I Feel The Need...The Need For Speed!

By the time you've read this post there will have been 1.8 million tweets sent, 6.6 million comments made on Facebook, 1500 hours of video added to YouTube, 330 thousand photos uploaded to Instagram, 3120 new blog posts created, and 360 million searches completed on Google.

Things are moving FAST and today, speed is everything.

Wherever we look, speed has become THE primary factor in how we approach marketing: customers, competition, technology, channels, platforms, and so on. The relentless pace of development and change creates both unprecedented opportunities, but also challenges for how we operate as a team and a function to deliver the outcomes that we're striving for.

As marketers though we're struggling to keep up...

58% of marketing initiatives still take more than 6 months to make it to market, with the average at just over 8 months.

At a time when the definition of success is increasingly speed based, few of us have yet figured out how to work at the speed of today's reality.

Why Is Speed Important?

Given the rate at which today’s customers and markets move, speed is crucial for modern marketing teams as:

Audiences expect it
The advent of digital media means that customers’ expectations have been set to demand immediate responses and reactions from the companies and brands they engage with and buy from. We now live in a world of instant gratification, where customers don't patiently wait for the next big thing. They aren't satisfied with the status quo - they want more and they want it now. Companies and brands have to work quickly to satiate audience appetites, because they'll have no qualms about moving to another product or service if the experience is lacking. As companies continue to meet these expectations though, overall standards rise even further, making speed all the more necessary.

The news cycle is getting faster
Digital has also accelerated the news cycle making speed to react and stay fresh imperative if brands are to remain relevant. More so, customer reviews and ratings, blog commentaries, social media and general online conversations can literally kill a product or brand overnight. Keeping on top of all this so that you're connected, informed and able to react is becoming more and more difficult given the explosion of platforms and channels involved.

If you're not fast, your competitors will be
Everyone out there is pushing harder than ever to take the next step, which leaves less time for you to prove yourself. With increasing competition comes greater pressure to be first on the market with new products and initiatives; companies are entering into an upward spiral that is driven and accelerated by new offers.

"In a world where everything is moving so rapidly, simply being fast isn't enough; you have to be faster than anyone and everyone. Accelerate until you're at the front and move fast to stay there."
Jeff Lerner, CEO Xurli

Results are demanded quick
Results are now expected faster. Investors, partners, boards, bosses and even coworkers are increasingly impatient for signs of success and growth. CMOs find themselves particularly under pressure, with Accenture research concluding that they're the most likely of the C-Suite to get fired when targets are missed:

Accenture C-Suite

According to research by executive search and leadership consultancy Spencer Stuart, the median tenure of a CMO in 2017 was only 31 months, down by 5 months over the last 3 years. The harsh reality is that CMOs are given less and less time to perform or they're out.

How Agile Marketing Accelerates Speed

Agile Marketing absolutely isn’t about simply rushing to get things done quicker.

Rather, it creates focus and prioritisation on what needs to be done, reduces interruptions and distractions, and maximises collaboration to solve problems and move things forward. In these respects it creates urgency and reduces friction resulting in significantly accelerated speed to operate.

"Agile allows us to match the clock-speed of our customers."
Paul Acito, CMO 3M

This speed must be controlled though – how do we execute faster when an increased tempo benefits us, whilst avoiding knee-jerk reactions and overheating churn in our strategy?

It isn’t about working harder…it’s about working smarter!

The following Agile Marketing practices are core to operating with controlled speed:

1.  Collapsing planning cycles
Agile does away with traditional back-and-forth marketing development and planning processes, instead creating intense, short, time-boxed cycles, aka ‘Sprints’. These usually last one to four weeks, with two or three weeks being most common. Sprints impose size limitations forcing marketing teams to increase both the frequency of planning and, significantly, the intensity of work. Sprints create clarity on what work is to be done in the near-term, as well as an accountability and urgency to then get it done within the sprint timescale.

2.  Pushing work live sooner
Sprints give the team a short-term target for deploying work into the market sooner rather than later. With traditional marketing, campaigns and programs would be held until they were fully built-out and polished before being released. Agile favours an iterative approach of getting activities to market quickly, gaining audience feedback, and making improvements on an ongoing basis. Marketing has shifted from one-off, episodic campaigns to more ‘always-on’ programs which dictate continuous evolution and refinement rather than 'big-bang' launches.  

3.  Driving rapid innovation
Over time, all marketing performance will degrade as audience attention wanes, competitor noise intensifies, and the quality of new prospects reached reduces. It’s imperative, therefore, that we try new things. Agile Marketing creates the framework to rapidly experiment. The limited time windows of sprints encourages us to keep experiments small so we can quickly implement and get feedback. Working in cycles means that we’re able to analyse the performance of recent experiments and then try new variations of a particular initiative or move swiftly onto something else. We’re thereby able to rapidly innovate to move forward quicker with new ideas and initiatives.

4. Redefining risk
When you're moving at warp speed, the risk of mistakes and getting things wrong is naturally elevated. To be able to operate and innovate at this pace, the team need to have the psychological safety to be able to try things without the fear of retribution or ridicule. Agile practices are founded on the belief that when individuals and teams are encouraged to take risks, they can produce remarkable outcomes. There is a collective safety net where members know that they're able, nay expected to push boundaries. 

How does all this materialise? Well, here's the impact that Agile Marketing has been shown to have on speed:

  • 93% of CMOs who employ Agile methods state that their speed-to-market for ideas, campaigns and products has increased – CMG Partners
  • Typically, Agile Marketing teams see a 600% increase in speed-to-market – McKinsey
  • Innovation cycles can be compressed by more than 75 percent thanks to Agile – Harvard Business Review