“Stage A Data Intervention”: Aubrey Morgan On The New Imperative For Marketing Operations

Ask any marketing operations professional the bane of their existence and they will tell you: bad data. It’s the insidious source of countless pains—hours spent meticulously scrubbing lists, embarrassing email blunders, and campaign reporting that nobody can seem to agree on. 

But according to Aubrey Morgan, Syncari’s new Director of Demand Generation, data chaos is inevitable. “Nobody gets to start with a clean slate,” she says. With today’s average tech company using over 137 different SaaS applications, a number that’s projected to only keep increasing, fixing problems ad hoc with band-aid solutions isn’t going to cut it.

Aubrey firmly believes that a brave soul at every organization needs to stage a data intervention—a conversation where they urge everyone to take a more holistic, strategic view on data management. Only by disrupting the status quo can marketing operators begin to replace the chaos with a thoughtful data strategy. Read on to discover how Aubrey envisions “data interventions,” how the pandemic spurred Marketing Ops to evolve, and why operations pros must demand their seat at the strategy table.

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Many ops folks are “data numb”—too desensitized by data issues and overwhelmed to tackle them. What do you think it’s going to take to shake people out of this?

If it were easy, everyone would be 100% data-driven. The reality is that data is hard. Consider the requirements to make data work for every function: you’d need it to be well defined, relevant to each use case, structured for easy self-discovery, and trustworthy in its quality.

To become a truly data-driven business, It’s going to take drastic measures from the very top. Like the Bezos Mandate for APIs in 2002, we need more CEOs prioritizing data as an organizational priority with a well articulated vision and clear goals that everyone can align to.  But until there’s a company-wide mandate, we may require more drastic measures: a data intervention.

First, you need someone with influence to sit the team down and say, “Hey I see you struggling. Let’s take a step back and look at our data holistically, together.

How have you tried to cope with data chaos in the past?

It’s certainly not best practice, but one way I’ve dealt with faulty data is by compensating for it with manual adjustments to workflows related to bad data caused by human error, like data entry from Sales. For example, my team had memorized the quirky behaviors of individual sales reps; we knew the reps that were overly optimistic, and the ones that would sandbag to try to push deals into the following quarter. So we’d start to memorize the different quirks of each person’s manual data entry, and built processes and projections with those behaviors calculated into it. I think most sales ops and marketing ops people can relate to this struggle. In an ideal world, there would be better training and enablement for more consistently reliable data.

[ Related: Top CRM Data Quality Tips from Operations Experts ]

How has the role of marketing ops evolved in the past 10 years?

Not long ago, marketing ops emerged out of necessity: to manage a growing marketing tech stack and implement ongoing processes for efficiency. Today’s increased pressure to move fast while measuring value, however, has expanded the scope of marketing ops to facilitate the usage of data in making strategic decisions related to customers, the market and products, and program direction and investments.

As an organization’s success becomes increasingly tied to tech and data, the marketing ops function grows in influence and value. Yet, few organizations have established best practices when it comes to engaging marketing ops in key business decisions. 

While I’d love to see marketing ops sit in the driver seat for every marketing strategy and technology decision, I know it’s not realistic. The digital mandate exacerbated by COVID (but one that certainly existed before) shows clear signs that technology decision making will soon be a part of everyone’s job leaving no room for marketing ops to be a bottleneck. In this likely scenario, marketing ops will further evolve toward process automation and enablement of relevant functions on organizational, technical and legal requirements. Marketing ops will continue to establish performance targets and report on results while governing data quality centrally with the support of every individual in marketing. I believe this model can work, assuming everyone has equal interest in ensuring data quality is a top priority.

How has the pandemic affected marketing operations?

I see two major impacts. For one, it’s much harder to instill rigor in the team in terms of adhering to processes, so the need for data policing increases significantly. This can be mitigated by putting extra effort into onboarding new hires carefully, scheduling more frequent training sessions, and holding office hours for reps.

Another is that performance baselines in the “new normal” are not clear, making it harder than ever to forecast accurately and plan accordingly. Comparing last year’s results to this year’s no longer has as much relevance. Whether your business is in the COVID-19 tailwinds or headwinds camp, strategizing and forecasting these days is a whole different beast.

What’s at stake when marketing ops isn’t at the strategy table?

Businesses have a huge leg up if they can effectively anticipate and build the capabilities related to the needs of the business. If operations are an afterthought, your initiative’s effectiveness will plummet. It’ll lead to a lot of inefficiencies, frustration, and extra work to get the program at the door.

A MOPs (or Sales Ops/Rev Ops) person should be in the room from the beginning to thoroughly vet the initiative for operational, data management, and measurement processes. Additionally, if marketing ops is not assisting in establishing performance targets alongside key executive stakeholders, there will inevitably be major gaps between planning and execution. For example, misalignment to targets can lead to inefficiencies in how we generate, score, and qualify leads. All this strategy that comes at the very beginning gets lost, and disaster is inevitable when the goals still feel out of reach come end of quarter.

What’s your #1 data quality tip?

Before embarking on any new data quality project, write out your vision statement with a one sentence declaration for the value you expect to create with clear and measurable milestones. Without an explicit data quality vision, you will find disappointing results because success is not clear.

Why are you so excited by the Syncari mission?

I’m so thrilled to be part of the team because I’ve felt the pain it solves firsthand. I’ve suffered from them for years, and could have been so much more effective in past jobs had I had a solution like Syncari. 

To tell you the truth, when Syncari came along I actually didn’t believe that it could work. Because it’s just something I’ve dealt with for so long in my 10 years of marketing operations, and it’s such a complex problem. It’s a big issue for large companies, but it’s even worse in smaller companies. Syncari has the potential to be the solution for people to get the systems that they need integrated and the data that they need cleaned all in one go—without the constant headaches and manual lifts. And that frees them to take that seat at the strategy table.

What would you say to someone else who felt the Syncari solution is too good to be true?

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