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  • Writer's pictureDave Yeates

Five reasons cross-functional, customer driven, agile marketing is here to stay

Just for a moment, think about what marketing looked like in 2007.

10 years ago, the iPhone was about to be unveiled for the first time. In all its skeuomorphic glory. There certainly wasn’t much talk about the ubiquitous nature of the internet, dial up was still an acceptable way to access the internet, cloud, SaaS or even big data were abstract concepts. Sure, it all existed, but so did Facebook back then, and yet most people hadn’t even heard of it.

I remember my father was the one who installed the games on our old 386 when I was growing up. The 5 ½ inch floppy with grunt away as the games read onto what was probably a 5mb hard drive. I grew watching the technical innovation compound and Moores Law prove itself over and over again. And then, all of a sudden, I wasn’t playing games anymore and it wasn’t my father running the IT for the household. I was doing it. The tables had turned and I was his desktop support. A tipping point had occurred. I’d become the student of change and I was ahead of my peers and even my own parents.

I was 12.

The last decade has seen a compounding of innovation in the media industry so fierce, it’s left old-school marketers in the dark and new-school marketers as students of change. So how, in an environment with little maturity and a whole lot of legacy, do you build high-functioning teams to deliver against your marketing strategy (old-school or new…)?

I believe the market has already given us the answer. For over a decade we’ve been students of change and out of this change, we’ve spawned theories and practices around customer centricity, continuous improvement and cross-functional teams. And if we’ve learned anything from lean systems thinking, it’s that we’re sitting on lessons, not failures.

This is why I don’t believe cross-functional, agile, customer driven marketing is a fad or even a trend – it’s a response to the market and to the changing technological environment.

1. It’s a team-driven environment.

The agile school of thought was put down on paper by a duo of agile marketers John Cass and Jim Ewel (among others) at “Sprint Zero”. It’s there that the lessons and philosophies from the Agile Manifesto like customer first, collaboration and teamwork over silos began to migrate into a marketing context.

What I love about this is the environment it creates. Marketers are creative, they’re communicative, they like to learn and even if they’re one of those data-driven marketers, they like to make things matter to people.

Building teams around teamwork, rather than heroes, and value rather than micro-management mean better finished products, more creative teams, and if the structures stay similar to agile, it also means less time managing risks, stakeholders and personalities.

2. Cross-disciplined learning

Simply by definition, a cross-functional team is crossing functions to help each other. That means that creatives are leaning into tech. Programmers are leaning into copywriting and copywriters are influencing the artwork. And although it’s easy to reel at that idea if you’re in love with your job’s “function”, if you’re in love with your customer, or the journey you’ve been tasked with marketing to, it becomes about a customer experience, rather than your function.

In addition, specifically at a producer level, organisations are seeing more and more GenY and Millenials. These are digital natives who are looking to execute digitally, who think about online ecosystems differently and understand audience-based marketing. The more your cross-discipline these groups, the more they’ll learn from each other and begin self-improve naturally. This is their natural environment.

What you also get through cross-disciplined teams are the frictions required to build strength and trust. The teams are forging together toward a common goal. They’re different people who can trust each other; united by a cause and that gives them a sense of being ‘In the trenches” together.

3. Market segmentation

Think about your work or your business… your products are sold to differing customers and each of those customers segments have differences to them. Certain groups may only purchase at a certain time of the week or year. Certain groups may be impulse buyers while others take the time to make their decisions. Whatever it is, an agile, cross-functional, customer focused team is now structured to address these customers on a daily basis, a team tailored to meet different needs across different segments.

The advantage you gain in moving the structure around like this is the context you gain from the headspace at the top. You know the customer’s journey, you know how they buy, now the team’s task is to be responsive, current, relevant and contextual. It puts all the professionals, agencies and graduates in the same room to obsess over “the voice of the customer”.

Organising teams around market segmentation give them a chance to become experts on their customer and grew to know them incredibly well. When the teams are deep, they become subject matter experts on their own customer’s journey; when they’re wide, they see the trends across the journeys and begin to economise their efforts together, with transparency.

4. Customer experience

Growth Teams” add a great deal of depth to a customer experience as well. Although their worlds are not tied to the sales and after-sales experience. The value of the customer journey and the ROI on the loyalty loop means these self-improving, agile teams are consistently executing against the whole customer journey.

In addition, at the beginning of the customer journey, where the “branding” work is done, these teams are relentlessly producing value to try and reach and acquire new customers. Agile teams that constantly review, adjust and improve are particularly geared toward success in this environment. If your enterprise is big enough to have “brand” teams or “acquisition marketers” – start the agile journey here.

The customer experience also extends into the small little nuances of every customer. Because these cross-functional “Growth Teams” are so focused on their key customers, the segment nuances become powerful levers for differentiation. Where communications can be personalised and campaigns delivered quickly and with precision.

5. Enterprise teams become “growth teams”

As data becomes more and more ubiquitous, and easier to draw insights from, the slower more cumbersome corporate environments will begin to find pace. “Growth Teams” will be an incredibly powerful tool for focusing on key customer segments at key moments.

At scale, marketing has become a poker-game of distraction; granted, we’re tweaking dials on a proverbial Formula 1 car to get that extra 1 or 2 percent, but what we’ve not seen much of yet, is the scale of efficiency this type of productivity has granted software teams of the last decade. At scale, cross-functional, agile, customer-focused teams are an immense opportunity for relentless production, savings on agency fees and market differentiation, and it’s now, that the first movers win.

Case Studies:


During the 2014 World Cup, Coca-Cola’s happiness flag was unveiled. Built using agile principles and methodologies and praised for finished “weeks in advance”, crediting the agile principles for “having all the different parties involved at the table throughout the project.”In particular, the agile methodologies had allowed the teams to fully utilise two “divorced” agencies – allowing them to fully represent their own expertise.


“We’re all 21st Century McGyvers. We find a way to get things done.” States Dave Panek, Teradata’s VP of Marketing. Panek believes modern marketing requires an immense amount of agility, constantly walking the tightrope of tried and true with innovative, new marketing opportunities. It’s the attitude to failure, the drive to adjust and the ability to collaborate across departments to find ways to improve the customer experience that drives his love of Agile marketing. Teradata isn’t just focused on just segments either. They’re using agile methodologies to focus on the individual, to personalise and develop their marketing capability deep into the future.

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