It’s safe to say that our current climate has caused quite a bit of change across just about every organization. Whether the normally frenetic pace of business has seemingly come to a complete halt, or your organization has experienced a massive surge, it’s clear that we’re treading in new territory.
Stanford economist Paul Romer once said that, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” In that vein, we wanted to explore the different possibilities for organizations during this period.
To examine the different approaches during this critical time across company sizes varying from small start-ups to large enterprise organizations, we sat down with Alexandre Pelletier, CEO of Perkuto, Justin Norris, Director of Solutions Architecture at Perkuto, Kelly Jo Horton, Principal Engineer of Marketing Operations and Technology at ROOM, and Helen Abramova, Marketing Technology Lead at an enterprise telecommunications company. These four seasoned marketers engaged in an enlightening conversation about the differing approaches to the current crisis based on the vantage points from their respective organizations, as well as what marketing operations leaders can do to stay proactive during a more challenging period.
While not every organization has completely altered its path, some are taking the opportunity to pivot in new ways. For instance, Kelly Jo at ROOM has experienced quite a surge from her lens within a start-up culture as a marketing operations team of one. Activities that were originally slated for Q3 have been expedited to the current workload, as the organization decided to utilize this time to make preparations for when the economy begins to rebound.
“We actually decided to accelerate our roadmap in the middle of all this,” Kelly Jo said. “We thought we could take the opportunity from the more quiet downtime to get some larger pieces in order. So, items that I had on the roadmap for Q3 have been pushed forward. For instance, we decided to implement three new platforms and work on things that were originally scheduled for later in the year.”
On the other hand, Helen has observed a more refined focus among the enterprise companies. Instead of an acceleration of future projects, large organizations often push towards doubling down on the big picture items, since many other pieces may be in upheaval during this crisis period.
“The biggest goal for marketing operations right now is to look into the most important objectives and speak to them directly,” she said. “We want to make sure that we are not halting anything critical, while still prioritizing the most important work. You need to be flexible and strong enough to make sure you’re not dropping any balls during a time like this.”
Different still, Justin remarks that from the agency perspective, while “some clients have halted new projects, others are absolutely scrambling. It’s based on the customer and what their exposure is to the economic changes that are happening.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution during a time like this. These differing responses to workflow highlight how organizations of all sizes are required to be more agile in the face of a crisis. The decision to either pivot or increase focus on existing initiatives depends heavily upon the economic impact for their industry and organization. In turn, the question from marketing operations then becomes: “Who are you serving right now and how are their needs being affected?”
Dive into Your Data
When considering how marketing operations can support a crisis recovery, the conversation inevitably comes back to data. Data provides an organization with real-time feedback, to make critical business decisions without bringing emotions into the mix.
“The biggest gift that you can give your organization is data,” Kelly Jo emphasized. “This is a great time to look at the quality of data and in particular, provide any actionable data to key stakeholders. They need data to make decisions, and to project the future.”“The biggest gift that you can give your organization is data. This is a great time to look at the quality of data and in particular, provide any actionable data to key stakeholders. They need data to make decisions.” - Kelly Jo Horton Click To Tweet
Helen adds, “Don’t forget that the data should not only be looked at as numbers only, but also consider how it should be interpreted. The same kind of reports can be viewed in very different ways. What kind of story are you shaping around the data? What action items can you glean?”
Knowledge is power— and the data at the fingertips of marketing operations professionals certainly carries weight, particularly when speaking to an executive team. This data can be used by your organization to make critical, swift, and agile decisions, while helping your organization take control of your story during a crucial time. Perhaps most importantly, while it is easy to let panic and fear dictate knee-jerk reactions during times like these, data allows executives to make informed and calculated decisions, to guide an organization through a crisis.
Forge Cross-Department Relationships
An emphasis on cross-department and executive communication is all the more important during this time. For marketing operations, that means potentially crossing lines between departments to forge and solidify relationships within an organization. As many MOPS teams have experienced, at times it takes internal education for other departments to fully grasp the depth and importance of the work from a marketing operations perspective. With executive or cross-departmental buy-in often needed to push certain vital projects through, this is an optimal time to take initiative within these relationships.
“Marketing operations is often working behind the scenes, and we’re often not great at calling recognition to the work that we’re doing as much as we should be,” Justin said. “It’s extremely important, especially now, to be connected at an executive level in order to have that support for what we want to do. Use the opportunity to try to get a standing meeting on the calendar with your CMO or VP of Marketing to have that discussion and get alignment on your roadmap.”
He continued, “As a marketing operations person, when things are in flux or there is a crisis, we’re very well positioned to step in and show leadership. Companies are trying to keep moving, and we can enable that.”“As a marketing operations person, when things are in flux or there is a crisis, we’re very well positioned to step in and show leadership. Companies are trying to keep moving, and we can enable that.” - Justin Norris Click To Tweet
Kelly Jo added that, “…the relationships with executives and other departments are up to the marketing operations person, no matter the organization. It is your job as the MOPS person to forge those relationships. Between various stakeholders, sales operations, and sales, find the person that you can rely on and create a relationship with them. It’s up to you to own your job, and make sure that everyone around you understands and respects what you do.”
Helen confirmed the deep importance of these relationships, particularly from the executive level. If decisions are made without a marketing operations person in the room, oftentimes the expectations and timelines set do not fall in line with realistic deliverables. Creating strong relationships with the people in decision-making roles will allow you to have an advocate in these scenarios.
“You need to have support from someone above you,” Helen remarked. “You need to have a relationship with someone who can help you obtain the buy-in, reasonable time, and resources needed for important initiatives.”“You need to have a relationship with someone who can help you obtain the buy-in, reasonable time, and resources needed for important initiatives.” - Helen Abramova Click To Tweet
While it’s clear there is no one “correct” way to approach marketing during a crisis, pulling from different organizational perspectives can help us all to better understand where to go from here. Above all, let data be your guiding light in the decision-making process, and utilize this time to not only demonstrate initiative and leadership, but also deepen your relationships with stakeholders across your organization. With the right approach, you have the opportunity to showcase the value marketing operations brings to the table and position your organization for long-term success that extends far beyond the crisis climate.
Want more on how to guide your organization through this uncertain time? Listen to the on-demand version of this webcast: Developing a Contingency Plan for MOPS, and download our eBook: A Digital Marketer’s Guide to Crisis Recovery.