The Right Way to Fill Your Marketing Operations Role

Here’s Why You Can’t Fill Your Marketing Operations Role
(And What to do About It)

Over the past year, I’ve noticed a common trend in the marketing operations industry: Nobody knows how to write a good job description for what I do.

Okay, maybe “nobody” casts too wide of a net but good job postings that attract qualified candidates are few and far between. For example, someone in the Women of Email Facebook Group asked why their client was having a hard time finding a marketing operations guru when the job rec was titled, “Email Marketing Specialist.”

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say the right people aren’t applying because that title is completely off. 

The problem tends to lie with people who know they need someone to fill a role, but haven’t done it themselves and can’t explain what they’re looking for. The result is a description that’s either overly email-focused or generic (ex: “develop reports for c-suite” – cool, but I don’t know what that means, and you probably didn’t when you wrote it, either). And, there’s nothing wrong with that. 

After all, a good manager is focused on keeping their team in-line with the company’s marketing strategy and identifying any gaps he or she needs to fill. That means they’re managing output and ensuring it aligns with corporate goals, therefore they don’t have be 100% fluent in day-to-day tasks. But, they do need to know how to find someone who is. 

My goal today is to help you understand what to look for in a good candidate and how to write a job posting that attracts qualified applicants.

Let’s start with the most common mistakes:

1. The title doesn’t match the role

As mentioned above, I consistently see titles that don’t match the description, mostly because people don’t understand what a marketing operations person does or, as in my previous example, they think someone who’s really good at email marketing is also really good at operations. That is not the case.

It doesn’t mean you won’t find people who can do both, but it does mean you’ll probably interview someone who is heavily focused on making sure an email looks great in 400 browsers but can’t set up and monitor a lead lifecycle. Again, those are different (although tangential) jobs.

If that’s not what you’re looking for, you need to get more specific with your title. Some good examples include:

  • Marketing Operations Specialist
  • Marketing Operations Manager
  • Marketing Automation Specialist/Manager

Notice a theme? Spoiler: something along the lines of “Marketing Operations” is in the title. You need to let people know that you are looking for an automation expert, regardless of the software.

Note: It’s worth mentioning that if your team can afford it, it doesn’t hurt to have both an email marketing specialist AND a MOPs specialist. Your MOPs person should be familiar with how email works and your email specialist should know how the email send process ties into overall reporting and deliverability.

2. The job description is too generic

Telling someone they need to “manage Marketo” and “create executive reports” doesn’t get to the nitty gritty of what your candidate can (or should) do. What does “managing Marketo” even mean? I can tell you what you mean because I do this for a living, but a potential candidate could see that and say, “I can totally run reports, easy peasy.” They are well intentioned but can they really tell you how to interpret those reports? Are they presenting you with a worthwhile, actionable report? Or are you going to get an out-of-the-box export of open rates and clicks? 

Your job posting should tie all execution to revenue and include specifics. For example:

  • Monitor the revenue cycle and provide monthly velocity reports to identify and correct bottlenecks
  • Automate and document lead sourcing process to ensure data, and resulting reports, are accurate
  • Work closely with the content team to determine which content drives pipeline, and which channels contribute to net new names in our database
  • Develop consistent attribution practices to accurately tie initiatives to revenue
  • Monitor the database for active and invalid records and develop a strategy for maintaining only good data (this can include third-party vendors, for which budget is available, and requires research) 

3. The pay scale is… “meh”

This is one that varies based on location and I’ve seen it run the gamut as a result. That said, there are plenty of resources to help you figure out what an average pay rate may be for someone in your area with the knowledge level you’re seeking. As with anything else, remember you get what you pay for. Hint: check out what’s being posted on Glassdoor.

4. MOPs is only a small part of the role you’re hiring for

I don’t need to say much about this because the bullet is pretty self-explanatory. Too often, I come across job postings that have 50 responsibilities listed and marketing operations is only one of them. You likely won’t get an expert if you’re looking for a jack of all trades or a generalist. That doesn’t mean you don’t need those people, or that they can’t do well, but it does mean you’ll be weeding through a plethora of applications that may not satisfy the most important requirements.

Now that I’ve pointed out what NOT to do, here’s what you should look for in someone who’s going to provide value to your team and can do the following:

1. Create actionable reports

My biggest pet peeves in all of marketing are reports that mean nothing (in fact, I’ve previously written a diatribe about vanity metrics and the only three times I’ve found them useful). These days, it’s too easy to run reports on anything and everything and not see the forest through the trees.

Find someone who knows why they’re running a report and how to analyze the output. If they receive a report request, their first question should be, “What are you going to do with this information?” If the asker doesn’t know, your specialist should be able to point them in a better direction and provide them with data that meets their goal, not a random report that’s going to waste time and sit abandoned in Marketo until end times.

2. Defend objections

A good MOPs specialist will tell you if what you (or your c-suite) wants is unreasonable. An example might be pushing back on a tight deadline that’s not possible based on required logic or processes that seem simple on the surface but aren’t.

Defending objections shouldn’t be confused with being contrarian or highly disagreeable – that’s not a person anyone wants to work with. Instead, it should signify that you’re hiring someone who knows what they’re doing, can explain why something won’t work, and then offer solutions as to what can work and when. Someone who nods their head at every request probably isn’t up to task and won’t make your marketing better.

3. Understand that Marketo isn’t a lead gen tool

This is a common misconception I spend a lot of time correcting and I see it come to life regularly in job postings. It usually manifests itself in a description as something like, “Must be able to help the marketing team increase MQLs” and I can guarantee that’s not going to work the way you think it will. Your new hire should be able to point out that increasing MQLs isn’t an operations role; rather, reporting on MQLs is. A good MOPs person needs to identify MQLs, set up your system to appropriately track them, work with sales to document key behaviors, and adjust the automation accordingly.

That said, there are a lot of Marketo experts who can help the team determine a strategy for increasing MQLs. A lot of us fell into our roles after working in a variety of marketing positions – but hiring someone with that type of experience depends on what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to pay.

4. Be hungry for more information

The best marketing operations people I’ve worked with have never felt like they were at the top of their game. They’re good at what they do (and aren’t braggadocious about it) but know there will always be more to learn. The humble hustle is real and sometimes young and hungry is better than experienced and comfortable, especially since Marketo has a way of eating you alive the second you get cocky about it.

If you want a quick glimpse at what your candidate is learning, check out their network and see if there are any industry “names” they follow or interact with on a regular basis. You are (supposedly) the average of the five people you spend the most time with so even if your candidates aren’t rubbing elbows with certain people, the fact they keep them close and read what’s being said means they “get it” and want to know more.

That’s all the advice I have for today. It’s also worth mentioning that the bullet points above only scratch the surface of what I do on a daily basis. As we have written about before, building a team takes a lot of work! That why I’m turning it over to my talented peers (we’ve all applied for these jobs before and we’re more than willing to tell you what we look for when hunting down a good MOPs position): what “mistakes” do you see in job postings and what would you like to see? Let us know in the comments below!

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At Digital Pi, we use technology to connect revenue to marketing efforts. We fuse marketing strategies, processes, data and applications to make marketing technology solutions work for clients' businesses.

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