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Agile Marketing

Let’s talk turkey. Marketer to marketer. Peer to peer.
Sometimes our campaigns are a spectacular failure. Or maybe company priorities have changed. Or maybe that big product release ran into a catastrophic blocker and has been delayed meaning you’re going to miss your targets. That’s a crisis, right? Well, not so fast....

Sure, in all these examples you’ll have to revise your plans.

Sure, in all these examples you’ll have to revise your plans. But here’s the really cool part: if you’re able to successfully pivot and revise your campaign strategy or realign your marketing budget with the new priorities or even fill the void of a delayed product, you and your team have been given the unique opportunity to experiment and learn.

How? you ask.

Agile marketing.This will come as a surprise to a few, but it is a content marketer writing this post. I know! A shock to… probably no one. But as a full-time marketer, I know how challenging marketing can be. You get an exciting idea only for #noExcitingIdeas to start trending. So you have to pivot. Then you get another exciting idea, only for the clients or primary stakeholders to say that idea is too exciting. So you need to pivot, again. Or maybe you are one of the lucky few that get unlimited budgets and free reign. How do you decide what to do when you can pivot in any direction? That is where agile marketing comes in.

What is agile marketing?

Agile marketing is the implementation of the agile framework to guide active marketing departments in their quest to drive increasingly better results through regular iterative campaigns, experiments, and retrospective meetings. For several decades, the agile approach has grown in popularity among software developers to provide the flexibility, safety, and accountability to develop great software quickly. Agile by nature is flexible which means different teams are able to adopt the framework to fit their needs. Ever curious about how so many games or websites can become overnight sensations? Agile has played a large role in those successes. Depending on who you ask, “agile” is either a strict set of twelve principles with specific ceremonies or it is a general mindset of focusing on continuous improvement. Either way, agile teams utilize the agile system of meetings and engagement to help teams work better together. Going to drop some more surprising facts on you, marketing and software development are different. Our timelines work differently, goals can be different, and sharing tasks can be a larger challenge for smaller teams. As Retrium CEO and Agile expert, David Horowitz, explains in his interview for the Retrospective Hot Seat, agile, at its core, is about continuous improvement.

What developers discovered

by regularly examining what they were creating and how they were creating it, future projects were more efficient and customer feedback could be implemented faster.

As marketers, we are often constantly in motion trying to get more engagement, more leads, more conversions, more sales. But rarely do we ever slow down and examine how we working.

  • Are we working well together?
  • Are we running into the same problems?
  • Are we all aligned on the marketing strategy?
  • Do we trust each other to do the job we have to do?

By taking the time to examine the characteristics of the team’s working agreements (spoken and unspoken), levels of safety and trust, and overall alignment, you can create a more trusting and empowered team that, in turn, can create better work.

How much better? In the 2016 Harvard Business Review Article, Embracing Agile: How to master the process that’s transforming management, authors Darrell Rigby, Jeff Sutherland, and Hirotaka Takeuchi posed the question:

What if marketing programs could generate 40% more customer inquiries?

This isn’t a strange question, and might even be understating the value agile can have teams. Organizations from around the world including, GE Healthcare, Lego, Apple, and more have used the agile framework to meet recording-breaking success.

How to implement agile marketing?

The key to agile marketing is to… remain agile. Hey! It is just a really well-named system!

Step 1: Define What agile means to everyone

Agile can seem like a big term. And there are multiple ways you can be an “agile marketer.”  Within the agile methodology there are different frameworks you could follow, including:

  • Kanban
  • Scrum
  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)
  • Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)

If you have the organizational support to implement one of these frameworks, great! If not, a great place to start is by reading the guiding principles of agile and discussing how your team can start implementing these principles into daily life. You can also check out the work from Travis Arnold and those with SprintZero who wrote their own version of the core values of agile specifically for marketing teams.

Whether you are starting from the original or going off the work of others, the core principle of customer-focused collaboration over silos remains the same.

Don't be afraid to create your own hybrid approach. Instead, think about the opportunity to create an approach to agile that fits the needs of your team based on what your team says they need! (A great way to start this conversation is with a Start-Stop-Continue retrospective.)

Step 2: View everything as an experiment

There isn’t one way to “do” agile marketing. What will definitely work for one team, might not work for another. Remember, you can always go back to the old way of doing things. Make an agreement as a team that as you adopt more and more agile practices, you will remain open-minded and willing to adapt as the team needs. And retrospect on your progress and blockers to quickly improve how your agile approach is impacting your team!

Step 3: Schedule your retrospective meeting

In traditional marketing, you don't always get a chance to pause and reflect. With the exception being those teams that practice post-mortems after a crisis event, 😱 but rarely is it standard practice to regularly take the time to align and retrospect on what is happening on the team - especially when there isn’t a crisis to solve.  

Agile marketing teams are different. They remain aligned through daily standup meetings to ensure any questions or concerns are shared. They hold a retrospective meeting at regular intervals to address openly what is going well and what needs to be improved. From these regular retrospective meetings, they examine what action plan is needed to improve future campaigns, team alignment, and interdepartmental relationships, for example.  

Through agile adoption, marketing programs can invest the time to listen to the needs of the team, learn from each other to build a shared understanding, and better understand customer satisfaction instead of relying on traditional static prediction.

Because a happier and healthier team is a more creative team. And an informed team is a better-performing team.

And an agile marketing team can pivot no matter what challenges or trends they’re facing. Imagine what you can accomplish if your team always feels like they’re two steps ahead.

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