The Adaptive Marketing Organization

Successful companies must be able to evolve at the speed of change.

Companies that don’t adapt to the changing world disappear quickly: Blockbuster is a prime example; today we are witnessing RIM (who makes Blackberries) following similar steps.

Technology is the disruptor: cloud computing is empowering entrepreneurs and businesses with computing power that was inconceivable just a few years ago. Mobile devices are making information ubiquitous. Social technologies are enabling sharing of ideas and knowledge in real time. As a result, today’s customer is very different from that of 10 years ago:

  • Smart – Buyers are armed with knowledge. More than half of all online purchases are influenced by online research.
  • Connected – Customers have the ability to research, share, comment and buy anywhere, anytime. The ability for customers to compare online and nearby prices while in a retail store is forcing unprecedented price transparency.
  • Socially Influenced -The new buyer is not alone. He or she is empowered and influenced by the collective knowledge of friends, influencers and online reviewers.

It is all to easy to react tactically to the latest trend or to go for the new buzzword. Only a few years ago companies were racing to build facebook marketing and f-commerce plans, today everyone is talking about how to build a Social Business. Instead marketers should think about Customer Interaction Strategies, and understand how the new tools (Pinterest, Twitter or whatever comes next) support your business strategy.

The new Dynamic Customer Journey, as the Altimeter Group calls it, forces marketing leaders to build a dynamic, adaptive marketing team and to lead the company in its pursuit of being an adaptive organization. Their focus on these two themes is what inspired this post.

This need to continuously evolve and adapt as marketers is the reason why In February 2011 I renamed my blog The Adaptive Marketer. In that post I shared this quote from management guru Peter Drucker, who back in 1968 in The Age of Discontinuity wrote: 

“Businessmen will have to learn to build and manage an innovative organization. They will have to learn to build and manage a human group that is capable of anticipating the new, capable of converting its vision into technology, products and process, and willing and able to accept the new.”

How to build an adaptive marketing organization? I don’t have the complete answer, but I can share a few ideas:

  • Don’t get blinded by shiny objects: Web 2.0, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Google + and the new tools that will appear in the near future, are just that: tools. Think of them in the context of how they can affect your customer engagement strategy and how do they support your business objectives.
  • Hire multidisciplinary marketers: Don’t hire a Pinterest expert or a Twitter guru. To be adaptive, your team must understand multiple marketing tools and tactics and how they interact with each other. Else, you end up with siloed, tactical activities. As an example, your twitter tactics can support your content marketing strategy which can combined can support your lead generation and revenue goals. Hire marketers that understand how all the pieces work together, and who can understand new tools fit this framework as they are invented.
  • Build a continuously learning organization. Change is hard. It took us years to begin to understand the internet affected businesses. Then we had to learn about SEO. Next was social media. Content marketing is important again (it has always been). The only constant is change. Build learning into your organization’s DNA. Hire curious people. Encourage experimentation. Build a training plan. Stay up to date.
  • Keep the customer at the center – Amidst all this change, there is one constant: the customer. While the interaction tools and the buying behavior are constantly evolving, customers should stay at the center of your strategy. The first step is to really understand who is (or should be) your customer, understand what they need and how they need it (including how they want to buy) and design your selling process around the customer experience.
  • Focus – it is all about the business. Marketers must be increasingly accountable for results. Not only leading indicators like website visitors or facebook followers – actual results. I am talking revenue growth, increase in customer lifetime value, customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. This is what I mean: if you build great products that your customers love, you will probably do alright.

What do you think?