As operation teams’ responsibility in fueling the revenue engine continues to gain momentum within B2B organizations, individuals working in Marketing and Sales Ops will be tasked to grow their skillset beyond the tech focus. These newly developed skillsets will position teams to identify specifically how their company is driving revenue, as well as determine what needs to change to drive success.
Research from Demand Gen Report shows that close to one-third (32%) of companies either have Marketing Ops, Sales Ops or collaboration between the two tasked with accessing and updating the company’s database. This is a clear sign, along with increased discussion of the topic at events such as LeanData's OpsStars event, that businesses continue to rely heavily on Operations roles to connect disparate insights for a holistic view on prospects.
However, industry experts agree that the role of Operations within B2B businesses is expanding beyond the table stakes of seamlessly integrating disconnected technology and data.
“Leadership wants to know what [Ops teams] are doing to actually facilitate the conversation with the buyer,” said Justin Gray, Founder and CEO of LeadMD. “I think that has left Marketing and Sales Ops on its heels a bit because that's something that has just gotten away from them as a primary skillset. They've been making things work together, but now they're being asked to really influence and ensure that their systems are driving the conversation with that buyer.”
“This buy-in ensures organizations don't lose sight of the very mission of the organization, which is to optimize and increase revenue across the whole organization,” said Howard Brown, Founder and CEO of the sales engagement platform ringDNA. “Too often, teams either deploy RevOps individuals without a cross-departmental mandate or, worse, they hire multiple RevOps with only departmental responsibility. This perpetuates the siloed approach that the best RevOps teams are deployed to help solve.”
Kerry Cunningham, Senior Research Director for Marketing Operations and Demand Management at Forrester, added that one of the biggest challenges for Ops teams is to identify, interpret and respond effectively to buyer signals.
“There are more and better tools available for collecting and responding to signals from individuals,” Cunningham said in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “But in B2B, more than 80% of purchases are made by teams or groups of three or more individuals. The nature of the challenge is that standard tools do not allow organizations to recognize when buying groups are active, to aggregate individual signals to the group/team and to respond appropriately in that context.”
CenturyLink Expands Ops Function To Act As A ‘Reliable Third Party’
At the Fortune 500 company CenturyLink, Operations as a function has become pivotal in ensuring all customer-facing teams have the tools and insights required to offer seamless experiences. Kate Federhar has been part of the company’s Marketing Operations practice for roughly seven years. As the Senior Manager of Marketing Operations, she noted that CenturyLink’s expectations of her and her team continue to grow.
“My role is only expanding,” Federhar said. “Everybody keeps talking about specializing and being a specialist, but I feel like we need to really make sure that we are ready and willing to accept challenges in other areas — because we touch so many parts of the business. That's how our roles are going to expand.”
Federhar said that CenturyLink’s Marketing Operations team is split into two different functions: one focuses on internal operations while the other focuses on external operations.
“I run external-facing Marketing Operations. So, I manage anything we're doing to communicate with our customers and prospects, as well as the technology and tools that we need to accomplish that,” Federhar said. “I have a counterpart who runs internal Marketing Operations, which focuses on how marketing operates, how we budget, how we formulate workflow tracking and more.”
Over the past two years, CenturyLink’s Operations team has had to pivot managing more than just the traditional marketing operations technology — such as its Marketo instance and anything directly associated with its email and lead generation efforts. Federhar noted that this has expanded to include web technology from Adobe’s suite of solutions, as well as some advertising technology.
“We’re starting to treat Marketing Operations less like a traditional marketing-operation shop and more of a technology shop,” Federhar said. “We're here to enable people to be able to do the very best work they can, regardless of platform or technology, and regardless of everything else.”
While senior Operations leadership is expected to adapt to ever-changing business needs, Federhar noted that individuals on her team are tasked with owning specific aspects of the tech stack to ensure colleagues know exactly who to connect with to learn how to better enable themselves with the tech and insights at their disposal.
“Everybody does not have a hand in everything. I'm part of a team of about eight people. I have portions of my team that run advertising technology, somebody on my team that runs the Adobe relationship and so on,” Federhar said. “We have specialists within the larger team, but everybody sits on the larger team.”
This setup has better positioned Federhar’s team to streamline communication across the different departments and business units within the organization. She explained that this process has turned her team into somewhat of a customer service organization within the company.
“We treat ourselves, and our work, almost like we're our own agency,” Federhar said. “We act like we are an independent third party. So we are constantly in communication and updating people on what's going on with different things and what the net-new features and functionalities are — all of those kinds of elements and all of those key parts are really important. I have my team structured so that everybody knows who to go to for everything. There's a single point of contact that they can have a conversation with and that's really important.”
Federhar added that the business has benefited from breaking down silos within CenturyLink, enabling teams to focus on the priorities that drive business goals.
“We're not as worried about infrastructure, and we’re not as manual anymore,” Federhar concluded. “It's so much easier under a single leader and a single vision, where traditionally everything was split apart, to start doing the right thing every single minute of the day. It just works, and now we have that.”
Operational Success Requires Alignment Around The Revenue Engine
Experts agreed that the continued expansion of operational roles in B2B businesses comes down to the continued focus on driving revenue and streamlining success. Cunningham noted that the whole concept of RevOps is to have greater alignment across the “revenue engine,” which is made of Sales, Marketing and Customer Operations.
“Many organizations are tempted to simply change titles to RevOps to solve for better alignment,” Cunningham said. “But title changes don't change anything. Others rush at an organizational realignment, often putting Marketing and Sales Operations under a single leader. That can drive alignment only if process and systems changes accompany the organizational change. It is perfectly possible to implement necessary systems and process changes to drive alignment without any change of title or organizational change.”
Cunningham went on to describe his company’s “Revenue Operation Charter” that defines the key areas that must be addressed to streamline a revenue engine.
“It starts with revenue engine leaders agreeing on a common vision for how the organization is going to operate and a set of goals that support that vision,” Cunningham said. “From there, all the key disciplines within the revenue engine should be subject to review for how they can interoperate with each other more effectively. These disciplines include things such as data, systems, personnel and process definitions for things like lead management, customer marketing and other related processes.”
LeadMD’s Gray also noted that there is a necessary shift required for Operations teams to become more attuned to traditional marketing skillsets around creativity, content development, messaging and more.
“Since we weighted the deck so heavily around marketing, technology and sales technology, we're now left all standing around asking, ‘Who's developing a way to speak to prospects and engage them? And based on those behaviors, how are we responding?’” Gray said. “I'm seeing that deficit in marketing skill sets as a pretty dominant gap within most organizations that we're talking to.”
Ultimately, it comes down to creating a customer-first mentality not only in the creative aspects of the marketing department, according to Gray.
“Operations requires understanding who the TAM and ICP are, how they've been segmented and aligned to internal resources — either by territory or by target account — and then really facilitating and understanding the buyer’s journey,” Gray concluded. “Marketing and Sales Ops folks that we really see excelling are individuals that understand that customer journey explicitly.”