They say that “change is the only constant”. It’s fair to say that in the 20 years I’ve been in marketing positions, the role of the CMO has changed completely.
For software developers, the process of creating new products and services based on iterative and incremental development methodologies has rapidly emerged as a preferred way of managing projects.
Known as Agile development, this methodology abandons traditional notions of lengthy planning and development cycles with testing at the end in favour of rapid prototyping, development and ongoing testing.
That same thinking is starting to find its way into other business processes, and marketing is no exception.
Often referred to as continuous delivery, the application of Agile thinking to marketing sees organisations constantly trialling, testing and refining their approach. It is an approach winning favour with many younger organisations, particularly those heavily reliant on ecommerce, or focused on Web-based customer acquisition.
One Australian organisation that has embraced continuous delivery wholeheartedly is recruitment and training organisation, Seek.
“We’re in the process of becoming a completely continuous delivery organisation,” says Jonathan Elliott, manager for digital analytics at Seek.
For Seek, continuous delivery means being able to constantly push out new marketing activity into production through online channels.
“From a marketing or product point of view, it’s about being able to look at the results you are getting out of your campaign through your analytics tools and being able to make a call very quickly as to whether we have made the right assumptions and whether there is action that can be taken,” Elliott says. “It is more about micro tweaks rather than macro tweaks in campaigns.”
He says the organisation constantly sets targets based on previous experience, and then monitors response in real time across all components of that marketing push. If expectations aren’t met, changes can be delivered quickly to get campaigns back on track. Hence if a single aspect of a program is underperforming, such as a new keyword which is not delivering the desired response, it can be quickly changed.
“You are honing in on the individual levers you are pulling and knowing which ones are the contributors,” Elliott says. “Sometimes you will make a very sharp call very quickly, other times it is more monitoring to make sure you haven’t completely screwed something up.”
Seek is also a strong user of Agile software development methodologies, as well as analytics tools from Adobe, while its use of cloud computing means new projects can be spun up in a matter of minutes. But Elliott says making continuous delivery work is governed more by organisational culture than technology.
“It requires a lot of coordination,” he says. “The technology is an enabler, but it isn’t going to make much difference unless you have the right people who know how to do it.”
To do this, Seek’s teams are structured to suit the continuous delivery cycle.
“My analysts who are making recommendations and managing results of campaigns and optimising are sitting right beside the marketing manager and product manager and UX designer, are going to every meeting from the inception through the build and the deployment, and are tied to those campaigns and product families for a year,” Elliott says.
“That allows them to bring in experience and learnings and inject them back into the process and iterate faster, because they are not having to rehash and rebuild. It is a continuous story, and it is a culture of owning that story and the success.”
And while continuous delivery celebrates the importance of analytics, Elliott says it does not do so at the expense of good creative execution.
“In some ways, it enables the creative process a lot more, because you don’t need to be as committed to one concept or one idea,” Elliott says. “You are able to test multiples, and once you’ve got your learnings you can go all in.
“That takes a bit of weight off the creative process or the designer having to convince the product manager or the marketer to go with only one solution.”
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