A key component of marketing agility is helping marketers understand the trade-offs between the benefits and the costs of constant “improvements”.
A silver lining of the past few months has been the surprising moments of agility marketing teams found during a time of high uncertainty. Overnight, marketers successfully transitioned to work from home, created important messaging for their website and social channels, and made significant changes to commercial messages. During “normal” times, each of these initiatives would take months to complete. However, faced with the reality of how disruptive COVID-19 would be on our people, our business, and our buyers, marketers accomplished a lot, quickly.
As marketers return to a sense of normalcy (and in some cases, return to their offices) many are asking, “how do we maintain this agility and not slide back to our old (and slow) ways?” Getting this right will be critical. In the next few months, marketers will need to test, learn, and respond to ever-changing market conditions, faster than before.
Urgency + Good Enough = Agility
The formula above captures the reality marketers faced in the last few months that allowed them to be agile. First, during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, there was an urgent need to complete critical activities quickly. For example, updating the corporate website with a response statement and related resources within 24 hours. This urgency created a greater sense of focus for the entire organization, with all other activities becoming secondary. The other important factor was adopting a “good enough” approach instead of seeking constant improvements. For example, in order to meet the 24-hour deadline, marketers don’t review all proposed images for the updated website, and use with those pre-approved by legal instead.
While urgency is somewhat outside of our control, adopting a “good enough” approach is something that can (and should) be more widely adopted by marketers as we head into the new normal.
Unpacking “Good Enough”
To clarify, “good enough” does not mean producing poor quality work. However, it does mean setting a lower quality bar for some activities and changing marketers’ “we can always make it better” mentality.
Let’s continue with the example of updating the corporate website with COVID-19 information. Typically, this would involve having a specialist create mock-up of the wire-frames which would then go to our digital team for functionality ideas. From there, we might request substantive content from internal communications and corporate branding. Next, we send our final draft for legal review. And then, we brainstorm some more! How can we can make it better? Could we use better photos? Are we sure about ‘that’ shade of blue? Should we have our leadership team review it just one more time? Before we know it, weeks have gone by.
However, during this crisis many marketing teams successfully embraced a “good enough” approach. Facing urgent deadlines, marketing leaders asked themselves three questions:
- What do we need to do?
- How quickly can we do it?
- What is getting in the way?
Through this, they removed process bottlenecks such as: multiple decision makers, subjective criteria, lengthy review cycles, and custom builds in order to get critical initiatives done, faster.
How Do We Apply This Approach More Often?
Marketing leaders can maintain this agility as they transition to a new normal by taking these steps:
- List the examples of agility your team was able to realize in the last few months and identify the process changes that made these wins possible. Focus on scalable and repeatable components such as: fewer rounds of review, more people empowered to make decisions, and using default options.
- Take these examples and create process maps for each of these activities. Make sure you add the scalable and repeatable components to your map. If available, compare these new maps to the old processes and specifically call out the lessons learned and what to avoid going forward (see below).
- Socialize these maps with your team. Ensure everyone understands these represent the new, improved, and approved processes. Help your team understand and appreciate the elements of “good enough” in these maps.
- Encourage your team to seek out additional opportunities and activities where similar process improvements could be made.
- Finally, share “good enough” wins with your team. Specifically, show them the final work product and its performance. This will help to change the perception that “good enough” means bad quality or poor performance.
To be sure, making this shift does not happen overnight and needs constant reinforcement. Focus on the agility successes you already experienced to show your team that this is possible.