Do brands need to think like tech companies to survive?

David Llewlleyn in conversation with The Drum discusses why brands need to think like tech companies to survive and grow

Watch the fascinating panel here.

In the hyper competitive world of mobile apps - where funding is cheap and a land-grab attitude to customer acquisition prevails - a marketing technology arms race has broken out as companies scramble to drive customer insight, improve performance and gain competitive advantage.

But according to AppsFlyer marketing director EMEA David Llewellyn, throwing money at martech isn’t the solution, in this sector or any other. More important is having the right people, the right culture and the right organisational structure to support innovation and growth.

Llewellyn took to the virtual stage at The Drum’s Can-Do Festival to discuss the lessons brands in all sectors can learn from the mobile apps market, and why they need to think like tech companies to survive and grow.

The following takeaways emerged from the session:

  • The idea of creating cross-functional teams, pioneered in tech companies a decade ago, has evolved to include marketing. The result is “growth factories”, businesses within the business that are purely focused on driving innovation and growth.
  • There’s no single organisational model that will work for every business.
  • The right skills are less important in these growth factories than the right attitude. You need people who are willing to try and fail, to learn and to work together collaboratively with other departments. Tech skills can be taught.
  • Support and understanding from the top of the organisation is crucial.

Driving forces

Llewellyn identified a couple of key factors that are changing the way marketers work and driving their inclusion in these cross-functional growth teams. The first is the increasing automation of customer acquisition, creating the opportunity for marketers to spend more time lower down the funnel.

“Companies need to find high-quality users, but it’s very hard to identify what quality is at the top of the funnel. You need to get people experiencing your products, so marketers are having to be much more involved in product analytics, conversion design, and deeper user experience conversations. This means much greater alignment is needed between product and tech and marketing. And it also means marketers themselves need to become more comfortable with data science and maybe even with product and engineering.”

The second factor is that, as companies grow, their marketing options increase. As a result, so does the complexity of their marketing mix.

“You’ve got offline, you’ve got online, and within that a huge variety of different options start to appear. And these aren’t just technology options, they’re channels that you can start to market through. And it’s absolutely essential that the organisational structure evolves to overcome that complexity.”

Key to success

Llewellyn noted that although every business that evolves its org chart to adopt these ideas will end up with a different result, the underlying principles remain constant. He identified the four key characteristics of successful growth teams: they need to be autonomous, empowered, understood and trusted.

“For growth teams to succeed, they need to have the ability to execute their mandate, and this mandate needs to be fully understood by the entire business. And the mandate needs to be communicated in such a way as to create trust in the growth team. The rest of the business needs to trust the team is going to act in the best interests of the company and the end-users, and not break anything.”

He also stressed that while a few departments are regularly included in growth teams - Product, Engineering, Marketing - realising the full business-within-a-business means others, such as Ops, BI, Design, Project Management and other commercial and business departments need to be represented too.

Another key requirement for the success of growth teams is a buy-in from top management.

“Driving organisational or cultural change without top-down support is nigh-on impossible. If you don’t have it, I would consider not making these changes because they might end up being detrimental.”

Llewellyn also emphasised the importance of making sure the growth teams are just focused on their mandate. That means pulling them out of their departments to work together. And he warned that one of the effects can be to muddle reporting lines and decision making. The solution to this, he said, is to make the team data-driven, and to ensure it strikes a balance between the needs of the customer and those of the business.

“If you get this right, and you choose the right growth team model,” he said, “not only do you have a team that's driving a huge amount of business impact, but you also have a real improvement in company culture. And if you get technology right, growth right, and a fabulous company culture, you can't help but succeed.”

Watch the panel here.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.