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Empowering a global marketing organization to move fast, adapt and win

Move

Background

In the fight for relevance, market share, and new audiences, even the most sophisticated companies sometimes need strategic guidance. In 2014, a particularly influential global tech and media company came to CMG with several big challenges. They were looking for ways to better integrate their marketing teams, sharpen their focus on users and make more data-driven decisions.

They had tried a range of operational methodologies in the past, but they had all yielded suboptimal results. The client’s Business Planning and Operations team brought in CMG to help them implement a fundamentally new methodology: Agile for Marketing. Our task was ultimately to improve go-to-market performance across their product lines.

Think

Normally, Agile is used in software development. It’s widely accepted as a way to institutionalize multi-team collaboration, iterative processes, responsiveness and focus on the customer. Over the past several years, CMG has repurposed the Agile methods, extracting them from their technical roots and developing a proprietary approach to apply them to marketing.

Our methodology starts with clarity on purpose, goals and objectives. We focus on the customer and the buying journey, keeping them both front and center. To find this clarity, we asked the following questions:

  1. Who are our customers, what are their needs, and how can we help them through the buying journey?
  2. What do we need to accomplish to make an impact on the business?
  3. What new ideas do we want to test?
  4. Where do we think we need to get better?

The answers to these questions form the basis of a marketing backlog, a prioritized workstack that helps teams focus their time and effort on the highest-value priorities for the business and for their customers.

The final element is setting up a forum for learning. The Agile process relies on Sprint Reviews to showcase completed work and assess the extent to which it meets the delivery goals. For Marketing, the most important factor here is to develop the right feedback loops, campaign performance data and changes in stakeholder needs. These datapoints inform how the work should be prioritized for the next sprint.

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Agile for Marketing in a Nutshell

  • Research and gathering customer data
  • Develop the Marketing Backlog
  • Sprint Planning
  • Sprint: Run, Measure, Daily Standups
  • Insights (Sprint Retrospective, Sprint Review)
  • Apply insights to next sprint

Do

Under our guidance, the tech company piloted Agile for Marketing on an initiative designed to engage a Millennial audience. Our client had teamed up with a concert promoter to bring the world daily live-streamed concerts. The initiative was falling short of their goal, drawing only 60% of the views they were after.

The pilot program launched with a scrum team drawn from distinct corners of the marketing department, as well as a leadership council that oversaw the transition.

Together, we converged on a single understanding of the target customer. Next, we established consistent priorities and practices across teams and set up systems of accountability, such as sprint planning, daily standups and sprint reviews with the teams’ leadership. These processes enabled the teams to report on their projects and progress. Finally, we worked with them to bring in concrete data to drive their decisions, enabling them to focus on the parts of the business that encouraged growth.

Next came the Agile process itself. Agile for Marketing allowed this tech company to take a large, complex project and break it down into smaller, quicker, more manageable chunks (“sprints,” in Agile parlance.) The system enabled the team to work more flexibly, act more decisively and focus on the marketing elements that would hit the results they were aiming for.

Move

It’s not easy to reinvent the system while facing the daily onslaught of marketing duties. You have to work, reflect and readjust all at once. In the case of the pilot project, we didn’t have the luxury of time. We had one quarter to change the trajectory of the concert-promotion campaign.

By the end of Q4, the tech company exceeded their viewership goal by 27%. Agile was working in quantifiable, concrete ways. The methods shortened planning cycles so that the team had more flexibility to shift priorities and reallocate resources. Better communication and accountability buoyed morale, motivating employees and anchoring their contributions in real progress.

Case Study Graphic_ Yahoo

The pilot was as much about learning as it was about achieving business success. Throughout the process, we were continuously assessing the answers to three crucial questions:

  1. Is this methodology addressing the client’s core challenges?
  2. If so, should we scale the program?
  3. How do we scale?

By the end of the quarter, it was clear that there were compelling reasons to scale the methodology across the marketing department. Now the task was to do it.

Scaling is its own art. We took A4M™ from one pilot team to eight by working with the client’s Business Planning and Operations team to define the A4M Operating System:

  • Leadership: The right leadership team to arbitrate over the process.
  • Process: How Agile fit into the pre-existing marketing systems.
  • People: The full array of roles and responsibilities that Agile would require, and whether we needed to restructure teams to accommodate them.
  • Culture: The behaviors that needed to change in the cultural climate of the marketing department to embrace Agile principles.
  • Focus: How to set clear goals, priorities and strategies based on customer data, and make sure all the teams stay in sync.
The team feels more accountable, has better visibility and feels more informed and aligned on the reason we're doing things." Agile Marketing Client

Potential Realized

One of CMG’s greatest strengths lies in empowering our clients. We work hard to understand their goals, align with their working culture, and become part of their organizations. A4M™ is a particularly effective example of how we work—not because we’re taking over marketing strategies or foisting our agenda on a business—but because we give clients a methodology that they can own.

In the case of this tech company, we wanted their work to count. We wanted their employees to feel like their work mattered. By providing ongoing coaching, we ensured that A4M™ would be sustainable in the future.