Organizations now have thousands of tools and services at their disposal to run their marketing campaigns. In 2011, there were about 150 marketing technology tools. Today, there are about 7,000 on the market. As the number of tools has proliferated, a relatively new field has emerged: Marketing operations.

Speaking recently to participants in the Local News Subscriptions Accelerator, Sirius XM Vice President for Marketing Operations James Dunn, shared three lessons for how organizations can improve their marketing operations and help them run better subscription campaigns.

“You can successfully leverage a marketing operation function whether it’s one person or a fraction of a person,” he said.

Here are three marketing operations lessons you can apply, no matter the size of your team:

1. Technology is only ⅙ of the equation

The goal of marketing operations is ultimately to help organizations most efficiently deliver profitable growth and superior customer value and experience, Dunn said. And to do that, organizations need to have the appropriate capabilities. “We really help organizations develop and manage capabilities effectively,” he said.

Dunn said a capability is defined by six distinct attributes: Culture, people, process, data, metrics, and technology.

Technology is just one part of the equation, and teams shouldn’t invest in new technology unless they have clear ways to measure success and unless it will help them improve their capabilities. It makes no sense to invest in technology and just continue doing things the same way.

“It’s easy to get excited by all the technologies out there,” Dunn said. He continued: “You really need to think about all six of these areas to manage a successful implementation.”

2. Know your capability level

It sounds simple, but before you can make strategic decisions, you need to know your capability levels. “As a first step, it’s really important to have a firm grasp of where you are,” Dunn said.

To help organizations figure out where they are, Dunn shared a framework based on the Carnegie Mellon Capability Maturity Map, which was developed to help improve the U.S. Department of Defense’s contracting process.

As you assess your own team’s capabilities with this chart, Dunn made the point that you shouldn’t necessarily consider how long you’ve been running a program, only how successful it is.

“The amount of time you’ve had a capability is completely irrelevant here,” Dunn said.

3. Balance short and long-term goals

The immediate and short-term projects you’re working on should build toward your larger long-term goals, Dunn said.

“Think about projects iteratively and additively,” he said. “You’re not just entirely solving for short-term needs. You need to be fast and you need to be iterative, but you need to make sure that each project and capability you’re building out is not independent of one another.”

Dunn suggested that teams set their overarching ambitions for the next few years, and then figure out how smaller pieces can build to that larger goal. To figure out what that end goal might be, organizations can learn from vendors, networking events, industry analysts, and more to see what types of things are best-of-breed. It’s worthwhile, Dunn added, to talk to experts outside of the industry as well to learn from others from different perspectives.

For instance, if you wanted to build better personalization tools there are a number of intermediate steps you need to take to reach that ultimate goal. Those building blocks could include improved metadata, templates, and data reporting. Put together, those capabilities will help establish better personalization at scale.

“You’ll never get the resources to build something all at once,” Dunn said, “But if you can build iteratively you’ll get there over time.”



The Accelerator Program

The Facebook Journalism Project’s Accelerator Program helps news publishers build sustainable businesses. Funded and organized by the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP), each Accelerator includes a three-month period of hands-on workshops led by news industry veterans, grants administered by non-profit journalism organizations, and regular reports on best business practices. The Accelerator’s executive director is Tim Griggs, an independent consultant/advisor and former New York Times and Texas Tribune executive.

For monthly updates on the Accelerator Program, sign up for the FJP newsletter.