How do you enable marketing agility in your organisation?
In this piece we dive into what makes up marketing agility and whilst it’s important to understand the key characteristics that make up marketing agility, making it happen in your organisation is a different matter.
Changing how your teams work is hard, and at times thankless. It’s no surprise that businesses often underestimate the amount of support and investment needed to drive change effectively. And if you’re nodding along to this then the following model may help you understand what you’re missing or need to focus more on to enable marketing agility to happen within your team or marketing organisation.
The framework for enabling marketing agility
The framework for enabling marketing agility has been created to help support marketing teams thrive and survive in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, and complex environment.
Shaped by classic models such as McKinsey 7s and modern marketing models by XYZ and our experiences enabling marketing agility with medium to large enterprise across tech, engineering, and professional services.
Shared vision & business goals
Organisational purpose is clear, compelling and guides decision making with the North Star embodied across the organisation and people sense and seize opportunities.
To put it simply, you need to make sure the shared vision is truly embedded, understood and lived across the organisation and that your vision guides all decision making.
Those means ensuring each business is clear on what these goals mean to them in their market, function or team and that performance management is aligned with these goals.
Agile leaders believe we all have the potential to deliver on a shared purpose. They develop individuals as leaders at all levels, showing direction and enabling action, acting in a selfless and supportive way to deliver against business objectives and customer and client satisfaction.
They advocate for being agile rather than just doing agile and do this by harnessing:
Learning and continuous improvement
Team engagement and accountability
Agile culture and growth mindset
Collaboration and empowerment
Culture and mindset
An agile culture provides an organisation with a set of core values, behaviours and practices that drives the businesses’ ability to succeed.
To truly drive an agile culture means promoting, encouraging, and rewarding the values, behaviours and practices that enable your teams to act with autonomy, apply a growth mindset and demonstrate a strong commitment to experimentation, learning, reflecting, and adapting.
Collaboration and empowerment
As leaders, you need to ensure that people have an appropriate level of autonomy to carry out their work, and that there are opportunities for teams to work together, collaborate, share learnings, and align themselves towards the common goal / strategic vision.
Continuous learning and improvement
Critical to marketing agility is that teams are constantly evolving and learning to deliver the best possible outcomes; through data driven build test learn loops to validate new ideas, optimise activity if appropriate or discontinue activities or initiatives if they are not aligned or helping the business reach its strategic goal.
Team engagement & accountability
Engagement and accountability are important. Your teams have to be bought into your vision if they are going to give you their best. Your employees need to have a deep sense of fulfilment, feel safe to push back and hold themselves and their colleagues accountable.
In addition, they need to be clear on their goals, with rewards aligned to this as well as clear lines of career development and progression to keep them engaged and retained.
Governance supports how businesses set and achieves its goals, how risk is managed and how it improves performance and is supported by structures and processes, skills and capability, tools, and data.
It can be defined as the structures and processes for decision-making and accountability.
Critical to agile governance is transparency of process and performance and doing so consistently across the marketing organisation. Supported by:
Structures and processes
Skills and capabilities
Tools and data
Skills and capabilities
Driving agility means ensuring your teams have the right skills and capabilities to utilise new ways of working, channels or disciplines. That means matching the needs of the market and making sure you’re making skills and resource available in the right place at the right level. Providing opportunities for your teams to upskill, test and experiment to understand what works well and what doesn’t for your market context.
… become a data-driven marketer?
Structures and processes
As highlighted in agile governance this is focused on the structures and process for decision making and clear accountability. In the context of agile marketing things to think about here are regular planning, reviews, and retrospectives, KPI tracking that is visible to all and clear repeatable processes within your teams, and across your teams (depending on the structure of your marketing organisation).
Tools and data
Last but not least, agility can’t happen without the right data to support data-driven decision making. Centralised dashboards and insight that supports deep understanding of customers and audiences in real time, enabling transparency in reporting and performance and quick changes and flexing of resources as appropriate to increase the effectiveness of activity. But we aren’t just talking about data on what you’re doing, but also how you’re doing it. Using tools which allow you to have ‘work in progress limits’ and prioritise work will lead more things getting across the line – focus on the things which are delivering business results.
How agile is your marketing team?
Discover how agile your marketing organisation is with our agility calculator tool and determine whether you are surviving or thriving.
The pace of marketing can be relentless. Jumping from one project to another can be challenging, with little time to look up and around at how the industry is evolving. The risk is you miss an opportunity to get ahead of the competition or jump on a new piece of tech without understanding the how or why.
It’s easy to stick to what you know, and it’s no doubt the fundamentals of marketing don’t change – create value for your customer and drive business growth. But as we enter another period of economic difficulty, in a rapidly changing business, it’s arguably more important than ever to look to new and emerging ways of working, technologies and practices.
The market has changed
You’ve likely heard the names. The recent influx of AI developments has impacted so many facets of marketing – for copywriting like ChatGPT; creative designers have DALL-E; audience targeting with AdRoll… there’s a lot to take in.
And that’s just AI. What about newer social platforms like TikTok and Mastodon – how could they help you reach your audience? And these are just some currently in-vogue; precedent suggests there will be newer, trendier channels just around the corner. And then there is the challenge of gathering the right data to inform your marketing with cookieless tracking and Google’s next-gen analytics with GA4 (more on this soon!).
Marketers don’t need to go all-in on everything new, but they do need to be aware of how these tools could be game-changers for their customer target audience.
Shift your team focus, things you can do today
Here’s a few things you can do today that can help shift you towards where you want to be:
Retrospectives: The start of the year is a great time to look back, but it’s something you and your team should be doing consistently. Schedule a retro with your marketing teams to look at what worked, what didn’t, and what the learnings are. Retros are judgment-free opportunities to help improve for the next iteration. We love the Sailboat retro for Marketing teams, Mural has a great example to get you going. I ran a session with our client TECHNIA at the end of last year, and the positive feedback from the team was brilliant – as were the new ideas for 2023 marketing.
Host lunch & learn sessions: Taking time to learn from others knowledge sharing can be quick and fun. It can also serve as an opportunity to connect as a team beyond your project work – there’s a lot of positives. Find a subject you’re interested in – or haven’t ever heard of – and book it into your diaries. This could simply be playing a YouTube how to video, asking a team member to share their knowledge or bring in an outsider to share… show the team you’re invested in their development and generate new ideas for your marketing challenges – win-win!
External POV: Sometimes, all you need is an outside perspective. Bring in someone from outside your project – from an external organisation, or even a team member working on a different project – to facilitate a brainstorm or retro. When you have your head down, getting work done, sometimes you need to shut the laptop (metaphorically if you’re remote!) – to introduce a new point of view. There are huge benefits to bringing in an external view to facilitate and challenge the thinking of your team – set out a problem statement and start creating solutions.
So how do you create an environment that allows your team to stay up to date and also test the new and innovative approaches to marketing?
Increasing your awareness of the wider marketing world doesn’t need to be a big lift. Here are some actions that, over time, will help increase your awareness of developing marketing trends:
Sign-up to email marketing newsletters – it may sound obvious but signing up for marketing agency and industry newsletters can be a great way to stay in the know about new marketing techniques. They’re generally free, and you don’t have to interact if you don’t want to. Create a ‘must read’ list of your team
Follow marketing influencers on social media channels – by adding some additional industry figures to your social channels, you’ll be able to keep abreast of what those in the public eye are endorsing, and whether it is a good fit for your marketing.
Set alerts – using a tool like Google Alerts, set updates for broad terms like “digital marketing” or be more specific and search for something like “copywriting AI tools”. You don’t have to check your alerts every day but setting aside time to review any news is a handy way to ensure you don’t miss out on anything.
Look at your competition – what channels are your direct competitors using? Are there learnings or changes you can make from this? Perhaps they are seeing good engagement in an area you haven’t even considered – could be worth some experimentation.
Attend industry events – whether in-person or online, it’s good to occasionally attend marketing events; they’re a great way to see other organisation’s marketing tools and strategies, and you could also happen upon something invaluable that you didn’t even realise you were looking for.
As an agile marketing consultancy, we are well placed to offer impartial advice on your current ways of working and marketing agility and implement plans to give your marketing team a structure that allows you to take advantage of new marketing techniques and tools.
Over the course of countless blogs, we’ve talked about agile marketing, why it’s important and how its helping teams improve engagement, marketing performance and driving efficiencies in their ways of working.
As we head into 2023 marketing agility and agile marketing are again key trends and capabilities needed in your marketing to respond to internal and external pressures.
When I talk to marketers about agility, I typically get the response ‘our teams are constantly adapting to market forces’ and that is certainly an element of marketing agility. But I would argue that it is so much more than that. So, in this blog post we’re going to go back to basics and discuss what we mean by marketing agility.
Defining marketing agility
When googling marketing agility, a few definitions appear. The one I like is from the American Marketing Association:
the extent to which an entity rapidly iterates between making sense of the market and executing marketing decisions to adapt to the market.
A couple of reasons why I like this definition:
It incorporates the internal and external – something that marketers are constantly balancing
It uses the term iterate – which is key, because marketing agility is a continual process, something we must look at again and again
Some of you are probably thinking that definition also lines up nicely with the typical response I get from marketers, and it does, to a certain extent. The final reason I like this definition is It includes making sense of the market and executing decisions – two very simple phrases that mask what can be very complex processes. Processes that make or break a team’s ability to be agile.
So, let’s drill down into the key elements of marketing agility.
What is marketing agility made up of?
There are 5 key things to think about when looking at marketing agility as outlined in the diagram.
The top half is what we describe when running our training courses as doing agile, and the bottom half is focused more on being agile.
You can’t have agility without elements of all 5 – but some are more important than others.
This is the remit of tools, processes, and practices. The martech, data analytics and project management tools you use to capture, analyse, manage, and execute marketing activity with as well as your ways of working.
With the technology landscape growing and only increasing in its complexity (Scott Brinker’s martech map puts it at 9,932 solutions) tools deserves its own post and we’ll write one soon.
Processes and practices are interesting because you will see benefits from doing agile in terms of efficiencies and ability to respond more effectively to internal and external forces. Whether adopting pure Kanban, Scrum, SAFE or a combination of methodologies based on your business context there are key elements of the processes and practices that support marketing agility:
Allow teams to tackle smaller amounts of work within a specific timeframe and deliver activity iteratively and adjust plans accordingly based on performance and customer feedback.
Ensure teams are aligned on what trying to achieve and what the team need to do to deliver these outcomes.
A chance to reflect on successes, learnings and how they need to inform activity moving forward.
Workflows (e.g., Kanban boards)
Giving teams visibility on all activity and help leads reprioritise and manage tasks accordingly.
However, the real value of marketing agility is in the ‘what’ and being agile.
Being agile is about the principles, values, and mindsets your team embody to respond to changing customer preferences and market conditions.
To understand more about the principles and values of agile I recommend reading the agile marketing manifesto. These form the foundation of marketing agility and the standards to work by.
The ones that stand out when thinking about marketing agility are:
Focus on customer value and outcomes rather than outputs
In short – the most effective way to inject agility is to focus on what your customers need, and experiment with propositions, messaging, channels etc to understand how prospects and customer engage, using this data to optimise on-going activity.
Incorporating these elements into your marketing can help you stay ahead of the game and ensure your efforts are always relevant, effective, and on target. With a bit of effort, you’ll be able to capitalize on emerging trends, create compelling campaigns and respond quickly to customer feedback – all key components of marketing agility.
The importance of testing and experimentation in improving your marketing performance
Your marketing campaign isn’t producing the results that you may have hoped for, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change. With too many variables, how can your team identify what’s working and what isn’t? Experiment – to find out what the customer really reacts to.
One element sets agile marketing apart from traditional marketing – the emphasis on deliberate experimentation. Marketers have a lot to gain from testing their assumptions through experimentation before going all-in on any given idea, and the agile marketing process gives them the freedom to do so.
Experimentation allows marketing teams to make incremental changes, to work out what works best for their customer. And even if the experiment doesn’t produce the desired results, it won’t have taken up too much budget or resources, and you’ll have gained more knowledge about exactly what your customer wants.
Experimentation is an important tool that can lead you to improved marketing success, but that doesn’t mean you should just test anything – making educated guesses based on observations and feasibility can see strong results.
How to identify opportunities for experimentation
When it comes to experimentation, the first step is finding opportunities for testing. Consider areas where there is room for improvement or potential for growth. Is a new product being launched? What campaigns aren’t driving the desired results? Encourage your team to develop solutions and possible tests they would like to run. They may have suggestions for how something could be improved or different approaches that could make a positive impact.
It’s also important to analyse data and track metrics consistently to identify potential areas of experimentation. By continuously seeking out opportunities and gathering information, we can increase our chances of finding experiments with the potential for successful outcomes.
Implementing an experimentation culture within your team
Encourage everyone to brainstorm potential solutions and approach problems from unique perspectives. Give them the freedom to test out their ideas, even if they seem a little out there at first (understand why in our blog on the Power of Curiosity). And be sure to debrief after each experiment – what went well, what could have been improved upon, and how can those learnings be applied going forward? By embracing experimentation, you might uncover the next big breakthrough for your team, in how they work and where they focus their efforts. The worst case scenario is that things don’t work out. Failure is the perfect opportunity to learn, drive your team to continually improve and achieve business outcomes. Be open to the growth mindset, always asking “what did we learn?”
The importance of data-driven decision making in marketing
In today’s highly competitive business environment, relying on gut instinct alone isn’t enough to remain successful. That’s where data-driven decision making comes in. By gathering and analysing relevant data and insights, marketers are able to make informed decisions about their strategies and tactics. This not only increases the effectiveness of campaigns, but it also helps companies save time and resources by eliminating any guessing or trial-and-error approaches. Additionally, data-driven decision making boosts efficiency by identifying key performance metrics and areas for improvement. It’s clear that those who incorporate data into their marketing efforts will see a significant advantage over their competitors. For modern marketers, embracing a data-driven approach is no longer an option – it’s a necessity.
Measuring the success of your marketing experiments
Gone are the days of lengthy and rigid marketing campaigns – enter agile marketing. Agile marketing allows for a more fluid approach, allowing for experimentation and quick pivots in response to results. As already mentioned, measuring success is key. Set clear goals and metrics from the beginning, such as conversion rates. If you’re going big with your experiment, you might want to consider gathering feedback from customers through surveys or focus groups, asking them about their experiences with your brand. Keeping a close eye on data and listening to customer responses can help you determine whether a particular experiment was successful and guide your decision-making moving forward. By embracing an agile mindset and constantly assessing the effectiveness of your experiments, you can ensure that each decision made leads to maximum success for your marketing strategies.
By experimenting, you can increase your chances of success while also learning what works and what doesn’t. Not all experiments will be successful, but that’s okay! The important thing is to learn from each one and apply those learnings to future campaigns. Ready to get started? Download our quick guide to experimentation, plus a framework to start designing your experiments. And remember to measure what you test, so you can take the learnings forward.
“I am neither clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious”
I love this quote, because whilst there are a lot of smart people in the world, the greatest innovations in history all started with curiosity, and probably one of the following questions: ”why, what if, and how could we…”
As children, we are innately curious, but the older we get, the less our curiosity is nurtured, particularly in the workplace. A survey in 2018 by the Harvard Business School showed that only about 24% reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis, and about 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.
Since then, more research has been released demonstrating the power of curiosity for business, but speaking with fellow marketers, bringing curiosity into their jobs remains challenging.
So why is curiosity so powerful and what can we do to bring it back?
The power of curiosity
“You must ask why? Why? Because if you know why you are carrying out your mission, when things **** up…you will know how to achieve what you set out to achieve in a different way”.
Spoken by Jack O’Connell in BBC’s new drama SAS Rogue Heroes and it gets to the crux of why being curious can be so powerful. For businesses defining a shared vision/purpose, business outcome or goal, ensuring a common understanding can be difficult and only gets harder as the size and complexity of a business increases. Understanding the why can be a powerful way to achieve that common understanding, strategic alignment, and buy-in and give your teams the empowerment to deliver it.
Increases innovation and creativity – curiosity removes confirmation bias and the trap many businesses can make by making decisions in a vacuum. Challenging assumptions, not settling for the first solution can result in great and better alternatives to meet market challenges or opportunities head on
Improves team performance – curiosity helps us better understand our colleagues and our customers, increases empathy so teams can collaborate and work together with less conflict and better serve their audiences
Increase adaptability and resilience – studies have shown that curiosity helps us view and better respond to tough situations
Why do teams find it difficult to be more curious?
As alluded to above, there’s a cultural component at play and the same research from Harvard Business School showed that despite the perceived benefits of curiosity, the associated risks and costs outweigh these.
For many marketers, making time to be curious is challenging, as teams do more with less and balance competing priorities across the business, curiosity drops. Even with time, the next challenge is knowing where to start, what data to collect, assess and analyse to generate meaningful insights that informs activity.
So, what can we do to bring curiosity back?
There are several ways businesses can encourage curiosity but the one thing that will have the most profound effect and can be the most challenging to implement is creating a culture of curiosity.
What does that mean in practice?
For business leaders it means thinking about how you can:
Ensure psychological safety – there are more qualified experts to share insights on this (shameless plug coming) like our client LIW but giving people the autonomy to try and potentially fail is critical. Leaders need to empower their teams to push the boundaries, learn from them and keep trying.
Encourage teams to challenge and probe – leaders must be open and welcome individuals to question and challenge current norms and conventions. Leading with a growth mindset that focuses on continual improvement is important and something we look at in our agile marketing leadership training.
Model curiosity – ask questions, actively listen. Acknowledge that regardless of experience and expertise there is always more that we can learn and when the answer isn’t clear accept it and work with the right individuals to fill that gap.
For marketers and their teams you need to think about:
How you can ask more why. Why did our activity work well, didn’t work well, or perhaps more importantly what didn’t work as we expected and why?
Incorporate experimentation into your activity – this is quite common across digital channels with A/B testing etc but how could you expand this? How can you incorporate experimentation at a strategic as well as tactical level? Targeting, channel activation, products and propositions provide great opportunities to experiment, innovate and fail forward faster.
Make time for you and your team to be more curious. This could be in the form of curiosity sessions, brainstorms and even in your planning or wrap-up activity. In agile marketing, sprint planning sessions and reviews and retrospectives provide great opportunities to ideate and evaluate how your activity is performing and how you’re working together as a team and what you can be doing differently to achieve business outcomes
Wherever you start, the key is to get going. Whilst you shouldn’t underestimate the level of change or support your team or organisation will need, it’s very easy to overthink the process. Identify a pilot, find your team, work together to establish your rules of engagement together and with the wider business and use the learnings from this pilot to refine and build. Think about the skills you need to develop (particularly around data analysis) and start small. Momentum here is more important than speed and the benefits are potentially endless.
Get in touch if you want to find out more about how you can nurture curiosity in your teams for better marketing performance.