McKinsey and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) released a report last month titled “Marketing’s Moment: Leading the Disruption.” One striking finding was that many CMOs have a very different perception of the use of agile marketing on their teams compared with their staffs.
“While 70 percent of CMOs say they employ agile marketing processes to analyze and iterate marketing plans and tactics as frequently as needed, just 45 percent of marketing VPs and directors and 50 percent of managers agree,” the report stated.
At CMG Partners, we found a similar disconnect in our CMO’s Agenda research when we asked CMOs and their marketing teams how agile and empowered they considered their organizations to be.
Both parties can’t be right.
In our work helping companies adopt agile for marketing, we find that the first step is often addressing this very gap in perception between teams and their leaders. It’s critical that both understand the process, commit to the process, and trust in one another’s commitment.
So why the perception gap in the first place? Discrepancies exists between leadership and their teams in three critical areas:
1. Freedom to experiment, take risks, and even fail: Asking a team to experiment is different than actually encouraging the team through behavior, incentives, and positive reinforcement. In fact, the ANA report stated that 43 percent of marketing teams feel they are not encouraged to experiment. The ability to experiment and take risks is an elemental aspect of being agile. The process is set up to keep projects time-limited so that you are delivering smaller initiatives more frequently–that way you can learn from them. Agile marketing does not include big-bang campaigns taking months to conduct with a lot to lose. Agile marketing’s smaller sizing of time and scope allows for correction and adjustment after only a week or two, which means lower risk.
The discrepancy indicates the agile process that leadership has worked to build has not rooted itself in the culture. In our interview with May Petry, VP of digital marketing at HP, she talked about the dedication required to make experimentation work: “Having the courage to fail is hard, but having the strength to ‘fail fast forward’ takes courage. As a team, we talked about showcasing both best practices and lessons learned so that others can benefit from our experience. We believe in contributing back to the DNA of HP–the good, bad and ugly.”
Marketing leadership needs to show their teams that experimentation and learning is not just encouraged, but essential.
2. Empowered teams: Agile should mean that your ability to adjust is more frequent and encouraged, but for this to work, the agile team must be empowered. They must have the support of leadership to make decisions, self-organize, and come up with solutions on their own. We’ve seen that CMOs are often hesitant to give up control—to allow teams to independently make choices, measure results, and correct course as needed. We find in our work that this is often the area agile teams are most concerned about, and the one that is often the hardest to work through. CMOs who can set the strategic vision, help set priorities, and then let teams own the process find that their employees have higher job satisfaction and are able to be more agile.
Among our interviews with dozens of CMOs, we talked with Tobias Lee, CMO of Thomson Reuters Tax and Accounting. The agile marketer reported, “Our leadership encourages our teams to do what’s right for the customer and to speak up to make that happen. People feel empowered to share ideas and are supported to go and do these things. And that has been very different—to feel like you can move fast with ideas you have because you’re not concerned that management may not support you.”
3. Committing to the process: A truly agile marketing process works best when all parties have committed to the process, and people’s time has been freed to work as an agile team against collaborative objectives. The biggest issue with the agile process is that typically individuals or teams are not given the time—literally, hours in the day—required to impact change. Too much other work is still on their plates to manage the agile process and iterate based on what they are learning. Without freeing resources, the process likely will break down as urgent requests trump those defined in the agile project.
Care needs to be given to team composition and time allocation—it must realistically support the work to be accomplished. The right level of buy-in across the organization is also required to ensure team members are not being pulled in multiple directions.
Customer Knowledge And Ability To Impact Change
Another result from the McKinsey/ANA survey sheds more light on the leadership disconnect: A whopping 96 percent of respondents report the ability to make data-based decisions is the most crucial way to deal with disruption, yet only half say they have the right metrics in use. Investment in data analytics is one that leadership needs to push for.
This factor also affects marketing’s role in managing the customer experience, which will be limited across the customer life cycle without the right data. This reflects oversight and accountability living in silos for the entire customer experience. If your team is trying to operate in an agile way, they need constant feedback on how their marketing is performing so they can adjust to improve, kill tactics that fail, and scale up successes. It takes leadership’s investment in the right kind of data analytics to inform your marketing.
Doing what’s right for the customer is a centerpiece of agile marketing. Having a true, deep, daily understanding of your customer can result in exceptional marketing. Agile marketing tools such as personas, buyers’ journeys, and user stories are absolutely critical to its success. The CMO, VP, and all staff need to have a single, in-depth view of the customer, which traditional silos do not support.
Agile marketing really does work, but it takes patience, commitment, and investment from leadership. For CMOs who perceive agility so differently from their teams, it’s time to understand and fix the discrepancy. It’s time to make sure that those working for them are empowered with the independence, data, and customer knowledge they need to be truly agile.
If you’re interested in contributing to more research on the subject of agile marketing, please contact Barre Hardy at CMG Partners.