Six Sigma is a business process that helps companies improve in lots of different areas. Manufacturing companies have been benefitting from these changes for many years. But, in recent times sales and marketing teams have also enjoyed success using the techniques. Many of the Fortune 500 companies use Six Sigma across a broad range of their operations – and there’s no reason why you can’t take advantage as well.
So, if you want to apply Six Sigma to your marketing processes, read on. We’re going to take you through a few of the things you can do to get started. It’s all about making a more profitable business and giving customers more of what they want – so let’s get started.
Understand the basics
Clearly, you have to understand Six Sigma processes before you can put them into practice. There are plenty of courses available – either in colleges or free online. However, we recommend that you explore things a little further than the basics.
Once you have a little knowledge, you can move through the ‘belts’ – just like in martial arts. You’ll start on white, then move onto Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training, and so on. You will learn a lot about the principles, which are based on measurement of activities and results. And, of course, using the information you find to improve your processes. Now let’s take a look at how you can start using the basics in your business marketing efforts.
Define the problem
Six Sigma is all about identifying defects – or problems – as well as the process. In the case of marketing, you could look at your entire marketing process or the way you approach sales. You can also look at a single part of your sales process, such as lead generation technique. So, the first step is to know everything in as precise a way as possible, so you can see where your problems lie. Once you know that, you can identify the improvements you need to make and end unnecessary practices and processes.
The key is to use Six Sigma techniques on the right objectives – which is the tricky part. You have to come up with the right questions, which many online – and offline – marketers fail to get right. For example, they might be concerned with ‘ranking number one on Google’, or ‘having a social media presence’. Neither of these is suitable questions for using with Six Sigma techniques as they don’t give you beneficial results. Sure, you might get a number one ranking, but it’s useless if you don’t improve your sales. Instead, marketers should ask themselves things like ‘what is the cost of sales?’ or ‘do my customers buy online?’
The principle of Six Sigma is to test everything and use what is found to drive measurable results. This might sound familiar to modern-day marketers, who are well versed in the benefits of testing data. If there is no data, you can’t measure anything – and you can’t make any improvements. So, when tying in Six Sigma to your marketing, it’s necessary to open up access from other areas of your business. There needs to be data from your sales team, the finance department, and customer service teams. It’s a collaborative approach that shares vital data to show how well or poorly your marketing department is performing.
So, what sort of data can your marketing team use when using Six Sigma techniques? You can think about how customers make their purchases or look at the impact on sales of each marketing campaign. Conversion rates are another key area, as are the overheads. Establishing the right metrics will allow your team to create a base from which to work from and start to improve performance. In short, it’s an excellent way to tie in your marketing with the overall goals of the business.
Analyzing the data
So, the next big issue is how to use the data you measure to make vital improvements. When combining Six Sigma with marketing, it’s all about analyzing the data so you can understand the impact of making changes. You might start by creating a visual board of your key business initiatives, for instance. Then, it’s a case of applying each of your measurements to highlight where the opportunities for improvement lie.
The great thing about using Six Sigma is that it won’t just show you possibilities for the department you are testing. Because it is collaborative, your marketing results could show you other areas of improvement. It might be in your sales team and their customer service, for example. Or, it could be a problem on your website that needs fixing by your IT team.
Six Sigma will tell you how well a process is performing, on a quantitative basis. The goal is to ‘achieve’ Six Sigma – a point where no defects are present. Or, to be more accurate, where there are only 3.4 defects in every million opportunities. You can apply this to almost every area of your business, including your strategic planning. Let’s assume that you sell products, and your strategy is based on being a cost leader in your market. In this case, you might use Six Sigma to improve all your processes. You can include costs from suppliers, for example, or increase your yields. This ties into your marketing plan as you can claim to be the value leader you set out to be.
Your entire marketing approach could end up changing with the results you find with Six Sigma. It will reveal insights for improvements in almost every area, from the tools you use to the systems in place. It can even show skills shortages or a problem with understaffing. Making improvements should be at the heart of every business. And, using Six Sigma will align your marketing department with your overall business goals.
Handling significant changes
When you consider marketing in your business, there is a lot more room for creativity than there might be in other areas of the company. However, it can often result in a muddy landscape when it comes to testing and measuring the results. To improve, it’s vital that marketing teams start to document every process and working practice so that they can be measured. Without standards in place, it will be impossible to measure the success of any marketing campaign.
But, while Six Sigma practices can help your team define what these measurements are, it can be a difficult time for those involved. The problem is that many marketing departments rely on creativity, and team members will not be used working in a more quantitative way. There must be a form of change so that your teams understand their new objectives, and how they tie in with the overall business. Training is essential, and even those who are long established in roles will need to understand the new processes. You will experience some degree of disruption, of course. But, by applying Six Sigma to your marketing, you will be giving your team the tools they need to improve their performance in almost every area. There is still room for creativity, of course – but only inside the structure that ties into your objectives.
As you can see, there are many different ways to use Six Sigma to improve your marketing results. Reports suggest that businesses who introduce it enjoy 49% higher profits than other companies that don’t. It’s as good a reason as any to embrace Six Sigma in your business – why not give it a go? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.