Thursday, 6 December 2012

Applying Six Sigma To Marketing

Terms such as ‘Six Sigma’, ‘process improvement’ and ‘DMAIC’ are not traditionally the jargon of a marketing consultant. Nevertheless, there is an increasing proportion of such experts using this technique, developed by Motorola back in the 1980s, to improve their marketing strategies and process.

So what is Six Sigma? What is it all about?
Essentially, Six Sigma is a methodology that aims to reduce the amounts of faults or mistakes in a process. If a process has achieved Six Sigma, statistically there will be just 34 mistakes in every 1 million opportunities.

That sounds great, but how does it apply to marketing?
Well, a marketing consultant may never reach Six Sigma although the methodology that comes with it can greatly increase his or her marketing success rate. Imagine coming even close to selling to 99.99966% of the potential clients that view an advert! Of course that seems ridiculous, but the methodology once developed in the manufacturing industry can actually help a marketing business.
In fact any organise with a goal orientated strategy or process can achieve results with Six Sigma methodology, as long as the strategy is well defined and organised.

What is this methodology?
The Six Sigma methodology is centred on one acronym, DMAIC.
Define – a company needs to define the problem and the goals it wishes to achieve. This could well be top level targets such as ‘increase sales’.
Measure – the firm should then measure its existing system, determine its capability and establish parameters in the current system that could be optimised to improve it.
Analyse – once the parameters to optimise have been established, the company should apply statistical tools to discover just how to do so. Look up ‘design of experiments’ and ‘Taguchi methods’ for an idea where to begin.
Improve – once the firm has established just what can be done cheaper, faster or safer it should do it. Being inventive is no bad thing; the statistical tools are there for guidance rather than constraint.
Control – the new process needs managed effectively to ensure it operates smoothly and efficiently.

How would a marketing firm go about implementing this?
In the manufacturing world, Six Sigma infrastructure is typically implemented as follows.
Black Belts – These are the people responsible solely for the implementation of the Six Sigma process. They should be knowledgeable about the process to be optimised and focus their entire time on implementing Six Sigma and DMAIC.
Green Belts – These are the staff who, whilst continuing with their day to day responsibility also lend a hand to the implementation of Six Sigma.
Process Owners – These are the line managers whose own operations are going to be the focus of the Six Sigma optimisation.

 Can it really work in marketing?
Whilst the Six Sigma approach was certainly developed for the manufacturing world, there is absolutely no reason it cannot be applied to other industries. It already has been widely adopted in the financial world as well as in health care and marketing is simply another industry that could certainly benefit from the approach.

From optimising administrative tasks to better identifying potential customers, Six Sigma is waiting for the marketing consultants and companies of the world to grasp it and utilise it to the very best of their ability.

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