Holidays are a great time to reflect on what we’ve learned from the year just gone and re-evaluate our plans for the year ahead.
First we had to get “Loose” and free of the old-school mindset
A couple of festive seasons ago I was gleefully gifting copies of the book “Loose: The Future of Business is Letting Go” by Martin Thomas (2011), which so cleverly expressed how the internet and social media had shattered the status quo. Businesses had to wake up to new ways of doing things or get left behind. The old rules didn’t apply. Brand strategy? Google changed its logo daily. Media strategy? Obama posted directly on YouTube and the Pope soon followed. Against this background, the ol’ Strategic Business Plan couldn’t allow for opportunities not even imagined, threats not even on the horizon, change coming downstream so fast that six months started to look like a long time in forward planning. Clearly, something had to change, and it couldn’t be the momentous circumstances. To survive, we needed to let go of the old ways of ‘doing the knitting’. The way forward was not so much finding a new way of doing, but a new way of being.
We can chuckle about it now, but back then I was still hearing some business owners and company directors saying things like: “I see your point, but we don’t see the internet as part of our marketing strategy,” or: “People aren’t looking for what we offer on the internet. They already know who we are because we’ve been in the business so many years.” A fellow business consultant (after reading the copy of “Loose” I’d given them for Christmas) told me: “I can imagine why you’d be attracted to this kind of unstructured philosophy, Mel, but what your marketing-types don’t understand is that a company must make a strategic plan and stick to it. Rigidly. Everything else going on in the world is distraction,” viz: it’s true – rust never sleeps!
Becoming “Agile” in the planning and implementation of marketing
Just as business narratives such as “Loose” helped break the hard crust of old-school thinking, the “Agile” approach to software development was applied to project teams in general, then marketing strategy and implementation in particular.
Although the traditional principles of marketing strategy still apply, the fast-paced world of development and immediacy of ‘deep-dish’ behavioural data analysis demands a more fluid, flexible, rapid-response style of adaptive implementation.
Here are four key characteristics and benefits of agile marketing:
1. SPEED – it’s a fast-paced world with everyone trying to get out in front of it, so everything needs to be done yesterday
2. PRIORITY – doing the most important thing that there is to do at any moment, and doing more of it with less (LEAN)
3. ENGAGEMENT – internal engagement with teams and stakeholders, external engagement with customers and markets
4. RELEVANCY – shifting and modifying to remain up-to-the-minute, responding immediately, marketing in real-time
Four big questions to ask yourself about your company’s marketing agility as we prepare for 2014:
Are we fast enough?
Is your business quick to respond to changing user needs and sentiments? Shipping early and often? Bringing new products and services to the market without delay? Testing big ideas with small bets across a wide field? Adopting fresh attitudes and new processes to streamline development and delivery? Attentive to customers in presales and aftersales?
Do we have our priorities in order?
Are we continually adjusting our priorities to changing conditions? Or running on juice that’s past its use-by date, aiming for goalposts that have already shifted? Are we scanning for fresh changes and impacts that need to be taken into account with re-ordering our priorities? Are we too attached to what was important yesterday, at cost of grander strategic objectives?
Are we sufficiently engaged, and engaging?
The ol’ top-down management model does not apply, nor does dictating to customers what they should need or want. Internal teams are company advocates with investment in their own brand through their role with your firm. Customers look for what they need, and want relationships when they find it. Are we fully present, listening, responding, interacting? Transparency is another aspect of the agile approach. Now everyone likes to see the cooks making croque-en-bouche in the kitchen. No worries. Showing them how it’s really done probably makes it less likely they’d risk trying it at home.
Are we maintaining our relevancy?
Have we embraced the latest changes and developments, adapting strategies and approaches accordingly? Are we missing any new opportunities? Are we preparing to deal with new threats? Have we updated our differentiation from competitor offerings? Are we feeling the market’s pulse-rate? Are we doing our marketing and evaluating