5 steps to make your marketing team more agile

‘Agile’ looms large among the buzzwords of the moment and with (mostly) good reason. How can you make your marketing team more agile?
10 September 2019
backbend agile
Elaine Frankland

Partner, Consulting Division, UK

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A recent study carried out by Kantar revealed that only 27% of marketers feel they have the right operating model to deliver. It is entirely understandable at a time when they face the challenge of doing more, with less, even faster.

How can they hope to meet this remit without a seismic shift, a total revolution in the way they work?

Everyone may be talking about agility but if you’re feeling left behind, you’re not the only one. The reality is that not many companies are consistently and at scale running an agile model in marketing. For CPG businesses, implementing scrums and sprints and delivering an MVP (minimal viable product) in to key account customers still seems quite a stretch.

While it may leave you wanting to hide under your (hot) desk and hope it all goes away, if you step back from the jargon and remember speed and agility as the aim, there are a few shifts to prioritise to have a big impact on marketing’s pace and effectiveness.

1. Do blue-sky differently

Blue sky innovation really does require a start-up mentality. Category or business model transformation will always struggle if it is approached as a side line.

It takes focussed resource (both people and investment) and a mindset of experimentation and iterative development. It also has the best chance of real world testing of an MVP through new routes to market or a specific customer partnership.

2. Deliver in micro battles

Break up your strategy into a series of micro battles that can be owned and delivered by smaller teams. Frame them not as business objectives but as consumer problems to solve.

So instead of an over-arching endpoint which will have multiple activities beneath, eg ‘grow market share in out-of-home consumption by 3%’ break it down into the small consumer challenges such as ‘help people stick to their healthy eating goals on the go’.

3. Frame different decision types

Stay out of the detailed decision making as much as possible. Equip the team with the skills and resource to solve the challenge, empower them to decide and resist the urge to check in too often.

There are two types of decision doors, according to Amazon – one-way doors that are hard to close and should be opened carefully, and two-way doors that can easily be closed, in other words things that can be trialled and reversed if they don’t work.

Two-way doors work should be opened by the team working on them. Only then can things move at pace.

4. Encourage risk

There is a lot of talk about test and learn but it remains an incredibly difficult mindset to embrace. Especially in big companies that are struggling for growth, it can often feel as though everything has to succeed.

Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix, memorably said “Our hit rate is way too high.” Every show worked, every debut series got a second season and he wasn’t happy. Why? Because he identified the underlying mindset that drove it – a lack of risk taking.

Without more experimentation content inevitably becomes stale, leading to long-term failure.

5. Plan more often

Upping the tempo of your planning will speed up decision making, meaning experiments can fail quickly and be promptly put to one side, and successes scaled fast.

So look at monthly reviews and course correction and take a much more fluid approach to resource allocation.

The A-word, then – agility – is much discussed but not always embraced, and the scale of the challenges faced by the industry can sometimes send us in the opposite direction, relying on techniques that are tried and tested, not innovative and new.

It’s getting ever harder to find growth and the winners will be companies who anticipate what consumers need and deliver it at speed. For most companies that will mean bringing agility – or at least, the spirit of it – into how you work. The quicker, the better.

This article was published on Marketingweek.com and in the September print edition.

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