Marketing Agility: making the buzzword a reality

Marketing agility has become a buzzword in the industry; the ability to adapt quickly in response to customer behaviour, market conditions or a change of business direction.

Achieving this requires organisations to fundamentally change the way that they work, challenging traditional campaign cycles and processes that felt comfortable and adopting new ones that, quite frankly, will, at first, feel wrong.

Experience is now the product

The evolution is being driven by competition – no sector is free from disruption – but also by the customer, in what has become the experience age. Consumers no longer want products; they want to buy into brands that have purpose and to feel some kind of affinity with this purpose.

They also want to be able to engage with the brand, not just before they buy, but throughout the entire lifecycle as users and owners. This engagement is driven by them, at times that suit them and via their channel of choice, and they expect a seamless and personal experience.

Servicing this expectation requires a fundamental shift where organisations genuinely put the customer experience at the top of the agenda. The implementation of a customer experience platform is a step in the right direction but you can’t give someone a car without teaching them how to drive it.

Getting real value from that platform for the customer and the business will require change across the board, in thinking, ways of working and culture.

A fundamental and cultural shift

Digital projects tend to focus on a technology change, such as platform migration, or a finished deliverable; a new website, for instance. Very rarely are businesses free enough from the constraints of time and budget to be able to prioritise the adoption of new ways of working over ‘finishing’.

And this, in itself, perpetuates old ways of working; spending all the budget up front on the big launch and leaving little or no resource for creating the tools and techniques to support rapid future change.

It’s useful to draw some parallels between the evolution of software development and the current agile trend in marketing. Big waterfall projects are similar to the big campaigns that marketing teams often still rely on. Plan and design everything, get it right on paper, then commit to a big spend to build it and launch it with a bang.

Nobody wants to do that in software anymore, as they realise that no amount of cleverness at the design stage will be worth anything if you’re not creating what your customers need. And nothing is more real than the purchasing behaviour of actual customers to determine that. So launch something small, quickly and then iterate.

Once you are able to change and adapt rapidly, then you can start to understand the data and analytics to optimise your experiences going forwards and respond to outside influences.

Data and Insight

To be truly agile, marketing teams need to embrace data to ensure that behavioural insight captured on a customer experience platform is turned into actionable insight and business results. Capturing the data is where technology comes into its own; helping to collate information across touch points and identify what is and isn’t working well.

Turning data into insight itself can bring with it a whole new set of challenges. Who owns the data? Is it the right data? Is it going to answer the questions that need answering? Data that lives in a silo doesn’t help when it comes to looking holistically at the customer journey.  So organisations may find that they have to refocus and restructure to really make sense of the data and use it to drive agile practices.

A new way of working requires new roles

While putting customer experience on the C-suite agenda will help drive organisations towards a new agile way of working, change must be driven throughout the organisation. There’s so much talk of ‘breaking down silos’ but this is easier said than done.

The introduction of new roles can however catalyse necessary change and help to embed customer experience into the DNA of a business.

We are already seeing the emergence of Journey Managers, Experience Managers and Chief Customer Officers – roles which simply didn’t exist a few years ago. These arterial roles are agile by design; you can’t silo them because they span the whole business and customer journey.

Great customer experience comes down to the ability to sustain relevant conversations, at the right time on the right device. And that means having the right people on board and the right processes in place.

Technology Adoption

Change is hard and it is often easier to stick to old, familiar ways of working than to embrace new ones. Investing in and building new technology solutions is hard enough. But getting a large organisation to successfully leverage and use new technology is even more critical.

An organisation can spend what they like on technology, but without investing in adoption, they simply cannot expect to change working practices and become more agile overnight.

Adoption is about people, not technology. Put yourself in their shoes, understand their mind-set and don’t expect them to feel as positive about the new technology as you do. Not only is change hard, it is not always desired.

Training should be bespoke to different teams and relevant to their specific needs and concerns. Organisations with a truly customer-centric view should realise that their employees are internal customers and personalise their journey to agile in a way that is appropriate to them.

Turning this new marketing buzzword into reality is not an overnight process. It changes projects from outsource-able, ‘do it for us’ activities into business transformation or change programmes. The latter are significantly more challenging to get right, particularly in big companies, requiring technology investment, organisational and culture change and plenty of training.

However, in the experience age there isn’t a sector that is free from disruption and therefore, there isn’t an organisation that can afford to stand still.

An agile organisation will be better equipped to respond quickly and efficiently to change, to engage with their customers with relevant content on their terms and to deliver value back to the business and the customer from significant investment in technology. And let’s face it, delivering that value is all that really matters in the end.

– by Miro Walker

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