What ‘agile’ really means for marketing

Ledger Bennett Insights, Marketing Strategy

An article in the Harvard Business Review poses some questions: What if a company could achieve positive returns with 50% more of its new-product introductions? What if marketing programs could generate 40% more customer inquiries? What if human resources could recruit 60% more of its highest-priority targets? What if twice as many workers were emotionally engaged in their jobs? An agile approach is how businesses might achieve these lofty goals, and the opportunity is substantial.

But, the article cites, a serious impediment exists. Leaders tend to think they’re agile, they may even say they’re agile whilst throwing around terms such as ‘sprints’ and ‘time boxes’. But the reality is most leaders don’t really understand the approach. So by consequence they continue to manage in a way that goes against agile principles and practices.

If the Coronavirus pandemic has taught businesses anything, it’s the need to operate in an agile fashion. This goes not just for businesses as a whole, but for departments specifically. So what does the term agility mean for marketing and how do you achieve it?

Agile Marketing

It is very easy to see that, unlike manufacturing, marketing has no tangible product as a result. Therefore, agile marketing cannot be defined as the speed in which you are executing the marketing solutions, but instead, a speed in which you can adjust the marketing mix in order to deliver greater customer value (Relevance.com 2016). It is the ability to quickly assess market trends and make rapid business decisions based on data and market knowledge. Gartner said “CMOs must build a diverse, adaptable range of team capabilities to keep their brands competitive.”

In a practical sense, there are a number of strategies marketing leaders can employ to develop an agile marketing team.

  • Be clear about your goals. In growth marketing circles this would be called your ‘north star’. This ensures that no matter what the activity or experiment being performed, its only prerequisite is that it aligns to the overarching goal in some way shape or form. This avoids wasted time and increases the changes of scaling ideas that work well.
  • Perform regular skills gap analysis exercises to ensure you’re getting the most out of your existing teams.
  • Build a diverse team with a broad range of skills that can be called upon at any moment according to the strategic direction.
  • Encourage continuous learning and development. Curious teams, supported by a wide range of L&D opportunities encourage creative thinking which is essential to be able to pivot your approach or develop new ideas.
  • Invest in data and highly skilled data analysts. Your ability to perform and make quality decisions is only as good as the data you have to work with. Getting this right is critical to quick decision making and agile growth.
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