Like many tech startups, Integrate operates with a lean marketing team, where each of us wears multiple hats.
Take my title as an example: “Thought Leadership and Marketing Tech Strategy.” Now that's a mouthful of garbled nonsense, but the broad spectrum it covers also allows for a great deal of flexibility, which lends well to — you guessed it — agility.
We all know "agility” as an operational concept was ripped off from software developers. When it comes to B2B marketing, we can loosely define "agile" as an approach that encourages rapid and flexible response to change in order to continuously improve our marketing results.
Sounds great! But how exactly can we marketers put such “rapid and flexible responses to change” into action?
Over the years of working with some truly great marketers (and continuing the theme of ripping off the ideas of others), I’ve picked up a few tools, practices and tips that help me and my team be more agile.
Communicate Directly With Your Market
Agility means working at the pace of your customers. And having this kind of speed requires being in market, having frequent, direct conversations with customers and prospective buyers.
If you rely on getting all your customer intelligence from industry articles, analyst opinions or blog comments, you’re getting valuable customer info too slowly.
Further, while a phone call can achieve great things, nothing is better than a face-to-face meeting: you can gain a great deal of information from body language and general in person demeanor.
Done right, direct and frequent communication with customers and prospects will allow you to react to market changes quicker and more accurately.
Automate Structured Processes to Scale
Automating mundane tasks to reallocate brainpower to strategic initiatives and immediate concerns is another cornerstone of marketing agility. Tech is key, but, less sophisticated tools can help greatly too.
Tech won’t correct an ineffective strategy or bad process, but the right tech can be incredibly valuable when used to automate repeatable processes. And, somewhat ironically, it’s not the flashy applications and systems that provide the most value — or agility. It’s typically the automation of boring, unsexy processes.
So while everyone in marketing is talking about how artificial intelligence (AI) is going to revolutionize the industry, I keep investing in software that will automate the mundane tasks today, so my team can better use our combined intelligence, education and expertise to focus on the more critical aspects marketing.
Understanding all the elements of your martech stack — its performance, current and future roadblocks — is becoming more important every year. Having a tool to visualize all these concerns is critical.
A good blueprint will enable you to visualize your current marketing architecture, the ways your systems/tools connect with each other (or don’t), the processes they support, and how they affect customer experience and marketing’s value to the business. Without an up-to-date grasp of all these concepts, you’ll be unable to quickly implement changes according to market and customer needs.
I’m a strong believer in creating a template for any marketing process, provided it doesn’t undermine creativity or the quality of messaging. It’s basically another form of automation.
For example, developing personas, content marketing strategies and schedules or performance reports all lend themselves well to templates. Not only do they speed up how quickly you can complete work, the templates also make it easier to pinpoint and implement required tweaks.
One thing to remember: when using someone’s else’s template, be sure to customize it to your own individual and/or team needs. The entire point is to create flexibility and speed around your team’s specific goals and strategies, which is unlikely to happen if you simply adopt another organization's tools.
Practice Persona Agility to Support Marketing Agility
To me, a big part of agility is knowing how to avoid becoming personally mired in the quicksands of business life.
Focus on One Thing at a Time
Many studies show that “multitasking” isn’t real, resulting instead in either sub-par focus (and thus work quality) or wasted time switching between points of concentration. Take some time to stop and think about what saps your time and energy on a normal day, then think of how you can mitigate their effect.
Personally, I shut off instant messaging for big blocks of time and only accept meeting invites at certain times of the week, allowing meaningful stretches of uninterrupted concentration.
Find Inspiration in Other Industries
Writing makes up about 30 percent of my job responsibilities and I must constantly come up with new themes, arguments and angles for content. You can’t always do this in a vacuum, so finding inspiration is key.
I read everything from The Economist to blogs to get new ideas on how to approach the subject of B2B marketing and technology. No matter what your role in marketing, it’s always good to step outside the bubble to gain new perspective — it’ll bring both inspiration and newfound energy.
Define Your Own Approach to Agility
What works for me may not work for you, but the main idea behind agility (as well as my above suggestions) is to make sure your efforts don’t become simply a cog in wheel. Always think about how shifting your efforts, resources and environment can improve your results.