Go with the flow. But do it now!

Go with the flow. But do it now!
Bend, marketer, bend! One of Taoism’s most-known metaphors advises that we act like a reed, not an oak tree. That way, when the strong winds blow, we’ll slant and sway and bow, but we won’t break. This is great advice for marketing professionals. I know a lot of marketers who constantly complain they are at the breaking point. “It’s overwhelming.” “I can’t keep up,” they say. And then they, or their results, break.

Marketing has had its flexibility tested dramatically in the last decade, and the challenges for unnatural acts of bendiness keep blowing our way.

Remember when analytics was for statisticians? When the only software we needed to know was Office? When you and your boss were the only ones that knew about an irate customer and could assuage her below the radar? When we could (in fact, were advised) to take six months to be sure a campaign was right? When we could catch up on best practices once a year at that annual marketing conference you went to? When we weren’t tripping all over our marketing peers’ toes because it was clear where our job ended and his/hers started?

Don’t be sucked into mourning what’s gone. You and your marketing programs can either be part of the continuing cycle of transformation, or be discarded by it. Some predict marketing will change more in the next 5 years than it has in the past 25 years combined.

Even though the programs you executed last year made your team the rock stars of revenue generation and customer loyalty, repeating them is almost guaranteed to result in a disappointing performance. The risk-reward ratios we’ve taken for granted – such as maintaining full control of corporate messaging – no longer make sense. Nothing is sacred.

Build experimentation into your marketing plan. Try on new programs, new tactics, new positioning and maybe even new audiences. Then be open to surprising results. Be nimble enough to respond to changing customer needs and wants. Go with the flow – but that doesn’t mean to be slow and chill. Get it done now!

The marketers that have accepted and adapted to the changes to the marketing function are discovering that the new world has created gratifying opportunities for the initiated. In fact, marketers are getting their swagger back, as they sway their hips with great flexibility. With the unprecedented, deep insight into buyer interests and behaviors, marketing has become even more valuable to a company. Own that power. Because marketers are at the front lines of external and internal change, we are now being asked to help drive the requisite transformations through our entire companies. Grab the baton. With advanced analytics and metrics, marketers can be more confident than ever in their contributions to their companies’ growth. Show it off.

Build flexibility into the DNA of your marketing organization, too. In fact, rethink the way you are organized entirely. What structure would allow you to respond more quickly to new insights? How can you create greater free-flow of info and insight across the organization? How can you put results ahead of process? How can you focus more on goals to accomplish, than functions to fulfill? What skill sets can you hire fore, and develop, that create a culture of marketing innovation and evolution?

We’re tempted to fantasize that “things will settle down and get back to normal again.” But our new normal is unsettled. Adaptability, agility and flexibility equip us to not only deal with this, but be more effective, efficient, and happy because of it.

Flexibility allows us to evolve and be among the fittest that survive (actually, thrive).

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