Insight/ Strategic Planning

The Age Of Agile


by Sandy Fleischer
Managing Partner
Pound & Grain

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Article Highlights:

  • Agile marketing, based on the agile software development methodology, is about putting the customer at the center of everything.
  • Agile marketing may require significant changes to how you and your team are currently working.
  • Many progressive companies have become advocates of agile marketing.

The last thing we need is another article about how digital marketing and social media have transformed everything. We get it. The relationship between the consumer and brands has changed.

While most marketing departments are committed to digital marketing, how to effectively execute on these new opportunities remains a challenge. We are now operating in a real-time environment where speed is of the essence, priorities are constantly shifting, and there are a multitude of fragmented touch points to think about. The new age of marketing demands a new kind of marketing management. Welcome to the world of agile marketing.

What Is Agile Marketing?
Agile marketing, based on the agile software development methodology, is about putting the customer at the center of everything. It’s an approach designed to capitalize on speed to market, and thrive in environments of rapid change.

The principles of agile marketing include:

1. Talk trumps tools
People and conversations are more important than process and tools. Open and fluid collaboration on a daily basis between people and departments is a must, and silos are your enemy.

2. Numbers make opinions
Measurement and testing are critical, and should guide your decisions over conventions or personal opinions. Here’s your shot to define your objectives, and continually measure if you are achieving them.

3. Back what works
Go to market with many small campaigns frequently on many channels, and then continually iterate to improve campaigns based on feedback and data. There is no need to bet the farm on one or two major annual campaigns.

4. Pair up with a customer
Bring your customers right into the marketing process. Digital allows you to listen, learn, and then enable your customers to become the advocates of your brand.

How To Live Agilely
While agile marketing is a fairly simple concept, it may require significant changes to how you and your team (which may include your agency) are currently working. Here are some key elements recommended to put agile marketing into practice.

1. Sprints
Large project plans are broken down in to smaller pieces or sprints, to enable frequent and immediate feedback. Build fast, build often, and learn from your mistakes. A Sprint Planning Session can facilitate shared goals between marketing, management, sales and development and ensure priorities and tasks are agreed to based on resource availability. 

If you consider an annual marketing plan, this can be broken down into sprints where the plan is refined and updated on a monthly basis. At the end of the sprint, Review and Retrospective Meetings are held to discuss what was accomplished and how things went. These meetings are key, as they facilitate continuous improvement.

2. Scrums
The sprint itself is managed by scrums – daily 15-minute stand-up meetings to discuss what people did yesterday, what they will do today and what obstacles they encountered along the way. An appointed scrum master efficiently leads these meetings, tracks progress and even bolsters team morale.

3. User Stories
User stories are anything that a consumer wants to accomplish. They identify the various needs that any given customer segment may have at various stages of the buying process. They ensure that appropriate marketing materials are developed in a consumer-centric way.

Who Is Using Agile Marketing?
Many progressive companies such as Google, Electronic Arts, and Hootsuite have become advocates of agile marketing.  

“Given the broad range of customers we have at HootSuite, we had already determined that it was important for us to build intimate customer tribes rather than large impersonal markets. That was the business case for agile that I needed,” said Ben Watson, VP Marketing for HootSuite. “Now our marketing plans have shifted from laundry lists of tactics to being focused on outcomes, KPIs and [return on] investment, which in turn enables agility from our customer marketing, content and demand teams. Success in marketing is always going to be a work in progress. The easy win here is that being agile helps you try more things, learn from those outcomes, as well as react faster to trends. This leaves you with more awesome to choose from, and trains your teams to be constantly applying data and learning in ways that ultimately improve the outcomes.”

Agile marketing will usher in a change in mindset and culture, enabling an organization to capitalize on the opportunities made possible by rapid advances in marketing and technology. It leads to better, more relevant marketing initiatives.

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About Sandy Fleischer

Sandy Fleischer is a 15-year veteran of the digital marketing space, and currently Managing Partner at Pound & Grain, a creative agency built for our digital culture. Fleischer sits on the board of Overinteractive Media Inc., a social media gaming company, and DigiBC, a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote, support and accelerate the growth, competitiveness and sustainability of British Columbia’s digital media and wireless industry. Follow him on Twitter @pescatore.