Over the past several weeks, we’ve had many discussions with asset managers about the challenges facing their distribution organizations and ways they need to adapt. In these discussions, we talk about how organizations need to start planning around the advisor to truly differentiate their products and services, and clients often bring up the agile marketing concept—that they’ve either recently rolled out agile marketing, are about to, or are seriously considering it. Unfortunately, many of these leaders view agile marketing as a panacea to solve their lack of advisor centricity. This is a mistake.
Agile marketing started as a software development practice, intended to infuse customer centricity into product-centric organizations. Its highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of value.
However, too often we see agile marketing teams tasked with a very narrow focus such as developing a better email or getting the brochure into the wholesaler’s hands faster. The goal of agile marketing is not to simply do things faster. If all your advisors wanted was more content, delivered faster, then all you'd need is a content generation machine.
Instead, agile marketing provides teams a structure to think about and solve complex business problems while keeping advisor value in mind. Agile marketing is designed to solve business questions such as “Why should I switch my client’s money to your funds when they are similar to ones I already invest in?” or, “What’s all the social media buzz I’ve been hearing about and how can my clients take advantage?”
The agile marketing framework solves complex problems by leveraging three guiding principles:
- Transparency: People are permanently removed from their day-to-day jobs to form a cross-functional team and often re-located into a “war room”-type setting. Working in such close proximity (both physically and mentally) fosters teamwork, allows organizational silos to be broken down and promotes more effective communication. Two-way transparency is also promoted with leaders and executives, who get a close pulse on their advisors and benefit from the team’s findings.
- Inspection: Increasing complexity of work typically means increased risk of unfavorable outcomes. To address this, teams clearly define and track progress towards key metrics of success while planning for each step. Agile teams are empowered by their leaders to embrace failure, with the caveat that they inspect the reasons for failure of a hypothesis, and learn. At the conclusion of each two-week “sprint,” each team member participates in a “sprint review,” where progress against the key metrics is reviewed, lessons are shared and future work is adjusted based on the new findings.
- Adaptation: A rapidly evolving marketplace necessitates quick reactions through nimble teams. Analysis of key success factors needs to happen in near real time and adjustments must be made continually. Gone are the days of waiting for the quarterly report to find out how successful a campaign was, and waiting another six months to create new content that addresses the campaign’s findings (if we take the time to learn from the results at all). Just-in-time analytics let teams deliver value, learn from in-market tests and change course rapidly based on learnings.
Just like giving a child a bike doesn’t mean they automatically know how to ride it, simply following the agile framework of transparency, inspection and adaptation will not automatically make your organization more advisor-centric. Teams need the right talent in the room and the right problem to solve. They will undoubtedly also make mistakes, and in some cases, fail. Working and learning through that process is crucial in developing high-performing agile marketing teams. In short, an advisor-centric approach sets the direction and vision for your distribution organization that's more tailored to the evolving marketplace, and agile marketing teams help execute on the vision by delivering the highest value to your advisors.
Even if an organization has an advisor-centric mindset, created agile teams and given them the right problem to solve, for this model to thrive, there must be robust data collection and analysis and efficient content creation and execution processes. We’ll save this discussion for a future article.