“The only constant is change.” 

This is a phrase we’ve heard all our lives, yet it’s never been more true than it is in 2020. Our ability to adapt to change, master it, and use it to our advantage is the key to long-term success — both in our personal lives and in business. 

But today’s large corporations face a puzzling dilemma. Adapting to change is expensive, yet failing to change is even more expensive. 

So, what do you do? How do you maintain your consistent outward image while adapting to rapid consumer change both in your marketing and in your company as a whole? 

Well, that’s exactly what we’ll talk about today. Here are five tips on how to become more agile as a large corporation, so you don’t risk losing your competitive edge to smaller, faster companies.

Ditch The “Waterfall” Approach To Marketing

Traditionally, large corporations have a rigid approach to marketing where every step in the planning process is linear and sequential. This is known as the waterfall approach to marketing.

You plan out every single detail before launching a campaign or product. You spend months perfecting the concept and pouring your time and energy into the campaign. Then, once it launches, you sit back and see how the results stack up against your goals. Maybe you meet all of them. Maybe you don’t. Because you do so much of the legwork upfront, it’s almost impossible to make changes once it’s live. 

In the case of product launches, the waterfall approach usually looks like this: 

  1. The first department sets the product requirements.
  2. Once that department finishes, department #2 begins designing the product.
  3. Once the design is ready, department #3 starts on product development.
  4. Then — once every department has completed its tasks — the last one begins testing and implementation.

With this old-school way of doing things, it usually takes years to complete a project because the process is rigid and segmented. And what does this create? A recipe for disaster.

Think about how much change has happened in 2020 alone. Do you think the marketing campaign you started working on 12 months ago is going to have the same relevance in today’s time of uncertainty? Probably not. 

Don’t get me wrong, the waterfall approach to marketing had its day in the sun. But the rapid rise of technology renders this method useless for large corporations that want to stay on the cutting edge of the industry.

Adopt An Agile Approach To Marketing

Okay, so you know rigid marketing is bad. But how do you become more adaptable? We recommend ditching the organizational silos that exist within your company and replacing them with more-fluid units that can collaborate on projects together.

Rigid environments stifle creativity, flexibility, autonomy, and the desire to take risks. But agile environments empower employees within each structure to make decisions and take risks — within reason, of course. 

Companies that adopt an agile approach to marketing are flexible and adaptable. Instead of focusing on one long-term project, they use data and analytics to successfully execute a series of short-term projects. They take an intelligent and modern approach to marketing.  

In fact, studies show that agile projects are 2x as likely to succeed as projects run with traditional project management.

There are several frameworks that hit on agile marketing. Three popular options many companies use are:

  • Scrum. With this framework, marketers create short project timelines that are one to four weeks in length (called “sprints”). Each sprint acts as a leg of the marketing cycle and is designed to deliver quick project results that marketers can quickly change to suit changing environments. 
  • Kanban. This framework is all about using colorful visuals and flow charts to implement marketing projects. It encourages transparency, communication, and efficiency to get the job done. Marketers categorize specific tasks as “works in progress.” Then, the team gets busy completing those tasks before moving on to the next set. 
  • Scrumban. As its name implies, Scrumban is a combination of Scrum and Kanban. It gives marketers the flexibility to quickly adapt to customer needs (Scrum) but it touts the visualization tools that marketers know and love from Kanban.

Keep Your Eye On The Mavericks

When the leaders of large corporations think about their competition, they usually picture other large corporations in their industry. But the truth is, large companies aren’t typically edged out by other large corporations. Instead, they’re edged out by new players who are disrupting the industry. 

Take the banking industry, for example. Chase and Bank of America still compete with banks like Wells Fargo. But that’s not their biggest competition. No, their biggest competition comes from digital and online banks, such as Ally and Marcus by Goldman Sachs that offer more flexibility, fewer fees, and higher APYs than they do. 

But do you think these companies thought twice about these newcomers when they hit the scene in 2009? Probably not. But now that online and digital banks have been around for a decade or longer, large banks are having to pivot in order to survive.

The moral of the story? As executives, pay attention to the new players entering your industry. How are they different? What problems are they solving for your ideal target audience? How can you follow suit?

Create A Sense Of Urgency Around Innovation 

Most corporations focus all their time, money, and energy into the company’s core business. It’s their main focus — their bread and butter. While this approach may have helped establish your company in the beginning, that doesn’t mean it’s sustainable in an ever-changing environment.

Start by encouraging your departments to be innovative, but don’t stop there. Earmark funds for innovation. Create a protected budget for intrapreneurs in your company. Provide them with the tools and resources they need to think outside the box. Encourage your managers to take risks, be autonomous, and spot inefficiencies when they see them. 

The Bottom Line

Speed, flexibility, adaptability — these are all qualities large corporations must develop to keep their competitive advantage in today’s modern world.

That’s where an agile approach to marketing comes in. Over 90% of CMOs say adopting an agile approach helped them improve their speed to market for ideas, products, and campaigns. Plus, it helped them switch gears more quickly and effectively.

Of course, convincing your team to ditch a rigid marketing approach that’s worked for decades can be difficult to do. It may take time and persistence to implement, but if you do it right, the pay-off is a sustainable competitive advantage that will last for decades to come.  

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