A version of this post was first published on CMSWire.com.
Like many tech startups, Integrate operates with a lean marketing team. And it’s crucial that each one of us wears multiple hats.
Take my title for example: “Thought Leadership and Marketing Tech Strategy”…it’s a mouthful of garbled nonsense, but it covers a broad spectrum allowing 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. And with regard to B2B marketing, we can loosely define it as an approach that encourages rapid and flexible response to change in order to continuously improve the results of our marketing efforts.
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 sticking to the theme of ripping off the ideas of others), I’ve managed to pick up a few tools, practices and tips that help me and my team be more agile.
Always be in-market
Agility means working at the pace of your customers. And having this kind of speed requires being in-market; i.e., 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.
Marketing technology – 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.
While everyone in marketing is talking about how artificial intelligence (AI) is going to revolutionize the industry, I invest in software that will automate the mundane tasks so that my team can better use our combined intelligence, education and expertise to focus on the more critical aspects marketing.
Tech blueprints – Understanding all the elements of your martech stack, how it’s performing, where the roadblocks are, and where they’ll be in the future 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.
Templates – I’m a strong believer in templatizing any marketing process (as long as 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 – they 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 else’s template, be sure to customize to your own individual and/or team needs. The entire point here is to create flexibility and speed around your team’s specific goals and strategies. That’s unlikely to happen if you simply adopt tools that were created to support another organization’s strategies.
Practice personal agility to support marketing efforts
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 “multi-tasking” isn’t a real thing – it results 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 about ways you can mitigate how they affect you.
Personally, I shut off IM (instant messenger) 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% 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 regularly read everything from The Economist to surfing 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.
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 you can shift your efforts, resources and environment to improve your results.