Focus on Agile Marketing: Dr. Natalie’s #MktgActionChat Observations

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Up next on #MktgActionChat:  Don’t miss “Focus on Your Marketing NOT your IT,” Tuesday, May 28th at 6:00 pm PT.

The topic of Agile Marketing is very interesting. If you look up the word “agile”, the dictionary defines it as something characterized by quickness, lightness, and ease, and well-coordinated movement; nimble; mentally quick or alert.  And that is exactly what Agile Marketing needs to be. What’s the change? Social media is transforming marketing into a discipline that requires new skills and even more important, a new mindset – one of being agile.#MktgAction TweetChatWhere are you on the Agile Marketing adoption curve?

Looking at Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption curve, people who fall into the Innovators and Early Adopters categories have already adopted social media and are applying it to marketing. But there is a very large part of the market, the Early Majority, that is just starting to grasp the idea that, with social media added to the mix, it means marketing has to change. And we know for most people, change is not easy. But the companies that can adopt and change will, in the end, reap the benefits. Only time will tell…

In the #MktgActionChat TweetChat we did last month, several themes emerged from the conversation:

  1. Are organizations really ready to be agile?
  2. Who is leading the social customer initiatives?
  3. Are companies ready for the customer to define the brand?
  4. Are companies ready to make marketing plan and then go with the flow?
  5. Are companies ready to be authentic and real?
  6. Does the senior executive team really understand the intrinsic value of social media?

1. Organizational readiness for Agile Marketing

In the technology adoption curve it’s always the Innovators and Early Adopters who are interested in moving fast and less worried about following the rules or status quo. @RobSalzman mentioned that in some organizations every tweet, prior to publishing, has to be run by legal. While there are often good reasons for that, it doesn’t make it easy to be agile. The Oreo Cookie Dunk in the Dark came up as an example of spontaneous marketing. (If you missed it: There was a half-hour power outage during the Super Bowl that halted play and irritated watchers. Oreo came up with a brilliant tweet:  “Power out? No problem,” the tweet read, along with an image of an ad showing an Oreo and the terrific tag line, “You can still dunk in the dark.”)

That happened because the social media team was doing real-time listening and was able to act in a very agile- real-time way. Not all organizations can make those calls and action on those types of ideas very quickly.

@MartinLaetsch commented that part of the reason Agile Marketing came about is because customers who use social media in their personal lives have become accustom to real-time gratification. That personal use of technology is, in part, driving the need for companies to respond in real time.

2. Who is leading the social customer service initiatives?

Agile Marketing begins by monitoring, listening and responding to our customers – no matter which channel they choose to interact with the company. While often marketing and PR are the first groups in many companies to venture into social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, they may not be fully prepared for the two-way dialogue that is required by Agile Marketing. Customer service, on the other hand has been focused on two-way customer dialogues since its inception.

3. Are companies ready for the customer to define the brand?

Several people commented on the fact that in the old days a brand was a logo, a slogan, a font type – all created and controlled by marketing and PR. Today the customer and what they say online has a very large impact on the brand perception. This is a huge change, and means that companies are going to be – or should be – paying attention to the voice of the customer in ways they never have before. The fact that customers can talk to each other about a brand – vs a brand pushing messaging out and controlling what is said – is leaving many marketers uneasy. But it’s worth the uneasiness and the risk.  As @jefferyLinton mentioned, having customer advocates can actually help marketers build the brand and increase the brand awareness.

4. Are companies ready to make marketing plan and then go with the flow?

@Janelle_johnson mentioned that often times companies make a marketing plan and then expect to stick to that plan. In today’s world sticking to the plan doesn’t always work – if a brand is constantly listening to what customers are saying and responding to changes in the market place. Again the Oreo Cookie response is a good example of how going off the plan drove amazing results. The question is, “How many companies would allow their marketers to be that spontaneous?” @RoyTijerina mentioned that Agile Marketing is simply a rapid adaption to consumer trends and needs.

5. Are companies ready to be authentic and real?

@PRMaven mentioned that Agile Marketing requires that companies need to take on the characteristics of being transparent and authentic – because at the end of the day, people do business with people. We know that from the Edelman and Nielsen studies that people trust people like themselves more than they trust information from brands. That in itself points to the fact that gathering a large brand ambassador following is important to get the key marketing messages out. But that only works if the information the ambassadors are sharing is not corporate-speak.

6.   Does the senior executive team really understand the intrinsic value of social media?

The only way initiatives are truly successful is if they have executive support and sponsorship. Someone very high up in the organization needs to support the initiative with resources: people, process, technology, and budget. The issue is that social media and the concept of “agile” are being pushed down into the organization, meaning many CEO-level folks are not taking charge of one of the most important things happening in business today. When these types of initiatives get pushed down in the organization – without senior leadership oversight, everyone below those levels wants “ownership.” That causes a lack of collaboration and internal politics.

And I’ll end our observations on that note – meaning that internal politics robs companies of obtaining a competitive edge, better products and services, higher margins and profits. That’s what social media and Agile Marketing can deliver, but when there’s a lack of collaboration between functional departments those synergies for dramatic changes are lost and people spend more time defending their “turf” than they spend on doing what’s best for the company. Internal politics should be a crime.

Up next on #MktgActionChat:  Don’t miss “Focus on Your Marketing NOT your IT,” Tuesday, May 28th at 6:00 pm PT.

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff is the CEO of Executive Guidance For Social Media. Dr. Natalie has spent years developing strategies for businesses to use social media and to calculate the return on the investment. She’s held positions as an Ad Agency Executive, a Management Consultant and a Forrester Software Analyst. She teaches Social Media for Businesses at UCLA. Dr. Natalie written and been quoted in dozens of business books, white papers and articles in publications like USAToday, Adage, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Peppers and Rogers 1-to-1 Magazine and CRM Magazine as well as on national television and radio. Dr. Natalie provides strategic/ tactical guidance via unique assessments that enable companies to implement real-world solutions, integrate social media into traditional business operations, and increase revenue / decrease costs.