What is a B2B Market(ing) Operating System, and how do you create one for your business?
Understand the key elements and how to put them into practice to scale your GTM approach
The foundation of a high-performing Marketing function
There’s a reality to running a Marketing team within a rapidly-growing business. Marketing debt that you never quite get round to paying down. A proliferating backlog of ad-hoc requests from across the org (often PowerPoint-related). New fires being lit each day (thanks, CEO).
It's not an entirely bad thing. After all, the proverbial shit must get done, and if it’d been solved already, there’d be no upside left in figuring it all out. So, whether your Marketing function is too reactive versus proactive, too strategic versus tactical, or any other false dichotomy is not the question here. These aren’t problems to be solved—simply paradoxes to be managed. And doing so successfully is the difference between an OK Marketing team that’s scrambling to feed the beast, and a high-performing function that's critical to the current and future growth of the business.
Managing paradox requires a system to help you understand when you're veering too far towards one polarity or another, so you can navigate and course-correct.
Enter the Market(ing) Operating System.
Let's make sense of this series of tubes
Notice how the “-ing” is in parentheses. That’s because in my experience, B2B Marketing teams can end up spending way too much time caught up in the act of Marketing, and not enough time in the actual market—understanding your customers, the industry, and how your business or product fits into that conversation.
But we’ll get on to that.
The Market(ing) Operating System is an operating model, a framework, or whatever term du jour management consultants have ideated this quarter. It’s the foundation from which to structure your org, map out the responsibilities and accountabilities of the Marketing team and individual functions within it, design how this function engages with both the external market and internal cross-functional teams to drive results, and serve as a diagnostic tool for assessing performance against objectives on an ongoing basis.
It’s not a Marketing plan, a Marketing strategy or a Marketing org chart. It’s not your OKRs, KPIs, MBOs or PQDs (I made that last one up). It is the precursor to all of these—the blueprint that defines what these should be, and governs how they fit together operationally to get results. It’s the core, guiding system for informing your go-to-market approach at different stages of your scale journey.
So, while you can never totally eliminate the chaos of scaling a startup, you can make sense of it. You can define it, map it out, and understand the current state of your Marketing against company objectives at any one time. You can prioritise which fires are important right now, which ones might flare up in future (and why), where to focus efforts and resources, and know what the business is getting out of it.
In this article, we’ll:
Break down the key elements of the B2B Market(ing) Operating System
Highlight exercises you can go through to define a system for your business
See some examples of how to use it in practice to scale efficient growth
Key elements of a Market(ing) Operating System
Let's start with the first and outermost feedback loop, External Loop AB. So-called, because it's a loop that runs between sections 'A' and 'B' of the system, with your market and your company in the middle, and represents the fundamental, outward-facing connection between the two.
External loop AB: insight flows from your market to your company, which informs the message your company delivers back to the market to drive sales
At its most basic, Marketing is a two-way conversation between your company and your market, with the Marketing team as the key facilitator and intermediary of this conversation.
Like any dialogue, this involves a healthy balance of both listening and speaking in order to make the conversation a mutually valuable one:
The 'A' side of the equation is about listening to and learning from your market in order to understand who your customers are, what they care about and how they are impacted by the problem your company addresses. This is basis from which to develop and evolve your product and go-to-market strategy in order to align with those needs as the market continues to develop.
Ensuring there are processes and programs in place to listen to and learn from the market on an ongoing basis is therefore critical to remaining relevant and valuable to your target audience, and your company's ability to execute efficiently against GTM activity that drives the desired results.
The breadth and scale of this listening activity will vary based on your company stage and size. Below are some macro-level examples of different sources of insight that can be tapped to listen to the market, and the form they can take:
The 'B' side of the equation is about communicating your narrative back to the market through impactful messaging, campaigns and activity. The aim of this is to educate your market about the value of your solution and the impact of the challenges they are facing, in order to persuade them to make a purchase decision in your favour now or in the future.
This is the 'speaking' side of the dialogue, and basing what you say and how you say it on market insights gleaned from the 'listening' side is key to effectiveness of impact, as it is through this relevancy that value is added for your buyers.
Below are some macro-level examples of different ways companies can communicate to their market, and some of the tactical activities that can be used to deliver this:
Closing this feedback loop is the basic requirement for effective revenue generation, and the foundation of a healthy flywheel for scaled growth.
Sides 'A' and 'B' exist in a reciprocal relationship, wherein the value of a company's market-facing communication is driven by a sophisticated understanding of their market, which in turn shapes the market itself through ongoing education and adoption of the company's product(s).
Marketing has a critical role in maintaining and driving this feedback loop, both directly (through its primary connection with the market), and indirectly (via other functions in the business). The same goes for Sales, Product, Business Development, Customer Support, Customer Success, and any other part of your company that interacts with customers.
Skewing too much towards either side ‘A’ or side ‘B’ means company resources aren’t being optimised to drive this flywheel, and Sales and Marketing efficiency ultimately suffers.
While this may seem like a basic principle with which to kick things off, in reality it’s the first hurdle many B2B Marketing teams stumble at, and a common root cause of further dysfunction downstream and across the company.
Being aware of the importance of this feedback loop and then mapping out what this means for your business is the first step towards designing a Market(ing) Operating System that helps you achieve efficient growth.
Before jumping straight into Marketing programs and tactics, a good entry point is to define what 'your market' and 'your company' actually mean for your business.
Neither of these exist as monolithic entities—they are just umbrella terms for the different audience segments, channels and actions that make up the complex network of relationships your business exists within.
What do we actually mean when we talk about 'the Market'? Defining key audiences and constituents is the first step towards prioritising go-to-market activities and team responsibilities
Getting more granular in defining the different constituents that make up these categories is crucial to developing an understanding of who is speaking to whom and why which can in turn inform the basis of decisions around team structure, hiring, activity mapping and prioritisation, and go-to-market motions and approach. For example: how critical is a focus on media outreach for your company today versus building your partner ecosystem or ongoing prospecting? How about in a year's time?
Aligning on this at a high-level is helpful for Marketing teams, executives and board members alike to get a handle on the logic behind a company's go-to-market strategy.
Your mileage will vary depending on the maturity of your business and the nature of your market, but here are some example categories that a scaling company may use to define the different components of their market and their company:
Take a step back and think on a macro level of the different constituents that make up your company and your market. You likely already have a good sense of this, but it can be helpful to look back over the past 3-6 months and think through who has been a recipient or audience for your communication during this time, and how this has been delivered to them. Then, looking forward at your plans for the coming quarter, half or year, how you might expect this to change evolve based on your objectives.
Laying these out will help to systemise your GTM approach, align teams around a shared definition, and prioritise activity.
Once you've mapped out your external feedback loop and defined the entities within your market and your company, you will have the beginnings of your Market(ing) Operating System. Below is a high-level overview of what the key elements of your dialogue may look like:
The basic feedback loop between your market and your company, with defined internal and external audiences and actors
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Once you've defined the basic elements of your dialogue on a macro level, the next level down is about drilling into each of these to further define the specifics for use in execution and prioritisation.
For example, drilling into the 'Your Market' piece:
Customers & prospects can be further broken down into TAM, ICP segmentation, and user and buyer personas, supported by documentation and programs that can be used strategically and tactically by leadership and customer-facing functions to drive GTM decisions and activity
Competitors may be broken down into direct and indirect competition, and further delineated by features and other attributes via competitor analysis
Media may be split into trade publications versus tier-1 publications to determine targeting for a PR & Comms program
Partners may be broken down into categories of referral partners, resellers, tech integration partners, co-marketing partners, or any combination of the above
This exercise can reveal gaps in your knowledge or your documentation, that may or may not be critical to fill. For example, investing in an analyst relations program may not be viable or useful for an earlier-stage business, but being aligned on the definition of your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) across the organisation certainly is.
Here are some examples of supporting programs and documentation that can be built out in accordance with the Market(ing) Operating System for your business. Note how these are made up of both inputs from side 'A', and output to side 'B' in their implementation:
This drill-down is the first practical application of your Market(ing) Operating System because it bridges the gap between the theory of the model you're building out, and the reality of what you can put into practice within your company to deliver against it.
Knowing what resources you already have to execute successfully, and developing a roadmap to develop priority gaps (drawing from listening to the market) is the first step towards making sense of the mission at hand, and what needs to be done to fulfil it.
Defining your dialogue is the foundational step of this process, and can in itself go a long way towards a repeatable methodology for future planning and strategic shifts.
At the end of Stage 1, we now have a defined External AB loop:
Who your audience is (the various segments and constituents of your market)
The different aspects of your company that interact with the market (internal teams and market-facing positioning)
The high-level inputs from the different segments of the market needed to listen to and learn from customer and industry needs
The high-level outputs from the company required to educate and persuade the market in order to drive sales
The interactions within and across these different elements that form your narrative in the market
The importance of maintaining this feedback loop to drive efficient growth
Stage 2 will take this defined External loop as a starting point, and get more specific about the role of the Marketing team and its sub-functions within this to build out a system that can govern responsibilities for execution.
Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Market(ing) Operating System - moving from External Loop AB into the Primary and Secondary inputs and outputs that drive it
Once you’ve defined the dialogue of your External loop, you need to take a look at the engine that will drive the conversation.
At the centre of this system sits your company's Marketing function, supported by and supporting the rest of the organisation in the ultimate goal to drive revenue and increase market share.
In this stage, we can further break down the two halves of the "listen & learn" and "educate & persuade" equation into a series of inputs and outputs, owned and executed by specific roles or sub-functions within the Marketing team. The inputs will draw both directly from the market (Primary External Inputs) and sources from within the company (Secondary Internal Inputs), while the outputs will similarly be delivered either directly to the market (Primary External Outputs), or via internal feedback loops with other functions within the company (Secondary Internal Outputs).
As a key facilitator of the dialogue between your market and your company, your Marketing function (and the sub-functions within this group) has a number of inputs and outputs connected both to the external market and your internal company. Mapping these is how we can define the means by which the dialogue is driven.
Within the Marketing team itself, there will be different specialities responsible for specific inputs and outputs, such as Product Marketing, Growth Marketing, Marketing Operations or Customer Marketing. What’s right for your organisation will vary based on a number of factors, including company stage and size, product, audience and GTM approach, among other factors.
However, regardless of specific structure or team composition, the key here is being able to draw a through-line of accountability from market insight (side 'A') through to go-to-market activities (side 'B') via a specific role, function or team, as these are the conduits through which your value narrative is delivered to your audience. Identifying and optimising these individual conduits is key to effectively driving and closing the wider feedback loop between your company and your market.
Filtering the External Loop through the Marketing team. Which specialities within the team are responsible for executing against which inputs and outputs?
To frame this another way: if the company's overall goal is to grow revenue, then which programs and activities are required to drive this, which parts of the company are responsible for executing on these, and how do you systematise this approach in order to boost performance and accountability?
This exercise is key to defining the high-level role of the different functional groups within the Marketing organisation in relation to the whole. We can break this down in terms of the Primary External and Secondary Internal inputs and outputs each sub-function is responsible for within the team.
The Primary External Inputs are the slices of the External Loop pie that the different Marketing sub-functions bite off in order to execute effectively. Different functions within the Marketing team may also be responsible for different audiences within the market, as defined in the previous exercise.
If the external loop of our Operating System represents the macro dialogue between your company and your market, the Primary External inputs and outputs represent the micro dialogues that are facilitated by sub-functions within the Marketing team. These inputs and outputs are connected directly to the market, as opposed to coming into or moving out of the Marketing team via internal company functions such as a Sales or Product team.
As most growing startups will exist somewhere along the spectrum between having an existing team that's already fulfilling some of these inputs and outputs, and having unfulfilled inputs and outputs that require a team expansion or shift in priorities to accommodate (including cases where an existing team is executing on unnecessary or lower-priority inputs and outputs), this is an opportunity to reconcile what is needed from your Marketing team for growth with the resources you have to execute on this.
Map the activities or programs (Primary External Inputs A, B, C, etc.) that are needed to gain the market insight your company needs for growth to sub-functions within the Marketing team (Sub-functions 1, 2, 3, etc.)
If you have a macro-level list from the previous exercise, this is where you can get more specific with the individual roles or teams within the Marketing organisation that will be responsible for executing on these. For example, Market Research can take many forms, and it may be possible to break out distinct Market Research programs owned by different sub-functions within the Marketing organisation that target different segments of your market, or use different channels and methodologies aligned to the specific goals of these sub-functions.
Activities won't always fit wholly or neatly within a single sub-function, but in these cases it is good practice to assign a primary functional owner or lead for the program in order to raise accountability for the overall performance of the program.
Here are a few examples of inputs based on some Marketing sub-functions that may be found in a typical B2B start-up.
Map the activities or programs (Primary External Outputs A, B, C, etc.) that are needed to drive revenue growth through education and persuasion to functions within the Marketing team (Sub-functions 1, 2, 3, etc.).
These are the outputs that are delivered directly to the market through channels such as social, email, advertising, community, press or the product, that are owned internally by the Marketing team.
Though these will involve collaboration and coordination with other functions within the business, this does not include outputs that are delivered to those teams.
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While Primary External inputs and outputs connect directly with the market, Secondary Internal inputs and outputs connect the Marketing team with other, typically customer-facing, areas of the business.
Just as important as having a Marketing team that is connected with their market is having one that works closely with the other functions that also touch the market (such as Sales, Business Development, Product, Customer Success). It is this connection that brings in additional market insights and data points from the field and customer conversations (the inputs), which in turn aids these conversations through deliverables and programs such as content and enablement (the outputs).
Think of these as the channels through which a Marketing team supports their shared goals with other functions across the business.
Secondary Internal inputs and outputs are how the Marketing team gains an additional perspective on the market, synthesizing this with the insights it has gained directly, and delivering it back to the market indirectly through activities carried out by other functions such as sales pitches, product demos or email outreach.
The Secondary Internal inputs and outputs are the channels through which the Marketing team supports other functions within the company. They bring in additional market insight from sources such as prospect and customer conversations, and result in internal output such as content and enablement that further aids those conversations.
Define the activities or programs owned by other areas of the business that could add valuable insights to the Marketing team's market insight, and are not already covered through Marketing listening programs.
While market and customer research programs can provide a good high-level overview of your industry and personas, getting more granular insight through Sales, Business Development or Customer Success teams (including how current content is landing, and where there are gaps within particular verticals or buyer personas) provides a valuable additional dimension of feedback through which to optimise output.
Chances are, the Marketing team already has many requests for outputs from different areas of the business. However, the quality of this output will be based on the quality of input the team receives from the business—a Marketing team needs to understand the 'why' behind these requests within the context of their wider market knowledge in order to arrive at an optimal solution to drive sales.
Below are some examples of valuable inputs Marketing teams can get from different areas within the company to improve the effectiveness of their outputs:
Assign responsibility for gathering these insights to specific Marketing sub-functions to begin mapping these internal inputs.
In addition to Market insights, formal or informal skill sharing between teams is beneficial to improving Marketing output.
While it is neither effective nor desirable to aim for everybody to be able to do everybody else's job, it is possible to enhance team performance and improve cross-functional empathy by getting some fundamentals down.
Some questions to ask to uncover gaps in knowledge:
Does the Marketing team use and understand the product and its key features? Do they know enough to be able to conduct a high-level demo to a prospect (say, at an event)?
Is everyone on the Marketing team able to articulate the company's core value proposition, and confidently do an 'elevator pitch'?
Is the Marketing team aware of the entire sales process, including the different stages, entry and exit criteria, functional handoffs and key metrics associated with these?
Does the team have an awareness of the different metrics being collected by other teams, where these live, and how they could be used to improve Marketing activity?
Map the outputs the Marketing team can provide to other functions within the organisation to support revenue growth.
Think of these as the deliverables Marketing can produce or provide to other areas of the business to aid their own outputs, in contrast to the deliverables that go directly to market (but still drive shared objectives).
This may take the form of customer-facing content, enablement, insights sharing, or internal documentation and guidelines. These will typically be an analogue to the Primary External and Secondary Internal inputs for each sub-function, as most inputs will have an express output that it drives.
Assign responsibility for delivering these outputs to specific Marketing sub-functions, based on the set-up within your business.
Demand for Marketing content within an organisation will rarely align 1:1 with this model, both in terms of the type of output requests, and the volume expected.
For example, Account Executives across different regions or verticals may all be seeking case studies for their particular patch, leading to high demand for this particular output.
On the other hand, there may be less demand for aligning and optimising outreach email copy from the SDR team, even though this activity would represent a worthwhile Market output.
This is not to say that demand should be ignored, but that managing demand should occur within the greater context of keeping the feedback loop flowing. This is where a fully-defined Market(ing) Operating System helps contextualise what is needed to make this happen, and where. A Marketing team which isn't aware of the bigger picture of these inputs and outputs can end up getting stuck in delivering against requests, potentially missing opportunities for growth and optimisation elsewhere.
The final loop within the model is the one that occurs within the Marketing team itself. This loop is about the flow of Market insight and information within the team, and the communication and coordination of Marketing activities and campaigns.
A common challenge as Marketing teams expand and get increasingly specialised is the formation of siloes between functions. For example: the Demand Gen team that has no time to take in customer insight from the Product Marketing team, or the Design team that receives briefings for campaigns with little context and even less lead time to execute effectively.
This can serve to undermine the effectiveness of the Operating System as a whole, as the company fails to realise the impact that the cross-functional sharing of Market insights can have on its overall output to the market. As a result, customer and market insights gleaned by one sub-function may not be reflected in the output of another, leading to sub-optimal Marketing activity.
The final loop to be aware of is the internal feedback loop within the Marketing team itself. Maintaining this is key to avoiding siloes between sub-functions, and ensuring inputs and outputs alike are coordinated to have maximum impact.
Maintaining this loop is essential to a team working cohesively, and avoiding the formation of limiting siloes. Centring the Marketing team around the Market (typically in the form of the customer) provides a shared language for teams to pivot around, while still playing to their specialist strengths.
Some ways this can be tackled include:
Team knowledge and learnings sharing sessions
Customer call analysis and customer exposure hour targets
Up-to-date cross-functional Marketing calendar for activity coordination
Team charter and agreed ways of working
Many of these can also be made more effective as a collaboration with other parts of the business to help close the loop on Secondary Internal inputs and outputs too.
While defining and mapping out best practices for intra-team comms and process may sound like a bureaucratic nightmare, it is critical to address this in order to keep the system working.
Once you have your inputs and outputs defined by sub-function, the next layer down is to set key performance indicators (KPIs) against these.
For each input and output, consider granular, time-bound targets by sub-function, and the plans needed to get there. These would roll up to Marketing's overall objectives, which in turn roll up to the business' overall objectives. Multiple outputs may roll up into the same metric and vice versa, but can still be managed to different programs or timelines.
For example, a Product Marketing team may ultimately be seeking to influence competitive win rate, sales velocity and deal size among their key metrics.
An output such as an ROI study could influence all three, by demonstrating relative value versus competitors in head-to-head sales conversations, providing content to convince economic buyers within the prospect's deal committee to proceed with a purchase, and raise the perceived value of your solution.
The role of the Market(ing) Operating System is in mapping outputs to these metrics and aligning this with your company's goal-setting process (such as OKRs), as it breaks down the path to market required to deliver on these goals.
This in turn can be further embedded into individual performance plans and OKRs.
At the end of stage 2, we now have:
Defined Primary External Inputs and Outputs, mapped to the Marketing team and sub-functions within it
Defined Secondary Internal inputs and outputs, mapped to different functions within the business
Defined expected output activities and outcomes (KPIs) and input needs (programs)
Stage 3 will look at ways in which we can begin to operationalise this further.
By the end of Stage 2, you will have a fleshed out schematic of your Market(ing) Operating System aligned to the structures and objectives of your business. Assigning KPIs to both inputs and outputs will align the system with your goal-setting process, and give clear end-to-end accountability to specific sub-functions for both execution and results.
Defining and mapping out your Market(ing) Operating System through Stages 1 and 2 will give you a strong foundation from which to develop a Marketing team and wider go-to-market function with clear accountability for driving your company's dialogue in your market and within your company.
Of course, this doesn't and shouldn't exist within a vacuum—teams across the business, from Customer Support to outbound sales teams and Product Managers have their own inputs and outputs, and are also executing against some version of this model, whether by design or no. Situating the Market(ing) Operating System within the context of these concurrent loops with their potential for conflicting priorities and cadences is key to getting it to work successfully across the entire customer journey.
Operationalising your system to achieve efficient growth hinges upon establishing pathways of communication and collaboration between relevant players in order to facilitate the flow of the feedback loops outlined in this model.
Successfully operationalising your Market(ing) Operating System falls broadly into three categories—communication, process, and execution & optimisation—which in combination are the pathways for unlocking organisational flow.
A Market(ing) Operating System won't be effective unless it is known and understood across all levels of the business. This includes at the executive and board level, within the Marketing team itself, and across the key functional areas of the business it touches upon and interacts with.
The two forms this takes is:
Education of the system itself: use your schematic to outline to your company the basic purpose of the Marketing team, and the role of the team in relation to your macro goals and internal interdependencies. This is a crucial step towards aligning cross-functionally around your market dialogue, and how different functions fit within this conversation
Input and output information flow: the various inputs and outputs between the Marketing team, the market and the company require cross-functional communication in order to flow in the first instance. Setting up channels and forums to communicate this vital information between teams prevents the formation of siloes within the business and allows the company to fully realise go-to-market efficiency
Focusing on developing these areas will ensure the system has buy-in across all stakeholders, and that the feedback loops you have established actually work to drive the dialogue laid out in your Operating System.
While the P-word may be taboo in some startup cultures, this is really about identifying where the dependencies live within your Operating System, and coming up with mechanisms to prevent these dependencies turning into bottlenecks or dead-ends that derail progress.
As you review your Market(ing) Operating System, ask: what is needed to get the Primary External and Secondary Internal inputs we need to drive the expected outputs effectively? Who is involved in delivering Primary External and Secondary Internal outputs, and how do we coordinate on getting these to market?
For every input or output on your list, there will be some combination of the following involved in facilitating them, which must be taken into account for successful and timely execution against your model:
Systems—do we have the right technology in place to gather the data and insight we need, and deliver communications to the market? Are the systems set up correctly to provide the information we need? Who needs access to what in order to execute on this, and are we equipped to do so?
Expertise—who within the team or company has the necessary skills to conduct research, analyse data or deliver specific outputs? Do we need to outsource any projects or invest in training to acquire this expertise?
Resource —which departments or individuals need to be involved in order to facilitate the inputs or outputs we require? How much lead-time is needed and how do we prioritise work cross-functionally on an organisational level? Is there budget available to execute effectively, and which department is responsible for funding which program?
Some of these can be handled entirely within a department, some may be handled entirely within a different department, some may be best tackled collaboratively, and others will require a combination of internal and external resource. Either way, asking these questions up front and determining simple processes for tackling the highest priority and recurring pathways will help sidestep the all-too-common problem of cross-functional teams failing to act in unison, and reducing their efficiency.
Some questions to ask when developing your process pathways:
RACI matrix: when it comes to delivering projects and programs, who needs to be informed, consulted and aware at which stage? Who is responsible for the outcome? Ensure the right people (and only the right people) are kept in the loop with the right information at the right time
What lead-time or SLAs need to be in place for inputs and outputs to arrive on time, and at the appropriate resolution? Setting up agreements and SLAs between teams for frequently-occurring cross-functional activities (such as product releases, marketing campaigns, customer surveys, event follow-ups, CRM update requests or reporting) helps right-size time and resource estimates for projects and campaigns, making planning more effective
What mechanisms are in place to facilitate communication and collaboration between teams? This includes shared communication channels, regular meetings and cross-functional working sessions
What shared systems are required to enable the above? Are you hopping between different software to get the information you need, or do only some people have access to certain systems? Is there a need for shared dashboards or data sources to reduce friction?
With appropriate communication and process pathways in place, the final remaining step for operationalisation is to execute against your Market(ing) Operating System and continue to optimise and evolve every element of the system in line with your objectives, results and the continued evolution of your market and your offering.
You can continue to update and upgrade your Operating System with new versions as the different elements evolve, your company scales, and you gain new feedback and insights from the market on the impact of your go-to-market activity.
By its very nature, the feedback loops of the Market(ing) Operating System take into account the changes that may occur—whether through listening to the market directly through the 'A' loop, monitoring marketing performance through the 'B' loop, or incorporating feedback through internal communication and process pathways. Incorporating these changes into your system ensures it remains fit-for-purpose as you grow.
Here are some examples of changes that can occur at different points of the system:
The takeaway here is that none of the elements contained within the model are static, and should be assessed on a continual basis. Having a working Market(ing) Operating System in place can help you respond faster and more effectively to these changes (giving you a competitive advantage), and provide a constant framework within which to operate even amid times of volatility and rapid growth.
At the end of stage 3, we now have a Market(ing) Operating System with:
Defined pathways for internal and external communication to ensure the flow of information and feedback throughout the system
Agreed processes for driving activity cross-functionally, and considerations for systems, expertise and resource to facilitate this
Mechanisms for executing effectively against the input and output activity defined within the system
The ability to optimise and upgrade the system based on changes in the market, your company, and the inputs and outputs required to drive an effective dialogue between the two
The final section of the article will look at some ways in which you can use the Market(ing) Operating System on an ongoing basis as the core of your Marketing operation.
How to use the Market(ing) Operating System
Once you have established a version of the Market(ing) Operating System specific to your company goals, organisational structure and GTM capabilities and approach, there are a number of ways to use it.
As mentioned previously, the Operating System is not a replacement for a plan, a strategy, or your goal-setting process. But it can serve as the core system that governs all of these, both for informing their direction, and assessing their efficacy on an ongoing basis.
This is where the value of the Operating System is realised, as the overarching framework that connects and aligns these often-disparate processes. Here are three practical use cases for using your Operating System.
There are many checks and balances you can employ to keep track of performance on a team or individual level.
However, simply assessing on reporting and metrics doesn’t always provide the full picture of the ‘why’ behind a miss (or, indeed, success). Understanding how your organisation is delivering against the different elements of the Market(ing) Operating System can help identify areas for improvement that impact results, and drill down into the root causes of underperformance or disconnect.
If your Marketing team is failing to deliver on the ideal state model laid out by the Operating System, then conducting a gap analysis around how effective your current state input and output flow is can serve as a hypotheses for future improvements, programs and process changes.
Diagnose and assess performance at every point of the Market(ing) Operating System to surface and prioritise areas for continuous improvement
Each element within the Operating System may be interrogated to build up a picture of where the gaps lie between current state versus ideal state.
Understanding where these gaps are can in turn drive strategic activities such as quarterly planning and goal setting, informing which programs and projects to prioritise, and benchmarking metrics from quarter to quarter.
The following questions provide some examples of avenues to follow when forming a concrete plan of action to address any deficiencies or disconnects in the system. Asking these questions of your Operating System, whether based on your own experience or through feedback from others, will quickly yield a list of hypotheses to prioritise and execute on.
What listening programs, if any, do we currently have in place to gain market insight? Are they used or useful for driving Marketing decisions? Is there any key information about our market that we're missing?
Can we confidently answer questions around who our target audience is, what their pain points are, and how our solution addresses them? Does this resonate with our audience?
Do we have the right technology, expertise and resource within the team or company to execute effectively on our input and output programs?
Are we driving enough awareness in the Market for our solution versus competitors? How well-known are we when speaking with prospects for the first time on cold calls and networking events? Is this perception accurate?
Which programs are driving the best results, and why?
What is our perception in the Market? What sources are informing this perception (analysts, competitors, reviews, press, customer conversations)? How can we seek to influence these conversations?
How is internal communications being managed? Who owns this? Is there a process in place around how things like product updates are communicated to customers? Are there any parts of the business that consistently misstep here?
Have we identified the correct ICP? Does our ICP target prospecting correlate with sales funnel conversion rate and/or lifetime value and average contract size?
Based on revenue targets and sales metrics, how much potential revenue do we have within our current ICP? Is our TAM tapped out or is there plenty of upside still?
Where will your next market expansion (regional, vertical, persona) come from. and when? How are you equipped across the go-to-market team to add a new target audience in terms of content, resource and approach?
Have we identified all of our competitors? Are there any new names coming up from sales conversations?
Do we have any active programs for speaking to or influencing media outlets and analysts?
Are different stakeholders across the business (including executives, board members, cross-functional leadership and practitioners) aware of what your company's Marketing team is and isn't responsible for?
Are we consistently upholding brand guidelines internally and externally? If not, where's the disconnect?
Can everyone across the company articulate the value proposition?
How well is communication and collaboration flowing between internal teams? If the ball is getting dropped on cross-functional outputs, where and why is this happening?
Are we synced up with R&D on product releases and campaigns?
Is Sales aware of pipegen campaigns and activity in advance?
What's the process for following up on Marketing requests? Is there a set structure for briefings?
Do we have the right data from RevOps to get the full picture behind channel performance?
Are individuals on the team aware of their role within the Marketing function, and how these contribute towards the overall Operating System?
Do we have the right people and specialisms in place to execute against the KPIs laid out in the model?
Are sub-functions within the Marketing team communicating and collaborating on key shared activities?
Many don’t truly ‘get’ the value of what Marketing does, and how it fits into the context of wider business goals (unfortunately, that can also include Marketers themselves).
Furthermore, with the range of metrics, buzzwords and tactics on hand for the average Marketing team, it is easy for this value to get lost in myriad acronyms and data that can leave non-Marketers totally lost.
The Market(ing) Operating System provides go-to-market leaders with a multi-layered way to step through the accountabilities of their company's Marketing team, from a high-level overview through to a deeper dive into specific programs and KPIs.
The value of being able to articulate this to multiple audiences within a company is in developing buy-in and alignment across the different teams involved. This alignment is key to an effective go-to-market strategy with cross-functional teams working together to drive shared goals. Here are some use cases:
Walking through the Market(ing) Operating System schematic is a straightforward and quick way to introduce employees across the company to the role of the Marketing team in facilitating a revenue-driving dialogue with your market.
Equipping your company with a basic understanding of this dialogue, and some of the mechanics involved in maintaining it, is a foundational requirement for developing the communication and process pathways necessary to execute against it.
Using this as an onboarding tool for new colleagues (including within the Marketing team) serves as a way to align on Marketing's purpose, and provide education around the value the function brings.
This can be tailored to different audiences, highlighting specific cross-functional pathways based on the role of the people you are speaking to, and giving tangible examples of some of the current programs in place that facilitate these.
Marketing presentations can at times lapse into jargon and acronyms that don’t mean anything outside of the team.
While getting into the weeds is often necessary when talking tactical execution, contextualising activity in terms of the bigger picture can help position Marketing better within the org, and shift perspective top share objectives before getting specific around particular campaigns or activities.
This is particularly relevant when dealing with teams where it is critical to work closely to be effective. SDRs, for example, should be aware of their critical role in providing customer insight, delivering messaging and content to the market, and driving Demand Gen campaigns down the sales funnel.
Outside of this wider context, it is easy for teams to get caught up in transactional relationships ("I need some content for this prospecting call" / "You need to follow up on these leads!"), which is where alignment begins to break down and harm Sales and Marketing efficiency.
Equipping the C-suite and board members with the tools to see the breadth of flow across the market and the company helps articulate the value of Marketing in nuanced terms, and get buy-in for programs that help the whole but may not be immediately obvious.
Marketing leaders can use the Operating System as an opportunity to drive strategic conversations around holistic efficiency improvements and initiatives, and avoid getting trapped in isolated, tactical conversations around specific channels or programs.
Contextualising your Marketing strategy with this framework demonstrates the interconnectivity of various long-term and short-term Marketing tactics and programs, and can help board members better understand how they fit together on a strategic level. This in turn aids budget conversations, and positions Marketing as a strategic revenue centre.
The Market(ing) Operating System is ultimately about setting accountability for the different elements within it, whether on an individual or a team level.
While many Marketing teams have a good awareness of their specific job function and KPIs, the Operating System also helps to level set on the interdependence between different functions within and without the Marketing team.
This extends the ownership of an individual's role beyond the day-to-day specification of their job to include activities such as cross-functional coordination and collaboration to achieve their goals.
Use the Market(ing) Operating System to clarify this accountability as part of the drive to form a high-performance Marketing team that works tirelessly within the company to achieve revenue goals.
Develop a cadence for regularly reviewing and updating your Market(ing) Operating System, in line with your company's milestones.
Most businesses will have some kind of rhythm that internal teams work to in order to hit growth numbers.
For a typical B2B SaaS company, quarterly revenue targets cascade to quarterly OKRs or goals, and align with budget cycles, executive strategy planning, and product development roadmaps.
Using your Market(ing) Operating System as the starting point for this cycle helps you consolidate and centralise a number of planning activities under a guiding framework, including budget planning, hiring plans, goal-setting and strategy updates.
Kick off quarterly planning activities with an assessment of where you are against the target model, and what needs to be tweaked across these different areas in the following quarter. This in turn modifies the parameters Market(ing) Operating System.
Using the KPIs you set for individual programs on a sub-functional level, work back to understand what's working and what isn't.
Use this to set priority and focus areas for sub-functional strategic planning and goal-setting.
Understand how the team is set up for success in the next iteration of the Market(ing) Operating System, and where there are disconnects or gaps in responsibilities, capacity and skills.
If you are unable to map certain inputs or outputs through a sub-function or role, it's a sign that either the team or the system needs a re-think.
Knowing this can drive decisions around hiring plans, training investment and re-structuring ahead of the next cycle.
Identify interdependencies ahead of planning, and use this to coordinate with other teams.
Too often planning can take place in siloes across the business, with plans getting baked in independently before conversations are had around how different functions will collaborate on achieving shared objectives.
Given the centrality of cross-functional inputs and outputs to the Market(ing) Operating System, using this as your starting point for planning means this is one of the first conversations to have, and not an afterthought that can derail weeks of planning.
Come into budget planning with a clear sense of what is working and what isn't, and what resource you require in order to bridge any gaps or double down on success.
Linking this process to your Market(ing) Operating System allows for better quantification and justification of any budget shifts, and creates a dynamic system that feeds back to Marketing ROI.
Develop your Market(ing) Operating System for go-to-market success
If you've gone through the different steps outlined here, you will have now the blueprint for an efficient go-to-market motion at your company.
Doing this is not itself a done deal—implementing a Market(ing) Operating System effectively still requires great execution, leadership, team-building and communication.
However, this relatively simple structure can serve as a powerful basis for everything else you do.
Understand who your audience is so you can market to the right people at the right time with the right message
Determine who you hire, how you structure teams and design your org
Know how to delineate responsibilities and hold teams accountable to develop the environment for a high-performing go-to-market organisation
Develop cross-functional communication and process pathways for operational effectiveness
Diagnose and assess root cause of increased or decreased performance, and determine action plans to address and measure these
Educate and communicate this to the rest of your company, executives, and board members
If you're looking for a co-pilot to help you navigate this journey, or provide support on any of the aspects involved in operationalising this, get in touch and we can see how we can work together.