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Insight/ Strategic Planning

Is 'Agile' Your Missing Link?

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by Barre Hardy
Senior Director & CMO’s Agenda Research Lead
CMG Partners

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Article Highlights:

  • Agility is the new frontier for modern marketers.
  • CMOs focus on collaboration, allowing data-empowered cross-functional teams to make quick choices that increase speed to market.
  • With agile, marketing teams choose activities with the highest potential impact for their sprints.

Have you ever observed a marketing organization and realized it had something special? These are the brands flooding the market with timely innovations and adapting to change with speed and influence, their campaigns feel flawlessly authentic, and the list goes on. You might be thinking Oreo at the Super Bowl, among others.

That special something is likely “agile”—perhaps the best-kept secret among today’s lead marketers.

Agile was created out of necessity by software industry professionals for the same reason top CMOs are embracing its straightforward principles—to get more done, in less time, with better results. At CMG Partners, we believe agile is the new frontier for modern marketers. As part of our CMO’s Agenda research, we spoke to several agile-marketing experts and leading CMOs about the importance of agile, and the response was universal: Agile is critical to success.

As such, CMOs are turning to agile for four main reasons.

Agile Reason #1: Getting To Market Faster
Agile speeds up decision making to save CMOs time on the back end.
Today’s CMOs are looking for a way to address drawn-out go-to-market processes and long campaign cycles that take time away from getting products and services into market quickly. Agile gets CMOs away from the traditional waterfall—a classically linear, stage-by-stage operating approach associated with slow, top-down decision making—to keep things moving forward at a sprint-like pace.

Take this survey to contribute to our upcoming CMO’s Agenda, where we’ll discuss the role of agility in marketing strategy and the emergence of agile as a problem-solving methodology.

With agile, CMOs focus on collaboration (versus hierarchy), allowing data-empowered cross-functional teams to make quick choices that increase speed to market. One CMO put it like this: "You base decisions on data, and you move forward rather than getting bogged down with a long, drawn-out, six-month project that is irrelevant in most cases six months down the road."

Agile Reason #2: Adapting Faster
Agile offers CMOs the flexibility to prioritize and adapt at today’s pace of change.
When market-altering disruptions and digital advancements are an everyday occurrence, CMOs and their teams need the flexibility to reprioritize on a dime. To cope, we’ve watched as more and more companies move from annual waterfall-type planning cycles to quarterly schedules. Agile applies this philosophy to project management. Instead of one big project that culminates in one big result, CMOs are chunking things into bite-sized pieces that enable them to adjust, change course, and respond to new information throughout the project instead of at the end. Through this filter, they operate in the here and now; their teams see change as an opportunity for rapid iteration and test-and-learn activities versus roadblocks.

The result is numerous “small bets” that produce more activity, data for decision-making, and a formula for adapting quickly all over again. One CMO told us agile keeps him constantly re-evaluating, more on his toes, and primed for opportunities so that change isn’t such a shock.

Agile Reason #3: Prioritize High-Impact Activities
With agile, CMOs don’t get bogged down with the small stuff.
The sheer volume of activity coming from today’s marketing departments is always on the rise, along with new ways for marketers to reach and engage their customers. In addition, mounting requests to support other activities (new product launches, sales initiatives, etc.) make it difficult for marketing teams to stay focused on the highest value projects. It’s not uncommon for marketers to delay priorities to address the latest internal demand. As one CMO put it, “We were always putting out fires instead of focusing on what we really wanted to accomplish.”

With agile, marketing teams choose activities with the highest potential impact for their sprints (the short window of time used to complete small experiments or parts of a larger project) and put all other projects on the backlog. This system provides marketers the ability to stay proactive while continually managing their priorities and incoming requests.

Agile Reason #4: Creating Customer-Centric Outcomes
Agile helps CMOs involve customers throughout the iterative marketing process.
CMOs and their marketing teams are always looking for ways to create outcomes that delight their customers. Consumer input and market reaction are very real indicators for marketers on how well they’re doing. Due to agile’s iterative nature, instead of spending months planning and developing for one big release, CMOs can sprint for two weeks and release something customers can quickly digest and offer input on. Marketing teams simply build on this foundation or change direction if they had it wrong.

Operating with the customer at the heart of their activities, CMOs prioritize projects, features, and functionality from the best starting point. And none of this is done in a vacuum. Marketing leaders are leveraging research, insights, test-and-learn, experimentation, and hard data to understand customer needs and deliver against them.

The CMOs who are embracing agile marketing are quite possibly the closest we’ve seen prepared for reality–a future of constant, rapid change. At CMG Partners, we recognize the importance of agility to any company wanting a competitive advantage in its industry. Take this survey to contribute to our upcoming CMO’s Agenda, where we’ll discuss the role of agility in marketing strategy and the emergence of agile as a problem-solving methodology. 

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