Over the last decade, we’ve seen an enormous change to the way we consume information, understand the media and even interact with our friends. It’s amazing to think that the very first iPhone launched 10 years ago, this year.
The compounding nature of this change in media and marketing has been fierce. Crushing, even. It’s left old-school marketers in the dark and new-school marketers have emerged as less academic, and more-so as students of change.
So how, in an environment with all the baggage and less than a decade of maturity, do you build teams to be at the top of their game when it comes to delivering against your marketing strategy?
The answer is by building “growth teams” — customer-driven, cross-functional, agile marketing unit.
Learning across disciplines
I like the term “growth teams” because of its duality of purpose. They’re marketers — their job is to grow the business. But similarly, they’re trying to grow each other. What we’ve learned from the successes of agility in tech is that placing the customer at the centre and being unromantic about how you deliver a great experience means people are more receptive to critique, and teams start to do away with the hero mentality and begin to collaborate more.
In addition, what you have is a team of mixed disciplines and mixed personalities. Sure, every workplace is likely to have this on some level, but rarely are they banded together towards a highly specific, common goal, striving to help each other win. When you do that, you see creatives beginning to understand code, developers making sense of marketing, and marketers leaning into creative. Why? Because it becomes about a customer experience, rather than your function — we’re all in it together.
A united team
Members of a team that’s all in it together are the ones who are willing to listen to each other and learn (or at least, understand) the craft of another. Granted, we all get busy, but agile, cross-functional teams seem to elevate above this. Busyness is no longer a badge of honour and instead, teams are regularly checking up on capacity limits, risks, workloads and deadlines; making tweaks and adjustments to the plan as they go.
If you’ve ever been part of a successful agile team, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The application of the Agile Manifesto to marketing can become seamless in some places because we’re all trying to be more focused on customer first, collaboration and teamwork in our own marketing context. Under the right leadership, this should mean better finished products, more creative teams and less time managing risks and stakeholders in the process.
Another added benefit is that you can keep these teams small, self-organising and self-repairing, which allows you to organise work around important focus areas such as customer segmentation or branded content. This self-organisation and focused, united work begins to make each team a subject matter expert on their focal point. This could have enormous positive impacts on the value of these teams, especially at an enterprise level, where the feedback, lessons and research turn into insights that the entire business can begin to use.
You also gain a great deal of altitude by working this way. Marketing legend Gary Vee puts it perfectly: “the clouds and dirt”. The team can focus on everything tactically relevant, customer specific, segment specific, and nothing else. And then they grab the air time required to set the vision, align with strategy and ensure they’re tracking with the other marketing teams.
“Growth teams” add a great deal of depth to your marketing by owning the loyalty loop for a specific customer or segment. This pulls marketers out of the game of customer acquisition and into the world of customer experience. Where they potentially have a role to play as well. Although they’re tied to the after-sales experience — there’s an opportunity to trigger a loyalty loop and bring the existing customer back for more.
These self-improving, customer-centred, agile teams are motivated by the return on investment (ROI) and the value of the customer journey; they’re consistently executing against the whole customer experience. They pick up the small little nuances of their segment, of each persona, and they build powerful levers to deliver contextual communications, advertising, content and experiences.
Enterprise teams become “growth teams”
At scale, these “growth teams” can become a beehive of activity. Agile product owners become customer-owners, the executives run campaigns as epics, and each self-organising little cluster is serviced by a SWAT team of subject matter experts as required — from brand, to finance, to key functional opportunities like gamification or community-building.
I’m an advocate for “growth teams” in small business; it’s measurable ROI, self-improving, transparent and requires minimum management. But I think this methodology actually becomes a super power at scale when multiple teams can run contextual segmented versions of the same.
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David Yeates is the founder of marketing consultancy D.Why and a specialist in design-led, data-driven, content marketing.