The Agile Marketer

In the World of Marketing It Is Common Practice to Spend Hours, Days, or Even Weeks Planning and Implementing a Single Campaign

It is also not unheard of for there to be a sudden pivot in the market, an unexpected need from another department, or an unforeseen emergency that takes precedence over your meticulously created campaign. While sometimes that means your marketing campaign gets postponed, other times it means your marketing campaign doesn’t see the light of day. Or worst case scenario, you get to launch your campaign that you’ve been toiling over for weeks and it flops. In a world where technology, needs, and strategy change rapidly, your marketing needs to be able to change with it. Enter the Agile method.

Agile Methodology

More commonly used by the development side of the house, the Agile method was developed to project manage while allowing for the unpredictability of software development. Instead of planning and working for months to create a finished product, these teams work iteratively to achieve their goal for the allotted time, or sprint. The goal: rapid production that is adapted over time instead of slow, inflexible production.

I know it sounds easy to say—yes this works in software development, but not in marketing. And to some extent, you’re right; however, there are key pieces marketers can pull into their workflow to shift the dynamic from arduous, big, bulky campaigns, to fast-paced campaigns that build off of previous knowledge and projects.

The Agile Manifesto at its core tenets:

    1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
    2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
    3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
    4. Responding to change over following a plan

Now these, and the 12 principles of Agile software were squarely created with the developer in mind; however, over the years a similar set of tenets have been developed for marketers called Agile Marketing.

Agile Marketing

Inspired by the Agile methodology, Agile Marketing seeks to improve the speed, predictability, transparency, and adaptability of the marketing function. Its core tenets are:

    1. Responding to change over following a plan
    2. Rapid iteration over Big-Bang campaigns
    3. Testing and data over opinions and conventions
    4. Many small experiments over a few big bets
    5. Individuals and interactions over one size fits all
    6. Collaboration over silos and hierarchy

So what does this all mean? How does one adopt this method? Here’s the definition: “at its core, Agile Marketing, is a tactical marketing approach in which teams identify and focus their collective efforts on high value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure their impact, and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.”

What this means is that instead of only focusing on your piece of the puzzle, Agile Marketing forces marketing teams to work quickly, collaboratively, and iteratively.

Going Agile in Five Steps

Step 1: Set Your Strategy

The first step in deciding to adopt an Agile approach to marketing is letting go of how you’ve always done something and making sure you and your team are ready to try a new approach. This approach may feel funny or a little too “fuzzy” at first, but over time it’ll become part and parcel of your standard marketing operation. While the goal of Agile Marketing is to create self-organizing teams that tackle your highest priority problems during a finite period of time, you want to make sure you have an overarching strategy. This will allow your teams to make decisions on how best to do the work with the strategy as their north star.

Step 2: Prioritize Projects

Once your strategy is set, you need to meet to figure out your priorities. What projects are high value for this next month or quarter? The easiest way to do this? Create a list of all the possible initiatives and rank them in terms of priority and impact. Based on your findings and bandwidth pick the number of projects your team will take on. Projects that aren’t selected will remain in the backlog (that list you just created) until more resources are available to take them on.

Step 3: Create Project Owners and Teams

Marketing projects can have a lot of moving parts, so it’s important you’re allocating enough resources to each project that’s put on the docket. Make sure your team understands who owns the project and who is on the project team. It’s also important for your team to know that even though “Joe” may own the project, everyone in marketing is part of making that project come to life. Setting clear expectations and roles will help everyone rally around the projects, prioritize accordingly, and understand how their work impacts other people on the team.

Step 4: Get to Work

Ok, it’s a little more nuanced than just getting the work done, but you get the idea. While every marketing department will decide how they best operate, every Agile Marketing team includes these three things as part of their workflow:

    1. Sprints – Sprints are the set periods of time the team has to complete a given project. Generally, these range from two to six weeks. If a project is sizeable, split it up into bite-sized chunks and work on it over the course a few sprints—one bite at a time.
    2. Stand Ups – Every day your team will spend 15 minutes (max) doing a brief check-in. During stand up every team member quickly relays what they accomplished yesterday, what they plan to do today towards their sprint goals, and any blockers they’re encountering. Blockers should be addressed right away by managers or other team members who may be able to assist. Oh and during stand up, every team member stands, encouraging brevity.
    3. Track Your Progress – Whether you choose to use a physical board with sticky notes, a Trello board, or another method, you need to make sure you’re tracking your progress. Chunk your board into four sections: on deck, in progress, done, delayed. As team members progress on their set tasks, they should move the task through the phases until your project is done. This tangible manifestation of the hard work your team is doing will help them rally around hitting their goal and realize that they’re all in the boat together.
Step 5: Reflect on Your Accomplished Projects

Now that you’ve survived the sprint, it’s time to spend some time with the team understanding what worked, what didn’t, and what could be better next time. This meeting, called a “retroactive,” is key to closing the loop in your Agile setup and allowing you to move into your next sprint with more clarity on how to achieve your goals.

One Last Plug for Agile Marketing

Agile Marketing has many benefits—it allows marketing teams to respond quickly to change (a must in this industry), to produce rapid campaigns that can be tested and optimized over time, to try lots of different things and repeat the successful ones, to justify marketing choices backed by hard data, and to prevent tunnel-vision marketing by collaborating with team members.

Just remember, this is all a process. If you’re interested in adopting the Agile Marketing mindset, take a deep breath, trust your team, and jump in. Chances are that once they get used to this new style of working together, they won’t want to turn back.

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