Does marketing agility really make sense, or is it like another buzz word? The question itself carries sagacity because it’s important to understand if this term really makes sense in today’s business environment or is just a fad.
The answer is – marketing agility is the real thing. It’s not yet another trend. Nor it is a new term. It is as old as organizational agility itself. In fact, it’s an integral component of business agility as a whole, and plays a crucial role acquiring nimbleness and flexibility.
However, before we dive deeper into it, let’s first understand what exactly it is.
What is Marketing Agility?
Marketing agility is:
- Optimizing marketing activities of the company
- In response to changes in customer preferences, expectations and behavior
It’s an ability to quickly and efficiently act upon customer insights. Marketing agility involves:
- anticipating and responding to early signs of change
- and turning them into an opportunity
- to either tap into the new market or expand the share in the existing market
It involves balancing chaos and order, ambiguity and speedy decision making, and short and long term plans. It is the ability of living in the moment without losing focus on long term gains.
Acquiring Marketing Agility
Marketing agility can be acquired by:
- setting your radar on opportunities and threats,
- seeing change coming,
- turning signals into actionable insights and
- shifting your marketing strategy to gain maximum out of volatility.
It requires being opportunistic – but strategically. This helps in efficiently dealing with unpredictable changes. Though there are no standard practices or surefire ways to achieve marketing agility but a business can somehow manage to deal with external changes by combining customer insights, marketing automation and simplified operations. It’s a formal approach in an informal way and requires fluidity in structure.
Here are the steps to move in the direction of acquiring marketing agility:
- Combining Customer Insights, Product and Channel
Customer insights, product and channel are key components which you need to work upon immediately to take a step in the direction of achieving marketing agility. This may not require major changes in your organization’s structure. However, you will need to have a mechanism in place to gain customer insights on the products you offer through the channels where they are present.
For being able to do it, you will need to identify the channels, products and segment of customers that need to be involved in this exercise. Since each customer segment is different and behaves differently, it will be illogical to generalize the process.
- Creating a Consolidated Marketing Database
It’s a vital step in consolidating all the available information and insights. Keeping customers records at one place helps understand their preferences, behavior and also track their history – purchase history, how, when and why they engaged with you, customers’ communications, events through which they engaged with you, information that they frequently need, etc.
Creating a database and updating it on regular basis is important because the information collected gives you significant insights into the past and present behaviors of your customers. It also helps in anticipating the change in their actions in future. The benefits of maintaining a database are:
- Enhanced understanding of customers’ preferences, expectations and behavior
- Valuable insights to improve customer relationships
- Understanding of the concerns, issues and problems faced by customers
- Better analytics to make decisions and drive relevant interactions with customers
Consolidating customer information seems easy. But it is not. In fact, it requires both technical and non-technical expertise and continuous effort to create and manage the system.
- Make Customer Insights Work
Yes. What’s the benefit of just consolidating customer information unless you use it? You must be able to use customer information to gain insights into customer behavior. This means you must be able to collect info regarding:
- Previous purchase habits
- Customers’ choices
- Lifestyle preferences
- Geo-demographic data
Collecting information is the first step. Gaining insights is the second. And making it work is the third step in being future ready. By gaining customer insights, you’ll be able to:
- Segment your customers based on product/lifestyle/income group
- Create targeted marketing campaigns to derive customer engagement
- Understand how you are performing in each segment and where you need to shift your focus
- Build strategies to proactively deal with the changes in future
- Drive innovation to bring the change instead of responding to change
- Integrate insights with actions
- Opt for Marketing Automation
Well, almost all companies have automated their processes to some extent. But they need to relook at their automation software system to ensure if it is working optimally or they need to upgrade it. Traditionally, marketing automation is limited to just creating and managing customer database. And most other processes are performed manually, which is resulting in nothing but loss of precious man hours.
Remember speed is one of the most important aspects of agility. And automation helps in significantly increasing the speed at which the communication can be rolled out. The man hours can be freed up to plan the next move to drive or respond to the change. It allows marketers to:
- Automatically manage the operational side of marketing
- Focus more on creative elements of marketing
- Planning and being ready for the future of marketing
- Automate structured decisions to move and act faster
- Utilize the latest technology to be at the forefront of the competition
- Make Customer Insights a Boardroom Agenda
Gaining and acting on customer insights is the responsibility and accountability of marketing department. No. It is not limited to just the marketing department. Rather it needs to be taken to the boardroom.
Why? Because unless it is a part of the boardroom agenda, nobody is going to take it seriously! It’s the top management that needs to make it a priority and act on it. In order to make customer insights work, your company needs to:
- Convert the information into digestible-size pieces, to make it easy for employees to understand what you’re looking at
- Attach a portion of marketing budget to take actions and achieve results
- Focus on to-dos and after-effects of the marketing campaigns
- Understand the overall consequences of acting and not-acting
- Build a dedicated team to implement the action plan
When customer insights are a boardroom agenda, chances are that you will do what needs to be done more diligently.
Marketing agility is not a one-time process. It’s a responsive, flexible, fast and ongoing process, which is about putting your customers and their behavior in your head all the time. It’s about working for them and making efforts to offer an experience that they aren’t even familiar about. It’s a long journey, which includes exploring the new ways to attract and retain customers in plentiful ways while also being flexible.