An exploding MarTech landscape. A heightened emphasis on marketing operations. One of the fastest-growing careers in marketing — these are the signs of a thriving MOPS environment. As this industry continues to grow, we started asking how different leaders found their way to marketing operations, and what they see in store for the future.

For this second piece of our series, we spoke to Fearless 50 member Scott Berns. Scott is the Senior Director of Technology and Operations at CenturyLink, the company he joined 11+ years ago. With two decades of marketing experience, Scott provides valuable perspective and insights on the acceleration of digital marketing, MarTech usage, and resource management.

This is his story.

All About Data: From Direct Mail to MarTech

It was always about data. When Scott began his career at a leading marketing and media agency, the marketing landscape was very different. While his roles were still entrenched in data, it was far less sophisticated to the capabilities we have today.

“If you go back 20 years to the beginning of my career, the space was not all that advanced at that point. It was a lot more about direct mail, and less about digital,” Scott said. “As digital has proliferated to the top of how most marketers go to market, and how you achieve scale at a reasonable expense price point, the evolution has become [a question of] ‘How do I utilize those particular channels and how does my channel portfolio expand?’”

As marketing automation emerged and accelerated the space, Scott found his roles becoming much more entrenched in data analytics. He used data to learn how to build infrastructure, understand the end-to-end picture, and then piece together the marketing story. He began to solve problems for greater enterprise companies based on his small business division experience, including complex, continuous communication challenges.

These skills and capabilities didn’t go unnoticed. Scott’s career continued forward with data-focused roles, and in 2011, Scott went to work at CenturyLink. Here, the organization quickly recognized Scott’s talents, and swiftly tapped into his data-rich marketing operations capabilities.

“Our CMO [at CenturyLink] at the time…said, ‘Hey in the enterprise space, we don’t necessarily know a lot about what’s going on with our customers. We also need to know how to communicate with them effectively,’” Scott said. “So the first order of business was really to say: ‘Ok we need to know who our customers are.’”

With this base need as a guiding light, Scott was part of a team that spearheaded the effort to position MOPS as a capability within the organization. His objectives: learn how to communicate better with customers and understand more about them from a developed 360-degree view. From there, he went on to create a 360 marketing datamart, integrating an impressive seven different domains of data enabling a more cohesive approach to driving strategic efforts within CenturyLink.

A MarTech Landscape to Behold

As his career has unfolded over the past couple decades, the ever-shifting MarTech landscape is actually a big part of what keeps him locked in and engaged. Scott Brinker’s annual MarTech Landscape Supergraphic illustrates this upward trend.

“I think what keeps it interesting is that it’s always changing. I don’t think I’ve had a dull moment within my career for the past eight years since I’ve been in marketing operations because everyday there’s a new set of vendors, new capabilities, and more channels are emerging.”

To be fair, it’s not just the accelerated pace of the industry that Scott enjoys. The value that he’s been able to drive (and prove) within marketing operations at CenturyLink hasn’t gone unnoticed. His success speaks for itself – what started as a 5-person team within the organization has grown to a robust 50, a symbol of the success that his data domain work has done, and capabilities proven by his team.

“My experience has told me that data is driving everything and as you continue to move forward around MarTech and AdTech, being able to evolve around what customers are doing not only behaviorally but also what they aren’t telling you, and being able to tease that out of the data is really what makes your marketing that much better. Good creative and content are important, but data tells you who to talk to, when to talk to them, and what to talk about. Your creative and content then carry that message through.”

Words of Wisdom From a Marketing Operations Leader

When it comes to his professional challenges, there are two that rise to the top for Scott. The industry has continued forward at an incredibly swift pace— so rapid that it has had a difficult time keeping up with itself. What should be on the radar of every MOPS leader? The marketing operations talent shortage and technology overwhelm.

Working With the Talent Shortage

You’ve heard it (or experienced it) before: talent shortage in MarTech is a real thing. Within this space, there is constantly more technology readily available than the people needed to properly execute the programs.

“The evolution of [MOPS] has been interesting to keep up with, and quite frankly there aren’t a lot people in the industry who can actually translate the data side to the application and the channel side, and create that symbiotic relationship that’s really data-driven.”

So, how can a marketing operations professional make the best of this situation? In short, become an expert at what you do. And, it doesn’t hurt to be proactive in getting the right resources for your people, to enable them to grow as the industry grows.

“The industry has had a hard time keeping up with itself,” Scott noted. To use this to your advantage, he recommends “…plugging in and becoming more-or-less the expert. Be on the cutting edge of how to actually implement some of these tool sets to create better omnichannel digital experiences.”

Too Much Tech

Few would argue, technology has opened up new marketing opportunities in a vast, and sometimes overwhelming, way. There are new solutions cropping up each month (sometimes each week!), and it can be easy to get excited by the newness of the solution before really understanding how it will work for a given organization. Many B2B enterprises fall into the trap of buying new technology, only to realize after the fact that they may have put the horse before the cart. Whether it’s a lack of internal staffing with the know-how to properly implement the new technology or issues with integration, sometimes new tech ends up making more of a mess than actually providing a tangible solution.

His solution is fairly basic: remember to consider what problem you’re trying to solve before diving in.

“Stop bringing me new technology, and start telling me what you’re trying to accomplish,” Scott says when he’s approached internally to buy a new product. “We’ll then go source the technology as a marketing operations partner and make sure that it’s integrated with the rest of the stacks.”

In closing, Scott reiterated a common marketing operations pain point. “The MOPS talent shortage combined with a technology abundance has been a difficult puzzle to solve for many organizations.”

Thankfully, with some of the incredible visionary talent that is already entrenched in the marketing operations world, more creative solutions are certainly on the horizon and will surely continue to move our industry forward.