In today’s digital world, marketing campaign battles aren’t fought over the course of months or years, they’re won and lost in days—sometimes minutes. To survive and thrive, CMOs need to be able to reach markets quickly, instantly react to trends, and counter the competition without hesitation. They need to become agile and leverage cognitive automation in business operations to harnesses digital innovations.
Initially derived from IT practices, agile techniques have been discussed in marketing for several years. But, they still haven’t been as widely adopted as they need to be. A recent survey of over 800 CMOs found that 89 percent of respondents agreed that their companies should embrace agile—but only 21 percent said they were currently using a fully agile approach.
Clearly, it’s time for marketing departments to ramp up their agile operations, especially considering that CMOs need to deliver results at speed. The average tenure of CMO today is a meagre 3.5 years, the shortest tenure among all positions in the C-suite.
In today’s constantly evolving digital marketing world, reaching a large audience demands the ability to engage across multiple channels simultaneously—yet be effective in all of them.
That requires an agile approach to marketing that deploys multiple small teams that can deliver more near-term and regular results and offer the ability to quickly pivot strategies based on A/B tests, market signals and campaign performance.
Agile means getting different stakeholders together to form smaller teams, usually of 8 to 10 people. It may consist of a product manager, a legal expert, a member of the IT department, in addition to the marketing strategists and copywriters. Such scrum teams work quickly and collaboratively to launch products rapidly in response to shifting customer needs.
For one of the internet services companies in Europe, we were able to improve Go-To-Market time by 20% by adopting agile and automation in marketing operations.
Such agility can also reduce the stress on departments caused by see-sawing demand cycles. By applying agile methodologies, marketing teams can be refocused to handle the demand in one area while temporarily delaying projects that are less critical in another.
The result is an improved ROI that keeps staffing down to consistent and manageable levels. Cognitive in operations can be used to accomplish much of the heavy lifting through automation.
An extension of the traditional agile model, agile in marketing can also reduce costs by being location-independent. Co-locating team players can be costly and often impractical, especially for large enterprises with a global footprint.
Agile teams can be created as virtual teams, working on an international basis across borders to handle, say, Single’s Day in China and then later turn their attention to Thanksgiving in the U.S.
Location independent agile teams are also less impacted in moments which call for remote working, like community health issues or planned workplace disruptions.
Agile can be used to not only manage peaks and valleys but also predict when those swings in demand will occur. Using a cognitive platform, a business can look at different parameters to examine customer demand, messaging, lost sales, and customer retention.
By including historical data, the platform can automatically take non-critical operations off line during, say, the holiday crush and deploy resources elsewhere to improve sales.
Every marketer wants to hit every ball out of the park, but that doesn’t happen with every pitch. So the entire marketing process should have feedback baked in from the beginning to make agile teams even more nimble.
For example, when budgets and conversion rate targets are set, a cognitive operations led approach can take that information and plug it into a dashboard so that teams can see in real time how their efforts are panning out. When the numbers aren’t trending as they should, teams can make quick adjustments.
But there are limits, even in the digital realm. There are still tasks that only talented marketers can handle. Take the challenge of online advertising.
Initially, the analysis of demographic targets can be automated using software tools and plugged into the cognitive business equation to understand what that demographic typically looks.
From there, additional automation tools can choose and bid on specific search terms. However, sophisticated marketing talent is still needed to validate results, tune strategies and ensure success.
Popular search terms are typically expensive—or unavailable. But adept marketers can find one or more related terms that can be had for less money yet be just as effective at reaching the right target audience. So, the finishing touch is still in the hands of talented marketing professionals.
CMOs know that time is short in the Business 4.0 world. Agile teams are the answer to such compressed marketing time frames and upheavals. They can lower your staffing requirements, while improving your coverage and response times.
Importantly, agile can boost employee retention by using the variety of projects to keep your best creative people happy and engaged.
For CMOs, the combination of cognitive business operations with an agile marketing approach represent a winning strategy – one that allows them to demonstrate business outcomes and indisputable ROI on marketing investments across each campaign.
Ashok Pai is Vice President & Global Head, Cognitive Business Operations (CBO) at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). In this role, Ashok oversees TCS CBO, which integrates Business Process Services and IT Infrastructure Services, using cognitive technologies that deliver a high degree of efficiency, agility and intelligence to enable enterprises to reimagine business operations and make an impact on their top and bottom line.
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