marketing agilityWhat is agile marketing? According to Sandra Zoratti, the VP of Marketing at Ricoh, agile marketing is all speed, collaboration and taking an iterative approach to marketing.

Sandra is our  honored guest in today’s Future of Marketing interview series where we have covered topics such as CreativityBig DataCustomer ExperienceThought Leadership,  Culture, Technology, and so much more.

Sandra Zoratti is an Author, Speaker and Marketer.  She is the Vice President of Marketing, Ricoh in a business created from former IBM and Ricoh companies. Sandra built and launched the data-driven marketing practice called “Precision Marketing” from the ground up and published her book on the topic in June 2012.  She was also honored with Business Marketer of the Year in 2012.  You can find Sandra on LinkedIn and Twitter @sandraz.

Tell me about yourself?

sandra zoratti on marketing agilityI love to create. I love challenges and problem-solving.  In college, I switched my major from Marketing to Chemical Engineering so that I could solve problems.  After graduating, I realized that creating business opportunities is all about problem-solving on a large scale, and with that new perspective, I returned to marketing while pursuing my MBA.

Today, I leverage the critical thinking and problem-solving I learned in engineering and apply it in business to help create new opportunities. It’s perfect for me!  Currently, I am the vice president of marketing for Ricoh, as well as an author and speaker.

What is the biggest challenge facing marketers today?

There’s never been a more exciting time to be a marketer!  The past decade has completely revolutionized the marketing function.  Today, marketers are faced with the complexity and speed of enormous and large-scale transformations –  staying flexible, nimble and connected is required to stay sharp and remain relevant.  There are three major marketer challenges in our customer-driven economy: improving customer engagement, harnessing data-driven insights, and generating measurable, scalable value and ROI for our business.

What best practices can you identify for dealing with that challenge?

For customer engagement, data-driven marketing and ROI-measured results, the path forward is often unclear, so an “agile development” approach can be immensely helpful.  These three challenges are connected:  data-driven insights can drive customer engagement which in turn can lead to better and more measurable ROI.  In order to adopt different thinking and approaches in these three areas, I suggest:

  1. Adopt an agile approach: Software developers have used knowledge-sharing to create a culture of agility in developing solutions quickly to answer complex challenges — and this approach works for marketers too!
  2. Use collaboration, connection and community: In marketing, the explosion of peer-to-peer marketing groups allows us to share new approaches and brainstorm, which helps to illuminate a path forward.
  3. Listen. Ask. Share. In order to take a new approach this is a simple way to activate. Set a goal and then listen to learn. Ask to get clarity and depth. Share to test and adjust. In engineering, this is known as an iterative approach. Its time has come for marketing.

What’s Your prediction on the future of marketing?

Marketing’s role in business will continue to require extreme agility and undergo expansion of responsibilities — from owning the entire customer experience to managing the data functions that lead to improved customer engagement.  In order for marketers to stay relevant and sharp, I believe the cross-functional silos in corporations will be broken down and the idea of agile development will exist both internally in companies and externally for marketers who need the mutual benefit from professional communities in order to be the best that they can be.  Marketers will expand participation in peer-to-peer professional communities in order to connect, collaborate and fully realize their potential in an era where “what’s possible” is continually being redefined.

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Now it’s your turn: Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Head of Strategy for the leading content marketing platform, NewsCred. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email

12 Comments

  1. Mark Allen Roberts said…

    “Listen. Ask. Share” is great advice.

    Our markets change and evolve all the time in how they shop and the criteria they are using to make buying decisions.

    Market leaders are constantly sensing , staying close to their buyers and adapting. Market losers?….they just keep speaking louder and more frequently in hopes things will return to the good old days.
    Mark

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Great point Mark. We cannot keep sending emails and cold calls and display banners people don’t want. Meeting buyer needs, being part of the conversation is the only way to be effective. Listening, asking and sharing is the only way to become part of the buyer conversation.

  2. I do share the direction of this article. There are new better ways to do things in marketing. here are a few I am working asd I speak
    (1) Develop an understanding of the market dy Drafting Buyer Personas and then refine/adjust as we discover more
    (2) Treat any “task” as a “Minimum Viable Product”. As an example, how do I get my buyers to get in touch with my product? How to I keep this connection alive through years? Start from an idea and iterate on that as we discover more

    It works!!
    -Donato

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Sounds like you’ve got some great, tangible steps outlined here Donato. I think the pace of change is going to require this kind of iterative process or brands will simply be left behind with unhappy and fleeing customers, higher costs and products that no one wants.

  3. Owen Ashby said…

    I agree and have been talking to clients about agile marketing (taking the term and way of working directly from the collaborative nature of the Software Development world) for some time. It does work, it provides an agenda for breaking down the silos and it gets people very excited. However, it is worth noting that getting people excited about something new and innovative around “execution” is never difficult, indeed the industry will run full pelt and headlong at anything that promises a visible and high profile change in the business, rapid activity and potential quick wins. Agile works really well for organisations that are building it on top of solid working practices, understood inter-dependencies, a common and agreed objective and focus and well defined programs and propositions. It is not a “silver bullet” or an alternative to getting your house (Sales & Marketing Operations) in order. Think of it as a fad diet as opposed to healthy living. Those who invest continually in themselves by eating well and keeping fit will find it easy respond rapidly and confidently when it’s time to get active. Those who don’t will find it painful, exhausting and potentially dangerous. So bottom line (IMHO) Sandra’s spot on, but don’t confuse “Agile” with “easy alternative to doing the groundwork!”.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Great point Owen. There’s no easy fix, no “magic pill” to address silo’d thinking, poor execution and a lack of strategic leadership!

  4. James Roberts said…

    Quite true. Being agile is needed to survive in today’s globalized market. You need to be ready to adapt or to change tactics when the situation demands it. There are no formulas for a successful generating successful sales leads. All you can do is to keep watch of the trends and move accordingly.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks James, I really believe adaptability and speed will define the winners in the near future. Thw world is changing so fast now and it’s speeding up. And most corporate cultures just aren’t setup for it.

  5. Kevin Lynch said…

    Great article and pragmatic view of how to introduce agile into the marketing process. I think Owen’s point is also dead on – agile is not a silver bullet if underlying processes aren’t effective. As a good first step, we think that the casual, interactive nature of social channels can be a productive tool to “test” content and gain valuable feedback prior to broader distribution in traditional channels. Content can always be refined as a result of good customer response data and team collaboration.

  6. Goran Maric said…

    Never heard of agile marketing, but I like that idea! :)

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