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Navigating Uncertainty – the roadmap to marketing agility, risk mitigation and effectiveness

Navigating Uncertainty – the roadmap to marketing agility, risk mitigation and effectiveness

In July, Ekimetrics’ UK MD and Partner, Matt Andrew, chatted with Jack Collier, CMO of new bank Mettle, and Bobi Carley, Head of Media and Diversity & Inclusion lead at industry body ISBA about how to keep the best aspects of the agile approach to marketing everyone has been forced to employ, while supporting confident decision making through data.

Author : Matt Andrew, UK MD and Partner

Date : Sep 2nd, 2021

We’ve collated five key takeaways with quotes from the panel for a quick read, or you can watch the webinar in full, listen to our edited highlights podcast, or download our whitepaper for more on this subject.

 

1. Planning for uncertainty delivers agility

Starting from a position of knowing change, and with it risk, is ever present, means you’re looking for it and assessing both all of the time. Those with this mindset will be ready for when things come up, big and small, and have some degree of pre-prepared strategy and alternative options that can be deployed quickly. The advantage of preparedness is that change and risk can be managed in a ‘business-as-usual’ fashion.

 

“Now, agility is just a core business skillset.”

 

This is important in strategic, operational and financial planning. For example, budgeting for short-term and long-term outcomes means there are always opportunities to be flexible about where you spend, while not forgetting brand building objectives.

Over the last 18 months, we’ve seen huge change happen really quickly in markets, technology adoption and consumer behaviour, much of which is unlikely to be reversed. Organisations, including those previously reluctant to embrace and respond to change, reacted with developments and pivots in timescales of days, weeks and months which previously might have been years.

However, those that found it the ‘easiest’ to face their (often considerable) challenges, especially where existing markets declined or new consumer needs and market opportunities emerged rapidly, were those already set up with an agile mindset and the mechanisms to support it.

 

“We all place bets, but you’re trying to reduce the risk and add a bit more confidence into what you’re doing.”

 

While the initial shock of the pandemic may be starting to fall away, the resultant change is not necessarily over and so ongoing agility is essential. The question is how to support agility, such that the balance between ‘gut instinct’ and cold, hard analysis delivers the best results.

 

2. Ongoing use of data is key to agility

Spotting early signals of change is critical to enhancing the ability of the marketing team and wider business to take decisions with the best view of risks and opportunities.

That means developing a deep understanding of your market drivers and how they affect your business, from macro-economic trends to your own customer behaviours and motivations. Using data and leading indicators to look forward and forecast scenarios and combining this with what your customers are telling you needs to be baked into your ways of working.

 

“Putting data at the centre of everything we do is just so important.”

 

Acting on this now with what’s available today is critical to beginning the process. The capability can be built up and refined over time and there is little to be gained in waiting for the perfect solution.

 

3. People and organisation are as important as data

Buy-in and leadership is key, as are relationships, not just internally but with specialist agency partners. And adopting an agile approach to marketing means adopting it across the organisation; there is little to be gained by adopting agile principles if the team is not set up to work that way. Similarly, it’s easy to forget about the people side of a data led process – but without it, the data is of little use as the people don’t, can’t or won’t use it in the best way.

Organisationally, it’s vital the lines of communication are open to support decisions, with strong leadership, because quick decision making is critical in agile to avoid repeated failed initiatives and miss-steps. That means feeding data into decision making processes, almost in real-time in some areas, to able to act.

 

“There’s always going to be uncertainty, but it’s about removing some of the uncertainty with the data that you see.”

 

It also means avoiding silos and ensuring there is a common language of performance. Many businesses no longer talk about the objectives for marketing but the objectives for the business, and this shared view of performance and shared sense of what everyone is trying to achieve engenders a healthy data-led, agile culture with confidence in decision making.

Having the right skillsets to achieve all of this is crucial, yet 39% of businesses are still finding it hard to get the right talent. This is particularly pronounced in data and media, though there is now more cross-over between agency and client roles to get those skills into brand, marketing and media departments.

 

4. Set and chase clear data-driven objectives

Using common language and a shared, whole business understanding, helps keep everyone focused on the job in hand and avoid the kinds of distractions that are the enemy of agile.

That means having the right set of KPIs and a consistent approach to measurement so that you know which levers to pull to change the dial and influence the roadmap.

 

“When it comes to decision making, one key challenge is being clear on direction.”

 

What’s more, data brings opportunity in helping prove the value of marketing, with strong links between agility and increased budgets, where ideas are tried and refined, followed when they work and discarded when they don’t. This kind of test and learn approach means you’re always making progress toward the end goal, ensuring data is properly put to use for business advantage.

In a world of so much data, honing in on where the value is in data is key to helping you move in a direction and avoid data paralysis. That means identifying what’s important and building capability around that so you can bring into an operational process.

 

5. One size does not fit all

There are no absolute blue-prints that you can take from a shelf and apply to your own business. That’s not to say there aren’t guiding principles, but the application will always be for the organisation itself, based on its own market, internal and customer challenges.

 

“There are no cookie cutter solutions”

 

Constant evaluation to monitor effectiveness is critical and change will always mean you need to be fleet of foot, even in your agile set up. In other words, an agile approach to agile is as important as the agile approach itself. When markets or behaviours change, you need to be ready to adapt.

Predicting change is a hugely important part of being able to see what might be coming and being prepared for it.

 

About the panel:

Jack Collier, CMO, Mettle. Mettle is a free business account from NatWest that has been in market for around two years supporting the smallest end of the business banking market with a simple and easy to use, digital-first bank account.

Bobi Carley, Head of Media and Diversity & Inclusion Lead, ISBA. ISBA is an industry body for advertisers dedicated to championing a transparent, responsible and accountable advertising environment.

View the webinar in full (53 mins), including a case study for Europe’s largest hospitality brand, Accor and more from Bobi and Jack. Jack gives real world insight into how Mettle used data to reveal and understand the passion economy and act decisively to conceive its debut TV campaign, ‘The Charge’.

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