Tag Archive: Pj Management


It’s been a few months since my last post. I have been head down on completing my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. For those of you that have completed this you know how difficult it is. For those of you that have not and are looking to, brush up on your college stats. That has been the toughest part for me. 

All of this focus on hypothesis testing, ANOVA, Chi-Squared, DMAIC, Kaizen events etc., has got me thinking. Can you apply Six Sigma strategies to marketing processes and roles?  With a little research it’s easy to see that Six Sigma and Lean is usually applied in financial, manufacturing and healthcare companies. However, I think you can definitely apply the principles to companies/departments that focus on marketing.       

When you strip it down, GE defined Six Sigma as a “disciplined methodology of defining, measuring, analyzing, improving and controlling the quality in every one of the company’s products, processes and transactions–with the ultimate goal of virtually eliminating all defects.” Check out this clip of an interview with Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, on his view of what a Six Sigma company is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNMULFcLuIM.  The Six Sigma approach says if you can reduce process variation, you can improve organizational effectiveness and efficiencies.  

Applying six sigma strategies even if not formally entering the entire process will enable companies to improve marketing’s strategic, tactical and operational processes leading to top line revenue growth. By applying Six Sigma to marketing you can develop a more efficient marketing workflow, become proactive about process gaps and performance improvement while honing in on the correct growth indicators. Measurement of performance is one of the five fundamental phases in the Six Sigma methodology. Once you begin measuring marketing performance, you can begin to make modifications and improvements. Six Sigma provides a methodology for process improvement and an easily definable way to prove its value.

Applying one of the key philosophies of Six Sigma, DMAIC, you can see how it can be used to improve existing business processes. DMAIC includes five steps:

  1. Define – job functions, goals, and deliverables consistent with customer demands and the organization’s strategy
  2. Measure – current performance and processes, and collect relevant data for future comparison and improvement
  3. Analyze – the data relationship and factors leading to variances and defects, utilizing specific proven statistical analysis tools
  4. Improve – the process to eliminate defects 
  5. Control – any variances before they result in defects to improve overall performance.  Let’s consider how we can apply the DMAIC process to marketing to grow revenue.

So how does this apply to marketing?  The role of marketing is to keep and grow value of existing customers in the CRM flow and acquire new customers in the Acquisition flow. Effective marketing programs must establish goals and deliverables to track effectiveness and deliver value from the two flows.  The various marketing functions will need to be integrated to create a comprehensive and integrated workflow.  Flowing the processes allows you to map the workflow and develop metrics tied to marketing activities that relate to desired business outcomes. These activities will become standardized across the organization and enable successful data collection to identify areas of improvement.

Performance can only be measured and improvements made after data collection.  The first step in measuring and improving performance is to determine what data exists, where it exists, what is needed, and how to obtain it.  Customer specific purchase patterns, marketing program results and conversion rates, actual costs for programs and people, lead quality data,  associate lead cost,  and churn are examples of some of the data that can be assessed. Once the metrics are defined, the team should use the data to establish baselines. This is a key application of DMAIC.  These baselines are used in a statistically significant way to develop hypotheses of variances and test results.

Marketing metrics are established with full knowledge of the desired business outcomes. Consideration needs to be given to not just the cost of the programs, but also how these investments contribute to the company’s ability to achieve its goals and generate profit.  Business outcomes may be related to cost to acquire, the rate of acquisition, customer affinity and value, loyalty, etc.  By analyzing the data and understanding what it means, marketing can determine the degree of impact it is having on the organization, and redesign processes that will improve performance.  Analysis leads to the improve step.

Improve: A performance driven organization with the customer voice in mind welcomes opportunities for improvement. The main purpose of applying Six Sigma to marketing is to determine how to improve performance and processes.  Data analysis should result in valuable insights that generate possibilities for improvement.  These possibilities can include enhancements in tools, systems, processes, and skills.  Working through these changes, marketing can play a greater role and better align with overall strategic imperatives.

Change/Control: All the analysis is done and the process changes have been identified. Now it’s time to implement these changes.  The changes might be new data mining tools, collateral, or media (print or online) etc. They all need to be managed and brought to market with quality program managers and a disciplined process. The control and change phase ties closely to the control phase identified in PMI’s 5 Process groups discussed in some of my previous posts.  

Applying Six Sigma to marketing is efficacious and will increase the ability to deliver the company’s strategic imperatives. You will see improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the marketing planning process and operational processes and be able to quantify a direct correlation between implementation and top line revenue growth.

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In the past I have spoken mostly about getting your product to market, making sure you have good marketing programs to support your brand and building an ongoing relationship with customers.  Now, I want to touch on how you can offer support for your product and the role of customer self-assistance.

Just a few years ago when you needed help for a product you bought, you would call the company you bought it from and talk to someone. Companies often staffed call centers to handle billing and tech support. Soon after companies began outsourcing all or parts of call centers to offset direct labor costs. We are at a crossroads in the customer support business. Some companies offer staffed call centers, while others have begun migrating to a more 2.0 expereince moving primary support online. Much of this depends on the product/service being offered and the target customer base. If you are re-selling Retail Electric service for example, you are probably still very heavily supporting your customers through traditional call center tactics. If your model includes SaaS apps or other web-based distributions, you have probably added more self-help options. Truthfully, we most commonly see a hybrid approach of traditional support options and next-gen apps. Companies need to understand how “their” customers will seek support.

There are endless options you can choose from when offering self assistance. From self diagnostic tests to chat and e-mail, the choices are endless. Not every option is right from your product or customer base. Choose from some of the options I outline in the two major categories below and apply them consistently to your product/service, offer, marketing, brand and customers.

  1. Social Media – The social web spurs conversations that can help or harm a brand. Customer complaints can reach thousands of people within minutes. Consumers expect an immediate response. Monitor conversations on Twitter, YouTube, RSS feeds, your Facebook fan page, and other industry specific social channels,  and forums. This helps you respond quickly and appropriately to global or groups of issues. All of these social channels allow you to engage your customers in authentic conversations to assist them, and support brand loyalty. Offer peer-to-peer support forums. By allowing them to ask questions and find answers in an online community, users talk to each other, build relationships and solve issues without adding a single call or email to your contact center’s workload. Monitor the forum content and gain reusable content for your knowledge base.
  2. Web Services – According to Forrester Research, 72 percent of online consumers prefer to use a company’s website to get answers to their questions rather than contact companies via telephone or email. You need to provide this growing base of customers with options. You will free up agents to handle Tier II and III issues, drive down costs and do more with less.  Build and maintain a knowledge base of product information, and FAQs. Continuously add to it through social media tools, dynamic adds and search etc. Offer pop-up guides within the base to lead the conversations, or even link out to chat/e-mail services. A staple in the web services category is Chat. It can bridge the gap between your website knowledge base and phone-based interactions. It provides a way to engage a customer or prospect before they abandon a purchase or when they have problems solving their own customer service issue. Consumers like the immediacy of chatting with agents on an organization’s website. Chat can provide more timely and personal resolution, especially when leveraged as a complementary point of contact to the traditional call center support channel. For more complex issues, offer e-mail support with defined turn around times. Finally, push it to the cloud and make all of this available anywhere, anytime and any place. Mobile support with native app building is here and beginning to move all of this information past just PC accessibility. Take advantage.

The key in all of this is to provide your customers with interaction options across many channels and use your common knowledge foundation to provide consistency and efficiency. Empower your customers to self-serve at their convenience, through their communication channel of choice. Please listen to your customers and learn what they are thinking and act on it. Who cares if you think it’s a great service plan if they don’t? Keep your most loyal, knowledgeable customers—the ones with strong opinions and great product ideas close. Make them part of the ideation and innovation processes, so they can help you identify new business opportunities, guide your product roadmap, prioritize and refine ideas, and develop your next breakthrough product. Lastly, evaluate, baseline, identify and adapt to your customers.

By now, you have all read my previous post on the GTM cycle and the interrelationships between the various phases. You also now know that it’s critical to develop a go-to-market plan that clearly describes the goals of the new service and outlines the steps needed to market, operationalize, and support the product/service.  Just as important as the go-to-market plan, is the controls that are put in place to manage the risks/dependencies and timelines. This is where a good program/project manager is introduced.  

PMI, the standards organization that sets the guidelines for Project Manager Certification (PMP) recognizes 5 basic process groups typical of almost all projects. The basic concepts are applicable to projects, programs and operations. The five basic process groups are:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring and Controlling
  5. Closing

Processes overlap and interact throughout a project or phase. Processes are described in terms of:

  • Inputs (documents, plans, designs, etc.)
  • Tools and Techniques (mechanisms applied to inputs)
  • Outputs (documents, products, etc.)

These ITTOs form the document base for most projects and guide the project teams through the GTM process to bring products/services to customers on time and under budget.

A quality program/project manager works cross functionally to “connect the dots” and keep everything on track. Without this experienced professional, the best product/service will fall flat before it reaches market and before it delivers on its promises. Organizations need to segment each product/service and structure the GTM process with the PM being the lead.  If successful, companies will capitalize on their often sizable investment in human capital.