Is “Agile Marketing” another bright, shiny object? Or is it the future of marketing operations?
Studies conducted by MIT suggest that agile firms grow revenue 37 percent faster and generate 30 percent higher profits than non-agile organizations.
The shift towards a more agile approach has emerged from the rapidly changing technology landscape. Thanks to the new channels, new technologies and the increasing overload of information, customers have come to expect more customized and personalized brand experiences. These new client expectations have forced traditional marketing departments to adopt a nimbler and more iterative approach to their marketing operations in order to deliver continuous, customized, insight-driven interactions with customers on an individual level.
The reality is that nearly 70 percent of CMOs adopting an agile methodology confirmed that it increases profits and revenues and Korn Ferry, a leadership and talent consulting firm, reported that companies with highly agile executives have 25% higher profit margins compared with their peer companies.
“An agile approach enables you to become more effective without working more. You may get more done – or you may not. The point is that you’re more likely to get the right things done.”
— Andrea Fryrear from Agile Marketers Work Smarter
So, whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established industry leader, bringing an agile discipline to your marketing strategies may be the key to transformation. Outdated approaches will only hold you back from achieving your goals and driving business results.
But what exactly does “agile” mean when applied to marketing? How does it help your company grow and increase productivity? Agile marketing involves team collaboration and data-driven decision-making that is proven to be effective in accomplishing complex, multi-faceted projects.
With that in mind, what are the elements of successful agile marketing? How will you adopt those practices in your marketing operations? Here are the key ingredients:
The first step in digging into agile marketing is forming an agile team. Appoint leaders that’ll set the tone of an empowered culture that promotes action, innovation, and accountability. Establishing an agile culture creates behavior standards that strengthen qualities like collaboration and experimentation and reward smart risk-taking.
In terms of output, agile teams focus on tracking, reviewing, and operationalizing data obtained from customers and channel partners. From there, they create marketing initiatives that turn customer insight into profitable and productive customer experiences. To enable this process, IT services like Cloudsecuretech can help you optimize your company’s marketing technology infrastructure, network, and systems. In short, agile marketing reinforces data-based vs. gut-based decision making.
In traditional marketing planning processes, rigid and long-term plans are perfected in order to minimize or mitigate risks. In fact, according to the same Korn Ferry study, 43% of marketers state that they are not encouraged to experiment and are generally risk-averse. And even when they have the opportunity to experiment with new ideas, multiple layers of governance and onerous approval processes often stand in the way of testing their ideas with customers in the marketplace.
By contrast, iteration and experimentation are expected in an agile company. Making small bets across multiple experiments with customers is the norm. This approach has been proven to stimulate innovation thanks to a rapid “learn-act-learn” process. Marketing’s focus is not solely on failure or success, because every experiment can yield value in the form of data and insights that can be rapidly applied to the next test. Agile marketing teams focus on making small bets, “failing fast”, learning quick and adapting to the market.
Teamwork and collaboration are markers of an effective agile marketing team. People in leadership roles are focused on helping the team succeed, not hitting quotas or managing budget variances. Decision-making hierarchies are flattened which in turn decreased conflicts among the team members and positions marketing leadership even closer to the customer. By taking an agile approach, high impact marketing activities and tactics are executed as a team rather than relying on a few individuals to step up as “heroes”. Teams are also more fluid as they constantly evaluate and revise their own performance and the quality and quantity of their work.
A company-centric mindset is limited to the knowledge and experiences of the marketers themselves. While institutional knowledge is still helpful in making marketing decisions a brand, it is insufficient if you want to keep up with the volatility of a dynamic competitive environment when the customer is truly the king. The advent of the Internet and the broad adoption of social media, has shifted the power to the customer and brands must take their cues from customers and look outward for inspiration and innovation.
Embracing agile principles requires a customer-centric strategy that is informed by market insights, customer unmet needs and wants. Agile marketing demands that you recalibrate your perspective to focus on understanding customer preferences, observing their behaviors and revealing what triggers and motivates changes in those behaviors. Here are a few tips from the agile playbook that will help you become more customer-centric in your marketing efforts:
- Website Usability – It might seem painfully obvious, but the most efficient way to bridge the gap between customers and your products or services is with a compelling online user experience (UX). Make sure that your website is easy to use, relevant and responsive.
- Content Marketing – Another way to give your customers a reason to care and listen to you is through compelling content marketing. According to a report from HubSpot, almost 80% of the respondents observed that content marketing, when executing properly, gives customers a reason to engage and increases the number of qualified leads by about 65%.
- Customer Experience – Unfortunately, cost savings initiatives often focus first on reducing headcount in an effort to reduce the cost-to-serve customers. In the process, customer service and support are weakened and customer experience suffers. By taking an agile approach, new low-cost technologies can help close gaps and augment the service experience using artificial intelligence, chatbots, automated emails, and social media channels.
Catchy jingles, big dollar sponsorships, and primetime media buys no longer guarantee market share gains, authentic customer engagement, or revenue growth. The power of marketers is now in the hands of customers. Customer interest can no longer be purchased; it must be created and delivered to the right person, in the right channel, at the right time and make a lasting impression. Because of this, marketing departments must function and operate in a very different way. To succeed, they must operate with processes more like lean startups and less like functional silos. Taking an agile approach to marketing requires leaders, processes, and communications to be transparent, interactive, iterative, responsive, real-time.
If you’d like to learn how to increase your agility and transform marketing to deepen customer relationships, follow me @TopRightPartner on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn, subscribe to the TopRight blog, and buy copies of my latest books, Strategic Analytics and Marketing, Interrupted.