How Agility Will Reshape the Marketing Landscape in 2021

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Agility will be the defining factor that separates the winners from the losers in the business landscape this year. I define agility as having the proper corporate structure and mentality to quickly pivot in order to protect the financial interests of a company or brand.

A recent Deloitte survey of CMOs found that 87% “know” their industry is going to be disrupted by digital technologies but only 44% feel their company is doing enough to respond. 2021 will differentiate the knowers and the doers. 

True agility—the kind that sets the stage for long-term profitability—is required to adapt for the long term. It’s something that exists within the very foundation of an organization. It’s that crucial holistic foundation that executives and marketing departments need to be cultivating in their 2021 planning. 

Agility in action 

Plenty of attention has been given to the topic of agile marketing in recent years, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that executives were able to fully appreciate the fact that agility has now become table stakes for success in the global economy. As lockdowns swept the country, we saw some companies freeze in place, while others pivoted on a dime to reflect the new reality of the market. 

Alcohol companies began mass-producing hand sanitizer. Clothing brands quickly rolled out new lines of face masks. Brick-and-mortar retailers and restaurants completely restructured their systems and teams to accommodate curbside pickup and e-commerce surges. And of course, many others—those less agile—did not. 

But agility runs deeper than these temporary pivots; it runs right down to the core of a business’ user experience and brand promise. Agile organizations refute the very notion of “business as usual.” For them, agility is all about being able to leverage data in a way that lets them identify problems and new opportunities as they arise—and to then be able to test, review, refine, and execute solutions rapidly. 

Agility doesn’t just kick in when a global pandemic strikes. It’s always there, running in the background and helping an organization refine its messaging and user experience on a continuous basis. 

Key pillars of agility

Agility is an easy concept to grasp but a hard one to execute. That’s because it permeates every corner of a business. For executives looking to implement an agile framework, or gauge their current agile capabilities, there are five key elements to evaluate. 

  • Planning: Does your company planning begin with a customer-first mindset? Does it remain focused on the larger desired outcome even when making short-term decisions? 
  • Processes: Does your organization operate on a continuum of testing and optimization? Are your processes well-defined and easily understood across the organization? 
  • People: Are roles and goals well-defined? Is your leadership focused on empowering its teams and talent to make decisions and execute on them quickly? Are people encouraged to bring fresh ideas forward? 
  • Platforms: Does your technology backbone support rapid shifts in messaging and execution? Do your systems communicate seamlessly with one another and preserve data integrity across the organization? 
  • Performance: Are you able to measure performance accurately, in real-time or close to it, and pivot to improve outcomes? 

Implementing change

It can be challenging for company leaders and their organizations to embrace new, agile ways of thinking. Step one is for marketers to conduct an analysis such as a PEST (political, economic, social, economic factors), which will create a starting point for action. By implementing an agile framework, companies can tap into new, scalable opportunities for revenue and future-proof their organizations.

Michael Kalman is Founder and CEO of MediaCrossing.

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