Leadership Revenue Operations

Why Marketing Ops Makes the Best RevOps Leaders

Historically, the term Revenue Operations (RevOps) grew out of Sales Operations. You’ll still see people with the RevOps title who are essentially Sales Operations (SOPS) but don’t understand the full revenue / customer journey.

When executed correctly, RevOps takes a holistic approach to revenue generation. It encompasses marketing, sales, and post-sale activities such as customer success, implementation, support, and account management.

It’s a comprehensive strategy that combines all aspects of the customer journey to drive revenue. (You can check out my RevOps handbook with strategies to leverage RevOps across the funnel). As Mollie Bodensteiner explains:

“I think the word “revenue” tends to imply to business leaders that they need someone with a background in sales operations to lead their revenue operations. But it is important to remember that revenue operations is larger than revenue, it is really operationalizing the customer lifecycle to create predictability and growth throughout go-to-market. While it is important to hire for the skillset your organization needs based on their goals, it is important to not overlook a marketing operations background as you hire for a RevOps leader. This persona likely has the deepest understanding of your customer experience, tech stack and analytics architecture.” 

Unlike many RevOps leaders who grew up in SOPS, I got my start in RevOps from the marketing side of the house. I ran Marketing Operations (MOPS) at Upwork, Box and Culture Amp (and added the other pieces along the journey)

So TLDR:  MOPS is a great background for your RevOps leader, but in a few cases you’ll still want to go with a SOPS background.

  • MOPS has broader experience with data (which is rewiring GTM), a more complex systems stack and a deeper understanding of the entire funnel
  • SOPS understands how to drive employee behavior through systems and compensation
  • If you are focused on SMB/Mid or have a PLG motion, MOPS is likely best.  If you have large enterprise deals, start with SOPS.
  • BUT above all else, prioritize the right mentality over background.  


The Power of a MOPS Background for Your RevOps Leader

Marketing operations leads systems and data strategy across the entire lifecycle of the customer. With a strategic approach and data-driven mindset, MOPS leaders bring numerous benefits to your team.

Top of Funnel Experience

Leads are the driving force behind your sales funnel. MOPS know how to maximize conversion throughout the funnel and evaluate return on investment (ROI) for each lever.

“Marketing Ops is better equipped to manage the data and tools that will drive ToFu leads MoFu engagement, and BoFu “self-serve sales”. Plus, the speed at which AI is replacing sales functions, sales teams will see significant HC reductions.”   Matthew Fleming, CEO @ Speed Sync

A Holistic View of the Customer Lifecycle

Marketing isn’t just about attracting TOFU leads. MOPS leaders excel at accelerating pipeline growth, retaining and expanding existing customers, and turning customers into brand advocates.

Marketing Operations is more focused on what’s occurring down-funnel after handoff compared to how much Sales Ops spends time up-funnel.  Max Maeder, CEO @ FoundHQ

Collaboration Across Functions

MOPS professionals work closely with sales teams on lead conversion, customer success and account management on marketing efforts, and finance teams on forecasting and ROI. Their cross-functional relationships ensure seamless coordination.

“Marketing Operations is usually involved through the lifecycle of a customer where sales and CS have clear lanes or touch points.”  Justin Shine

Understanding the Full GTM Stack

While sales operations may be confined to the CRM, MOPS leaders understand the sophisticated marketing stack. They know how to optimize leads and campaigns as they flow through the CRM, giving them a distinct advantage.

It’s more likely that a MOPS lead has CRM knowledge than a SOPS lead has Marketing Automation knowledge.   Ahin Thomas, VP of Revenue Operations @ League Apps

Data Fluency

MOPS leaders have a history of leveraging complex data analysis for marketing insights. As data warehouses and analytics become increasingly crucial across the GTM spectrum, their expertise becomes even more valuable.

“After doing both sales ops and marketing ops I can truly say the marketing ops side is much more important.  Especially with the construction of customer data platforms, you need someone here who understands how to collect information (and drive insights).”  Jesse Oullette, Founder @ Lead Magic

MOPS are systems thinkers, architects, data nerds, and the best plate spinners.  MOPS has learned SalesOps so they can be prepared to respond to any concerns or blockers. MOPs is much more prepared to handle SalesOps than SalesOps is to handle Marketing Ops.

The Counter Argument for a SOPS Background

Obviously, when it comes to choosing the right leader for your go-to-market (GTM) strategy, considering their SOPS experience can be crucial. However, it’s important to determine which type of leader will best fit your specific needs

For SMB/Mid-market deals, prioritizing data and efficiency makes MOPS the ideal choice for your RevOps leader. On the other hand, if your GTM motion revolves around high-value enterprise deals, starting with a Sales Operations background is likely the way to go.

“A MOPs leaning RevOps leader will likely struggle in an enterprise sale where sales cycles are long, sales methodology, comp plans, and sales pipeline management are keys to success. But they will likely flourish and be the best option in a PLG / SMB sale where AI, data management, and growth hacking are keys to success.”  Christopher Turley  VP, Marketing Technology & Analytics @ Bill.com

Some key skills that SOPS brings to the table include:

  • Performance-Driven Compensation: SOPS has deep experience creating comp plans to drive the right behavior and aligning hiring plans to growth
  • Sales Win Rates: SOPS professionals collaborate closely with sales leaders and enablement teams to analyze wins and losses, identifying areas for improvement and optimizing team performance
  • Channel:  SOPS leaders often have a deeper understanding of channel partner alignment, streamlining processes and driving better outcomes 
  • Revenue Recognition: SOPS specialists are adept at structuring deals, ensuring accurate quoting, and aligning them seamlessly with financial processes.  
  • Retention:  Typically, individuals with a SOPS background have experience in implementation, renewals, and expansion, making them invaluable when it comes to maximizing customer retention. 

Regardless of your growth plans, choosing a RevOps leader who can build a team that can amplify your entire GTM motion is crucial . You will want someone who understands the entire customer journey, not just one part of it. Above all though, focus on hiring a leader based on mindset rather than background.  My RevOps handbook talks about it in more detail. 

“It’s the person. But if it’s not and I just have to force myself to answer this I say it’s marketing ops.”   Jesse Oullette, Founder @ Lead Magic

Leading a cross-functional RevOps team requires more than just technical proficiency in data and systems.  It takes leadership and an ability to build a team.