7 Tips for “Getting” Six Sigma Marketing

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I recently got back from speaking at the first annual Successfully Implementing Six Sigma in Marketing conference in Chicago. I believe this was the first conference of its kind. While Six Sigma in marketing is not brand new to companies such as GE, DuPont and Dell, it is novice territory for most companies…and of course many ‘veterans’ were looking to improve.

There were about 150-200 attendees, about half focused on Six Sigma and the other half on marketing. Almost all the questions I heard were around how to blend the two together, as if Six Sigma and Marketing were inventing Reeses for the marketing profession. Everyone was interested in “how” to make traction on measurement-based business improvement.

My main message was simple, but complex to execute. Successfully implementing Six Sigma in Marketing is about culture.

Six Sigma — or Business Process Improvement (BPI) as it’s defined at Dell – can be a tool to change or enforce a culture. In the case of Dell, BPI enforces an established culture with a foundation of metrics and continuous improvement. However, because Six Sigma is an established practice and methodology, it can be a catalyst for change in the right hands. Which is what many attendees at this conference were seeking to do.

Key themes I presented and heard on how to do this:

Get the right leader – Empower a Six Sigma leader that is a change leader, who understands the business, and can put things in marketing terms.
Leverage Tops-down Support – Senior executive (especially President/CEO) ongoing support is critical, as is the case with any change initiative or culture change. You can solicit this, but better if senior management ‘gets religion’.

Talk About Outputs – Don’t scare marketing with daunting statistic phrases, such as ANOVA, chi-square, and multi-variate regression analysis. If you make this about the stats and tools, marketing won’t care. Talk about margin, profit, revenue, response rate and how six sigma tools can improve the processes and inputs that improve the results. It will be as if you invented Excel!

Show Results – Get early adopters to launch projects that can showcase how Six Sigma can drive marketing results.

Use Recognition and Communication – Recognize marketing professionals who are blazing the Six Sigma trail, launching projects. It’s a great motivator. Communicate the program and project details with frequency from many angles and vehicles.
Position Six Sigma as a Career Accelerator – Executing Six Sigma projects develops skills that leaders need to have. Therefore, doing a project develops and demonstrates those skills to help marketers go to the next level.

Measurement Systems are Vital – You can’t improve what you can’t measure. So having the systems in place to give access to empirical inputs and outputs is paramount. What is still immeasurable in your business?

There’s no silver bullet. I’d suggest the most impactful thing you could do is to honestly look in your organizational mirror and determine the ‘measurABILITY’ of your culture. How focused is management and the people around you on metrics, and the desire and capability to improve them? Either use Six Sigma as the catalyst drive this culture, or use it to improve your continuous improvement!

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