Speed now means more than getting your product to market first. Columnist Scott Vaughan discusses our rapidly changing industry and how marketers can use speed to take advantage of it.
You traditionally don’t think of speed and marketing as being tightly linked. Today, speed is becoming a hot topic in marketing planning sessions. Much of this is driven by the shift to delivering positive customer experiences in the digital, hyper-connected world we live and work in.
To understand the speed-marketing connection, let’s start with time to market. This used to be just about getting your product to market first. With hyper-competitive markets and informed, demanding customers, this isn’t just about being first. Marketers are now faced with who can most rapidly apply accessible data, smart technology and streamlined processes to identify and continuously provide the most value to customers as they research, select and use your offering.
Speed also equals velocity. One of the big areas of marketing’s focus today is “lead velocity” — that is, how quickly from when a prospect engages with your brand, content or staff to the time you follow up with relevant info you turn this prospect into a delighted customer.
For example, the week-plus lag it often takes to internally route leads and inquiries, set up nurture tracks or follow up can mean the prospect may move on to another brand or solution. Increasing the velocity here is a critical part of discovering, creating and retaining customers — job No. 1 for B2B marketers.
With the availability of cheap processing power and the rapid rise of the cloud, the speed at which companies can bring a new or alternative solution to market is staggering. Disruption is everywhere.
It’s marketing’s job to not only keep a pulse on market and customer activities, but also rapidly be able to react and quickly develop go-to-market strategies that keep the business thriving and, at times, surviving.
So how can CMOs and marketers deal with the rapid pace of change and use speed to their advantage? There are a few key strategies that’ll help to both capitalize on opportunities and react to negative events.
Agile marketing for speed
Plucked from the software development world, agile marketing has come on the scene to help marketers strategically build solutions and tactics to swiftly align with business, market and customer requirements. The core premise of agile marketing is to iterate through a series of rapid tests, measure and refine “sprints,” and then adjust accordingly based on what’s needed now or what’s working best.
Unquestionably, the traditional, fixed annual marketing plan is being replaced by more flexible approaches that reflect the dynamic nature of business.
CMOs are also embracing agile marketing in large part to respond to customers’ dynamic needs and behavior changes. The marketing program, message or channel that worked last week, last month or last quarter may not be the right go-to-market approach going forward.
The speed and accuracy with which marketers can adapt to changing needs make a big difference in winning the hearts and wallets of customers and markets.
Strong, accessible data infrastructure to provide intelligence
To both increase marketing’s impact on the business and to deal with rapidly changing market conditions, marketing executives are building data-driven organizations and using technology to build responsive marketing departments. For example, predictive analytics provides marketers with an ability to proactively see things before they happen using sophisticated data models and data science talent.
To respond thoughtfully and quickly to events — good and bad — as they happen, it’s important for marketing teams to also apply real-time analytics, putting intelligence into the hands of both marketing executives and front-line professionals to take action.
The good news is marketers are investing in technology, automation and data tools to make this a core capability. In fact, according to the Gartner Group, CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs by 2017.
Done is better than perfect; speed trumps
It’s ingrained in humans to get it 100 percent right, 100 percent of the time before we launch. The reality is — with speed being so critical — it’s much better to get to market on a timely basis. Not only does this follow the agile marketing mindset, it additionally allows marketers to develop baselines they can build on.
And not every initiative needs to be mind-blowing. For some projects, “good enough” will do the job.
For example, 100 percent may be required for efforts that can “change the game” for your business. These efforts are typically aligned with customer experience, a new delivery model or the “big idea” program.
On the other hand, sweating days and weeks over color schemes, fonts and new web pages are lingering habits that are burning time. Put them out there, monitor and refine.
Speed is a powerful weapon in marketing today — positive and negative. By embracing and applying the power of speed and how and where to increase velocity, marketers can immediately improve their impact to the business. The clock is ticking. Let’s get moving!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.