5 Ways Running Marketing Operations Is Like Running a Marathon

To deliver better brand experiences and run efficient marketing operations, marketers today require ever more time and resources. In the past, print, television, and web campaigns primarily dominated the average marketer’s responsibilities. But today, the modern marketer manages an average of 23 channels, largely due to the growth of digital touch points. Customer expectations have also expanded, causing the marketing department’s responsibilities to correspondingly increase.  

However, the latest research from analyst firms like Gartner show that marketing budgets are stagnant, and in many cases decreasing. This paradox that marketing must do more with fewer resources is what we at Aprimo call the "marketing operations gap."

To close the marketing operations gap, the modern marketer must get their marketing operations in order. In addition to the explosion of channels, the modern marketer’s responsibilities have expanded to include support for the following:

  • Deeper customer relationships. Forrester declared earlier this year that “it’s the end of advertising as we know it.” In this new era, CMOs and marketing leaders must instead move to drive conversational, intelligent relationships with customers (not those annoying TV ads and auto-play online video ads).
  • The digital touch point explosion. First it was the mobile phone and tablets. Then it was e-readers, smart watches, and digital displays in stores. Today it’s voice-assisted devices and IoT-enabled devices like smart washers/dryers and refrigerators. To be ready for what’s next, marketers must prepare to deliver experiences across these channels that are on-brand and take advantage of each channel’s unique characteristics.
  • Demand for tailored brand experiences. According to Forrester Research, 78 percent of U.S. online adults have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that has personalized an experience or service. In large part, this is because customers today are inundated with messages, and to get their attention, brands must provide personalized, relevant, and contextual experiences.

To Close the Brand Experience Gap, Think Like a Runner

Too many brands try to close the brand experience gap by focusing primarily on delivery. They invest only in marketing technology solutions that deliver experiences across channels or they focus just on the look and feel of personalized experiences, or they focus on how to deliver across channels. This is all still incredibly important, but delivery is only half the story—marketing operations needs proper attention.

Focusing just on the delivery of experiences is a bit like a runner showing up to a marathon with all the right gear—the right shoes, shorts, and bib—but having done none of the right training to get there. Much like a marathon runner, marketers need to do a lot of behind-the-scenes work before they begin the race:

1. Planning. Marathon runners don’t just show up to races: They plan months and even years in advance. Similarly, marketing takes adequate planning and scheduling to ensure that marketers deliver the right experiences to the right customers, at the right time.

2. Investing. Marathon running takes investment—mostly a time investment, with many early morning wake-up calls and long practice runs. Similarly, marketing investments are made of time, people, and money investments. Marketers need to make sure they have insight into spending so they can make it to race day with enough time, resources, and money left in the bank.

3. Collaboration. Most marathon runners don’t train alone: they are part of running groups or even have running coaches. Marketers similarly have a high degree of collaboration. While a VP or marketing leader may be ultimately responsible for the end result, there’s a whole cast behind the scenes that need to work together and seamlessly collaborate to get experiences out quickly to market. 

4. Day-to-day management. During training, there’s a lot for runners to manage, like nutrition and training schedules. Similarly, marketing is a delicate balancing act. Among other things, marketers must have transparency into where activities are at all times, what content should be used, which content rights are to, and who is working on what marketing activity at any given time.

5. Results. At the end of the race, runners get their all-important time. Whether it’s a PR, marathon qualifying time, or a mediocre result, runners use this to influence their future training. They either do more of the same or adjust their training plans. Similarly, marketing professionals must focus on metrics. For instance, did the marketing activity have the desired outcome? And did the collaborative process, scheduling, planning, and content all work as expected?

Great marketing operations ensures marketers have the organization and tools needed for each step of the “marketing marathon.” Proper prioritization and implementation of marketing operations enables efficient planning, investing, collaboration, management, and reporting of critical results and ROI. Without this structure, the modern marketer’s day is often filled with mayhem.

Furthermore, focusing on marketing operations—the behind-the-scenes work of marketing—is critical to marketing success. It is the foundation for successfully executing campaigns across every distribution channel. By finding solutions that support marketing budgets, workflows, asset management, and partner distribution, the modern marketer will excel into the future.


Anjali Yakkundi is a product marketing director at Aprimo and looks after the strategy, go-to-market, positioning, and messaging for the Marketing Productivity, Plan and Spend, and Digital Asset Management products. Prior to joining Aprimo, Yakkundi spent eight years at Forrester Research, where she covered the marketing technology, e-commerce, and digital agency spaces.

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