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How a well-oiled marketing operations machine drives business forward

It's more than dashboards and automation: An eye on go-to-market strategy and empathy for the marketing team are key.

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With so much change affecting marketing teams across the industry, adjusting internal strategies to be more agile, more efficient and better aligned across the organization is key to driving real business impact.

“There’s more pressure than ever, that every dollar that we invest has the maximum impact on what we’re trying to get out of our marketing initiatives,” said Jenifer Salzwedel, Senior Director of Marketing Operations and Enablement at Poly, a company that sells collaboration technology. “We’re constantly in planning mode for the next big thing that needs to be done and, in that planning, we certainly then need to figure out how to activate those plans very quickly.”

Marketing ops as mission control

At Poly, marketing operations is set up as a center of excellence, which allows the group to be agile in shifting gears with every org change, every pressing business opportunity and yet still address the always-on systems the extended team rely heavily on.

“We essentially are behind the scenes solving the tough problems and making sure that our marketers are set up for successful missions,” said Salzwedel, speaking at the recent MarTech Conference. “And when they aren’t going the way we expect, we’re the team that they come to for help solving those problems.”

One of the ways Poly has been able to be so nimble is due to its foundational data structure that includes not only a single source of truth in its project management platform, in this case Workfront, but in the robust taxonomy the company set up to organize the work.

“We illuminate our work in ways where the different cross-functional teams, or the producers, have views that are specifically relevant to them so they can dive into the way that we organize our work and make decisions from those views,” she said.

The company also utilizes shared calendars and various report views for specific teams.

A particular report shows a traffic manager the project load of the project managers. So, at any given moment in time, the traffic manager can see when a particular project manager looks to have a lot more work than the others. That gives managers the opportunity to better balance the work.

Efficiency + speed

“I believe that if you invest in the efficiency the speed will pay off,” said Salzwedel.

To do so, it means you need a way to manage priorities and then a mechanism to measure against those priorities. Poly uses several dashboards and intake forms in its project management platform to do just that.

Another way to improve efficiency is to look for integration opportunities in your marketing stack.

“Two of the key integrations that we’re implementing right now with Workfront are the Adobe DAM integration, which is going to enable our producers to have more seamless project completion and version control with all sorts of benefits to that. And then the second one is with our translation memory provider. So, you can imagine stitching together localization automation is going to be pivotal for our global team.”

Automation can also create efficiency, though Salzwedel warned against overdoing it.

“We spend a decent amount of time automating workflows where they make sense and making sure that ‘just-in-time’ is enabled so that the producers know what is ready to be worked on,” she said. “We don’t overload them with these huge laundry lists of things on their plate to do… creating anxiety around 1000 things coming. But we put things in their laps right when they’re ready to be addressed.”

Salzwedel said that when dealing with cross-functional teams, it’s also important to be empathetic to the team that the ops unit is supporting.

“We were marketing practitioners and we’ve tended to have a passion for seeing things scientifically and wanting to study and looking at results. We’re very empathetic to what the marketers are up against and can speak their language,” she said.

Alignment with teams

For starters, the work Poly did on creating an extensive taxonomy to organize work into categories was foundational in creating better alignment.

“We’ve worked very closely with our subject matter experts in identifying the go-to-market objectives and marketing initiatives in their language. If there’s a code name for a project, we will use that. If there’s a special way that they want to think about how we slice and dice our business priorities, we will use that. It makes a big difference to speak their language and put it in their hands in that way,” said Salzwedel.

But having a prioritization model that not only aligns with go-to-market strategy but also accounts for the strategy set by executive leadership, is also essential.

One way to do that is to create a view that tracks how resources align to those priority programs.

“It’s a great lens for us, and a balancer, to make sure that we’re spending our efforts and putting our resources towards the things that are most important to the business,” she said.

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