Agile Marketing

Efficiency, prioritization and measurement of goals are all top priorities for most marketers. Many marketers say they practice agility in marketing, but they are still getting bogged down with endless project requests and justifying their marketing department decisions and support. How do you overcome obstacles like these while keeping continuity in quality? Start practicing Agile Marketing. Learn why agility in your marketing department isn't the same as Agile Marketing.

What is Agile Marketing?

Agile Marketing is an adaption of the software development process of Agile to the marketing world. Why would marketers use the same process as software developers? Because it makes sense. To understand how, we first need to understand what Agile is.

The official beginning of Agile was in 2001 with the emergence of the Agile Software Development Manifesto. The authors were a group of 17 developers and other agilites, and they named themselves the Agile Alliance. Their manifesto focused on people over processes, creating a plan knowing that unforeseen obstacles will occur, and using necessary documentation instead of archaic paperwork that nobody reads. They felt this would allow developers to adapt quickly to situations and customer demands, and produce end-products faster, with better quality.

The Agile Software Development Manifesto spawned a revolution in software development and project management. Now, 12 years later, Agile and its principles have been adopted by companies such as Wal-Mart, HP, Kohl's, JP Morgan, Scottrade, and those companies are finding it successful.

Agile MarketingSo how does Agile apply to marketing? Think about a big-budget account at an agency. You spend weeks developing a creative idea, present it to the client, test it in the market, place it in various media channels, wait to see results, analyze those results. During that time you have hit roadblocks and miscommunication. In reality, you've completed a campaign that was delayed, and you're already off track for the next campaign you were supposed to start last month. If you want to keep the client, you need to explain the setbacks and convince them the same issues won't occur again. They expect quick turnaround and a quality idea or product in the timeframe they demand.

Now think about the corporate side. How do you make sure your marketing goals are aligned with the company goals? How do you communicate within and outside of the marketing department with sales, or operations to make sure everyone knows priorities and goals? How do you make sure your marketing team isn't inundated for requests to produce materials (that may never be used)? Agile Marketing helps with that, and establishes a foundational process for measuring success and failures.

At an agency or in corporate marketing, you also have the constant pressure to keep up with social media, research new trends, produce new content for collateral, create new ideas, develop lead acquisition and nurturing programs, analyze data and analytics, and much more. There is not one marketer I know that doesn't feel like they could work for 24 hours and still not have enough time in the day to accomplish everything on their to-do list.

What many CMOs, VPs, directors of marketing and agency principles are looking for in their organizations is the ability to react quickly, be efficient, and create great marketing materials for their companies and clients. There is a significant correlation with those goals and Agile Marketing principles. Here are the core values directly from the Agile Marketing Manifesto:

  • Validated learning over opinions and conventions
  • Customer focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy
  • Adaptive and iterative campaigns over Big-Bang campaigns
  • Process of customer discovery over static prediction
  • Flexible vs. rigid planning
  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Many small experiments over a few large bets

All of these make sense for marketing. Instead of planning everything out for the next year, you prepare yourself for the unexpected. You test and analyze data frequently. You respond to change quickly. You collaborate as a team. All of these allow speed, transparency and adaptability. Agile Marketing allows you to adjust your plan as you go because marketing is not a static science. There are moving pieces that constantly affect your campaigns. The Sprint process that is a part of Agile is perfect for this.

A Sprint is a period of time, usually 2-4 weeks, during which a team will conduct and complete short experiments or sections of a larger project. During this time there is frequent feedback, lots of team interaction and an ability to react to changing market conditions. Here are the four main sections of a sprint:

  • Sprint Planning establishes the baseline of the objectives and goals for the Sprint. The planning session will result in a list of activities that lead to reaching the set goal.
  • The Daily Standup is a daily meeting every morning during which all members of the team contribute. Literally, every team member is supposed to be standing to avoid long discussions, and each person is supposed to say what they accomplished yesterday, what is on the agenda for today, and what obstacles are causing delays. The purpose is to quickly communicate problems, solutions and team focus. Everybody is on the same page, and there is no need to schedule or have long, drawn-out meetings.
  • The Sprint Review is at the end of the Sprint when you show what was accomplished. During this, you demonstrate work completed, present results, and identify uncompleted work or suggestions for future work for the next Sprint Planning meeting. The Sprint Review is also a good session to include members outside of the team to make sure the company is aware of what marketing is doing and the results produced.
  • During the Sprint Retrospective, team members discuss how things went. What went well, what could have been improved? How can it be improved for the future? It is at this point that you reflect, and then you will immediately move in to the next Sprint Planning session.