May 7, 2018
What is Agile Marketing? (and Why You Should Care)
"Agile marketing" is admittedly a sexy buzzword, but it's one that actually lives up to its reputation.
Departments that are truly Agile enjoy rapid, continuous growth, have more satisfied employees, and adapt readily to external fluctuations.
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.
We'll go into more depth about this commonsense definition of Agile marketing below, as well as outline some of the outstanding successes our own department has experienced by using these techniques.
Also, it's simply a less stressful way to be a marketer. And that alone makes it worthwhile.
A More Detailed Definition of Agile Marketing
Agile marketing is a tactical marketing approach in which marketing teams collectively identify high-value projects on which to focus their collective efforts.
Teams use sprints (short, finite periods of intensive work) to complete those projects cooperatively. After each sprint, they measure the impact of the projects and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.
Agile teams may also determine that a project was not valuable and should not be repeated, but this is still considered a success.
Agile marketing embraces failure so long as it comes with lessons and produces future potentially powerful projects.
The way that agile teams work becomes more clear when you look at what are typically listed as the "values" of Agile marketing:
- Responding to change over following a plan.
- Rapid iterations over big-bang campaigns.
- Testing and data over opinions and conventions.
- Numerous small experiments over a few big bets.
- Individuals and interactions over large markets.
- Collaboration over silos and hierarchy.
Now this is starting to look like something that can actually be helpful.
Note that we've chosen to focus on the tactics of marketing as opposed to the strategy.
You certainly need an overarching strategy to underpin your Agile methods, but strategy is something that every marketing department should be focused on regardless of how they plan to implement it.
Whether you use collaborative or top-down methods to come up with your strategy, you can still bring it to life using Agile techniques.
Key Pieces of an Agile Marketing Implementation
Each department will find the precise Agile format that works best for them, but an Agile marketing implementation will have these four features in some form or fashion:
- Sprints - A sprint is how long you give your team to complete their current projects. Typically these range from two to six weeks. Some bigger initiatives won't fit into a single sprint, so you'll need to break those up into bite-sized pieces that you can tackle sprint by sprint.
- Stand up meetings - Every day your team needs to get together and have a very brief check in. These should be 15 minutes at the most. Each team member goes over what they did the day before, what they're planning to do today, and any blocks they've encountered. Blocks should be addressed right away.
- Board to track project progress - Whether it's the good ole' whiteboard with sticky notes, a nice and simple Kanban board, or a big fancy specialized software, you need a centralized way to track your sprint that everyone has access to.
- Teamwork - While an individual may "own" a project, the success or failure of the sprint rests on all the team members. Everybody has to be prepared to collaborate and assist in the Agile framework.
What an Agile Marketing Department Can Do
By following the methods established by developers (with our own twists, of course), marketers can open up entirely new ways to reach our audience and our goals.
Agile marketing allows us to:
- Respond quickly to changes in the market.
- Produce rapid campaigns that can be tested and optimized over time.
- Try lots of things and repeat the ones that succeed.
- Use input from other departments to augment marketing efforts.
- Justify choices in campaigns and projects with hard data.
- Collaborate with team members to prevent a tunnel-vision approach to marketing.
And that's the high-level version of the list.
When you start getting more specific and looking at the possibilities on a project-by-project and sprint-by-sprint basis, the list of Agile possibilities is virtually endless.
Here at MarketerGizmo and our sister company SurveyGizmo, Agile marketing has let us take a new marketing team, some of whom were fairly inexperienced, and drive rapidly towards our goals.
Real Examples of How Agile Marketing Helps our Team
We've been using Agile marketing techniques exclusively for a little under two months as I write this, and our successes are already beyond exciting. Here are just three of our many early wins using the Agile approach:
1. SurveyGizmo Examples Pages
We saw that our existing and potential customers were often searching for "survey examples," but that our current offerings weren't doing a great job of meeting that need.
Over the course of a one-week sprint we wrote six new guides to common survey types and created templates for those surveys that our customers could add to their accounts with a single click.
The page views for our examples landing page climbed 252%. The conversions we earned from that page skyrocketed 810%.
2. Content Marketing Velocity Ramp Up
Before our Agile processes we were creating content, but at a plodding pace. Now that we can more accurately measure our team's bandwidth, we can devote time each sprint to creating and distributing content.
Across two separate sites our content production is now four times higher than it once was, without any loss of quality.
3. Group Accountability and the Ability to Swarm
We have daily stand up meetings to check in with the team, during which we identify any blocking issues that are preventing us from meeting our sprint goals.
More than once a team member has encountered an obstacle, either internal (a customer needs my help!) or external (my dog ate a sock!), and they can immediately bring it to the team who can rally around the endangered project to make sure it doesn't suffer.
This means that emails don't go out late when someone gets sick, we don't miss a blog post deadline because our editor gets pulled into a meeting, and no amount of vet visits can derail our goals.
All team members are up to date on projects and progress, so we are all empowered to make sure things get done.
Agile Marketing Saves the Day, But Requires Devotion
These success stories may make you want to run out and go Agile right this very minute, and I won't be the one to stop you, but I will remind you that it's not a quick fix.
Learning the ins and outs of a true Agile system takes time, and your first sprint will feel more like a crawl.
But in the long run, Agile marketing can help marketing departments of just about any shape and size be more efficient, serve their customers better, and be more fully integrated into the work of the business as a whole.
The Agile revolution is calling. Are you ready to answer?
Andrea Fryrear is an Agile marketing nerd who does lots of writing, mostly for MarketerGizmo. Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is Agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for businesses.