Q&A with Breakthrough Marketing Technology on Six Sigma Marketing

As we start to get into the busy season of shopping, cooking, and everything that comes with preparing for the holidays, take a moment to let all the goodness soak in — in spite of all the craziness, isn’t it nice to have all that quality time time with your family and friends?  Sometimes we get so caught up in getting things done, the holidays are over before we know it, and we forgot to appreciate the fun!

As you start to make your list of things you need to do this season, see if you can be inspired with Six Sigma Marketing by Elaine Harris, President of Breakthrough Marketing Technology.  Her philosophy will help you look at your marketing processes in a different way.

Here we go….

  1. Many of our readers are interested in Six Sigma Marketing. In your own words, what exactly is it and why is it beneficial?

    Six Sigma is a process driven methodology geared toward maximizing efficiency by doing things right the first time.  Together with Lean, you also eliminate unnecessary practices that waste resources.  In manufacturing, the orientation is usually around reducing costs.  Our application of these principles, however, focuses on how to do the work of marketing in a way that will support business growth.  It also enables communication with other functions within the business, using the same vocabulary.

  2. How long have you been using the Six Sigma marketing processes to help companies?

    We became certified Six Sigma practitioners while working at AlliedSignal and were involved in developing the first curriculum specifically for marketers and teams involved with new product development.  That was about 12 years ago.  After starting Breakthrough, our first formal Lean Six Sigma engagement came about 6 years ago, though we frequently use the process framework as a matter of routine to address business challenges.  We’ve also spoken at multiple industry conferences about the application of Lean and Six Sigma to marketing.  That came even before our first engagement.

  3. What are the main types of projects that you’ve had over the past year, where you have incorporated the Six Sigma approach?

    We have an ongoing client relationship with a Fortune 500 company where we train individuals and teams on how to optimize their new product development and innovation processes.  The classroom style training is supplemented with coaching on the application to real, significant business opportunities.  Fundamentally, using a best in class process to deliver new products based on the voice of the customer is Lean Six Sigma in action.  We also execute market research projects to generate data-driven insights that will support sound business decisions about pricing, segmentation, positioning, communications, and which features should be prioritized based on value to the customer.  Again, all based on a foundation of Six Sigma.

  4. When companies hire you, what is your role with them, and is there a general pattern that you follow?

    Companies might hire us for a variety of reasons:
    • Teach them how to use Lean Six Sigma and become self sufficient in deploying on their own
    • Execute projects for which they have identified a need
    • Consult with us on how to do the work

    Often, we find opportunities by word of mouth.  We have also found that companies with a Six Sigma culture in manufacturing are often receptive to extending that same thinking to marketing and transactional areas.

  5. When you first work with a client, how do you kick-off the Breakthrough Marketing process?

    When we start a project, the first thing we do is make sure that we understand who the stakeholders are and determine the parameters by which success will be measured.  That usually takes place as a series of conversations or in a single workshop-style meeting.  Sometimes a formal assessment of the current state is required.  That may involve formally defining the relevant processes and identifying where the problems and issues are.

  6. What are three basics that people need to know when trying to improve their marketing presence using Six Sigma?

    Mindset-Skillset-Toolset: There is a mindset that should be present at the leadership level supporting the use of tools, processes and analytics to drive business growth.  New skills may be required as well as proficiency in tools that will support the proper acquisition and analysis of data to inform decisions.
    Compared to manufacturing, marketing takes more time to acquire data and measure changes.
    Even though you think you know, it is always good to solicit input from customers and markets to avoid being blind-sided in a way that will invalidate your value proposition and be a barrier to growth.

  7. Is there a common Six Sigma theme that you seem to use across most of your clients, and if so, what is it?

    Step 1 is often just asking if the work of marketing is recognized as a process.  Whether it’s yes or no, we then know where we need to start.  Another theme — we always probe and instigate to ensure that decisions are driven by facts and insights from the marketplace.

  8. How do you define success with your clients when using Six Sigma marketing techniques?

    We define success by achieving the metrics set forth at the beginning of the engagement.  We have heard additional feedback on things like reducing the length of time that it takes to launch new products, how strongly the target market responds to the value proposition, and the ease with which the sales force can sell the value proposition at the recommended price.

  9. How do you know you’ve been successful in improving a client’s presence using Six Sigma vs mainstream marketing practices? Is it a one-time process or ongoing?

    We believe in transferring our knowledge to client teams.  So while they may ask us to come back to work on another project, it is our intent to enable them to use the same tools we do to continually uncover insights.  Six Sigma applied to marketing and mainstream marketing are not necessarily that different.  The best marketers inherently use many of the processes and practices consistent with a process orientation and the fact-based decision-making approach that we advocate.  Not every client wants Lean and Six Sigma to be explicitly called out.  For those clients, we use process and tools derived to convert marketplace data into information and insights.
    Sometimes it may appear that marketers are strictly operating on intuition. But we believe that it’s really deep internalization of trends, data, and a fundamental understanding of marketplace behavior.

  10. Which part of your job do you enjoy the most and why?

    Meeting very interesting people with challenging problems that require fresh thinking and insights.

  11. When people talk about Breakthrough Marketing Technology, what is the best compliment they could give you?

    We delivered insights that enabled them to change the course of the business- and made more money.

Hope you enjoyed reading Elaine’s input!  It’s marketing insight from another angle, and we hope you are able to apply some of her ideas within your own organization.

It’s all about perspective.  If you want an interesting read about life’s perspectives, check out Jonathan Franzen’s, Freedom — it’s fascinating!

This entry was posted in In the News. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *