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SLAs Explained: Why Mature Marketing Ops Team Require Longer Lead Times


To say that mature Marketing Operations (MOPs) teams require longer lead times than less experienced teams may seem counterintuitive but anyone who’s worked in MOPs for a while will tell you that a lot more goes into a campaign build then a non-MOPs person might think.

One way to help convey the reasoning behind longer lead times is by establishing and implementing Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

What are Service Level Agreements (SLAs)?

A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an agreement between clients/stakeholders requesting a campaign and the MOPs practitioners building the campaign. It defines the campaign production timeline, deliverables for each type of campaign and milestones for when certain work needs to be completed.

An organization with a mature MOPs team will likely have SLAs in place for each type of campaign build being requested by their stakeholders. Below is an example of SLAs for a variety of campaign request types.

The overall SLA time frames may seem excessive at first glance but when you define each task that needs to be completed by both the marketing team/campaign requestor and the MOPs practitioner to build a high-quality campaign, free of errors, from start to finish, the determined time frame will seem much more reasonable.

What organizational attributes impact the need for greater campaign request lead times (aka longer SLAs)?

There are a variety of factors within an organization that impact the need for greater campaign request lead times, including:

MAP setup and organization

MOPs teams whose MAP has a clear folder structure, naming conventions and clean program templates for the most commonly built campaign types may be able to shave a bit of time off the MAP program creation step as a team with no clear organizational structure, inconsistent/unclear naming conventions and who aren’t using program templates to streamline their work.

MOPs team size and campaign volume

The number of campaigns being requested and the number of MOPs practitioners available to build those campaigns will affect the lead time required to complete each campaign. However, even a fully staffed, experienced MOPs team will need a reasonable amount of lead time for campaign builds to ensure quality of work.

The type of campaigns being requested

The lead time required for each type of campaign being built by an organization’s MOPs team will vary depending on the campaign type. A webinar campaign with a webinar service integration, invite emails, reminders and follow ups will need significantly more time to plan and build than a simple, one-off email. However, as mentioned previously, even the more simple one-off email will need to be planned with enough lead time to take all steps in the build process into account.

Use of a PM tool

Use of a project management tool can help streamline the campaign build process as well as provide visibility to all stakeholders involved. Without a PM tool, it’s much harder to stay organized, communicate about the campaign, monitor progress and deadlines, etc. which results in requiring more lead time.

Establishing and implementing SLAs will factor in all of the above to help define the standard timeline for each task required to complete a campaign build. As marketers/stakeholders work together with their MOPs team to determine the process and average time needed for each task, it usually becomes quite evident why the MOPs team needs longer lead times in order to build high-quality, error-free campaigns that target the right audience and produce successful results.

When do more mature organizations need to support longer lead times to ensure maximum campaign ROI?

When a MOPs team implements SLAs for campaign builds, not only does it help set expectations on what needs to be done by when in order to keep a campaign on track, it also ensures maximum campaign ROI. How? Steps are built into the overall SLA time frame to allow for important activities such as reviews by the campaign requestor of email assets and the target audience, testing (when applicable) and QA. Less mature teams who have not defined SLA’s for their team may rush to fulfill requests as they come in without designating extra time to complete crucial review/QA tasks, which can result in a host of unfortunate issues that negatively impact ROI (i.e. – targeting the wrong audience, copy mistakes, incorrect links, unpopulated tokens, and more).

An added benefit to establishing SLAs is that SLAs also define what determines that a task is complete. If, for example, someone on the MOPs team has an email build task due Tuesday but Tuesday afternoon arrives and they haven’t been provided with the email copy, it isn’t possible for that MOPs practitioner to meet the deadline for their email. When deadlines are missed, the SLA provides the support needed to push the final due date for the email send farther out so that the MOPs practitioner has plenty of time to complete the email build once the copy is actually provided without feeling pressure to rush and get it done.

How should companies determine the length of campaign lead times and seek adoption for longer lead times from marketing managers?

First, it is important to include marketing managers in the SLA planning process as a way to help get their buy-in when it comes to adopting SLAs and enforcing them within their teams. Ensuring that the marketing managers understand what the MOPs team needs in order to complete each step of the campaign build process will also help them understand the need for longer lead times and help enforce the SLAs within their team if marketers aren’t sticking to the agreed upon deadlines.

Once the MOPs team has defined the steps needed to complete each of the campaign types typically being built, the MOPs team can estimate how long each step will take to determine the total time frame per campaign. It helps to overestimate the time to complete each step, at least at first, because more than likely, extra time is needed as people are adjusting to the new processes and SLAs.

After the SLAs have been in place for a few months, the MOPs team can re-evaluate and adjust as needed.

Example SLA: One-Off Email Send

Here’s a simple example for establishing an SLA for a one-off email send, assuming the campaign requestor has provided a finalized and approved copy doc and all other relevant details (ie – From/Reply To info, Subject Line, Preheader, CTA URL’s and UTM’s, image files, target audience details, etc):

[MOPs] Marketo Email Send Program Creation/Setup – 30 minutes

  • Clone from Email Send program template
  • CRM sync (if applicable)
  • Program campaign review/setup
[MOPs] Build Email – 30 minutes

  • Add copy and format email
  • Add CTA’s
  • Add images (if applicable)
  • Review/format plain text version
  • If tokens are used, populate values and ensure all have been updated
  • Send sample email to stakeholder(s) for review
[Stakeholder] Email Review – 15 minutes

  • Stakeholder reviews to ensure all copy is correct, format is how they intended, CTA links and UTM’s are accurate
  • Provide edits to MOPs practitioner if needed
[MOPs] Build Target Audience – 15 minutes

  • Build Smart List ensuring all required filters are applied
  • Provide list criteria and list count to stakeholder for review
[Stakeholder] Target Audience Review – 15 minutes

  • Review list criteria and counts and provide edits to MOPs practitioner if needed
[MOPs] Apply Edits and Final Email Approval – 15 minutes

  • Apply edits as needed
  • Send email sample to stakeholder for final review and approval
[Stakeholder] Final Email Review – 5 minutes

  • Final review of email
[MOPs] QA & Schedule – 15 minutes

  • Review by MOPs team member other than the original campaign builder to ensure there are no errors
  • Schedule the email send

The total SLA time frame in this example is 2 hours and 20 minutes total from initial request to scheduling the send of actual production time. From here you factor in all of the non-production factors that typically come into play when working across teams:

  • Incomplete or delayed copy and other required information
  • Communication back and forth between stakeholder and the MOPs practitioner
  • Stakeholders in different time zones
  • Weekends and holidays
  • Last minute edit requests
  • Target audience changes
  • Stakeholders OOO

With each step of the process and all non-production factors taken into account, you might decide on a 3 day turnaround time for all email send program requests as a starting point. If, after a few months, your team finds that this is not nearly enough time or perhaps much more time than needed, you can adjust from there.


Everyone benefits when MOPs teams that take the time to collaborate with marketing stakeholders to define SLAs for each campaign type. Despite requiring longer lead times, having SLAs in place sets clear expectations for everyone involved in the campaign build process and the quality of campaigns and campaign ROI will be much better as a result.

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