Agile firms grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits than non-agile companies, according to research conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Study participants say the critical traits of an agile business include rapid decision-making and execution, a high-performance culture, ability to access the right information at the right time, accountability and credibility, and flexible management of teams.

In light of these compelling findings, we set out to characterize marketing agility: what does it look like in action?  Here are some highlights from an online discussion among marketing experts:

What Does Marketing Agility in Action Look Like?

  • It is embracing learning organization competencies in marketing, such as personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, team learning, systems thinking.
    [@GaryMKatz]
  • Adopting a “learning organization” mentality i.e.reward non-blame problem solving and promote dialog (it starts at the top). [@MOstrategist].
  • Adapting your marketing in response to changes in customer behaviour. Developing data warehouse to enable single customer view, efforts to put customers at heart of business, and using the data. [@LauraVEM]
  • Innovation processes that reward risk-taking and out-of-the-box thinking. Balanced blend of tapped value from both left- and right-brain thinkers; great combo: analytics + innovation. [(@MOpartnersCEO]
  • A closed-loop system that allows you to iterate and change based on data inputs. [@HREichler]
  • A real life example – a Milwaukee marketer at an envelope manufacturing company saw a discussion on Twitter about an ideal product. The employee went to product development and they were first to market. [@MaryAnnLong]

What Blocks Marketing from Being More Agile?

  • Sacred cows organizations won’t let go of.  Management insisting on operating with command-and-control mentality independent of context. Rigid decision-making processes that discourage risk-taking and innovative thinking. FEAR KILLS. COURAGE CREATES. Tied to the illusion of control and one best way. Plus no incentive to initiate, only react. [@GaryMKatz]
  • Knowledge gaps, silos, inadequate knowledge management systems and processes. There are hurdles when either left-brainers or right-brainers dominate the agenda — need a balance. Another perspective: under-investment on capturing & documenting key learnings/best practices. [@MOpartnersCEO]
  • If the rest of the organization snubs an agile approach, I’d wager that an agile marketing approach will not thrive. [@MaryAnnLong]
  • Getting bogged down with requirements for long-term plans that are 20–50 percent obsolete by the time they’re done. [@MOstrategist].
  • Marketers who are too tactically focused – it’s more about execution than thinking strategically, as well as fear of making a mistake, the wrong decision and paralysis analysis, plus lack of initiative. [@LauraVEM]

In summary, Gary Katz, chairman of Marketing Operations Partners, said: “Marketing agility in action requires the bridging of gaps in data, knowledge, process, technology, and people. A best-in-class Marketing Operations function operates like a true Chief of Staff to enable the CMO and Marketing to lead the company through business intelligence, accountability, and building business cases. An agile Marketing group can lead the company in spurring change, seizing opportunities, and doing the whole job.”

What are some examples of marketing agility in your company?

by Simon Johnstone, Consulting Director at Marketing Operations Partners & Founder of Quali5