Marketing agility is critical during a crisis

Business agility and change management are not “nice to haves,” they are business critical. Global marketing organizations that previously were able to create their 2020 plans over Q3 and Q4 last year have discovered they need to reassess their campaigns, plans and budgets to adjust to a dramatically changing go-to-market landscape and to recalibrate their pipeline creation strategies. To make things even more challenging, they are trying to accomplish this in days rather than months.

To be agile requires alignment, and many organizations are simply not structured for alignment. Different teams and departments manage different brands with separate profits and losses (P&Ls). Different regions (domestic and international) have different brand and go-to-market priorities and P&Ls, so it becomes more granular on a local level. Agility is not the ability for decentral entities to do what they want. This creates chaos and often does not comply with corporate brand guidelines. Rather, agility requires teams and departments to act or react individually while following the lead of headquarters.

HQ should drive the ship

In critical situations such as the current environment, leadership should come from HQ and guide the way while delegating decisions in order to not become a bottleneck and hamper agility. This approach allows HQ to have visibility on budgets, campaigns and performance, capture data, reallocate resources to brands less impacted or better positioned for success in the current environment — and then push findings and direction downstream. These are unprecedented times, which means the ability to learn fast, fail fast, adjust and then push learnings through an organization in order to course correct lead generation pipeline is business critical.

Lead and sales opportunities are not only impacted by the cancellation of conferences and events. With in-person meetings slowing to a trickle (if not canceled altogether), the sales and marketing teams have to collaborate on course correction. This requires the ability to quickly change planning, as well as shift budget and content production and delivery. Discovering which sales and market enablement content and engagement produce the best outcomes — such as messaging, webinars, social advertising and digital assets — is paramount. The ability to move from this new strategic direction to fast execution is equally important.

Forrester Research recently published a report highlighting the key criteria for successful marketing resource management tools, which directly impact how well and how fast marketing teams can respond to changing markets.

Characteristics of agile companies

To learn quickly, fail fast and then be able to push learnings and direction throughout an organization requires the ability to update marketing strategy fast and move to execution even faster. Organizations able to move with speed and agility typically possess these three characteristics across their go-to-market systems:

  • Customer understanding — data management and customer analytics
  • Brand strategy — marketing resource management and real-time performance management
  • Brand experience — content and channel to customer, plus marketing automation tools

Adopt real-time dashboards

Wherever possible, organizations need to avoid the spreadsheet quagmire where marketers find themselves reviewing and updating spreadsheets to share with other team members who then copy and paste and consolidate data manually. This approach typically serves to burn up valuable marketer time in administrative rather than strategic or meaningful execution. Organizations that do not have marketing technology systems in place that provide real-time dashboards with tracking and measurement tools to give visibility into the entire planning, budget and execution process are going to find themselves slow-footed. They’ll be not only slow-footed to respond to the current situation, but also slow-footed to change when the environment returns to norm.

Agility is essential in these turbulent times. Rarely can we forecast demand, but we must always respond promptly to safeguard organizations from chaos. Organizations that are agile and have fast access to sales and marketing data and analysis, and that can react quickly in the form of execution, will be far better placed to weather and recover from this storm.

Mirko Holzer is CEO of BrandMaker, providers of scalable marketing resource management, marketing efficiency and customer engagement management solutions for B2B sales and marketing teams.

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