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Demystifying Agile Marketing :  How Can Agile Marketing Help Your Business?

Everyone wants to be agile these days, including marketers.  In a world where visitors decide to abandon your ad or website in 2-3 seconds, where people are bombarded with infinite amount of emails and information, or where technology is changing at an incredible speed, to capture the attention of target audiences, companies must become more nimble and flexible.  Marketing organizations are learning from the engineering and software disciplines before them and adapting agile paradigms to marketing, i.e., Agile Marketing.  The concept of an agile approach has most recently been associated with computer software and the term “agile product delivery.” What exactly does it mean to utilize agile marketing in your business? Agile is a set of practices and operating principles that enable to make better decisions faster and deliver continuous value to their business and customers.  The main values of agility are:

  • Being closer to the customers and having a better pulse on what they need and want,
  • speed – Ability to transform ideas into marketing campaigns in days as opposed to weeks or months,
  • more productive communication between teams or departments and improved transparency about progress,
  • a sprint mentality to deliver value to customers in smaller increments and more regularly, and
  • ability to adapt and respond quickly to market changes or changing customer needs based on real-time analytics

What is Agile Marketing?

The following Diagram from Moz WhiteBaord Friday by Jim Ewel, founder of AgileMarketing.net is an excellent summary of the basic premises and benefits of agile marketing.

agile marketing overview - Moz

Marketing organizations must invest in building agile marketing competencies to keep up with the rapidly evolving needs and priorities of the business and customers. Failure to remain agile will lead to the demise and ultimately the downfall of your marketing efforts and the success of your business in the long-run.  Moving towards an agile approach to marketing allows you to stay relevant and timely in an ever-changing marketplace.  Agile marketing teams quickly start realizing these benefits:

  • Rapid optimizations of of the conversion funnel
  • More effective landing pages and improved SEO
  • More focused and optimized media spent
  • Improved personalization, customer experience, lifecycle improvement across all customer touchpoints
  • Dramatic improvements in speed to market 

How to Start your Agile Marketing Journey 

Traditional marketing strategies used to take months or a year from the start to the finish of a campaign.  For agile marketing, the mindset shift must change from a marathon to a sprint approach.  Gather a small cross-functional team, motivated team to start the process. For larger companies, it may be best to start gradually with one team as opposed to switching everyone at once.  Smaller companies can do a short agile training program to get everyone on the same page in order to shift to a new way of thinking.  The team starts by  defining and aligning expectations of key stakeholders on outcomes and the target audience for the campaign.

A task board (or “scrum” board) is the operating center of the marketing team. Use color coding or sticky notes to keep track and streamline each person’s activity on the team. Make categories for each team member: backlog, current jobs, with another person, and done. Each person should have several tasks in their current jobs category, but not so many that it becomes overwhelming. Having the board displayed for everyone on the team to see can help workflow and visualizing how much work is left on the project. A scrum leader keeps the board and project in check.

Agile Marketing Task board

Put a team in place. Select your team members based on their differing strengths and abilities that will work together seamlessly.  A team of no more than 8-12 will work best. Depending on the goals of the campaign certain key players include a project manager, product owner (or campaign owner), scrum master, analytics leader, tagging developer, media lead, copywriter, art director or design leader, and SEO lead. There are others that may need to be involved such as legal or IT, this depends on the exact nature of the company and the goals of the team and the campaign.

Agile Marketing Implementation 

As stated above, agile marketing requires a sprint approach. A sprint is a time-box of 2-4 week period during which a “done”, useable, potentially releasable/publishable increment of value is created.  Plan projects that only last between 1-2 weeks, certainly no longer than a month to deliver an increment of value, the shorter, the better. These shorter targets help you stay flexible with your strategy and allow you to adjust more quickly. A more condensed plan also creates focus for the team. Dividing tasks into shorter bursts rather than a lengthy assignment keeps morale up when jobs can be marked “done” much faster. This also allows for adjustments mid-campaign if tasks are broken down into smaller sections.

Implement a daily check-in with all team members, to keep communication open between everyone. These are often called daily stand-ups.  Stay open to discussion and problem solving if an issue arises.  Concise check-ins mean that you can avoid those long, drawn-out meetings that often times don’t end up accomplishing much. One of the very important parts of agile marketing is the communication between team members and with customers (or their surrogates within the company), too. Customers want to feel as though they are important and their opinions matter. Don’t forget about the human aspect of your business and the personal touches that customers will remember.

A Day in a life of an agile Marketing Team 

Agile Marketing Sprint Schedule

  • The team starts with a daily stand up of the self-directed team where each member reports on: 1)  their progress from the day before, 2) goals for the day ahead 3) as well as any hindrances where they need help.
  • The scrum master manages the set of opportunities, removes obstacles, secures resources, and orchestrates sprints.
  • Daily issues are identified, mitigation actions are taken, feedback is provided to stakeholders on upcoming needs to facilitate quickest turn-around.
  •  At the of the day, a debrief is created  on the daily progress in preparation for the next day sprint.  The scrum master uses the insights to facilitate the stand-up meeting.
  • The above cycle happens each day for the duration of the spring (typically 2 weeks).
  • At the end of the sprint cycle, the team reviews sprint tangible outcomes (valued increments), conducts the sprint retrospective to discuss what went well and what can be improved, and plans next sprint work backlog

Less is More

The agile marketing approach is about simplifying processes, time, and effort with a maximum effect.  Focus on the small and important bits of information instead of a big picture that can easily overwhelm and convolute your message. Trying smaller iterations versus a huge project is part of the agile system. This allows for more experimentation with less risk, and constant evaluation of results to improve your campaigns and strategy.

Use analytics and information to your advantage. Take in customer data and make adjustments as needed in the midst of a project or campaign as opposed to waiting until afterward. This flexibility will allow you to troubleshoot and bring more customer satisfaction, which then will produce more sales and brand loyalty.

Reflection

Once the sprint or project is complete, an important aspect of agile marketing is the reflection stage (traditional agile call it retrospectives).  Because the project length is much more condensed, this means you will be analyzing your data very frequently. Deciding what has worked, which areas need improvement, and what the next steps are will propel your team to create the next project with fresh insights. The value of reflection is that team members will grow and learn from each project, becoming an excellent asset to the business with their precision.

Marketing is a field that is constantly changing, especially with the rise of new technologies, social media, and more ways to reach customers than ever before. With all of this access, the customer becomes an even more essential part of the process. If you aren’t reaching your customer base, then they will go elsewhere, it’s that simple.

From Old-School to Agile

It may take some convincing to get everyone on board with this newer approach to marketing.  Currently, only 11% of marketers are using the agile approach! However, the benefits of agile marketing are clear, especially with the vast amount of digital marketing services and industries in circulation today.  In order to stay relevant, on message, and reach a wider audience, agile marketing is the method to utilize. Once your company is on board, it won’t take long to notice that clearer communication, simplified processes, and shorter project lengths, and happier teams have massive benefits for everyone.

Agile marketing is a competitive advantage.  How agile are you?

As much as it is desirable, implementing an agile paradigm to marketing requires cultural change and can be overwhelming to take on.  Start small, build a coalition of motivated team members, make and celebrate small successes, experiment and learn from mistake, and scale with success.  We help brands of all sizes take on this journey, get in touch, if we can help.