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By Len Van Hoogenhuijze


Myopia of Marketing Operations 

I have been working with Marketing Operations teams for a while now and I see one pattern occurring time and time again. It is Marketing Operations being so focused serving the rest of their organisation that they lose sight of the most important thing: ‘creating the best possible experience for anyone that interacts with your company, most importantly, your buyers’. Naturally you can only be successful if you work together with other functional areas such as Sales, Client Services, IT, Digital and Marketing itself, but at the end of the day the only customer you really have is the actual customer. Getting this wrong does not just mean you are less successful as a team, but it is also bad for the company in the long term.  

What is ‘Marketing Myopia?’

Recently I have been reading ‘Marketing Myopia’, an influential book from 1960 by Theodore Levitt that helped shape how we think about and define modern sales and marketing. It’s a quick read that I would recommend, as it still makes some interesting and relevant points. The reason we remember the book is Levitt’s observation that companies who are in a new field or even an industry they helped create, are at risk of missing where their real competition is. Their success so far has relied on having a unique product and that results in the illusion that ensuring the product stays ahead of its competitors will also ensure future success. Note, this is not the same as saying companies with that level of success become complacent or stop being innovative. Often these companies are very dedicated to improving their products and making sure it remains the best in the field. What happens, and this should resonate with anyone working in the industry, is that they lose sight of customer needs. In his words: “The view that an industry is a customer satisfying process, not a goods producing process, is vital for all business people to understand”. There is a constant risk they are so focused on the thing they are already selling that they fail to see the world is moving on and is busy redefining how the needs of people and businesses are being fulfilled. This short sightedness is what he calls ‘Marketing Myopia’ and I think there is a lesson in there for Marketing Operations teams as well as agencies like us.  

“The view that an industry is a customer satisfying process, not a goods producing process,
is vital for all business people to understand”

Theodore Levitt

What role does Marketing Operations play?

First of all, it’s good to know the idea that ‘marketing should focus on customer needs’ is not some sort of major pivot over the last few years but was in fact identified half a century ago. Of course, it is much more fun if we present these ideas as bold, new, and shiny but our ancestors were not ignorant. What is much more interesting though is what this potential for ‘Marketing Myopia’ means for Marketing Operations. Or to put it differently, what role does Marketing Operations play in the potential for myopia in their respective companies and how can we ensure Marketing Operations as a function does not become ‘myopic’ or short-sighted? 

Company alignment

It starts with a fundamental realisation of what the purpose of a company is and what your team’s role is in that. If we agree the purpose of a company is to take care of certain fundamental needs, that means Marketing Operations’ objective is to make that process, from first touch all the way to conversion and even including onboarding as frictionless as possible. The only way you can do that is by putting yourself in the shoes of someone that is engaging with your company as a potential customer. You’ll have to go through all the steps to see if they work optimally. And you will likely find that the issues you uncover are not technical at heart but in fact people and process related. For example, you might find that a web team’s narrow focus on site SEO performance makes the site experience counterintuitive. It could be that lowering the qualification threshold under pressure from sales is antagonising prospects that are not ready. You need to understand all the different threads between digital teams, sales, customer services etc and make sure they are tied together in a way that results in a better, easier way for customers to interact and ultimately buy from you.  

Crucial to be critical

To put it another way, you as a Marketing Operations team (and us as a Marketing Operations Agency) are not adding value by just being an internal services function that acts on requests from the wider business. It is crucial to be critical, not just because you can only spend your time once and need to prioritise, but also because the effect in some cases could actually make things worse. 

Final remarks

So next time you get requests from the wider business to add tasks to your Marketing Operations roadmap it is crucial to ask yourself: Is this supporting the company’s ability to fulfil the needs of its buyers or is the aim of the task ultimately ‘parochial’. If the latter is true, the best course of action for the business as a whole is to push back. If not, you are just contributing to the company’s ‘Myopia’.