Having a Marketing Plan that sets out every campaign and spend allocation over 365 days is all well and good, but what about when things change? When your audience seem to respond well to a social media post and you want to invest some budget in a new content campaign? When your Google Adwords campaign doesn’t bring the conversions you’d hoped for and you need to work on your landing pages? Or when your advertising isn’t quite reaching your target market and you need to reconsider your media-buying schedule? Plans are valuable as long as they are flexible and not fixed or rigid. Or you could take things a step further and venture into ‘Agile’ terrain – and the realm of ‘scrums’, ‘sprints’ and ‘epics’…
Agile Marketing refers to a tactical marketing approach that takes inspiration from agile software development and is based on the core belief that progress comes from the build-measure-learn-feedback loop. With the somewhat fast-paced digital agenda, the rise of social media and the accessibility to a broad range of metrics, this approach is becoming increasingly applied to marketing practice.
Agile Marketing frameworks and methodology in a nutshell
There are two key frameworks for agile marketing – Scrum and Kanban and a mixture of the two called Scrumban. Scrum is the most highly adopted for marketing. It involves creating a small team responsible for the implementation of agile initiatives and appointing a ‘Scrum Master’ who leads ‘sprint’ planning meetings and daily stand-up meetings. Sprints refer to the short-term project lifecycles and are blocks of two to four weeks of work. A sprint backlog is essentially a ‘to-do list’ and sprints are bookended with a ‘retrospective’ when the team discusses highlights and learnings for future sprints. And the apt term ‘Epic’ refers to a campaign or set of user stories over the course of a few weeks or months.
The key goals of agile marketing are:
- To creating remarkable customer experiences
- To achieve business empowerment both internally and externally
- To improve the speed, predictability, transparency, and adaptability of the marketing function.
Agile Marketing also has six main disciplines:
- Responding and adapting to change rather than extensive planning
- Rapid iterations rather than scheduled campaigns
- Testing and data analysis rather than opinions and customs
- Several small experiments rather than a few large bets
- Individuals and collective efforts rather than departmental operations
- Collaboration rather than silos and hierarchy
Why is agile marketing considered effective?
Agile marketing is an approach that directly aligns with how people buy now – searching in their own time, across the channels that best suit them. Audience personas and insights on buyer behaviour have never been so relevant. But traditional marketing planning and budgeting just doesn’t fit with today’s marketing environment. How can you be sure what topics will resonate with your audience several months from now? Or what your key messages might need to be in order to place you ahead of your increasing competition? The agile approach allows you to choose short term themes, and try a few different topics and tactics to establish what is most effective. The rapid gathering of data will help you make truly strategic plans for the forthcoming months, and to engage your audience in the content they are looking for.
The benefits of Agile Marketing:
- Get more done through working on the right priorities
- Encouraging inter-departmental communication, shared interests, inclusiveness and relationship building has a positive impact on culture
- Putting your business ahead of competition with real-time analysis and fast action
- Being more Customer focussed leads to better brand perceptions
- Increased opportunities for exposure
- Adapting to change faster and more effectively means campaigns can be flexible and adjust to changing marketing conditions
- Identify high-impact opportunities
- Achieving better ROI for Marketing through better interpretation of results
How can your marketing team be more agile?
Your marketing team can strive towards an agile approach to marketing, by being adaptive, collaborative and iterative. In its fullest capacity, agile marketing will transform your business – and many marketing experts believe that being part-agile won’t quite cut it. Perhaps a more realistic aim is the 70:20:10 rule from Ashley Friedlin. He believes that 70% of your marketing should be planned ‘marketing as usual’ activity. 20% of your marketing should be programmatic, which is to say machine-driven marketing that automatically responds to various actions of the user. The final 10% of your marketing should be entirely agile. Reacting to news and events as and when they happen. But don’t underestimate the proper resources required to achieve this 10%.
The key to being more agile, is to change your mind-set. Agile Marketers believe in:
- Short timescales and SMART objectives
- The continuous delivery of marketing that solves problems
- Alignment with other department strategies
- That metrics are imperative to project lifecycle
- That the ability to respond quickly to change is a source of competitive advantage
- That sustainable marketing requires you to keep a constant pace and pipeline
- That you should never fail the same way twice
- That simplicity is essential
Steps to adopting an agile practice
- Make sure you know the objectives and goals of your ‘Agile Approach’
- Have sufficient data, analytics and infrastructure in place
- Align with leadership, set expectations and ensure the sponsorship and support of senior leaders
- Gain the support of IT and finance for spend allocations – If they are not committed to agile working, neither can the marketing team be.
- Create a small team of no more than 10 talented people with an agile mind-set. They will be responsible for executing experiments that create real bottom line impact. They will be highly accountable to each other.
- Ensure clear lines of communication with other teams and departments and agree fast access and response to change.
- Appoint a Scrum Master who sets priorities, defines hypotheses, manages back-log, identifies necessary resources, and manages sprints.
- Gain insights from targeted analytics that aim to identify difficulties in the decision journeys of customers and prospects.
- Design and prioritise testing – based on potential impact and ease of implementation
- Set the agile experiments and define KPIs
- Operate daily quick-fire reporting
- Analyse the data and identify opportunities
- Iterate ideas based on results
- Ensure you are working with an agency that has an agile mind-set!