In a world where people decide whether to abandon a web page after three seconds and Quicken Loans gives an answer to online mortgage applicants in less than ten minutes, eight weeks for an email test pushes a company to the boundaries of irrelevance. For many large incumbents, however, such a glacial pace is the norm.
We’ve all heard how digital technology allows marketers to engage in innovative new ways to meet customers’ needs far more effectively. But taking advantage of the new possibilities enabled by digital requires incumbents’ marketing organizations to become much nimbler and have a bias for action. In other words, they have to become agile.
Agile, in the marketing context, means using data and analytics to continuously source promising opportunities or solutions to problems in real time, deploying tests quickly, evaluating the results, and rapidly iterating. At scale, a high-functioning agile marketing organization can run hundreds of campaigns simultaneously and multiple new ideas every week. (For more on what agile is, see also “Want to become agile? Learn from your IT team.”)
The truth is, many marketing organizations think they’re working in an agile way because they’ve adopted some agility principles, such as test and learn or reliance on cross-functional teams. But when you look below the surface, you quickly find they’re only partly agile, and they therefore only reap partial benefits. For example, marketing often doesn’t have the support of the legal department, IT, or finance, so approvals, back-end dependencies, or spend allocations are slow. Or their agency and technology partners aren’t aligned on the need for speed and can’t move quickly enough. Simply put: if you’re not agile all the way, then you’re not agile.
For companies competing in this era of disruption, this is a problem. In many companies, revenues in the segment offerings and product lines that use agile techniques have grown by as much as a factor of four. And even the most digitally savvy marketing organizations, where one typically sees limited room for improvement, have experienced revenue uplift of 20 to 40 percent. Agile also increases speed: marketing organizations that formerly took multiple weeks or even months to get a good idea translated into an offer fielded to customers find that after they adopt agile marketing practices, they can do it in less than two weeks.
Making your marketing organization agile isn’t a simple matter, but we have found a practical and effective way to get there.
Putting the agile marketing team together
There are a number of prerequisites for agile marketing to work. A marketing organization must have a clear sense of what it wants to accomplish with its agile initiative (e.g., which customer segments it wants to acquire or which customer decision journeys it wants to improve) and have sufficient data, analytics, and the right kind of marketing-technology infrastructure in place. This technology component helps marketers capture, aggregate, and manage data from disparate systems; make decisions based on advanced propensity and next-best-action models; automate the delivery of campaigns and messages across channels; and feed customer tracking and message performance back into the system. (It should be noted that the tech tools don’t have to be perfect. In fact, it can be a trap to focus on them too much. Most companies actually have a surfeit of tools.)
Another crucial prerequisite is sponsorship and stewardship of the shift to agile by senior marketing leaders. They provide key resources and crucial support when the new ways of working encounter inevitable resistance.
While these elements are crucial for success, the most important item is the people—bringing together a small team of talented people who can work together at speed. They should possess skills across multiple functions (both internal and external), be released from their “BAU” (business as usual) day jobs to work together full time, and be colocated in a “war room” (exhibit). The mission of the war-room team, as these groups are sometimes called (though companies also refer to them by other names, such as “pod” or “tribe”) is to execute a series of quick-turnaround experiments designed to create real bottom-line impact.
The exact composition of the war-room team depends on what tasks it plans to undertake. Tests that involve a lot of complex personalization will need a team weighted more heavily toward analytics. By contrast, if the agile initiative expects to run large numbers of smaller conversion-rate optimization tests, it would make more sense to load up on user-experience designers and project-management talent.
Whatever the composition of the team, the war room needs to have clear lines of communication with other groups throughout the organization and speedy processes to access them. For example, buying marketing assets often requires procurement review and legal approval. So the war-room team must have access to key people in legal and procurement to negotiate any changes. At one bank trying to establish a war room, there was significant resistance to providing representatives from legal and the controller’s office because of competing priorities. But marketing leadership knew their agile approach wouldn’t work without them, so it pushed with all relevant leaders to make it happen. Those people need to be identified ahead of time, and “service-level agreements” put in place that outline how quickly they will respond. Similar models of interaction may be needed with IT, compliance/risk and finance groups.
The team itself needs to be small enough for everyone to remain clearly accountable to one another—8 to 12 is the maximum size. Jeff Bezos famously referred to “two-pizza teams,” i.e., teams no bigger than can be fed by two pizzas.
read more via McKinsey
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