Agile Marketing

Creating the Culture

Creating The Culture

This article first appeared on CMO Central on the CTAM website here.

In our past two articles we’ve introduced the Agile Advantage and the 9 Drivers that will help CMOs get a real competitive advantage. This, the third article in our series, focuses a bit more narrowly on a crucial aspect of succeeding with Agile for Marketing (A4M) – the underlying culture of your marketing team and organization.
During the course of our research into A4M practices, including over a year of coursework, surveys and in-depth interviews with dozens of top CMOs and marketing executives, we were struck again and again by the important role of culture in the success of a company’s adoption of A4M.

We identified four key areas where culture can be affected and where it has major effects on your ability to adapt to the marketplace:

Key #1: Leadership

Our research shows that A4M leaders do not accept, “we’ve always done it this way” as a rationale. They are strong enough to sell a completely new approach to marketing strategy, planning, data, testing and measurement. By flattening their team and enabling decision-making, they eliminate red tape and delays caused by internal hierarchies. They welcome change, encourage flexible solutions, and embrace mistakes that can be exploited as learning experiences. Put simply, leadership can make or break the agile culture. Leadership will drive the mindset and implement a methodology that will bring A4M to life. Leaders model flexible behavior and empower their teams to adapt and change as needed without a lot of pre-approval. That means supporting risks and mistakes.

Referencing his former role as University of Phoenix CMO, Arra Yerganian relates, “I got here about 20 months ago and really I think engendered trust in the team and said it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to take chances. In fact it will be encouraged, and if you’re sitting here asking permission all the time then you’re kind of in the wrong job or you’re the wrong person or you have the wrong sentiment or mentality.”

Take action:

  • Expect and encourage experimentation and creativity as a way of work.
  • Make it a rule that decisions are based on analytics and customer feedback.

Key #2: Well-Defined, Common Objectives

Agility requires short-term thinking within the umbrella of a shared purpose. The purpose is defined in the planning phase and then re-evaluated after each sprint. Instead of saying “we’re doing a campaign to increase traffic to our site;” A4M marketers say, “we’re doing a campaign to drive X% increase in traffic to our site by Y date and measure by Z.”

The work begins with a defined team, also known as the “scrum.” A “scrum master” is named to keep the sprint on task and on course. A marketing campaign will be run in “sprints” that last from one to four weeks. These sprints entail daily – or twice daily – “standups” which are quick meetings that run strictly to three topics: What did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? What, if any, are the impediments to getting tasks done?

In reality, these shorter bursts of action help teams stick to their shared goals. Allen Olivo, VP of global brands and marketing at PayPal advises, “One major thing that slows a company down is a lack of purpose, or a lack of understanding around what they’re solving for. If you want to move fast, you have to know where you are going. That’s why our goal is to join people together around a shared purpose. This is the essence of what we want to accomplish.”

Take action:

  • Develop KPIs that are contingent on multiple departments to foster collaboration.
  • Set clear objectives at the beginning of each new project and share them.

Short Cycles and Showing Off

Making big changes to use A4M can be hard for marketers who are attached to traditional cycles and annual plans without much adjustment (that is, until the next annual plan). Your customers aren’t waiting a year to change their behaviors and motivations – why should you? If the data is telling you that an offer is falling flat… kill it! If you measure that another message is performing exceptionally well… scale it!

A4M means you anticipate results based on data, respond to results based on measurement, and adjust often to get the best result. While at Mindjet, CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff reported that, “On one project, we have almost a 3000x lift in performance and drove a 30-percent increase in trials quarter-to-quarter, just purely because of this [A4M] process. And we’ve done nothing else that was different other than use these processes on this one particular campaign.”

Many of the marketers we interviewed use “showtimes” to share not just what marketing is doing, but why, to whom and how it worked. An A4M approach tears down the walls among and between traditionally disparate groups as we’ve seen lately with the advent of Big Data and its need for CMOs and CIOs to work together.

Take action:

  • Use short planning cycles to quickly course-correct based on market changes or customer feedback.
  • Offer your organization real-time visibility into marketing performance.

Hire and Mentor for Agility

After transforming your organization and earning some wins, A4M will become the air that you breathe. A crucial way to keep it that way is to fill your organization with people who thrive in an A4M culture and who contribute beyond a narrow skill set. Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP, has a compensation system that encourages employees to move away from being a really great ‘product marketer’ or a really great ‘Web marketer’ to being a great marketer, period.

Tom Vogl, CMO for The Clymb, puts it this way, “Finding people who have that right cultural fit and who are going to work effectively in an Agile environment is one of the most important things that you can do as a manager.” Constant communication and reinforcement of the tenants of A4M will encourage your team to keep improving and innovating by making the most of marketing opportunities.

Take action:

  • Identify the behaviors you want and build a measurement system around them.
    Develop an environment with built-in rewards that reinforce agility and a job well done.

Through our research, we heard again and again how important the organization’s culture is to the success of agility. One of our CMO interviewees, Leslie Snavely of CHG Healthcare Services, puts it plainly, “It’s all about culture. Your customer and processes are important, but if you don’t have a culture where your people feel empowered to be adaptable, to learn and communicate, you won’t be able to serve the rest of the business.” Implementing A4M will be a big transformation for your organization; therefore strong leadership empowering an A4M culture is truly critical for success.

Get Agile for Marketing

As you read about the A4M culture, do you see some areas where you are doing great and others where you need improvement? That’s probably true for most companies today. For actionable insights on A4M, download our Agile Advantage white papers today.

This article first appeared on CMO Central on the CTAM website here.