As the MarTech landscape explodes, marketing automation becomes table stakes for organizations, and new career opportunities emerge, it comes as no surprise that many top MOPS leaders have had a less-than-linear journey to their current role. Yet, once they stumble upon the marketing operations niche, they’re hooked. As this industry continues to grow and thrive, we started asking how different leaders found their way to marketing operations, and what they see in store for the future.
For this first piece, I’m thrilled to interview Julz James. Julz barely needs an introduction, as she’s a 5-time Marketo Champion, a Marketo Certified Expert, and the 2019 Marketo Champion of the year. Another interesting piece: she spent the past 3 years as an Assistant Professor of Marketing at St. Edward’s University. Her dual perspective as an accomplished Marketo tactician and as an educator lend for a particularly interesting lens to view the evolution and future of the field.
This is her story.
How Julz James Found Her Marketing Operations Niche
Looking back, Julz says that she has been in marketing for around 16 years; however, it’s safe to say that those early days definitely did not look like they do now. Still, she feels that from an early stage, her roles leaned toward an “operations” thread. Even her first job analyzing website stats and analytics (and then tediously plotting out the findings on Excel spreadsheets, because, you know— who doesn’t love a good pivot table?) had its place within operations, albeit on a more basic level. She says that “without realizing it” she found herself in the marketing operations niche.
When Julz discovered Marketo around 2012, everything changed. The spreadsheets that she had so carefully curated became ancient, considering the power of marketing automation software and the rise of MarTech. She took her first full-time Marketo-focused job in 2014, a huge turning point in her career. It was in this stage that she realized that the “fluffy, pretty pictures” that had dominated many early marketing efforts were insufficient. Now, with the capability to prove in numbers (read: dollar signs), marketers were able to actually quantify how much their services were worth…and push for more.
“If you can show a CMO a dashboard of how much we’ve influenced and [what we’ve] had an impact on, they can see the value of marketing,” she said. “And now we can do it with a click of a button versus manual spreadsheets.”
As software opened up highly valuable analytical capabilities at the touch of (properly trained!) fingertips, it became easier to demonstrate the value of marketing operations to executives and others in decision-making positions. The vast capabilities of technology have kept her in the field, driven by her own passion to optimize marketing operations, integrate technologies and advance the capabilities of her marketing colleagues.
Still, it hasn’t exactly been easy to define marketing operations as a whole.
So…What Is MOPS, Exactly?
“What do you do again?” It’s a question that every MOPS professional has heard over and over, in part because of the relative newness of marketing operations being accepted as an actual field. With the growingly complicated MarTech ecosystem, Julz compared this career quandary akin to being able to explain what you do for a living to your mother.
“It’s very hard for others— even your CEO— to understand what you do in Marketo every day. Trigger campaigns, nurture campaigns, lead scoring…it can begin to sound like a foreign language. Most people just know I work in marketing technology,” said Julz, slightly laughing at the thought.
“As it stands right now, it’s the job of the MOPS leader to demonstrate and educate their place within a complex marketing strategy. Though many companies are beginning to understand that they could benefit from a marketing operations person, many still don’t fully grasp the depth of the role. Because marketing is so varied and the roles within Marketo are so deep, it can be difficult to fit a marketing operations leader’s role into a box,” she noted.
A Shifting Industry: How Technology is Changing Marketing Operations
From her introduction to Marketo in 2012 to her days as an educator, Julz has watched quite a bit unfold within marketing automation.
A key piece that she honed in on as one of the biggest changes within the MOPS world is the uptick up available technology…and the tech envy that can spawn because of that. She notes that she has seen plenty of companies jump at a new piece of technology, only to later realize that they need specialists within each of these areas to properly deploy it.
“Someone has it, so I have to have it,” Julz commented on the mounting pressure to invest in more technology. “But– why?”
It’s a simple, yet fair, question. Because of the data-driven, analytical side of marketing, the shiny new toy can look especially alluring. However, if your team is not properly set up to take full advantage of the new technology, adding more to the mix can actually cause more problems than it fixes. “Really understand what problems a new technology will solve, who’s going to operate it, and how it will integrate with your tech stack before making the investment,” Julz advises.
Digital Disruptors: What Should Be On a Marketer’s Radar?
Given her unique vantage point as both a MOPS star and a marketing educator, I was eager to hear Julz’s views on potential disruptors threatening the future of our industry. Her response is one top of mind for us all: the growth of marketing operations vs. the shortage of talent.
With the marketing operations field already experiencing a skills shortage for operations leaders, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Not to mention, it’s rare for recent graduates to be fully-trained in marketing automation software, though the tides are beginning to shift.
She offers another interesting point (or rather a piece of cautionary advice) related to staffing, however. “Though the numbers behind marketing pieces like lead generation, nurturing, and lead scoring are inherently important, the creative and actual content behind these campaigns can’t be overlooked either. Sometimes MOPS pros become so entrenched in the numbers that the creative can be underemphasized. Marketing needs both the creative and analytical sides to work together cohesively to make a true impact moving forward. Otherwise, we’re reverting to marketing of 20 years ago.”
Ultimately, it’s about utilizing your unique skill sets and passions to drive business impact, which brings us back to how Julz got into marketing operations in the first place.
Julz James recently began a new position as the Director of Marketing Operations at Appirio, but will still be keeping some teaching within her schedule. Please help us congratulate her on this new career chapter!