What we can all learn from Deloitte's agile marketing pilot
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Last week over at The Drum, a marketer from Deloitte wrote about the firm’s recent pilot of agile marketing.

Agile marketing is hot right now. Companies large and small are in a frenzy trying to figure out how this new way to get marketing out the door might work for them.

Deloitte recently wrapped two pilots that used agile marketing methodologies. Their agile marketing experiences were positive—both to the impact agile had to Deloitte’s internal processes and in the overall campaign results. Here’s what stood out in the recent write up:

1. Adapt agile to make it your own

This author noted how intimidating agile and agile terminology can be at first. With terms like “ceremonies” and “retros” it can feel like agile comes with its own insider lingo, terminology and playbook.

What Deloitte ultimately noted was how adaptable agile methodologies can be. Deloitte took the fundamental principles of agile marketing and adapted them to suit their circumstances. The author summed this up perfectly:

“The key is to make it your own… adapt your approach to fit your unique situation. In other words, be agile about agile.”

2. Remote teams can do agile marketing

There’s a belief out there that agile marketing is best done when all parties are co-located, at least some of the time, or minimally to have everyone in the same time zone. It’s good to know Deloitte had a positive experience doing “virtual agile” with a remote team.

Agile marketing with a remote team needs the right virtual collaboration tools to support online work. Utilizing these online tools to their full capacity appeared to be a key success driver from the Deloitte pilot..

“Virtual communications drove even more flexibility and collaboration by encouraging real-time connections instead of waiting for the next meeting to share ideas.”

3. Sell agile on speed and ease, but also with results

Agile marketing teams in large companies need to work cross-functionally across different parts of the business. If you don’t have buy in from stakeholders in other parts of the organization, your agile marketing attempts won’t be very agile.

Marketers typically gain buy in and alignment by demonstrating to stakeholders how agile will make their jobs quicker and easier.

Deloitte took this a step further by demonstrating to stakeholders the value of agile lay not only in speed to market but also in results. It’s such a smart approach. Results will always speak for themselves.


For more info on agile marketing, I recommend checking out this HBR article and this site from McKinsey. McKinsey write extensively on agile marketing and how it can be introduced and scaled inside large and small organizations.

Sarah JukesComment
Big successful companies don't have it all figured out

It’s easy to assume the companies we know and hear about everyday are grounded in solid workflows, optimized processes and robust decision trees. They’re well-known and successful for many reasons—one of them being they’ve refined how they internally operate.

When you speak to people who work at these companies, it’s apparent the Google’s and the Amazon’s of this world struggle with fundamental operational issues just like everyone else. As great as they are, they don’t have it all figured out.

No company is perfect, but often the best companies struggle with the same internal issues as everyone else. They might lack a proper decision-making framework, their procurement system is broken, or they can’t decide how best to handle career and promotion decisions.

This is humbling to know. Big and successful doesn’t mean perfect internal processes. Keep this in mind next time you’re struggling to reconcile a difficult internal issue in your role—it’s likely even the most successful companies haven’t figured it out either.

How to not lose your mind when everyone’s a copy writer

I’ve been in this scenario many times as a marketer—you’re close to finalizing a marketing asset and the creative spotlight turns to the copy. Out of nowhere people far removed from the creative development begin to weigh in and want to change the wording.

Marketing copy is like design—everyone has an opinion. Copy is an easy target because it’s easier to change compared to swapping out images, overhauling design or adjusting targeting or strategy.

There’s a fundamental reason people comment on copy. Copy is important! It matters! It’s an easy way for people to offer up opinions and suggestions for improvement on your marketing asset. People care about your creative enough to study it and offer an opinion.

Quickly this scenario can descend into a stalemate. Too many cooks in the kitchen scenario. The higher the stakes and the higher the budget, the more opinions (and more senior opinions) you’re likely to get.

How do you mitigate all of the opinions and come up with marketing copy and a creative that everyone can live with?

I’ve seen marketers and copywriters handle this situation in various ways and with varying degrees of success. The best way to get your marketing asset out the door involves combinations of these tactics:

  • Acknowledge the opinions you get. I mean really acknowledge them. Don’t just offer lip service and a thanks very much. At the end of the day people want to be heard and acknowledged.

  • Consolidate opinions. Do people feel strongly about certain words or subsections? If you’re getting the same comments on the same words or sections, it’s time to make copy changes.

  • Encourage verbal debate. It’s easy for people to offer up their opinions on copy via email. In my experience opening up the copy debate and taking it away from email will get you clearer opinions, better opinions and more robust copy discussion. Only those commenters who really care about your copy will volunteer the time to talk it out face to face.

  • Know who the decision maker is. Or if there isn’t one, asign one. At the end of the day someone has to make the decision. That might be you. Know who this person or persons is and empower them to make it.

  • Be prepared to defend your copy. Any good copywriter will do this well. Have sound and logical arguments for why your copy is the way it is. Tie it back to your original strategy, brand voice and the customer. Be prepared to argue for why you feel strongly for its inclusion or exclusion.

The most successful mobile payment app ever

This post on Twitter got a lot of retweets and attention last weekend—more people use the Starbucks app than any other mobile payment option in the U.S. right now. This research was originally released by eMarketer back in May.

Diving into the numbers a little more—what this means is 23.4 million people in the U.S. will log into the Starbucks app at least once every 6 months to make a point-of-sale purchase. It’s an incredible stat for a country that lags behind in mobile payment app adoption.

The Starbucks app is the standout example of how to drive customer loyalty through an app. The Starbucks app drives sales and seamlessly blends mobile payments with rewards and content.

Here’s some more interesting facts about the Starbucks app:

  • People love this app—it has a whopping 2 million ratings on iTunes, with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5

  • Starbucks was an early entrant into the mobile payments, especially as a retailer, allowing them to refine and expand its technology

  • People want caffeine every day and the Starbucks app has become an essential integration into the everyday lives of millions of people. The success of the app proves people will invest in new payments technology if you’re able to provide a seamless experience and exceptional value on a regular, and hopefully daily, basis.

Sarah JukesComment
What I've been reading

I’ve been a big fan of the posts Jason Fried has put up on Medium over the years.

He’s the CEO at the project management software company Basecamp. Jason has consolidated much of what he’s written over the years on the culture and work practices at Basecamp and packaged it into his latest co-authored book.

Jason never been afraid to tell it like it is. He rejects common workplace practices—hustle, be busy, change the world, work insane hours, be quick to hit reply, set goals, have too much to do.

Most of us experience our daylight hours being packed with back to back meetings. Our mornings and evenings are the only time left for actually getting work done, reading, writing, planning and reflecting.

What’s the alternative? Jason says it’s less, not more:

The answer isn’t more hours, it’s less bullshit. Less waste, not more production.

The book offers up suggestions on how dial down the bullshit and do more work. Nothing here is ground-breaking or new, but Jason is especially convincing on why this stuff is important.

Here’s a summary of his best suggestions:

  • We should be slower to respond to emails and pings—set expectations that most everything can wait, and it should.

  • Get comfortable with churning out work that’s good enough knowing your being your best by allowing yourself to excel when you need to.

  • Be ruthless in protecting your time and attention during those precious daylight hours.

  • Get out and life your life. You’ll be better off for it. We need to avoid the habitual trap of defaulting to always working long and late.

Sarah JukesComment
What I've been watching: Bodyguard

There’s a t.v. show every couple of years that’s so good, everyone talks about it and it’s impossible to not watch it.

I’m not a t.v. person. But I’ll watch whatever that show is. The last time I can remember this happening was with the Netflix series Stranger Things.

The new Stranger Things is a psychological drama called Bodyguard.

It’s a British psychological drama centered around the British Home Secretary (a role akin to the U.S. Vice President, but with more authority) and her assigned security detail, aka, her bodyguard.

I learned about Bodyguard via the Economist app, of all places. It got a quick write up on their daily digest app. Bodyguard is getting some serious acclaim—it boasts a perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and even the British Prime Minister was asked whether she was going to watch the recent series final.

 Screenshot from The Economist app

Screenshot from The Economist app

I recommend you watch it—that should go without saying. I also offer up these two (non-spoiler) reflections on Bodyguard.

First, it’s short for a t.v. series—only six episodes. I’ve since learned shorter series lengths are common for British t.v. The takeaway is that the investment is low in terms of the length of time you need to invest to watch it, and the show is forced to tell a complete story relatively quickly.

Second, the Brits are really good at making t.v. shows. They are widely recognized at being masterful at producing non-scripted t.v. shows like The Great British Baking Show and Who Do You Think You Are? I grew up watching classic satirical comedy shows in Australia like Kath & Kim and Summer Heights High who in turn took their lead from British comedy shows like Blackadder and Faulty Towers. Don’t even get me started on how much I enjoyed the simple, silly repetitiveness of the U.K. sketch comedy show Little Britain.

If you want a deeper dive into why the British make such good t.v., this Quora thread pulls together the best of the arguments.

Sarah JukesComment
Be a brain, then a human

When establishing relationships with new people at the office, a mentor of mine had this advice for me recently...

First prove you’re a brain, then show you’re a human.

In other words—first add value, then show you’re relatable.

My mentor knows me well. Well enough to know this advice would flip the script and force me to approach a common scenario in a different way.

My default is to want to do the opposite—I instinctively want to meet someone first, show my human side and then get to the I-can-add-value-here-too part.

The add value first advice is well suited to establishing working relationship with executives or anyone who is much more senior than you. You’re forced to think carefully about what value you can add and act on it, so you have an easy way to quickly get in front of them.

And when you do get in front of them, your task is twofold—package up your good work in a way that strips out unnecessary detail and respects the other person’s time and, most importantly, show you’re a relatable and likeable human.

What taking class with professional ballerinas taught me

When you take ballet classes in New York City, sooner rather than later you’ll find yourself recognizing a famous dancer alongside you at the barre.

If you can get over the intimidation factor, there’s much to learn from being around the very best at your craft.

When class ends most students warm down for a bit, gather up their things and go home. But—and here’s the thing I’ve noticed—the best students in the class continue to practice long after class is over.

The hardest and most intensive part of any ballet class is right at the end. You’ve spent the last 90+ minutes building up the flexibility and movement in your body. You’re working in the center and without the barre. It’s when you do the most complicated choreography.

Right when you’re at your best, it’s time to go home. You’re exhausted. The best dancers push through the fatigue—they know they’re primed to dance at this point and they continue practicing long after class has ended.

After class is also the best time to get the teacher’s attention. Most teachers will hang around after class to answer questions and speak to their students. If you’re working on building or refining a move, it’s an ideal opportunity to get one-on-one instruction from your teacher.

The question then is—what’s your version of the 20 minutes after ballet class? You need to ask yourself—when do most people quit? What can you do so you don’t quit and go home too? What will give you more dedicated and structured practice, and hopefully, with personalized feedback from someone who has mastered your craft long before you?

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It’s World Ballet Day tomorrow!

The best professional companies from around the world will be streaming live from inside their studios, giving you a look inside company ballet classes and behind-the-scenes rehearsals.

How to give better feedback
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Years ago I worked in large hospitals treating stroke and cancer patients.

One of my major tasks was to educate and train the next cohort of clinicians coming up through the ranks. Student clinicians would come to the hospital and get exposed to working with actual patients.

I loved it. I benefited from the guidance of supportive clinical educators when I was a student, and I aspired to be the same.

I enjoyed giving back to the professional community and sharing my knowledge and skills. I never forgot what it was like when I fronted up to work at a hospital for the first time—daunted, scared and curious. I wanted my students to have the best possible experience and enjoy clinical work as much as I did.

One of my major tasks as a clinical educator was to provide feedback to students on their performance. It wasn't easy to find the right balance between positive and negative feedback.

I had to be mindful of their inexperience while offering up constructive suggestions they could work with without crushing their confidence or spirit. Brilliant students would be nervous and fumble when assessing a patient for the first time. Translating book knowledge into clinical expertise takes time.

The lessons I learned giving student clinicians feedback all those years ago still rings true today. I've refined my approach over the years down to these important points.

1. Keep it short. Be specific

I've been on the receiving end of feedback that's gone on and on. The message will be lost if you keep on talking. Don’t ramble on. Stop talking and give the person a chance to digest the feedback and offer comments or clarifying questions.

Be specific. Give clear examples. Tie your feedback to actual behavior. Don't get personal. Leave emotion and judgment out of it. Never blame performance on personality. Don't use giving feedback as an excuse to rant, take out your own frustrations or assign blame.

2. Do it quickly

Feedback is most effective when it's timely. On a busy hospital ward it was easy to delay giving students feedback until the end of the day. I avoided this in favor of giving feedback as soon as possible, no matter how busy I thought I was. 

Don't save up all your feedback. Especially if it's negative, don't deliver it all at once during a daily or weekly check-in.

3. Don't do the 'sandwich' thing

Sandwiching negative feedback in between two pieces of positive feedback might make you feel better about delivering negative feedback, but it is almost never helpful for the recipient. Don't do it.

Be direct. Give lots of positive feedback. I aimed for a ratio of 80:20—giving much more positive than negative. Even the brightest and most capable need to hear positive feedback on a regular basis.

4. Give clear solutions

This one is huge for me. I've had bosses over the years who have given me feedback only to leave me hanging trying to figure out how to correct it.

Negative feedback especially has to come with solutions and a roadmap for improvement. It's not enough to criticize without helping the recipient figure out what to do next. Equally it's important to be open to having your own assumptions about a person challenged as part of the feeback process.

Always approach feedback with the assumption that the person you're working with is capable, smart and wants to improve. Encourage their participation by asking things like, "How do you want to improve?" Or "what might success look like for you in this area?" 

5. Applaud those who actively seek feedback

People who go out of their way to seek feedback from the non-obvious and smaller moments are the true gems of the corporate world. They're among the easiest to give feedback to because they approach you and accept your insights with openness and humility.

In my experience these persons are the most engaged, motivated and emotionally intelligent. They seek feedback from a variety of sources and situations. They're never happy with the status quo, they maintain a growth mindset and they actively build and tap into their challenge network.

The conversation is just starting—morality in A.I.

I went to an amazing presentation earlier this week. 

Harry Glaser of Periscope Data gave a speech on the moral responsibility data professionals have to safeguard the proper use of AI. According to Harry, "AI unchallenged runs a strong risk of delivering immoral outcomes."

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He's right. What happened at Cambridge Analytica shows how powerful the use and misuse of AI technology can be.

Thought leaders like Harry are starting to talk about the role data and other professionals play in being moral custodians of AI technology.

Artificial intelligence needs human intelligence behind it—moral guardrails to guide it. Early adopters of AI have the responsibility to set the tone for its professional and moral use.

A recent op-ed in the New York Times takes this idea further—digital marketers are excited about the economic and commercial potential of AI but we have all but ignored its potential to be used with ill intent.

Despite these myriad risks, industry professionals seem to have turned a blind eye to the oncoming specter of A.I., likely because they are optimistic about its commercial potential. ~New York Times, 26 March 2018

From where I sit, I see many marketers grappling with the 'how' of AI. They're getting their heads around what technology is, what it can do and how it might impact the scope, scale and delivery of their marketing treatments.

Some marketers are more experienced with AI and have already integrated it into their routine use. The more seasoned AI marketers are the ones who need to be leading the conversation about its moral use.

There are no easy answers here, except to say the conversation about the moral use of AI technology is only just starting. We need to put aside our excitement about what AI can do in a commercial sense and start debating what moral use of AI technology in marketing looks like, how we should uphold it, and what should happen to those who don't.

How to get better at impromptu speaking

My definition of professional torture goes something like this...

I'm in a meeting surrounded by people I don't know who are more powerful and important than me.

I'm thrilled to have earned my seat at this VIP table. It's my opportunity to shine. I feel the pressure. I want to make a stellar impression.

All of a sudden my boss throws it over to me to talk about a topic I'm unfamiliar with. I've had no warning or time to prepare.

I can feel the spotlight on me. Next I feel face start to burn bright red. Unprepared and nervous, I fumble through a response. My voice cracks a little while I'm talking. I can feel people's eyes burning into me. 

When I finally finish talking I get slightly confused looks back in return. I'm not really sure what I just said, but I can tell already my words didn't have the desired impact. My boss rescues me from certain professional death by saying, "I think what Sarah is trying to say is..." 

Being asked to speak off-the-cuff is an essential tool every ambitious business professional needs to develop and master. It comes naturally to some people but most of us need to work on it. 

After suffering through variations of this scenario over the years, I finally decided enough was enough. I had to tackle this with measurable goals and with productive strategies. I made it a goal to never let this scenario happen again.

Here's how I tacked and improved my ability to speak to white space.

1. See it as an opportunity

I shifted my thinking about impromptu speaking from one of terror and dread to thinking about it as a genuine opportunity.

I thought of it as just another skill I needed to learn and master. I told myself I can learn to do it better. That small shift in mindset made a tremendous difference to my approach and confidence.

2. Pause. Don't talk right away

When the time comes to talk, don't. Pause before you say anything.

Taking an extra couple of seconds gives you valuable time to gather your thoughts and to think up a quick structure for your response.

Most people in this scenario just start talking. When you pause, you appear more considered, polished and in control of the situation. Even if you don't feel it.

3. Add structure

Don't say the first thing that pops into your head.

Use whatever time you have to pull your thoughts together into a basic structure. Depending on the situation, that might be a few seconds or a few minutes.

A good basic structure looks like this: Position, Reason, Example, Position or PREP.

State your position, give a reason for your position, give an example and conclude by restating your position again. If you have more time, repeat the same again with a different example.

4. Say less

With a basic structure in place, you still need to keep it short. Saying more almost never adds value.

I like this quote from Franklin F. Roosevelt in this scenario—"Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated."

Most people tend to ramble on when faced with white space. Don't fall into this trap. You're unlikely to add value by turning it into an unstructured monologue. If you stick to a structure, like the one outlined above, you should be able to contain your response and be brief. 

5. Practice! A lot!

Practice and getting regular feedback is the best way to improve your impromptu speaking skills.

Every time I'm in this scenario at the office, I look for someone in my challenge network to provide with feedback on my performance.

Rather than waiting for opportunities to come up in the work setting, I created regular practice opportunities for myself by joining a local Toastmasters.

Most people think Toastmasters is for practicing giving speeches, and it is. It's also an opportunity to practice impromptu speaking in a safe and supported environment.

Every meeting has a section called Table Topics. Members are asked to stand up in front of the group and answer a question off-the-cuff and with no time to prepare an answer.

The nature of questions don't matter, and neither do your answers. A question I had recently was, "If you could be a fruit, which one would you be and why?"

I'm never going to answer that question in a work scenario (okay, maybe in an obscure job interview). But I'm getting valuable opportunities to practice and refine my impromptu speaking skills when I talk about myself as having come from a warm climate with the thick skin and soft center of a banana.

Should you focus on your strengths or improve your weaknesses?

I had the opportunity to ask a senior executive at a Women In Tech event recently whether one should focus on bolstering their strengths or improving their weaknesses. She told me you should always focus on improving your strengths.

I recently learned more about my strengths through a formal assessment called the Clifton Strengths assessment.

The Clifton Strengths assessment asks you to rate yourself on a simple scale across 177 different items. At the end you get a top 5 list of your strengths.

According to the Clifton Strengths assessment my strengths are—I like to solve problems (restorative), I like to ponder the future (futuristic), I like people (relator), I like to learn new things (learner) and I'm inquisitive about everything (input).

That's great! Now I know my strengths, should I focus on improving them like the executive I spoke to advised? Or should I look for obvious gaps and focus on those?

I've been pondering this for a couple of weeks. After doing some reading, this is where I landed.

Knowing your strengths is useful but it doesn't tell you if you're actually good at any of them. It also doesn't tell you how good your strengths are in relation to other people. 

A persistent focus on strengths can blind you to the hard truths about yourself. Really smart and capable people can have glaring weak spots and counterproductive work habits. There may be aspects of your performance you could improve, but you risk never finding those weaker areas if you continually focus on what you're good at.

That's why it's important to get honest and constructive feedback. It can be difficult to get and is dependent on the work culture you're in, how open you are to coaching and how effective your boss is at providing it. Coaching can help improve weak areas as an avenue for professional growth and it has research evidence to support its effectiveness.

Instead of focusing on your strengths, a better way is to develop your self-awareness. Work hard, know yourself and know what you want to achieve. Let your goals dictate where you put your energy and focus, regardless of whether they're a strength or a weakness. Setting incremental goals and adapting to feedback is a growth mindset and a better path to achieving higher success.

 

Read more:

Why you need a challenge network

Adam Grant recently started a new weekly podcast called WorkLife. I highly recommend adding it to your list of must-listen podcasts each week. 

The first episode is about criticism in the workplace. More specifically it's about why you should like it and why you should want more of it. 

Grant interviews Ray Dalio the CEO of Bridgewater Associates—widely known as the most successful hedge fund in the world. Bridgewater is known for its unique workplace culture of radical transparency. Employees at Bridgewater give each other immediate, candid feedback, all the time. Opinions are out in the open.

Bridgewater's culture of always-on radical transparency is extreme. The point Grant makes is there's value in getting regular, constructive feedback on your performance. Grant champions the idea of developing your own mini-version of Bridgewater's radical transparency via a challenge network—a group of individuals you trust to give you regular and constructive feedback.

To develop your challenge network you have to do two things, a) be open to receiving negative feedback and b) be prepared to actively ask for it. A robust challenge network turns every meeting, every presentation, and every communication into an avenue for development and growth.

Keep in mind also, most people don't actively ask for feedback. If they do, it's usually only from their immediate leader. Once you start asking for constructive feedback from your peers or others you work alongside, it's an easy way to stand out and to showcase your willingness to improve and grow. Do it right and you'll learn a lot about yourself along the way, too.