marketing agilityAgile Marketing is all the rage today. For marketing activities that are project-oriented and programmatic in nature (i.e., demand generation, events, product launches), Agile Marketing is indeed making a difference. Still, it’s important to remember that Agile Marketing is not the same as Marketing Agility.

Agile Marketing is a methodology; Marketing Agility is a pervasive attribute. Marketing Agility is a way to mobilize the enterprise. It allows everyone to rapidly adapt to emerging market opportunities. It drives strategic value for your customers and the company. A big-brand CMO I know puts it best:

Marketing Agility allows us to quickly evaluate and adapt and then respond to opportunity. Part of that is a cultural dynamic of how you begin to work with one another, how you come together to collaborate, the nature of that collaboration.

Agile Marketing gets you part of the way there. It’s a great methodology as one of many tools needed to improve marketing organizational agility:

  • Quickly evaluating strategic opportunities
  • Adapting to dynamic changes in the market and ecosystem
  • Responding to the most appropriate opportunities on a dime with clarity, focus, commitment and mobilized passion

Marketing Agility Indicators
If Marketing Agility is working in your company, you are truly customer centric. Your business intelligence is widely-accessible and actionable. Your decision-making process is transparent. Those companies that are the best models of Marketing Agility leverage systems thinking and see themselves as learning organizations.

Agility-minded companies consistently start with a solid marketing strategy (or as Stephen Covey puts it, “begin with the end in mind”) that has buy-in from everyone who plays a part in achieving specific marketing initiatives (from the most senior executive to the marketing specialist).

Just as important, they invest in insight by gathering data from across the whole enterprise. This helps them reinforce the strategic decisions they’ve agreed on, or make a crucial change that can mean the difference between a sub-par marketing initiative and a game-changing one.

The Learning Organization is Back
As the big-brand CMO articulated previously, Marketing Agility (and Agile Marketing) rely on a mindset and practice of collaboration that is woven into the fabric of the organizational culture. That’s why concepts such as the learning organization, first made popular by Peter Senge in 1990 with his groundbreaking book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization are becoming so compelling more than a quarter of a century later.

“I think a notion of a learning organization is more important today than ever before,” says Matt Preschern, Chief Marketing Officer of HCL Technologies. “And within that vision, this requirement of being able to collaborate is a ‘soft skill’ that is actually not taught enough in either our education systems where everything is based on functional expertise, or it’s typically not rewarded within a corporate environment.”

Preschern’s observations hit on some important factors that are essential to sustained Marketing Agility and effectiveness of an Agile Marketing team:

  • So-called “soft skills” such as collaboration, are actually the glue that binds the specialist capabilities together; to be optimally successful, Agile Marketing team members need to evolve from subject matter experts to co-creators
  • CMOs and their peers need to recognize and reward both “hard” functional contributions (what Senge calls personal mastery) and “soft” integrative contributions (e.g., learning organization leadership and change disciplines such as systems thinking, shared vision, team learning and mental models)

Experimentation and Testing
Since we live in a dynamic world, it’s important to test the best ways to implement a strategic decision. This is where the rapid experimentation values of Agile Marketing can be very effectively applied. Preschern offers this sage advice: “I know there are pressures, but pick a pilot or two. Pick your best people, two or three, and test and find out what works and what doesn’t. And then build from there.”

Center on the Customer
Once the necessary learning organization mindset is in place, complemented by a modus operandi of rapid experimentation and adjustment, the ultimate key for enterprises to optimize their Marketing Agility is to focus on the customer. The tonic to get past opinions, agendas and politics, is to shine the light on real customer needs. Make it easy for customers to do business with your company. Remove the hassles. Help your customers achieve their desired outcomes and your company will share in their success.

Yes, customer centricity is the most surefire way to increase enterprise-wide Marketing Agility. Master the art and science of capturing customer insight and make it accessible quickly and consistently to marketers and marketing stakeholders throughout your company. When you do this, this voice-of-the-customer creates a “single source of truth” that speeds decision making, mobilizes action and produces incredibly powerful institutional memory so marketers (of all skill levels) instinctively know how to approach, support and empower your customers.

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