The 4 Ps of Strategic Marketing Operations

As marketing operations teams evolve and mature, they take on a more holistic view of the function, fully embracing what we like to call the 4 Ps of marketing operations.

Most operations teams start with the foundation

As is the case with most specialty functions, marketing operations typically enters an organization for the first time when the marketing leader gets to the point where they are beyond their technical scope. That first operations professional who joins the organization is often technical, with the experience to solve a specific pain around implementing, or integrating, the marketing technology stack.

But as marketing teams – and operations teams – evolve, they need to fully embrace the entire scope of what we think of as Strategic Marketing Operations. Because marketers like to think in frameworks and are familiar with the 4 Ps of Marketing, we decided to extend that model to the marketing operations function.

Evolving to support the 4 Ps of marketing operations

Operations teams develop through a natural progression based on their hierarchy of needs. They start with Platform, add Performance, Process, and finally Planning. It is important to note that these functions exist somewhere in the organization before marketing operations takes them on. Still, they become more systematized under the auspices of a professional operations team.


The marketing stack is the foundation of any marketing operations team, and usually the first area of responsibility for emerging marketing operations teams. The first time I had someone on my team focused on marketing operations was back in 2004. A bright young guy named Prashant Kaw had the title of lead generation specialist, but he was also the guy who advocated for us to deploy Eloqua for the first time. He was the first person on my marketing team with the technical depth and discipline to manage a sophisticated marketing platform.


Once you have established your technology platform, you have the opportunity to start measuring the performance of marketing more effectively. While the platform provides some measurement capabilities, a real marketing operations leader brings a performance culture to the organization. My first performance-oriented marketing ops leader was Tony Slavinsky. Tony not only had the technical chops to define and manage the platform, but he had the business sense to drive performance standards across the business.


Now that we have a performance culture, it is time to turn to a best-in-class process for marketing. In this phase of marketing operations maturity, the organization gets better at defining a standard set of measurements and an ongoing process for inspecting and improving performance. Along with the performance-oriented process, woke marketing operations team also refine the process of campaign development, flighting, budgetary approvals, and the full back-office of the marketing team. In my case, Tony could scale from performance into the process (it’s not surprising that Tony has continued to grow in his career due to those skills).


The most strategic marketing operations functions also incorporate the planning process. I was lucky enough to have Meg Meaney in place as our VP of Marketing Operations. She acted almost like a Chief Marketing Operations Officer (CMOO). Meg built a team capable of all the foundational layers and drove the overall strategic planning process for the function. Meg was a true partner to me (the CMO), and in the process, she elevated the role of marketing operations and the performance of marketing overall.

So, where are you in your evolutionary cycle of marketing operations? No matter where you are, it is important to recognize the necessary steps and continue to drive toward your goal of a strategic marketing operations function.

Related article: Marketing Operations Best Practices


Peter Mahoney
Peter Mahoney is the founder and CEO of Planful.  Peter has degrees in Physics and Computer Science and studied Latin for 7 years, and then showed up in the wrong room one day and ended up in marketing.  In his 30+ year career, Peter has built products and led marketing for startups and for multi-billion dollar public companies.  You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.




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