Why CMOs must embrace the seven principles of agile marketing

New CMG Partners report looks at how agile marketing is vital if chief marketing officers want to take a real-time approach to customer engagement, and sets out key methodology and leadership steps

The Sixth Annual CMO Agenda report from US-based strategic consultants, CMG Partners, has set out to define the key principles marketers must embrace to become more responsive to market conditions.

Entitled The Agile Advantage and describing Agile as ‘the new black’ of marketing, the report outlines seven steps that marketers can follow to lead a more flexible team structure and process, along with examples of how to lead a more agile team from US chief marketing officers.

Agile methodology, which initially stemmed from the software development environment, has been rapidly embraced by IT departments as a way to better respond to project management and innovation.

According to CMG Partners, successful agile marketing leaders are change oriented, clear on what they are trying to achieve, and are driving an agile mindset and methodology. The main leadership attributes include creating a shared purpose, setting clear objectives, transparency, measurement and rewards for the right behaviour, and people skills.

CMG pointed out CMOs surveyed in its sixth annual report from self-reported agile marketing departments were more likely to report significant growth in market share (33 per cent) over non-agile counterparts (12 per cent).

“Agile companies are also more willing to take risks, to innovate and to keep a better pulse on the market,” authors of The Agile Advantage report stated. “As a result, they are able to change course and iterate when initiatives aren’t delivering expected results.”

CMG’s first principle of Agility is to be flexible and focused. Key to this is prioritising constantly, and utilising shorter planning cycles.

“Agile leaders focus on creating clarity around priorities yet build in enough flexibility to be able to change direction based on the information available to them,” the report stated. “Fundamental to their beliefs is that you need to be able to change and correct course.”

The second principle is to be data-driven. CMG advised marketers looking to take this approach to be purposeful about metrics, use data wisely, and aggregate data.

“Agile marketing organisations have put discipline and rigour around using analytics and customer feedback loops to ensure they have the right data on which to base decisions,” the report stated. “Doing so enables teams to respond quickly to changes in the market as their KPIs are aligned, versus arguing about how campaigns will be measured after they’ve been introduced to customers.”

Third on the principles list is to be iterative and experimental. “The challenge for most marketers is making that commitment. You have to give iterations and experiments a fighting change,” the report stated.

“Too often marketing leaders don’t invest what’s really required to get a pilot off the ground or to prove out a test. But you can’t maximise your chances of success with tracking, learning and adjusting to make a program successful – and without embracing failure as an option.”

The fourth of CMG’s principles is being clear and transparent. This involves setting clear objectives, providing real-time visibility into what marketing is doing, and showcasing marketing’s accomplishments and milestones.

The fifth principle is collaboration. As well as breaking down organisational silos, this requires a ‘we’ mentality, the report authors stated. Similarly, the sixth Agile step for CMG is empowerment.

“To achieve speed and agility, decision making must be as close to the decision as possible,” the report stated. Other requirements are trust, strong communications and establishing clear criteria for decision-making authority.

The seventh and final principle on CMG’s list is being customer-centric. To do this, marketing leaders must embrace outside-in decision making, obtain an integrated view of the customer, and prioritise workloads based on customer insights.

Despite this, challenges persist around adopting an Agile approach, largely because of leadership and internal process. CMG found that while 63 per cent of CMOs surveyed saw agility as a high priority for their organisation, only 40 per cent called themselves Agile.

CMG’s report also sets out a range of questions marketers can ask their organisation around each of the Agile principles and leadership qualities needed to be successful.

Related: CMOs: redefining the rule book

The CMG report was based on 40 qualitative in-depth interviews with CMOs, senior marketing executives and Agile experts between July and October 2013.

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