If someone had told you a year ago that Yahoo! would “out-visitor” Google in July 2013, would you have believed it?

Probably not.

But it’s true. According to the latest results from ComScore, Yahoo! attracted more unique U.S. visitors than Google in the month of July.

Google still makes more money on its websites than Yahoo! does, but the surge in traffic is a huge victory for Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer – formerly of Google. Over the past year, Mayer has made swift and admirable progress, and in no small part because of her efforts to transform Yahoo! into a more agile company.

In a recent interview, Mayer described the company’s strategy as a series of sprints: Yahoo!’s long-term success will depend on its capacity to turn around important initiatives quickly and move on rapidly to the next improvement effort. This pace demands an agile approach on the part of both Yahoo!’s leadership and its staff . . . and the strategy appears to be paying off at an equally quick pace.

Mayer’s efforts to refine how Yahoo! operates offer lessons for leaders charged with oversight of marketing operations. When managed well, marketing operations meet business objectives, improve performance management and offer a clear view into strategy and spend. The goal is to do more with less, and do it faster –and that’s where an agile approach comes in.

But what do agile marketing operations really look like? Agile marketing operations are:

  • Transparent. Today, marketers must be fully accountable for their marketing spend. You have to drive measurable results back to the business, direct marketing dollars into the highest performing channels and prove what you’re doing with real-time visibility into the results of all marketing programs, including assets, activities, audience members, accounts and analytics.
  • Interactive. Agile marketing operations are streamlined to reduce processing time and eliminate review-and-approval bottlenecks that cost both time and money. They’re also cooperative and collaborative so projects keep moving consistently forward. Standardized processes are key, but remember: Too much management structure precludes good ideas from crossing across siloes. Agile marketing operations create an environment where you can get more good ideas from more people and innovate more rapidly. There needs to be a feedback loop from exercise to exercise so everyone can recognize the opportunities for improvement. Speaking of improvement . . . agile marketing operations must also be:
  • Iterative. Your biggest focus in becoming agile will always be your customers and their evolving expectations. Sure, you always have to deliver a great experience. But, how you best do that is always changing. Should you focus on speed of service? Efficiency of concern resolution? Improvement of products? Ease of website UX? If you’re always looking for ways to improve what you give and what the customer gets, you stand a better chance of building loyalty . . . but again, it takes agility to be adaptable.
  • Responsive. Once Oreo started it, everyone else wanted to get on board, but the reality is that social media has changed the pace of marketing and advertising. Are you participating in the Zeitgeist or just watching from the sidelines? Do you know the latest cultural references? Are your messages still relevant?All this, and you must respond to customers in real-time, too. Customers expect replies and reactions from brands at the same pace they’re offering them . . . and it takes the agility offered by integrated multi-channel campaign management to make that happen. Do your marketing operations support the ability to deliver an informed, relevant and timely response?
  • Real-time. If a campaign or tactic is falling flat, how quickly can you switch it up –or abandon it altogether? If you sense a change or trend in your market or on your competitive landscape, how long will it take you to shift your strategy to suit this “new” environment? Are you using marketing analytics and data managementto guide you toward optimal actions?If you can’t right the ship before the iceberg hits, you need a better (not bigger!) boat. An agile one, to be precise.

I suppose some could argue that strictly speaking, agile marketing operations are not a requirement. But, there’s no question that agility IS a catalyst that allows more innovation to come from more people across a team. Given that everything in business moves more quickly today than it did five, or even two, years ago, I believe a commitment to agility – with smart, data-driven steps forward – is the key to realizing opportunities and achieving goals not only across the marketing organization, but across the enterprise, as a whole.