Hey, Marketing Ops, Can’t You Just [Fill in the Blank]?

Hey, Marketing Ops, Can’t You Just [Fill in the Blank]?

Dear Irene,

In my role of marketing ops, I’m really busy. I make sure our campaigns run on time, keep our systems and tools from becoming a swamp of bad data, and I pull the reports to make sure that our marketing strategy is delivering ROI.

For the most part, I feel like my role is both challenging and pretty well respected among my colleagues. I’m a key part of ensuring that their plans become a reality.

But I do find myself facing the “can’t you just” question too often. As in, “This report isn’t really giving me what I want. Can’t you just…?” Or, “The CRM keeps assigning leads to the wrong salespeople. Can’t you just…?” Or maybe, “I know this is the first time I’m mentioning this, but I have a multi-touch drip campaign that really needs to launch this afternoon. Can’t you just…?”

My work takes planning and time. What should I do?


Marketing Ops-solutely Not


Dear Marketing Ops-solutely Not,

I hear ya on this one! First, find the hidden compliment that’s buried in here. You’re obviously so good at your job that you make it appear completely effortless. Go you! Oh, but wait, that means that people will constantly place unrealistic demands on you. Damn.

marketing ops can't just

Now that you’ve ridden that emotional rollercoaster, let’s talk about what to do. The core of this problem is that the people who are putting these expectations on you have limited understanding of what it takes to accomplish what they want. They also probably have little insight into how much else you have on your plate.

One thing that’s super tempting for an ops-minded person is to lean on process (for example, implementing tickets or creating a dashboard so people can check your queue status). While that’s a great solution for a certain type of person, the kinds of people who tend to be violaters here are often the same ones who can never seem to follow ANY kind of process.

You can give Joe from sales all the training you want on how to submit a ticket, but I can almost guarantee that the next time Joe needs something, he’s going to saunter over to your desk and interrupt you. It’s just the way he is. And I’ve given up on trying to change other people a long time ago.

So, what can you do? While you’ll need to adjust this advice based on who’s making the request (Your boss? The CEO? Is it f&#($*) Joe???) and your company culture in general, I’d try to:

  • Take control by setting expectations. Say something like, “This will take me 2-3 hours to complete. I will add this to my queue, and expect that I can have it finished for you by Tuesday.”
  • Negotiate, or don’t. Here’s what I mean:
    • If your boss is the culprit, you can try negotiating by saying something like, “If you need this done earlier, here are the items that will get bumped. How would you like me to prioritize?”
    • If the requestor has no authority over your other projects to help re-prioritize, then don’t worry about justifying yourself. You’re the expert, and you don’t need to explain to Joe why something will take the time it takes. Just repeat your target deadline.
  • Be consistent. If you set the precedent that a particular task takes an hour, don’t bang it out in ten minutes once in a while (even if you really can). Stick to your parameters. While we can’t change people, we can sometimes train them a little bit.
  • If needed, remind them that rushed operations is the stuff marketing and PR disasters are made of. Again, don’t justify yourself, but the reality is that if you screw something up, even if it seems minor, it could seriously backfire. You have a big responsibility to your brand, and you need to take the time to think through the implications of your operational decisions and actions.

You’re doing great work, so just keep at it, and don’t forget to vent when you need to.

Always on your side,

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