Should Global Teams Pump the Brakes on Agile Marketing?

If you’ve ever hit the brakes, chances are you’re familiar with TMD Friction: one of the world’s largest manufacturers of brake friction materials. Unfortunately, hitting the brakes on plans and pivoting down a new path is something marketers have become very familiar with in the last two years. 

And when plans take unexpected turns, marketing organizations of considerable size, tasked with managing a ton of moving parts across the globe, often get stuck when it comes to transparency and collaboration.   

What’s the secret to becoming more agile and getting everyone on the same page? For TMD Friction, they ditched spreadsheets and implemented a marketing resource management system (MRM). 

In our recent Marketing Ops Now podcast, Stephan Giesecke, who is the Global Category Manager for TMD Friction, stopped by to give Ralf Strauss the lowdown on agile marketing in a global marketing organization. 

Stephan can attest that while implementing such a large piece of martech won’t always be an easy, one-and-done process, the benefits reaped from the newfound agility of your marketing organization will be clear as day. 

Too many variations of marketing plans and spreadsheets  

A small marketing team can get away with using spreadsheets to manage plans and budgets. But for a global company like TMD Friction, spreadsheets weren’t an easy or efficient way to get everyone aligned, particularly when it came to making changes. 

Marketing teams often get aligned annually on their plans for the year, but in several weeks’ time (especially in the past two years), plans can change on a dime, often due to market conditions and subsequent budget changes. In turn, marketing planning becomes a constantly evolving operation throughout the year, rather than a one-off process.  

As Stephan points out, that’s why it’s called a “plan”—not “reality.” And with spreadsheets, TMD Friction didn’t have an accurate view of this reality.  

With BrandMaker’s MRM, marketers now have “the opportunity to be agile,” Stephan says, by being able to easily enter a change into one system of record, updated in real time across the organization—as opposed to static spreadsheets that represent one moment in time.  

“It’s the same base,” he explains. “It’s not different versions of the plan. It’s the one and only platform we are sharing information on.” 

Enabling autonomy within global marketing plans 

When things do change, it’s also important for a large marketing organization to give their teams a certain level of autonomy. 

When TMD Friction creates marketing plans at its headquarters, teams throughout the world then rework the plans as necessary in their own respective markets. 

“They take the centrally developed materials,” explains Stephan, “and adapt them to local requirements.” 

However, plans will face inevitable roadblocks: A campaign that was executed well in one country may not perform well in another region. Certain teams may be facing a sudden lack of resources or personnel. Or economic conditions might change in specific markets.  

That’s when local teams must be enabled to easily make changes to a campaign or come up with an alternative.  

“I like to leave some freedom to provide some autonomy to people in their region,” says Stephan, who adds that this level of trust also results in more harmonious relationships between the headquarters and local teams.  

Autonomy is only successful with transparency 

With autonomy comes the need for transparency: Once anyone inputs changes into their MRM, teams at any location are immediately aware of what’s going on.  

For Stephan, he benefits from being able to see what people are planning, how much budget they’re spending, and when exactly they’re executing their tasks.  

This increased level of transparency can certainly improve the often notoriously strained relationship between a marketing team and a finance team at any organization. 

“We didn’t start in marketing because we are accountants,” Stephan jokes. 

Stephan makes the important distinction that his marketing team’s relationship with finance is “not as cliché as you might think”—i.e., everyone gets along just fine—but having increased visibility through an MRM helps support cooperation and transparency around what’s being spent in marketing. If any marketing budget numbers seem off, for example, both teams can investigate the same system of record and figure out what’s going on.  

How to implement a new system 

Increased agility, transparency, and collaboration are all great things to have at your marketing organization, but how do you start the conversation to get there?  To get everyone on board, it starts with getting them to understand the value of a new system and getting away from what they’re used to.  

“[It’s about] making people feel that there are benefits to it,” Stephan explains.  

However, the “decisive component” in having everyone adhere to the new system was having a structured process while still enabling flexibility, he says.  

“Without a top-down component, we would have failed,” Stephan says. This means having a hierarchical structure put in place for planning: e.g., campaign, sub-campaign, activity of the campaign, invoice for the component of an activity, and so forth. 

“This structure needs to be decided, and it needs to be implemented,” he adds. Or else, marketing teams of this size—left wondering how to structure their plans in this system—will inevitably run into chaos.  

Going back to the importance of autonomy, though, nobody wants to be locked into a very specific process, especially if it doesn’t serve their particular market. After all, not every country has the same level of business activity, so they’re not going to plan in the same way. This necessitates flexibility in the planning structure, Stephan says. 

“We built [the system] up very flexibly—which comes at a price, of course,” he says, explaining that plans “can take some time to work your way through.” But in the end, marketers are able to build their own plans that work best for them and, consequently, be more accepting of the new way of doing things.  

“And I can still have my benefits,” Stephan adds. “If I want to know how much I’ve spent for ‘fairs in region X,’ I can still put my filter in … and I have the information I need for my reporting, while they can still build up their planning the way that they like it.” 

Keeping the wheels moving 

Just like marketing plans, TMD Friction’s MRM adoption is no static thing (as is likely the case for other companies’ sizeable marketing teams). Marketers are constantly learning and evolving alongside the platform, learning what works best for their teams, and becoming a more agile marketing team in the process.  

“Education does not stop, really,” Stephan says.  

It comes down to being able to answer the why: Why are we doing something in marketing? And can we show that it worked? 

“If you can’t answer the why, you’re not provided with the means you need to fulfill your own personal objectives,” Stephan explains. 

With increased agility, transparency, and marketing collaboration capabilities enabled by their new MRM, TMD Friction’s marketing teams are better equipped to keep answering the important questions.  

To learn more about TMD Friction’s MRM adoption, listen to the 25-minute conversation between Stephan and Ralf on our Marketing Ops Now podcast 

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