In today’s hyper-competitive market, speed has become a key differentiator.
So much so, in fact, that a recent McKinsey executive survey found that the majority of leaders cite speed as more critical than even the need to reduce costs, increase productivity, or engage more effectively with customers.
For today’s marketing teams, especially those looking to break through the noise in oversaturated industries, the ability to deliver more engaging customer experiences and react to changes in the market is critical. And meeting this challenge head-on requires having the right set of tools, processes, and best practices in place that can help teams be agile and move quickly.
While businesses shouldn’t sacrifice quality for speed, the ability to move fast is a key catalyst for growth — and the most agile marketing teams are the ones destined for long-term success.
Speed is critical to accelerating time-to-market
Change is a natural element that impacts every organization today. From predictable factors of change — scale, product development, digital transformation — to less predictable factors — a global pandemic or economic turbulence — the ability to adapt is non-negotiable for companies hoping to not just stay afloat but thrive. McKinsey cites speed as the determining factor for organizations that outperform competitors on a “range of outcomes, including profitability , operational resilience, organizational resilience, organizational health, and growth.”
Michele Guimond, VP of Marketing at Canadian outdoor brand Mountain Equipment Company (MEC), knows firsthand the power of speed and how it helps businesses remain relevant with their core audiences. “Speed to market is critical these days, and I’m amazed at the velocity needed to develop content in order to drive engagement,” she shares. “More is more, so we constantly need to be innovating how we speak to and engage our consumer.”
Autonomy allows marketing teams to move quickly
Fast-moving teams are built on the tenets of trust and empowerment. “Teams have to be empowered to make decisions, and speed is all about decision-making,” Michele explains.
When marketers don’t have to navigate around red tape or jump through endless hoops for approvals, timelines shrink and your team has more time for creative thinking. “Through agility, you can drive innovation,” says Michele.
Team culture plays a significant role in team empowerment. Bringing every team member up to speed on the tools you use and the processes you’ve built is a foundational first step to unlocking the ability to move quickly. Teams need resources and organizational support to develop the confidence needed to be autonomous, and using marketer-friendly tools like Webflow is a great way to scale your ability to execute more campaigns over time.
In addition to having the right tools, teams need their work to be connected to a company’s larger goals to make confident decisions. Michele has seen this play out in her own organization and pushes her team to define how their decisions ladder up into the big picture.
A case study in autonomy: tackling an ambitious rebrand project
When asked to rebrand their 50-year-old business, Michele and her team were excited and up for the challenge. “Normally a project like this would take a year and a half — but we were able to pull it off in six months,” she explains
They were able to execute this massive effort by embracing autonomy while moving together. This meant:
- Remaining solutions-focused
- Gaining buy-in from all involved team members
- Being anti-perfectionist
- Feeling empowered by executive stakeholders
Establishing this way of working helped the team avoid bottlenecks that often slow teams down. And because leadership empowered individual team members to make critical decisions over the course of the project, her team was able to move quickly and bring the rebrand to market in a fraction of the time.
Agility shrinks marketing timelines
Agility is a balance between reactivity and proactivity; being ready to move quickly, as well as having an ability to identify when moving fast will matter most. It requires cross-team collaboration, a strong organizational foundation, and tools teams can rely on. But developing an ability to move quickly doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a skill teams must work at, and unfortunately, something that organizations often only learn the true value of after witnessing the consequences of staying still.
From a macroeconomic perspective, agility is a defining factor of success and survival for businesses today. Teams facing limited budgets and headcount especially must lean on agility to adapt to new challenges with fewer resources. Michele and her team are very familiar with the need to pivot in the face of unforeseen challenges — specifically, recession woes and supply chain issues, both of which are realities facing so many of today’s businesses.
However, there are still key considerations teams should keep in mind as they try to be more nimble. “Even if you’re moving fast, you still have to be proactive and strategic,” Michele explains. “If you’re looking a week ahead, you’re going to be in a reactive model. At MEC, we’re currently trying to find that sweet spot — balancing how we look at trends over time versus short-term trends that we're seeing.”
But Michele, who considers her current approach to be 60% proactive and 40% reactive, cautions other leaders from making reactivity a foundational business strategy. Instead, she recommends combining long-term visioning with nurturing a team that is able to execute campaigns quickly and efficiently.
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A healthy tempo supports long-term success
Speed is a crucial component of successful marketing, but only if teams are able to work at a cadence that serves the brand and its people. Tempo is all about finding the right pace — fast enough to remain relevant, but thoughtful enough to build customer experiences that matter. “While I think getting to market is really important, getting it right is equally important,” says Michele.
Finding the right tempo for a team is about creating breathing room and space for innovation. Even in fast-paced environments, Michele advises leaders to create opportunities for deep thinking and thoughtful reflection. A steady tempo allows teams to control how they execute different parts of campaigns, as well as an ability to eliminate time-wasting activities that have little positive business impact and contribute to talent burnout.
The tools teams have at their disposal can directly impact tempo. Especially for designers and creative teams, so much time is often wasted on disjointed processes, like digging through files or attempting to collaborate across endless different platforms, Michele explains. “The right tools are really important — but they also need to be backed by good operational processes,” she advises. And doing this foundational work of onboarding the right tools, creating strongly rooted processes, and establishing a steady tempo of working collaboratively comes with significant pay off — the ability to scale, gain flexibility, and move quickly.
Know when to slow down
While speed can unlock impressive business growth, moving with a “speed at all costs” mindset is risky and often unsustainable. Businesses need to define benchmarks and identify long-term trends to understand what’s working, what’s not, and what’s in their best interest going forward. In fact, it’s this very practice of diligent data collection and analysis that helps teams be more nimble. “Just because you’re moving fast doesn't mean you shouldn’t be data-driven,” says Michele.
Ultimately, being intentional and identifying the impact vs. effort involved with every marketing campaign can help teams create sustainable processes. And decision-makers must ensure their team’s time and effort is being used effectively — and risk organizational challenges if it’s not. “Sometimes, speed to market breeds a lack of retention because people constantly feel like the goalposts are being shifted,” says Michele. The most successful teams are ones that don’t compromise their teams, values, and processes to move quickly — and sometimes, hitting pause or slowing down is the best thing for your business at inflection points.
Moving faster means faster realized value
Today’s marketing teams looking to address the needs of their customers in an ever-changing macroeconomic environment need the ability to move quickly — but not simply for speed’s sake.
Timing is crucial, and bringing products and campaigns to market quickly not only gives organizations a competitive edge, but also means they can see results and iterate quickly to deliver better customer experiences.
When marketers don’t have to navigate around red tape, aren’t restrained by organizational bottlenecks, or don’t need to jump through endless hoops for approvals, timelines shrink and they have more time for creative thinking. “Through agility, you can drive innovation,” says Michele. And this is only possible when teams do the foundational work of building efficient processes and onboarding marketer-friendly tools that enable agility, tight-knit collaboration, flexibility, and autonomy.