Strategic marketing operations leaders can earn a seat at the top table
There's a path from MOPs leader to CMO but it requires analysis and planning.
If some marketing operations professionals are hesitant about moving up the ranks into management and ultimately CMO role, one person who is convinced a career path is available is Debbie Qaqish, Principal and Chief Strategy Officer with the Pedowitz Group. At the recent MO Pros Summer Camp, she had told me: “I do think you’re going to see these multifaceted, multi-talented leaders of marketing ops step up to that CMO role. I absolutely do see that.”
Her new book, “From Backroom to Boardroom” presents a research-based account of what strategic marketing operations leaders look like and how valuable they are to businesses. The strategic market operations leader, she writes “acts as a business leader, not a button pusher.” They are not siloed, they are cross-functional. They build teams, they engineer processes and they present themselves to the business as digital visionaries.
Partnering with the right kind of CMO. The strategic marketing operations leader is an essential partner for the right kind of CMO – a CMO who is revenue and growth-driven, charged with digital transformation and leading the move to customer-centricity.
“I have seen, over and over, CMOs continue to fail,” she said, “especially when it comes to having credibility in the firm and in being able to make an impact on revenue and growth. I think of marketing operations as almost the CMO’s ‘Mulligan,’ their second chance to get it right.”
In the early days of technology, she said, there was an emphasis on acquiring solutions like marketing automation platforms and CRMs, but there wasn’t an overall vision of the benefit to the business. That’s changed.
Technology’s power to reinvent business. “I’ve seen companies where the CMO uses the marketing ops leader as their wing person and there’s magic that happens,” she said. “There’s so much power in technology to reshape how business is done. When that CMO has a sophisticated marketing operations organization, that is not just about being the button pushers, but using knowledge and experience to guide and shape strategies and give executives a vision of what can be done through the technology – that is where I see the CMO being successful.”
Where CMOs are not revenue and growth-driven – if they’re primarily hired as brand ambassadors, for example – marketing operations will be limited in the contribution they can make.
From Ops to CMO. Qaqish is enthusiastic about the possibility of strategic marketing operations leaders making the step to the C-level. “Because the use of technology to reinvent business is so much more of an imperative now than it’s ever been, I think that what we will see is these leaders of marketing ops step up into that CMO role.”
First, however, there’s the challenge of establishing credibility as a strategic leader. Qaqish’s book includes appendices of practical guidance, including detailed lists of marketing operations skills – not just technical, but skills like collaboration and communication too – a sample martech roadmap, an example of a mature martech stack, and a granular model of marketing operations maturity.
“Now you have the framework…it’s time to put strategy into action,” she writes. “Is it hard? Yes. Does it happen overnight? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely.”
Why we care. Marketing operations may not be at a crossroads quite yet, but the day is fast approaching when the best professionals will need to decide whether they are more comfortable as hands-on technicians or whether they’re ready to step up as strategic business leaders — and ultimately to the C-suite.
If the future of marketing lies in strategic deployment of marketing technology, as we believe, then it makes a lot of sense to have the people who best understand the technology leading strategic discussions and making strategic decisions.