Commentary

Bringing Tech Agility To Your Marketing Process

In his new book Hacking Marketing, Scott Brinker outlines how to behave like a software developer and balance strategic vision with operational flexibility to compete effectively in an “always-on,” split-second world.

Brinker, CTO of marketing consultancy ion interactive and editor of the Chief Marketing Technology blog, identifies four major facets of modern marketing management — agility, innovation, scalability and talent. We talked with him recently.

Why did you write the book?
I wanted to show non-technical marketers how to turn this entanglement of marketing and software to their advantage.

I don't believe every marketer needs to become a technologist. But having a good understanding of the dynamics of managing technology is now a requirement for modern marketing leaders.

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My goal is to give marketers a mental toolbox of technology concepts and frameworks that have become extremely relevant to marketing management.

What companies are already hacking marketing?
Companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Netflix, Uber and most other digitally native organizations have had the advantage of being born with their marketing and software development efforts symbiotically entwined. The whole field of "growth hacking" emerged from these firms that engineered features into their products to achieve marketing objectives.

But today, every company competes for customers in a digital environment. Your Web site, your social media presence, how you serve customers connecting with you on mobile devices, etc., are all software-mediated marketing touchpoints.

So everyone from consumer-focused retailers to enterprise B2B organizations now find themselves manipulating software to win business.

Do smaller companies have a competitive advantage moving into the next few years?
In a world where things change so quickly and feedback loops with prospects and customers happen in real-time — often with extreme transparency in social media — agility is a big competitive advantage.

Smaller companies, or newer companies that have grown up in this digital environment, certainly find this easier.

But many of the concepts of agile management were designed to help larger firms achieve greater agility, too — dividing up into small, highly empowered, cross-functional teams; managing work in a more iterative fashion; giving greater visibility to priorities and work-in-progress, and so on.

It's often more difficult for existing companies to change their processes and politics to embrace these principles, but if they do, they can become extremely nimble too.

So much of the modern marketing experience remains disjointed. Why?
We have to keep in mind the scope of marketing has easily ballooned to 10X what it was just a decade or so ago.

We used to manage a relatively small number of campaigns, distributed through a narrow set of well-established and well-understood channels. Today, however, we have become responsible for hundreds of touchpoints across Web, mobile, social.

Many of these channels didn't even exist 10 years ago. New ones keep appearing every month. Existing channels like Google and Facebook keep morphing before our eyes. Keeping up with all these changes is a Herculean task!

On top of that, marketing's mandate has expanded from batched one-way communications to dynamic two-way customer experience design. And the expectations that consumers now have for those experiences are being set by digital wunderkinder such as Amazon and Uber.

So given the enormity of this scope explosion — and the speed in which it happened — I actually think marketers and marketing technology firms are doing a heroic job of working to tame this as fast as they can. We've got a ways to go, for sure, but look how far we've come.

You emphasize the importance of a marketing lead constantly reassessing priorities. Isn't this like a project manager and a product manager?
Modern marketers are a bit of both.

They're product managers in the sense that they're focused on championing user experiences — customer experiences — that engage audiences and build loyalty. Every digital touchpoint in marketing's domain is a kind of micro-product that they must shape and maintain.

But marketers are also high-traffic project managers, juggling hundreds of constantly shifting priorities. Many of the concepts of agile marketing are designed to bring some method to that madness.

Where do you see excellence in cross-channel execution?
I'm a frequent flyer on JetBlue, and I am constantly amazed by their cross-channel execution. What happens on their website, their mobile app, email, alerts, the experience they give me at the airport and on the plane, is all very consistent and personalized, and the user experience is intuitive and friendly.
2 comments about "Bringing Tech Agility To Your Marketing Process ".
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  1. Laurie Petersen from LPC, llc, May 16, 2016 at 9:06 a.m.

    Thanks, Ray!

  2. Laurie Petersen from LPC, llc, May 16, 2016 at 11:52 a.m.

    Will Hoboken, N.J. become the Austin, Texas, of the Northeast Corridor?. Be there and you can say you attended the very first North by Northwest. I'll look for you! http://www.propellerfest.com/letspropel

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