choose, and they’re largely looking for companies where they’ll have flexibility, growth opportunities, and a voice at the table. Knowing that, you have to strive to be a company that people want to work at.

You’ve got this,
Jo Pulse.

How Do I Get Management to Listen to Me?

Hi Joe,

I’m having trouble getting respect from my Marketing leadership. Working in MOPs means I understand the processes between Marketing and Sales, what’s working well and what isn’t, but I don’t think my boss values my insights. My role involves lots of procedural responsibilities like building emails and handing leads over, which I think creates the perception that my contributions aren’t important to the big picture strategy.
How do I get my boss to listen to me? How do I make them see that my work adds value?

Thanks,
Ignored Isabel.

 

Isabel, I know this is tough. Getting your boss to really appreciate the value you provide in MOPs can feel like pushing a boulder uphill. After years of progressing my career in MOPs and working with senior leadership figures, I’ve seen a real blind spot from management towards the complexities of Marketing Operations.

That said, the disconnect goes both ways. A mistake I often made earlier in my career was to assume that everyone in a company speaks the same language. Data flows, systems maintenance, martech infrastructure; what comes fluently to us in MOPs can sound downright alien to people in other fields.

To leadership, it’s rarely apparent at face value how these components help the company to work productively and achieve revenue targets. Add those things together—poor understanding of MOPs, communication that doesn’t touch the bottom line—and you get a lack of respect.

You’re doing great work that’s worthy of recognition; what’s missing is a story of your value in MOPs that makes your impact on the business clear. Here’s some advice that can help you gain a seat at the table:

  • Unpack the strategy: Automating a ton of processes doesn’t mean your job is simple. Every email you build or webinar you host comes after weeks of planning to make sure your campaigns run smoothly and reach the right audiences. This is how you characterize your role to people who think you’re here to take orders; less plumbing, more architecture.
  • Know the room: You’re at a crossroads between technical know-how and commercial priorities. Your CTO and IT team might relate to the grittier aspects of your work, but for Marketing and Sales, it’s all about how you’re planning and budgeting for successful campaigns and generating leads. For responsibilities like vendor relations and data governance, you’ll need to surface how doing those things well helps your company be productive and profitable.
  • Unify your data sources: Reporting and analytics aren’t just ‘nice to haves’—they’re the best instruments for painting the picture of your impact. Give your tech stack some TLC and join together all the reporting elements that show how you’re performing against KPIs.
  • Share the right numbers: The most compelling move you can make with data is to leave behind the everyday operational challenges—the amount of tickets you’re handling, processes you’re running—and look at revenue. How many MQLs converted to SQLs? How many of those turned into closed deals, and at what dollar value? Those data points prove your contributions to business growth, so own them.Getting management to listen means changing their perspective of your value. It might not happen overnight, but persistence goes the distance.You’ve got this,
    Joe Pulse.

How Can I Progress My Career in MOPs?

Hey Joe,

I took the plunge and moved into Marketing Operations. I’m from a Product Marketing background, where I was always interested in data and the technology that powers campaigns. Beyond that, I’m still figuring out my longer-term career prospects. I’m not yet sure where I can specialize or what a more advanced role might look like.
How can I develop a successful career in MOPs? What skills and knowledge should I work on?

Thanks,
Long-Term Lou.

 

Welcome to MOPs, Lou. It sounds like you’ve noticed that this is a field without a set path of progression. People enter MOPs from all kinds of disciplines, and there’s no universal set of processes or chains of seniority that determine where you’ll go next.

I myself got into the field from a broader-based Marketing role, where I grew interested in how tech can help marketing to create growth. Years later, I can say that this isn’t a static business—there are always new problems to solve, and new tools are constantly emerging to fill capability gaps. For that reason, success means taking the initiative to own the solutions, skills, and knowledge that grab your interest.

That said, some qualities and capabilities are fundamental to the role. You’ll build systems and processes and spend time on technical specs and data flows, but you’ll also have to balance the needs of different voices in the company and advocate for solutions where everyone wins. The strategic and commercial awareness you develop in Product Marketing is just as important as technical skills to performing well in MOPs.

With those observations in mind, here are some tips to help you go the distance:

Learn 1 marketing automation platform and 1 CRM system back-to-front: These two platforms are the beating heart of your tech stack. Look into trial versions and pay-as-you-go models to get started at a minimal cost. Immerse yourself thoroughly, and you’ll gain a solid understanding of how everything fits together. Then, you can experiment with more secondary tools.

Take advantage of company training budgets: Whether you’re looking to become certified in a platform or attend training workshops, your organization should allocate time for training and help you pay for classes. Keep an eye on any qualifications and sessions you might be interested in and ask internally.

Build your network: Product forums, user groups, and MOPs online communities are great opportunities to engage with people who have similar interests. Everyone’s learning as they go, so participating in discussions can help you build knowledge and relationships.

Find a mentor: When you start developing particular interests in MOPs, it’s worth asking for guidance from someone in the company who has specialized in that area. This mentorship can help you pick up the right skills and perspectives to progress in your chosen direction.

Get to the bottom line: Breaking into senior management means shifting from gritty technical details to high-level organizational value. That means knowing your business model, learning how MOPs’ work impacts ROI and productivity and speaking to different audiences with the right strategic vs technical framing.

Expand your horizons: Changing environments every so often can result in valuable professional growth, and every person has a place that fits them. Startups are made for creators and people who value breadth. Agencies let you gain lots of experience fast across different platforms. If you’re someone who wants to refine and improve established processes, large companies are a good bet.

You’ve got this,
Joe Pulse.