geralt | Pixabay
Want to be a more agile marketer? Create more process.
While it may seem counterintuitive, process can increase your marketing agility. Like oil and water, process and agility are challenging to blend. Processes are firm, exacting and inflexible. Agility is fluid, iterative and flexible. But the two can be successfully combined.
Whether fulfilling a customer order, launching a campaign, or onboarding a new employee, process provides a necessary foundation for agility to thrive. The trick is building the right processes in the right way.
Process receives a bad rap, for good reason
A marketer’s eyes will glaze over at the mere utterance of process, governance and compliance. Many marketing professionals find processes punishing, restrictive and limiting to their creative freedom. And the research bears it out.
A 2019 global study of 5,000 employees conducted by OnePoll found that more than a third of a worker’s typical working day is wasted on outdated processes and unnecessary tasks. That’s nearly three hours a day in unproductive activity.
We all want to be productive, not just busy. And processes should standardize and simplify the necessary tasks that keep business running smoothly, not slow down decision making, serve as an internal check and balance, or institutionalize inefficiency. Unfortunately, the often-chosen alternative to a bad process—circumventing the system, winging it, creating your own shortcuts or other clever deviations—can be equally dangerous.
There is the wrong way to build a process, and the right way.
Good process, bad process
Kuba Filipowski, co-founder of Netguru, describes the five key features of a good process:
- Efficient. A process must be created for a reason. It either needs to prevent mistakes and failures caused by our imperfect human nature or optimize the tasks we carry out. In other words, it needs to make us work faster or better.
- Useful. A process should concern tasks that we carry out frequently or actions that bear significant risks and could potentially lead to serious consequences.
- In regular use. A process needs to be followed. Each person that a process is relevant to must know that it exists and should take care to follow it under all circumstances. The people who fail to observe a process need to be given adequate feedback and should immediately receive a link to the relevant process or checklist.
- Measurable. Metrics should be in place which would allow you to verify whether a process is being followed and to assess the impact the process has on the company’s performance.
- Constantly improved. Processes should not be set in stone. Every process needs to be updated and improved as soon as its circumstances change.
When processes are outdated, needlessly complex and frustrating, or simply make no sense, employees figure out ways to modify the process. But when processes result in missing a deadline, disappointing a customer, losing a big sale, or missing your quarterly bonus, employees won’t think twice about ditching the process altogether.
The only six marketing processes you’ll ever need
The larger and more geographically dispersed the marketing organization, the greater the need for processes. And that’s not all bad. Processes can help unify your brand, drive cost savings, ensure consistency in message, maintain high quality standards, increase efficiency and more. The trick is to put processes in place that work for you, rather than processes that you work for.
“The trick is to put processes in place that work for you,
rather than processes that you work for.”
There are only six core marketing processes that you need, at least initially. You need a lightweight process to help you coordinate marketing activities, to quickly allocate marketing resources, to efficiently orchestrate your outbound activities, to calculate the effect of your marketing programs, to help you remediate any exceptions or disagreements that might occur, and a process to help you celebrate wins, milestones and accomplishments.
This breaks down to the following six core marketing processes:
- Planning: how and when strategic and tactical marketing plans are proposed and finalized. (coordinate)
- Budgeting: how and when budgets and other resources are decided and allocated. (allocate)
- Customer Engagement: a consolidated view and calendar of planned customer interactions and outreach for the upcoming year. (orchestrate)
- Measurement: how and when programs will be tracked, measured and reported on. (calculate)
- Exception and Escalations: how disagreements and needed exceptions get resolved. (remediate)
- Next Practices: how institutional knowledge, experiences and achievements are shared, leveraged and celebrated. (celebrate)
Admittedly, establishing a process is more than just a handsome flowchart documenting the how-to-steps. It often means putting the right tools and technologies in place to support each process—usually a backend database and a frontend user interface. It also requires a disciplined marketing leader who reinforces the importance of the “rules of the road” on a consistent basis.
I guarantee you that these six core processes will make your marketing smarter, your team more productive, and your department more effective.
Regardless of whether you are building a team, inheriting one, dismantling, transforming or right-sizing, all marketing organizations benefit from having a solid marketing foundation at their core. This includes a set of lightweight, simple and flexible processes that enable a smooth and steady flow of brilliant marketing work.
These guiding elements should be documented, discussed and internalized by every member of the team. Without this foundation, a marketing organization can quickly become bloated, misaligned, unaccountable and unproductive—the opposite of an agile marketing organization.
Creating flexible processes is one of the simple steps you can take, starting today, to boost your organizational and professional agility. I call these actions power moves and I’ve summarized the top nine in an agility guide which is available as a free download.