NEW YORK: When done well, marketing operations can deliver significant improvements in ROI and customer engagement according to McKinsey & Co.

An article on the consulting firm's site described digital marketing operations as involving "the application of capabilities, processes, structures, and technologies to cost-effectively exploit and scale the interactivity, targeting, personalization, and optimization of digital channels".

Authors David Edelman and Jason Heller admitted that it is not a particularly glamourous area but argued "it is becoming the most important one".

They claimed that good marketing operations could provide between a 15% and 25% uplift in marketing effectiveness, as measured by return on investment and customer-engagement metrics.

But many businesses are not achieving that as they fail to adapt their organisational structures to cope with the increasingly complex world in which their marketing teams operate.

The authors cited the example of a global consumer products company, which had seen its content spending rise by more than 25% in a year as it sought to become more customer-centric.

"There was, however, no unifying strategy, governance, or system to create cohesion, reuse assets, or measure effectiveness across the company's complex supply chain, which consisted of dozens of agencies, production companies, and media partners, producing material for websites, blogs, YouTube, social media, mobile, and customer-relationship management," the authors said.

But the establishment of a centre-of-excellence function to develop and manage a consistent content operating model across divisions had changed that.

The time to generate content was reduced, costs stopped growing and new discipline was applied to managing the impact of content.

"As a result, marketing return on investment has improved by more than 20%," the authors reported.

They identified five attributes of effective marketing operations, including the creation of more integrated customer insights programs, delivering a superior customer experience, choosing the right marketing technology rather than the "best", implementing clear processes so that all parties understand their responsibilities, and using metrics focused on customer activity rather than products or regions.

Data sourced from McKinsey & Co; additional content by Warc staff