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Marketing Moments | My Dad Was A Smart Athlete

Marketing Moments
November 6, 2023 10:00 AM

Sales and Marketing

Marketing content shared with Michigan Business Network by:

Bonnie J. Knutson, PhD

The School of Hospitality Business

Broad College of Business

Michigan State University


Any athleticism that I can claim comes from my dad. From bocce to baseball, he was a natural. He would always tell me that, to be athletic, a person needed [1] his brain to coordinate his eyes and hands, [2] be nimble and quick, and [3] find a coach/pro with who can really communicate with you. I do not know how well I did with the first two, but I always tried to find and work with a coach/pro who could make me understand to the point where I got it.

Several years ago, my fitness trainer took me to a tennis court. He took the net down, had me stand on the far service line, brought out a ball machine, and promptly shot tennis balls at me for 45 minutes. My job, of course, was to not to get hit by a ball.

So what does dodging tennis balls have to do with your business? Here is where my dad’s three athletic admonitions can be applied. [1] Your strategic plan must coordinate consumer expectations with your resources and staff. [2] It must be agile enough to change with unexpected opportunities or threats. [3] And management must be able to communicate effectively with customers, employees and community.

No business can exist without a strategic plan. While all three admonitions are crucial to its success, it is the second one – agility – that has become increasingly important in today’s constantly changing world.

Strategic planning was originally developed for military operations; it entered the business world during the rapid economic growth in the mid-40s following World War II and was successfully used throughout the next few decades. Beginning in the nineties, however, access to technology and globalization made it easier for organizations – including yours – to acquire more reliable information that could impact their planning. Today, information is constantly coming at us, from many directions, and constantly changing. In 1945, the rate at which information doubled was 25 years; today it is

doubling estimated at every 12 hours. Speed with which technology is progressing is the driver upending our careers, transforming lives and disrupting businesses.

Simply put, then, the future can no longer be predicted based on the past. Roger Martin, a leading strategist, said it best: “We can’t use uncertainty as an excuse to put off making strategic choices…While the strategic plan was vital to a business during the last century, today’s turbulent environment makes it essential to know how to balance strategy with agility.”i

The operative mandate, then, is to be agile. Successful organizations will be able to think strategically but act innovatively and quickly adapt to their rapidly changing situations. In other words, they will have to move quickly enough to dodge the incoming tennis (i.e. marketing) balls.

The need for any business to be flexible has become so imperative that Agile Marketing has moved from being a buzzword to meaning the best-in-class way of working, having its own 4-point “manifesto” with four pillars:

ü A strong focus on [customer] value and business outcome vs. activities and outputs.

ü Delivering value early vs. waiting to be perfect (i.e. perfect is the enemy of great).

ü Learning via data and experimentation vs. opinion and conventions.

ü Cross-functional collaborative teamwork vs. silo and hierarchical decisions.ii

By 2021, 51 percent of marketers said they were using agile marketing ways of working.iii Simply put, the global management firm of McKinsey & Company says it means that these marketers rely heavily on information – i.e. data and analytics – to discover promising opportunities to solutions to threats in real time. While there seems to be a myriad of agility methods, they all have three keys to making agile marketing work. The first, of course, is the “DEI” (diversity, equity, and inclusion) of the team. As with any successful operation, the most important element is the people. As a leader, your primary task is to identify and bring together a small team of talented people who can work together at warp speed. While there is no set number of team members, an optimal size generally ranges from five to seven, who have a variety of skills in numerous functional areas. Once the team is set, your next task is to give the team a clear sense of what it is to accomplish within its agility mandate.

The second key is having a marketing-technology infrastructure that can capture, aggregate, and manage the information that the team needs to complete its mandate. This is undoubtedly will be a significant challenge for many organizations because they do not have the resources to obtain the needed technology to produce relevant data or the personnel highly skilled in analyzing that data.

The final key is to establish a space – sometimes called the war room – dedicated to the work of the agile marketing team. It worked for Winston Churchill during the second World War, so it can work for your business too. McKinsey & Company would point out, however, that the war room team needs to have open communication with other departments within the club as well as quick access to their key people.

Webster’s dictionary puts it best, saying agile is “marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace…having a quick resourceful and adaptable…mind.” This is exactly what businesses need to successfully compete in this data dependent marketing future. Are you ready to retire your traditional marketing strategy and move into the agile marketing camp? Roll a ball machine out onto a tennis court, take down the net, stand on the far service line, and get ready to dodge those tennis balls to practice.

Your bottom line will thank you!

i https://www.blackline.com/blog/strategic-five-year-plan/ ii 4th Annual; State of Agile Marketing Report by Agile Sherpas. iii 4th Annual; State of Agile Marketing Report by Agile Sherpas.

Marketing Moments, hosted by Dr. Bonnie Knutson. With her wit and entertaining style, Bonnie, a frequent speaker at business and association meetings takes her perspective and brings it to our broadcast platform. She shares decades of knowledge and brand awareness, and gives us all a new lens on marketing for business.

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